Ethics & Morality Archives

Good For You(Tube)!

In a blog post, the YouTube crew has set up some new rules for "mature content".  They’re not banning it, but they are taking steps to ensure that folks don’t stumble into what they don’t want.

As a community, we have come to count on each other to be entertained, challenged, and moved by what we watch and share on YouTube. We’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to make the collective YouTube experience even better, particularly on our most visited pages. Our goal is to help ensure that you’re viewing content that’s relevant to you, and not inadvertently coming across content that isn’t.

I just have to give the YouTube folks a big "’atta boy" for this.  Taking common sense steps to keep, not just porn (which they don’t accept anyway) but even "suggestive content" out of the limelight ought to be cheered when it happens.  If you really want to find it, you can, but if you don’t, you don’t have to sift through it.  This is especially true for kids; YouTube is a nice resource to have for many purposes, but it can be a minefield.

More like this please. 

This is the 2nd and final part of my analysis of an open letter from Anne Rice. Part 1 was posted yesterday.


Anne Rice spends most of her letter covering this issue, and she starts with an assertion that, to me, shows a lack of consideration of the history of the issue.

I want to add here that I am Pro-Life. I believe in the sanctity of the life of the unborn. Deeply respecting those who disagree with me, I feel that if we are to find a solution to the horror of abortion, it will be through the Democratic Party.

Ms. Rice does touch on these historical issues lightly later on, and I’ll hit them more in-depth then, but even looking at how the abortion issue generally falls between the parties today, I don’t see this as making sense. What I hear from Democrats are things like John Kerry with this sentiment:

I completely respect their views. I am a Catholic. And I grew up learning how to respect those views. But I disagree with them, as do many. I can’t legislate or transfer to another American citizen my article of faith. What is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn’t share that article of faith. I believe that choice is a woman’s choice. It’s between a woman, God and her doctor. That’s why I support that. I will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade.

If one’s commitment to Christianity should be “absolute”, as Ms. Rice has said, there is a big problem with this statement, that is generally the line religious Democrats use when talking about abortion, and that is the canard about legislating one’s religious faith, or sometimes call ramming one’s religion down your throat. Civil rights are very much a moral issue, but does Sen. Kerry have the same problem with legislating that? No, he’s very willing to impose his view on KKK members, and rightly so. It’s right, it’s moral and it’s the law. Legislators all throughout our country’s history, and more so in our early history, based many of their decisions partly or mostly on their religious faith. This excuse is disingenuous.

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The following is a repost of a blog post I wrote over a year ago (August 23rd & 24th, 2007) during the presidential primary season.  It was in response to an open letter by the author Anne Rice on her personal web site.  Ms. Rice is the author of the Vampire Lestat series of books, but, after returning to the Catholic church in 1998, stopped that project. 

I’ve searched her web site for the letter in question and cannot find a page that has it archived, although many of her other writings, going back to 1996, are on there.  It was copied and posted on other forums, including here, so you can read along at home.  (Warning: This is a link to the right-wing Free Republic web site.  If you fear cooties emanating from there, turn back now.)

I think the issues covered in this endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic party nominee are still relevant now, especially how it relates to Christians, how they can and should work through the political process, how Ms. Rice believes her choice of party advances that, and where I disagree with her. 

It was originally posted in 2 parts due to its length, and so it shall be this time. 

This is one of my longer posts, possibly the longest I’ve done on the blog. What happened was, I was reading an open letter from a Christian planning on voting a particular way, and as I read further and further into it, one objection after another kept coming to my mind, and one problem after another regarding the writer’s reasons kept getting in the way. Finally, I realized I’d have to just set aside some of my typical day-to-day blogging of the link-and-quick-comment type, and go in-depth into the problems I see with the author, and Christians in general, who vote Democratic for specifically Christian reasons, and especially regarding the social issues brought up in the letter. Pull up a cup of coffee and sit back.

Anne Rice is a Catholic author. I’ll admit to not being too well-read, but as a Protestant my knowledge of Catholic authors is even more limited. Therefore, I’m not sure how much Ms. Rice’s views are mainstream Catholic, although whether or not they are really isn’t the crux of this post. I do want to discuss the views she espouses, and espouses quite well as an author. That she is a Catholic and I am a Protestant has really no bearing on my criticism of her recent public letter dated August 10. I know Protestants who would agree with her on these issues, so this is not a denominational thing. She professes Christianity, as do I, and we have very similar goals, as far as I can tell, on the topics she discusses, and yet we’re voting differently. Ms. Rice wrote a lengthy letter to her readers on her main web site (no permalink so don’t know how long it’ll stay on the front page) about why she is endorsing Hillary Clinton for President. The reasons she lists for that endorsement, to me, run completely counter to her list of important issues and goals. If she is truly concerned about those goals, I don’t follow her endorsement, nor the endorsement of other of my friends and acquaintances of any Democrat in the current group. I want to address the inconsistencies I see in this post.

Ms. Rice starts out with her Christian and Catholic creds, which I respect and am willing to accept. She talks about how, while the separation of church and state is a good idea, the voter does not have that prohibition, and in fact must consider their vote based on their religion.

Conscience requires the Christian to vote as a Christian. Commitment to Christ is by its very nature absolute.

I agree wholeheartedly. But, she also correctly notes, we have only 2 political parties in this country. (She believes, as do I, that a vote for neither Democrat or Republican, whether it’s a non-vote or a vote for a 3rd party, is essentially a vote for one of the two major ones, no matter how you slice it.) In short:

To summarize, I believe in voting, I believe in voting for one of the two major parties, and I believe my vote must reflect my Christian beliefs.

Bearing all this in mind, I want to say quietly that as of this date, I am a Democrat, and that I support Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

And that last clause is where the disagreement begins.

Charitable Giving

The first paragraph of explanation deals with giving.

Though I deeply respect those who disagree with me, I believe, for a variety of reasons, that the Democratic Party best reflects the values I hold based on the Gospels. Those values are most intensely expressed for me in the Gospel of Matthew, but they are expressed in all the gospels. Those values involve feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, and above all, loving ones neighbors and loving ones enemies. A great deal more could be said on this subject, but I feel that this is enough.

First of all, neither the religious right nor the religious left have a lock on charitable giving. At the same time, as was noted on this post regarding a study by Arthur Brooks, conservatives outgive liberals by quite a significant amount. How does this relate to how the political parties differ in their view of the government’s role in this? Ms. Rice, I believe, falls into a trap by simplistically equating the advocacy of government charity with Jesus’ admonition to the individual to be charitable. Democrats say the government should give more, so by her reckoning thy are more in line with her Christian view. However, it has always made me wonder how when Jesus tells me, personally, to be charitable, that somehow this means that I should also use the government to force my neighbor, under penalty of jail, to be “charitable”. I put “charitable” in quotes because when there’s force involved, there’s no real act of charity. How Democrat Christians get from point A to point Z on this boggles my mind. Another statistic from Brooks’ study brings this point home; People who believe the government does not have a basic responsibility to take care of the people who can’t take care of themselves are 27 percent more likely to give to charity.

On top of this, the bureaucratic inefficiency filter that we’re all forced to funnel our “charitable” taxes through siphons money away from the needy, as does the massive fraud that goes on in a big government program that has little accountability.

Conservatives believe that forcibly taking money isn’t charity, and that it is not government’s role to rob from Peter to pay Paul, and that the way the government handles this creates dependency and causes further problems, like giving fathers a disincentive to stick around. Because of this, conservatives give more of their own money to local charities where the administrative costs are much lower. The Republican party, the current home of most conservative political ideas in this country, purports to support these goals, and while they don’t always follow those principles, they have done better at this than Democrats. An expanded role of government in the area of giving to the poor is not the best way for that to happen, and as a Christian I believe it’s not moral to force others to give when they don’t want to. Again, Jesus asks me to give; He didn’t ask me to force others to.

Ms. Rice, in ticking off a laundry list of values, seems to be falling for the framing of the issue that Democrats have put forth; welfare = caring. There are other ways to care, which can have much better results.

Part 2 tomorrow.

Connecticut now has same-sex marriage due to legislative action judicial fiat.  One 4-to-3 ruling, rather than the voice of the people, has brought it to that state.  One more reason why seeking constitutional amendments to stop this isn’t some overreaction; it’s the playing field the Left is using.  You could argue, possibly correctly, that the citizens would likely vote for this anyway, but that’s not the point at all.  They should say so themselves; not have their minds read.

Now, if you believe that homosexuality is wrong, but figure that allowing homosexuals to marry each other doesn’t really affect anything, studies in Europe and the US are showing that you get more of behavior you encourage.

An accumulation of research from around the world finds that societies which endorse homosexual behavior increase the prevalence of homosexuality in those societies. The legalization of same-sex marriage—which is being considered by voters in several U.S. states—is the ultimate in societal endorsement and will result in more individuals living a homosexual lifestyle.

Extensive research from Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and the United States reveals that homosexuality is primarily environmentally induced. Specifically, social and/or family factors, as well as permissive environments which affirm homosexuality, play major environmental roles in the development of homosexual behavior.

In essence, society’s norms and, in this case, state regulations have a bigger influence on homosexual behavior than even genetics.

But first, it should be noted that although the Swedish and Finnish twin studies are among the best to date, they still have wide margins of error. In fact, the margins of error are so wide it remains entirely possible that genetic factors play no role in the development of homosexuality. That remains to be determined, but what has been resolved is that the primary factor in the development of homosexuality is environmental.

(Emphasis in original.)  Read the whole thing for further details and the conclusion. 

Less and Less of a Need For Embryonic Stem Cells

The latest advancement in stem cells is that it’s getting safer to convert adult stem cells to "induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells" (basically what embryonic stems cells are).  Adult stem cells are already curing loads of diseases, without the need for destroying embryos.  This is just one less reason to want to rely on the ethically murky embryonic ones.

"Free" Healthcare Morality Watch

One of the problems I have with socialized healthcare is that it takes the responsibility for payment out of the hands of the person getting the care and places it in the hands of a massive bureaucracy that has, depending on the system, either a monopoly on being the payer or at least one of the larger ones.  As such, it has an incentive to cut costs, but its incentive isn’t nearly as personal as an individual payer.  The larger the bureaucracy, the less concern for the individual. 

I’ve noted before how this led to the state of Oregon denying cancer medication to a woman, but still gave her coverage for physician-assisted suicide.  It also leads to a British medical ethics expert suggesting that the elderly should take the same route, for the good of society.

Elderly people suffering from dementia should consider ending their lives because they are a burden on the NHS and their families, according to the influential medical ethics expert Baroness Warnock.

The veteran Government adviser said pensioners in mental decline are "wasting people’s lives" because of the care they require and should be allowed to opt for euthanasia even if they are not in pain.

She insisted there was "nothing wrong" with people being helped to die for the sake of their loved ones or society.

The 84-year-old added that she hoped people will soon be "licensed to put others down" if they are unable to look after themselves.

Her comments in a magazine interview have been condemned as "immoral" and "barbaric", but also sparked fears that they may find wider support because of her influence on ethical matters.

Lady Warnock, a former headmistress who went on to become Britain’s leading moral philosopher, chaired a landmark Government committee in the 1980s that established the law on fertility treatment and embryo research.

(A tip of the Blogger’s Fedora to Right Wing News.)

The "leading moral philosopher" in Britain is asking people to die for the good of the state.  What an insane world we live in.

The Catholic church has had to correct the thinking of some Democrats in the past in reference to the church’s position on abortion. (Well, they’ve spoken out in the past; there’s no evidence yet that the actual thinking was corrected.) Most recently, the Speaker of the House herself has come under fire for misrepresenting Church teaching in order to buttress her own views.

Politics can be treacherous. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walked on even riskier ground in a recent TV interview when she attempted a theological defense of her support for abortion rights.

Roman Catholic bishops consider her arguments on St. Augustine and free will so far out of line with church teaching that they have issued a steady stream of statements to correct her.

The latest came Wednesday from Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik, who said Pelosi, D-Calif., “stepped out of her political role and completely misrepresented the teaching of the Catholic Church in regard to abortion.”

It has been a harsh week of rebuke for the Democratic congresswoman, a Catholic school graduate who repeatedly has expressed pride in and love for her religious heritage.

Enough “pride” and “love” for her to, y’know, accept her Church’s teaching? Apparently not. The “steady stream” of corrections don’t seem to do much. More below the fold…

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Shire Network News #137

Shire Network News #137 has been released. The feature interview is with Guy Earle, who committed the unpardonable sin of having a go at some hecklers at a show in Vancouver who were members of a protected class. Click here for the show notes, links, and ways to listen to the show; directly from the web site, by downloading the mp3 file, or by subscribing with your podcatcher of choice.

Below is the text of my commentary.

Hi, this is Doug Payton for Shire Network News, asking you to "Consider This!"

This is a "Next Generation" update; stories that cover what’s going on in the world regarding the children, how they’re being brought up, brought down, pampered and hampered. 

We start with a doctor in Boston, Massachusetts that is prepping children as young as 7 for…a sex change.  Dr. Norman Spack, a pediatrician at Boston’s Children’s Hospital is taking in clients to give them drugs that delay the onset of puberty so these kids can decide what gender they really want to be.  So now, we’re doing with drugs what they used to do to boys in the middle ages in order to keep their high-pitched voices for the choir.  Only now, it’s "for the children".

Spack says that the permanent infertility is worth the trade-off, because, as he says, these kinds of kids are deeply troubled and have a high level of suicide attempts.  OK, so now, instead of addressing this deep troubling, we indulge their confusion?  Drug addicts are deeply troubled, too.  I suppose the next thing is giving them free needles and free drugs.  Oh, wait, they’re already doing that, especially in Canada.  Well, then, it’s be like giving cutters, those who inflict pain on themselves, clean razor blades.  Ah, nope, already been proposed by the Royal College of Nursing.  OK, something that even liberals would…ah ha, got it!  It’s like giving cigarette smokers free cigarettes!  They may not be as deeply troubled, but many do die early from the addiction, and as liberals like to remind us, even it saves just one life, it’s worth it.

Anyway, there are number of other doctors at prominent hospitals against it, so we have ways to go on this front.  Stay tuned.

In other news, the National Children’s Bureau in Britain has issued guidelines for nursery workers to be on the lookout for racist behavior in children.  This include things like a 3-year-old turning up their noses at unfamiliar foreign food.  I’m sorry, but when my kids were younger, they all had a penchant for saying "yuk" to unfamiliar food of any sort, foreign or not.  I don’t think they could tell what was domestic and what wasn’t.  Three-year-olds don’t ask, "Is that an imported cheese?  I’m sorry, but I only buy American; Wisconsin, specifically."  Nurseries are encouraged to report as many incidents from this 366-page guide as possible.  The guide says, "Some people think that if a large number of racist incidents are reported, this will reflect badly on the institution. In fact, the opposite is the case."  Heh, indeed.  It means more money for this government program to strain at gnats with.

Moving over to Germany, a new bill, which has the backing of dozens of big-time German politicians, would lower the voting age…to 0.  Babies could voice their opinions on the economy, and toddlers could weigh in on their education.  If you want to pass a bill on military deployment, you’ll have to get that crucial 3-10 year-old demographic on your side.  Again, not likely to happen soon — they tried before as recently as 3 years ago — but as with other efforts "for the children" and against disenfranchisement, it’s not dead yet.

And finally, from Pakistan, we have some good news and some bad news.  The good news is that 2000 women took a group vow last Wednesday.  They raised their voices in unity.  "I am woman, here me roar."  The bad news is that these burqa-clad Islamic women all vowed to raise their children to be Jihadis. 

Well it could be worse.  It could be a bunch of gender-confused kids going out to vote to send themselves out to holy war against people who call them "racist" for saying "yuk" to pork.

Consider that.  (Well, no.  Don’t.)

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Health Care Follow-up: Who Do You Believe?

(Dan Trabue, frequent commenter on "Stones Cry Out", the group blog I run, in a comment here to my previous post on health care, referenced a think tank paper that predicts cost reductions without a loss of effectiveness with a single-payer system, and took issue with my terming this "socialized medicine".  I decided to put my response up as a post.)

From the Wikipedia entry on health care in Canada: "Health care in Canada is funded and delivered through a publicly funded health care system, with most services provided by private entities."  So in Canada, it’s not government-run hospitals but it is a government funded system.  While the writer of this Wikipedia entry insists it’s not truly socialized medicine, the article at the link to the words "socialized medicine" does concede, "The term can refer to any system of medical care that is publicly financed, government administered, or both", I suppose depending on who you ask.

But who’s in charge of the hospitals or what you want to call it is immaterial, as the outcome is the same.  Britain has government-owned hospitals and Canada doesn’t, but the result is still that bureaucracies make medical decisions instead of doctors and patients.  HMOs were the Left’s bogeyman for years, but their solution is to institute the nation’s, perhaps the world’s, largest HMO/insurance company to make our individual health care decisions.  This makes no sense at all.

From the think tank paper cited:

[The Lewin Group, "a nationally respected nonpartisan
consulting firm"] estimates the proposal would cover 99.6 percent of all Americans without raising total national health spending. It would also save hundreds of billions over time – more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years – in national health spending, according to Lewin.

The Lewin Group is inexplicably closing its eyes to the Canadian system, blue-skying his prediction.  The Canadian system uses both government- and employer-based payment system, utilizing private insurance/doctors/hospitals, and they are in crisis.  They are not saving money (Claude Castonguay, quoted in the original post, notes that rationing and "injecting massive amounts of new money" has not helped).  They most certainly do not serve effectively (Wikipedia cites a study showing 57% of Canadians wait 4 or more week to see a specialist).  And it unfortunately affects everyone (read the Wikipedia article sections titled "Government Involvement" and "Private Sector").

Are you really going to believe predictions on the efficiency and cost effectiveness of a massive government program.  No government program of such a size ever comes in under budget; not Medicare, not Social Security, not the Iraq War, nothing

The Lewin Group says that the government could bargain for lower costs, and yet Canada’s are skyrocketing.  They may have gone down at the beginning, but as The Acton Institute’s Dr. Donald Condit notes:

Resource consumption increases when people think someone else is shouldering the cost. Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman observed, “Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own.” More than 60 years of “someone else” paying for health care has led to medical expense inflation. Our predominately third-party reimbursement “system,” beginning after World War II for employees and after Medicare in 1965 for the retired, has resulted in out-of-control spending. Increasing the role of government will spur unbridled medical services consumption and further harm the underserved. Medical resources are limited. An expanded government role in health care will necessarily lead to rationing, shortages of health-care providers, delay in treatment, and deterioration in quality of care.

Medicaid is a socialized medicine microcosm. In that system, price controls and bureaucracy result in rationing by deterring provider participation and delaying treatment, with subsequent deterioration in quality of care. Affluent individuals are able to access better health care outside of any government system.

And this "Medicare model" is what the EPI plan wants to take the "best elements" of, which they only enumerate later on as the federal government administering it.  How can the Left possibly say they care more for the less-fortunate in one breath, and in the other hold up health care rationing as "caring"?  This makes no sense at all.

Canada’s system currently compares favorably to the US in terms of a couple of cherry-picked statistics, but that’s like judging a pyramid scheme based on the first few generations.  They are losing on other fronts, like a drain of doctors.  And they are now at the tipping point of that pyramid scheme, where the choice is either returning a bigger role to the private sector (what Castonguay called "radical" and what conservatives call "sensible") or sliding further down the slope to socialism.  The Left, not wishing to have their utopian vision challenged, will no doubt push for the latter.

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"Change" That Has Already Failed

As the promise of Universal Healthcare continues to be sold to the American public by Democrats, the anecdotes fly. Look here; a case failure of our healthcare system! Look there; another person falls through the cracks!

The problem is, it’s the big picture that continues to put the lie to the selling of socialized medicine. As I’ve noted before, the system in Oregon will deny cancer patients life-saving or -extending medicine, but will gladly pay for life-ending “treatment”. You can decry all you want the profit motive of the private enterprise system, but with socialized medicine the profit motive is just as motivating, with a bigger bureaucracy larger than any insurance company you can name calling the shots.

And as Christians, is this the kind of system that we want to be encouraging? We’d have rationed healthcare (all socialized systems wind up here, sooner or later), equally poor quality, and a respect for life on par with Oregon’s.

But hey, it would be “equal”. Wonderful.

This bit of “hope” and “change”, however, has already been done on this scale. And how has it worked? Let’s talk to one of the founding fathers.

Back in the 1960s, [Claude] Castonguay chaired a Canadian government committee studying health reform and recommended that his home province of Quebec — then the largest and most affluent in the country — adopt government-administered health care, covering all citizens through tax levies.

The government followed his advice, leading to his modern-day moniker: “the father of Quebec medicare.” Even this title seems modest; Castonguay’s work triggered a domino effect across the country, until eventually his ideas were implemented from coast to coast.

Four decades later, as the chairman of a government committee reviewing Quebec health care this year, Castonguay concluded that the system is in “crisis.”

“We thought we could resolve the system’s problems by rationing services or injecting massive amounts of new money into it,” says Castonguay. But now he prescribes a radical overhaul: “We are proposing to give a greater role to the private sector so that people can exercise freedom of choice.”

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