Friday, March 6, 2009

Re: Good Intentions

Byron has focused my attention on an error in a post on the $900 million that has been proposed for rebuilding Gaza. I assumed the money would be funneled through Hamas and that it would therefore be diverted, at least in part, to fund Hamas' war effort against Israel. I concluded from this that the Obama administration appears more concerned about doing something that looks compassionate than doing something that actually helps the Palestinian people.

As Byron notes, it's not yet clear that Hamas will in fact receive the money. They're apparently jousting with the Palestinian Authority for the funds and the outcome of that contest is still in doubt.

I was hasty to assume that Hamas would almost inevitably control the $900 million, and it was thus unfair, or at least premature, to have assumed that the administration was determined to give away the money regardless who gets it or to what purpose it's ultimately put.


Ethical Standards and the APA

The culture wars appear to have landed on the desk of the American Philosophical Association. Byron forwards this post by Keith Pavlischek at First Things:

A group of unhappy professional academic philosophers have submitted a petition to the American Philosophical Association. What are they up in arms about? The opening paragraph of the petition tells it all:

"Many colleges and universities require faculty, students, and staff to follow certain 'ethical' standards which prohibit engaging in homosexual acts. Among these institutions are Azusa Pacific University, Belmont University, Bethel College, Biola University, Calvin College, Malone College, Pepperdine University, Westmont College, and Wheaton College. All of these institutions advertised in 'Jobs for Philosophers' between 2006-2009. Further, none of these institutions were listed as censured institutions."

The petition calls on the APA either to "(1) enforce its policy and prohibit institutions that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation from advertising in 'Jobs for Philosophers' or [to] (2) clearly mark institutions with these policies as institutions that violate our anti-discrimination policy." One can assume that "marking" these institutions would be to censure them.

But there is a counter-petition signed by a number of notable philosophers, including Alasdair McIntyre, Alvin Plantinga, Germain Grisez, Robert P. George, John M. Finnis, Roger Scruton, and many others. The petition argues:

"Institutions can require their faculty to agree to abide by ethical standards that forbid homosexual acts while not ipso facto discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. The conceptual distinction between a certain kind of act and a disposition to perform that kind of act is one that no philosopher would fail to acknowledge in other ethical contexts. We fail to see why it should be ignored in this one."

And then they turn the tables on the original petitioners accusing them of advocating a policy that itself would discriminate against religious institutions:

"But the policy recommended attempts to segregate and penalize religious institutions for abiding by their long-standing and coherent ethical norms. Moreover, this policy would foster an environment that would encourage discrimination against philosophers whose religious, political, or philosophical convictions lead them to disapprove of homosexual acts."

Most, if not all, of the colleges named in the first petition are religious schools. The signers of that petition are essentially demanding that these schools forfeit their religious convictions about right and wrong conduct or else be penalized by the APA.

This is illustrative of how the culture war works. The goal appears to be to intimidate by creating the expectation that one will be punished, either by law or other sanction, for saying (or even believing) that homosexual behavior is morally problematic. What will be punished next? Opposition to abortion? Euthanasia? Pederasty?


Mad Money

Jim Cramer is an Obama supporter and, indeed, advocates almost all of the President's agenda for America, but he writes nevertheless that Obama's economic plans are an unmitigated disaster. Cramer is the host of CNBC's financial show Mad Money, and argues that Obama's policies are destroying the retirements and life savings of millions of Americans. In Cramer's view, now is the worst possible time to try to implement Obama's economic agenda of higher taxes and massive spending and borrowing. Here's Cramer talking about his disillusionment on his show:

President Obama got elected because he had a lot of support from an obsequious media during the primaries and presidential campaign. The media rarely held the candidate's feet to the fire and scarcely asked questions which could embarrass him. He will continue to enjoy support from the mid to far left, but a lot of other MSM reporters and pundits are themselves heavily invested in the stock market. As they see the value of their own investments evaporate I suspect many of them are going to become increasingly antagonistic toward this administration and may well begin to ask those hard questions.

One they could start with is what ever happened to Timothy Geithner, the indispensable man we had to have as Secretary of the Treasury no matter how much of a tax cheat he is? Geithner was supposed to have a plan to get us out of this mess, but he seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. Is anybody in the administration working on this problem? Does anyone there really care about the stock market?

Thanks to Hot Air for the video link.


Shattering Illusions

During the presidential campaign a number of left-leaning pro-life folks (Jim Wallis at Sojourners and Douglas Kmiec come to mind) made the argument that Barack Obama was the real pro-life candidate in the race. Despite his consistent record of support for even the most extreme pro-choice positions, Obama's policies, particularly universal health care, would actually result in fewer abortions because they would give poor women the economic means to see their pregnancies through.

Well, this remains to be seen, but his appointment of Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius as his Secretary of Health and Human Services is hard to reconcile with the rosy scenarios Sojourners painted for us. My friend Jason links us to an article by George Weigel that illuminates Sebelius' radicalism on this issue. Here's an excerpt:

[Governor Sebelius] has routinely opposed or vetoed several abortion-accountability bills, including medically-supported clinic regulation legislation which she vetoed in both 2003 and 2005. The need for this critical legislation was predicated, in large part, on evidence of shocking conditions in Kansas abortion clinics. For example, two inspections of the same Topeka abortion clinic discovered fetal remains in the same refrigerator as food; a dead rodent in the clinic hallways; overflowing, uncovered disposal bins containing medical waste; unlabeled, pre-drawn syringes with controlled substances in an unlocked refrigerator; improperly labeled and expired medicines; carpeted floors in the surgical procedure room; and visible dirt and disarray throughout the clinic. Dr. Krishna Rajanna, who operated the unsanitary clinic, also consistently violated the practice guidelines for conscious sedation.

Recently, in 2008, she vetoed a measure that would have strengthened the state's existing parental notification law by 1) requiring that any adult accompanying a minor show identification, declare in writing their relationship to the minor, and identify the father of the unborn child; 2) require the minor to show some form of photo identification providing identity and place of residence; and 3) if the minor chooses to seek a judicial waiver, prohibiting any employee of an abortion provider or clinic from assisting her with the requisite court filings and proceedings.

More shocking, however, is her continuing and unyielding support for late-term abortions, including post-viability abortions. Over the past three years she has vetoed measures requiring explicit medical reasons for late-term abortions; requiring abortion providers to report the diagnosis or the nature of the condition which necessitated a post-viability abortion; and permitting injunctive relief for either a completed or about-to-be-performed illegal late-term abortion and adding certain prosecutors (in addition to the Attorney General) to prosecute violations of existing prohibitions on late-term abortions.

Whatever you think about abortion, very few people, other than those who get paid to perform them, wish to see the number of abortions increase. Yet it's hard to see how, with extremists like Sebelius in the president's cabinet, that will be avoided.