Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Affairs" of the Powerful

Big news - General David Petraeus was discovered to have had an affair.  There is nothing new under the sun - only the times and situations have changed.  The affairs of powerful men are common throughout history.  However the cybertrails of today make their discovery so very much easier.  What's more,  today's news media no longer protect the powerful by not disclosing their private affairs, as they once felt obligated to do, but are compelled to do the opposite; to headline these "sordid stories."  After all sex sells and makes for great show business.  And, after all, doesn't news = show business in 2012! Petraeus is only the most recent in a long line of successful and powerful males whose sexual drives overcome what, to most people, appear to be reasonable and logical behavior.

Petraeus follows in the well-worn footsteps of Generals MacArthur, Eisenhower, Patton and Pershing to mention a few.  I am sure there are many more.  Presidents Clinton, Kennedy, L.B. Johnson, F.D. Roosevelt, Harding, and Jefferson must also be included in a list of "affair-participants."  And let's not forget Newt Gingrich, Anthony Weiner and Arnold Schwarzenegger, just to mention a few recent names.

So why do they do it?  Why take such risks?  How do men become so blind to risk where a sexually attractive woman is concerned?  Why put your career on the line?  Professor Michael Baker of  Eastern Carolina University has written that "the risk of losing one's career or reputation is nothing compared with the evolutionary drive to reproduce."  He maintains that such behavior actually shows something he termed "mating intelligence."

In the past, the affairs of powerful and successful men had no effect whatsoever on their careers.  The effects are only recent.  And where are those "guilty men" are today - Clinton goes on and his influence seems to be unending, Gingrich became a presidential candidate, Weiner is considering re-establishing a political future and Schwarzenegger is back in the show-biz world.   Kennedy, Johnson, and all the rest have lost no luster - and any criticism leveled at their careers is unrelated to their sexual exploits.

Monogamy is not for everyone, it seems.  Sexual affairs occur even when extraordinary risks are involved.  Frank Farley, the past president of the American Psychological Association has said : "The human race has had thousands of years of problems with monogamy.  The problems have not been resolved."

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Risks of Medical Screening Tests

The following information was abstracted from an article in the most recent edition of The New England Journal of Medicine, one of the most respected medical journals in the world.  It is an article discussing cancer screening campaigns.

The article describes how various medical organizations use the art of persuasion to call the public's attention to the "value" of cancer screening techniques, e.g. mammograms, colonoscopy, etc.  These campaigns are designed to "make people feel vulnerable and then offer them hope, by often framing statistics "to provoke alarm," and then "exaggerating the benefit (and ignoring or minimizing the harms.)"

Example:  "If you're a woman over 35, be sure to schedule a mammogram.  Unless you're still not convinced of its importance.  In which case you may need more than your breasts examined......."  This was a persuasive technique used by the American Cancer Society, but since abandoned.  However, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center recently ran an ad in the New York Times that read "The early warning signs of colon cancer:  You feel great.  You have a healthy appetite.  You're only 50."  Scary, no?  Well, the article points out, the vast majority of the readers of this ad who have the "non-symptoms" described are actually totally well and will not have, nor soon develop, colon cancer.  Such an individual's risk of dying from colon cancer is 0.2%!  No complications of the procedure, such as colon perforation or secondary bleeding are described.

The Journal goes on to point out that research has shown that screening can clearly cause harm.  Anxiety, as well as additional complications from the continued unnecessary evaluation of false positive findings are some of the drawbacks, not to mention "over diagnosed cancers" - those never destined to cause symptoms or death.

The National Cancer Institute is developing an improved guide for patients, so that they may better evaluate the risks v. the benefits of particular screening techniques.

Statistics are very important in decision making, especially where your health is concerned.  Realize that almost no screening test is without some inherent risk and can be quite costly.  Be sure the test has been found to be truly beneficial before proceeding.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gay Marriage - A "Yes" Vote

Frank Bruni discusses gay marriage in his op-ed column in today's New York Times.  The column elucidates, for the 'nth' time at least, how homosexuality is not an acquired choice.  Gays were not raised by gay parents.  (As a matter of fact, I would venture to say that the vast majority of children raised by gay parents are not gay!) I have no memory of my parents influencing me towards a heterosexual life - I just remember becoming fascinated and excited by the female sex in about the sixth grade.   Gays were not created by gay teachers, nor by plays, books, TV shows, etc. having gay themes.

There  are no logical arguments against gay marriage; the only "arguments" are the emotional ones - arguments, which by definition, have no basis in fact.

As a matter of fact, considering how poorly heterosexual marriages have fared over recent years, not only in brevity and individual frequency, but in resultant child abuse, alcoholism, absent parents and more, gay marriage could certainly do no worse (and maybe do better - who knows?)

Gay rights to normal interpersonal relationships and unions are not contestable.  To define marriage as a  legal right restricted to "a man and a woman" is clearly wrong.  That is not to argue that religious institutions cannot define whom they would consider "married" or "marriageable."  But when it comes to such institutions extending  federal and local benefits and other such legal rights to those in their employ, they must be obligated to comply with the law.  An employer who has a religious objection to gay marriage cannot use this as a rationale to refuse employment to a legally married gay.  If he feels strongly that hiring such an individual would be a "sin against God" (or whatever), he must either employ the individual ( commit the sin, in this case) or take steps to give up his business so that no further such sin would need consideration.

But there are some limits.  Criticism by gays has been levelled against those who believe that original birth certificates should not be altered.  They have insisted, to the best of my knowledge, that original birth certificates carry only the names of the legal gay parents.  I sincerely believe that "original" birth certificates are legal documents that must list the mother (always known)* and the father (if known)*  This does not mean that I do not approve of "altered", or secondary (my term) birth certificates that indicate the legal parents, adoptive or otherwise.  The "original" may be sealed, if a court so insists - but must be available somewhere.  An adopted child, or the child of same-sex parents, has the right, and should have access to this "original" document.

Gay marriage should be a legal right.  How one may feel about its morality is an individual decision, as is the morality of pre-marital sex, or protected sex, or even no sex at all.  I doubt that many would care to render these latter sexual practices (or non-practice) as illegal!

The proper recording and maintenance of a document of birth, however, should not be interfered with.

*In the cases of surrogacy, the state will legislate "motherhood" as either the birth mother, or the genetic mother.  In cases of an unknown sperm-donor father, it should be so designated -  his name to be on record at the sperm bank where donated.