Barack Obama — baby killer *UPDATED*

I’ve long retained a vague memory that the Jewish approach to abortion is remarkably close to the view I’ve developed over the years.  This is purely coincidental, because I’m not a religious Jew.  I’d like to quote at some length from an excellent article on the subject, before I swing into attack mode regarding Barack Obama (footnotes omitted, emphasis added):

To gain a clear understanding of when abortion is permitted (or even required) and when it is forbidden requires an appreciation of certain nuances of halacha (Jewish law) which govern the status of the fetus.

The easiest way to conceptualize a fetus in halacha is to imagine it as a full-fledged human being — but not quite. In most circumstances, the fetus is treated like any other “person.” Generally, one may not deliberately harm a fetus. But while it would seem obvious that Judaism holds accountable one who purposefully causes a woman to miscarry, sanctions are even placed upon one who strikes a pregnant woman causing an unintentional miscarriage. That is not to say that all rabbinical authorities consider abortion to be murder. The fact that the Torah requires a monetary payment for causing a miscarriage is interpreted by some Rabbis to indicate that abortion is not a capital crime and by others as merely indicating that one is not executed for performing an abortion, even though it is a type of murder. There is even disagreement regarding whether the prohibition of abortion is Biblical or Rabbinic. Nevertheless, it is universally agreed that the fetus will become a full-fledged human being and there must be a very compelling reason to allow for abortion.

As a general rule, abortion in Judaism is permitted only if there is a direct threat to the life of the mother by carrying the fetus to term or through the act of childbirth. In such a circumstance, the baby is considered tantamount to a rodef, a pursuer after the mother with the intent to kill her. Nevertheless, as explained in the Mishna, if it would be possible to save the mother by maiming the fetus, such as by amputating a limb, abortion would be forbidden. Despite the classification of the fetus as a pursuer, once the baby’s head or most of its body has been delivered, the baby’s life is considered equal to the mother’s, and we may not choose one life over another, because it is considered as though they are both pursuing each other.

It is important to point out that the reason that the life of the fetus is subordinate to the mother is because the fetus is the cause of the mother’s life-threatening condition, whether directly (e.g. due to toxemia, placenta previa, or breach position) or indirectly (e.g. exacerbation of underlying diabetes, kidney disease, or hypertension). A fetus may not be aborted to save the life of any other person whose life is not directly threatened by the fetus, such as use of fetal organs for transplant.

Trust the rabbis to come up with a humane balance between the interests of the mother and the child.  Because my self-developed view so closely harmonizes with the rabbinical view, you can appreciate why I do not believe that Obama, during the 2002 live abortion debate in Illinois staked out a pro-Choice position.  Instead, I think he staked out a murderer’s position.  You see, I agree with the rabbis — once that child emerges alive, it’s alive.  End of story.

With that in mind, please consider Obama’s testimony during the April 2002 Born-Alive proceedings, during which he made it very clear that he thought it would “inconvenience” both doctor and mother if they actually had to be troubled with the burden of ensuring that a living being received humane treatment (all emphasis mine):

OBAMA: Yeah. Just along the same lines. Obviously, this is an issue that we’ve debated extensively both in committee an on the floor so I — you know, I don’t want to belabor it. But I did want to point out, as I understood it, during the course of the discussion in committee, one of the things that we were concerned about, or at least I expressed some concern about, was what impact this would have with respect to the relationship between the doctor and the patient and what liabilities the doctor might have in this situation. So, can you just describe for me, under this legislation, what’s going to be required for a doctor to meet the requirements you’ve set forth?

SENATOR O’MALLEY: First of all, there is established, under this legislation, that a child born under such circumstances would receive all reasonable measures consistent with good medical practice, and that’s as defined, of course, by the … practice of medicine in the community where this would occur. It also requires, in two instances, that … an attending physician be brought in to assist and advise with respect to the issue of viability and, in particular, where … there’s a suspicion on behalf of the physician that the child … may be [viable,] … the attending physician would make that determination as to whether that would be the case…. The other one is where the child is actually born alive … in which case, then, the physician would call as soon as practically possible for a second physician to come in and determine the viability.

SENATOR OBAMA: So — and again, I’m — I’m not going to prolong this, but I just want to be clear because I think this was the source of the objections of the Medical Society. As I understand it, this puts the burden on the attending physician who has determined, since they were performing this procedure, that, in fact, this is a nonviable fetus; that if that fetus, or child — however way you want to describe it — is now outside the mother’s womb and the doctor continues to think that it’s nonviable but there’s, let’s say, movement or some indication that, in fact, they’re not just coming out limp and dead, that, in fact, they would then have to call a second physician to monitor and check off and make sure that this is not a live child that could be saved. Is that correct?

SENATOR O’MALLEY: In the first instance, obviously the physician that is performing the procedure would make the determination. The second situation is where the child actually is born and is alive, and then there’s an assessment — an independent assessment of viability by … another physician at the soonest practical … time.

SENATOR OBAMA: Let me just go to the bill, very quickly. Essentially, I think as — as this emerged during debate and during committee, the only plausible rationale, to my mind, for this legislation would be if you had a suspicion that a doctor, the attending physician, who has made an assessment that this is a nonviable fetus and that, let’s say for the purpose of the mother’s health, is being — that — that — labor is being induced, that that physician (a) is going to make the wrong assessment and (b) if the physician discovered, after the labor had been induced, that, in fact, he made an error, or she made an error, and, in fact, that this was not a nonviable fetus but, in fact, a live child, that that physician, of his own accord or her own accord, would not try to exercise the sort of medical measures and practices that would be involved in saving that child.

Now, it — if you think there are possibilities that doctors would not do that, then maybe this bill makes sense, but I — I suspect and my impression is, is that the Medical Society suspects as well that doctors feel that they would be under that obligation, that they would already be making these determinations and that, essentially, adding a — an additional doctor who then has to be called in an emergency situation to come in and make these assessments is really designed simply to burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion. Now, if that’s the case — and — and I know that some of us feel very strongly one way or another on that issue — that’s fine, but I think it’s important to understand that this issue ultimately is about abortion and not live births. Because if these are children who are being born alive, I, at least, have confidence that a doctor who is in that room is going to make sure that they’re looked after.

Did you get all that?  “Fetus, or child — however way you want to describe it.”  “They’re not just coming out limp and dead.”  “Adding a — an additional doctor who then has to be called in an emergency situation to come in and make these assessments is really designed simply to burden the original decision of the woman and the physician.”  Those all speak to the man’s ugly mind.

In addition to being an ugly mind, it’s also a dishonest one:  “It’s important to understand that this issue ultimately is about abortion and not live births.”  In fact, the whole point of the bill was about live births. The legislative scenario was that the legal abortion had ended — badly — and the live birth had begun.  This is not a man who is committed to life or hope.  This is a man deeply committed to political ideology, come Hell, high water, or murder.

By the way, Andrew McCarthy has written another dead-on article about Obama’s whole role in this affair (that’s where I found the above transcript material), which you can read here.

One other thing:  Is it just me, or is The One extremely incoherent?  Those who know me personally know that I speak in fully rounded paragraphs.  There’s not too much difference between my written and spoken word.  Obama, however, reminds me of my worst college professors, with his garbled, inarticulate, illogical, disordered phrasing.  Let me repeat one, just one, of his sentences, and you tell me if these are the words of an orator or an idiot:

Essentially, I think as — as this emerged during debate and during committee, the only plausible rationale, to my mind, for this legislation would be if you had a suspicion that a doctor, the attending physician, who has made an assessment that this is a nonviable fetus and that, let’s say for the purpose of the mother’s health, is being — that — that — labor is being induced, that that physician (a) is going to make the wrong assessment and (b) if the physician discovered, after the labor had been induced, that, in fact, he made an error, or she made an error, and, in fact, that this was not a nonviable fetus but, in fact, a live child, that that physician, of his own accord or her own accord, would not try to exercise the sort of medical measures and practices that would be involved in saving that child.

You need a computer by your side to parse that gibberish.

UPDATEKathleen Parker offers a good summary of the hugely complicated process the Born Alive bill proved to be in Illinois.  Some advance that complicated, delicate history as a defense of Obama’s position — he was just trying to get it right.  His statements above, though, indicate that, while he may then have been — and may now be — trying to hide behind the notion of “getting it right,” his actual concerns transcended ordinary humanity and common decency.

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  • Ymarsakar

    I started reading Sullivan when he first started blogging. At one point, all of a sudden, he flipped from moderate right to angry left.

    It was the gay thing and the war thing. He jumped on the boat where his bread was buttered, same as Benedict Arnold.

  • dg

    Ymarsakar, I’m glad you believe those line should be drawn by universal ethics. Please show me where those universal ethics are. Given the disagreement around the world over ethics, I wonder whose “universal” ethics you’re talking about. Could they be the ones that you espouse? In which case, how do they go from being personal/subjective ethics to universal ones?

  • dg

    Sorry Roy, but that allegation that death sentences in China increased because they sell organs on the international market have been disproven. It is against the law in China to sell such organs. If the practice occurs, it is on the black market and beyond the reach of the government.

    In any case, my point with the hypothetical was to show that you can have “bodies to harvest” without exploitation if you tweak the DNA to grow humans without brains. This is vastly different than convicting a jay-walker of a capital crime to sell his kidneys in Korea. I do wonder, seriously, about that hypothetical. It still makes sense to me…

  • dg

    On the China organs, the Chinese law requires consent by the family. If there is no family to claim the body, then the state can put the organs into the donor bank. I do believe that organs, in this latter case, are often taken without the prisoner’s consent. This is obviously not a great result, but it is also not the killing-for-organs scenario perpetuated in the US press.

  • roylofquist

    Dear dg,

    Universal ethics: There’s a real world test for that. The founders of this country, Deists all, expressed a belief in “Natural Law” which they expressed as “We find these truths to be self evident – that all men are created and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights..”. Our country is not perfect but this is where everybody wants to be.

    As to Chinese law: not worth the paper it is printed on. I have a dear friend, a very successful man who studied Russian at Moscow University and Chinese at Beijing University. He still corresponds with friends in China and has visited many times. He is very fond of the Chinese people and optimistic about their future, but is realistic about the situation there. His view – life is good if you don’t step out of line. Don’t step out of line.

    Regards,
    Roy

  • dg

    Roy,

    Thanks for the post. I’m not sure how recognizing that we have some inalienable rights generates universal ethics. First, what rights are included? Second, how to prioritize when they conflict? Third, which ones are absolute and which ones are contingent? What test covers all of this ground?

    As for the Chinese, there is a huge gulf between saying that their laws are currently inferior as a protection to individuals and saying that they are not worth the paper they are printed on. The Chinese have incorporated the protection of private property into their laws only in the last 5-10 years and are attempting to develop a jurisprudence in decades that took the West centuries. Like your friend, I am very optimistic that they will succeed, but their laws will ultimately look different than ours because their culture is different than ours. We have a history informed by Greco-Roman law and Judeo-Christian ethics, while they have Confucianism, Taoism and the legal traditions of their dynasties to inform their system. They have mostly been at the pinnacle of civilization without resorting to the Magna Carta or the Old Testament, and they won’t necessarily need it going forward either. Hopefully, Westerners can accept a system that lacks our traditions but nonetheless functions as well. And hopefully, Westerners will understand that China, like Rome, is not built in a day.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    dg: I have far more respect for those who choose something identifiable as the end of life, and say that they’ll accept this as the beginning of life, as well. Detection of brain waves is such an objective (relatively, anyhow) marker. If the criterion for whole brain death is taken as the criterion for life, then abortions before that time would be legitimate – leaving VERY little time (about 21 days from conception, if I remember right) to do an abortion, by the way, which is why almost no one will accept this marker. This criterion *would* remove the objection to some birth control pills, as well as IUDs and some other methods.

    Of course, if you have in mind cortical brain waves, then you open another whole can of worms. The cortex forms later in the embryo (I’d have to go look this up), but it’s at the OTHER end of life that this standard would be even more problematic. There are plenty of ethicists touting it – since a door to abundant “harvestable” organs would be opened. But, people with flat cortical brain waves wake up and function normally (true, VERY infrequently) and the newest data is on people in a “vegetative state” that responded to Ambien by waking up and conversing. I think the “cortical brain wave” standard is simply a way of dehumanizing badly damaged people so we don’t have to respect their human rights.

    I’m going to challenge you on the condom thing. A zygote is not a “potential” life, or “potential” anything else. It *is* a distinct human being at a very early stage of development. That’s a different category from a sperm and an egg, which are not separate human beings, and will never, unless we mess with them in some way (or just let them get together), become a human being.

    Something similar to your hypothetical has been proposed, my friend. The idea would be to clone someone (it would have to be a really rich person) to form an embryo, and then as the brain just begins to form, disrupt the portions that will become the cortex, leaving only the parts that don’t really distinguish human from other animals. The human entity would then not be a “person” because of the lack of cortical function, and the rich person would have “spare parts”. From your perspective, this “works” because the “person” is never present. From mine, which does not distinguish between “human” and “person”, you have used another human being for you own ends, by depriving him/her of the chance to develop.

    I don’t expect ever to see a human body grown without a brain….but the growth of various organs using adult stem cells? I think that’s coming…..and if we really can extend our lives in that way, I’ll be ready – assuming I can afford it!

  • Ozzie

    At one point, all of a sudden, he flipped from moderate right to angry left. Without any explanation. – Roy

    It was in late February, 2004, Roy, following Bush’s call for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

    He explained shift in perspective thusly:

    “It was because I believed in the Constitution of the United States that I felt no qualms in backing this president and in fighting rhetorical wars on his behalf – because that Constitution was under attack. . . So you can see, perhaps, why the bid to write anti-gay discrimination into this very Constitution provokes such a strong response from me – and so many other people, gay and straight, and their families. It robs us of something no one in this country should be robbed of – equality and inclusion in the founding document itself. When people tell me that, in weighing the political choices, the war on terror should trump the sanctity of the Constitution, my response is therefore a simple one. The sanctity of the Constitution is what we are fighting for. We’re not fighting just to defend ourselves. We are fighting to defend a way of life: pluralism, freedom, equality under the law.”

    Sullivan received thousand e-mails regarding “the president’s shocking embrace of discrimination in the Constitution,” and as one e-mailer explained, “I have voted for every Republican nominee since Nixon and without regrets. Until now.”

    Torture tends to set him off, too.

    <>

    Was that jerk Kevin Phillips, by any chance?

  • Ozzie

    “I’ve even heard some wingnuts call President Bush a RINO. The man’s grandfather was a United States Senator, his father was President. He was twice elected Governor of Texas and twice elected President. All as Republicans. And some solipsistic jerk elects himself as the gatekeeper for the Republican Party.” — Roy

    Was that jerk Kevin Phillips, by any chance?

    The author of the Emerging Republican Majority, and a former Republican Strategist who also became an independent, he made the case that Susan Eisenhower makes: that respect for the Constitution is not a priority in today’s GOP, condemning the Bush family in particular.

    Saying that the Bush’ family’s “sense of how to win elections comes out of a CIA manual, not out of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution,” he also underscored ways Samuel Prescott Bush and George H. Walker were “present at the emergence of what became the U.S. military-industrial complex,” in which the Bush family has been entangled ever since.v (A 2004 LA Times article by Phillips lays out some of his arguments: http://articles.latimes.com/2004/jan/11/opinion/op-phillips11)

    I’m uncomfortable when elected officials and their cronies benefit financially from policy decisions, and, whether its true or not, have read evidence that once upon a time, America’s leaders were, too.

  • Ymarsakar

    Please show me where those universal ethics are.
    You don’t believe in universal ethics. You cannot be shown what you will not see.

    I can show Petraeus’ success in Iraq to a hundred million people in the world. Most will see it as a defeat, not as a victory or vindication of America or Bush.

    Universal ethics has predicted and calculated people’s need to refuse to acknowledge reality. It continues to function, however, regardless of people’s subjective moralities.

    The Chinese have incorporated the protection of private property into their laws only in the last 5-10 years and are attempting to develop a jurisprudence in decades that took the West centuries.

    You are, again, mistaking speed for efficiency and production for ethical conduct. None of what you mentioned means a thing. They are not the West, nor are they trying to do as the West has done for the past 2 milleniums.

  • Ymarsakar

    Also, it was you, dg, who said that it doesn’t matter to the dead factory worker whether he was killed by a totalitarian government with policies that intentionally sacrifice people like him or a democratic republic that tries to correct their mistakes after the fact.

    This demonstrates a structure of equivalence where you see no benefit to democratic republics. Yet right here, you try to excuse Chinese progress by saying that they are getting better because they have been handicapped by a compression in law development.

    So which is it. Does it not matter when people die because of your China’s policies what China’s government is like or will be. Or does it actually matter, when you decide it matters?

  • dg

    Earl: Again, nice post. What if I engineered the DNA to produce a body without the brain, so that within your 21 day window you don’t have a human? Would you buy that body for spare parts, as you would spare parts derived from adult (pluripotent) stem cells?

    I agree about the “which brain waves?” can of worms, but at least we’ve moved the discussion into the realm of empiricism.

    My issue with the potentiality of life is this: at three weeks, if a woman spontaneously aborts, we do not hold a funeral (no culture on the planet does this). Why not? Because it is not viewed as a human in the same way that a newly born child is, which is why you would hold the funeral for the still-born. There is a gradient of potentiality starting with haploid cells (sperm and egg), going through the zygote and then the differing stages of human development. I know that bright line tests are better, but they have to accord with reality also. Is a fertilized zygote a higher human potentiality than an unfertilized egg? Of course. Does it rise to a level warranting a funeral if lost? Clearly not.

  • dg

    Ymarsakar, I guess I’m searching for a definition of universal ethics that can be concretely defined, intuitively grasped and has a grounding in empirical evidence. An example: John Rawls, the famous 20th century American philosopher, spoke of employing a veil of ignorance to determine social welfare policies. Although difficult, one could imagine contemplating the point before you are born, not knowing where you would be born in the world, in what condition genetically and environmentally, and asking yourself what condition you would want the lowest levels of society to live in, given that you could end up there. This gets at universality because it strips away the differences in talent, wealth and even unique risk aversion that one might have, while having someone determine the level of insurance that a reasonable person would demand on average. It is a powerful idea, although still not without limitations. Kant, much earlier, also attempted to arrive at a rationally-derived set of ethics by demanding that any rule that is allowed to stand must be one that can be universalized. Pareto, borrowing from economics, described something similar in terms of optimalities and equilibrium. These are very powerful ideas, from brilliant minds, but they do not get us to a full set of ethics. I wonder what your system looks like and how it is similar to these herculean but still-lacking attempts, given that you speak of its in such absolutely certain, confident terms.

    BTW, it absolutely does matter how a worker dies, but it must be tied to a relevant question. In the case of the discussion above, the question was whether China’s development is “more cruel” than ours. Bookworm appeared to think that because a “problematic state” organizes the development, then it is per se crueler. My point is that the Chinese government (and private enterprise working along side) is taking more steps in the name of safety than US companies did 100-150 years ago, and proof is the number of deaths in these major projects. Now “cruel” unfortunately connotes motive, which I would like to avoid–how do I know whether Rockefeller, Astor or Carnegie “cared” more about their laborers than Hu jin-tao or Li ka-shing? I would like to focus on statistics to determine which development destroyed or maimed more lives.

    Now, regarding the value I personally place on political systems: of course I too prefer a political system that is more democratic. However, this is not a black-and-white discussion. If China shows that being less democratic earlier on achieves the necessary wealth and resources to become wealthy and more liberal (in the classical political sense) later on, then perhaps that model is better than the one espoused by neo-cons and other conservatives and followed by India and Russia.

    I think the difference is that you have a set of ethical beliefs that are absolute and, you believe, absolutely compel everyone equally. Because various aspects of China’s system and method of development offend that system, you seem to discount massively the gains that have been made. I do not completely understand your system, reject its univeral and absolute nature, disagree that there is little value in what China has accomplished, and belive that in the future China will come out the other end looking like Singapore and, therefore, will vindicate itself in the eyes of all but the most reactionary minds (i.e., the few who still hate Singapore).

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    dg: Thanks. I appreciate debating this with someone rational and courteous, because “iron sharpens iron” as they say….one’s arguments get flabby without challenges.

    First, I’m a biologist, but trained BEFORE the molecular revolution – my genetics class was basically Mendel! I’ve learned a lot over the years, because I’ve been teaching ‘WAY beyond my formal training, just in the General Biology class I offer to our majors. Amazing times in which we live.

    OK, without a lot of deep thinking about this, it seems to me that if you COULD mess with the DNA *before fertilization*, so that the “entity” would produce body parts without a brain, then you wouldn’t have a human being – you would have human body parts. And that’s not problematic to anyone of whom I’m aware on the pro-life side – not even Benedict. However, I don’t think that works in the real world.

    I’m going to be adamant about the biological reality, though, dg – I’m expert enough in my field to know that the fertilized egg (that is, the zygote) is no more “human potentiality” than is the newborn. Each is a human being in an early stage of development. Each is at risk (note the argument about the “born-alive infant protection act”), but both must have human rights if we don’t want constant arguments about which humans ought to have the right to life and which ought not.

    By the way, my Mom lost a baby early in pregnancy over 50 years ago. I have never heard her talk about it, and only learned when I asked her once why my younger brother and sister were two years apart rather than 15 months like my sister and I are. Anyhow, she’s a pretty hard-headed psychiatrist, but she immediately teared up – that tiny child may not be “viewed as a human in the same way that a newly born child is” to you, but how we “view” it changes, depending on who you ask. We can’t base moral decision-making about life and death on how you or I “view” things. The biological reality is what’s critical – and the zygote is not “potentially human”, it *is* human.

  • BrianE

    Skeptic will argue that this is merely hormonal, but…
    There’s this:

    A new study indicates psychiatric illness could be triggered by abortion. However critics term it as an “post-abortion syndrome” tactic from the anti-abortion movement. Researchers found that 72% of women who terminated their pregnancies were more likely to be hospitalised for psychiatric problems in the first four years after their pregnancy than women who carried their pregnancies to term. The study also indicated that Women who had an abortion were nearly three times more likely to be admitted to hospital// for mental health problems than women who delivered.

    Then there’s this:

    A study has been conducted in women to address the issue of whether abortion increased a woman’s chance of suffering from depression.

    The study that looked at US women who aborted or delivered an unwanted pregnancy reveal that pre-existing mental health might be a better predictor of depression risk. Surprisingly, women who opted for a termination reported less depression than those who chose to carry on with the unwanted pregnancy.

    http://www.bio-medicine.org/medicine-news/Abortion-Does-Not-Increase-Risk-Of-Depression-In-Women-5404-1/

    And this:
    Physicians should recognize the psychologic issues that affect a patient who experiences a spontaneous abortion. Although the literature lacks good evidence to support psychologic counseling for women after a spontaneous abortion, it is thought that patients will have better outcomes if these issues are addressed. The patient and her partner may be dealing with feelings of guilt, and they typically will go through a grieving process and have symptoms of anxiety and depression.
    http://www.aafp.org/afp/20051001/1243.html

  • suek

    It’s a federal offense to destroy, steal or remove eggs from the nest of the Bald Eagle.

    What does that tell you?

  • Ymarsakar

    It is pointless to describe universal ethics, for it is too much as a whole to mean anything on the microscopic.

    You can know what it is derived from, however. Meaning, A is A and A cannot be A and B at the same time, is one of the fundamental identity axioms of universal ethics. Causality is another fundamental axiom of universal ethics. In fact, all the laws of physics and all the laws that we don’t know of yet, create universal ethics.

    That which would violate the reality of the universe, cannot be ethical. It can only be dishonest, self-delusional, inefficient, or counter-productive.

    The universe is rational, thus universal ethics exist. Now if the universe was irrational and people could make up reality as per their wishes or ideology, then there would be no universal ethics, now would there.

    In the case of the discussion above, the question was whether China’s development is “more cruel” than ours.

    So China, having us as an example and partner to help them, cannot help repeating the mistakes you say we made? And why is that, given that the US had no body better to look up to back then, but China does. How do you excuse their refusal to adopt better policies, that they know works, because they know how powerful and wealthy the US is?

    Because various aspects of China’s system and method of development offend that system

    It is self-delusional to believe that China has no better choice than to repeat the mistakes the US made, just because China is doing the same things or going at it faster than the US did. It does not erase reality, here, dg, which is that China has been provided many things that would allow them to conduct themselves better. They just choose not to.

    disagree that there is little value in what China has accomplished

    It is not a matter of value, it is a matter of ethics. Ethics has nothing to do with value, just as physics laws has nothing to do with how much energy there is or isn’t in the universe. One creates the other, not the other way around. Ethics create value, value doesn’t create ethics. Laws of the universe creates (or created) energy and determine how they behave, not the other way around.

  • Ymarsakar

    To clarify, unethical standards also create value, you know. It just creates them inefficiently and creates less of them.

  • Ymarsakar

    Now, regarding the value I personally place on political systems: of course I too prefer a political system that is more democratic. However, this is not a black-and-white discussion. If China shows that being less democratic earlier on achieves the necessary wealth and resources to become wealthy and more liberal (in the classical political sense) later on, then perhaps that model is better than the one espoused by neo-cons and other conservatives and followed by India and Russia.

    The actual truth to your argument is being done in Iraq, by your so called neo cons.

    What you have for China are theories. Meaning, they are yours, they are not necessarily what the Chinese are doing.

    America has combined theory and testing of theory in Iraq and Afghanistan. All the arguments of being less democratic earlier on, applies to Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet their human rights are still much better than China’s. And there is no excuse for that, except that China thinks they can do it better than the US.

  • dg

    Ymarsakar, you must more fully define what is ethical or else I do not understand what you are saying. Sorry. One thing, though, I’d definitely rather live and raise a family in China than in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Efficiency, wealth levels, economic development, public safety all matter even if delivered by an “unethical” state (by your ill defined moral system), and China has those in spades over Iraq and Afghanistan. It really is not even a close call at this point anyway.

  • dg

    BrianE, the quotes are very compelling, and I do not doubt that most women take the abortion decision very seriously (hopefully before and definitely after). I do wonder, however, how to distinguish correlation from causality concerning this issue. You can simultaneously argue, first (and as you likely believe) that the abortion causes the depression, but second (as others can legitimately see it), that chronic depression leads to risky behaviors that result in the need for abortions. I don’t know how to resolve the question, either logically or with even (shakier) anecdotal evidence–because I don’t have any friends or relatives that elected to have an abortion. Maybe you have an insight to share that could illuminate the issue more fully…

  • dg

    Earl, once again, a very thoughtful post. I absolutely agree that we need objective measures, which is something I’ve argued elsewhere. I did not mean to suggest otherwise, but instead raised the issue of cultures around the world not holding funerals for unborn babies/spontaneously aborted fetuses to try to observe objectively that there is something empirically different going on even if I cannot say what it is. Enough with the clarification.

    It is very difficult to take issue with your logic once you accept the assumption that genetics makes us human. Yet while I agree that 1) we need an objective, empirical test, and 2) we want to avoid arbitrary denial of rights, I still believe that consciousness rather than genetics alone is required to be human. For example, I have no problem with doctors stopping life support for a person who is brain dead, because without consciousness that person is no longer a human. Given that I believe this, I have trouble accepting that a 16 week embryo is human yet. If it is not human yet, then I am not denying it human rights by terminating it. I do not think that this view is any less objective, nor runs any greater risk of denigrating human rights. Thoughts?

  • Ymarsakar

    Ymarsakar, you must more fully define what is ethical or else I do not understand what you are saying.

    You tend to see ethics as something scientific, meaning first you gather some data and then you make a hypothesis and then try to explain everything in life. That’s not how ethics work.

    If you cannot extrapolate what it means from the basic axioms I have given you, then it cannot be defined by someone with your beliefs. Deductive logic cannot be defined by inductive logic, or vice a versa.

    (by your ill defined moral system)

    Ethics has nothing to do with the morals of one culture over another.

    I do not define my ethical standard as you do for your own. I do not say it is just whatever makes people comfortable. I do not believe all the laws of the universe are currently known to us, thus I do not attempt to define all the laws of the universe. You want an absolute definition and standard, but what you want is the wrong thing.

    Reality is not absolute just because you define it as. Reality just is. When you conflict with reality, you must change. That is the opposite of absoluteness, it is flexibility and adaptation.

    and China has those in spades over Iraq and Afghanistan. It really is not even a close call at this point anyway.

    Thanks for showing your biases, for America has all those things in spades over China, yet you make excuses for China but not Iraq and Afghanistan when compared to China. It’s an interesting paradox, you see, for it totally destroys your attempt at fairness or objectivity or even logic.

    It is not as if you truly want to improve China’s society. It is not as if you are saying that primitive systems will have a hard time adapting to a more cosmopolitan one. No, it’s just China you want to defend compared to the US. When people say China is doing worse than the US or what not, you justify China’s actions. When somebody compares China to Iraq and Afghanistan, you defend China’s power over Iraq’s power, you do not defend Iraq and give the same excuses for them as you gave for China.

  • Ozzie

    don’t know how to resolve the question, either logically or with even (shakier) anecdotal evidence–because I don’t have any friends or relatives that elected to have an abortion. ” – dg

    I have friends who have elected to have abortions, but, given that I was in the same circumstance (and elected to keep and raise my baby), I don’t discuss it with them, because I dont want it to appear as if I’m judging them.

    This is what I can tell you from my own experience:

    * I dont know when life begins, and since I don’t know for sure, decided to err on the side of doing what I believe God expects of me. Since this occured shortly after Roe vs Wade, EVERYONE was surprised that I, as a freshman in college, would jeopardize my future by having a baby.

    * The baby’s father took off, and I went to college and work. Pro-lifers (like my ex-mother-in-law) were often the the first to criticize me for putting my son in day care. On the other hand, some of the more “militant” women I worked with openly derided my decision to have a child so young. (In my experience, there are people who are pro-abortion, and not merely pro-choice).

    * When I married and became pregnant with my second child more than a decade later, the culture war had become so heated, that protestors would greet me before I went to see my OB-GYN and would beg me not to have an abortion.
    As with the pro-abortion advocates, they made assumptions based upon their own extremist views.

    In the end, I found pro-life and pro-abortion activists to be equally obnoxious.

    On a happy note, however, my son is now 32, and is succcessful, not to mention the smartest and funniest person I ever met. He is also often the lone pro-life voice among his friends. He told me he can’t be pro-choice because it would negate his existence. And on several occassions, he’s thanked for what he considers to be a wonderful life.

    It feels good. If I had had an abortion, however, I would have counted birthdays with sadness.

    Even so, I don’t want to judge. Because I honestly dont know when life begins — and/or how other women feel about the choices they’ve made. In most cases, kindness is called for. Regardless what a woman chooses.

  • dg

    Ymarsakar, I’m not making excuses for China but trying to offer a more textured and balanced view. I wish China could magically eliminate all human rights violations, as I wish the US could limit the fewer number occurring in our country. I would pick as a place to live China over Iraq and Afghanistan because they are worse than China by that measure, not to mention their inferior stability, economic opportunity, standard of living, and (and here I am being subjective!) tastiness of their food. The rest of your discourse on ethics, I have to say I do not understand. You might have a great set of ideas in your head, but lesser minds like mine are not grasping them readily. Sorry about that.

    Ozzie, thanks for that personal story.

  • Ozzie

    Ozzie, thanks for that personal story.- dg

    People who are extremists, whether they are pro-life or pro choice, are so locked within their own mindsets, that they can’t see anything else and become less human in the process.

    That’ s what I sense when I read Jill Stanek.

    She watches the “Godfather II” and decides that mass murderer Michael Corleone is a hero, of sorts, for slapping his wife who had the audacity to have an abortion and sees good qualities in the serial killer in “Mr. Brooks” because he doenst want his daughter to kill her fetus.

    The bigger picture — i.e that you’re not really pro-life when you are a murderer and/or serial killer — is somehow not all that relevant.

    True believers are a fascinating lot. But they can’t see past their own noses.

  • dg

    Faith is a dangerous thing, but also a necessary thing.

  • Ymarsakar

    Ymarsakar, I’m not making excuses for China but trying to offer a more textured and balanced view.

    Which is based upon your unbalanced and biased view that this needs balancing by taking one side.

    You might have a great set of ideas in your head, but lesser minds like mine are not grasping them readily. Sorry about that.

    If you cannot even comprehend what deductive logic and philosophical axioms are and what they imply, then that is not a problem with your mind, it is a problem with your education, liberal arts or anything else for that matter.

  • Ymarsakar

    When somebody can’t even comprehend that the mathematical identity law that X is X means that ax plus bx plus cx means that the x is the same number-variable, is not something that has a problem with their mind.

  • dg

    Ymarsakar,

    “Which is based upon your unbalanced and biased view that this needs balancing by taking one side.”

    I didn’t take one side. I acknowledged one side (that supression of dissent is wrong) and raised the other (that Chinese economic development is still a net good).

    “If you cannot even comprehend what deductive logic and philosophical axioms are and what they imply, then that is not a problem with your mind, it is a problem with your education, liberal arts or anything else for that matter.”

    I’ll be sure to take that up with my famous and expensive alma mater.

    “When somebody can’t even comprehend that the mathematical identity law that X is X means that ax plus bx plus cx means that the x is the same number-variable, is not something that has a problem with their mind.”

    Thanks for the math lesson:

    X=X

    and this:

    ax + bx + cx = (a + b + c)x, where x=x

    Now we both know that we both know what tautologies are…

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    dg: *THE* “objective, empirical test” is genetics, so far as I can tell. I’m not aware of any other way to determine who is a human being and what is not, other than to have a look at their genetics. It’s how we determine species these days, after all….it’s what divides us from chimps and other primates, despite the desire of some to give “human rights” to non-human animals.

    If a human being is “brain dead” (and I’m sticking with “whole brain” death), then stopping life support (NOT food and water, which are minimum care, not “life support’) is not killing the human being under consideration, because that person is already dead – all we’re doing is keeping the heart going and the body warm by using technology. To stop the heart stimulator and other mechanisms simply allows death, that has already occurred, to manifest itself. As I think I said earlier, not even the Pope objects to this.

    Please explain how “consciousness” can qualify as an “objective, empirical test” of who is human, or of who has the right to life….. Logically, that appears to mean that someone in a coma isn’t human, or has lost her right to life. Why not? She does not possess consciousness, after all. If you tell me that she WILL have consciousness, that it’s only absent for the time being, I will tell you the same about the zygote, embryo, and fetus.

    I’ve gone around and around on this with my brother and others – if we desire to maintain protection for weaker human beings against stronger ones, the genetic test is the only one that works. Anyone genetically human (how can you be human any other way?) has full human rights. And we don’t give full human rights to any organism other than human ones. If that be speciesist, make the most of it!

    :-)

  • dg

    I don’t know that “whole brain” is a clinical term or a clear-cut concept, is it?

    Also, I have an issue with your explanation for why we can unplug people on life support. I think the decision turns on whether the person will recover to something remotely resembling human life, not whether they would die without technological intervention. I mean we’re also using technology to close up the wounds of someone in the IR who would otherwise die. If we can keep that person alive, then why not the brain dead personal also? Is it morally acceptable to let the gun-shot victim die because we’re witholding technology to let death take its natural course? I don’t think so. So why take a human off life support? We do it because we recognize not that they are dead, but because they are no longer human. At least that is what I always thought.

    I also would want my family to euthanize me if I were brain dead but able to sustain my vitals (this is possible, since those capacities lie in different parts of the brain, as you likely know), and I would not want others to interfere with that decision. While some looked that Schiavo case as a case of husband killing wife with judicial support, I saw a case of the court imputing a woman’s dying wishes and (finally) carrying them out. I have made my wishes clear, so I won’t put my family through such hardship nor subject them to political theater. But this is a separate issue.

    I agree that we need to be careful with human rights, but you still haven’t convinced me that genetics, while a clear test, completely accords with my intuition and reason. But there may be no better test, assuming you are right about how equivocal the interpretation of brain waves/function is.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    dg: I’m sorry for using a term without defining it. “Brain death” is defined in (at least) a couple of ways. One says that you’re dead when your cerebral cortex is “flat-lined” – that an EEG shows no activity in the cortex. But human beings can keep going for years with no apparent cortical activity. Furthermore, people in a coma may actually HAVE activity in the cortex, but it’s “disorganized”, and they aren’t showing any signs of consciousness or ability to respond to normal stimuli. There isn’t any “objective, empirical” standard available here……

    The second (and until now, at least) most commonly used definition is “whole-brain” death, meaning that the ENTIRE brain isn’t showing activity on the EEG. The involuntary control systems that keep your heart going all the time, and keep you breathing when you’re asleep or under anaesthetic, plus your digestive, urinary and other systems working without you paying any attention – all of these are controlled in the parts of your brain outside the cortex. And when all of that shuts down — you are dead, in the “whole-brain” sense.

    You can easily see the attraction of the “cortical” standard – all those “dead” people with well-nourished and healthy parts, like lungs and hearts and kidneys, that we could take to make life better and longer for conscious people who need them. So far, as I said, the “whole-brain” definition rules the transplant community, although there are lots of folks who chafe at the restrictions – “for the greater good”, of course.

    From my perspective, if someone is so badly damaged that they have to have a stimulator to keep the heart going, be artificially ventilated, and so on – that is, their whole brain has stopped working – they’re (effectively) dead. With whole-brain death, even the mechanisms can’t keep things running for the long term. Therefore, turning off the machines does not “kill” them, it’s simply a refusal to lengthen the dying process.

    That’s very different from going in to an unconscious warm body lying in the bed, whose only need for care is ordinary things like range-of-motion exercises, feeding, bathing, etc – the kind of thing we do for babies all the time – and taking their organs because we have defined them as “dead”, since their cerebral cortex isn’t working.

    dg, maybe we can shorten this by putting it this way…..I think that genetically human entities that can operate on their own, if given proper resources and ordinary care, have the right to life. You, and many others, have a personal standard that human entities have to meet if they are to be granted the right to life. In your case, that standard is “consciousness”, however you define it (which you have not, so far). Other people have very different standards. That path takes us, and rather quickly, to “might makes right”, and I am not willing to even START down that path.

    Check this article, and see if the author is describing your view of this issue:
    http://www.llu.edu/news/today/may21/com.htm

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