Thursday, June 18, 2015

Get Your Embryos Here!!


An article in a recent edition of the New York Times (June 18) concerns the issue of "leftover embryos."  In addition to enumerating the concerns regarding their preservation versus their disposal, the piece goes on to discuss the subject of the commercialization of in vitro fertilization.  Rather mind-boggling,  I thought.

California Conceptions is a company that deals in "embryo creation."  The "clinic" purchases eggs and sperm from donors "whose profiles are likely to have broad appeal - like those who are tall, thin and well educated."  The "clinic" then proceeds to manufacture embryos for sale to would-be parents.  $12,500 buys you three attempts at implantation, with a money-back guarantee if a 12-week pregnancy does not occur.  

It has been termed by some as "the Costco approach to fertility, with quantity discounts to keep costs down."  The article refers to this approach as "one step removed from a mail-order catalog."

It goes on to describe online sites like "Miracle Waiting", where availability of embryos are posted.  Typical posts:  "4 frozen babies, ready for an active fun-loving home."  "Beautiful, intelligent, athletic Caucasian embryos looking for a home."  (Sound rather like ads for pet adoption, don't they?)

Pretty soon these embryos (? humans) may be available on e-Bay or Amazon.com  Or maybe one will actually be able to go to Costco and pick one or two off the shelf!

Just think of all the future siblings there will be out there that have never met.......and most likely never will.  Be careful not to fall in love and marry your "twin"! 




Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Auschwitz - The Reality Show!

"Grim Reality:  Czech TV Makes Game of Nazi Era", an article in the New York Times, (June 8) describes a new TV reality show in the Czech Republic which puts contestants in situations that existed at the time of the Nazi occupation.  Families have to experience and tolerate Nazi terror and threats, and live the lives of Czech families during that period of Czech history.  Actors portray Nazi SS officers who threaten and harrass participants.  The lucky participating families were selected from over 600 who applied.

Hey, we can do better!

How about a reality show based on life and death in Auschwitz - a show placing contestants in death-camp conditions.  We could watch them arrive in crowded boxcars.  We could enjoy the terror and anticipation as they wait to see whether they are consigned to immediate gas-chamber extinction or to  existence in crowded, disease-ridden, overcrowded unheated barracks.  We could thrill as we witness  beatings, and watch with awe as the participants try to survive on thin, cold soup and week-old potato skins.  We could follow them as they labor untold hours in freezing conditions, dressed only in thin  pajamas.  Levels of participation could include varying age groups - from babies to seniors.

Interested producers may be able to engage actual survivors to serve as consultants.  But they'll have to hurry - there aren't many survivors left!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner and Competitive Sports




So Bruce Jenner is now Caitlyn Jenner.  Though Caitlyn retains testicles and a penis and is chromosomally male, her present gender identification is female.  So could a younger "Caitlyn" enter a woman's decathlon competition?  Dr. Richard Raskin, a nationally ranked tennis player who competed as a male in the 1950s and 1960s transitioned to the female side of the tour (as RenĂ©e Richards) in the 70s after undergoing hormonal therapy,  followed by transexual surgical transformation in 1975  - but only after a court order.

Should we continue to agree that all playing fields should be "level?"  Would allowing a chromosomal male, who has decided to declare himself a woman, in order to compete in the female ranks of organized competitive sports, preserve that "level field."  If so, is it wrong to permit a hypothetical amputee who has been fitted with a futuristic prosthesis, that allows a ball to be thrown at speeds over 120 mph, or to drive a golf ball or serve at tennis at superhuman rates of speed, to enter competitive sports?

Everybody should have the right to live a life of choice.  But when a male chooses to be a female, or a female chooses the life of a male there are certain truisms that are incontrovertible.  You are a male if you are genetically male and born with male genitalia.  You may choose to live otherwise - but you are who you are.  If you are black you cannot decide to be white - if you are white you cannot declare yourself black.  You are who you are genetically.  Call yourself whatever you wish to call yourself, but for purposes such as classification, birth/population statistics and competitive athletics,  genes matter.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

The Republican candidates for President of the United States are being queried a to whether they would have invaded Iraq had they known then what they know today.  Sen. Ted Cruz responded that "Not only would I not have been in favor of it,  President Bush would not have been in favor of it."  Would that we were able to use hindsight in predicting the future.  That is highly improbable, if not impossible.

In fact, predicting today's scenario should Saddam Hussein have remained in power, is mere conjecture.  It is nothing more than fun and games to predict what today's world would look like had 9/11 not happened, or had D-Day (9,000 estimated casualties) failed, or had Henry Wallace, instead of Harry Truman, become president after President Roosevelt died.  (Wallace, Roosevelt's VP, was bumped from the ticket in 1944.)  It is mere speculation to consider the probabilities involved in the "road not taken" - the proverbial "what-ifs."

Decisions bring about results - some anticipated, others not.  These results will lead to new possibilities.  Choices among these new possibilities may lead to another round of possibilities and choices, etc. etc.  Decisions should be made using the best available information from the best available sources.  People can, and will, criticize decisions, but those truly to condemn are only those made improperly.  An error that results from an informed and well-thought out decision is not a mistake - it is an unpredictable error in judgment.

We always assume that a good result was a product of the right decision.  But, in fact, a better outcome may have ensued had another decision been made.

As one brokerage house has cautioned:  "Past performance is not a guarantee of future results!"



Thursday, April 30, 2015

Marriage - Can It Be Legally Limited





Marriage is defined in most (if not all) dictionaries as a "legal union between a man and a woman," with an additional definition in some dictionaries that includes a legal same-sex union in some jurisdictions.

As the Supreme Court argues the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, comments by the Court raised the issue of the definition of marriage.  If marriage is a legal term, then the definition of marriage is a matter of law.  If it is a fundamental right, then the need for legal limits may come into question.   Fundamental rights may have legal limits - free speech does not permit speech designed to incite violence or to instill panic;  the right to bear arms does not include ownership of all forms of weaponry.

Marriage, then, if a fundamental right, may be legally limited.

Can marriage be limited to couples of the same race?
Can marriage be limited to heterosexual couples?
Can marriage be limited to one couple?
Can marriage be limited by age?
Can marriage be limited to couples who are not close relatives?

The interracial couple question is moot - the legal right for interracial couples to marry has been affirmed.

Same sex marriage is presently under review by the Supreme Court.  A significant majority of the people (61% on a recent poll) feel is should be a fundamental as well as a legal right.  Such a right exists in 36 states and the District of Columbia.

Polygamous marriage has not been brought before the Supreme Court.  We know it has historical precedent (both Biblical and otherwise) and continues to be practiced in this country (though illegal in all 50 states) among certain Mormon cults.  Polygamy is legal in 50 countries.

States have defined a lower marital age limit for a man and a woman - an age which may vary from state to state.  South Carolina permits a girl of 14 to marry if she has the consent of both parents.  New York, however, requires not only parental, but judicial approval at that age.  Is the legal marriage of a South Carolina couple, where the bride is 14 years old, legal in New York without judicial consent?

Marriage is denied to first cousins in 30 states.  Six states prohibit marriages between first cousins once removed.  Some states, not all,  that prohibit marriage will recognize cousin marriages performed in other states.  I could find nothing about marriages of siblings.  I don't believe marriage between siblings or parent-child is legal in any state - but, nevertheless, such weddings have taken place.  Incestuous (non-marital) relationships are legal in New Jersey.

Who can and can't get married will continue to be a question.  Will we require a special classification for the legal marriages of the transgender and transexual community? The whole concept of gender identity has become an issue. Should consenting adults be permitted to enter into a legal polygamous marriage?  If not, why not?  If marriages between closely related individuals are presently limited for reasons of potential deleterious effects in offspring, should such marriages be allowed if direct offspring are impossible, such as the sterility of one of the members in a heterosexual relationship, or if the relatives are of the same sex?

If the definition of a legal marriage is to change, should it be changed broadly, or should each step await its turn in court?  If the Court is leaning towards incremental, rather than broad changes in how marriage is defined, these other issues may require future consideration.










Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Discrimination In the Providing of Services

There is a difference between discriminating against a group of people because of who they are or what they believe, and refusing physically to provide a service at a ritual that one personally cannot support on reasonable religious, moral, and ethical grounds (emphasis on "reasonable").

Although one may not approve of gays or neo-Nazis, one may not discriminate against their civil rights - one may not deny them a product or a service because of a lifestyle that one cannot morally support (one certainly cannot ask a person about his beliefs before serving him, or selling to him), but one should not be legally obligated to take part in a ritual he finds morally offensive.

I have separated services into two categories - "elective" and "mandatory."  "Mandatory" services such as providing medical care, providing legal civil services,  or providing funeral services can be denied to no one.  On the other hand "elective" services -  those that often accompany rituals - are often desired, but are never required.  One does not need photographers, florists, musicians, or food to get married, or to be buried.  Owners of a business must provide the materials or products requested by a couple for its satanic nuptial ritual, but should not be required to actually provide on-site services at the ritual if it is contrary to their moral or ethical (or religious) beliefs.



Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Dangerous Precedent in Alabama

Amendment VIII
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

So reads the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Please note that the Founders did not define the meaning, nor give examples, of the adjectives "cruel and unusual."  Interpretation of the Constitution (and these terms) rests with state and federal judges, and for a legal system to function, there is a tier of judicial opinion that must be followed.  When it comes to interpretation of a federal law (The Constitution), it would seem that federal courts override state courts.

Alabama has decided that this is not the case.  The Supreme Court of Alabama has ruled that the decision of a US Federal District Court finding Alabama's ban of same-sex marriage unconstitutional was, in itself, unconstitutional, since the ruling defied Alabama's constitutional right to regulate its own marriage laws.  Alabama's marriage law, then, trumps a federal courts's interpretation of the constitutionality of that law.  At this point in time, the rulings of the Alabama Supreme Court stands, and probate judges are not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Most felonies, including homicide, come under state regulation.  Methods of punishment fall under a state court's jurisdiction as per the laws enacted by the state legislature.  

Using the same argument, Alabama could rule that a hypothetical state law that includes punishment of a felony by water-boarding, sleep deprivation, weekly periods of starvation, or death by beheading, is also not subject to review by a federal district court, since said federal court has no judicial standing in Alabama's determination as to what constitutes "cruel and unusual" punishment under the Eighth Amendment. After all laws providing for punitive measures are left to the states.

The federal government is responsible to insure that Alabama comes into compliance with the rulings   of federal courts

Denying same-sex couples the right to marry may not be unusual, but it can certainly be regarded as cruel!