Sunday, July 30, 2006

About Madonna's Toilet


Apparently, Madonna demands a brand new toilet seat at each stop on a tour, that it remains wrapped in plastic until her arrival, and that it is destroyed upon her departure--so that no one tries to sell it on eBay. http://entertainment.msn.com/music/hotgossipc2?GT1=7702

Who would buy something contaminated with urine and fecal matter just because someone famous sat on it? I suppose that the answer to this correlates to those who have helped make American Idol such a popular show.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

I just finished watching season one of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Thank God for cable because the old school networks haven't been so irreverently funny since Seinfeld. If you haven't watched this show (it airs on FX), do so.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Funny Site

On Thursday, my six-year-old complained of an aching lower belly and that it hurt to poop. I fed her some high fiber foods and gave her an epsom salt solution to drink. On Friday, I asked how she felt, and she said that it was better and that some sunflower seeds had come out. I asked her if she had eaten whole sunflower seeds, and she said that she had. I could tell that she was afraid of getting in trouble, so I very gently told her that sunflower seed shells do not digest well and will either hurt on the way out or plug up the works completely.

Now that we knew what the problem was, I decided to wait and see if she would have another bowel movement. Sure enough, about twenty minutes ago she woke up to go. She went, and came to tell me that there were sunflower seeds in the toilet. I decided to take a look, figuring that there would be a couple floaties (like when you eat corn). Good God Almighty, I did not expect to see what I saw. No wonder the little girl ached. It looked as if someone had dumped an entire bag of sunflower seeds down the toilet.

It was a good sign that she was passing them (no blockage), and there were no traces of blood, so I figured that I would check on-line for some information regarding sunflower seed shell consumption and evacuation. That's when I came across this site.

http://www.poopreport.com/Stories/Content/shell.html

Revised Rehash of the Stem Cell Research Debate Between Me and Science Guy

Let’s deal with Science Guy’s assertions regarding embryonic stem cell research on a more analytical level. Previous discourse was too riddled with analogies and snide comments meant to entertain but not at all helpful.

Regular font represents an introduction to what Science Guy said. Boldfaced font represents what Science Guy said. Italicized font represents my criticism.


In his first reply, Science Guy began appropriately by introducing and defining terms:

There are 3 types of stem cells. There are the embroyonic stem cells(ESC), There are adult stem cells, and there are embryonic germ cells. The last category is derived from a fetus' ovary/testicle.
The most useful one is the ESC. This is because when they are harvested at 4 to 5 days, they contain hundreds of undifferentiated cells. Undifferentiated means that the cell has the ability to grow into any type of tissue (muscle, skin, bone, epithelial, etc.).

By “most useful one is the ESC” I suppose he means most practical for research purposes. It’s easier than harvesting specific kinds of cells, for embryonic stem cells are universally adaptive. This is important to grasp, and it can be inferred from Science Guy’s own statement. Stem cell research and all the possible benefits of it can be done without embryos; it’s just that using embryos is much easier. If good and evil were defined in terms of pragmatics (i.e. what is most practical is best, and what is least practical is worst), then I would be stumped. However, we are arguing an issue of morality, and morals are not contingent upon ease.


Science Guy continues, but now he stops stating fact exclusively

Harvesting embryos is not killing people. A 4-5 day embryo in a test tube is not a person.

So harvesting embryos kills embryos, but killing embryos is not killing people because people are not embryos and embryos are not people. While it is true that I am not an embryo, it is also true that I once was an embryo, as was everyone else. Furthermore, I was a specific kind of embryo, distinguishable from other life forms (e.g. a chicken embryo) buy the fact that I—even as an embryo—was made of DNA unique only to human beings. The species of any creature can be determined by the DNA in a single cell. Get any kind of cell and analyze its DNA, and you can state authoritatively from what creature that cell came. If it’s a cell from a chicken, DNA analysis will prove it to be a chicken cell.

Human embryos have human DNA, so they are humans. The fact that they are only four to five days old means only that they are not completely grown. They are immature. They are immature humans. They are humans. It’s not merely an embryo that will do for these experiments, otherwise we could harvest ESC’s from rats. Only humans work for the kind of research that we are debating. That human embryos contain human DNA and, supposing they do not die naturally or unnaturally, they continue to grow into more easily recognizable humans.

Science Guy goes on:

It [a 4-5 day embryo in a test tube] has no chance to be a person. If left alone in the test tube it would not make it to term. In order for a fetus to develop it must be implanted in a uterus. Failing that it will not be a human. It is just a possible human.

Here Science Guy has either committed an error in clarity or deliberately used his words misleadingly. What he means is “A 4-5 day embryo in a test tube has no chance to be a person if left alone in a test tube. Under such conditions, it would not make it to term.” There’s no debating that an embryo left in a test tube will die. This does not mean that the embryo isn’t human. It means that the embryo will die. This doesn’t make an embryo in a test tube a “possible human.” It means that the embryo is in mortal danger unless it is implanted in a uterus.

Perhaps the issue should be putting embryos in test tubes, for they don’t belong there. Embryos belong in a uterus—as Science Guy inadvertently points out. In fact, it sounds rather reasonable.

As for being a possible human, that is nonsense. It can’t possibly be anything else. It’s not a possible dog.

On the non-implanted embryo, Science Guy states

This failure to implant in the uterus is not common to the "detached" researchers in the lab. It happens on a daily basis to women all over the planet. (Check out this website to learn more about the causes and possible treatment http://www.illinoisivf.com/recurrent-pregnancy-loss/pre-implantation.html)

I think that Science Guy meant to say “This failure to implant . . . is [not] uncommon . . .” But I don’t really get what he’s trying to prove. It seems like a red herring, but it’s more of a non sequitor. The fact that embryos often fail to implant naturally due either to their own flaws or to faulty uteruses does not have anything to do with our debate. People die naturally all the time at all ages—even four to five days after conception.

And Science Guy continues,

Conception does not necessarily make a person. The potential for the zygote to become a person does not make it a person. If that was the case then the arguement could be made that masturbation is as bad as stem cell research. Every sperm is a potential person, it just needs an egg. A woman ovulation cycle is wrong too. Every egg is a potential person, it just needs a sperm. Every zygote is a potential person, it just needs a uterus.

"Let the heathens spill theirs on the dusty ground. God shall make them pay for each sperm that can't be found."
-Monty Python "The Meaning of Life"


Conception, that point at which the ovum is fertilized, represents the first stage of a new life. Up to that point, the separate ovum of the woman and sperm of the man were not people. The separate ovum and sperm are far more what Science Guy means when he talks about possible human or potential person. A single sperm, or even a group of sperm (though, since they swim, perhaps they should be referred in the collective as a “school of sperm”) will not divide into identical halves (mitosis) and thus form a zygote, which will then be an embryo, then a fetus and so forth. Sperm cells only contain half of the chromosomal information that will be transferred to the zygote. The same is true for an egg. During fertilization, the two halves combine (pretty much, that is, for the sperm’s mitochondria are destroyed once in the egg—which is why mitochondrial DNA is inherited strictly from the mother).

Equating the masturbation and the menstrual cycle is a red herring. First of all, neither is comparable to what happens with ESC harvesting. Second of all, they aren’t even similar themselves. Masturbation is an act of volition, while menstruation is involuntary. They also serve different purposes. The point that Science Guy was trying to make was either a joke (hence the Monty Python reference), or red herring to take us away from the real argument, or a very weak argument by analogy. Is he suggesting that a ban on ESC harvesting and research would be akin to a ban on menstruation or masturbation?

Next, Science Guy responds to a disagreement over an analogy, which is quite reasonable, since analogies are bad arguments altogether, and it was my fault for countering his analogies with my own.

O.k. First of all your analogy is severely flawed. Are you sure you got more than 200 on your verbal SAT? Sperm:Zygote is not equivalent to Butter:Cookie. Butter is very useful. It’s good on pancakes and vegetables. It’s used to make pie crusts and yummy corn on the cob. Human sperm can make. . . oh yeah, human zygotes. (Plus some interesting stains on chubby interns blue dresses and Motel 6 Bedspreads.) That’s it. Nothing else. Human sperm is created for one purpose only – to make human zygotes.
As to my calling zygotes ‘potential humans,’ I wrote potential because, as I explained, without a uterus the zygote has NO potential other than forming a dead ball of cells. Also, zygote is not a name just to dehumanize the process. A zygote is a fertilized egg no matter what species it arises from. And with the exception of a possible slight variation in size and color, there is no visible difference between the zygotes of fish, frogs, Screech, and humans.

First, Science Guy starts off with an ad hominem assault (he attacks me personally by questioning my verbal skills). He’s right, however, to attack my analogy, for that’s the easiest part to attack. What I’d said was that his comparing masturbation to the killing of a potential human was nonsense because sperm are not humans. They are ingredients to zygotes the way that butter is an ingredient in a cookie. He then decided to take this figurative comparison literally and spin a web of red herrings. Yes, butter has many uses, and sperm has only one: to create life.

He tries to defend his “potential humans” reference by reiterating that an embryo (he says zygote, but he means embryo—for it’s already begun mitosis) will die if it is not implanted in a uterus. However, the fact that it will die does not strip it of its existence. It’s cells divide—that’s how, by definition—it became an embryo, and only living things incur mitosis. Cells do not divide in a dead body. Therefore, an embryo is alive, even if it will die under certain circumstances.

As for what he says about zygotes being the same for all species, that’s nonsense. There are differences (DNA) between human and non-human zygotes. The fact that these differences are invisible to the naked eye is irrelevant. The fact that they look just like frog zygotes doesn’t mean that they aren’t human zygotes.

The following is what happens when people (Science Guy and myself are both guilty) resort to irrational and weak arguments.

Next, the comparison to slavery and the holocaust was poetic. It sprang to mind a future episode of 20/20 where they superimpose a classic clip of tattooed Jews standing in line to be slaughtered with a clip of numbered test tubes in a lab. It was a good ploy to invoke inaccurate sympathies. But the reality of the comparison is not even close. Stem cell research involves no pain, suffering or indignities. The same cannot be said for the holocaust or slavery.

Here he gets me again. I had compared the language used to defend ESC research to the language used to defend slavery and the holocaust: that the language is morally detached and deliberately omits humanizing traits/references embryo, just as the evil of slavery was merely called “The peculiar institution,” and the holocaust was merely “The Final Solution.” I made other comparisons, such as how Goebbles used to portray Jews as sub-human vermin and that this made it easier to kill them. I was wrong. I slipped and used ad miseracordiam and a red herring. While I still see similarities between certain things (read the discussion in the comments of one of the debate posts), I recognize that my analogy did not serve my argument, though it tried to subvert his. I don’t wish to defeat Science Guy. I want my argument to prevail over his because it is right (or at least more right).

However, there is nothing noble about embryonic stem cell research just because it “involves no pain, suffering or indignities.” This fact does not make ESC research moral. It doesn’t even make it immoral. It just makes it less painful and indignant than slavery and the holocaust.

Science Guy rejects my sperm are different from zygotes argument:

Finally, your last rebuttal involving zygotes vs. sperm is flawed as well. That embryos have unique human DNA is true. However, sperm is unique human DNA as well. They both have no thought, feelings or desires. It is not a human baby left in the desert to die. It is no more than a collection of dividing cells. The killing of which is a far cry from murder (which according to Mirriam-Webster is “1: To kill (a human being) unlawfully and with premeditated malice.).

Embryos’ DNA is unique and far more so than sperm’s. A sperm’s DNA is merely a reflection it’s producer’s DNA. An Embryo is a whole new DNA sequence, made up by the combination of the sperm and the egg. As for saying that an embryo is just a collection of dividing cells, that’s more than debatable. We all are collections of dividing cells. If we weren’t we’d be dead very, very soon. What he means, I guess, is that we have an intrinsic value in our existence, but an embryo does not. I do not know why he thinks so, but that’s what I’ve gathered. The dictionary defines murder as “To kill (a human being) unlawfully and with premeditated malice.” This means that murder is 1. killing someone illegally and 2. planning to kill someone (premeditated) with wicked intent (malice). Murder is illegal because it is wrong. It’s not wrong because it is illegal. The definition cited by Science Guy is flawed, for it does not recognize the pure immorality of murder. I challenge Science Guy to find the flaw in this explanation of murder: Murder is the unjustified and purposeful killing of a human being. Simply put, the only just cause for killing another person purposefully is in self-defense. If you intentionally kill someone who was not a mortal threat to you or another, then you are a murderer.

Next, Science Guy responds to my having painted an image of morally detached scientists who go about their work without conscience.

The lab workers are not some evil mad scientist types slaughtering babies with maniacal glee. They are trying to find a cure for serious human diseases for the betterment of mankind.

I was out of line to suggest that ESC researchers were like the Nazi deathcamp scientists who performed experiments on inmates, though an argument can be made that certain scientific advancements were made in those camps (which is the principle argument in defense of ESC researchers). Absent from ESC researchers is any malevolence against the embryo. This cannot be said for the Nazis, and I was wrong to imply it. However, the ends (curing serious human diseases) do not justify the means (killing human embryos).

Now Science Guy counters my really bad and in poor taste analogy with one of his own:

I agree that embryos do not deserve to be killed, but neither do deer, rabbits and trout. Yet they are killed and are quite yummy. Even a mosquito does not deserve to be killed as annoying as they are. However they are all killed without a second thought despite the fact that they are all far more complex and feeling than a embryonic collection of human cells. I know, I know, deer need to be hunted. If they are not, they will overpopulate destroying the ecosystem and causing a severe starvation of the herd. By killing off some of the herd you insure the survival and health of the rest. So because some of the deer are going to die we might as well shoot them. Enjoy the sustenance the meat provides and know we are doing good for the animal because there was a good chance it would die a slow painful death of starvation. Harvesting 4 to 5 day old zygotes is a similar principle. The zygote will die without implantation. If we can harvest it before that we can use it to grow new spines or livers etc. This will better the human population and thus the sacrifice of the embryos will be worth it in the end.

If embryos do not deserve to be killed, then don’t kill them. To say that killing an embryo is the same as killing deer, rabbits and trout is incorrect, unless he means killing deer, rabbit, and trout embryos. Humans have a right to life. Deer, rabbits, and trout do not. The fact that they are “yummy” is irrelevant. No matter how much lemon-pepper and basil you put on a human, it is still wrong to eat him. Suggesting that the death of a deer, rabbit, or trout is somehow worse than the death of an embryo because a deer etc. might feel pain is outrageous. Ironically, however, he lapses into saying that killing deer is good just like killing embryos. He says that (and it’s true) many deer will die painful deaths of starvation if we don’t hunt them, so hunting them is good (because it saves them slow and painful deaths). Then he says that this a similar case for embryos! Really? I thought that he said that embryos died painlessly.

He then resorts to pure pragmatism by stating that since non-implanted embryos will die, we might as well harvest their stem cells. The thing is, they’re not dead, and if they were implanted in a uterus, they would be just fine. What we’re somewhat getting at here is that embryos should not be formed outside of or removed from the uterus. That would make this debate irrelevant.


Later, Science Guy says this:

I do not think that I have diminished the value of life. The ‘human’ embryo will die. By using it to cure diseases we have given the ‘human’ embryo meaning to its short life.

Again, the ends do not justify the means. And what’s with patronizing dead embryos by telling them that their short little lives (notice that he said life) has some deeper meaning? Who is he trying to make feel better? The embryos are dead. They’ve been killed. I doubt that they are comforted. Perhaps (and more than likely) he’s catering to the more emotional types who might respond better than they would to logic.


Science Guy thinks that he’s going back to stating facts (the only proper position from which a scientist should argue), but he mixes them with weak psuedo-philosophical remarks.

Humans are animals. We all belong to Kingdom Animalia. The comparison is accurate. And our zygotes are very similar [to other animals]. Yes one grows into a fish and one into a human. But they both have a tail at one point. They both have gill slits. They both contain DNA with the same 4 bases. If you are so against human embryo stem cell research then why aren’t you against rat embryo stem cell research. It seems pretty damn similar to me.

Humans are animals, yes. We all belong to Kingdom Animalia, yes. Our zygotes are similar to other animals in many respects, but all Science Guy cites are superficial similarities: Look, they both have tails! Look, they both have gills! This does not mean that they are the same. Furthermore, we are not talking about research on zygotes, but on embryos. Stick with embryos, Science Guy. Just because it’s harder to compare human embryos to rat embryos doesn’t mean you should change the subject. Moreover, don’t make arguments that you yourself do not believe. You know that rats and humans are different. If I think it’s fine to kill a rat, then I’ll have no problem killing a rat embryo. Since I think that it’s wrong to kill a human, I have a problem with killing a human embryo. Did you think that by throwing in the “damn” that it added some kind of logical force to your otherwise weak argument—an argument so weak that even you yourself don’t follow it?

Here he counters one of my bad analogies with one of his own.

If you shoot someone in the head while they are sleeping it is murder. Bad analogy. Here is a better one. A man comes into the emergency room after a bad car accident. He has severe head trauma and will not make it through the night. He is on the donor registry, so the doctors harvest his liver, kidneys and heart for other patients dying from organ failure. Is that murder? Should we start protesting the gift of life registry? The concept is the same. The patient (oh excuse me, there I go trivializing again by using a incorrect term). The human zygote (really small human baby) is terminal. It will not survive. Lets use its cells to grow a new spine for someone who needs one.

Excuse me, Science Guy, but you did mention that the dying man was on the organ donor registry, didn’t you? That means that he volunteered his organs in the event of his severe injury. Since his life is his life, that’s his call, so it’s not murder—at least not by the doctors. Some people might consider it suicide, but that’s not what I’m getting at. Embryos cannot choose to be on a stem cell registry, so it’s not the same. The one concept is one of volition and the other is one of force. Give embryos a choice, then the concept is the same.

Earlier, Science Guy had used the word “sacrifice” to refer to ESC harvesting, and I jumped all over it. If the embryo is not a human, how in the heck is it a sacrifice? He responds,

As for using the term sacrifice, I used that correctly. I never said it wasn’t a sacrifice. I said it wasn’t murder. They don’t mean the same thing.

Actually, if you kill someone else against his or her own will—even if it’s a noble sacrifice—then you’ve committed murder. It’s true that not all sacrifices are murder or are even vaguely comparable to it, but this one is because it involves intentionally killing another human without just cause.


And here is Science Guy standing by his dictionary definition of murder:

By the way, I didn’t intentionally not include other definitions. Here are all of them. What do they have in common? Malice. There is no malice involved in stem cell research.

From Mirriam Webster at http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/murder:

Main Entry: 1mur·der
Pronunciation: 'm&r-d&r
Function: noun
Etymology: partly from Middle English murther, from Old English morthor; partly from Middle English murdre, from Anglo-French, of Germanic origin; akin to Old English morthor; akin to Old High German mord murder, Latin mort-, mors death, mori to die, mortuus dead, Greek brotos mortal
1 : the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought
2 a : something very difficult or dangerous [the traffic was murder] b : something outrageous or blameworthy [getting away with murder]

Main Entry: 2murder
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): mur·dered; mur·der·ing /'m&r-d(&-)ri[ng]/
transitive verb
1 : to kill (a human being) unlawfully and with premeditated malice
2 : to slaughter wantonly : SLAY
3 a : to put an end to b : TEASE, TORMENT c : MUTILATE, MANGLE [murders French] d : to defeat badly
intransitive verb : to commit murder
synonym see KILL

Actually, they don’t all have malice in common. Main Entry 1, definition 1 says “especially with malice.” It does not say exclusively with malice. Main Entry 2, definition 2 says “to slaughter wantonly.” The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law defines the adjective wanton as “manifesting extreme indifference to a risk of injury to another that is known or should have been known : characterized by knowledge of and utter disregard for probability of resulting harm.” Interestingly, that’s pretty much what ESC research is, especially from the embryo’s point of view.


And so ends another rehash of the same debate. Science guy might say that we can agree to disagree agreeably, but that won’t make him any less soundly beaten.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

What the Duck?

I was driving to work this morning, and I hit a duck.

There I was, tooling along in my hooptie, listening to Drew and Mike. That's when I noticed it shoot across the road, perhaps three to four feet above the ground. I had no time to react, and I probably wouldn't have done anything anyway. There was a sudden thud as my headlight smashed into it at a cool 45 mph.

I thought two things. First, that the duck was dead. Second, that the son-of-a-drake had broken my headlight. I drove on, however, figuring that if the headlight was broken, I couldn't deal with it until after work anyway and if the duck was dead, then good. If he wasn't dead, and he'd broken my headlight, then I'd find his feathered backside and finish the job.

We were both lucky. Last I saw him, he was rebounding from my Trailblazer, flapping his wings madly, and headed back the way he came. He wasn't flying gracefully, but he did not appear mortally wounded--though it probably did hurt like hell. More importantly, there was no visible damage to my car.

According to Mitch Hedberg:

I was in downtown Boise, Idaho, and I saw a duck, and I knew the duck was lost, 'cause ducks ain't s'posed to be downtown. There's nothin' for 'em there. So I went to a Subway sandwich shop, I said, "Let me have a bun." But she wouldn't sell me just the bun, she said that I had to have something on it. She told me it's against regulations for Subway to sell just the bun. I guess the two halves ain't supposed to touch. So I said, "Alright, well, put some lettuce on it," which she did. She said, "That'll be $1.75." I said, "It's for a duck." And they said, "All right, well, then it's free." See, I did not know that. Ducks eat for free at Subway! Had I known that, I would have ordered a much larger sandwich. "Let me have the Steak Fajita Sub - but don't bother ringing it up, it's for a duck! There are six ducks out there, and they all want Sun Chips!"

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Hmmm

You can read a self-help book, but it isn't really--unless you're the author.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Thanks

Good discussion, folks!

Stem Cell Research II: Guest Commentator, Science Guy

Science Guy said...

There are 3 types of stem cells. There are the embroyonic stem cells(ESC), There are adult stem cells, and there are embryonic germ cells. The last category is derived from a fetus' ovary/testicle.

The most useful one is the ESC. This is because when they are harvested at 4 to 5 days, they contain hundreds of undifferentiated cells. Undifferentiated means that the cell has the ability to grow into any type of tissue (muscle, skin, bone, epithelial, etc.).
I apologize to those who already know this. I'm not trying to lecture here.

But I digress from my point. Harvesting embryos is not killing people. A 4-5 day embryo in a test tube is not a person. It has no chance to be a person. If left alone in the test tube it would not make it to term. In order for a fetus to develop it must be implanted in a uterus. Failing that it will not be a human. It is just a possible human.

This failure to implant in the uterus is not common to the "detached" researchers in the lab. It happens on a daily basis to women all over the planet. (Check out this website to learn more about the causes and possible treatment http://www.illinoisivf.com/recurrent-pregnancy-loss/pre-implantation.html)

Conception does not necessarily make a person. The potential for the zygote to become a person does not make it a person. If that was the case then the arguement could be made that masturbation is as bad as stem cell research. Every sperm is a potential person, it just needs an egg. A woman ovulation cycle is wrong too. Every egg is a potential person, it just needs a sperm. Every zygote is a potential person, it just needs a uterus.

"Let the heathens spill theirs on the dusty ground. God shall make them pay for each sperm that can't be found."
-Monty Python "The Meaning of Life"



Aristos responds:

The semen that you so cavalierly shoot about like Egon Spangler in the hotel scene of Ghostbusters is laden with sperm, and your callous disregard results in millions of sperms' death, but this kills no one. Sperm cannot grow into a person. Nothing can be done to make sperm into a person. If it could, then you'd have people popping out of your old socks and wadded up t-shirts. That's like calling butter a cookie, because there is butter in cookies. Cookies are cookies whether or not they are cooked. It's not just "dough" which is why we call it cookie dough. I would be wary on buying chocolate chip dough ice cream, for I'm kind of a stickler for cookie dough. It would suck to take a bite and taste rye.

Your comparing a zygote to sperm seems careless, considering your screen name. Zygotes do grow into people, and human zygotes formed by human sperm and human eggs are humans. They are not potential humans. Do they have the potential to be anything else? You might say that they are zygotes, but you have to throw the adjective "human" in there to be clear. When people wish to deny the humanity of the unborn, they revert to the use of jargon: an unborn baby is a fetus, or an embryo, or a zygote (depending upon its stage of development). Such semantics are not new. Slavery was called "The Peculiar Institution." The Holocaust was "The Final Solution." And Saved By the Bell was called a "Comedy." A human being can be a specimen, if they are the object of the experiment. This sounds awful, so let's just call them embryos, but let's not even do that, let's call it embryo cell research, but let's not do that, let's call it "stem cell" research and show pictures of brave, noble Christopher Reeve. If we do this, then people won't really know what we're doing. Jews who were thrown into boxcars and sent to death camps were told that they were being relocated for their own safety. Goebbels often equated Jews with vermin, and Hitler himself wrote of them in Mein Kampf as parasites. Such manipulative use of language is absolutely essential in order to dehuminze the victims and turn the masses against them.

The destruction of sperm is not comparable to the destruction of an embryo. Embryos have unique DNA, and it is human DNA. Only human's have such DNA, so an embryo is a human. Embryos live, and their lives are human lives. Purposefully killing an embryo without just cause is murder. I've known (or a least known of) some people who deserve to die (e.g. Screech) but that's because of something that they did. Embryos did nothing wrong. They cannot deserve to be killed, so scientists should not kill them.

Just because embryos cannot survive "left alone" means nothing. All babies would die if left alone, as would many old people. This does not make them less human.

It doesn't matter how useful this research might be. It does not justify murder.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Stem Cell Research

Stem-cell research has the potential to save lives. Of course there is no better organism with which to experiment than a human being, but this does not validate it. The ends do not justify the means, lest we should have to re-evaluate the actions of "Dr. Auschwitz," Josef Mengele.

Let's not re-evaluate him. Let's call him a murderer. Let's not use human beings as unwilling participants in medical experimentation.

But embryos are not people, some might say. They have human DNA, so what else are they? They're not Martians. They're not turtles. They're humans who cannot scream; humans who cannot survive to relate the horrible ordeal. That's why it's so easy to kill them.

Don't tell sob stories about those afflicted by disorders that might be cured by stem cell research. Sob stories are irrelevant. They are ad miseracordiam. The issue is, should some humans be killed intentionally and undeservedly (i.e. murdered) in order to save others possibly.

If the government has any authority, it is only to protect the human rights to life, liberty, and the ownership of property. Embryos are human, embryos live, and they have the right to live.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Connotations

In today's forecast, The Detroit News proclaims that a "cold front" is coming in to take us below the 90's. While I, sitting in my non-air conditioned home and presiding over a eutrophic pool, can appreciate temperatures below 90, I have to say something about this supposed "cold front."

According to the weekly forecast, this "cold front" will still leave us in the 80's. The 80's are tolerable (except for music and fashion), but I decline to accept it as a "cold front."

Denotatively, it fits. The 80's is colder than the 90's. However, one must also consider the connotation of a word. There is nothing cold about a weather system that carries temperatures in the 80's. 85 is cold if it's your body temperature (in which case you're either dead or my wife's hands and feet at bed time). 85 is cold if it's your oven setting, and you're cooking meat. When the air is 85, it's quite warm. Maybe it's not [insert profanity] hot, but it sure as heck isn't cold. Something that is not cold should not be called cold, even if it is colder than something else. If the temperature were 150, you wouldn't walk around saying, "Hell this is cold! After all, we could be living on the surface of the Sun!" (or in my living room).

Would you wear a sweater if it's 85? Would you start a fire in the fireplace? Would you turn the thermostat up to 90 because 85 is too cold?

The 80's is not cold, so it can't be a "cold front," even if it's colder than the 90's. The 80's isn't even a "mild front." It's a "milder front," but that doesn't make it mild. Someone who murders fewer people than another isn't by definition more philanthropic.

Like I said, the denotation is appropriate, but there's more to a word than its denotation. If denotation were all that mattered, then I wouldn't get upset if one of my kids told me that the bathroom smelled like [insert profane synonym for feces]. If connotation didn't matter, then I could tell people that I've got a real bitch at home without fear of offending anyone.

*Disclaimer: Nala is a bitch. She's a two year old beagle.*

If connotation is irrelevant, then I could issue any racial epithet with impunity (Polacks can go to www.dictionary.com to look up impunity. Better yet, ask an Ango-Saxon to do so for you).

And this brings me to a new rant. What's with almost every blonde joke being a simple revised Polack joke? Was it decided that jokes depicting a nationality in a bad way are not appropriate (unless it's France), but jokes deriding people with low levels of eumelanin and higher levels pheomelanin are funny?

What's wrong with racial jokes? If the answer is that they're offensive, then blond jokes are similarly inappropriate. If the answer is that they create a false stereotype, then blond jokes are likewise inaccurate.

Is there some fear that I might actually think that racial jokes depict the truth of people? I know many blond people, and I see new ones every day, and I have never assumed that they are stupid because I heard the one about the blond who climbed over the chain-link fence to see what was on the other side (originally, this was a Polack joke).

But connotation is a problem, and it's not easily describable.

There's a difference between racial epithets, racism, and racial jokes. Should I push aside a black guy and say, "Out of my way, nigger," I have used a word with a negative connotation with the purpose of being pejorative. It's not the word that's bad so much as what I meant by using it.

Suppose I should say that I hate dagos? Again, the key is not the word dago. The important and truly pejorative word is hate. Am I somewhat nicer if I say, "I hate Italians"?

Now to the racial joke. When I ask, "Did you hear about the Polack who broke his arm while raking leaves? He fell out," I'm not trying to be hurtful to Poles. It's just for some reason (and I don't know it), they're the butt of jokes, and these jokes depict them as being dumb. By telling the joke, I am not suggesting that Poles are dumb, nor am I expressing my personal belief that Poles are dumb. Just because I laughed at the joke, "What did the black kid get for his birthday? My bike!" doesn't mean that I'm supporting the KKK or about to hang one from a tree. Besides, how would I get him down? (I'd tell some Mexicans that he's a piƱata).

Do such jokes support irrational stereotypes? Yes, in some ways they do. However, I still want to know what's so PC about a blond joke? For that matter, what's so funny about a redneck joke, if Jewish jokes are so taboo? If I tell or laugh at a Jewish joke, I'm not saying that Auschwitz was a fine institution. However, if you wish to punish me for telling or laughing at a Jewish joke, then you've got something in common with Auschwitz's proprietors.


What's funny if everything's PC?

Non-PC Joke: How do you confuse a Polack? Stick him in a round room and tell him to pee in a corner!

PC Version: How do you confuse a dignified individual of Polish descent? Send him to a location but provide him with incorrect directions.

Non-PC Joke: Why do Italian men grow mustaches? To remind them of their mothers!

PC Version: Why do Italian men grow mustaches? Because many of them wish to do so, and since it is within their rights to do so, they may so.

Non-PC Joke: What do gay men call hemorrhoids? Speed bumps!

PC Version: What do gay men call hemorrhoids? A condition in which the veins around the anus or lower rectum are swollen and inflamed!

In spite of all of this, I completely disagree with the connotative ignorance of calling the upcoming weather a "cold front." It's not a "cold front" if it doesn't make it cold, and the 80's is not cold. Historically, the 80's weren't even cool.

By the way, if I offended you with my candor, then get a life.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Fantasy Football

One of my Fantasy Football Leagues is a "keeper" league. These players I have opted to keep.

QB: Payton Manning, Ind
RB: Larry Johnson, KC
RB: Rudy Johnson, Cin
WR: Steve Smith

Now I have to decide on whom else to keep
QB: Kurt Warner, AZ (I'm trying to trade him for a draft pick)
RB: Corey Dillon, NE
RB: Ron Dayne, Den
RB: Chester Taylor, MN
WR: Keyshawn Johnson, Car
TE: Tony Gonzales, KC
DST: Chicago Bears

Any advice?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Tsk Tsk Tsk

I said some pretty hard-core things in my "Old People" post, and none of the few (yes, I admit that I am not even a regional phenom) who read this post said anything at all. Shame on you. Either sound like and idiot and argue against me, or step up and show your good sense by saying, "Well done."

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Reason for the Previous Post

The reason for the previous post is, if you haven't guessed, that our air conditioner is broken. Some might respond that people lived for eons without air conditioning, but I counter that these people were unfortunate.

People lived for eons without lost of stuff that we now "need." If you want to take that line of argument, then I only ask that you not drive a car or take a bus anywhere. Watch flowers grow, but don't watch TV. Listen to the breeze, but don't listen to Brittney Spears.

Actually, that last one sounds pretty good...

Some people think that air conditioning has contributed to obesity in this country, for it keeps people idle and inside their homes instead of active and outside. I say B.S. I don't have air conditioning, and I'm obese, idle, and, whether I'm inside or not, I haven't the ability to be active. The simple act of typing this is making me sweat.

Still, you might disagree. Perhaps you think that sweating is good for me. Very well, then, continue with your Richard Simmon's routines to Little Richard tunes. Vote Democrat for "social justice." Vote Republican because you're one of the "moral majority." Either way, you're an idiot, and I'm still hotter than hell.

Abolish Summer

There are far more songs written about the summer than any other season. The only season that comes close is winter, and that's only because of Christmas. Seriously, think about it. There's all sorts of winter songs: "Winter Wonderland," "Let it Snow," "Baby It's Cold Outside," etc.; but how many of them are played after Christmas? They're Christmas songs, not winter songs.

I bring this up because I'm tired of celebrating summer. Give me late spring or early autumn. Screw summer. It's too dang hot.

I edged my grass today and nearly dehydrated. I went inside and drank a bit of water (I say a bit, but I mean a lot more because exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement). I decided to sit and do nothing for a while. The problem was, I had to breathe, and that made me sweat even more. I had to get more water. The process of lifting the glass of water to my lips cost me in fluids as much as I consumed. I thought, for a moment, that I might be in Hell: George W. is still president, and that supported this hypothesis. However, I was still able to access Catherine Zeta-Jones on the internet, so I knew that I was OK. She's so beautiful, and to think that the only things standing between us is her marriage to Michael Douglas and that pesky restraining order.

Seriously, what's so awesome about the summer? I'm sweating my [insert dual male organs] off!

Have you ever noticed that most "summer" songs are written by people living in climates that are warm whether or not it is summer? Think about it. Jimmy Buffet hangs out in the Caribbean. The Beach Boys were from Southern California. When was the last time that a "summer" song was recorded by a band in northern Irkutusk? "I Wish They All Could Be Siberian Girls" just doesn't sound right.

I think that summer songs are coolest in the winter, when, ironically, it is coolest. That's when I can curse how freaking cold it is and wish for the warmth of the summer. When the summer comes, bring on the Christmas songs because I'm melting.

Screw summer and screw winter. Give me May and October twelve months out of the year. It can snow on Christmas, which, on my calendar, will be on May 25; and it can be hot on Independence Day, which I will allow to be on July 4, but only because I'm a historian and dates should jive whenever possible (please note that there is conclusive evidence that Jesus was not born on December 25, so my special calendar can still maintain quite a bit of integrity).

This calendar--which will only include the latter half of April, all of May, the first part of June, the latter half of September, all of October and nothing else--would be beneficial to all. All we need is for Congress to vote on it.

If you think that's stupid, that we can't change the seasons by a simple vote, then you must agree that it is stupid for Congress to take steps to stave off global warming. I'll accept that refutation, for I believe that global warming is a natural process and that Al Gore would have preached phrenology in the 19th century and probably believes that a good bleeding will cure whatever ails you.

If summer is abolished because it is too hot, and winter was abolished because it is too cold, the only problem would be changing a few song lyrics. For instance:

"Pleasant time, spring in the city" would replace "Hot time, summer in the city."

And "Oh the weather outside is delightful" would replace "Oh the weather outside is frightful."

If we put our minds to it, we can do it. It's a hell of a lot easier than enduring this unrelenting heat, only to endure piercing cold six months later.

Braveheart


Every time that I watch Braveheart, I want to put on a kilt (I'll fashion one from a beach towel), grab a sword (I guess I'll have to settle for my fireplace poker), and slaughter some Englishmen (Aussies will do just as well, I guess--so look out, Outback).

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Old People and My Money

There's nothing really original about this one. It's pretty much old hat, but it's what's got me right now, so live with it.

Medicare should be abolished instantly.

Virtually every rational person that I know recognizes the problem with Medicare, but they think that we're somehow trapped into it, that we owe it to the old people of today and can only hope (at best) to phase it out in the future.

Bull.

No one deserves my money except for me. It's mine, and I should be able to distribute it in exchange for my wants and needs as I see fit. It doesn't belong to anyone else: not old people, not even the government. It's mine.

But [enter unsubstantiated and most likely grossly inflated number] will die! It's like murder to say that Granny can't have her pills. It's our moral duty to care for the elderly.

Shut up. I didn't say that Granny can't have her pills. I said that no one else has the right to my property, and someone else's wants or needs cannot alter this right. Let Granny have all the pills that she can get. I don't care. Heck, I don't even care if she's smoking crack, as long as she's leaving me and my property alone.

Charities would be established to help the elderly pay for their medications. It works for food in this country, and I can't remember the last time that a person starved to death in the country for lack of access to food. Hunger is different from starvation, so if you were about to jump on me for that, you'd better give up (or at least get a stinking dictionary).

Are old people too proud to beg from charity but not too proud to aim guns at me and demand money from my bi-monthly paycheck?

Oh, I'm so heartless. I would leave those poor seniors to die! Some of them, yes. Let me take care of my old people. You take care of your old people.

What about old people who don't have anyone? Well, you read Stave 4 of A Christmas Carol, didn't you? Ralphie finally gets a Red Rider BB Gun, and he accidentally shoots himself in the eye. No, wait, that's A Christmas Story. My bad. In Stave 4 of A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge dies alone and is not mourned because he deserves no pity. If you've got no one, then it's your fault. Even allowing for exceptions, I still have the right to my property and should not be forced to surrender it to another.

What about old people whose families are too poor to support them? Well, that's what the charities are for! They're not there now because the government has a monopoly on the industry. Dump the government, and the private sector will provide the service. Even if there is a shortage in donations, and old people start dropping like flies, I still don't see how anyone--even my grandmother--has the right to force me to surrender my property to them. If you care so much, then take out a new mortgage on your house. Leave mine alone.

Old people think that it's not stealing, for they get it from the government. They might call it some gentle euphemism like "state assistance" or (duh) "Medicare." They kid themselves. The government got that money because they threatened me and my countrymen with bodily harm if we did not cough it up.

Old people think that they earned it for putting in years and years of work and taxpaying. The years and years of work was for you. I didn't ask you to do it. As for the taxpaying, it was as wrong then as it is now. Two wrongs don't make a right.

After medicare is gone, let's take out social security. After social security is gone, let's take out the federal income tax. After the federal income tax is gone, I'm going to Ruth's Chris every day for the month of April (and I'll still be ahead!).

You're probably thinking that I've got something against old people, but I don't. I also don't think that churches should receive state funding. This doesn't mean that I'm against religion. Think about it. If I'm a Catholic, how wrong would it be for me to be forced to support a Mosque?

Here's a way to think about things, and I cannot take credit for it. However, I cannot recall the source (Bob probably does, so maybe he'll throw me a bone). If it would be wrong for an individual to do something, then it is wrong for the government to do it. It would be wrong for me force someone into my religion, and it is likewise wrong for the government to force a religion on others. It is wrong for me to force someone to cede his or her property involuntarily, and it is likewise wrong for the government to force someone to sede his or her property involuntarily. There's no difference between the two, but one gets called theft at best (robbery at worst), and the other is let off as taxation.

It's simply wrong to deprive anyone of his or her right to life, liberty, and property; and there is no exception for government, for old people, or alia. There is no exception for need. Even if you need food, stealing a loaf of bread is wrong.

Lastly, let me deal with this: It's easy for you to say, you're young, robust, sexy, healthy, and everything for which anyone could wish. Wait until you're old and in need.

Even if I do sing a different tune when I'm old, it won't alter the truth of what I've said. It will just make me a whining, thieving, dirty, old S.O.B. (aka Democrat) who thinks that AARP is gospel and Matlock should be canonized.

Go ahead and preach about how unChristian and unAmerican what I've said is. A s Shakespeare said, "The devil can cite scripture for his purpose" (The Merchant of Venice). Show me where Christ said, "Goeth ye forth and useth guns to seizeth the property of others for thineself. Getteth viagra and haveth thineself a good time, but seeth a doctor if thine erection lasteth for longer than four hours." Tell me which founding father said that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of other people's property. I don't even owe anyone for fighting the Japanese and Germans from '42-45. They didn't do it for me. I was born in '76. If I'd been there, I'd have done it myself. I didn't even exist, so don't stick me with the bill for your weakened colon!--An extra thought: what if I'm the immigrant grandson of a man killed fighting the Americans in the big one? How in the hell do I owe this so-called "Greatest Generation"? If this were the case, then I'd owe them a kick in the nuts.

Now's when people jump in about how disgusting it is for me to spit on the graves of vets, but I didn't! First of all, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, people signed up for one of two reasons: "I'm going to get those Japs for what they did to us!" and "Sweet, a war! I'll be a hero!" Not even my grandfather (a veteran of both the Pacific and European theaters (he was an underwater demolitions specialist--aka "Frogman") signed up for me: "I had relations who were buggered up in Hawaii, and I was doing it for revenge on one side of the spectrum. On the other side, I was doing it for revenge because I don’t like bullies. . . I became revengeful and resentful. But Hitler, I wanted to castrate him, " and I think that the cranky old bastard actually cares about me!

I can't end on this note.

I just wish I could express clearly that I would like to see no one suffer (who doesn't deserve to suffer). People who deserve to suffer: Osama bin Laden, George W. Bush, Richard Simmons.

Dead Ain't Funny

It's really odd when a funny person dies. It's one of those cases in which you say, "He's gone, but we'll always remember him."

Seriously. If you were walking down the street, and you saw a clown dying from multiple stab wounds, that would be both tragic and funny. You'd think to yourself, "Man, it sucks that the clown is dead. Who would stab a clown through the aorta?" But then you'd chuckle when you remembered how, like water, blood shot through the flower on his lapel; and how his face was painted like a smile, but inside he must have been writhing in abject misery. That would be ironic. What do you think, Alanis?

I downloaded a comedy album by Mitch Hedberg and laughed uproariously throughout its 45 minute duration. To my dismay, I later learned that Mitch died last year. He has another album, and I'm sure to get my hands on it, but it won't be the same. While I will certainly enjoy his humor, knowing that this is it, that I will have heard both of his albums and will never hear another, my spirits will be dampened.

Carrot Top lives, and Mitch Hedberg is dead. Add this to the list (between Iraq and extra-large spandex) of what's wrong with this world.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Favorites II

My six year old daughter has thoughtfully countered my argument that you can only have one favorite, but it was not completely successful. Still, I will modify my argument to reflect her insight. While it was not groundbreaking, it was mature and reasoned enough for me to mention.

The conversation started when I asked her which of the Disney princesses was her favorite, and she tried getting away with saying Jasmine, Ariel, and Aurora (i.e. Sleeping Beauty). Next, I asked which of these three was better than the others, and she admitted that Aurora was the one that she liked most. This led me to suggest that Aurora is her favorite, but she was uncomfortable with this. She didn't like leaving out Jasmine and Ariel, so I qualified my statement by saying that while Jasmine, Ariel, and Aurora were her favorites, Aurora is her favorite. This led to more thoughtful discussion.

By definition, you can only have one favorite. However, Natalie points out that you may have favorites. As she described (but I paraphrase), this category includes an undefined but vaguely restricted number, usually a few. While a favorite stands above all others, favorites are not typically ranked against each other but are set above all the unmentioned rest.

Admitting to favorites rather than a favorite would be tantamount to saying (as I suggested two posts ago) "I don't know which is my favorite, but these are contenders."

So, next time you want to say that you have more than one favorite, don't. You can't have more than one if the possessive noun is singular. However, if you make the noun plural (e.g. favorites), you may do so with no denotative non sequitor.

Well argued, Natalie.

She pulled another thoughtful one on us yesterday. We use Netflix, and we love it. On Thursday, we received Disney's 8 Below, a dramatic tale of loyalty and survival in the Antarctic wilderness. Since it was set in Antarctica, Jennie and I assumed that the title, 8 Below, referred to degrees Fahrenheit.

At the end of the movie, Jennie and I were arguing over how many dogs had died. We knew how many lived, and I saw too many living ones, since I recollected that the starting number was seven. This left me thinking that the filmmakers had erred. Jennie however, remembered that there had been eight dogs at the beginning. However, she was not arguing from a position of certitude.

That's when Natalie chimed in, "There were eight. That's why it's called 8 Below." It took a nano-second to process before I realized that she was right. My wife and I had been trapped semantically. I had even noticed the inconsistency of the title with degrees Fahrenheit, since an early scene noted that the temperature was 31 degrees below. Still, I was confined by my rigid usage. Natalie, however, was relatively unfamiliar with the concept of degrees below zero, and was thus able to approach the title in another way. Knowing that Antarctica was at the bottom of the Earth, the title made perfect sense to her.

Well noted, Natalie.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Need for Tort Reform


There is something very wrong about the institutionalized plundering made possible by this country's legal system.
This guy, Allen Heckard, is suing Michael Jordan and Nike because he (Mr. Heckard) is tired of being mistaken as the basketball star. The lawsuit is for over 800 Million Dollars (try saying it as Dr. Evil in the first Austin Powers
It's Nike's fault because they have promoted Jordan, and it's Jordan's fault because when his mother's and father's DNA mixed together, it called for his physical features. Maybe he should sue Jordan's parents as well.
Maybe Heckard should also sue anyone who mistakes him for Jordan. Maybe I should sue Tom Cruise. Maybe my friend, Bryan, should sue Chris Burke ("Corky" from the late '80s TV show Life Goes On)?
What, now, constitutes a tort? Anything that I find annoying is a tort? Hell, if that's the case, then I'm prepared to sue Mr. Heckard if he wins. However, I'm far more reasonable. I'll only sue for 100 million.

http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/5766288?FSO1&ATT=HMA

Favorites

Do you want to know what I hate? I hate it when people claim to have more than one favorite. You've heard this B.S.

"So which is your favorite?"

"I love them all. They're all my favorite."

Shut up. That's what I say. I didn't ask, "Which of these do you love?" I asked "Which is your favorite."

Look it up. Favorite (n):
a. One that enjoys special favor or regard.
b. One that is trusted, indulged, or preferred above all others

It's "one" in both definitions, and in the second one it's clarified as "preferred above all others." So next time I ask you "Which is your favorite?" Either tell me your favorite, or just say, "I don't know."

What's the problem with people saying, "I don't know?" Are they afraid it will make them look stupid or that they haven't thought things out well enough? Give me a break. I'll tell you what makes you look stupid. It's when you say that more than one thing is your favorite.

By the way, my favorite Spice Girl? Posh. Oh yeah.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Lysander Spooner


I spoke of the needlessness for a government run postal service. A friend of mine sent me the link to this article. The lesson is twofold: 1) Competition is better for consumers. 2) The U.S. government is not benevolent or even benign, and it never has been.

http://www.lysanderspooner.org/STAMP2.htm

More about Lysander Spooner at lysanderspooner.org and wikipedia.

Bill of Rights