Did Porn Cause the Financial Crisis?

That is the headline in an article in “The Atlantic”:

The above headline might seem like a joke. It isn’t. Senior staffers at the Securities and Exchange Commission were surfing Internet pornography when they should have been policing the financial system. A deeply disturbing SEC memo to Senator Chuck Grassley R-IA exposing this problem was reported Thursday night by ABC News. Here are some highlights via the Associated Press:

_A senior attorney at the SECs Washington headquarters spent up to eight hours a day looking at and downloading pornography. When he ran out of hard drive space, he burned the files to CDs or DVDs, which he kept in boxes around his office. He agreed to resign, an earlier watchdog report said.

_An accountant was blocked more than 16,000 times in a month from visiting websites classified as “Sex” or “Pornography.” Yet, he still managed to amass a collection of “very graphic” material on his hard drive by using Google images to bypass the SECs internal filter, according to an earlier report from the inspector general. The accountant refused to testify in his defense and received a 14-day suspension.

_Seventeen of the employees were “at a senior level,” earning salaries of up to $222,418.

_The number of cases jumped from two in 2007 to 16 in 2008.

The cracks in the financial system emerged in mid-2007 and spread into full-blown panic by the fall of 2008.On one hand, two cases in 2007 means that either it wasnt that widespread of a problem or it hadnt yet been detected. On the other hand, the fact that this behavior seems to have been so prevalent among senior level employees is particularly troubling. Theyre the ones who should have been closely watching the financial industry and leading the way to help prevent the system from collapsing.

via Did Porn Cause the Financial Crisis? – Business – The Atlantic.

While it is unlikely that porn actually CAUSED the financial crisis–unless maybe everyone in banks, the investment houses, the real estate industry, and other financial players were also spending all their time on porn and so were no longer paying attention to anything else–this is still mind-boggling. Is porn so addictive that it can eat away at the brain? How could any rational person be so foolish as to view and even download pornography on company computers? How could any person with any integrity at all spend 8 hours a day–that is to say, ALL DAY AT WORK–viewing pornography? While earning over $200 K a year? That salary coming from taxpayers? Pornography evidently is not only morally degrading–sexually but also in this case the equivalent of theft–but it makes a person stupid

On vows of celibacy & sexual sin

Luther and the Lutheran Confessions (explaining “thou shalt not commit adultery”) on the problems of forbidding marriage for the clergy, and how this manifests itself in sexual sins:

Priests, monks, and nuns resist God’s order and commandment, inasmuch as they despise and forbid matrimony, and presume and vow to maintain perpetual chastity, and, besides, deceive the simple-minded with lying words and appearances [impostures]. For no one has so little love and inclination to chastity as just those who because of great sanctity avoid marriage, and either indulge in open and shameless prostitution, or secretly do even worse, so that one dare not speak of it, as has, alas! been learned too fully.

And, in short, even though they abstain from the act, their hearts are so full of unchaste thoughts and evil lusts that there is a continual burning and secret suffering, which can be avoided in the married life. Therefore all vows of chastity out of the married state are condemned by this commandment, and free permission is granted, yea, even the command is given, to all poor ensnared consciences which have been deceived by their monastic vows to abandon the unchaste state and enter the married life, considering that even if the monastic life were godly, it would nevertheless not be in their power to maintain chastity, and if they remain in it, they must only sin more and more against this commandment.

via The Large Catechism – Book of Concord (The Sixth Commandment)

How would this apply to the pedophile scandal in the Roman Catholic Church? Clearly, individuals with that lust could not satisfy it with marriage, but might that not be something “even worse” than prostitution, something so bad that “one dare not speak of it,” that comes from repressed sexuality? Would this article of the catechism also apply to the chastity vows of the teen abstinence movement? Those, of course, are not permanent vows. But shouldn’t we encourage early marriage instead?

Abstinence funding

The health care reform bill consisted of 1,990 pages.  Congressmen could hardly have read what they were voting for.  Who knows what all is in there?  There may be all kinds of surprises.  For example, to the dismay of many liberals, funding for abstinence education–which Democrats thought they had killed–was stuck into the bill, to the tune of $250 million:

A little-noticed provision of the health legislation has rescued federal support for a controversial form of sex education: teaching youths to remain virgins until marriage.

The bill restores $250 million over five years for states to sponsor programs aimed at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases by focusing exclusively on encouraging children and adolescents to avoid sex. The funding provides at least a partial reprieve for the approach, which faced losing all federal support under President Obama’s first two budgets.

via Health bill restores $250 million in abstinence-education funds – washingtonpost.com.

Isn’t it something that teaching children to wait until they get married to have sex is now “controversial”?

Catholicism’s secret sins

I’m not a Sinead O’Connor fan, but the Irish singer–notorious for tearing up a picture of Pope John Paul on “Saturday Night Live” some years ago–has written a scathing op-ed piece on the priest child-molestation scandal coming out  in Ireland.  She herself says that she was misused in her childhood in a Catholic reform schools, though apparently not sexually.  She does not accept the current pope’s apology:

Benedict’s apology gives the impression that he heard about abuse only recently, and it presents him as a fellow victim: “I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.” But Benedict’s infamous 2001 letter to bishops around the world ordered them to keep sexual abuse allegations secret under threat of excommunication — updating a noxious church policy, expressed in a 1962 document, that both priests accused of sex crimes and their victims “observe the strictest secret” and be “restrained by a perpetual silence.”

via To Sinead O’Connor, the pope’s apology for sex abuse in Ireland seems hollow – washingtonpost.com.

I remember coming across a quotation from a bishop who said that we just didn’t realize back then how traumatic this kind of sexual contact from a priest would be for children! Critics are pointing out that the church authorities treated a priest molesting children as a moral matter, rather than as a criminal matter. They should have called the police. Instead, they imposed silence.

Is there any way to mitigate these charges?

Organ harvest in ER

In a bid to get more organs to transplant, the federal government is funding a program to remove organs in emergency rooms as soon as the heart stops beating.  Nevermind about brain death.  The sooner hearts, lungs, and livers are removed, the better they work, so it’s good to harvest them while the body is still warm.  This, however, raises ethical concerns:

In the hope of expanding a controversial form of organ donation into emergency rooms around the United States, a federally funded project has begun trying to obtain kidneys, livers and possibly other body parts from car-accident victims, heart-attack fatalities and other urgent-care patients.

Using a $321,000 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, the emergency departments at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center-Presbyterian Hospital and Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh have started rapidly identifying donors among patients whom doctors are unable to save and taking steps to preserve their organs so a transplant team can rush to try to retrieve them.

Obtaining organs from emergency room patients has long been considered off-limits in the United States because of ethical and logistical concerns. This pilot project aims to investigate whether it is feasible and, if so, to encourage other hospitals nationwide to follow. So far, neither hospital has yet gotten any usable organs.

“This is about helping people who have declared themselves to be donors, but die in a place where donation is currently not possible,” said Clifton W. Callaway, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh who is leading the project. “It’s also about helping the large number of people awaiting transplants who could die waiting because of the shortage of organs.”

Critics say the program represents a troubling attempt to bring a questionable form of organ procurement into an even more ethically dicey situation: the tumultuous environment of an ER, where more than ever it raises the specter of doctors preying on dying patients for their organs.

“There’s a fine line between methods that are pioneering and methods that are predatory,” said Leslie M. Whetstine, a bioethicist at Walsh University in Ohio. “This seems to me to be in the latter category. It’s ghoulish.”

For decades, most hearts, lungs, kidneys, livers and other organs obtained for transplants in the United States have come from patients who have been pronounced dead in a hospital after a complete cessation of brain activity, known as brain death, was carefully determined.

But because thousands of people die each year waiting for organ transplants, the federal government has begun promoting an alternative that involves surgeons taking organs, within minutes, from patients whose hearts have stopped beating but who have not been declared brain-dead. The faster organs are retrieved, the better the chances they will be useable.

Although increasingly common, the practice remains controversial because of questions about whether organ preservation and removal might begin before patients are technically dead, and because of fears that doctors might not do everything possible to save patients and may even hasten their deaths, to increase the chance of obtaining organs.

In the United States, the practice, known as “donation after cardiac death,” or DCD, is being done only on patients in the intensive-care unit or other parts of the hospital for whom the possibility of death has been long anticipated, and there has been time to methodically assess their condition and make sure family members are comfortable with the decision. Each hospital can decide whether and how to perform the procedure.

In 2008, the Children’s Hospital in Colorado sparked intense debate with a federally funded DCD pilot project that involved taking hearts from babies 75 seconds after they were removed from life support. After an intensive review, the hospital restarted the program about two months ago but required that surgeons wait two minutes.

via Project to get transplant organs from ER patients raises ethics questions – washingtonpost.com.

Legalism vs. morality; laws vs. ethics

Raymond Ibrahim takes up the question of why so many  jihadists, for all of their alleged Islamic piety, often are so sexually immoral, to the point of going to strip clubs before their suicide bombing runs.  After a fascinating tour of this phenomenon in Islamic history and the rationalizations of such behavior in Islamic theology, Mr. Ibrahim notes a fundamental difference in the way Muslims and Christians approach morality:

Deceit, rationalizations, and a paradise that forgives the would-be martyr’s every sin — indeed, that satiates his hedonistic urges with 72 voluptuous women (which may only be raisins) — all help demonstrate how Muslims can be observant and simultaneously frequent strip clubs.

Yet there is one final explanation that requires an epistemic shift to appreciate fully: in Islam, legalism trumps morality, resulting in what Westerners may deem irreconcilable behavior among Muslims, that is, “hypocrisy.” As Daniel Pipes observed some three decades ago in his In the Path of God:

[There is] a basic contrast between the Christian and Islamic religions: the stress on ethics versus the stress on laws. Controls on sexual activity directly reflect this difference. The West restricts sex primarily by imbuing men and women with standards of morality. … Muslims, in contrast, depend on “external precautionary safeguards” [e.g., segregation, veiling] to restrain the sexes. … Rather than instill internalized ethical principles, Islam establishes physical boundaries to keep the sexes apart.

In this context, the problem is not Muslims frequenting strip clubs, but misplaced Western projections that assume religious piety is always synonymous with personal morality — a notion especially alien to legalistic Islamists whose entire epistemology begins and ends with the literal words of seventh-century Muhammad and his Koran.

And it is this slavishness that best explains Islamist behavior. For the same blind devotion to the literal mandates of Islam which encourages Islamists to lead lives of deceit also explains why Islamists are callous to human suffering, why they are desensitized to notions of human dignity and the cries of their raped victims, and, yes, why they cheerily forfeit their lives in exchange for a fleshy paradise. In all cases, Muhammad and his Allah said so — and that’s all that matters.

via Pajamas Media » How the Islamist Mindset Rationalizes — and Promotes — ‘Sex Sins’.

I have, however, noted this same dichotomy of legalism vs. morality, laws vs. ethics, in some Christians. Of course, Christianity in its essence is about none of these but about forgiveness for transgressing them. That is, it is about the Gospel of Christ on the Cross who atoned for our iniquities. I wonder, though, if confusion about whether the Law has to do with external controls vs. inner motivations may also relate to confusions about the Gospel. (for example, the problem of anti-nomianism?)