A Philosopher's Blog

Gender & Sex Scandals

Posted in Ethics by Michael LaBossiere on March 30, 2008

Although various political sex scandals have been making the news recently, these events are (obviously) nothing new. Naturally enough, people find these events fascinating because they involve three things that most people find rather interesting: politics, sex and scandals. Oddly enough, these scandals are also philosophically interesting.

One factor that is often noticed in regards to such scandals is that the main figure involved tends to be a man. There are some noteworthy exceptions. For example, Catherine the Great was said to have kept a steady supply of young lovers available over the years. In the United States in recent years, a mayor, a US Representative and a state Representative have been involved in relatively minor scandals. These all involved affairs in which either one or both of the parties were married. Internationally, the most famous recent case was that of Chu Mei-feng of Taiwan who resigned after evidence of her involvement with a married person was revealed.

The list of sex scandals involving men is considerably longer. In New York alone, there have been two sex scandals in the past month (Spitzer and Paterson).

Naturally enough, this raises the question of why there is a difference between male and female politicians in this regard.

One obvious possibility is that worldwide the majority of politicians are men. As such, there will naturally be more sex scandals involving men. This factor might be adequate to explain the disparity without bringing in gender based differences. This can be tested in an empirical manner by determining the number of sex scandals for each gender relative to the gender breakdown of politicians. If the difference is not statistically different, then it would be reasonable to conclude that men and women are equally likely to be involved in sex scandals and hence there is most likely no real gender difference in this regard.

Until such a study is completed there still remains the possibility that the difference is not just a matter of numbers but is actually based in gender differences. Dee Myers, author of Why Women Should Rule the World, contends that women are less inclined to be involved in sex scandals. There seems to be some evidence that women are starting to get closer to men in terms of being unfaithful (there are, of course, some obvious problems with trusting statistical data on infidelity). This leads, naturally enough, to the question of why women might be seen as less likely to have sex scandals.

One common hypothesis is that men and women are different biologically. Men are, stereotypically, seen as being more controlled by their sexual urges than women. This is, of course, a reversal of the usual general stereotype that men are more rational and women are more emotionally driven.

From an evolutionary standpoint, it is sometimes said that males try to mate as much as possible (thus increasing the chances of passing on his genes) while female prefer to have one mate who will provide protection and support(thus increasing the survival changes of herself and her offspring). Hence, some would claim, the difference in behavior is genetically based.

The obvious problem with appealing to biology is that it is difficult to determine the extent to which human behavior is determined by biology. There are obviously biological differences between men and women, but determining whether these would be relevant to such behavior would require a more extensive knowledge of biology and behavior than we have. It can, however, be considered a possible explanation.

One main reason that determining the effects of biology is difficult is because we do not find humans “in the wild” acting purely in accord with biological factors. Humans are found in societies and are shaped by their socialization.

All known major human societies regard (or regarded in the case of those which no longer exist) sexual infidelity as wrong. But, transgressions by women have generally been regarded as worse and hence have generally been more severely punished. There also tends to be more social acceptance of such misbehavior by men relative to women. Because of this, men would be more inclined to engage in scandalous behavior while women would be socialized to be less inclined to do so. This would certainly help account for the fact that infidelity on the part of women is said to be increasing. If it was strictly a matter of biology, then the fidelity and infidelity rates should remain fairly constant.

It certainly does make sense that female infidelity would increase. One obvious factor is reliable birth control-this certainly makes it safer for women to have affairs. Another factor is that the social stigma of having affairs is not as strong as it was in the past. While adultery is still a crime in many places, such laws are almost never enforced in the West. A third factor is that women have greater social and economic power an hence can better withstand the failure of a marriage. This also affords women greater freedom to meet people-thus affording greater opportunity for affairs. A fourth factor is that technology has made surreptitious communication easier (and, ironically easier to track), thus enabling people to organize their affairs.

If women are becoming more inclined to be unfaithful, then the number of sex scandals involving women should, in theory, start to increase. If this does happen, then it would be reasonable to attribute the lower numbers of scandals for women to social factors rather than to biology.

I suspect that such scandals will increase but that they will probably remain lower for women relative to men (taking into account the overall numbers in politics, of course) for quite some time. Naturally enough, if women achieve equality with men and there are no longer separate standards for men and women, then I suspect the scandals will also be roughly equal between men and women.

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Infant Mortality in America

Posted in Ethics, Medicine/Health, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on March 28, 2008

Sharon Begley wrote and interesting article on American health care in the March 31, 2008 issue of Newsweek (page 47). I’m helping myself to her research, so the statistics I’ll be presenting are from her article.

One way to measure the ethics of a nation is to see how it treats those who are helpless and weak. Among the most helpless are children and the unborn. Interestingly, we have had a pro-life President since 2000 and Congress was, until recently, controlled by the pro-life Republican party. Because of this, one would expect that America would be very pro-life in terms of making sure that the unborn survived to be born and then to grow up. Sadly, America is doing a poor job in this regard. Currently, the United States averages 7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. This places us in the number 28 position world wide. One can only imagine how bad things would have been if America had not had such a clear devotion to being pro-life.

The main causes for this relatively high mortality rate seems to be due to the usual causes. First, there are the socioeconomic factors. Those who are poor and uninsured do not have access to high quality medical care during the pregnancy and the birth. Also, being poor means that they are less able to have proper nutrition. Second, there are the matters of choice (or in some cases chance). Some mothers engage in behavior that is harmful to themselves and their potential children-smoking, drug use, and other poor health practices. There is also the factor of teen pregnancy which tends to result in more complications than when the mother is fully grown.

Obviously, the government cannot and should not regulate people to the degree that would be required to ensure that all mothers (or potential mothers) behaved in healthy, rational ways. However, people should (obviously enough) be more responsible for their own well being-especially when the well being of another depends on them. While it is true that a woman’s (or girl’s) body is her own, that does not remove the moral responsibility she has to herself and to her potential child. After all, a person can wrong herself. While a person does have special rights in regards to herself, this does not entail that a person has the moral right to do anything she wants to herself. The same, of course, applies to men. This, of course, assumes that there are things that it is wrong to do to a person and that the wrongness of some of these things do not depend on who is doing what to whom.

As such, we should do what we can as individuals to help lower infant mortality. One way to do this is to encourage healthy behavior in others and help provide the means, perhaps by donating to responsible charities, to people who lack the resources on their own. If you happen to be pregnant, you should take the steps needed to be healthy. Of course, all this is easy to say.

In addition to individual efforts, collective efforts are also in order. Charitable organizations are one place to begin. The next step up would be, of course, to involve the government. As I see it, the government can help in two main ways. One way is by providing information so people have a better idea about what they should be doing. This is already being done in many cases. The second is to make the pro-life rhetoric a reality and take positive steps to reducing infant mortality. This would involve providing health care support to pregnant women if they lack the means to provide for themselves. In addition to being an issue of social justice, it is also a moral issue.

It is tempting to say that women who lack the means to take care of their pregnancy should not get pregnant. In some cases, this view has some merit-being a person is not just a matter of having rights and privileges. It is also a matter of having duties and responsibilities. Among these responsibilities are being aware of the consequences of ones actions and ensuring that one is able to handle those consequences in a responsible manner. Of course, the reality is that many people are simply not up to the challenge of acting in that manner. There is also the matter of chance-events in life can overwhelm even a responsible person and the rest of us should be willing to help.

Even if a person is unwilling to help the mother because of a moral view, there is still the obvious moral concern about the potential child. Even if the mother was fully responsible for being unable to provide for adequate pre-natal care, the child is not responsible. To let a child suffer or die because of that would be morally unacceptable. It would be on par with refusing to treat children hurt in an automobile accident because their parents were driving drunk.

One concern is that such health care would be expensive. However, it would be hard to imagine anyone who is pro-life arguing that children should be allowed to die so as to save some money. In any case, it would then be a matter of value-do we value children or money more?

Another concern is that some might claim that such government support would encourage poor people to have more children and thus it would simply expand the problem as these kids would probably grow up to be poor and produce even more children and so on.

It is not obvious that such programs would have this effect. After all, as long as the programs provide care and not a cash reward for having kids, there would be no great incentive to go through a pregnancy for such a small advantage. Of course, this objection mainly serves to point out yet another problem-namely that of the cycle of poverty.

In any case, having such a needlessly high infant mortality rate is not morally acceptable. It is a problem that can be solved and should be solved.

Kiwi Accomplished

Posted in Humor, Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on March 27, 2008

Some phrases and terms seem to be inherently funny. For example, “weasel” is taken by the wise to add humor to almost any situation. For example, to saying “I have keys in my pocket” is not funny. But the phrase “I’ve got some weasels in my pocket…I think they just stole my keys” is somewhat more amusing.

I think I managed to stumble upon another such phrase today while teaching.

I was discussing George Berkeley’s philosophy (he is the fellow who started the whole “if a tree falls in a forest” thing). He claims that the world consists of nothing but spirits and ideas. On his view, we can create some of our own ideas. So, I asked my students if that made sense.

Student: “What does that mean? How would I create an idea?”
Me: “Well, think of a Kiwi.”
Student: “The bird or the fruit?”
Me: “Either.”
Student: “Okay.”
Me: “Kiwi accomplished?”
Student: “Yes, Kiwi accomplished.”

I’m not sure why, but everyone found that rather amusing.

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Subprime Loans, the S&L Scandal and Bailouts

Posted in Ethics, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on March 26, 2008

As I was watching the latest bad news about the economy, such as the sub-prime mess, I was reminded of another economic down turn in the 1980s that arose from the Savings & Loan mess.

While I am no economist, the similarities are evident. One example of this is a common pattern in the realm of real estate.  In the S&L scandal, one factor was that the S&Ls started making “imprudent loans” in order to take advantage of the real estate boom. The end result was, of course, a massive taxpayer bailout and other severe economic problems. In recent years, there was once again a real estate boom. Once again, imprudent loans were made to cash in on real estate. The result was yet another economic disaster. Once again, it seems that the taxpayers (such as me and possibly you) will be bearing the brunt of this mess.

The pattern here is certainly an interesting one and shows that either people do not learn (and hence repeat the same mistakes) or that they learn all to well (that a huge bailout will always be available).

I’ve read in various places that the current crisis is the result of mismanagement. On one hand, that seems obvious. It is like seeing a car in a ditch and concluding that is most likely a result of bad driving.  On the other hand, perhaps the crisis is a mix of both poor and brilliant management.

In terms of the poor management, the people who are suffering from the sub-prime mess seem to have made poor financial choices. The banks were in error when they offered such loans and the people who accepted them also made a mistake. Or perhaps it was merely a case of a gamble that went terribly wrong. Then again, staking so much on a gamble could also be seen as bad management.

In terms of brilliant management, some people made a fortune through the practices that have created today’s disaster. It is tempting to attribute to them a clever plan-one they developed based on past experiences. To be specific, they learned that a fortune can be made through practices that ruin others and that the folks in the government will be willing to throw our money at the problem. Thus, like spoiled and rotten children who have broken the cookie jar stealing cookies, they get to have their cookies while the adults clean up the mess and explain to the other children why they just get crumbs. Knowing this will always be the result, they keep on breaking that cookie jar.
Of course, perhaps that hypothesis is giving people too much credit. It might simply be the case that people were motivated by greed and let their desire get in the way of whatever better judgment they possessed. Like any other addict, they simply focused on getting as big a fix as they could and thought little about the consequences. Then, as always happens to a structure built on a weak foundation, the whole mess collapsed.

As noted above, this is a pattern and one that needs to be broken. One way to do this is to hold corporations accountable for their misdeeds and to refuse to bail them out. Taking money from the taxpayers is not a way to fix the problem. It merely encourages business people to keep following that same pattern because they expect they will be bailed out. As with anyone, if a person does not suffer the consequences of her mistakes (or misdeeds), she will most likely keep on making them.

On an unrelated note, whenever people tell me how education should be run on the “business model”,  I always give a short laugh and ask whether we should follow the S&L Model, the Sub-Prime Model, or another similar model of disaster. Yes, I know that I’m willfully ignoring the good business models. People should feel free to suggest some that work well.

Going Green the Easy Way

Posted in Environment, Ethics, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on March 24, 2008

Going green is a big thing these days. This seems to be a good thing for almost everyone. The green folks are thrilled because their views are popular. The old greens can say “I told you so” and the new greens can bask in their newfound green goodness. Companies are cashing in on the greening of the West and thus often making plenty of green from the green folks. The environment is probably doing better, too.

I’m pro-environment for both moral and selfish reasons. From the moral standpoint, t seem best to avoid harming other people and living things (this is an appeal to consequences). Also, there are the responsibilities that we have to future generations. Using and ruining the earth would be like going to a party and eating up all the food before all the other guests had the chance to even arrive. Oh, and then setting fire to the house.

From a selfish standpoint, I’d rather breath clean air and drink clean water than be exposed to harmful chemicals. I also enjoy being outside in the natural world. Hence, all these are reasons for me to pro-environment.

That said, I do find dealing with the “carbon cultists” a bit annoying. These are people who have taken on a cult like devotion to being on the right side of the hot button environmental issues of the day. The cult like devotion is because their views are not based on a rational and ethic assessment of the matter. Rather, they believe what they do because how they feel and because other people they follow tell them to be this way. In this case, they are often on the right side. But, believing in anything without due consideration and rational assessment is problematic. One problem is that such people can be easily duped into acting in ways that are actually not consistent with their professed beliefs. They can also be easily swayed into believing things that are not actually true.

One example of this is illustrated by the fluorescent bulbs we have been encouraged to buy in order to go green. They do save electricity relative to standard bulbs. But, as others have pointed out, they contain mercury. Unlike normal bulbs, these bulbs are supposed to be turned in at special places that can handle mercury. I’m guessing that most people will just toss them, thus adding more mercury to the landfills.

An easier and safer way to be green is to take steps to use less electricity. One obvious way is to turn off the lights when you leave the room. Another easy way is to plug your appliances and re-chargers into power strips that turn off completely. While most people don’t know thing, chargers and appliances draw significant amounts of power even when not actually on. Switching to devices that use less power can also help. For example, if your next computer is a laptop rather than a desktop, you’ll be using less power. Of course, there is the matter of disposing of that old computer and all the toxins in it.

Another example is the hybrid car. While they can, under the proper conditions, use less fuel than normal vehicles, a hybrid car is still a car. Producing those “smug machines” most likely uses up at least as many resources and produces as much pollution as a normal car.  Some people have expressed concerns about the batteries in these cars-they do, after all, contain heavy metals. In reply, some car companies have taken steps to maintain their green reputation by setting up recycling programs for these batteries. In any case, as I have said, a hybrid car is still a car. The same can be said for other types of non-traditional cars.

Yes, it is a good idea to get away from fossil fuels. But, it is also important to be realistic about what we are actually accomplishing when we do so. I freely admit that I am writing this primarily because I have grown tired of the hybrid smugness I have encountered. But, reason also shows that we should look past the mystique of the hybrid and the alternative cars and carefully consider the matter.

The same can be said for bio-fuels. There is a great deal of enthusiasm for bio-fuels,  especially among those who can make a fortune from them. However, these bio-fuels should be carefully considered. One concern is that the creation of such fuels requires energy-in many cases energy provided by fossil fuels.  Some fuels, such as that based on corn, might actually use more fossil fuel energy than they yield themselves (so that their creation is a net loss).

A second concern is that many bio-fuels (such as corn and soy bean version) are made from crops that are also used for human food. As such, converting such food to fuel will raise the prices of food by reducing the supply and increasing the demand. Already, corn based food are more expensive because of the increased price of corn.

A third concern is that environmental damage will be done to raise the crops used in bio-fuels. It is hardly a gain for the environment if parts of the rain forest are stripped  so that soybeans or other such crops can be grown.

That said, bio-fuels have a great deal of potential. One of the most appealing types is that which is made from the byproducts of agriculture. This approach could solve some of the problems associated with the other types of bio-fuels.

While bio-fuels  and hybrid cars are promising, approaching them with a critical eye is important-for the reasons given above.

For now, an easy way to go green is to manage your driving. My hybrid owning friends love to point out that I own just a normal Toyota truck. But, I actually create far less pollution than they do. The main reasons are that: 1) I only drive when I must. If I can walk or bike somewhere, or get a ride with someone else, that is what I do. 2) When I have to drive, I plan out what I am going to do. For example, I’ll run errands on the way to work and go to places that are on my way.

These little things don’t require much effort on my part, but they save me money (thus appealing to the selfish motive) while also helping the environment.

Finnish Sci-Fi: Star Wreck

Posted in Humor, Science by Michael LaBossiere on March 23, 2008

While Finland is generally not regarded as the sci-fi capital of the world, a rather impressive work of sci-fi parody has emerged from that land.

The film is a an amazing parody of two great sci-fi franchises:Babylon 5 and Star Trek. While the production values of the live scenes are not up to Hollywood standards, the animated space battles are equal to anything I’ve seen on TV. Seeing Federation star ships going phaser to laser with Earth Force ships is sure to give any true nerd a spockgasm of geekish delight.  The film is also pretty damn funny.

The dialog  is in Finnish, but subtitled versions are available. You can download the film (via bit torrent or direct download) for free or buy the disks on the website.

They have truly reached the heights of nerdtasticness by also releasing a role playing game based on the film’s universe.

I have long suspected that Finland harbored some great and powerful nerds. Some years ago I received an email from that fine country asking if my Call of Cthulhu adventures could be converted to Finnish. I was all for that-madness should be shared.

Partial Truths

Posted in Politics by Michael LaBossiere on March 22, 2008

In my Critical Inquiry class I teach a section on applying critical thinking skills to the news. One of the things I warm my students about is being aware of partial truths. That is, when a story presents only some of the facts while leaving out others that might be quite relevant to interpreting and understanding the events in question.

An excellent recent example of this is the coverage of Reverend Wright. The news coverage of his infamous 9/11 sermon did present what he in fact said. However, the whole story was not told. As CNN Roland Martin  has pointed out, his remarks were taken out of context. For example, it has been claimed that Wright said that 9/11 was a case of America’s chickens coming home to roost. It is true that he did say this. But this in only a partial truth. The full text of what he said is this:

“I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday did anybody else see or hear him? He was on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end, he pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said Americas chickens, are coming home to roost.”

While Wright goes on to express agreement with this view, his main point seems to have been that Americans need to reflect on our actions and to consider their implications. He also calls on America to take action against problems at home and in the world rather than engaging in military actions abroad.

It cannot be denied that Wright has said things that seem to be wrong and hateful. But, it is important that the full truth of the matter be exposed as much as possible.

Why, then, is it so common for people to present only partial truths in the news? There are numerous possibilities, two of which are as follows.

One obvious factor is that fully investigating the facts takes more time, effort and resources than the much easier way of simply going with a partial truth. This is why it is important for those who bring the world the news to put in the required effort to ensure that the coverage is as complete as can reasonably be expected.

Another obvious reason is that partial truths can be much more inflammatory and hence more exciting to people. The main business of the news is still business-to make money.   As such, they need to appeal to the largest possible audience. Partial truths are one way to create a more dramatic story and hence increase the size of the audience. By presenting, for example, only some of the facts about what Wright said, a more inflammatory story can be created. Saying that Wright was quoting someone on Fox news is not as exciting as reporting that he said that America’s chickens had come home to roost. This is a tougher problem to deal with because the media depends on appealing to the audience and what people seem to want is the drama. As such, the solution to this problem also lies with us: since the people in the media aim to give us what we want, we should try to want the truth rather than mere spectacle.

Because of these two factors, it is always important to observe the news with a critical eye (or ear). To be specific, if it matters to you, then you should ask whether important facts have been left out or not. If the matter is inflammatory, it is also wise to pause and consider that not all the facts are in and that some additional information might change the story in significant ways. This can be rather challenging because of our emotions, our natural love of spectacle and the difficultly of being a critical thinker. It is also challenging because most of us have to rely on the news media for our information. As such, knowing how much of the story has been revealed can be a rather difficult matter.

Fortunately, it is worth the effort. We would be better off if we were better informed and if the media was more inclined to truth over spectacle. Again, much of the blame  must fall on us-as with our government, we mostly get what we want and deserve.

As You Sow…

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy, Politics, Race by Michael LaBossiere on March 21, 2008

My conservative friends, such as Magus71, have been watching the infighting between the Democrats with both joy and disgust. The joy is, of course, because they would prefer that the Democrats once again pull defeat from the jaws of victory. The disgust is because they regard the Democrats’ behavior and words as pathetic and hateful.

One interesting point that has come up in our discussions is that some of the fighting involves the very weapons “the left” forged for their past battles with their external foes. One prime example is the use of race and gender in attacks.

Over the years, I have seen (both in academics and in politics) a standard attack made against whites and males. The basic idea is that male success and white success arise because of special privileges that stem from being white or male. If you happen to be a white male, you get to enjoy a double bonus (this is presumably how white males are able to oppress white women).

It is evident that males and whites do have certain advantages (or perhaps another way to put it is that they are free of the shackles of discrimination that all too often hold back women and non-whites). However, it does seem unreasonable to claim that, in most cases, white males succeed primarily because they are white males. This matter is obviously controversial, so it is fortunate that I can simply bypass this dispute in the discussion at hand. What it important is that this attack was (consciously or not) honed and deployed as a standard means of attack and criticism. It has been, for example, used to explain the allegedly unjust success of white males as well as the failures of those who are not white males.

What is rather interesting is that recently Geraldine Ferraro wielded this sort of weapon against a fellow liberal-namely Barrack Obama. She claimed that, in essence, the cause of Obama’s success was due to his being a black male.

The “attack” on Obama being male was, obviously enough, “old school.” Being a man, obviously his success could be attributed to his maleness-as opposed to his ability and his efforts. After all, success and failure are presumably determined primarily by race and gender-or so we have so often been told.

What was new was that Ferraro made an attack based on race against a minority target: Obama’s success was being attributed, in part, to his blackness. This, then, was something new in the liberal camp-attributing unjustified success to blackness.

While the target was new, the method was, of course an old one. Magus71 has put forth the hypothesis that the liberals just cannot help themselves-they are so focused on race and gender that they simply think of the world primarily in these terms. Hence, when they go into a political battle, they break out race and gender based weapons and fire them at their foe. In the past, the foes had typically been white men. But now, Hillary’s foe is a black male and Obama’s foe is a white woman.

Naturally, Hillary and Obama have been careful not to attack each other based on race and gender. As the Ferraro case shows, their supporters have not been so restrained. In Obama’s case, some of his supporters have attacked Hillary for being white and for being a woman.

These attacks have shown that race and gender are still very serious problems in America. Hateful remarks based on race and gender are merely the surface manifestations of what is no doubt a much deeper and serious problem. What is rather ironic is that so many of these remarks are arising from the ranks of those who most profess to be dedicated to justice and equality.

This certainly raises an interesting question about why there is this tension between their professed values and their actual behavior.

One possible answer, as noted above, is that “the left” is so obsessed with race and gender that it is simply a reflex to define things in that manner. So, Ferraro strikes at Obama being a black man. Wright strikes at Clinton based on race.

Another possible answer is that “the left” knows that race and gender are powerful tools and hence chose to deploy them. Such is the concern for power, that they are willing to attack each other.

A third possible answer is that they are pushed to such behavior by their emotions. When people are moved by strong emotions, their powers of reasoning are diminished. Hence, the most ardent supporters of Hillary and Obama might be overcome by emotions and hence lash out in a hateful manner.

A fourth possibility is that the individuals in question actually are racists and sexists who are acting in accord with these beliefs. This has some plausibility. Attacks on people because they are white are just as racist as attacks on people because they are black or Hispanic or Asian, or whatever. Attacks on people because they are men are just as sexist as attacks on people because they are women. Given the way whites and males are often regarded by “the left” it should be no shock that there are racist and sexist elements in the left. They probably do not think of themselves as such-after all, their anger is directed at whites and men (and mostly white men). But, an addiction to prejudice is hard to control and tends to spread. It is but a small step from being critical of white males to being critical of black males. It is also but a small step from being critical to white males to being critical of white females. Hence, the hateful attacks being shot back and forth among the troops supporting Hillary and Obama should not be unexpected. There have long been racists and sexists in the ranks-but now they are shooting at each other.

Ferraro Once More

Posted in Politics, Race by Michael LaBossiere on March 20, 2008

Geraldine Ferraro is back in the news once more. She gained some degree of notoriety with her comment to the effect that Obama’s success is due to his being a black man.

Not surprisingly, some people accused her of being a racist. When Wright’s comments about America and whites started making the rounds, some people started comparing her to Wright.

In reply, Ferraro asserted that it is “unbelievable” to compare what she said to what Wright said. She further added that Obama’s speech failed to “address the fact that this man is up there spewing hatred.” She expressed concern that young people (including “younger people than Obama”) would be exposed to this hatred.

Ferraro does have a point. Young people, including those younger than Obama, can be influenced by such words and presumably encouraged to hate. This, not surprisingly, would not do the youth any good. It would also not be good for the country in general. After all, what good arises from such hate?

Are Ferraro’s remarks on par with those of Wright?

On one hand, it can be argued that they are not. Even if it is granted that her claim was racist, her remark about Obama was not as extreme as the remarks made by Wright. For example, she did not call on people to damn Obama. As such, to say that her remarks are on par with those of Wright would be like saying that a single punch is on par with a beating.
On the other hand, it could be argued that what is important is not the severity or extremity of her remark, but that it was made at all. True, her remark was not as extreme or as hateful as that of Wright-but she still (allegedly)crossed the line into racism. To use an analogy, punching someone in the face is not as bad as beating them. But, the punch does cross the line into the realm of assault.  As such, while Ferraro’s remark was not as extreme as Wright’s remarks, it could be claimed that she belongs in the same category as Wright.

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Obama, Wright and Socrates

Posted in Politics by Michael LaBossiere on March 19, 2008

While I generally disagree with Newt Gingrich, he does make some excellent points about Obama and Wright.

As Gingrich and others have pointed out, Obama presumably knew about Wright’s views in question and elected (and still elects) to remain part of the church. If Obama disagrees with these views, then one might conclude that Obama either shows poor judgment in remaining in the church or that Obama lacks the courage of his convictions.  Either is obviously a bad quality for the man who would be President.

Further, if Obama disagreed with Wright’s remarks, then he should have taken him aside before and attempted to correct his friend. If Wright is a good man, then, as Socrates said, he would have changed his ways when he learned of his error.  But, Obama apparently did not take him aside to correct him and instead allowed him to go on a path he now denounces. As such, he failed his friend in this regard.

Perhaps Obama did not wish to confront him, perhaps out of respect or perhaps because he thought he could not change his mind. After all, it might be said, we all have friends and relatives we disagree with but realize there is little point in trying to change their ways.

If Obama agrees with these views, but is renouncing them now for political reasons, then he is doubly wrong. First, for holding to wrongful views and second for acting in a deceitful manner by renouncing what he believes.

Obama did, once Wright’s words became known, give a powerful speech in response to the situation. I think that the speech was effective and made many reasonable points about race and anger in America. But, he had to make this speech because of what he had not done in the past.

Perhaps it is the case that he is now showing the sort of decisive action that is required to be an effective President. Naturally, his critics claim that he is merely doing damage control because he has to do so. In either case, he still handled the problem well and, most likely, avoided being harmed extensively by his association with Wright.

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