Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

 
Tuesday, April 30, 2002

First attempt at a picture

First attempt at a picture My oldest son went to his senior prom last weekend. He decided to skip the traditional tuxedo and go with something that suited his personality a little better:


Posted by Rich
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Comic books

Comic books "Why do you waste your time reading that trash? It's just a comic book!"

I've heard that many times over the course of the last few years. I usually just shrug it off, smile and say something about killing some time, and let it go. How do you introduce somebody to comics when they've already closed their mind? How can you tell them about Alan Moore, and Bernie Wrightson, Steven R. Bissette, and Frank Miller? How do you tell them about how the best comics take the classic themes of drama and literature, love, hate, retribution, and redemption, and play them out on a gargantuan stage of color and action. They are just as artificial as opera, and capable of being just as moving. Comic books may have been the home of violence and simple moral tales, but I defy anyone to read The Watchmen, and call it a simple comic book.

I've been a comic book fan ever since I found out my neighbor had a complete collection of XMEN comics starting from issue #1. Today, with my adult perspective, I think about what a treasure trove that was, about how much those books are worth today. Of course, they were kids comics, and were dog-eared and ratty from being read, re-read, and re-re-read, so they weren't worth much as a collectible. But the kid inside me remembers falling into those stories about kids just a little older than me, with awesome powers, but real life issues that I could identify with. They were heroes, but they were people too. From there, I branched out to the Fantastic Four, (boring except for the Thing), Iron Man (way cool suit of armor, plus millionaire playboy. Excellent!), and then Spidey. The ultimate icon.

A super hero with more problems than I had! What a cool concept! Spiderman would kick butt at night in his suit, cracking wise and cracking heads with equal facility, but as soon as he took that suit off, he was the lowest of the low, a complete nerd. Not by choice, like Clark Kent, but because he was different. He was a science guy, a brain, a geek, so he didn't quite fit in with the other kids. Flash Thompson rode Parker unmercifully for years, even though he worshipped Spiderman, in a nice bit of irony.

I became a collector in college, and continued while in the Navy, and although I had to stop collecting when I started having kids, my collection is still safe and sound, waiting for one of my kids to get interested. Unfortunately, it seems that my kids have found other mythologies to explore, like EverQuest, and Asheron's Call.

Comics were our mythology. We knew they aren't real, but we invested them with a part of ourselves, and made them real. A few lines of dialogue, some stylized drawings, and a load of primary colors could not tell such a compelling story unless we filled in the blanks from our own lives. Like the Greeks who built elaborate stories around natural events, we embellish the comic with emotions and passions from our lives. That is the brilliance of the comic's creators; they provide the framework of a story that speaks to all of us, and key that framework to elicit a certain response so when we flesh out the story, we do it from experiences we all have in common. I may not have ever fought the Green Goblin, but I've suffered through unrequited love, worried about grades, worried about my future, been put down and frustrated by events beyond my control, as we all have.

Some stories have an even more specific impact. One of my favorite Spidey stories is when Peter was talking to Flash, asking why he had always picked on him in high school. This was a central issue in Peter's life, and he finally worked up the nerve to deal with it directly. By this time, he and Flash had become friends, as often does happen in real life. High school divisions disappear quickly once we enter the real world. Peter was shocked when Flash answered that he felt like he had to take Peter down a notch or two because he was such a snob in high school, not joining in with everybody else, always standing apart. Peter suddenly had to re-evaluate his entire life, based on this new perspective. The writer was able to convey all of this in three panels, one of which was just the look on Peter's face as he absorbed this new idea. A novelist would have taken two or three hundred words to convey the same thing, and still may not have achieved the visceral impact of the comic.

I was stunned, because I had been a loner throughout school, never fitting in, and it never occurred to me until that moment that at least some of my isolation was of my own making. I was in the Navy at the time, and not quite a loner, but still not fitting in completely, and I decided to make some changes. I made an effort to get involved, to connect with other people, and before long, I wasn't a loner anymore.

Just a comic book?

Hardly.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, April 29, 2002

Dilemma solved

Dilemma solved Spring is here, and now is the time for romance, when young men and women go out into the world, and try to connect with each other. They engage in the timeless rituals of courtship, strutting and preening for each other, showing off their assets in a mating dance as complicated and as obvious as any of our avian cousins. A long time ago, they would walk together through the woods after a barn raising, or a church social. A couple of decades later, they might wander the footpaths through a park, or take a buggy ride down an isolated lane. More recently, they might cruise the strip, then hook up and go park at the local lover's lane. But all of these rituals are gone now, replaced by urban blight, and fast food neon signs. So where is a young man to go to win his love?

WalMart.

It's not as odd as it sounds. It’s a safe place, well lit, and with an active security presence. Everything you need is right there. Breath mints, aisle 4. Snacks, aisle 17. Condoms, in front of the pharmacy. And you can pretend you aren't looking, even when you are looking, desperately.

I work odd hours, so I often wind up doing my grocery shopping on a Friday or Saturday night. I first started because I figured the store would be fairly empty then and I could get done in a hurry. Now I go just to watch the show. The kids start out in packs, separated by sex, wandering the aisles, strutting and showing off. My nephew and his friend climb the shelves to sit in the display furniture, and sit and watch the crowd roll by, until security chases them down. Some kids come with a date already, to show off in front of their friends. They’ll promenade through the store a time or two, making sure to be seen, before heading off for the rest of their evening. This weekend was a prom weekend, and I saw several couples in tuxes and evening gowns, cruising the aisle before going to their prom.
The kids begin to break off into smaller groups, no longer segregated, but still needing the safety of a group, before the final pairings are made. As they pair off they begin to trickle out of the store, and head to where the lights aren't quite so bright. By 10:30 or so, most have left for locations more favorable for getting to know each other, but the action isn’t over, as they are replaced by their elders, as their mothers and fathers come to take their chances in Sam Walton’s World of Romance.
Men in their best jeans or dress pants, comb-overs slicked down and shiny, and women with their hair stacked and sprayed and perfect makeup walk the aisles with a few items in their carts, pretending to shop. These older folks are a more solitary breed. They don't travel in packs like the kids do; they get their security from the hiding behind the illusion that they are shopping for groceries, or air conditioner filters, or a new handsaw. They are more comfortable traveling alone, or in pairs. You can tell the amateurs, because they tend to hang out in the areas dominated by their own sex, clothing for the women, and hardware for the men. The more experienced cruisers hang out in unisex areas, like the grocery aisles, where the chance for an encounter with the opposite sex is much more likely. The gardening section is also a popular place, particularly since the lighting is not as bright.
By midnight, there is a lull, as the kids and the older folks have gone away, either alone or with a new friend. This lull lasts until closing time at the local bars.
"...last call for alcohol. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here."

When the clubs close down, those who have been unsuccessful at the traditional meat markets come to WalMart for one last chance for a hook up. This crowd is between the kids and the older folks in age, and are more direct than either. They are at the end of the line for the evening, and the time for preening and strutting is over; this is a time for a naked display of lust. No courtship here, because the relationships born now are destined to last only 24 to 48 hours, spread over the next week or so. No coy ‘accidental’ collisions or teasing flirtations. Both sexes know why they are there, and play the game accordingly.
They give the store one lap, maybe two. If they haven't hooked up, they go home with the tube of toothpaste and jar of mayonnaise they threw in their cart as camouflage, and prepare to face another lonely night, seeking comfort with Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk. The successful cruisers go home, or to a motel, where they stave off the loneliness for a few hours. By 3AM, the store is deserted, except for the occasional insomniac, and the night stock clerks, who prep the store for another busy shopping day, and another busy night of cruising.

All of this goes on as the rest of us do our shopping, usually oblivious to the intricate mating rituals taking place all around us.

Posted by Rich
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Time share hell

Time share hell Show tickets! Dollywood discounts! Tourist information! You'll see these signs all over as you approach the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from the Tennessee side, going through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Don't believe it for an instant!

Oh yeah, you'll get your tickets, eventually, but TANSTAAFL is a universal concept, and you'll pay for those tickets with a twenty to thiry minute high pressure sales pitch for time share chalets or cabins. Does anybody go on vacation to look for real estate? (OK, my parents are getting ready to do that just next week, but they're an exception) Is a vacation home considered an impulse buy now? It must be because these shacks are spreading faster than kudzu and are even more annoying. At least kudzu looks pretty as it chokes the life out of the landscape.

I used to work on a small island out in the Pacific, and had to fly through Honolulu to get there. I had about a 20 hour layover, and would spend a lot of time walking up and down the main boulevard, people watching. Hawaii is a paradise without question, but the snake in this particular Eden must be the time-share shills. They're set up in the lobbies of the major hotels, as well as in booths lining the streets. Since I was there alone, I was vaccinated against them, since they target young couples. I wasn't aware of how intrusive they were until I flew my wife out during one of my layovers. I took a couple of extra days before returning home, and we explored the island. I can't count how many times we were asked to "view a short presentation on time shares, in exchange for a {Insert random premium here}. We are sure you will be amazed at how inexpensive it is to actuallyown a piece of Paradise!" It didn't spoil our vacation, but it was an annoyance. I remember being grateful that this particular pestilence had not spread to Gatlinburg.

And then I returned home, and found that we had been infested after all. There are booths and signs all over the place, even at the local WalMart. I can see it now:
"Honey, I'm going to run to the store to pick up some eggs and some soda. Is there anything else we need?"

"Yeah! Why don't you check and see how much a timeshare on a chalet would be?"


I just don't see it.

Posted by Rich
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Househusbands and death

Househusbands and death Katie posts about this study:
Women have been telling men for decades that staying home with little kids is one of the most challenging, stressful jobs imaginable. Apparently for some men, unused to the rigors of changing 45 diapers a day, refereeing 28 arguments over small pieces of plastic toys, and preparing more than a dozen meals and snacks ( most of which will remain only half eaten) in an eight hour period, this stuff can actually kill them.


I understand she is trying to make a point about how difficult it is to be a parent, but she takes the study out of context. Of course it is easy to see why, since the title of the file, "husbands_stress_1" also singles out the male version of the study. When you read the article, you see that it is both sexes who suffer when taking on non traditional roles, which indicates not that keeping house is so much more stressful than working nine to five, but that taking on a non traditional role increases stress levels accross the board, resulting in a higher death rate for househusbands and for female executives when compared to their opposite sex counterparts.

Posted by Rich
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Welcome a new Tennessee blogger!

Welcome a new Tennessee blogger! Katie Allison Granju, a freelance write, editor, and mama, is the latest Tennessee addition to the blogosphere. She's a pro, who actually gets paid for writing. ( I can only dream....)
She wrote a book on "attachment parenting" which is apparently the latest thing in parenting technique. The idea, as I understand it, is that you spend lots of time with your child, promoting a deep bond between the two of you. That bond frees the child to explore and develop their own personality, backed by the security of their tight connection with their parents.

I just thought that was the way things were done. When my ex and I split the first time, shortly after the birth of our first girl, by necessity my baby went wherever I went, usually riding on my chest in a little papoose type thing. We went to softball games, grocery shopping, to the zoo, even out to the movies on a date once. (By the way guys, a single man carrying around a baby is a magnet for women. Of course, that's a hell of a way to go to pick up dates, but some times you have to go the extra mile!) There were many nights when she slept with me as well, particularly after the 2 AM bottle. I would make the bottle, bring her into the bed with me, lay back with her snuggled in the crook of my arm, and rest the bottle on my chest. She would take it down while I drowsed, and we would fall asleep together. I wouldn't fall soundly asleep, and after 20 minutes or so of drowsing, I would put her back into her crib.

One night after feeding her, I instantly fell into a deep sleep. Sometime later, I rolled over a large lump. I've never come awake so fast in my life! I just knew I had crushed my little girl.

Well, the lump was just a couple of folds of my blanket that had bunched up underneath me. I had already put her back into the crib, but didn't remember doing it. I didn't stop letting her sleep with me after that, but I was very careful to make sure that she was safely out of range of my tossings and turnings.

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, April 27, 2002

Firewalls and stuff

Firewalls and stuff My new computer came with firewall software. I didn't think I needed it, but installed it anyway. Folks, I couldn't believe the number of programs trying to access my omputer while I was on line, including several Trojans which were automatically blocked by the system. (What condoms have to do with computers is beyond me.) Here's just a small portion of the log:
4/26/2002 20:10:13 NDIS Filter Rule "Default Block NetBus Trojan" blocked (valuedcu,NetBus). Details:
Inbound TCP connection
Local address,service is (valuedcu,NetBus)
Remote address,service is (63.75.191.36,1300)
Process name is "N/A"
4/26/2002 20:10:13 NDIS Filter Rule "Default Block Backdoor/SubSeven Trojan" blocked (valuedcu,27374). Details:
Inbound TCP connection
Local address,service is (valuedcu,27374)
Remote address,service is (63.75.191.36,1299)
Process name is "N/A"
4/26/2002 20:10:01 NDIS Filter Rule "Default Block NetBus Trojan" blocked (valuedcu,NetBus). Details:
Inbound TCP connection
Local address,service is (valuedcu,NetBus)
Remote address,service is (63.75.191.36,1300)
Process name is "N/A"
4/26/2002 20:10:01 NDIS Filter Rule "Default Block Backdoor/SubSeven Trojan" blocked (valuedcu,27374). Details:
Inbound TCP connection
Local address,service is (valuedcu,27374)
Remote address,service is (63.75.191.36,1299)
Process name is "N/A"
4/26/2002 20:09:55 NDIS Filter Rule "Default Block NetBus Trojan" blocked (valuedcu,NetBus). Details:
Inbound TCP connection
Local address,service is (valuedcu,NetBus)
Remote address,service is (63.75.191.36,1300)
Process name is "N/A"
4/26/2002 20:09:55 NDIS Filter Rule "Default Block Backdoor/SubSeven Trojan" blocked (valuedcu,27374). Details:
Inbound TCP connection
Local address,service is (valuedcu,27374)
Remote address,service is (63.75.191.36,1299)
Process name is "N/A"
4/26/2002 20:09:52 NDIS Filter Rule "Default Block NetBus Trojan" blocked (valuedcu,NetBus). Details:
Inbound TCP connection
Local address,service is (valuedcu,NetBus)
Remote address,service is (63.75.191.36,1300)
Process name is "N/A"
4/26/2002 20:09:52 NDIS Filter Rule "Default Block Backdoor/SubSeven Trojan" blocked (valuedcu,27374). Details:
Inbound TCP connection
Local address,service is (valuedcu,27374)
Remote address,service is (63.75.191.36,1299)
Process name is "N/A"
Alert 4/26/2002 18:50:54 NDIS Filter Unused port blocking has blocked communications. Details:
Inbound TCP connection
Remote address,local service is (61.129.64.108,22)
Alert 4/26/2002 18:50:51 NDIS Filter Unused port blocking has blocked communications. Details:
Inbound TCP connection
Remote address,local service is (61.129.64.108,22)
4/26/2002 18:49:44 NDIS Filter Rule "Default Block Bla Trojan" blocked (216.78.30.189,1042). Details:
Inbound UDP packet
Local address,service is (216.78.30.189,1042)
Remote address,service is (eqlogin1.989studios.com,15900)
Process name is "N/A"
4/26/2002 18:49:44 NDIS Filter Rule "Default Block Bla Trojan" blocked (216.78.30.189,1042). Details:
Inbound UDP packet
Local address,service is (216.78.30.189,1042)
Remote address,service is (eqlogin1.989studios.com,15900)
Process name is "N/A"
4/26/2002 18:49:43 NDIS Filter Rule "Default Block Bla Trojan" blocked (216.78.30.189,1042). Details:
Inbound UDP packet
Local address,service is (216.78.30.189,1042)
Remote address,service is (eqlogin1.989studios.com,15900)
Process name is "N/A"


Why post all of this? Just to let you know that while you are online, you are exposed, and there are folks that will take advantage of that.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, April 26, 2002

Who needs Embryonic stem cells?

Who needs Embryonic stem cells? According to this story, researchers at Stanford University Medical Center have been able to transplant a kidney from a non matching donor, and prevent rejection using Adult stem cells.
After the transplant, the kidney recipient received multiple small doses of radiation targeted to the immune system combined with a drug to reduce the number of cells capable of an immune attack. The team then injected blood stem cells from the kidney donor into the recipient. The stem cells made their way to the recipient's bone marrow where they produced new blood and immune cells that mixed with those of the recipient. After this procedure, the recipient's immune cells recognize the donor's organ as friend rather than foe.

The Stanford team monitored the recipient's new hybrid immune system looking for a mixture of cells from both the recipient and the donor. These cells were tested in the laboratory and did not attack cells taken from the donor. This told the team that the new hybrid immune system would not mount an attack against the transplanted organ. At this time, the team slowly weaned the patient away from the immune-suppressive drugs.


Posted by Rich
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By the way, Charlie

By the way, Charlie enjoy your vacation, and I'll be sure and watch Blade Runner over the weekend.

Posted by Rich
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Continuing the discussion on cloning

Continuing the discussion on cloning Once again, linked via Charles Murtaugh we find this quote:
One interesting aside: Gazzaniga points out that perhaps half of all normally fertilized eggs spontaneously abort, and he suggests, "It is hard to believe that under any religious belief system people would grieve and hold funerals for these natural events."

There are two very large problems with this statement.
First, a miscarriage can be emotionally devastating to the parents, even if it occurs early in the pregnancy. No, most do not hold funerals, but most do grieve. I think he is trying to refer to those miscarriages which occur before the woman realizes she is pregnant. Certainly, a woman will not grieve over the loss of a baby she never knew she was carrying. But this is a result of her ignorance, not from some dismissal of the fetus as a person. If she knew she had miscarried, she would react. To get a feel for this visceral reaction, imagine counseling a grieving woman who just miscarried by telling her that the fetus wasn't really a person yet, that all she lost was a bit of tissue.
You might want to step back as you do it though.

The second, and more devastating flaw in this position is that it assumes that if something happens naturally, causing it to occur artificially is OK. This is clearly not the case. People die all the time, but causing them to die is wrong. People catch diseases all the time; deliberately infecting them is wrong. Monuments wear out and collapse on their own, but blowing them up is wrong. A sand castle built too close to the high tide line will be erased by the natural action of the waves, but deliberately kicking it to pieces is wrong. You cannot use a naturally occuring process to justify an intentional intervention. What makes this argument even worse is what is left out. The "half of all normally fertilized eggs spontaneously abort" is an unfounded claim. A quick survey of the literature available on the web puts the figure at anywhere between 20% and 50%. The truth is we don't know how many blastocysts fail to implant, or are rejected after implantation. Nor do we have enough data to make a reasonable estimate of losses prior to recognized pregnancy. We do know that spontaneous abortions occur in approximately 15-20% of all recognized pregnancies. WE also know that, according to the Merck Manual:
In up to 60% of spontaneous abortions, the fetus is absent or grossly malformed, and in 25 to 60%, it has chromosomal abnormalities incompatible with life; thus spontaneous abortion in > 90% of cases may be a natural rejection of a maldeveloping fetus.

In other words, over 90% of the time, the spontaneous abortion is the bodies way of ejecting a non viable fetus. This simply does not apply when considering whether or not it is ethical to remove/alter/harvest a viable fetus. In one case, you have a dead end, with no potential; in the other, you have a living, developing organism.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, April 24, 2002

The argument against reproductive cloning

The argument against reproductive cloning Charles Murtaugh graciously responded to my request for a rationale which supports therapeutic cloning while banning reproductive cloning. He referred me to this article as well as one he wrote. The thrust of both articles is that there is a moral repugnance to designing babies that should warn us away from this type of activity. In response to my e-mail, he writes the following:
I don't like the idea of "designing" children, or imposing our will upon their very genetic character.

Here is an imaginary conversation exploring this common feeling. Imaginary because I'm not about to call Mr. Murtaugh at 2AM.

Don't we already do that? When we select our mates, we select them based on qualities which will affect our offspring, intelligence, physical attractiveness, athleticism, emotional stability, etc. What we find attractive has developed over generations into a set of characteristics which enhance our ability, and more importantly, the ability of our offspring to survive.

"But that's an unconscious process, nothing like the deliberate selection of characteristics using genetic recombination."

Does that really make a difference? The pro-choice crowd has long advance the argument that abortions are OK because miscarriages occur spontaneously. Doesn't that indicate that duplicating the actions of nature through artificial means is acceptible?

"That's different. We aren't talking about abortion, we're talking about cloning!"

The logic is certainly the same, but we'll let it go for now.
You don't like artificially 'designing' a baby, unless it occurs through natural actions. Well then, what about artificial insemination? Women choose the sperm according to the characteristics of the donor, based on their wishes for their child. Isn't this artificial as well? As we learn more and more about the genome, it will be possible to chose not only eye color, but physical proportions, intelligence, musical or artistic abilities, possibly even temperment. No genetic manipulation needed, just a road map and a menu of choices.
This is already happening today, and with little or no outcry, unless folks disagree with the attributes which are selected for, as in the recent case of the two deaf lesbians creating a deaf child. So should this practice be banned? Should women who go to a sperm bank be required to face the luck of the draw?
Of course not. So now we can agree that 'designing a child' occurs already, whether through natural processes or artificial ones. The only difference here is the technique used to implement the design.

Let's remove the 'design' objection all together. No modifications, no selection of characteristics, just the duplication of an already existing pattern.
From Charles' article linked above:
A cloned child, made rather than begotten, is a pet: His or her "breed" picked out for its "unique characteristics" just as a border collie is chosen for its intelligence and a poodle because it doesn't shed much hair.

Why? If a natural clone developes during gestation, is one twin real while the other a copy? Is one a child and the other a pet? Of course not! The idea is silly. Both twins are children of equal worth, and loved equally. So why should a purposeful clone be any different? Because it was intentionally made rather than occuring naturally? Again this is a false distinction. The application of technology to duplicate natural processes in no way diminishes the humanity of the resulting child. What Charles seems to suggest, however, is that the act of selecting a child based on its characteristics dehumanizes the child. This is simply not the case. Adoptive parents select children based on physical characteristics, particularly with the older children. Does this make them pets? Again, of course not.

So, why this insistence that a cloned child would be somehow inferior to the original? Why look at it as less than human, as a pet?
Actually, this viewpoint is required in order to facilitate therapeutic cloning. If the cloned organism is somehow less than human, a thing instead of a person, then there is no problem with using its tissues for therapeutic purposes, regardless of the state of developement of the fetus. If, however, the child has the recognized potential to become a person, then using his tissues for therapeutic purposes becomes problematic, as we must then determine when this mass of cells becomes a person. Such a determination has proven to be elusive.
The same logic which supports therapeutic cloning also supports reproductive cloning. To support one and not the other reveals an inconsistency in the application of that logic.

But now let's turn to Mr. Kass, and see what he has to say. Charles tells us that he agrees with much of what Mr. Kass has to say
First, an important if formal objection: any attempt to clone a human being would constitute an unethical experiment upon the resulting child-to-be. As the animal experiments (frog and sheep) indicate, there are grave risks of mishaps and deformities. Moreover, because of what cloning means, one cannot presume a future cloned child's consent to be a clone, even a healthy one. Thus, ethically speaking, we cannot even get to know whether or not human cloning is feasible.

Balderdash! A child conceived in the traditional manner has no say in whether he will be born or not. Why should a cloned child be any different? The risk of deformity is one that will be reduced to levels consistent with natural fertilization by improving technique. Failed clones can be detected and aborted prior to birth.

It is not at all clear to what extent a clone will truly be a moral agent. For, as we shall see, in the very fact of cloning, and of rearing him as a clone, his makers subvert the cloned child's independence, beginning with that aspect that comes from knowing that one was an unbidden surprise, a gift, to the world, rather than the designed result of someone's artful project. [Italics mine]


Here we see the implicit assumption that a clone is less than human, and that it would be raised differently than a baby produced in a more traditional fashion. This assumption is baseless. The children of in vitro fertilization are not raised differently than children of normal conception. Parents do not look on them as experiments, but as blessings. As for the last sentence, this is simple moral posturing. The use of birth control would also negate the 'unbidden surprise.' Should we ban contraceptives?

The cloned person may experience concerns about his distinctive identity not only because he will be in genotype and appearance identical to another human being, but, in this case, because he may also be twin to the person who is his "father" or "mother"--if one can still call them that.

Do identical twins suffer from crises of identity? "Sometimes, she goes away, but I'm always right here." Somewhat simplified, bu it points out that identity rests in the ego, not in the genotype. If I were brought face to face with my doppelganger, I would not start to wonder if he was me. "I'm always right here."

Genetic distinctiveness not only symbolizes the uniqueness of each human life and the independence of its parents that each human child rightfully attains. It can also be an important support for living a worthy and dignified life.

This assertion requires some back-up. Unfortunately, Kass doesn't supply any.

As bioethicist James Nelson has pointed out, a female child cloned from her "mother" might develop a desire for a relationship to her "father," and might understandably seek out the father of her "mother," who is after all also her biological twin sister. Would "grandpa," who thought his paternal duties concluded, be pleased to discover that the clonant looked to him for paternal attention and support?

Wouldn't it be more likely that the child would form an attachment to any male providing a father figure, and not preferentially her grand father? While she may be genetically his daughter, by birth and experience, the two real keys, she is his grandaughter, and that is how she will react.

In the case of self-cloning, the "offspring" is, in addition, one's twin; and so the dreaded result of incest--to be parent to one's sibling--is here brought about deliberately, albeit without any act of coitus. Moreover, all other relationships will be confounded. What will father, grandfather, aunt, cousin, sister mean? Who will bear what ties and what burdens? What sort of social identity will someone have with one whole side--" father's" or "mother's"--necessarily excluded?

The first sentence is emotional tripe. There is no incest involved. The rest is a litany of resistance to change. Why should the patern of relationships be confounded? We relate to others based on our experiences with them, not based on our genetic linkages. Why should one side of the family be excluded? Kass is taking the point of view that since a clone has genetic material from one parent only, the other parent has no involvement with the child. Adoptees and blended families refute that point of view.

Human cloning would also represent a giant step toward turning begetting into making, procreation into manufacture (literally, something "handmade"), a process already begun with in vitro fertilization and genetic testing of embryos. With cloning, not only is the process in hand, but the total genetic blueprint of the cloned individual is selected and determined by the human artisans.

Here we have something of a legitimate concern, but it is interesting how early in his argument, Kass was concerned that the identity of a cloned child would be confused, as he shared a genotype with another person. Now he is saying that if the genotype is altered by artificial means, the product is designed, rather than natural, and inherently less than human. I dealt with this objection above.

Kass goes on to argue the 'slippery slope', that once cloning is legalized, then eugenics becomes a foregone conclusion. And it is on this point that I agree with him. I share his fears of a homogenized corporate population. The problem is that the first step on this slope is not just reproductive cloning, but therapeutic cloning. The commodification of human life begins a soon as you start creating and harvesting fetuses for tissues.

Unfortunately, this is all moot, as I can't think of a single example of a technology which, once discovered, has not been put to use, certainly not one as hotly desired as this one. WE will have cloning of both sorts, as well as genetic blueprinting and design, and it will be sooner rather than later.

Posted by Rich
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How many flaws can you spot?

How many flaws can you spot? First, read this story about Yucca Mountain.

Anything leap out at you?
Transporting the existing 70,000 metric tons of spent fuel now scattered among the various sites will take care of an overcrowding problem as well as centralize storage more safely — 1,000 miles below the surface, in the desert and near an Air Force base, supporters say.


1000 miles? Let's see, the earth's crust averages about 15 miles, so I guess we are going to drop the spent fuel directly into the mantle. Sheesh, doesn't anybody read what they write?

While numbers vary, NIRS says the project will require more than 96,000 truck shipments impacting 44 states and a combined population of 123,000 in major cities including St. Louis, Atlanta, Omaha, Chicago, and Indianapolis.


Only 123, 000? We get more than that into Bristol Motor Speedway on a race week. Somehow, I thought the cities listed were a little bigger than that.
Singer said that NRIS has exaggerated how many shipments there will be, saying the numbers are closer to 200 shipments annually, about one and a half a day — not the five per day that opponents are talking about.


Hmmm. 365 days per year, 1.5 shipments a day 547 shipments per year, not 200. Or we could go the other way. 200 shipments per year equals roughly one shipment every day and a half. Once again, doesn't anybody read what they write? This is simple math here folks.

OK, enough of the factual errors, let's get to the meat of the article. Opponents claim that waste transportation would be a prime terror target. I guess we should halt the transport of medical waste, hazardous chemical wastes and mixed wastes as well.

As for fears of leakage, I worked at a plant which performed volume reduction and stabilization of spent ion exchange resins for nuclear reactors. While classified as low level wastes, the dose rates were fairly high on many of the containers. For two years we averaged a shipment every two days. Not once were we involved in any accidents. The resin was shipped in a High INtegrity Container, or HIC, which was made of a very thick, very tough poly. The HIC was transported inside of a lead shielded stanless steel cask. This cask was subjected to tests, and was able to withstand the impact of a freight train without rupturing.

And all of this was for low level waste. Spent fuel is shipped under even tighter controls.

Finally, which is more dangerous: leaving this stuff in multiple temporary locations, most situated very near major population centers, or to consolidate it into one, heavily shielded storage facility, one which has been designed for permanent storage?

It's a no brainer once you have the facts.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, April 23, 2002

The Supreme Court and ersatz kiddie porn

The Supreme Court and ersatz kiddie porn Via Instapundit comes this story by Mike Lynch on the recent SCOTUS decision to strike down the Child Pornography Prevention Act.
"What the Supreme Court has said here is that ‘child pornography’ has to involve children,’" Mark Kernes, a senior editor at Adult Video News, told The New York Times. "And what a shock that is."


OK, first, the references:

The Act itself
The decision

From Lynch’s article:
The latter includes some twisted stuff, but it also includes much mainstream art and discourse. "The statute proscribes a visual depiction of an idea," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, "that of teenagers’ engaging in sexual activity, that is a fact of modern society and has been a theme in art and literature throughout the ages."


Now from the dissent of Rehnquist:
Judge Ferguson similarly observed in his dissent in the Court of Appeals in this case:
From reading the legislative history, it becomes clear that the CPPA merely extends the existing prohibitions on real child pornography to a narrow class of computer-generated pictures easily mistaken for real photographs of real children. Free Speech Coalition v. Reno, 198 F.3d 1083, 1102 (CA9 1999).
See also S.Rep. No. 104358, supra, pt. IV(C), at 21 ([The CPPA] does not, and is not intended to, apply to a depiction produced using adults engaging i[n] sexually explicit conduct, even where a depicted individual may appear to be a minor (emphasis in original)); id., pt. I, at 7 ([The CPPA] addresses the problem of high tech kiddie porn). We have looked to legislative history to limit the scope of child pornography statutes in the past, United States v. X-Citement Video, Inc., 513 U.S. 64, 7377 (1994), and we should do so here as well.2
This narrow reading of sexually explicit conduct not only accords with the text of the CPPA and the intentions of Congress; it is exactly how the phrase was understood prior to the broadening gloss the Court gives it today. Indeed, had sexually explicit conduct been thought to reach the sort of material the Court says it does, then films such as Traffic and American Beauty would not have been made the way they were. Ante, at 910 (discussing these films portrayals of youthful looking adult actors engaged in sexually suggestive conduct). Traffic won its Academy Award in 2001. American Beauty won its Academy Award in 2000. But the CPPA has been on the books, and has been enforced, since 1996. The chill felt by the Court, ante, at 6 ([F]ew legitimate movie producers would risk distributing images in or near the uncertain reach of this law), has apparently never been felt by those who actually make movies.


So, the ‘chilling effect of the CPPA does not actually exist, nor is the overbroad interpretation of Justice Kennedy warranted by the legislative intent of the act.

Chief Justice Rehnquist brings up another point:
We normally do not strike down a statute on First Amendment grounds when a limiting instruction has been or could be placed on the challenged statute. Broadrick v. Oklahoma, 413 U.S. 601, 613 (1973). See, e.g., New York v. Ferber, 458 U.S. 747, 769 (1982) (appreciating the wide-reaching effects of striking down a statute on its face); Parker v. Levy, 417 U.S. 733, 760 (1974) (This Court has repeatedly expressed its reluctance to strike down a statute on its face where there were a substantial number of situations to which it might be validly applied). This case should be treated no differently.

In other words, if there is a legitimate application of this Act, then it should be modified if needed, rather than struck down completely.

Getting back to Mike Lynch:
The same goes for another of the law's targets: computer generated images. By definition, these fakes, the porno version of the Emergency Medical Hologram on Star Trek Voyager, don’t exploit children.
The government argued that even these simulations hurt children, on the grounds that they whet the appetites.


This is an oversimplification of the government’s position. Let’s look at the government’s real argument and see if it can be dismissed as easily.

Findings 6 though 13 of Subsection 1 of the CPPA present the government’s case. In these findings the government states that among other things:
  • computers can be used to create lifelike images of children engaging in sexual acts using innocent pictures of children as raw material;
  • that those pictures cause damage to the child, even if he wasn’t really involved in the acts depicted;
  • that the effect of Child pornography on pedophiles is the same whether it is virtual or real:
  • that the usefulness of porn to pedophiles is the same whether real or virtual:
  • that the existence of child pornography has an equivalent effect on the community, whether real of virtual;
  • that the sexualization of children has a deleterious effect by encouraging a societal perception of children as sex objects, and that this effect is equivalent whether real or virtual;

This is a little bit more than just “whetting the appetite. There are several valid concerns here, which brings us back to Chief Justice Rehnquist’s position that we don’t need to throw out the entire Act, as it serves a real purpose. It would have been more appropriate to limit or modify the act, if some of the provisions are considered overly broad.

Posted by Rich
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Cloning again

Cloning again Yes, I'm still at it. Charles Murtaugh briefly addresses cloning again, restating his opinion that therapeutic cloning is OK, but reproductive cloning is not.

I still don't see any ethical difference between the two. If it is OK to create an organism to harvest its parts, why is it not OK to create an organism and allow it to become a person? We do this with in vitro fertilization all the time. The only difference is that a clone would have one parent, not two. So what?

It's in for a penny, in for a pound on this issue. If you don't like where it leads, you may want to re-examine your support for cloning in general.

I've asked Charles to comment on this, as I respect his opinion. If he finds the time to reply, I'll post it here.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, April 22, 2002

Bright college days

Bright college days I went with my son to his college orientation on Saturday. He has enrolled at the local state university as a premed student, majoring in Psychology.

Yes, I'm proud.

But the reason I bring it up is not to praise him, but to damn the weakwilled pantywaisted sexist twerps running our college campuses (campusi?). During the orientation, there was a question and answer session for the parents. One woman asked about the incidence of sexual assault on campus. First, the campus security representative answered, saying that it was fairly rare, with approximately one incident per semester. He went on to say that although only one was reported, given the nature of the crime, he was certain that more went unreported. The rep for the campus counselors spoke next and got into the date rape discussion, saying that violent attacks were very rare, but date rapes were far more common. He said that they tried very hard to educate all of the students how to avoid that situation. He said specifically that they tried to teach the boys that "no means no" and that they should try not to get so drunk that they couldn't understand "no." Then he said, and this is as close to an exact quote as I can make it,"We also try and teach the girls, not that it is ever her fault [emphasis mine], to try and stay sober enough to be able to say no."

I was livid! Talk about a double standard! Basically, what he was saying, and what I explained to my son that night, was that if two kids got together, went out drinking and decided to have sex, if she decided the next morning that it was a bad idea, he was guilty of sexual assault. So when drinking, he is still held accountable for his actions, while she isn't. Somehow, this seems to violate equal treatment under the law.

Don't women realize how degrading this kind of crap is? I mean, look at it. What we are saying is that women are not as capable as men of being responsible for the decisions they make.

This whole thing is rooted in sexism because it views the sex act as something men do to women, rather than something men and women do together. Shouldn't we have grown out of that crap a long time ago?

Anyway, I've warned my son that, on the ETSU campus anyway, not only does NO mean NO, but YES can also mean NO if she decides later that she regrets her decision. I also warned him that, in the event that he decides to have sex anyway, to get her consent in writing, duly witnessed and notarized, followed by a three day cooling off period.

Safe sex is developing a whole new meaning......

Posted by Rich
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