Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ted Hsu - Liberal Pro-Life Pro-Choice Candidate

There is an interesting race going on in the Liberal riding of Kingston and the Islands. The current member of parliament, Peter Miliken, has decided to step down. Unsurprisingly - we're not in North Korea after all - there's a bunch of candidates gearing up to become the next official Liberal party candidate for parliament.

Five people - sadly all guys - are on the ticket. It's been all a quite Canadian  affair - as in polite, not to say sedate - so far. That is until one of the candidates, Ted Hsu (a Princeton trained physicist) decided to go on the attack. Hsu is an interesting chap. I went to the first all-candidates event the Liberals organised. Being a bioethics professor, I worked for the last year or so fairly intensely on a Royal Society report on end-of-life decision-making in Canada. I asked Hsu where he stands on the matter of decriminalising assisted dying in some form or shape. Anywhere between 60-75% of Canadians (more than 80% in Quebec) support such a policy change. To my surprise Hsu prevaricated and went on to say that he would have to be very very certain that that would have to be a good idea. That his electorate overwhelmingly supports such a policy change was of little consequence to him. The language of 'very very certain', of course, makes no sense. Either you're certain or you're not. There is no such a thing as 'very very certain'. I became suspicious that Hsu might actually be a closeted pro-lifer. I disagree but respect folks holding such views. However, I am skeptical as to whether the Liberal party is really their natural home. Hsu put his foot in his mouth during the event on some other issues. For instance, he praised Cuba's health care system and suggested that we'd learn from it, while he busily suggested the outsourcing of government services. Doesn't really gel, or does it?

Well, Hsu's public stance on the pro-life issue doesn't exactly gel either. During the second all-candidates' event, when pressed, he acknowledged to be a pro-lifer. Some of my feminist colleagues have suggested that pro-life is a euphemism hiding what really amounts to an anti-choice and anti-freedom ideology. Good on Hsu for being honest on this sensitive issue though. Obviously the question then remains how that hangs together with his professed liberalism. Well, in a youtube attack video going after one of his competitors, Bill Flanagan, Hsu comes out both as pro-life and pro-choice. - Think having your cake and eating it... - He explains that he supports women's legal right to choose, and that he would not curtail the use of Canadian tax monies to support developing world health services that support abortions. Of course, being pro-life - by definition - means to subscribe to the view that abortion is akin to murder.  You know, your baseline as a pro-lifer is the idea that fetal cell accumulations should be treated as if they were persons (as Catholics want us to see it). So, here we have a professed pro-lifer who subscribes to the view that tax monies should be used to support what pro-lifers considers akin to murder.

Mr Hsu, this stance of yours doesn't gel. It's comparable to saying that you're against nuclear power, that's it's a bit like a crime against humanity (pro-life ideologues are wont to comparing abortion to the Holocaust, mass murder, genocide and other such niceties), but that you won't switch off any existing legally operating power plant. I wonder how you would deal, if you ever got elected, with proposed legislation designed to decriminalise assisted dying? Your very very certain is clearly just a cover for saying 'never'. I for one am not looking forward to any conscience vote you might be able to cast should you ever get elected, Mr Hsu. I'm glad to note that at least you wouldn't touch existing legal reproductive rights of women, even though you subscribe to ideological views that consider those exercising such rights as murderers. I have got to say, this is about as plausible as celebrating Cuba's health system and wanting to outsource government services.

What's next Mr Hsu?

13 comments:

  1. You know what doesn't gel for me, Mr. Schuklenk? The name Bill Flanagan as one of your blog's tags...

    To me, Mr. Hsu can skate ethical circles around you. It makes me wonder what the field of Bioethics is really about... based on your blog and using your terminology, it seems to be a cover for a certain type of "oppositional progressive" (just made that up-- means someone who undermines his own progressive position by divisive and accusatory arguments).

    I've known Ted for years and you might be right that the Liberal party is not a good home for him...

    Because he is too progressive, not the reverse. Open your eyes.

    CheDomino

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  2. What does not gel is your anonymous slander combined with the lack of any response to the analysis I provided... Glad tho that you've know Mr Hsu for years!

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  3. I signed my earlier comment using my one and only online persona.

    For the record, how long have you known Mr. Flanagan and under what circumstances?

    The issue of abortion is a very obvious ethical dilemma in the classical sense: there is no clear winner unless one completely discards the notion that if a fetus could choose, it would choose life, like all life forms. Of course as a society the health of our child-bearing mothers is of great importance. Thus the dilemma.

    Certain people believe that all life is sacred, including that of a fetus. This is a personal belief.

    The Liberal Party, or at least its progressive side, has a tradition of being open to all points of view. Why should abortion be any different? To attack Mr. Hsu because of his Christian beliefs is in itself prejudiced, not to mention very divisive. You can try to frame the debate by claiming to be interested only for academic reasons as a bioethics specialist, but for me that part definitely doesn't gel.

    That this question was pressed by someone close to Flanagan, Hsu's main rival, should come as no surprise to you or anyone familiar with down and dirty politics. Ted Hsu, however, is not one of those people. Which is why he chose to answer the question honestly.

    Your continued attack on him reveals a strong antipathy to the Christian set of principles guaranteed protection by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and also smacks of obvious bias. If you do not have a vested interest in the outcome of the nomination, then you could at least show some respect and not attack Mr. Hsu during a nomination race.

    Also for the record, I am not a member of the Liberal Party, so could never vote for Mr. Hsu, even if he wins the nomination.

    I do however respect the man for having the courage to apply for a job for which he is emminently more suited than his competitors, but seems doomed to lose out because of his outsider status and being vulberable to the distasteful tactics such as those shown by Mr. Flanagan and his team.

    If your blog was only meant to deal with the issue of Mr. Hsu's stance on this one issue, than you are missing the forest for that one tree. Perhaps you should examine the ethical issues surrounding Mr. Flanagan...

    To the victor the spoils. Kingston will get what it deserves in the long run.

    CheDomino

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  4. I signed my earlier comment using my one and only online persona.

    For the record, how long have you known Mr. Flanagan and under what circumstances?

    The issue of abortion is a very obvious ethical dilemma in the classical sense: there is no clear winner unless one completely discards the notion that if a fetus could choose, it would choose life, like all life forms. Of course as a society the health of our child-bearing mothers is of great importance. Thus the dilemma.

    Certain people believe that all life is sacred, including that of a fetus. This is a personal belief.

    The Liberal Party, or at least its progressive side, has a tradition of being open to all points of view. Why should abortion be any different? To attack Mr. Hsu because of his Christian beliefs is in itself prejudiced, not to mention very divisive. You can try to frame the debate by claiming to be interested only for academic reasons as a bioethics specialist, but for me that part definitely doesn't gel.

    That this question was pressed by someone close to Flanagan, Hsu's main rival, should come as no surprise to you or anyone familiar with down and dirty politics. Ted Hsu, however, is not one of those people. Which is why he chose to answer the question honestly.

    Your continued attack on him reveals a strong antipathy to the Christian set of principles guaranteed protection by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and also smacks of obvious bias. If you do not have a vested interest in the outcome of the nomination, then you could at least show some respect and not attack Mr. Hsu during a nomination race.

    Also for the record, I am not a member of the Liberal Party, so could never vote for Mr. Hsu, even if he wins the nomination.

    I do however respect the man for having the courage to apply for a job for which he is emminently more suited than his competitors, but seems doomed to lose out because of his outsider status and being vulberable to the distasteful tactics such as those shown by Mr. Flanagan and his team.

    If your blog was only meant to deal with the issue of Mr. Hsu's stance on this one issue, than you are missing the forest for that one tree. Perhaps you should examine the ethical issues surrounding Mr. Flanagan...

    To the victor the spoils. Kingston will get what it deserves in the long run.

    CheDomino

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  5. Liberalism respects individual choice, pro-life (aka anti-choice) is fundamentally opposed to this. The question of embryose choosing things is absured. They do not have the dispositional capacity to make choices, express preferences or have moral standing equivalent to that of pregnant women wishing to choose. Liberals do understand this. Liberalism is not a free-for-all, anything goes type ideology, whatever your confusions about the traditions of modern liberalism.
    I shall noit entertain any further discussions with you while you remain anonymous, whatever your online personas and preferences. Attacking people from behind a cover, as you do, is disgraceful, childish to some extent.

    For the record: Mr Hsu failed in the first candidates' meeting to be completly forthcoming about his ideological convictions, they became apparent only after insistent questioning during the second meeting.

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  6. You still never answered my question about Mr. Flanagan.

    You have my online ID just as you have yours.

    If you don't like that, than I suggest you quit the blogosphere. Right now it looks like there isn't much action on your blog anyway.

    How long have you known Mr. Flanagan? What is your personal vested interest in the nomination race, if any? Stop dodging the question, you're sounding like a Liberal cabinet minister!

    Mr. Hsu's integrity is there for all to see. How about we see some of yours.

    CheDomino

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  7. I'm actually surprised that Hsu beat out his formidable competition, and is now the Liberal rep. for Kingston. I'm surprised since the abortion thing came up; I thought he was doomed after that. But I must say I am pleased that he made it, and will vote for him in the next election. Hsu's competetors made the same mistake Ignatieff made in trying to make abortion a wedge issue. In Iggy's case, he tried to make a fuss over Harper removing funding for abortions in instances of foreign aid, while going on to state that HIS party has been positively pro-choice for the last 30 years. Well, did that backfire! Some liberals spoke up and said, "Wait a second I'm pro-life, I don't mind that exclusion." So Iggy backed off, realizing the Liberal party was composed of people with a variety of beliefs and viewpoints on matters of conscience (such as abortion). Perhaps the same is the case in Kingston; the liberal delegates didn't mind one bit voting for an honest candidate, Hsu, and not hold his pro life stance against him. We are not like the states; where this issue seems very polarized between Democrat and Republican. Here, pro choicers and pro lifers are members of all political parties, and alwyas have been.

    Congratulations Mr. Hsu, for being a real Liberal, free of conscience; and one not to be pigeon holed by Schuklenk's pseudo-fascim.

    By the way, Mr. Schuklenk, I take issue with your justification of abortion. You say: "[Fetuses]...do not have the dispositional capacity to make choices, express preferences, etc."

    There are many other things that do not have capacity in this regard: infants, mentally challenged, and (arguably) adolescents without fully developed frontal lobes. I trust this critera of yours is not the only one you use to justify killing preborn...or your claims for advocating taking life extends to more than the preborn. To my mind, you've advocated a rather obtuse ethical position on the matter.

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  8. Ooops: please allow me to correct myself in above post:

    "Pseudo Fascism" should be Concealed or Crafty Fascism.

    "Free of Conscience" should be "with a free conscience".

    Apologies.

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  9. Thanks Craig. Good points. The question of abortion (the morality of it) hinges on the moral status of the developing embryo. My take is that while there is no capacity to suffering there is no moral standing. You're welcome to call this state of affair a 'preborn' (how about a 'future voter' or 'future taxi driver' to make sure you really fudge the relevant questions?). It gets more difficult from the point onward where fetuses attain the capacity to feel pain. The liberal stance on this matter (I'm not talking about the party stance, but the liberal ideology's stance) is that in case of conflict the pregnant woman's right to controls her own body trumps whatever interest in not being terminated one might wish to ascribe to the developing fetus. Plenty such analyses have been provided (most poignantly in a classical article by Judith Jarvis Thompson called 'A Defense of Abortion', but also by utilitarian philosophers such as Peter Singer in his volume 'Practical Ethics').

    I respect people disagreeing with these analyses, I do beg to differ when they happen to describe themselves as liberals. That doesn't gel, regardless of whatever it is that happens in the Canadian Liberal Party.

    I am happy for Mr Hsu that you intend to vote for him. I suspect many liberals will place their votes elsewhere, because that is what a liberal conscience should require.

    I won't comment on your pseudo, craft or concealed fascism. My point was about being consistent ideologically. Mr Hsu isn't. End of story. Your labels are thoroughly misplaced.

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  10. Thanks for the prompt and thoughtful response Udo - appreciated. I won't delve too much more into the abortion question; I've experienced that very seldom does one side change the mind of the others', and the issue seldom settles on a compromise, but instead grows increasingly polarized as discussion ensues.

    That aside, I wouldn't mind responding to a few objections you make on use of terminology,etc.

    One, you disparaged my use of the term "preborn" and compared it to "future taxi driver" or "future voter." Perhaps you're conflating my use of the term; I didn't say "future human". When I mentioned preborn, I hoped, that it implied an existing "human" that hasn't yet been born - not a potential human that has yet to become one. With that in mind, I don't think I've fudged the relevant issue.

    Ultimately, I don't see how a "foetus" a few hours, days, or weeks, etc. before delivery is any less a human than one a few hours, weeks, or months after birth.
    I have only a scant knowledge of Singer, but, if I recall correctly, his line of reasoning suggested - even promoted - that infants could and should be killed if they were impaired or defective in some way. Reaks of eugenics and all things NAZI does it not? In fact, wasn’t one of his theses something along the lines of “killing babies isn’t always bad.” I suppose some may buy into his abstractions in order to come to his utilitarian conclusion, but I don’t see why one should move beyond an immediate visceral and moral repugnancy to the notion.

    Ideological consistency and liberalism: does it not follow that liberals value the rights of others, in particular, the most vulnerable in society. If this is the case, is it not logically consistent that if one chooses to value the life of a preborn (forgive me) then it would only make sense that they would want to extend rights, value, moral equivalency to that entity?

    If you don't mind a pop culture reference, I recall some TV drama having a lawyer say something to the effect of: "It's puzzling that right wing pro-lifers are all for capital punishment, while those liberals who are champions of human rights won't think for a minute of giving some to the unborn." His point was, when it came to abortion at least, was that there was idealogical inconsistency.

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  11. Well thanks Craig, for taking the time and also for reducing he aggression level by a notch :). We do not see eye-to-eye issue on the moral standing issue. You try to resolve it now by definition (hence the original fudge with the 'preborn'). Now you declare even the smallest accumulation of embryonic cell mass a human and hope that that settles the moral standing matter. It doesn't obviously.

    Then you increase the flame of good ol fashioned rhetoric again. Many of Peter Singer's family members perished in German concentration camps. As a golden rule then, throwing Nazi verbiage at such people in order to avoid addressing their analyses is beyond pale.

    Equally, as a golden rule, repugnance doesn't settle moral questions. Otherwise racists would suddenly find themselves justified in their repulsive views...

    Liberals value the rights of others who have legitimate rights claims. You're begging the question on this one then, as you still need to establish why embryonic cell accumulations with no central nervous system, no brain capacity, no capacity to suffer should be ascribed a right to life. I know that you attached the label human to them, but that still begs the question as there's nothing about them that resembles human beings as we encounter them in our day-to-day lives.

    Unlike your TV drama lawyer, I do think liberals who champion human rights are very consistent in asking for reasons for why embryonic cell accumulation should be ascribed human rights, especially when those rights are meant to override actual people's (pregnant women's) rights to control their own bodies. Nothing in what you have offered so far amounts to a persuasive argument in favour of that proposition.

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  12. AnonymousJune 26, 2011

    I think Roe v. Wade should be repealed. Abortion is murder-it inflicts upon the innocent-the helpless! The only person that doesn't have a say in pro-choice is the baby, correct? And if History repeats itself, shouldn't we become drawn towards Morality instead of against it?

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