Monday, December 27, 2004

The UN's Food for Sex Program and Linux

Times Online - World

Holy Crap! Is there no end to the corruption in the U.N.?
HOME-MADE pornographic videos shot by a United Nations logistics expert in the Democratic Republic of Congo have sparked a sex scandal that threatens to become the UN’s Abu Ghraib.

The expert was a Frenchman who worked at Goma airport ... When the police arrived the man was allegedly about to rape a 12-year-old girl sent to him in a sting operation ... Investigations have already turned up 150 allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers and UN staff despite the UN’s official policy of “zero-tolerance”. One found 68 allegations of misconduct in the town of Bunia alone.

UN insiders told The Times that two Russian pilots based in Mbandaka paid young girls with jars of mayonnaise and jam to have sex with them.

Of course these abuses are not officially U.N. actions, but should we not consider that certain organizations lend themselves to corruption? Furthermore, once an organization has been corrupted to the extent that we now find in the U.N., there really is no hope of rehabilitaion.

When your copy of Windows has been messed up by years of sloppy program installations, the best fix is format c: and re-install.

We should reformat the U.N. This time let's install Linux.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Ethics of Stem Cell Research: When is it Okay to Kill Someone?

Recently I had an argument with my best friend. She’s an intelligent person, and I don’'t take her opinions lightly, but we disagree on a lot. For example, she was appalled that I said Ron Reagan Jr. is an idiot.

Okay, he’'s not, but in political banter, yes he is. In politics, it’s okay to call your opponents idiots when you think they’re wrong— she thinks Bush is an idiot. Here’'s my vision of that idiocy spectrum:

Brilliant--------Smart-------Idiot-------Can't Participate
DaVinci---------Churchill------Bush---------Ron Reagan

My friend wondered if I’d heard Ron Reagan's speech at the DNC. I hadn'’t, so I found it and read it. I was not disappointed to find his case ever so easily shattered.

Ron Reagan is perfectly entitled to disagree with the pro-life argument, but I don’'t think he understands it. He dismisses it as “the theology of a few” , ”an article of faith”, a “mere ideology”. But he is participating in the decision to define life. Whether your religion or lack of it informs your decision, it’s still an article of faith. In other words, I can’t prove an embryo is a person, but he can’t prove it’s not. Please don'’t misinterpret this as Ron does, smugly implying that I don'’t recognize the moral difference between a clump of cells and a diabetic 13-year old girl. Of course, I can make the distinction. The question is, what should I do with that. He says “it is a hallmark of human intelligence that we are able to make distinctions”. That's 100% wrong! My cats make distinctions! A truer hallmark of human intelligence is imagination. If he has imagination, he knows that the complexity of the discussion lies in the morality of defining person-hood, and where we draw lines.

Here are some applicable excerpts from his lack-luster speech:
... even one [embryo] that will never he implanted in a womb and will never develop into an actual fetus, By the way, no fetal tissue is involved in this process. No fetuses are created, none destroyed. This all happens in the laboratory at the cellular level . . . these cells could theoretically have the potential, under very different circumstances, to develop into human beings -- that potential is where their magic lies. But they are not, in and of themselves, human beings. They have no fingers and toes, no brain or spinal cord. They have no thoughts, no fears. They feel no pain. Surely we can distinguish between these undifferentiated cells multiplying in a tissue culture and a living, breathing person -- parent, a spouse, a child.

He limits the discussion by only comparing cell clumps and suffering loved ones. He never engages other incredibly important questions. For instance, at what point does it become not okay to harvest humans? At what point is person-hood a fact and not “an article of faith”? Which is more arrogant: killing someone based on your belief of when life begins; or telling someone they don’t have the right to kill someone based on their belief of when life begins? Is it morally okay to require people to pay for what they find morally repugnant? Is it a violation of church and state to take my money for a practice that is against my religion? How much money should you take from more promising research to give to less promising research? I could go on and on, but Ron Reagan can’t—actually I think he can, he just doesn’t. He prefers to be sophomoric and insulting.

So where does this leave us? Mengele experimented on Jews. Robespierre slaughtered the enemies of the Republic. The Confederacy enslaved Blacks. They all rationalized how their work created a better world, sublimating the issue of human rights. But human rights are inalienable. They’re not a gift of the government or the will of the people. The question is what is human? As Ron Reagan himself says, the magic lies in the potential.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A Vote for Bush was a Vote for Morality

My father gave me quite a shock last weekend when he unabashedly admitted over dinner that he had voted for Bush this election. Shocking, because both he and my mother stayed unified in their disdain for Bush and "his" war all during the election. Because of this, Kerry would be getting their votes on Nov. 2nd.

Why, then, did he vote Bush? The abortion issue. When it came down to it, he could not in good conscience vote a "pro-choice" official into office. My mother still voted for Kerry. Dad, a Catholic since 1997(I think). Mom, a Catholic since the day she was baptised ( a long time ago). I couldn't be prouder of my dad for not putting his religion to the side because it didn't suit his political beliefs.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

"A Retailer's Christmas Story"

You may have seen on the news or heard by word of mouth the Target and Salvation Army controversey. If you have heard something about it, then you probably only have half the story. If you haven't, then I will summarize it for you. If you don't care, then please go on to the next post below.

Every Christmas Target stores have allowed the Salvation Army to post a bell ringer at the front of each store. But not this year. After refusing other charities that same opportunity, these organizations threatened Target with lawsuits. So Target pulled the plug on the bell ringers to avoid this hassle. The Salvation Army guys were furious and shocked that Target took this "scrooge-ish" postion. They claim that they will lose approx. 9 million in donations by not soliciting at Target stores. This story was reported in the media and unhappy citizens are sending e-mails to consumers urging a mass boycott of Target stores.

O.K., first of all Target should be able to do whatever the hell they want. They are a private business and if they want fifty guys or just one guy soliciting at the store that is there business. I think they should be able to pick and choose who they want and if they want it. Also, the Sal. Army and the idiot public are blaming the wrong people for that lost 9 mil. Because a few charities got greedy, they prevented a perfectly good and legitimate organization from realizing their holiday donation goals. I will also mention that after the decision to bar the bell ringer was made, Target decided to donate money to the Sal. Army. The official numbers are not in yet, but each store could donate to their local chapter and decide how much to give based on each store's budget. (and that varies from store to store.) Our store gave the max. amount of $700. If every store gave at least that much than the company-wide donation would be approx. $910,000. Since this is is considerably less than the supposed 9 mil they would have made, it seems very cheap. But look at it this way, Target didn't have to give anything. With the bell ringer in place, Target pays nothing. Because of the lawsuits, Target donates this meager amount, and the Sal. Army falls short of its goal. Nobody wins here.

The good news for Target is that by next year no one will remember this story or that they were ever mad at Target to begin with. This year however, Target management like my husband will continue to recieve phone calls from customers shaming them for their cold-heartedness. Although not all the calls are negative. Some are actually thanking the store for removing the "annoying" bell ringer. I personally don't mind it much and despite the unfair press they've given Target, I'm sure I'll keep putting my quarters into the red bucket.

Lucky for us, Buckley is still around

Goldwater - Conservatism is on 'firing line':

We are the governing power and we won something similar to a mandate if not, in fact, an actual one. The question we have before us now is, "What do we do now?" We have been the opposition party for so long, we have to be careful how we proceed. What I mean is that we must guard against becoming the thing we hate. Here is an excerpt for the above discussion:
"Now, there's a difference between how a movement in dissent engages and how one that seeks to govern does so. But there's also a difference between political pragmatism and abandonment of principle.

Politicians need to make tactical decisions about how to nudge policy in the right direction. But the role of philosophical conservatives should be to try to expand the ambit of the politically possible through persuasion.

Right now, the conservative movement has an insufficient ratio of philosophers to tacticians. "

Let us continue to push political thinking to the edge and then bring it back too. We are the party of ideas and of debate. Let us continue to offer up ideas like the consumption tax / abolishing the IRS or the flat tax.

We are and must be the keepers of the flame of Liberty. It would be a shame if we let that flame go out simply because we were afraid of losing an election.