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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Does everything have to be sooooo over the top?

Some folks in London are "shocked and saddened" that people found their idea to serve "Death Row Dinners" disgusting.

I will tell them precisely where their interesting idea went bad. But first a little background.

Here's a version of the news from Fox about the social media backlash. These blokes, whoever they are, thought it would be a good idea to start a restaurant that catered to the notion of what people would like for their last dinner ever. That is to say, if you knew you when you were going to die and could have anything in the world for your last meal, what would it be?

They called it Death Row Dinners.

Their materials showed an array of somber and not very attractive mug shots,  presumably of people who are terrible criminals and guilty of God knows what, with a placard around their necks featuring the menu of their last meal choice. I don't know - perhaps that was the restaurant's actual menu.

They described the dining experience with words related to being in jail, being arrested, being sentenced to death, and all that.

It was over the top with the whole execution motif.

Here's their apology:

“We're shocked and saddened by the response to Death Row Dinners and are genuinely very sorry for any offence caused. The pop up [a kind of restaurant in the UK] is intended to explore the concept of last meals; anyone who has ever been to a dinner party has probably had this conversation – what would they love their last meal to be. In light of the response to the idea we are considering our next steps and will update everyone with our decision.”

Notice what they're shocked and saddened by. Shocked, they were, that anyone was offended.

Yes, we've all sat around the dinner table discussing our favorite foods, and how we'd like to part from earthly life if food were a part of that event.

But this is where these entrepreneurs went wrong.

They went over the top with the death experience and death row and death and jail and death. Did I mention death? "What you'd like for your last meal" really isn't about the death experience at all - it's about the meal. Those conversations are about favorite foods. By making the dining experience about dying, disgusting criminals, their unspoken disgusting deeds deserving death, their deaths, their last means, and relating all of that to your diners' deaths and making them feel like they're also disgusting criminals - that is, by keeping death and gruesomeness so in-you-face in over-the-top fashion, they destroyed all possible enjoyment of the food.

They propose this as a restaurant.

People go to a restaurant to enjoy life, and food.

Ugh. And they're shocked, shocked I tell you!, that this caused offense.

I'm shocked, shocked!, that they're shocked.

This may seem totally unrelated, but I am officially also not a fan of the new Star Trek movies anymore for a very similar reason. They have their good points, but they are also so over the top, that as a long-time Star Trek fan, they have robbed my enjoyment of the Star Trek universe. There was some element of believability in the original series and the Next Generation. But the new stories - totally unbelievable. The characters are good, the cast is good, the stories have some good points. But things are too big, too flashy, too dramatic, too stylized - it's too over the top. I mean seriously, just how big is Kirk's Enterprise, that he has to run miles to get to the warp core, and what the heck is that thing he has to kick, and why is there soooo much wasted and unnecessary SPACE around it, in a fairly early starship design?

But back to food.... Does everything have to be so sweet that it's sickening? Hot sauces that are so hot they put people in the hospital?

Does everything have to be extreme in order to be good?

We have lost all sense of virtue, which holds a middle course. We do not know what "just right" is anymore because we don't know what "right" is to begin with.

Those entrepreneurs are SHOCKED that people are upset. Really. SHOCKED? Really? Their reaction is over the top too. Extreme.

That anyone could be shocked that people are disgusted by disgusting things associated with what could be their very favorite foods is itself shocking.

By the way, the UK is so disgusted with the very idea of "death row" it doesn't have a death penalty. A fine place to start a restaurant called Death Row Dinners.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

What if these people never had been born...?

TheRichest.com, a website full of trivia and gossip that can really drain if not pollute your brain, has published a list of 8 famous people who narrowly avoided being aborted. Surely there are more, or at least people who have had lives that have been rich for themselves and have enriched others. But the fame of these people underscores the fact that abortion robs not only the baby of a life, but the rest of us of the wonderful things they might accomplish.

These people are:
  • Sean Lennon
  • Nick Cannon (the one name I didn't recognize because I don't follow pop culture much - Mariah Carey's husband, which you all might know)
  • Tim Tebow
  • Cher
  • Justin Bieber
  • Celine Dion
  • Steve Jobs
  • Pope St. John Paul II
You can go read their stories at TheRichest.

That article, between the lines, allows several conclusions:
  • The very availability of abortion makes considering it an obligation. I have heard of families faced with an unintended or difficult pregnancy where the first thing decided was, "Well, you're NOT getting an abortion!" I mean, really, the idea that it is the first thing considered, instead of being the last resort, even by people who would not choose it, really says something about our society.
  • These are only 8 of the most famous to people in the US, although many have international reputations. How many others are unsung or obscure but nonetheless accomplishing great things? Of the tens of millions aborted in the last 40 years in the US alone, how many others have we been deprived of? How many in the hundreds of millions worldwide?
  • The probabilities used in calculating whether an abortion makes sense are just that. Probabilities. John Paul II would "probably" have had a hard short life with heart problems, but he didn't. Celine Dion's family was poor, and another child (her) would have been a big hardship. If it's an 80% chance of a bad outcome for the unborn child or his family, that sounds pretty much like a no-brainer for an abortion - but what is lost in that 20%?
  • It's never too late to change your mind, prior to getting the procedure.
I said the other day that the idea of "love your neighbor as yourself" means considering all other human beings, even the unborn, and so connected to ourselves as "to be" ourselves.

And then there's that video of a woman undergoing an abortion and being proud of it. It was "right for her." Her and what she called her "awesome" power to make a life - and destroy it. And what exactly did she destroy? A great singer? A visionary entrepreneur? A powerful saint? What gives her that right?

And is an abortion really a private act after all, when it affects the rest of us so much?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dawkins proves my point about atheistic bioethics

First... it's been several months since my last post. I didn't realize it was that long!

Ah, life. May involved my oldest daughter graduating from college and a trip to California for that. June saw a trip to Maryland, to bring my wife to her last summer session for her master's in liberal arts and the Great Books, followed by attending to the needs of my family in her absence, as well as work. The summer was rather busy, with August including my wife's graduation. Lots of good things happening!

I have often said that atheistic ethics, and bioethics in particular, leads to different conclusions that ethics in a culture formed by religion because of the different starting points.

And it is difficult to lump religion together, because their starting points and their concepts of God differ. In his remarks yesterday, President Obama said that ISIS does not represent any religion - because no concept of a just God would tolerate their behavior. Oh, but Mr President, they DO represent a religion and they are doing precisely what their sacred writings demand of them. Just because they have murdered many Shiites and Sunnis does not mean they do not represent that religion - it just means ISIS believes that those particular Shiites and Sunnis are infidels. So you see, "religion" is not a good umbrella term. Lots of bad religions, and good religions used by bad people for bad ends.

With that said, if one holds that there is a God, and that human beings by their superior capacity for intellectual and creative thought that all other critters on this planet lack resemble God in his highest attributes and powers (which are impeded but not totally lacking in people with Down's syndrome), then one would reason ethically and logically in one way.

If one holds that there is no God, and that human life is an accident of mindless processes of the material universe and its inexorable physical laws, then one would reason ethically and logically in another way.

The premises are what determine the conclusions.

Famous atheist Richard Dawkins has recently said it would be immoral to give birth to a baby with Down's syndrome if the woman could get an abortion instead. He has defended his position as "logical."

And he is 80% right - IF his premise that God does not exist is right. The child will have a short life that will be full of hardship, compared to someone "normal." And the parents and other loved ones will have financial, emotional, and other hardships and inconveniences as well. And society has to be reminded that there are those less fortunate that sap our resources and attention and make us remember that we are human beings and not animals after all, because we can't just kill them after they're born. Of course, I know several families with Down's syndrome children, who note that there are wonderful dimensions of this genetic condition, too. Those dimensions would be lost - but on the whole, it would be "better" for all concerned that the baby be aborted.

The 20% in which he is wrong comes from the fact that if God does not exist, then he has no authority whatsoever to tell anyone else in the world what is moral and immoral. About ANYTHING. The final decision of morality has to reside with the person making that decision. He can have his opinion, but pontificating about what is and isn't moral is just him trying to assume the position of a religious authority and impose his morality on everyone. You can agree with him and show me how he reasons well or whatever - but there are other sides to the story and particulars of individual circumstances that he and you do not know, and ultimately, you can offer your opinion and advice, but cannot determine the right and wrong of any individual's decisions. Period. It would be wrong to impose your morality on anyone else.

Ultimately, if there is no God, then the morality of giving birth to a Down's baby is determined by the person who makes the final decision about it.

So, the balance sheet is in Dawkins' favor in certain respects - but his moral authority is zero and everyone is free to disagree with him and declare with as much authority as he that the opposite choice is the more moral.

But what if Dawkins' premise is wrong? Then, all living human individuals, from the moment the exist as living human individuals, are morally indistinct from each other - that is, ALL others have the same moral standing before God and "I" do, and "my" ethical decisions have to reflect that fact. Loving one's neighbor "as oneself" is not "as much as one loves oneself" but "as if that other person was you" - as if your bond to the other was so profound any harm done to him would be harm done to yourself and any good done to him would be good done to yourself.

I knew a guy in high school who loved a particular rock band "as himself." His girlfriend said that the band was "alright" - which was not good enough, and he took it personally, and they broke up over it. So, when we see someone being treated unjustly, even a stranger, do we take it personally, as if we ourselves were treated unjustly?

I am sickened by Dawkins because I believe if he knew me he would have wanted me to be aborted, too. Not because I have Down's, because I don't, but because I have some other intellectual defect that is poisoning society, namely, the idiocy of religious faith. Religion has to be a much huger drain on society than Down's - because hundreds of millions of Americans have religion of some kind, but only one in 1000 children have Down's. And someone like me is part of the problem. But mostly it would be because I have the audacity to say he's wrong.

What's the difference between what Dawkins advocates and ISIS? Only the target of who they believe deserves to live and who doesn't.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Let the Conservative Frenzy Feeding Upon Pope Francis Begin Again - Updates

Here is an article by the AP, highlighting some of the recent comments by Pope Francis, and taking them out of context.

The first thing taken out of context are the two words quoted in the headline: POPE DEMANDS 'LEGITIMATE REDISTRIBUTION' OF WEALTH.

First of all, the Pope did not "demand" anything. Shame on Nicole Winfield, the reporter, and her AP editors. SHAME.

I would like to point out that the Pope's comments are in an address to folks at the UN. As such, these comments have very little doctrinal or disciplinary authority. Popes almost never make "demands" on these occasions, and Popes rarely make "demands" of secular organizations in any case.

Secondly, the Pope did NOT mention a redistribution of "wealth." Shame also on DRUDGE also for doing the same thing. Look, putting the word "wealth" into the Pope's mouth in this context is simply SPIN and not reporting. Why not say "economic benefits" - the Pope's actual words? Because those words are not as sensational. DRUDGE. Really.

Breitbart parrots the AP language. Way to go Breitbart. I can't say "shame" because this is what your organization is really about - not truth, but making your enemies look bad. You're using liberal political tactics to promote so-called conservative policies. As of 10:30 AM EDT, the comments are living up to true Breitbart form. A couple of people try to point out that the AP story is misleading, and they get slammed. Outlets like Breitbart are driving Catholics like me away.

So, the Pope's words were a "legitimate redistribution of economic benefits." There is a difference. Of course the very enlightened and educated and unbigoted and fair and even tempered folks who like to throw fits at places like Breitbart.com would disagree and call me a democrat-loving Marxist for pointing out the difference. But who cares? There IS a difference, and denying it is a denial of reality.

"Redistribution of wealth" means taking money from those who have it and giving it to those who do not. Rob or at least coercively extort from the rich to give to the poor. The Pope did NOT say that. "Economic benefits" can mean so much more than "wealth," and may not even mean "money." It can mean using tax money to, I don't know, run libraries, community centers, health clinics, and museums; provide low interest loans to get housing, cars, and such; and all sorts of things that poor people cannot actually afford in their present state, which if they could, would elevate all of society.  The State could sponsor organizations like Habitat for Humanity, which rehabilitates housing for poor people. And organizations that go to poor countries to educate children, train adults, and improve people's lives.

The resources for such things do not always trickle down - if they did, then the Pope wouldn't be encouraging the State to step in.

People who gain wealth tend to want to keep it for themselves, because gaining it is what they set out to do. There is an inherent resistance to "trickle-down" in greed-based economies. There is. Of course, rich people do spend money, and in that sense it trickles down to some degree. But rich people generally tend to occupy themselves with turning their wealth into more and greater wealth, which does not really trickle down so much. Look, if you had income of $10 million, would you simply SPEND or give away $9.8 million and save the rest for retirement? No, you'd invest, like, 9 million of it, protecting it from trickle-down, and spend the rest on lavish living. Maybe give some way for tax purposes or something.

The AP story does eventually quote more of the statement in question, but again it is out of context. The Pope was careful to frame the statement with the story of Zaccheus, whom the Pope notes acted freely in caring for the poor. The Pope pointed out, "The account of Jesus and Zacchaeus teaches us that above and beyond economic and social systems and theories, there will always be a need to promote generous, effective and practical openness to the needs of others." (I added the bold.)

The Pope then says, "Jesus does not ask Zacchaeus to change jobs nor does he condemn his financial activity; he simply inspires him to put everything, freely yet immediately and indisputably, at the service of others."

So, I must ask the AP, if JESUS does not make DEMANDS of Zaccheus, how on earth do you interpret the Pope's comments, which he frames in mentioning this fact, as a demand? Seriously!

Promoting the "generous, effective and practical openness to the needs of others" is hardly a demand.

I think what's really missing is an examination of the word "legitimate." What might the Pope mean by his encouragement of "legitimate" redistribution of "economic benefits"? Hmmmm.

We have lost the capacity to think clearly and rationally.


John Moody at Fox has bared his teeth. He has the audacity as to tell the Pope his job and that he has exceeded his authority. Hypocrite. Moody exceeds his authority and expertise by doing so. He also proposes that the Catholic church, unlike other religions, should pay taxes. His superficiality officially makes him someone not to take seriously - about anything.

Meanwhile, at Breitbart, the story has thankfully moved down toward the bottom of their page. But in 13 hours, the number of comments has swelled by a factor of over 30 (standing at over 3000), and most of them are vitriolic bigotry.

Conservative News Service (cnsnews.com) reposts the AP story with Ms Winfield's by-line, but at least they change "demand" in the headline to "urges," which is definitely closer to the Pope's intent.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

That viral abortion video

I get discouraged with this blog and go months without posting anything. It's not that there's nothing to say, it's just that people do not know how to reason ethically, and it shows. And it's rather disheartening pointing it out all the time. It is sad work watching the decline of civilization into barbarity.

If you read the reactions to the Supreme Court's decision on prayers to open town council meetings, you can see that people wallow in wanting law to create what justice means because the law isn't in favor of their opinions, but do so from the standpoint of a sense of injustice regarding what the law does say. So, law cannot create justice, but they want it to.

No, the law should reflect justice, which is higher to and superior to any human law. Because justice is God's law. Anyone who denies that God exists and claims that there is a "justice" higher than positive laws is speaking with a forked tongue. If God does not exist, then all we have are positive laws, and then might makes right.

But I digress.

Here's a Fox News story about the woman who made a video of herself undergoing an abortion. The article says she did it to help de-stigmatize abortion.

A million abortions a year in this country - between one quarter and one third of US women have had one - powerful politicians trumptet abortion as the cornerstone of women's rights - Planned Parenthood has the power to bully charitable organizations into supporting them - and abortion is stigmatized? Ugh. It is part of the establishment. Women who want abortions are a protected class. And this woman speaks as though they're victims.

But this is what bothers me. She said, "I don't feel like a bad person. I don't feel sad. I feel in awe of the fact that I can make a baby. I can make a life." Let that sink in a minute. She can make a life. That's why she needed an abortion, after all! She made a life, and she's in awe of her own power!

It's a life that she made. I guess if she made it, she can unmake it, too: "I knew what I was going to do was right, because it was right for me, and no one else."

"Right for me."

OK, and if it's "right for me" to attempt to stop you in getting one, through legal means, of course, how would you "feel" about that? Would I be interfering with your rights to "feel" de-stigmatized?

Honestly, this moral relativism is really for the people with the narrowest minds.

She appeals to a sense of justice and ethics and rightness that is above the stigma of abortion - based on the fact that getting one was "right for me and no one else."

One day, we will decide that any human life that has been made can be unmade by anyone else, provided one has a good enough reason to unmake it. That is, murder will not be defined as the intentional inflicted death of an innocent person, but redefined as killing someone without sufficient cause. Murder defenses would cease to be about proving whodunit, although proof of innocence may be a viable defense, and would be more about proving the sufficiency (or lack thereof) of the reason for killing. "Sure I did it, but I have a good reason."

Just like this woman. She got an abortion and "feels" good about it, because she had a good reason. She thought it through, convinced herself it was a good idea, and did it. Of course, in abortion, determining the sufficiency of the reason is solely up to the woman.

It's just a matter of time. We are probing the edges of the new definition of murder with euthanasia and so-called ethicists floating the idea of infanticide. It's only a matter of time.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Christie's problems - further thoughts vs Obama

Christie is accused of - horrors! - being political! And using his power to punish political rivals - not that some mayor of Fort Lee, NJ, is any kind of real rival. Note that I am not defending Christie, but he is a politician, and it is fairly traditional in human history to use one's political power in such ways. It's not good - but it's not really unexpected. Would that our politicians were all decent, ethical people.

Yet, compare what he did to the way Obama has used the IRS. We are talking about the virtually all-powerful money collecting arm of the US government, on which depends the financial solvency of the nation and the collection of TRILLIONS of dollars.

The IRS has systematically targeted political rivals and organizations that are at odds with the Obama administration.

This has gone one for YEARS, lots of Obama's political rivals have suffered, it involves politics at the highest levels and political punishments of the most insidious kind.

Christie's state officials closed a lane of the George Washington Bridge.

Let me tell you, I commuted from NJ to NY for virtually the entire Clinton administration and for part of Obama's. Whenever either of those guys was in NY, traffic got snarled. Every time. It didn't matter where in NY they were or if they used the Hudson River crossings or even when.

Also, NJ representives in Washington are "auditing" the Christie administration and their use of federal money after hurricane Sandy. The timing is noteworthy. Is not Democrat Representative Frank Pallone engaging in activities that could be called political punishment? Don't kid yourself - they moan about how terrible Christie is for punishing political rivals and engange in that very activity themselves in retaliation. Maybe it's justice in a certain sense - but I would say it's kind of like playground justice and not anything becoming our civil "leaders."

Oh, and let's not forget that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, former Obama Chief of Staff, banned any new Chick-Fil-A stores from opening in his fifedom. That's not a political reprisal?

This is all modern ethics in action. It's not bioethics per se. But it reflects the state of our society's capacity for ethical thinking.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Obama vs Christie, or Benghazi vs the GW Bridge

I am only a lukewarm fan of Gov. Christie, and I speak as a resident of the governor's state. What I mean is, I am not going to defend the guy with any kind of vigor if he gets himself into trouble. In fact, I'm actually somewhat relieved that heir-apparent Hillary Clinton may have to face someone else in 2016.

I do find it strange, though, that lane closures and snarled traffic - I hear there may have been a death related to it on account of traffic delaying emergency medical services - as a political punishment is causing him so much difficulty. And this after he basically ensured NJ would vote for Obama after hurricane Sandy - not that NJ would have voted otherwise, but I believe it would have been way closer. This scandal may END his political career!

Within days of this news coming out, the Federal Prosecutor (read: Obama lackey - or perhaps a Hillary lackey!) has launched an investigation. Heads are beginning to roll already, with Christie firing the staff member behind the lane closures.

In constrast, our consulate in Benghazi - legally the equivalent of US territory - was attacked and burned and our citizens killed, with evidence suggesting the knowledge and intentional inaction by our State Department and perhaps even our president. He paraded the Ambassador to the UN - as if that's the person who would know - to float the bogus story that it was due to a ridiculous video that was "insulting" to Islam. At any rate, the response by our government was to do virtually NOTHING.

Our nation gets attacked, people are murdered by our enemies, there's a clear cover-up, and Obama gets re-elected.

Then, when Gen. Petraeus is set to testify, he suddenly gets embroiled in a sex scandal and for personal reasons cannot testify.

Then, when Sec. Clinton is set to testify, she suddenly "falls" and "hits her head" right behind one of her ears - fairly severely it seems, almost as if someone hit her with a blunt instrument - and has to delay her testimony. And then she gives the party line.

And now, a year and a half later, there still hasn't been any kind of real investigation into these affairs.

And Obama's career hasn't ended.

Bad traffic versus an attack on our territory. No way does someone who punishes a local politician deserve to become president! But, allow a hostile force to attack our country? Sure! Elect the guy!

It's interesting. I may just be a little paranoid by nature, but I believe what we are witnessing is a classic example of "discredit your rivals by accusing them of the exact thing you're doing." Politically punish your rivals by accusing them of the dishonorable act of punishing their political rivals. Use Nazi tactics to accuse them of being Nazis. Bully them through accusing them of bullying others.

We as a nation have lost our ability to think clearly and ethically.

If Christie is guilty, then shame on him, and his career should probably end. But what of Obama? Where's our nation's ethical compass with regard to him?