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February 07, 2006

Obedience is the new black

I'm told that obdience is "it" virtue nowadays. Being an Enlightenment square, I wouldn't know from the virtue of obedience, per se.

But given that all the virtue ethicist kewl kids are all about obedience qua obedience, I'm relieved that somebody is taking it upon herself to remind the president.

Helen Thomas: If they broke the law, that's too bad. You know what happened to Nixon when he broke the law.

McClellan: And we're going to continue doing everything we can within our power to protect the American people. This is a very different circumstance, and you know that.

Thomas: No, I don't.

McClellan: Well, then you should go back and listen to what the Attorney General said, because he laid out the safeguards that are in place, and how it's the career officials at NSA that make the decisions when it comes to this.

Thomas: The President has to obey the law.

Video at Crooks and Liars.


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Note to self: write mash note to Helen Thomas.

Obedience can be a lot of fun.

I don't get it -- what does this have to do with trends in virtue ethics? Since when is it virtuous to breach the US constitution? Is this some quantum level of subtlety below my sensory threshold?

Workers should obey their employers in pursuance of doing their jobs. If I'm a boss, and I create a clear job description, and hire a worker who agrees (even swears an oath) to do that job, obeying me and fulfilling the requirements of the job description, then the worker should either obey or give me two weeks notice and leave.

Bush is my employee. As an American, I am his boss. The job I hired him for had a clear job description. If he cannot obey that job description, he should give his two weeks notice and resign.

I'm just kidding about the virtue ethicists, verbatim. The Clown Hall peanut gallery is boosting the timeless virtue of>obdedience. David Brooks is on about it, too.

I just find it ironic that the people who support the president are oblique lecturing us all on the virtues of being obedient to BUSH when he's flagrantly disregarding the law and his sworn duties to uphold the Constitution.

Helen and Julian are right. The president should obey the law.

I think there is something useful to say from a virtue ethics perspective here. As Julian indicates, the cases where we think obedience is a virtue are really cases of keeping your promises. Promise keeping is not a trivial duty. It is a major part of trusting and trustworthiness, which are about as vital to a functioning society as you can get.

Obedience as a character trait is simply a distortion of the virtue of being trusting. Being trusting, in good Aristotilean form, is a mean between paranoia and gullibility. You should trust the right people, the right amount, at the right time, for the right reason. Obedience is the vice of trusting people because they are a position of authority, rather than because they have proven their trustworthiness.

It is no surprise the corrupt authority figues are big into promoting obedience as a virtue.

Mindless compliance totally kicks ass! I can't wait to be told what to do and think next! Rock on, Mr. President!

It's even simpler than that.

Here's the Presidential oath of office:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Bush said the same words George Washington did in his swearing-in ceremony.

He later said:

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face! It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!

The prosecution takes a moment to reflect on the number of ways that the Shrub's actions have demonstrated the sincerity with which the second statement was made, then rests.

Oh! good to hear that you're kidding about the virtue ethicists, Lindsay. Not that I have an especially high regard for that view, but I didn't expect them to go all aflutter about such a wimpy virtue.

I'll tag it here.

Your Rights Online: U.S. Gov To Spider Internet

"Perhaps as one of the first high profile uses of Alexa's WebSearch Platform, the U.S. government plans to search, link and reference every news site, blog and email on the Internet, using sophisticated AI codenamed ADVISE to do the correlations. Unlike traditional dataveilance like Echelon, ADVISE aims to find terrorists before they strike and even deduce their motivations in wanting to commit their crimes. Part of the breakthrough is a way for humans to view data as 3D holographic images with tech recently used at the Superbowl."

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