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Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

What you need to know about Operation Fast and Furious

Posted by Richard on October 12, 2011

Congressional investigators are apparently about to subpoena Attorney General Eric Holder to find out who knew what when regarding Operation Fast and Furious, which led to the deaths of at least 200 people, including Border Patrol Agent Bryan Terry.

Here's the executive summary of Operation Fast and Furious: In an attempt to justify more gun control laws, the Obama administration wanted evidence that Mexican drug cartels were obtaining weapons from US gun stores. So they helped Mexican drug cartels obtain weapons from US gun stores. With the government's help, straw purchasers, some of them paid government informants, bought guns at US gun stores and smuggled them to the cartels in Mexico. The feds forced reluctant gun store owners to facilitate these straw purchases. When even that wasn't enough, ATFE agents themselves bought guns and transferred them to the drug cartels. They did all this without informing the Mexican government or even US ATFE agents in Mexico.

The few mainstream media reports about the operation invariably describe it as "botched." It was not botched. Operation Fast and Furious did exactly what it was designed to do: transfer lots of US guns to Mexican drug cartels in order to prove that Mexican drug cartels got guns from the US, thus justifying more US gun control laws. 

The scam failed only because of the death of Bryan Terry and the subsequent bouts of conscience that led some of the ATFE agents involved to become whistleblowers. 

That's the executive summary. For much more about the government-sponsored criminal enterprise known as Operation Fast and Furious, see Fast And Furious: 22 Shocking Facts About The Scandal That Could Bring Down The Obama Administration.

As somebody pointed out, this is worse than Watergate because no one died at Watergate.

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“The heartlessness … is chilling”

Posted by Richard on August 13, 2009

Last week, the White House asked people to report anyone who said something "fishy" about their health care plan (meaning something that contradicts the official White House talking points). I turned in Barney Frank. Now, I'm turning in another dyed-in-the-wool liberal.

Lee Siegel wants "universal health care," paid for by higher taxes on "the rich." He speaks contemptuously of Betsy McCaughey (whose excellent related column about two Obama health care advisers, Drs. Ezekiel Emanuel and David Blumenthal, is a must read). But Siegel is appalled by the prospect of government bean counters denying care to the old and "nudging" them to consider getting the hell out of the way (emphasis added):

For those of us who believe that the absence of universal health care is America’s burning shame, the spectacle of opposition to Obama’s health-care plan is Alice-in-Wonderland bewildering and also enraging—but on one point the plan’s critics are absolutely correct. One of the key ideas under consideration—which can be read as expressing sympathy for limitations on end-of-life care—is morally revolting. And it’s helping to kill the plan itself.

Make no mistake about it. Determining which treatments are “cost effective” at the end of a person’s life and which are not is one of Obama’s priorities. It’s one of the principal ways he counts on saving money and making universal healthcare affordable.

Obama told Diane Sawyer in June that government should “study and figure out what works and what doesn’t. And let’s encourage doctors and patients to get what works. Let’s discourage what doesn’t.”

Sawyer then asked him: “Will it just be encouragement? Or will there be a board making Solomonic decisions?”

Obama replied, “What I’ve suggested is—is that we have a—a commission that helps—made up of doctors, made up of experts, that helps set best—best practices.”

When Sawyer pressed him to say whether those practices would be enforced by law, he evaded the question.

This reeks of the Big Brother nightmare of oppressive government that the shrewd propagandists on the right are always blathering on about. Except that this time, they could not be more right.

In the House bill, it's not just encouragement. At least regarding Medicare/Medicaid (and, I think, the "public option") HHS is directed to reduce payments for "excess" hospitalizations and "misvalued" treatments and is given wide latitude to implement additional cost saving regulations. Undoubtedly, the commission's recommendations will end up determining what gets paid for and what doesn't. But don't take my word for it, read the bill (PDF, 1018 pages). Start at p. 223 and continue for about 150 pages (if you can stand it), and then jump to p. 501. Or take a look at John David Lewis's excerpts and analyses regarding nine important questions, including the issue of health care rationing.

Siegel thinks Obama got such ideas at the University of Chicago Law School: 

By far, the most influential figure in that world is Judge Richard Posner, who teaches law at Chicago and publishes streams of pompous, robotically written books that are much praised and little read.

Judge Posner is both an enthusiastic advocate of euthanasia and an energetic eugenicist. He once wrote of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ ideas about eugenics—Holmes believed that a just society “prevents continuance of the unfit”—that “we may yet find [Holmes’] enthusiasms prescient rather than depraved.”

Cass Sunstein, who is Obama’s nominee for regulatory czar, is a disciple of Posner and believes in what Time magazine describes as “the statistical practice of taking into account years of life expectancy when evaluating a regulation.” In other words, Sunstein believes that the lives of younger people have a greater value than those of the elderly. This, obviously, would have a radical bearing on end-of-life considerations.

Read the whole thing. Then, by all means, read Betsy McCaughey's column about two more very disturbing people who have helped shape Obama's vision of how our health care system should be run.

They say you can judge a man by the company he keeps. The kind of people Barack Obama has chosen as friends, mentors, and advisers speaks volumes.

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Celebrating the death of a murderer

Posted by Richard on July 25, 2009

At our breakfast gathering this morning, I told my compatriots about a joke Jimmy Fallon told regarding the probable killing of one of Osama bin Laden's sons. One person in the audience cheered, and a couple of people applauded. The rest sat in stony silence. A friend suggested that maybe they thought it wasn't appropriate to joke about the death of anyone.

I consider that explanation unlikely. I suspect that a significant percentage of the typical Jimmy Fallon audience considers slasher movies and Grand Theft Auto to be high entertainment. But it got me thinking. 

It's a common belief among Christians that all human life is sacred/valuable (many other religions/cultures share that belief, and some extend it to other creatures as well), and that therefore the death of even the vilest murderer or brutal tyrant should be mourned — or at least not celebrated.

I completely disagree. That belief shows a callous disregard for the murderer's future victims. When an al Qaeda leader is killed, how many people will not be blown up or shot, how many women and children will not be brutalized and subjugated, how many men will not be beheaded as a consequence of his death?

If you've studied free-market economics, you may be familiar with Frédéric Bastiat's essay, “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen.” In it, he argued that we tend to focus on the immediate, intended consequences of an action (what is seen) and fail to recognize the later, unintended consequences (what is not seen). For instance, when the government allocates a few hundred billion dollars for "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects, we see the jobs created (they put up big signs at the project sites to make sure we do). But we don't see the goods that would have been purchased, the investments that would have been made, and the jobs that would have been created if the government had left that money in private hands instead of taxing or borrowing it away. 

I contend that the death of a murderer represents a moral issue analogous to Bastiat's principle of economics. You can see the lifeless body of a terrorist or serial killer (or at least the news reports) and recognize that a human life has been taken. But too often, you fail to see the lives that have been spared in the future as a consequence of his death.

Not me. I celebrate the deaths of barbarians like Saad bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — because I'm gladdened by the thought of the innocent victims, the honest and peaceful people, who will be spared because of their demise. And I unashamedly value the lives of the latter more than the lives of the former. Ridding the world of such evil men and preventing their future acts of violence is the noble, decent, civilized thing to do. It is virtuous and it is just.

If you still insist that all killing is always wrong, here's a thought experiment. You see a man with his knife raised, about to stab the chest of a helpless, bound woman. There is a gun at hand. What would you do? Would you shoot him, trading his life for hers?

Would you do nothing, because taking any life is wrong? Then she dies, and he can move on to the next victim.

If all human life is equally valuable, and pain and suffering are bad, maybe you should shoot her! Either way, someone dies, and (since you don't care who) you can at least spare her a more painful death. 

I would shoot him without hesitation, and if I succeeded, I'd be relieved and happy for her and for his future victims. The lives of honest, peaceful, innocent people are infinitely more valuable than the lives of murderous predators.

Likewise, I hope that Predator drone did take out Saad bin Laden, and I'm gladdened by the thought of the lives that will be spared as a result of his death. Making a joke or two at the scumbag's expense is not out of order.

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Treasury to be run by tax scofflaw

Posted by Richard on January 14, 2009

I seem to recall that the Obama transition team had a detailed questionnaire for potential appointees, some 16 or 20 pages long. One of the questions was, "Do you own a gun?" I wonder if there was a question like, "Do you always pay your taxes?" Because apparently, at least one Cabinet nominee would have had to answer no:

President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, failed to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes for himself for four years and employed a housekeeper whose immigration documentation lapsed while in his employ.

Geithner disclosed to senators earlier in the day that he had failed to pay $34,000 in taxes from 2001 to 2004, a last-minute complication in an otherwise smooth path to confirmation. 

… He paid all of his income taxes on his IMF income, but made a "common mistake" on his tax returns with regard to self-employment taxes, Obama transition aides told reporters Tuesday.

"Common mistake," my ass. While doing consulting/contract work, he failed to pay some or all of his Social Security and Medicare taxes. Trust me, I paid self-employment taxes for over a decade and know whereof I speak. Failure to pay those taxes (or to pay the correct rate, which is twice that of wage earners) may be a "common mistake" among self-employed handymen, plumbers, etc., with a high school education (although I doubt it's all that common). But the paperwork isn't that complicated and the instructions are quite clear. Anyone who can't figure out what they owe in self-employment tax isn't qualified to be a bookkeeper, much less Treasury Secretary. It's unlikely that Geithner is that grossly incompetent, so I don't buy the "honest mistake" claim.

The news report I heard said the IRS audited Geithner in 2006 for two of the four years and billed him for the unpaid taxes, but waived penalties. I had one experience with the IRS claiming I owed additional tax (they disallowed a deduction), and they didn't treat me so kindly. Of course, I wasn't president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank at the time.

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The next step in health care rationing

Posted by Richard on August 4, 2008

I'm pro-choice on everything, including abortion and suicide. I think most of the "slippery slope" arguments of the pro-life people are specious. That said, I found this story disturbing. Oregon's state health care system does indeed seem to be on a slippery slope, and it looks like a double black diamond:

Opponents of physician-assisted suicide are fired up this summer, and rightfully so, over an ethically questionable provision of the Oregon Health Plan.

The conflict came to light in a recent report in The Register-Guard of Eugene. The newspaper described the sad plight of Barbara Wagner, a 64-year-old Springfield woman with lung cancer.

After her oncologist prescribed a cancer drug that would cost $4,000 a month, the newspaper reported, "Wagner was notified that the Oregon Health Plan wouldn't cover the treatment, but that it would cover palliative, or comfort, care, including, if she chose, doctor-assisted suicide."

Wow. How long will it be before the state health care system starts making these decisions for its "clients," especially those it deems incapable of deciding rationally for themselves? Will the State of Oregon, with its health care budget increasingly stressed, eventually behave like pet owners who decide that the cost of curing Fido just isn't worth it, and it's time to put him down?

He who pays the piper calls the tune.

Remember that the next time you think you're lucky that your employer pays most of your health insurance costs. When the purchaser of a service and the consumer of that service are different people, which one do you think the service provider is most motivated to listen to? 

(HT: Billll's Idle Mind

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Islam, dualism, and the Golden Rule

Posted by Richard on April 14, 2008

"The Study of Political Islam" first appeared in Frontpage magazine in February 2007 and was posted at the Center for the Study of Political Islam's blog last August. It's an interview with the Center's director, Bill Warner, and it's a must read. I discovered it at ACT for America!, where it's presented with an informative introduction by Jerry Gordon. Here's an excerpt:

Endless ink has been wasted on trying to answer the question of what is Islam? Is Islam the religion of peace? Or is the true Islam a radical ideology? Is a moderate Muslim the real Muslim?

This reminds a scientist of the old arguments about light. Is light a particle or is light a wave? The arguments went back and forth. Quantum mechanics gave us the answer. Light is dualistic; it is both a particle and a wave. It depends upon the circumstances as to which quality manifests. Islam functions in the same manner.

Our first clue about the dualism is in the Koran, which is actually two books, the Koran of Mecca (early) and the Koran of Medina (later). The insight into the logic of the Koran comes from the large numbers of contradictions in it. On the surface, Islam resolves these contradictions by resorting to "abrogation". This means that the verse written later supersedes the earlier verse. But in fact, since the Koran is considered by Muslims to be the perfect word of Allah, both verses are sacred and true. The later verse is "better," but the earlier verse cannot be wrong since Allah is perfect. This is the foundation of dualism. Both verses are "right." Both sides of the contradiction are true in dualistic logic. The circumstances govern which verse is used.

All of Western logic is based upon the law of contradiction–if two things contradict, then at least one of them is false. But Islamic logic is dualistic; two things can contradict each other and both are true.

What Warner calls the law of contradiction is also known as Aristotle's law of non-contradiction, and it's a corollary of the law of identity (those of us with a Randian background know the short version: "A is A"). A culture that hasn't adopted the laws of identity and non-contradiction is, IMHO, pre-rational.

It's not just a characteristic of primitive cultures, however. Many modern academics reject reason, and they eagerly embrace and defend inconsistency and contradiction. Ironically, an Islamic philosopher proposed an appropriate response to such nonsense about a thousand years ago:

Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned.
— Avicenna (Ibn Sina)

Apparently, Avicenna's rather colorful method of teaching the law of non-contradiction wasn't widely adopted, so Islam's dualistic "logic" persists still today. As does UC-Berkeley's. Too bad.

Getting back to the Warner interview, here's another, somewhat more provocative, excerpt: 

Let's examine the ethical basis of our civilization. All of our politics and ethics are based upon a unitary ethic that is best formulated in the Golden Rule:

Treat others as you would be treated.

… On the basis of the Golden Rule–the equality of human beings–we have created democracy, ended slavery and treat women and men as political equals. So the Golden Rule is a unitary ethic. All people are to be treated the same. All religions have some version of the Golden Rule except Islam.

FP: So how is Islam different in this context?

Warner: The term "human being" has no meaning inside of Islam. There is no such thing as humanity, only the duality of the believer and unbeliever. Look at the ethical statements found in the Hadith. A Muslim should not lie, cheat, kill or steal from other Muslims. But a Muslim may lie, deceive or kill an unbeliever if it advances Islam.

There is no such thing as a universal statement of ethics in Islam. Muslims are to be treated one way and unbelievers another way. The closest Islam comes to a universal statement of ethics is that the entire world must submit to Islam. After Mohammed became a prophet, he never treated an unbeliever the same as a Muslim. Islam denies the truth of the Golden Rule.

Read the whole thing, by all means. You might want to look around the Center's website, Political Islam, too. The latest article expands on the above discussion of Islamic ethics.

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