Saturday, April 16, 2016

To Pee or Not to Pee - Musings on Bathroom Use

How does a woman know the sex of a person who is with her in the Ladies Room?  Chances are overwhelming that a person who appears to be a woman is, in fact, a woman.  Might it be a man?  Why not?  Even before the recent spate of transgender issues, it could have been a man with all the outward appearances of a woman.  

On the other hand, would a woman using a Ladies Room feel uneasy if a person who has all the outward appearances of a man were to enter.  This could very well be a man - but also a woman dressed as and acting as a man.  Would this be more upsetting to a woman in the Ladies Room, than a person seemingly a woman who could, in fact, be a man?

The only way we men know the sex of the person standing next to us at the row of urinals in the Mens Room is the fact that he is, in fact,  standing there next to us, not sitting there next to us.  However, were everyone to "be seated" in separate stalls - whose to know who's who (or what)?

If genitalia remain unknown, if the chromosomes remain unknown, then you can never be absolutely certain of anyone's sex.  Weren't there situations where we have all had questions as to the sex of someone encountered in the passing scene?

Perhaps the answer is a "genitalia check" by a security person before entry into a sex-designated bathroom is permitted.

But isn't that even more intrusive?  

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Is Abortion Murder?


If you are the sort of person who truly believes that a fetus has rights equal to that of a fully birthed human being, then denying the fetus the full rights that apply to the fully birthed human human being does not logically follow,  Right?    Whether the "fetus" acquires these rights at conception, or at some point later in pregnancy (viability) is immaterial - at some designated point of fetal life these "human" rights are acquired.

If you are the sort of person who agrees that a fetus of whatever age has a "right to life," then a deliberate abortion of a fetus is a form of murder.  Punishing solely the actual performer of the abortion but not the mother, and others who "aid and abet" this "procedure" seems illogical as well.  Whether the "murder" of a fetus is somehow less than the murder of a "birthed" human is arguable, I guess.  Nevertheless it might, at the very least, be judged a "depraved indifference to human life."

It appears, however, that the vast majority of the American people do not agree with this.  Mothers who abort their pregnancies should not be punished.

If it is agreed that there should be no punishment for a mother who deliberately aborts her unborn child, but punishment should be exerted on a mother who kills her birthed child, then clearly fetal right-to-life is not equal to that of fully birthed human beings.

Fetal right-to-life has not reached the level of a moral imperative. And that's the way it should be.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Trump, Trump, Trump



Donald Trump, Donald Trump.  Everywhere you look, everything you read - all about Trump, Trump, Trump.  Revile him all you want - he is a success as a presidential candidate.  Deride him as often as you wish - it will neither harm him nor faze him.   He is a media-master, far surpassing other candidates and even outdistancing the media stars and media pundits.

Donald Trump is a "problem," but not the basic problem - he is the result of the basic problem.  He represents the disgruntled, disgusted middle-class American - Republican, Democrat and independent.  He has hit a sensitive American nerve - he has come out.  He has come out of the closet of political correctness and taken on the yelling and screaming popularized by Howard Beale, the disgruntled news anchor portrayed by Peter Finch in the 1976 award winning movie "Network."  "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore," he cried.  "Bullshit," said Beale.  "Bull****" says Trump!

Trump is a disaster - a demagogue, a clown, a liar, an evader, a fabricator of facts, an exaggerator ....... and more.  He is without experience, without class, without decency, without respect for others ....... and more. But despite all this - he is forgiven!  He remains the overwhelming choice of millions of Americans!  He is the "People's Choice!"  Trump is not responsible for Trump.  We, the people, are responsible for Trump!

To quote Pogo, from Walt Kelly's comic strip of the same name, "We have met the enemy and he is us." Shame on Trump ....... Shame on Us!

Let's hope we will get better than we deserve!








Monday, February 1, 2016

God and the Holocaust









The recent obituary of a prominent Jewish theologian and scholar included the challenge of reconciling the horrors of the Holocaust with belief in God.  It described how the "utter evil of the Holocaust" compelled not only Jews, but others, to re-consider and re-assess the meaning and contribution of the Enlightenment (the 18th century philosophical movement dominating European thought) which included the concepts of liberty, reason and tolerance.

It interests me that in attempting this reconciliation, the criticism is directed at the Enlightenment philosophy in general - critiquing the philosophy, but with a continued belief in God.  Attempts to reconcile earthly horrors with the existence of a God continue.  In other words, all explanations of great tragedies must be explained in the presence of the "incontrovertible fact" of the existence of a God.  The possibility that such tragedies contravene this "fact" is never a consideration.

Are there not times to reconsider certain "supposed facts" (i.e. a God) when they seem to not correspond with observed facts?  The monstrosity that was the Holocaust is such an observed fact (and of course there have been many others).  It is certainly easier to explain such human horrors in the absence of an all powerful and loving deity than it is to accept such a deity's existence.  These human catastrophes beggar the acceptance of and belief in a deity.

"Once-accepted facts" (e.g. a flat world, an earth-centered universe) disappear with the discovery of "new facts."  Can a God-fact continue in the face of the real fact of The Holocaust and the continuation and constancy of human terror and slaughter. The answer seems to be - "Absolutely!!"  But  a great deal of upside-down reasoning and rationalization is required, don't you think?.



Thursday, January 7, 2016

Supporting Africa



I have been to Kenya and Uganda assisting Generis International, an organization dedicated to improving the education of children and women in East Africa.  I learned very quickly that without "boots on the ground" you will never be assured that your donations are dispensed properly.  The poverty seems vast and unending.  Generis does put "boots on the ground."  Though a very small organization, it is large in what it accomplishes.  Small ideas can bring about large realities!  Generis realizes it will not change the world, but can make it a better place for a few.  Small institutions develop a personal relationship with the people - and via these small connections they are able to insure that their donations of money and material goods are properly used and dispensed by trustworthy local citizens.  Generis purchases locally in Africa to support the local economy - e.g. school uniforms, or goats, or some sewing machines are purchased to train and educate African women and children - inspiring  hope for the realization of a better and more comfortable life.  Even pencils are known to make a difference!

Attempts by large organizations or NGO's to help are often impeded by hurdles of major proportions.  In a recent NewYorker piece (Jan 4), Larissa MacFarquhar, writing about the Ford Foundation and its current president, Darren Walker, put it this way:

"The urge to change the world is normally thwarted by a near-insurmountable barricade of obstacles: failure of imagination, failure of courage, bad government, bad planning, incompetence, corruption, fecklessness, the laws of nations, the laws of physics, the weight of history, inertia of all sorts, psychological unsuitability on the part of the would-be changer, the resistance of people who would lose from the change, the resistance of people who would benefit from it, lack of practical knowledge, lack of political skill, and lack of money."

So true.

Generis knows this.  But Generis has found the way - small in its operation, but so large in its calculated limited successes.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Children and Contact Sports


"If a child who plays football is subjected to advanced radiological and neurocognitive studies during the season and several months after the season, there can be evidence of brain damage at the cellular level of brain functioning, even if there were no documented concussions or reported symptoms. If that child continues to play over many seasons, these cellular injuries accumulate to cause irreversible brain damage, which we know now by the name Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a disease that I first diagnosed in 2002."

Dr. Bennet Omalu, in an opinion piece in a recent issue of the New York Times, arrived at this conclusion concerning the possible damages that may result when children are involved in major contact sports, like football, at young ages.  The conclusion drawn here, however, is purely suppositional.  Children are not subjected to these "radiological and neurocognitive studies" as described and there is no factual knowledge about brain injury in these children. No such study has been done, to the best of my knowledge. That doesn't mean that such injury may not have occurred, but there is no data supporting the claim.  As a rule, young children, with proper protective gear, rarely get injured from mild contact in sport as they are not heavy enough or strong enough to inflict such injury.  Yes, it may come from falling on the ground, but rarely from contact with a rather light, small player.

Nevertheless, there would be nothing wrong with modifying contact sports so that injuries are less likely.  Does football really require tackling at such a young age? Should head shots be eliminated in soccer for young players, etc.?  Not only helmets, but well-regulated restriction of actions that could result in injury, may be very helpful in eliminating, or at least reducing injuries in children engaged in contact sports.  One need not necessarily eliminate the sport, just modify some of the rules to make it safer.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Tired, Poor, and Huddled Masses


The outcry to ban Syrian migrants from the United States based on the possibility that one of the terrorists involved in the French attacks may (an I emphasize "may") have had a valid Syrian passport reminds me of the cries during World War II that helped restrict, if not eliminate, the acceptance of Jews attempting to escape the massacres perpetrated by Nazi Germany.  Not only was immigration  severely restricted, in part because similar fears of enemy infiltration, but Italian, German, and Japanese nationals, as well as those American citizens of the aforementioned ethnicities were interned or otherwise restricted.

German citizens were often detained as were American citizens of German descent.  Many were removed from residences in coastal areas.  A total of 11,507 Germans were interned during the war.  110,000 Japanese-Americans were interned.

Italian nationals in the United States during the war were also interned.  Classified as "enemy aliens" they were detained under the Alien and Sedition Act.  A total of 1881 were so detained, and a number of them were also relocated from coastal areas.

I am unaware of any seditious act that was proactively prevented by this relocation and internment policy.

We now have a decision to make.  Will we ban all immigrants from the ravaged countries of the Middle East as a means of protection from ISIS terrorism?  Hypothetically, If we knew that 5 terrorists were planning to enter this country disguised as Syrian refugees, should all refugees be banned?  Even if a terrorist was able to kill some Americans, should we close our borders completely?  As a matter of fact, isn't it possible that a terrorist could enter the United States as an ordinary tourist?  And, furthermore, should we remove Arab muslims from coastal and densely populated areas?

Are we a society that is now ready to close its borders to the "tired, the poor" and the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

The world has become a dangerous place.  ISIS must be contained and/or eliminated, and the means by which this can be brought about is unclear.  But to close our doors and enclose ourselves in a tight protective shell that thousands of innocents will be prevented from penetrating, is clearly not a solution.  It is surrender.