Shouting Into Darkness

I Am (Not) The Law

Posted in Ranting and Raving by Chris W. on July 11, 2011

The big story today deals with the verdict in the Caylee Anthony Murder Trial, in which the mother, Casey, was charged with her death. In case you haven’t been checking the Internet recently – *spoiler alert* – she was acquitted of the murder charge, but found guilty of lying to police, which could carry a four-year prison sentence.

But I’m not here to talk about the trial. I’ve only barely been keeping up with it, and that’s whenever I get the urge to open “The Daily” on my iPad (which is rarely). My focus today was the backlash that happened almost instantaneously online. As soon as news broke, people ran to their Facebook and Twitter accounts to vent their frustration at what they obviously felt was a travesty of justice. In fact, for most of the afternoon, “Dexter Morgan” was trending, with some commenting on how this case could inspire a storyline in Dexter and some (reprehensible) people making jokes that Casey Anthony deserved a visit from the fictional serial killer/vigilante because she escaped the justice she deserved.

I’m not without blame when it comes to making bad jokes at the expense of others. Hell, it’s the only way I know of to be funny. But I want to address the almost universal condemnation for the verdict and the language used to express that disappointment. Before we begin, let me make my stance perfectly clear:

I was not there at the time of the crime, nor was I in the courtroom during the proceedings. Ergo, I have no valid opinion concerning Ms. Anthony’s guilt or innocence. I cannot, and will not, comment on whether she deserved to be found guilty or not, as I have no way of knowing for sure.

And as far as I know, most of the people out there are in the same boat as I am.

The amazing thing about this trial was not the trial itself; it was the hangin’ jury that sprung up after the verdict of “Not Guilty” was read. The reaction is simultaneously amazing and confounding. I can understand being moved by the death of a small child. I can understand the urge to want to see her death answered for. What I can’t understand are the extreme opinions that the verdict aroused, especially by people who only experienced the trial as a passive observer. If that was your child, or you knew her personally before her death, then I totally get it. I’d be out for blood too if I were in that position, but a lot of the response to the verdict is not centered around the still-unsolved death of a child. Instead the anger comes from the denial of a guilty party, someone to point the finger at, condemn, and take vengeance upon. I get the feeling that people were just pissed that they couldn’t anticipate the execution of someone sick enough to murder her own child, like a teenager waiting for an unsightly zit to pop.

This is a side-effect of allowing the court proceedings to be streamed on the Internet or broadcast on TV. Every armchair prosecutor and peak in and play Jack McCoy. It doesn’t help that the details of the crime were gruesome and involve the death of a very, very young girl that in no way deserved what she got. Take all of that, throw it into a blender and you get a great recipe for a pissed-off group of people who want to see someone pay for the crime, and feel wholly justified in their opinion of Ms. Anthony’s guilt or innocence. Our justice system allows for a jury of twelve at the most, but allowing the whole world into the courtroom means that the defendant is being tried in the Court of Public Opinion as well, a battle her attorney can’t hope to win, for good or ill. Not because she might be guilty – although I can understand if someone has a logical argument for her guilt. Again, I don’t know the facts that well – but because she’s convenient. The sooner we can attach a criminal to the crime and punish him or her, the faster we can put the tragedy behind us and move on.

I remember reading in a science book (can’t for the life of me remember which, so I could just be drawing on a false memory) that humans and primates evolved with a built-in idea of fairness, and a disdain for “cheaters.” The very basis of law and order is “if you break the rules, you are punished.” Whether this comes from the natural progression of evolution (primitive humans learning that they could achieve more by working together towards a common goal), religion (going to Hell is kinda the ultimate punishment), or a collection of both, I don’t know. Either way, it results in a reaction to cheaters that borders on being irrational at times. Remember how pissed your Dad would get after a referee would make an obviously bad call? There usually was no reason to get that upset. I look on the whole Casey Anthony thing in a similar vein. It doesn’t affect me, or most people, at all and I’d rather occupy myself with things that have an impact on my day-to-day life. The only explanation I can think of to explain the reaction to the not-guilty verdict is that people psychologically needed to find the culprit quickly, the mother was convenient, and everyone got pissed that she got away with it.

Again, let me emphasis that I’m NOT saying that she didn’t do it. I’m saying that I don’t know. Since I wasn’t there, looking at the evidence with the jury, that’s the intellectually honest position to have. I can’t even ask myself what was going through the jury’s mind during deliberation; I don’t know that, either. Our legal system is built upon “innocent until proven guilty” and “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Despite our desire for justice, or ill feelings that someone “got away with it,” I trust that the jury did what they thought was right. If evidence to counteract that claim comes forward, then we’ll come back and talk some more. Until such time, I’d like to put the whole affair to rest.

Smoke Screen

Posted in Political, Ranting and Raving by Chris W. on March 8, 2011

I’m about to shock everyone out there. The first politician to publicly introduce a bill that will outlaw smoking in his or her respective state will get my respect and admiration. You know why? Because someone will finally have the gumption to admit it.

It’s time that we all stop pussyfooting around and admit that what certain people really want to see is tobacco smoking to be banned everywhere. This hypothetical person would want the government to step in and declare the product and its consumption illegal in whatever state cooks up this claptrap* because the whole “persuading that smoking might not be the best thing for your health” idea has crashed and burned. Seriously, if you buy a pack of cigarettes today in the city of New York, it comes with a big black-and-white sticker on it that says, in no uncertain terms, SMOKING KILLS. And yet I still see people buying them in my local pharmacy, and walk past discarded packs or stamped-out butts. Smoking not only kills, but it causes you to litter, too! Maybe the government should get on that as well?

I’m not a smoker. At all. I grew up in a house where my mom smoked regularly and my dad on occasion. I’ve deduced that my brother smokes as well, judging by the sound of him hacking up his lungs from three houses away. I never have smoked any substance in my life and I probably never will. I have no love loss for smokers as a general population. To me, they’re just regular people with a hobby that I don’t partake in, no different than people who really enjoy hip hop. Both are equally sentient, and at times equally annoying, but the choice to smoke or to listen to music at an absurd level is one made by an individual with the capacity to make that choice.

I know some people are going to throw the argument of “loud music is just an annoyance while second-hand smoke could potentially be deadly” at me, and I wouldn’t be well equipped to argue to the contrary. I’ve seen some evidence that second-hand smoke is not as dangerous as it’s trumped up to be, but the general scientific consensus is that second-hand smoke could be as dangerous as smoking yourself. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s to respect the opinions of scientists and doctors, not politicians and lobby groups. I haven’t reviewed the evidence of whether or not second-hand smoke is as bad for you as first-hand smoke because I don’t think I possess the brainpower to understand the research, and will probably continue to not understand it until it gets distilled to an episode on “Mythbusters”. But that’s not what my point to argue. What I’m trying to do is argue the quasi-legal status tobacco consumption is currently stuck with, a status that finds itself shrinking every passing year.

When I took Social Psychology at NYU (purely for gen ed credit, mind you), one of the things I learned is that people are more likely to accept a sweeping change if it’s done in gradual, easy to digest bits. Car salesmen and con artists use the same trick. Get you to agree to one easy and agreeable condition and the door is open to then introduce further terms on a gradual incline until what you ultimately agree to bares little resemblance to what you started to agree to, Dawkins’ Mount Improbable in the social arena. While I can’t speak for everyone lobbying against tobacco, I think it’s pretty clear what the end game for most of those groups are: a smoke-free city/state/nation. When I look at my own mayor, Michael Bloomberg, writing praise of the Brazilian government after they practically ban tobacco outright, I know that’s what’s on his mind.

But there’s the problem. He wants to outlaw tobacco, but approaching the issue head-on has a very high risk of failure. First of all are the civil libertarians like me, who will make such a stink over the loss of another personal freedom (to chose to smoke or not) that cigarette smoke will seem like gentle spritz of a Glade Plug-in. But libertarian nutjobs like myself and the ACLU – while loud and annoying – can be overlooked. What can’t be overlooked is that the tobacco industry in America is huge. Tobacco is a gigantic cash crop for the US, rakes in billions of dollars, and has a lobby as powerful as Skynet’s army of Terminators. And what about the smokers themselves? It’s often forgotten that they have rights, too.

What is clear is that the status-quo cannot be sustained for much longer. Politicians are trying to have it both ways. Tobacco-use is being outlawed in more and more places, so the anti-smoking people are happy, and at the same time being taxed to hell, so the local governments get to wet their beaks with every singe purchase. The tobacco companies don’t really care that much, because the cost of all the taxes and regulations gets pushed to their customers. And let’s face it, in all these situations, it is the smokers that are getting screwed. It is their choice to partake in this habit, so I don’t feel bad with them having to pay the admission fee, but the government is simultaneously wagging their finger at the entire smoking population while at the same time benefiting from the taxes that tobacco brings in.

If you’re anti-smoking, the solution is easy. “Just quit,” they say.

Really, they’re right. Quitting smoking will instantly make you healthier, and you won’t risk the health of the people around you. The problem is that we currently classify tobacco as a legal substance while demonizing its use. There are no campaigns or advertisements on the subway that say “smoke responsibly” because we’ve outlawed tobacco adverts. If this is the path we’re on, why not commit and just go all the way? Let’s make the discussion of whether or not tobacco should be all the way legal, or all the way illegal. At least then, both sides of the argument will be – for once – honest with everyone.

*I’ll bet you it’s California. It’s gotta be California. California always comes up with these kooky laws that spread around the country like wildfire. Ten’ll get you twenty it’s California.

Twisting in the Wind: Quran Quran (Hungry Like the Wolf)

Posted in Ranting and Raving, Religion by Chris W. on September 8, 2010

I’m sensing a pattern here. “Twisting in the Wind” is turning into a place where I can chastise the general populace for talking about an issue that really doesn’t matter while offering up an opinion on said issue like everyone else is. It might as well be called “Hypocrite Corner.” But that doesn’t bother me, because as one lone voice quacking in the void, what I have to say is pretty inconsequential and, as a libertarian atheist, I feel I should record my thoughts on the issues of the day so that when the Cyborg Scientologist Nazis* take over the world, the Resistance can find this archive on an antiqued MacBook and learn that there was one person who lived in the Before Time who guided his life by logic and reason. I hope they find a book by Dawkins or Hitchens too; I don’t want to carry the hypo-thetical hopes and dreams of the last chance humanity has on my shoulders alone. I can barely get out of bed for work in the morning, after all.

The issue of the day again centers around the connection between Islam and 9/11, and how some people are exploiting that connection for their own gain. This time up, it’s Florida Pastor Terry Jones (no relation to the brilliant director/”Monty Python” member of the same name), who is organizing a protest against Islam by burning Qurans (the Muslim Holy Book) on Saturday, the 9th anniversary of 9/11. The announcement was almost instantly condemned by everyone who heard about it, and gained more media exposure when Gen. David Petraeus commented that the move might wind up endangering troops. Someday, someone will win the Nobel Prize for finally answering whether America hates the terrorists more or loves the troops more. Today, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg did his best Obama impression by commenting on the protest, even though it doesn’t affect him or any of his constituents (theoretically).

I want to get my position clear right from the start. I’m an atheist, so Christians protesting Islam is like a negative being multiplied by a positive (if you’ll forgive the middle-school math reference): it just cancels itself out. While these two groups start arguing about who has the better imaginary friend, I’ll stand on the sidelines reading a comic book. The reason why I’m writing about this issue is because it speaks to a statement I’ve tried to hold myself to: Confront Stupidity. Stupidity and intellectual laziness exist only when they are allowed to fester, like mold underneath a rock. When you expose it to the light, the mold will shrivel up and die. That’s why I can understand the conviction when people condemn this loony. It’s obviously stupid, obviously hate-driven, and the only moral way to attack this is with speech. I’m all for that. In fact, it’s why I’m writing this article, to do my part in confronting this bit of stupidity.

The cynical side of my brain thinks that this whole thing is a PR stunt, to get a little nub of infamy and maybe a few more followers as well. It makes a lot more sense than the wacko, hateful explanation that has already been offered: one big “Yay America, and Jesus, too!” ejaculation that would’ve been ignored if not for our modern culture’s pension for political correctness and moral grandstanding. This, like the Mosque issue I wrote before, is getting so much airplay because it’s easy to choose a side and have a strong moral conviction that you’re right, wrapping yourself in the protective ideological blanket of your choice – religion or cultural sensitivity.

While I loathe religion and over-sensitivity of any kind, Pastor Jones is in the wrong. His actions derivative from a hatred of Islam (or an overvaluing of Christianity) and doing more to advance agendas of hate here and abroad than any real discussion on the shortcomings of Islam. He claims Islam to be a religion of violence, and he combats this with more violence. Hard to spot any flaws in that plan. Now, it is true that Islam plays host to some pretty violent people who justify their actions through their faith, to the point where several in the media and politics are afraid to even make fun of the religion out of fear of losing their lives, but you don’t need to turn into that kind of monster to make your point.

This is the point where I fuck with everyone’s heads: Pastor Jones is clearly doing something wrong, stupid, and hateful. And he has the right to see it through.

Before people take up arms to accuse me of bigotry, hypocrisy, or whatever, let me explain. From my understanding of Freedom of Speech, and including some personal credos I’ll get to in a moment, Pastor Jones can go forth with his protest and cover it by invoking his Freedom of Speech. On the other hand, the Supreme Court has ruled time and again that Freedom of Speech does not extend to include Hate Speech. If someone wanted to make the argument that the Quran burning represents Hate Speech, I couldn’t stop him or her, and might even agree in the end.

It’s also true that this protest could be used to incite Anti-American sentiment abroad, and most likely will. You remember how much of a stink the Muslim community caused over a couple of cartoons of their prophet? Imagine how pissed they’d be when they find out that some cracker was burning their holy book! The phrase “poking the bear” comes to mind. But, while the news will most certainly reach the Middle East and paint a picture of institutionalized antagonism toward Islam, I would hope that the vast numbers of people counter-protesting the protest would be enough to show that not everyone’s on Pastor Jones’ side.

I turn again to the Penn Jillette quote I used to end the last “Twisting in the Wind” article: “If you don’t have the freedom to do stupid, ill-advised things, then you aren’t really free.” I believe that very heavily, and think it applies to this situation, even when the stupidity of one man and his 50 cronies has the potential to cause harm to people not associated with his stupidity. But Free Speech does not exist to protect popular speech; it exists to protect unpopular speech, and as unpopular as this protest is, I think it’s still constitutionally protected. By no means am I defending Pastor Jones or his reasons for burning books, but I am defending his right to do something completely stupid and be ostracized by anyone with a decent bone in their body.

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Twisting in the Wind: Mosque we Go On?

Posted in Ranting and Raving, Religion by Chris W. on August 30, 2010

Before the story disappears from the newspapers and becomes even less of an issue than it is now, I wanted to offer my take on the whole “mosque” situation that will only affect Lower Manhattan, but everyone in the country seems to have an opinion on. Even our Fearless Leader (unwisely) offered his two cents on the matter, despite the issue not affecting him and only giving his opponents another political thread to unravel. Like our president, this issue will not affect me personally, but it does affect the city I call home and I feel that I can offer a rational and fair view of the situation from the libertarian point of view.

Like most things in life, your position on whether a mosque should be built a few blocks away from the site of the former World Trade Center, whose destruction was caused by Islamic radicals, will depend heavily on your own personal biases. If you feel that protecting the feelings of the victims of 9/11 and their families is more important, you’re overwhelmingly likely to oppose the mosque (although that is not the lone reason for opposition). On the flip side, if you look at the religious freedoms of Muslims as more important, then the mosque and its position probably isn’t that big of a deal to you. This is a situation where there is no “wrong” side of the argument, although the lines already drawn in the sand have served to bring up some very intense passions who believe that their position is “right.” In fact, this situation could and is being turned into a divisive issue that will decide elections in September and could potentially influence foreign views of America in countries where “compassion” is not the defining characteristic.

Now that the groundwork has been laid, I’ll offer my point of view, for what it’s worth.

For clarification, I go past the reconstruction at Ground Zero perhaps once a week. The experience is moving to say the least, to watch the wound caused by 9/11 to be, at least physically, made whole again. The emotional wound that the survivors and widows still suffer will never be closed, and that’s the real lasting effect of 9/11. It was a dark, sad day for the country and kick-started a conflict that has cost thousands of lives on both sides due to military action. But I blame that on leadership, both past and current, not on the attacks on the World Trade Center. The communal feeling, the country coming together to pick itself up when it was knocked down, that’s all gone. The very fact that I’m writing this is an indicator that we are more divisive than we’ve been for almost a century. The true lasting effect of 9/11 is the pain felt by those survivors and widows.

But that pain, no matter how much it breaks your heart for those who feel it, is an abstract concept. There’s no way to quantify it. Pain and suffering is a liquid concept, floating out in the ether of human consciousness. The freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution is very real. Black and white real, in fact. Unlike the hurt felt by the victims of 9/11, which we all understand, the First Amendment freedoms protect everyone, regardless of their creed and how popular (or unpopular) it is.

Supporters of the mosque put the proposed site up on a pedestal, claiming it is a symbol of the tolerance of America (something not shared by Islamic nations, ironically) and a sign that The Muslim community is reaching out to those who were harmed by followers of Islam. That sentiment is only half right. Is the Ground Zero Mosque a symbol of American tolerance? Maybe, considering that its presence in lower Manhattan would be a victory for private property owners doing business in the matter they saw fit, and possibly people putting aside differences to respect individual rights? But as a symbol of tolerance, of growth and understanding? My newspaper this morning spoke of protests and scuffles that broke out at the site over the weekend, both sides trying to demonize the other. Tolerance, that is not.

And a mosque so close to the site of the World Trade Center would certainly not be a symbol of the Muslim community reaching out a helping hand. When asked about the whole situation, Kentucky Senate hopeful Rand Paul remarked that if the Muslim community really wanted to build bridges, they should donate to a relief fund for the victims, not try to muscle in on territory which is symbolically theirs, a sentiment I happen to agree with. To put it another way, if I wanted to be a good guest and honor you at your birthday party, graduation, retirement, whatever, I come over and and make the event about you, not try to take center-stage and do my Elvis impression (unless I was asked, in which case my jumpsuit just got back from the cleaners).

As much of a hardcore individualist as I am, this smacks of trying to plant your flag in the site, making it more about you and less about what’s really important. This is made evident by the constant refusal by those who are in charge of the project to even consider moving their mosque out of respect for the victims.

But again, I hate to use phrases like “symbolically theirs” and “respect” to make an argument when we have clear-cut tools like “dominion of private property” and “the First Amendment” to use. It all boils down to this: the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion covers everyone: Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheists, Satanists, everyone. And, if the owner of the building signed off in a private business deal with the Imam to make the mosque a reality and he was okay with it, then there’s no solid argument against the mosque to be had. Plain and simple. You can dislike it all you want, but unless new evidence comes to light, there is no legal blockage for this mosque that I can see.

Which brings us to the dividing line that so many arguments that get too much airtime often return to: Is it wrong? Technically, no. Is it ill-advised and stupid? Oh, hell yeah. To be honest, I can’t even believe why an Imam would want to subject himself to that kind of scrutiny unless he was being pressured externally. All you’re doing is painting a target on your back. The site would be plastered all over the news (which it has) and would become the focus of hatred, vandalism, and other bad mojo. Even worse, if you are a peace-loving Muslim, keeping the mosque there could easily do more to hurt your cause of promoting peace and acceptance. All because you appeared insensitive to the feelings of those harmed by others in your clique.

This is one of the things that distresses me about religion, or generally too much pride in one’s own background. You can be a Muslim, or a Pisces, or a Libertarian all you want and it doesn’t matter one bit because you should be a human first. Having the mosque that close to Ground Zero smacks of lacking basic human decorum and sensitivity. But, the moral and American stance to take is to just let it be. Respect the rights of the Muslims that commune there and hope that they have the decency to respect yours back. The Ground Zero Mosque may be beyond stupid, but as Penn Jillete said, “if you aren’t free to do really stupid stuff, than you aren’t really free.”

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Some Fucked-Up Shit: Speedy Gon-Lopez

Posted in Film, Ranting and Raving by Chris W. on February 27, 2010

A few days ago, a news report slipped across my desk regarding a cartoon character that I hold dear. Speedy Gonzales was the star of some of my favorite cartoons as a kid, and although I may be a Road Runner guy for life, Speedy will always be a close second. There was something about him, either his slightly stereotypical accent or his disturbing attraction to cheese or his possibly cocaine-induced hyperactivity, that endured the character to me and always made his encounters with Sylvester funny.

But Speedy, like many establishments of old, is getting a make-over for the modern day. A new animated movie is slated to come out staring the plucky little Mexican mouse, with none other than George Lopez behind the microphone providing the voice*.

For the record, I have nothing against George Lopez. I thought his sitcom on ABC was funny and his stand-up is top-notch. The problem is that he’s wrong for the voice of Speedy. Unless he has a hidden voice talent that hasn’t been showcased yet, his normal voice is… how to say it… slow, and labored. Speedy is manic and barely contained. He epitomizes the childhood urge to just run really fast and outsmart bigger authority figures because you’re younger and faster. And despite all the things you may gleam from George Lopez, either from his standup or television work, he doesn’t bring that quality. He can drop a good one-liner, but I have yet to see him bring the energy.

Now, call me old fashioned and nostalgic, but I prefer the voice Mel Blanc did for Speedy Gonzales, and I’m sure 99.99999% of the population would agree with me in that sentiment. Mel’s no longer available to do the role, for obvious and sad reasons (I always hoped Mel Blanc would be the one guy who’d crack Immortality), but there are other people out there that can approximate his work. Billy West, better known as the voice of Fry on Futurama and the Honey Nut Cheereos Bee, does several bang-on impressions of Looney Tunes characters, one of which was featured in the special features of Mark Hamill’s Comic Book: The Movie. He’d be perfect for Speedy, but instead, heads of movie studios go with big-name actors to stand a better chance of making their money back. From a business standpoint, it makes perfect sense. Unless you travel in the same circles as I do, George Lopez’ name garners more recognition than Billy West, Jim Cummings, Rob Paulsen and several other voice-over giants put together.

And to be honest, Warner Bros. isn’t making the picture for me; I’ve got the old cartoons and I’m content, but this casting is evident of a bigger problem that is engulfing Hollywood: the idea that name recognition trumps talent and ability. To over-simplify, everyone in the world knows who Bill Gates is, but I don’t want to see him as Superman.

I’ll keep up on this story as more becomes known. In the mean time, do yourself a favor and put on the old Speedy Gonzales cartoons and have yourself a chuckle.

*Somewhere, after I typed that sentence, a puppy was run over by a Jeep. That’s how wrong this is.

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“There’s Gonna Be a Fight in New York Tonight!” (Hopefully)

Posted in Ranting and Raving by Chris W. on January 21, 2010

Over the Christmas break, I got introduced to a new facet of entertainment: mixed martial arts. The sport has been growing all around me for several years, but for whatever reason (I can’t actually put words to why I didn’t watch sooner) I stayed away. Now I’m in and a new world has opened up to me, satisfying the adult appreciation of the art of combat and the childlike appreciation of seeing someone’s forehead split open. It’s not as flashy as pro wrestling and some ground holds seem a bit… how shall we say… homoerotic, but anyone who enjoys watching the tactics and strength in real one-on-one combat can enjoy an MMA fight.

Now, we get to the meat of the post. I reside in New York, one of eight states in the Union that has banned mixed martial arts. The exhibition and performance of the sport within state lines is illegal, as per a bill signed by Governor George Pataki back in 1996. And just for the record, 1996 was a while ago. Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and the iPod didn’t even exist, and the only concerns we had in the world were the final episodes of Seinfeld and whether or not Bill Clinton got his dick wet.

It’s over a decade later, now, and things are much different. For starters, mixed martial arts has grown-up for the most part. In the 90s, when the sport was still a new arrival to the US, MMA was short for no-holds-barred. Fighting in the UFC at that time might’ve resembled a scene from Fight Club, except without Brad Pitt. There were no rules and there was very little stopping someone from being hurt. After the UFC was bought out by Zuffa, the business became reputable, regulated from the inside and the outside. Certain holds and blows became illegal because they were too dangerous and fighters now had the option to tap out if they were in too much pain to continue. Referees were added and now almost all MMA fights in reputable organizations can be stopped at any time at the referee’s discretion. Professional fighters now have a record that is held and regulated by the athletic commission of each individual state. In short, mixed martial arts may seem brutal and inhumane on the outside, but the sport is very different from the mortal combat some remember it as.

Something else is pretty different, too: the financial outlook on the state. New York isn’t doing as bad as certain westernly states are, but we could be better. In order to fill the holes growing rapidly underneath our feet, Gov. David Pattinson introduced a budget that included, among other things, a bill to legalize mixed martial arts in the state of New York. The hope is that the arrival of the UFC and other organizations would provide something new to tax and the people, having been starved for live entertainment of this variety, would flock to an MMA event and spend more money there.

The bill has its opposition of course. Some, like Attorney General Eric Schneiderman still consider the sport barbaric. Others take a more reasoned approach, claiming that most of the money would go to Zuffa, LLC, the company in Nevada that owns the UFC, the WEC, and other fighting promotions. That criticism makes the most sense to me; I have no clue how the state government makes money on an exhibition like a baseball game or a big concert. I do know, however, that local economies usually fare much better if they host something that people want to go to. Cities volley years in advance for the Olympics because it brings in a shitload of people who spend money on local hotels, local restaurants, local shops for their wants and needs. The little capitalist in me is happy that the state or federal government can’t take a cut of profits just because they’re the bigger dog, so I don’t know how Gov. Patterson expects to rake in cash for the government with MMA, but it definitely makes sense if you want to inject more money into the local economy.

I can’t speak for everybody, but I know that I’d certainly see a UFC event at Madison Square Garden and gladly spend more than I’d be comfortable with as well. (Though that has more to do with the prices than anything else.) My support comes from wanting to see the sport legalized than my thinking that it’ll bring in stacks of cash for the state*. Forty two other states in the Union have legalized MMA; what do they see that we don’t? have I don’t know how much they’re trying to tax it or whether doing so will price the promoters right out of coming here, but I’d rather see something legal and taxed (as much as I abhor “sin” taxes) than illegal for an illogical reason.

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A Few Quick News Stories

Posted in Kooky Observations, Ranting and Raving by Chris W. on March 27, 2009

A few stories struck me today while I was reading my morning newspaper. Neither of them warrant a huge post for themselves, so I’ll do the economical thing and combine them.

They Can Never Take Our Freedom!

I’m going to assume that my readership (Hi Mom!) is familiar with what’s going on at Ground Zero in the years since the 9/11 attacks. The site has been through more development hell than the Watchmen film (nerdy joke), but it seems that our tax dollars are finally going towards something other than trimming the grass around the Footprints. In a few years, New York City will be home to the Freedom Tower, a return not only of 1 World Trade Center, but a red-blooded, American, “Fuck You, Terrorists!” statement to the world.

Or maybe not. It was revealed in today’s “AM New York” that the former 1 World Trade Center will, when it reopens, carry the name of… 1 World Trade Center. The reasoning behind this was to use the marketability of “World Trade Center” to attract tenants.

Personally, I think the reason is a bit bass-ackwards. Can you imagine how cool it would be to walk up during your High School Reunion and say, “I work in the Freedom Tower, bitches! Being in my crappy cubicle for 40 hours a week does more to keep the American Spirit alive than George W. Bush did in 8 fucking years! And we keep red-white-and-blue toilet paper in the Men’s Room!” Plus, a business card with the words “Freedom Tower” on it must be like turning on a faucet in a woman’s pants.

But beyond the tomfoolery, I’m not bothered by the switch. I always thought that a “Freedom Tower” was a bit chintzy and hollow. The cynic in me believes that the genesis of the Freedom Tower was rooted in it sounding good rather than any real thought. And while I like the idea of a center for commerce and capitalism being named the “Freedom Tower” (although it could be delivered with a pinch of irony, especially in Barack Obama’s America) I believe that the real, no-kidding Freedom Tower already exists. Even though it’s not a tower, technically. It’s a statue. It’s a statue that welcomes all people and ideas with open arms and shines an imaginary beacon symbolizing that no matter how dark it gets, we will always be alight.

In a few years, 1 World Trade Center will be open. I personally can’t wait to see what they do with it.

A Friend, Indeed!

And now, the latest in the saga that’s sweeping the nation (and one I wished I could’ve been a part of as a teenager) called “sexting.”

I’ve been very skeptical about the supposed wide-spread epidemic of sexting in America’s youth, but it seems that I may have to eat my words. The latest victim to be tossed into the mud is a 14-year-old girl from New Jersey. Apparently, she posted 30 or so nude photos of herself on Myspace.com. And, after having to deny Friend Requests from me for a few days, she was busted by the police. She’s now being brought up on child pornography charges and faces being labeled a sex offender.

Now, let’s get the practical stuff out of the way. No, I don’t believe it’s right for 14 year old girls to post nude photos of themselves on the Internet for any reason. I don’t want to see it, and a girl that young is too young to know exactly what the ramifications of sending out that kind of information into the pit of wild, horny dudes known as The Internet will have. I wouldn’t want that to happen to my daughter, your daughter, or anybody’s daughter for that matter.

That being said, is this a matter for law enforcement? If it’s been proven that the photos were posted by the alleged offender and of her own free will, where’s the victim in this crime? Can you be brought up on charges for harming yourself? And having to register as a sex offender for just being a naive teenager is the dictionary definition of “a bit much.” This girl will have to suffer at least until she’s 18 (and possibly for the rest of her life*) just for being stupid.

In my world, this is clearly a matter for the parents. Let the father and mother tell her why she shouldn’t do something like that. And this story, as well as every one like it, is a lesson for parents and would-be parents out there. If you have a child, you need to keep up with their technology and meet them on their level. I’d like to think that any girl with a brain between her ears will realize that it’s a bad thing to send her boyfriend nude photos of herself because the next one to get them will be the entire Varsity football team.

*I could be wrong on that fact. If I am, please enlighten me.

Cheers!

Posted in Ranting and Raving by Chris W. on August 22, 2008

The image you see here is a bottle of Pinot Grigio. It’s my favorite type of wine, and I enjoy it immensely. But even as soon as last year at this time, I didn’t give a shit about alcohol or drinking. It was beyond me, and something I had zero interest in. As I stand right now, little has changed, except for the fact that I’ll enjoy a glass of Pinot at night when I’m eating or setting down to write a new entry. You always wondered where the quality of my writing came from, didn’t cha?

But now, I’m taking up the cause of the drinkers of the world, because a new debate has opened up to re-lower the drinking age back to 18.

The movement has been started by some college kids – naturally – and yet the fact it’s getting so much airplay is a testament to the interest people have in this subject… or in our willingness to ignore more complex issues like economics or war and instead focus on the political equivalent of a ham sandwich: something that doesn’t require much thought and is difficult to screw up. The main opposition comes from advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving. I’ll say that I support MADD in their bid to keep people from driving drunk, but in this case, they oversimplify the issue by claiming (and I’m paraphrasing here), “If 18-year-olds can legally drink, then the number of traffic accidents and fatalities from drunk driving will skyrocket.”

I read that statement in a copy of the New York Metro before coming on to write this, and now, when I went to the New York Times website in order to do more research, I found greater efforts of political business as usual and moral grandstanding. Everyone’s going on the offensive. According to the article, which you can find here, The Governors Highway Safety Association has already started a counter-campaign aimed at educating other people on how to block the debate. Laura-Dean Mooney, president of MADD, has urged the public to call the people who pledged support for the lower drinking age and demand that they remove themselves. These college students are standing alone against a system that seems bent on policing urges, and so I’m going to offer my perspective to see if it helps clear the air a little bit.

I didn’t go to many parties when I was in college. But every time I went to someone else’s dorm room – and at times, even my own without my knowledge – there was alcohol there. And that’s not just after I and my peers turned 21. It’s no secret that kids drink on campus, and if you thought that, I’ll wait while you wash your head because it must be dirty after being so far up your ass. College students also smoke pot, use bad language in mixed company, sneak into R-rated movies, and have unprotected sex.

Here’s the simple reality: Young people do what they want to do despite all the rules, and sometimes in spite of all the rules.

For me, it was a little bit different. I never smoked pot, and I don’t plan on doing so anytime soon. I’ve also never had unprotected sex, or any sex for that matter. I’ve tried to be a model youth; attentive and respectful, while being free and knowing of my own boundaries at the same time. By college definitions, I’m a total square. Yet, I understand the urge to party, and I believe that a higher drinking age adds an unnecessary allure to the act of drinking. Drinking should be fun on its own merits, but for many of today’s youth, not only are they getting shitfaced, but they’re also fucking with the system while they do it, which is added fun. From my experience, and perhaps from your own experience, if people want to drink, they’ll find a way to drink.

The argument for a higher drinking age, like drug prohibition before it, has no logical ground to stand on. Because it’s “illegal”, young people, as the NY Times article puts it, lose respect for the rules. How many college-age people that you know have fake IDs? How many sneak around their RAs because they’re throwing a party? And despite the fact that it’s against the rules, how many do it anyway?

I can hear the counter-argument forming now. It goes something like, “Well, just because they’re breaking the rules doesn’t mean it’s a fault in the rule. Maybe they should have more respect for the rules themselves! After all, that’s what good people do.” I’ll agree. I’ll usually argue in favor of law & order, much to my friends’ chagrin, before I think about trying something against the rules. But, consider this: When you turn 18, you are old enough to…

– Drive a car at all hours of the day
– Enter into a legal contract
– Get married without parental consent
– Vote in public elections
– Purchase a rifle or shotgun
– Purchase and consume cigarettes
– Consent to sexual activity, and buy pornography
– Enter the military
– Go to a godforsaken country and kill another human being for the good ol’ USA!

And yet, we say you are not old enough to consume alcohol.

Campus drinking is like the wild west. Since schools are trying – or at least “claiming” that they are trying – to crack down on underage drinking, these parties have gone underground. They are not supervised and consider the limit to be the point where they are in the most danger of being caught. We hold bars to a much higher standard, and a bar is a much safer place to drink than in a dorm room with a bunch of people who are as clueless as you are. Drinking is a social activity, and if given the option, won’t most teens go for the social choice, outside of school grounds where they are the least likely to be hassled by the school and have the choice of picking up cute girls and listening to loud music as well. Sure, you can do all those things on campus, but as I stated above, college parties (in my experience at least) tend to be like a game of “Chicken.” You want to get enough fun out of the party without crossing the line and being caught. If the drinking age were lowered, I believe that most people, especially in the larger city areas, would opt to go to a bar and drink. This is safer than at home, because bars are now legally required to cut you off if you start losing control of yourself and they must also arrange for you to get a ride home safely. There’s no denying that accidents happen, but there hasn’t yet been a definitive study that proves that younger people are more likely to be involved in alcohol related traffic accidents than older people. Drinking and driving is a problem, regardless of the age, but prohibition is not the way to curb this problem. It would be like solving a stuffed nose by cutting your head off.

I’m a firm believer in the philosophy of “if you treat someone with respect and dignity like an adult, that person will likely start to behave like an adult.” My theory has always been that a lot of underage drinking comes from the taboo of it. Kids do it to feel like they are grown ups, as well as to get buzzed. So the more we start treating 18-year-old adults like the adults we claim they are and not forcing an arbitrary waiting period on these people who just want to drink, the better off everyone will be.

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The Questions of Intolerance

Posted in Ranting and Raving by Chris W. on May 22, 2008

There are a couple of ideas I want to get at in this post. Apologies are to be given in advance because as I write this, I’m valiantly battling my own body and its decision to give me a head cold now, and I’m also on the Staten Island Ferry, where I’m surrounded by wanna-be thugs and babies whose screams could find adequate use in Guantanamo Bay. But there is a bright side to my existence now: I just received my Amazon Kindle in the mail, and I’m already in love with that sucker. A review will be pending, but I’ll already tell you that one of the first purchases I made on my Kindle was the digital version of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. I’ve already got copies in hardcover (two, actually, after I accidentally left the other one at home) and the audio version, so now I wanted to jump the line from “fandom” into “unhealthy obsession.” Thankfully, this was the paperback version I’d downloaded, and this was prefaced with a new introduction by Dr. Dawkins addressing some of the criticisms the hardcover version got. One of them stuck out, because I heard this one even in the highly intellectual circles:

PARAPHRASED CRITICISM: “The God Delusion is an intolerant book when it bashes religion for being intolerant.”

I took that one from a review of the book which can be found on Amazon.com, but Dawkins addresses the language of the book itself, which some criticized for being too harsh. He did a great job in taking this issue on, so I’d like to leap off from where he was and bring it into other areas.

FIRST IDEA: There is a difference between Intolerance and being aggressively critical.

“Intolerance” is an ugly word, especially in today’s context. Today, “tolerance” is the idea that we should just accept that people believe other things than we do and live with that. The idea is sound, but it also carries with it a tone that implies that debate is something to be avoided. I cannot personally fathom the person who would rather be dismissed and ignored than intellectually engaged. True intolerance comes when a person is judged as inferior for believing or valuing something different. There are certain films or books or songs that I will enjoy and you won’t, and vice versa. Am I intolerant because I ask you why you like the things you do? Isn’t the real intolerance come when I think that anyone who doesn’t love Sweeney Todd is mentally retarded? From another angle, isn’t the real intolerance coming from Muslims who believe that people should convert to Islam or die, or Christians who feel it’s their fucking divine mission to spread their religion like herpes, signing people up to their club like those poor people on the street who try to get you to support Greenpeace? I’ll lay it on the line right now: I believe that all monotheistic and polytheistic religions of the world, past and present, are incorrect, detrimental, and a waste of time. (Note that I don’t include deist religions like Buddism because I don’t know enough about them to comment. My problem comes with the form of a supernatural creator of the universe.) You’ll notice that my language gets quite harsh, and that’ll probably offend people, perhaps even people who would’ve been sympathetic to my worldview. You might think this is intolerant on the surface, but even though I attack several aspects of several religions to make a point, I still keep it in the realm of debate. Professor Dawkins’ book is extremely critical of religion to the point of being harsh, but there are times when even the harshest language is excused. Comedians know that sometimes you have to curse to make a joke funny. By the same token, being critical and pulling punches at the same time is like having sex with someone who’s only half into it. Anyone ever have sex with someone who just didn’t give a shit? Does it compare to when you both are 100% committed to the act, to the point where you’re rolling around on the floor making animal noises? It’s the same with criticism; a half-assed critic is only half a critic.

Maybe people objected to the tone that Professor Dawkins had, and I can understand that. Nobody like someone who acts so much smarter than you, but I don’t see that in the book. I still hold that Dawkins was being aggressively critical of religion in his book. If you disagree, that’s your opinion, but Dawkins certainly isn’t intolerant of other people. He does challenge them on what they believe in, especially in the TV documentary Root of all Evil?, and at times I thought he could be a bit too aggressive, but he’s the one going up and talking to people, and I even remember a few very polite conversations with Michael Bray (friend of the late Paul Hill, a man convicted and executed for murdering an abortion doctor) and Richard Harries, the Bishop of Oxford. A real intolerant person wouldn’t bother speaking to these people and write them off as wackos. Intolerance is “It’s my way, case closed.”

After writing the above passage, I want to go back to the rant I had up above in which my language got kinda harsh. This does tie in with the Dawkins discussion, and it’s something that I’ve been bopping around my head for a very long time:

SECOND IDEA: What’s with this trend of “ugly art,” huh?

I’ve noticed a few examples in my daily life of people who create art that is purposefully off-putting and at times, despicable. The one that got me going on this was a short film I saw entitled Bliss, made by an NYU student. Rarely do I get so outraged as I did when I saw this movie, but I thought it the most vile and offensive movie I’ve ever seen in my adult life. When I was writing out the notes for my criticism, I literally wrote out, “This movie sucks elephant cock,” later adding “… and then swallows.” Granted, I realize now that this was born out of my own prejudices and values, while many other people didn’t share my extreme revulsion of that movie. I disliked it because it was apathetic and numb to me. The main character was a teen in a daze, surrounded by fucked up people and given a chance to escape, but he refuses it. Everyone in that movie was a bad emo stereotype without being an obvious stereotype. The real clincher came at the ending when the main character, on the verge of committing suicide, sees a young woman get involved in a car accident a few yards away from him. Slowly, he walks over to examine the scene. The girl sure is hurt, maybe dead. So what does he do? He steals her wallet and walks away casually.

The surprising thing to me was that people actually liked this movie. I admit that I couldn’t get past the tone and apathetic nature of the characters, much the same way some people can’t appreciate Kill Bill because of the sheer level of violence. But this movie did get me thinking. There are some people who purposefully try to create a bad experience for their audience as an artistic statement. An artist might paint with colors that are grating to the eye, painful to look at, and exhibit that work in a room purposefully too hot or too cold. A musician could make a symphony out of screeching violins and fingernails on chalkboard. And, in this case, a filmmaker could make a movie with not a sympathetic character in the bunch and a tone that is so lethargic you feel like you might just involuntarily stop breathing because it’d be too much work. I wondered to myself: “Why?” Why on earth would somebody purposefully try to alienate their audience just to make an artistic point? I flip-flopped on this issue but I think I’ve finally come to a conclusion.

One school of thought believes that art is meant to get a rise out of people, to shock them out of their own apathy. So, love it or hate it, as long as you’re not indifferent about it, it’s a success! I can understand this logic, and in some ways, I can appreciate Bliss for giving me something to loathe so viciously. Another school of thought believes that art is meant to inspire action. Again, honorable, but in my case, the only action I wanted to take was finding the director and slapping him across the face. The beret-wearing, pencil-mustached bag of pretentious I call my artistic side scolded me for not being more open to more artistic methods than the ones I was accustomed to, but it still didn’t feel right for me. Then, while browsing the internet, I found the answer in an episode of “Zero Punctuation.”

Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, in reviewing a particularly arty game, wondered the same things I was wondering: was he missing the whole point, and would he lose the respect of the artsy crowd if he condemned the game? But then, he realized, and I’m quoting here, “Any game that would sacrifice the fun for a message is obviously stuck so far up its own ass that it’s in danger of suffocating.” When I heard this sentence, the lightbulb lit up over my head. Sure, some people will try to do new things to alienate the audience because they want to make a comment on society or some shit, but I believe now that art is meant to be taken in and experienced, much like a car is meant to be driven or a pizza is meant to be eaten. For example, I may disagree with the message behind Alan Moore’s Watchmen, even to the point of being offended, but I still love that comic book. The artwork, the storytelling, the masterful subtlety draw me in so I can get to the message. That’s how it is effective. If you want to make a painting, a song, or a film that people are meant to revile, then it had better be accessible somehow. It had better have something for people to enjoy.

I remember now watching Bliss that some people enjoyed the fact that the whole town was like a presence, and I can dig that. But the whole point of the film was to give an overall feeling of apathy and hopelessness, coupled with characters you didn’t give a damn about. If you are a creator, and your goal is to get people to dislike your work, then I’d seriously consider calling the men in white coats. I’ve got a wake-up call for all these aspiring artists; nobody gives a fuck about your “vision” or your worldview. You’re making works for people to experience and identify with in some way. If you don’t give your audience something to latch onto (a sympathetic character, funny dialogue, an intriguing situation), people are going to throw your work into the Recycle Bin of their minds, and then press “Empty.”

THIRD IDEA: Tying it all together

Believe it or not, these two topics do have some common ground. Much in the same way I was grossly offended by the apathetic tone in Bliss, I think many readers were offended by the severity of Dawkins’ criticism in The God Delusion. Certainly to a modern American audience, where religion is way the norm and thought about as something you just have to go through, like school, reading this British biology professor talking about God as misogynistic, homophobic, petty, jealous, and other harsh words can feel like being splashed in the face with scalding water. That tone probably lost a few converts along the way, people who may have been sympathetic to his cause but didn’t want to join up with the anarchic, fight-the-power undertones of the book, much in the same way I was turned off from the filmmaker’s message in Bliss – if there even was a message – because I couldn’t see past the apathy.

Whether you are an artist, writer, filmmaker, or even an intellectual, you’ll never reach all the people all the time. By the sheer numbers, someone’s going to disagree with you for some reason. At this moment, the old mother’s adage comes back to me: “you can catch more flies with Honey than you do with Vinegar.” It’s true that if you want to convert people to your ideas, it’s better to be enticing and inviting than brash and arrogant (although I feel Prof. Dawkins was neither). The difference between someone not getting your work and someone giving you the intellectual “fuck you” is when you actually try to alienate your audience.

So to all the young writers and artists out there, have a voice and be unflinching about it, but do remember that someone else is eventually going to see your work and if you turn your nose up at them, they will do the same back to you.

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Purposefully Giving a Child a Defect, or “A Bioethical Quagmire”

Posted in Ranting and Raving by Chris W. on March 12, 2008

A few years ago, when I took “Ethics in Journalism,” I didn’t give a tin shit about ethics, which was weird considering I was getting college credit to give a tin shit about ethics. I thought ethics was morality, which varies from person to person, and the class generally became a discussion about personal morality, such as “Is it wrong to take a photograph of someone falling to his or her death?” To be honest, I still don’t understand professional ethics completely, which is why I think bioethicists are some of the smartest people on the planet. Penn Jillette once said in his radio show: “Imagine taking medical school. Imagine taking law school. Then imagine going to law school after finishing medical school, and you know how hard it is to be a bioethicist.” (I’m not quoting directly, but the idea is there.) Not only do these people know the intricacies of the human body, but they also know the intricacies of the law and where the two intersect. I, on the other hand, have none of these qualifications, and now I’m trying to tackle a question that has confounded some of the smartest people out there.

To start off, I will clarify that I don’t believe that life begins at conception and I am in favor of IVF babies, many of which screen out defects or diseases that would in all likelihood develop later in the child’s life. I don’t believe this will lead to super-soldiers or cellular discrimination like a lot of sci-fi fans would like to envision, but to the further evolution of our species. But now, let’s take it beyond a rational discussion and into Crazyville. I read on the Internet of a case where two parents who were legally deaf were trying to make a doctor give them a deaf child. In other words, these parents wanted to purposefully select a deaf child because they did not see deafness as a disability. The big question is: do the parents have the freedom to chose whatever type of baby they want? And if they don’t, can the government step in to intervene?

I found the story on the Times Online, and found that popular opinion was solidly against these would-be parents, thinking it heavily immoral and wrong that they are doing this. My sympathies go with them; It’s very hard to say you are in favor of engineering a deaf child just to pay lip-service to a philosophy, but I’d like to deconstruct this question from all the angles possible, so see if there really is a nugget of truth to be taken away from this moral and medical grey area. To start, is it right to do what these people are doing? For me, no. I could not in good conscience do that to what would eventually become my child. For my morality, I want my kids to be smarter than me, better looking than me, and with abilities and skills that far surpass my affection for moving pictures or mashing keys on a keyboard. To me, this is akin to a child being born in a religious or social sect that discourages communication with the outside world, preferring instead to keep their subjects locked up within their own boarders and taught their ideas simply for the survival of said ideas and customs. In this case, the child is a mental prisoner, unable to experience the beauty and the wonder of the outside world simply because they had the bad luck to be born into it. With the real world case we are talking about, this child is deaf simply because the parents decreed it would be, so that their lifestyle would survive. The couple claims other reasons as well, such as an easier life with the child and a greater sense of community, but I feel it’s the same thing.

This segues into my next point. If I decide it isn’t right (in a vague sense. I’ll get into deeper meanings of right and wrong later), then what can I do about it? The answer is: not much. As opposed to this as I am, I don’t want to be the one to raise a hand to these people. Like I said, were I that doctor, I would refuse to go on with the procedure and ask that these people find another doctor whose conscience would permit them to do what they want. All I can do is voice my dissenting opinion and exert what power I have. The absolute last thing I’d want to do is get the government involved, and for a few reasons. First, we’re still not talking about a REAL person here, yet. Second, I’d much rather see this issue get solved by people, because we are the source of our own morality*.

The best thing I can say about this case is that it is, pretty much, a rare occurrence. Most parents with the resources to have an IVF baby would use the opportunity to make the best child possible. I put a lot of faith in humanity and I feel that people and speech are required to sort this problem out, a clear-cut free market solution. To put this into perspective, let me flash back to an event that happened in 2004: When Janet Jackson had her breast bared on the Super Bowl, pretty much everyone was in agreement that bare breasts should not be a part of the Super Bowl. CBS apologized, MTV apologized, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake apologized, and CBS denounced MTV and their production of a Super Bowl show. This all happened without the involvement of the government or the FCC (a subject I’ll get to in my next blog post). In other words, the people decided what we wanted, made our voices heard, and we were listened to. In this case, I believe a similar solution is in place. If you feel what these parents are doing is wrong, then make your voice heard, as several people are doing in this case on both sides. If the doctors felt that this shouldn’t be done, then they shouldn’t do it. If enough doctors are unwilling to do the procedure, then it won’t happen. In this way, we provide our own standards to a situation, and it acts as a sort of natural checks and balances. This will keep IVF babies from becoming the subject of skepticism by conspiracy theorists who believe that IVF babies will lead to cellular eugenics or The Incredible Hulk.

If you want to know what I think, though, I think these parents are way out of line and should be using their money to get the best child possible. But, I can’t tell them how to spend their money. Again, I don’t know what’s right for everybody; I only know what’s right for me. Should this go through and a deaf embryo is selected, I can only hope that the child doesn’t end up resenting the parents and can find some way to be happy.

*I know people will disagree with me, but let me lay some things out. In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins cites Marc Hauser’s moral conundrums (which were posed to a number of religious, ethnic, and cultural groups) and Darwinian studies on the roots of morality to say that perhaps a sense of “right” and “wrong” evolved along with the species. (Chapter 7: The Roots of Morality) The Hauser study in particular suggests that, no matter where we come from or what our background is, we as humans tend to agree when it comes to moral points. Dawkins would later quote Immanuel Kant as stating a philosophy of “…a rational being should never be used as merely an unconsenting means to an end, even the end of benefiting others.” (Pg. 224) I believe that what’s causing this massive uproar of dissent against the couple is that this would-be child is being defined as a means to a political end.

P.S. I would also like to say that this entry was one of the hardest to write, since there’s so many questions to consider.

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