Archive for September, 2006

Would you cripple your child?

Would you choose to give a child a disability? The question seems preposterous, but as Slate pointed out, a recent academic paper reports that parents at three percent of U.S. fertility clinics did just that.

Are you planning on having a child? Worried about your family's history of cystic fibrosis, or hoping to protect the next generation from Tay-Sachs or spina bifuda? It is now possible to do genetic testing for a number of diseases well before birth. Genetic screening of embryos at fertility clinics is becoming popular – since the clinics create a number of embryos and only implant one, it is relatively easy to test and select the healthiest of the lot.

But as Slate bluntly points out, not all parents are looking to prevent their children from suffering a debilitating disease. Many parents simply want to balance their families, adding a girl if they already have boys. But in a more shocking twist, deaf parents are asking to have deaf children, and the blind may be purposefully giving birth to the blind.

My immediate reaction is that this just seems wrong. How is imposing a lifelong limitation on someone else, even your own child, before birth any different from imposing it afterward? Surely it's illegal and immoral for a deaf dad to jam an ice pick in his son's cochlea.

But the more I've thought about it, the more I wonder about why the parents are making these requests. Are they just really, really committed to the notion that there is a deaf culture? That doesn't seem likely.

I can think of two lines of thought that might lead down this path. One is that two deaf parents might worry that they would not be able to properly assist in the speech development of a hearing child. Many deaf people can speak well without being able to hear themselves, but it might be more difficult to teach a child. I don't have any case studies or evidence on this point, but it's a possibility.

For the second line of thought, I try to put myself in their shoes, at least through analogy. I always did well at math in school, but I'm no genius. There are otherwise normal human beings all over the world who are geniuses – people who have a deep, intuitive understanding of math, or music, or chess that I will never have. If tomorrow scientists isolated the math-genius gene, and a clinic offered me the chance to chose the math-genius positive embryo, would I? In this case, my wife and would be the “disabled� ones, lacking this sublime understanding of math-if we chose instead to have a “normal� child, would we be doing the same thing these deaf parents are?

It is not a perfect analogy (as my wife pointed out when I posed the question to her). For one thing, being a math genius is not the usual baseline case, and in that way it is similar to blindness or deafness. But is this majority rule enough to make a moral judgment?

I'm not going to go down the slippery slope of employing a “slippery slope� argument, but it is interesting to consider the gray areas – for example, some diseases shorten lifespan and induce so much suffering that nearly everyone will agree it is good that they can be avoided. But what about genes that only statistically increase the risk of a disease? Is it good to avoid a gene that increases breast cancer risk by 80%, but a bad idea to screen for a gene that represents a 7% increase in heart disease?

I'm usually a staunch supporter of the “crippling children is wrong� camp, but the more I think about this the more I wonder – where will we draw the lines, and how will we make these moral decisions, as the technology improves and becomes less expensive and more common place?

Jesus Beats Satan 7:1, Edged out By Liberal

Have you seen WordCount? It's a genius and insigtful project from the mind of, shall we say, Socialogical Computer Programmer Jonathan Harris who's work "involves the exploration and understanding of humans, on a global scale, through the artifacts they leave behind on the Web." Unlike the Googlesmack which pits words and phrases against eachother using the Google search engine (thus, words written by every goober on the Internets), WordCount is a graphical and interactive ranking of the 86,800 most common words in the English language as written by the more lucid world:
WordCount data currently comes from the British National Corpus®, a 100 million word collection of samples of written and spoken language from a wide range of sources, designed to represent an accurate cross-section of current English usage. WordCount includes all words that occur at least twice in the BNC®. In the future, WordCount will be modified to track word usage within any desired text, website, and eventually the entire Internet.
Words can say a lot about a culture - in this case, the English-speaking world. The word "Jesus" is ranked #1845, with "liberal" beating it out by 6 at #1839. "Satan" has gotten seriously behind thee at the 12864th spot. But He Who Is Known By Many Names sneaks up at #4802 as "devil" (right next to "femenist" hmm), and sneaks under the radar at 74281 as "Beezlebub" and #84987 as "Mephisto." "Evolutionism" totally smokes "creationism" at #37974 to #83461. "Intercourse" is still better than "masturbation" at #7533 to #22131. In an odd twist of events, "Palestinian" beats "Jew" #6460 to #12623. What are some good comparisons you can come up with?

What You Should Be Watching: House

House Tuesdays @ 8PM on FOX In a Nutshell: CSI meets Columbo, or Dr. Monk It's been a while since my last installment of "What You Should Be Watching" but that's because I've been doing some research. In the name of Blog Science I have endulged myself by watching the first 2 seasons of House - all 46 hours of it - within 8 days so I could give the most comprehensive review possible. By in large...this show sucks. Although I have never actually watched any medical-themed shows with regularity, I can pretty much tell that this show is cliched. Godlike doctors who can perform any surgery on any part of any body, wildly expensive tests and procedures given without the blink of an eye, a little sexual tension, climactic commercial breaks - it's all there. If you ever end up at Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital with an affliction that cannot be explained by the ER or your examining physician, note that two or more of the following WILL happen to you: 1. You will have an unexplained seizure 2. You will bleed from your rectum without knowing it 3. Your throat will close up and you will be intubated 4. You will have an MRI 5. You will have a rare and debilitating reaction to one or several tests - with the doctor in the room 6. You will lie to your doctor 7. You will either deeply move or deeply piss off the doctor 8. The doctors will break into your home to find the source of your affliction 9. You will be declared healed only to go into relapse on your way out the door 10. You will be cured All that being said...I still managed to be glued to the television for 46 hours watching this show, so something's got to be right with it. Besides my undying love for Sherlock Holmes and the House writers' attempts to link the two, there is a major reason to watch House. That reason is Hugh Laurie. The Prince RegentFor the past 10 years or so, I have known Hugh Laurie as this guy, and this guy. As this guy and this guy. Basically a lanky, clean-shaven, British doofus with an easy-going manner and a heart of gold. In fact, the British tv-watching public has known him like this for the past twenty years. Now, as Dr. Gregory House, Hugh Laurie plays a crippled, unshaven, American genius with a stick up his ass and a heart of meat. Not only is the character well-played but if you consider his 20 years of playing exactly NOT this guy...well, mad props to Hugh Laurie. Pulling off the American accent alone is quite a feat. Oh, and seeing him on the cover of TV Guide as one of TV's Sexiest Men, I had to take pause. For me, it's like watching your goofy, class-clown older brother grow up to be the genius, straight-laced CEO of a Fortune 500 company. It's like seeing Michael Richards (Seinfeld's Kramer) portraying Lincoln on a PBS documentary. It's unreal. If you get past the cliches, bad acting by some co-stars and some of the silly little love trysts, House is an ok show. It thrives on Laurie's acting abilities and some decent mystery writing. Not to mention some eye candy for both the boys and the girls. Since House's specialty is diagnostic medicine you get to learn some things about some outrageous afflictions and medical procedures (if you can pay attention long enough to understand them.) House is on hiatus until October 31 (after the baseball playoffs) but if you want to start watching season 3 at this point, I'd suggest picking up Season 1 and Season 2 at, through Netflix or your favorite torrent site. Unfortunately it seems that checking out one or two shows, while still entertaining, leaves an un-initiated viewer in the dark about some of the personal issues that go on in the hospital. But I guess this is what makes "good TV." More than just House, I HIGHLY recommend checking out these other Hugh Laurie titles. They're the watch-a-few-times sort of shows, and really give you a feel for what an amazing actor and comedian Hugh Laurie is: A Bit of Fry and Laurie - Comedy sketch show written and performed by Laurie and partner Stephen Fry Jeeves & Wooster - BBC production of the classic PG Wodehouse books staring Laurie as the British playboy Bertie Wooster and Stephen Fry as his "gentleman's gentleman" Jeeves. Blackadder - Absolutely classic BBC show staring Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) and Tony Robinson, featuring Hugh Laurie (and Stephen Fry!) in seasons 2-5.   Š

The Real D Wallz

I know a lot of you out there have been reading and enjoying my posts. Some of you do not enjoy them as much. A few think I am a racist, homophobe neoconservative. Well you wrong. I’ve decided to reveal the true D Wallz, which is a side most people don’t see often. I’ll point you to my website, Bet you’re pretty surprised at what you see. First off yes I am that handsome, I’m not vain about it, but I did get a lot of ass in my day. You’re probably asking yourself, Dave what made you start on your journey for enlightenment and made you want to teach others; well it’s easiest if I start at the beginning…

Back in the summer of ’97 I was a free wheelin’ son of a gun. I’d go to all night raves, take tons of ecstasy, kedamine, heroin, drain-o, pretty much whatever people would give me. I’d be up for days dancing to trance, jungle, techno, the noise my modem made while connecting to AOL, whatever. I’d also sleep with just about anything that came my way, women, men, animals, vegetables, minerals, gases, it didn’t matter I was so high I didn’t care what happened to me. But that all changed one fateful night out in the Nevada desert. I took a combination of pixie sticks, Windex, WD-40 and Dunkeroos. I started tripping like never before and wandered out alone into the desert.

I don’t know exactly how long I wandered, could have been days, but it felt like an eternity. Eventually I ran into my dear departed grandfather, Mortimer “Stovepipe� Waldman. He told me I needed to change my ways otherwise I would doom my immortal soul to be eternally trapped in the cycle of reincarnation, and my parents would cut off my trust fund. He said I needed to find my spirit animal and ask it for guidance. I thanked him for his advice and gave him some of my remaining Dunkeroos and began to wander again.

Eventually I came upon a Giraffe in the lone wilderness. I asked him, “Giraffe I come seeking enlightenment can you help me?� To which he replied, “No you want the Lemur, I’m just here on vacation with relatives.� I thanked him for his help and returned to my quest. Eventually I did find the Lemur and asked him how to find the path to enlightenment. He said, “The path you seek is not difficult to find, here read these books, listen to these tapes and watch these videos and all shall be known to you, also do you have anymore Dunkeroos?�

I did just that and spent the next several weeks engrossed in the materials he had given me. Truly they did change my life and set me on a path of enlightenment. And now the can all be yours! For a low, low price! Just visit my online store and get the wisdom you need now! Act now and I’ll throw in a special limited edition Lemur key chain. That’s right never has the path to enlightenment been so easy and affordable. Also check back for updates on my seminars where I tell you how to get rich by buying all your food over the internet. Peace be with you.

Smoking part 3. Sin City here I come.

So far we have talked about world population, smoking and death rate, how Greenland has no discernable population and how balconies are not meant for smoke breaks. So, moving on, today we will talk about the sin tax. The definition of sin tax, according to
A tax levied on products considered vices.
Wikipedia, on the other hand, says the following:
Sin tax is a euphemism for a tax specifically levied on certain generally socially-proscribed goods - usually alcohol and tobacco. Sin taxes are often enacted for special projects - American cities and counties have used them to pay for stadiums - when increasing income or property taxes would be politically unviable.
Either way, what we discover here is that there is a negative connotation to sin taxes. And there should be. Sin taxes can be applied to anything. Every state taxes things that "may potentially hurt people." Basically I have learned thought my intensive research for this article that sin taxes were created by the purtians to help control sin using fines and prohibitions. Sin taxes can tax just about anything: tabacco, alcohol, pop, food, gentlemen's clubs, entertainment such as movies and sports, and pornography. It's a travesty folks, I know. Either way, the whole point of applying a sin tax is to raise revenue quickly in a manner that people can't really complain about. I don't think that any politician is going to be reelected if his/her campaign statement is "I oppose a sin tax on pornography!" versus the politician who's statement is "Let's tax the hell out of pornography!" I think that the first politician will lose just because the people who would support him are too lazy to vote. It's a sad, sad world. Oh, and all of the uptight Americans who wear granny panties and can't mind their own business. If you don't like it, don't do it. Don't try to tell me what I can do. I am an American. I should have that choice! But, wait, we are off topic. So, anyway. About smoking. Yeah. And the sin taxes. What good can sin taxes do? In Oklahoma City the sex industry is being taxed and the proceeds are going to "support domestic violence and sexual abuse programs with a portion set aside to help self-employed Oklahomans buy health insurance" and that "the tax's proceeds to domestic violence and sexual abuse programs would actually result in a net decrease in state spending on such programs by 100-thousand dollars a year". So, where is this extra money each year going that they are saving? To the schools perhaps? Probably not. Anyway, it's not so easy to find out where this money is going. Most programs are set up to allocate the money back in to a program that would stop it from making money, such as the one we saw above in Oklahoma City. Others fund things that would make the public happy, very similar to bribing a small child, such as stadiums or other entertainment. For example, the new Browns Stadium in Cleveland, OH. See, in this way, even though a sin tax is never a welcome thing, especially to those who are being taxed, politicians try to sweeten the deal with a nice little reward. Honestly, I always thought that the money was being returned to the public school systems, but if it is, I have found no evidence. I wonder if people even realize what a sin tax is or why it is there. My assumption is: NO. Because the public is ignorant and they like it like that. Take a look at the following poll: Retardspeople are dumb Now, where was the choice for "let's not sin tax anything". And now they are bringing fast food into it. If America is being sin taxed on it's foundations, what is next? Sin taxing drinking water and taking a poo? But, I do want to help you understand about the website that is taking these polls. To sum it up, here is this week's poll: "Should the families of the children killed by accidental overdose accept Methodist Hospital's offer of restitution? Yes or No" So that's the kind of crap stand that they run. On your right, an idea to tax entertainment in general. Are you having a good time in your own home on that awesome wii you just bought? Not without a 10% tax hike you aren't. The good people of Reno, you should just lie. They are going to keep taxing you if you say it's okay. "Well, yeah, sure, I don't mind payin' an extra 10% to go and see naked mud wrasslin. As long as it's not for homos, that is." Silly, silly Renoians. Oh, and apparently the Scots have no idea of what a sin tax is or they wouldn't think the best idea is to tax necessities: ah, duh? Ah, hell, let's just let the government add a sin tax to everything we buy, maybe then we will get a pretty red fire truck and a new marina just like in Sim City! I am not saying that a government can run off of no tax money. I am just saying that labeling something a sin tax and charging twice as much for it is wrong. And that the public doesn't care enough to fight back for things that they enjoy; that is wrong. I mean, yeah, you get a pretty stadium or a nice program that trys to stop kids from doing drugs, but are you willing to continue to be taxed on all of your entertainment and, if you're Scottish, your food and essentials?