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2/29/2012
Ethicists Argue for After-Birth Abortion in Controversial Exercise
CATEGORY: Ethics

First of all, take a deep breath.

Secondly, recognize this for what it is: An academic exercise. I’ve heard ethicists trying to justify the Holocaust but that doesn’t mean they favor it. This is what ethicists do for a living; they ask questions.

By seeking to expand or limit the definition of a “person,” their arguments clarify other real life ethical situations. Not that babies already out of the womb should be murdered. Again, they are not arguing that position. But rather, they are presenting hypothetical arguments for discussion that might apply to other ethical decisions. This is about form, not content. It’s about the shape of ethical arguments, not their substance.

In this case, it’s a silly game played by those who aren’t much interested in academic freedom as much as they are in their own personal aggrandizement. I can’t believe that the authors of the paper didn’t realize the firestorm of controversy that would erupt. They easily could have taken a different hypothetical to illustrate the form of their arguments. The fact is, they have needlessly offended millions of people — as those ethicists who have created exercises justifying other horrific events have done in the past.

Here’s an hysterical overreaction by by the National Catholic Register. The gentleman obviously doesn’t understand the field of medical ethics and how those ethics are derived in a world that is incredibly complex. The melding of technology, knowledge, and personal morality in medicine have put enormous burdens on doctors and other health care providers that strain the limits of our capacity to act ethically. When does life begin? When does life end? What is “quality of life?” These are not simple questions, despite what some on both sides of the issue believe. In the real world, doctors have to define those answers every single day. Each patient is different. Each case demands an individual evaluation. They look to the work of ethicists not so much for answers, but rather as a way to make their own judgments regarding life and death.

I understand the depth of feeling this exercise has evoked. But it is not evidence of a “slippery slope” for the simple reason that no one is arguing the position that, in the real world, babies already born have no absolute right to life. It is a terrible hypothetical — much like the way some view the famous Quantum Mechanics hypothetical of Schrodinger’s cat. But it has no practical application outside of how the hypothetical is argued — not what it is arguing.

Making an effort to understand why ethicists would ask such a question — and rightly criticizing the authors of the paper for their insensitivity — is what is needed here. Not over the top hellfire and damnation for academics who raise troubling questions about medicine in the 21st century.

By: Rick Moran at 10:13 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)

2/28/2012
The RINO Hour of Power: World in Crisis

rino1

The RINO Hour of Power is back! Two of the most famous RINO’s on the web — Jazz Shaw and Rick Moran — are ready to rock your political world with their unique blend of humor, wit, and sharp analysis.

Joining Jazz and Rick will be Dr. James Joyner, managing editor of The Atlantic Council and publisher of the fine blog Outside the Beltway. The boys will talk foreign policy and the Republican primaries.

Listen live at 8:00 PM eastern time. A podcast will be available shortly after the end of the show.

You can join us live by clicking the icon below or by clicking here.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

By: Rick Moran at 5:50 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

2/21/2012
RINO Hour of Power: Is the Business of America Still Business?

rino1

The RINO Hour of Power is back! Two of the most famous RINO’s on the web — Jazz Shaw and Rick Moran — are ready to rock your political world with their unique blend of humor, wit, and sharp analysis.

Joining Jazz and Rick will be one of the best business reporters in the country. Joe Weisenthal of Investors Business Daily will talk about the historic Dow, how the Greek debt crisis might affect America, and “Recovery 2.0.”

Listen live at 8:00 PM eastern time. A podcast will be available shortly after the end of the show.

You can join us live by clicking the icon below or by clicking here.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

By: Rick Moran at 4:29 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

What’s the Real Rate of Inflation?

The following is completely anecdotal, which means it is useless as intelligent analysis. I make no claim to understanding the theory or practice of figuring the inflation rate any more than I can “understand” the Holy Trinity or Quantum Mechanics.

But something is horribly wrong with the “official” inflation numbers. They are meaningless to anyone who has to live in the real world and is watching in horror as food, fuel, and the cost of other goods we buy regularly go through the roof.

I used to think it was just us, that we were overspending on food and not being economical with the car. I don’t think that anymore. Our food bill has increased 20% in less than 6 months  and we have watched gas prices make an uneven climb toward the $4 a gallon mark.

OK - everyone can see the correlation there. Trucks bring food to the stores and if gas increases substantially, the cost of food will increase as well. Since gas has gone up 25 cents per gallon over the last 6 months, it stands to reason that food will have had a corresponding increase - or something close to it.

But the increase has been very uneven. Some processed foods have remained nearly the same while others have shot up. Fresh fruit and veggies are through the roof. Bread has gone up nearly 40%. The price of fresh meat has also taken off while even off-brand canned goods have increased substantially.

Having worked in a grocery store (customer service manager), I know that there is an art and science to pricing stock. The marketing people will hold the line on some popular items while increasing the cost of others based on arcane formulas and research into customer buying habits.  But the proof is in our monthly food bill.

I started to keep very careful track of what we were spending on food every month, largely because I believed we were buying a bunch of stuff we didn’t need and could do without. Naturally, Sue took umbrage at this. She is proud of her skills as a shopper, visiting three stores every time she went for the month’s major grocery purchases in order to get the best possible price on fresh fruit and veggies, meat, deli, and canned goods. For the last 5 months we have kept every receipt - even if it was just to the corner store to get some milk or deli.

The results floored me.

Comparing the same items month to month was an eye opener. Ground round  has increased 35%. Our Alfredo sauce went up 40%. Seasonal fluctuations can account for the rise in fresh fruit and veggies. But an increase of 110% for lettuce?

Instead of spending $500 a month on food, we are spending about $625 - a 20% increase. That’s can’t be all”volatility.” Along with the increases in gas and fuel costs, the cost of living at my house is rising far faster than any “official” rate.

I am not one to believe in some kind of Obama conspiracy. The BLS wouldn’t be able to get away with fudging the numbers The unemployment rate is also a fantasy number but not because of any deliberate attempt to fiddle with the numbers either. Both indices are calculated based on criteria that is out in the open for all to see.

The problems as I see it are twofold: What goes into the”market basket” used to figure inflation, and how the unemployment figures are reported in the press.

Basically, the things that really impact our personal cost of living are devalued in the market basket used today while other stuff that we might buy occasionally are seemingly given more weight. The reason isn’t to “hide” the true cost of living but because of the price “volatility” of certain items that would skew the CPI when measured month to month and year to year.

The reported unemployment rate is trickier. Much of the actual rate compared to the official rate is buried in a blizzard of data that would include part time workers, workers too discouraged to look for work, and those who have dropped out of the workforce entirely. But the business press is lousy in this country and they do an awful job - with some exceptions - of putting all those numbers together in order to give us an accurate picture of how good/bad things are in the job market. You are much better off reading econ blogs who, if you can get through their explanations without your eyes glazing over, do a better job of giving a “big picture” look at what the job market is doing.

So the CPI is not used to inform us about our personal financial situation, but to guide the Fed and politicians in formulating policies. A fat lot of good that does the average consumer who is watching helplessly as he becomes poorer by the month. The official inflation rate in January was just 2.9%. From January 2011 to January 2012, the yearly rate was also 2.9%.

Everyone I’ve talked to is mad about prices and thinks those numbers are a crock. They have the exact same reaction I’ve had to the official rate of inflation - like, “Who are you trying to kid?” Most see the hand of politics in these numbers but that just isn’t credible. It’s too easy to check the BLS’s math to see if they are being ordered to give fictitious numbers.

The purchasing power of the average American is seriously eroding and no one is doing anything about it because the “official” numbers are telling us that all is well - no reason to panic. Food, gas, and fuel to heat our homes are all going up far faster than that government inflation number. And now, even the cost of renting our homes or apartments is beginning to rise. Those 4 “market basket” items represent the bulk of our monthly expenditures.

Some smart politician running for president is going to start articulating what the vast majority of us are experiencing on the inflation front. The one who does  will probably end up winning in November.

But is it any wonder that most people you talk to these days thinks the CPI is a load of crap?

By: Rick Moran at 10:30 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

2/19/2012
In Which I Advocate Casual Sex, Beastiality, Sex with Children, and Toe Sucking - Or Maybe Not

Well, I can’t say that people ignored my latest PJ Media submission. The invective unleashed against me in a couple hundred comments for contending that social conservatives have a problem with sex was predictable, if not very inventive.

Apparently, believing that such personal matters do not belong in the context of a presidential campaign means that I actually support all the extreme sexual practices, sexualization of society, and even polygamy that my critics blame for America’s moral depravity. And if you point out that sexual morals is a question of personal choice and that people should mind their own damn business, I am skewered for not seeing that having sex out in the open and being so prevalent in the culture is the end of civilization as we know it.

It’s not these well meaning busybodies making superficial moral judgements who are the problem. The moralists have always been with us and despite being an anathema to the very notion of freedom, feel perfectly comfortable in trying to tell the rest of us how to live our lives.

It is Republican politicians pandering to the notion that government can actually do something about the sexual revolution that is the real threat to personal liberty. This is self evident. And those who profess reverence for the Constitution have a funny way of showing it. It is not a question of some imposing their morals or values on the Christians and others. It is a matter of personal freedom of expression, guaranteed by the Constitution, that is at issue. Are the Kulture Commandoes saying that the Constitution is the problem? Indirectly, yes. “Gee, if we could only make the notion of freedom disappear, sex would be back in the closet (as would gays), teens would be ignorant of sex, TV would be watchable again, and going to the movies wouldn’t be the harrowing experience it is today.”

Sorry, you can’t put the sexual genie back in the bottle. The real beef of the socons is with the idea that sex is no longer hidden, nor is it a societal taboo to say you love it, or that you enjoy porn, or that women seek it and love it as much as men. It is beautifully, gloriously out in the open to both the detriment of the culture and the empowerment of its adult members.

It needn’t even be mentioned that children have no role in this. Parents must work a lot harder to shield their children from influences that they cannot comprehend, nor deal with the consequences — both physical and psychic. But because it’s harder for parents does that mean we should trade some kind of government control over our personal preferences? No one really cares if social conservatives preach their sermons about the evils of what they consider unnatural or immoral sexual practices. But if conservative politicians and their allies try to force the rest of us — or, more accurately, to make the socons believe they can force us — to live by the teachings in those sermons by censoring, limiting, or otherwise interfering with the personal choices of American citizens in adopting their own lifestyle, then the issue becomes Constitutional freedom and not a matter of morality.

I put it this way in my article:

But when Republican politicians, and others associated with conservatism or the Republican Party, start echoing the various criticisms of contraception, of casual sex, of sex outside of marriage, the perception cannot be dismissed that the imprimatur of the entire party - and consequently, the government if they ever came to power - has been granted and that somebody, somewhere, might want to do something about it. As a voter making a political calculus on how to mark one’s ballot, the GOP is kidding itself if they don’t think this affects the decisions of millions of citizens.

This is especially true of women, although there are plenty of younger Americans who are watching this debate on contraception unfold and no doubt wondering what all the hub-bub is about. According to a CDC study released in 2010, of 89 million American women between the ages of 15-44, 99% had used some form of contraception. That figure includes 82% of American women who used some form of oral contraceptive, Depo-Provera, injections, or the “ring” or the “patch” at some time in their lives.

That’s an awful lot of voters to offend by hinting, as Rick Santorum did, that states should have the right to ban contraceptives. Or that oral contraceptives are more dangerous or harmful than most other drugs on the market. Trying to attach a stigmata to women who use birth control pills - implying that being sexually active is the same as acting licentiously - may fulfill some atavistic desire to apply an outdated code of conduct to women, but it is hardly good politics.

This is not a safety issue, or even a women’s health issue. The issue is sex and the evolving cultural mandate that women should be able to enjoy the sex act as much as men without the fear of pregnancy. This is the real beef that the social conservatives have with the pill. It has revolutionized bedrooms in the U.S., while setting off a a massive change in the mores and morals of men and women.

No doubt some of this change has been harmful, even frightening. The sexualization of children is certainly one of those harmful consequences of freeing sex from the purely procreative. The explosion of teenage pregnancies, and teen sexual activity, is another untoward consequence of the pill. But change is the way of the human animal, and the technological revolution that created the pill 50 years ago couldn’t have been stopped anymore than we could have halted the splitting of the atom, the invention of the integrated circuit, or the spread of the internet. In each case, technology answered a need in society, and if those wonders hadn’t been invented then, they certainly would have been at some point shortly afterward.

But why bring what by any definition is a personal moral judgment into the political arena? Why insist that our politicians address what can only be described as an issue for which government is not equipped to deal, let alone has any business discussing in the context of a presidential campaign?

I was heartened to see so many of the more than 230 comments agree with at least some of my critique. But few, if any, of my critics responded to the thesis of the piece; what business do these issues have in a presidential campaign? Why should government get involved in defining what is “moral” or “immoral” about sex?

They gave no response because there is none. So they attacked me by accusing me of supporting the choices made by others. I offer no value judgment on women or men who have sex with dozens of different partners, or who wear revealing clothing, or who purchase porn, or who engage in sexual practices frowned upon by the social conservatives.

When it comes to sex, I am very much a vanilla sort of man. But it is glorious living in a country that allows others who might choose Rocky Road — and have the Constitutional protection to make that choice.

By: Rick Moran at 11:23 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

2/14/2012
Obama’s Tax Insanity

I have an article up at FPM this morning analyzing  some of the numbers from Obama’s fantasy budget he released yesterday.  I like James Pethokoukis’s take on it:

Pethokoukis also points out the cynically dishonest projections for economic growth upon which much of the budget is based: 3.4% growth in 2015, 4.1% in 2016, 4.1% inn 2017, and 3.9%  in 2018. Pethokoukis notes that the “U.S. economy has only seen a run like that three times in the past four decades. And the Obama Boom is supposed to happen amid rising tax rates, interest rates, and debt? Good luck, Mr. President.”

Of course, it has no chance of becoming law. But as a campaign document, it is quite instructive:

His spending “cuts” included in the budget do not touch entitlements, forcing the nation’s defense to take the brunt of the cutbacks. The defense budget will fall 4%. In practical terms, it means slashing eight Army combat brigades, six Marine Corps battalions and 11 fighter squadrons, and will start to pull two Army brigades out of Europe.

Meanwhile, the Department of Energy becomes a huge winner, increasing its budget a whopping 41% — mostly to fund Obama’s green energy fiascoes. The Department of Justice makes out a big loser, with its budget falling 15%. But it is where the cuts will be made that will rile Republicans. The president proposes to massively cut a program that reimburses states and cities for jailing illegal immigrants for committing crimes. Funding would fall from $240 million to just $70 million.

The Hispanic vote is vital to his re-election and allowing illegal aliens who have committed crimes out on bail or to simply disappear will no doubt sit well with liberal Latino groups who have been agitating against enforcing any of the nation’s immigration laws.

For some reason, the president is proposing a big increase for the Commerce Department. This useless federal bureaucracy will get a $10 billion gift “to help build an interoperable public safety broadband network.” Critics point out that the government has already spent $13 billion on radio equipment since 2001 and that a public auction of frequencies — ostensibly to recover the costs of the program — won’t realize nearly enough to pay for it.

Agency after agency, department after department, will see new spending. For the Department of Transportation, a pork-laden, five-year $476 billion highway bill and a $50 billion “infusion” for roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure. Did we mention the $47 billion for high speed rail? Such trivialities are an asterisk in this budget.

Foreign aid gets a boost, including $800 million for the “Arab Spring.” The president wants to create a “Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund” — explained in the budget document as a fund that “will provide incentives for long-term economic, political, and trade reforms to countries in transition — and to countries prepared to make reforms proactively.” Analysts are unsure if this is “new money” or simply collecting cash from other programs and placing it in a fund with a new name.

No comment yet from the Muslim Brotherhood whether Shariah finance rules will allow them to participate in the “incentives for reform” in economic, political, and trade matters.

Meanwhile, Medicare and Medicaid spending continues its unsustainable pace, rising 9% in FY2013. The administration is claiming $360 billion in savings as a result of paying doctors and hospitals less for Medicare services — the old “doc fix” that is added to HHS budgets every year and is shot down every year by Congress and the AMA.

One might expect the “green” energy initiatives, the defense cuts, and the massive increase in transportation spending where Obama’s union allies will get a windfall. But it is how the president wants to raise taxes that the class warfare theme of his campaign for re-election and, what can only be described as his hatred for the successful, the entrepreneur, the savvy investor, and the small business person, becomes apparent.

By: Rick Moran at 11:03 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

2/7/2012
THE RINO Hour of Power: Political Potpourri

rino1

The RINO Hour of Power is back! Two of the most famous RINO’s on the web — Jazz Shaw and Rick Moran — are ready to rock your political world with their unique blend of humor, wit, and sharp analysis.

Jazz and Rick will be joined by IBD’s Andrew Malcolm. The guys will discuss a broad range of political matters as well as the issues making news today.

Llisten live at 8:00 PM eastern time. A podcast will be available shortly after the end of the show.

You can join us live by clicking the icon below or by clicking here.

Listen to The Rick Moran Show on internet talk radio

By: Rick Moran at 6:02 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

2/1/2012
Newt Soldiers On

Ross Douthat on why Gingrich can’t win the GOP nomination:

If Gingrich can’t compete in Florida, he can’t compete nationally.

To date, all of the Republican primary contests have been held in smallish states with distinctive demographic profiles. This made it possible to play up the significance of Gingrich’s convincing South Carolina victory, while downplaying Romney’s New Hampshire win as an independent-abetted, only-in-New-England fluke.

But Florida’s primary was closed to independents, Florida’s electorate was as conservative and Tea Party-friendly (though not as evangelical-heavy) as South Carolina’s and Florida’s large senior population once looked like it would give Gingrich an edge. If the former speaker couldn’t even come close to beating Romney in such relatively favorable terrain, it’s hard to see how he can hope to compete with him anywhere outside the Deep South.

The anti-Romney vote isn’t as big as Gingrich likes to think it is.

As the Florida polls turned against them, Gingrich’s campaign began hinting that Rick Santorum should drop out of the race and give Gingrich a clear shot at consolidating conservatives against Romney. If Santorum weren’t in the race, one of Gingrich’s campaign chairmen in Florida told CNN on Monday, “we would clearly be beating Romney right now.”

But as it turned out, Romney received as many votes as his two nearest rivals combined. And more importantly, pre-primary polls showed that without Santorum in the race, Romney would still have led Gingrich by a wide margin – as much as 16 points, according to an NBC/Marist poll. The fact that a majority of Republicans still have reservations about Romney, in other words, doesn’t mean that a majority would ever vote for Gingrich.

Romney’s down-and-dirty Florida campaign eased right-wing doubts about his toughness.

Romney hammered Gingrich in the debates, and then carpet-bombed him with negative advertisements. 68 percent of the ads that ran in Florida were negative spots attacking Gingrich, and Romney’s only positive ad was a Spanish-language spot that aired 15 times in total. While this gloves-off approach may have tarnished Romney’s image with swing voters, it helped reassure the many conservatives who were attracted to Gingrich because they want a no-holds-barred fighter for the fall campaign.

As John Podhoretz wrote on Monday in the New York Post, Florida was a test of Romney’s mettle: “The clean-cut Boy Scout Ken-doll candidate from Massachusetts needed to show his fellow Republicans that he could be mean, tough and merciless on the attack — that he could take it to his rival and best him.” Consider that mission accomplished.

Ross also cited Gingrich’s “lackluster debate performances” and how hard it will be to regain that “aura of invincibility” as a master debater — a key selling point for Gingrich who seeks to convince GOP voters he can destroy Obama in open debate during the fall campaign.

I don’t think Romney did much convincing as far as his ability to be “tough.” Watching Romney on the attack is like watching a Toy Poodle in  a standoff with a Great Dane. He can’t help but look cute rather than ferocious.

That said, Douthat nails the demographics of Newt’s problems. It would be one thing if Gingrich had come within 5 points or so of Romney. Then he’d be crowing about being outspent 13-1 and coming within a yard of paydirt.

But he didn’t. He got slaughtered. And where Gingrich carried every demographic group in South Carolina, he lost most of those same voters in Florida. It’s hard to see where Newt can get his MoJo back anytime soon. Next on the calendar is Nevada (2/4) — where Ron Paul is lying in the weeds waiting to ambush Mitt Romney — and the beginning of the Maine caucus process (2/4-11). The state that sent Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to the senate would seem to be decidedly unfriendly to Newt’s brand of populist conservatism.

It doesn’t get any easier. On February 7, two more Not-Ready-For-Newt states will hold caucuses; Colorado and Minnesota. Missouri will hold a beauty contest primary with no delegates at stake on the same day. Then on February 28, Arizona and Michigan will hold their primaries. Romney’s ties to Michigan are well known, but Arizona might be more receptive to Newt’s bread and butter message. Whether he will have the cash to compete there is another question altogether.

In short, it’s hard to see at this point where Newt can make a stand and stop the bleeding with a victory. Georgia holds its primary on Super Tuesday (3/6), as do Oklahoma and Tennessee — three states where he has a very realistic shot at competing. But he’s not even on the ballot in Virginia and without the money to compete in Ohio and a deficient organization in the three states holding caucuses that day, Super Tuesday is shaping up to be a Romney avalanche.

But Gingrich declared he plans to defeat “money power” with “people power” in the coming months, casting his campaign as a counterbalance to the “establishment.” That may be. But the history of insurgencies in major parties would suggest that Newt is fighting for principle now, and not the GOP nomination for president.

Originally appears on PJM’s The Tatler.

By: Rick Moran at 11:02 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)