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Divide and Conquer: Dems vs. Republicans

January, 1973 marked the big divide, with Roe v. Wade forever separating those of us who believe in the inalienable human right not to be killed from those who separate our species into two big classes: the ones who are human-enough and the ones that aren’t.

That was the ugly beginning of even further class divisions, with some groups of people given power to claim more “rights” than other groups. The concept of individual inalienable rights endowed by Nature of being human dissolved in the class warfare that resulted.

Don’t forget the 60’s, when the Dems opposed Civil Rights legislation while spending – redistributing- every penny of Social Security and Medicare taxes to engineer a society based on the power of the greatest number.

For me, though, the Dems proved themselves liars and undependable in 1968, when I was 12. Watching the national political Parties and the Presidential Primaries, I saw not only the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. My natural inclination would have been sympathy toward the Party that claimed them.

However, I also became aware that it was the Dems who were rioting, calling policemen “pigs,” and soldiers “baby killers,” supporting the Black Panther and Weathermen, and telling us to “never trust anyone over 30,” to justify their violence.

I knew policemen and soldiers – and lots if people who were over 30 and deserving of my trust – so I knew these were false accusations. Even then, I could tell that they were dehumanizing entire groups, refining the old myth that some humans aren’t human-enough to possess inalienable rights in order to gain power.

Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”

Okay, hunker down in the bunkers, y’all.

Atlas ShruggedThere is truth to be found in the multi-page soliloquies in Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand’s opus that has won over readers in generation after generation. John Galt’s philosophy appeals to individualists and is rooted in classic liberalism that we now call libertarian or conservative.

But where Rand excelled was as an excellent observer of statism and socialism, as well as faithfully reporting the justification made by the proponents of each. Since reading Atlas Shrugged in the mid-1990’s, I’ve heard and read adults make the very claims that some of Rand’s characters make about the duty of producers and employers and the “rights” of the people who want benefits without obligations and who are willing to use the  power of guilt, class warfare and greed to control both.

However, Rand’s objectivist libertarian philosophy goes too far. She was anti-religious, anti-altruistpro-abortion and left her husband in order to live with a much younger man who was also married. In fact, her portrayals of relationships between men and women too often resemble warped rape and dominance games. Her earlier book, The Fountainhead, includes a controversial scene that Rand is said to have described as, “If it was rape, it was rape with an engraved invitation.  Fifty Shades of Gray from the ’50’s?) The fact that John Galt would hide away with fellow rich, intelligent and successful elites in a remote enclave and allow the rest of society to self-destruct is selfish and impractical.  (Rand herself certainly didn’t attempt to “go Galt.”)

If you want to understand today’s political debate, I believe you must read  Atlas Shrugged. The beginning is online, here.

Pro-abort McClendon Amendment Redefines “Child”

McClendan Amendment July1 2013 to HB2

. . .as someone whose mother chose not to abort him!

Democrat Ruth McClendon, from District 120 of San Antonio, proposed an Amendment to HB 2 today that she thinks is necessary, “if we’re not going to allow women to control their own bodies.” The Amendment would re-define “child” as one,

B. whose mother declares in writing in accordance with rules adopted by the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission, that, because of Section 245.010 (a), Health and Safety Code, or Subchapters C and D, Chapter 171, Health and Safety Code, the mother chose not to or did not have access to a facility to exercise her right to an abortion at the time the child was born.

Isn’t it obvious that the mother of each and every born child chose not to abort them? Whether or not there’s a “constitutional right?”

And, please, “at the time the child was born?” Does that mean the mother chose not to abort at birth or that she made the declaration at the time of birth?

Representative Kenneth Sheets, Republican from the Dallas-area District 107, explained that his family is going through adoption and that he knows that the same benefits are available to his family and to everyone.

 

Planned Parenthood, big abortion and the battle to save lives in Texas | Fox News

[R]emind me again why pro-abortion activists want healthy five-month pregnant women to abort their healthy child in dirty, unsafe abortion clinics?

via Planned Parenthood, big abortion and the battle to save lives in Texas | Fox News.

Secular reasons to be pro-life

There are plenty of secular reasons to oppose elective abortion.

One of the main charges (read the comments on just about any blog, news story that even touches the subject) against pro-life advocates is that we are trying to force our religious views on everyone else. We’re accused of attempting to create a theocracy and compared to – or called – the “Taliban.”

First, for those of us who are human-centric, it is a fact that on this planet, humans are the only species having this conversation, which makes us special.

For atheists and agnostics who believe that this is our only life, doesn’t that give weight to the right not to be killed?

Finally, and most importantly, there’s the ethical viewpoint put forward by the Declaration of Independence. (Ignoring the “Creator,” and “created,” of course.) The Declaration clearly states that rights are endowed on the individual rather than bestowed by the government. that might does not make right. The proper function of government and society is to protect our inalienable rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Where might makes right to the point that the whoever has the biggest gun or can win the most votes, no one is truly safe.

Even if “We the People” decide who is human enough and who is not human enough to have the right not to be killed, there is no liberty and no pursuit of happiness.

Please let me know if you have other secular pro-life arguments.

Cloned human embryos announced

Cell SCNT diagramTachibana May June2013If we can still believe scientific journals, Cell reports in the June 6, 2013 issue indicate that  scientists have succeeded in cloning human embryos.

The term used for cloning by the group is “reprogramming” fibroblasts using somatic cell nuclear transplantation. However, there’s no longer an attempt by the authors or members of the scientific press to create a new “unfertilized blastocyst” or pre-embryo: the embryos are called embryos, morula, and blastocysts.In recognition that these are not quite the same as embryonic stem cells derived from embryos produced by direct fertilization, the stem cells derived from the cloned blastocysts are designated as “Nuclear Transfer Embryonic Stem Cells” or NT-ESC.

Tachibana’s group obtained well over a 100 oocytes from women who underwent ovarian stimulation and transvaginal retrieval.

The growth of four embryos to the blastocyst stage resulted in NT-ESC, after differentiation into a blastocyst with a trophoblast (precursor of the placenta) and the inner cell mass (the part that will develops into the actual body of the human). These embryos were destroyed to harvest the ICM.

The report details years of research to find the optimum technique for cloning human embryos. It was found that the mitotic stage of the oocytes, MII, is critical. The researchers further developed a protocol utilizing caffeine and electrical stimulation to induce activation of the fused nucleus from the skin cell and donor oocyte. In addition, the authors found that “higher quality oocytes,” those more likely to form viable embryos, resulted when the ovarian stimulation yielded fewer than ten oocytes. If larger numbers of oocytes were produced due to the ovarian stimulation, somatic cell nuclear transfer was less likely. In fact, the first four clones that developed far enough to produce NT-ESC came from one woman who donated eight oocytes in one cycle, resulting in the production of five cloned embryos.

There are several ethical problems which surround this research.

First, as strongly noted by the Center for Bioethics and Culture, the ovarian stimulation risks abuse of women who might be placed at risk due to the hormones administered to induce ovulation. As noted in the paper,

“In the context of generating patient-specific pluripotent stem cells, reproducible results with various patient-derived somatic cells and with different egg donors are a necessity.”

Although the donation is called voluntary and anonymous, the women were compensated for their “time, effort, discomfort, and inconvenience associated with the donation process.”    I can’t help but wonder about how long the anonymity will last for the one woman whose oocytes yielded those first four successful clones and NT-ESCs or for the two women whose oocytes yielded the clones confirming the reproducibility of their method, in the second stage of the research. Or how much pressure they will face to continue to donate “voluntarily.”

The lack of concern for the women involved is revealed in this interview with the authors at The Scientist,

““I was worried that we might need a couple of thousand eggs to make all these optimizations, to find that winning combination. But it actually took just 128 [eggs], which is a surprisingly low number to make 6 [hESC] lines.””

6 NT-ESC lines were derived from 128 harvested oocytes, for a yield of 4.6% In later stages, the success rate was still 2 NT-ESC lines from 7 embryos and 15 oocytes, or 13% of oocytes.

The primary objection is that 100% of the human embryos were created in harm’s way and must be destroyed to harvest the NT-ESCs.

These embryos are delayed human twins, artificially induced. Although the first cell of these embryos began in the lab, as the result of highly technical and involved procedures, they are human embryos and near-identical twins of the somatic cell nucleus.   There is indirect acknowledgement that the embryos are twins of the donor of the fibroblasts by the reporting that tests of the chromosomes of the cloned embryos show that the DNA matches that of the donor of the fibroblasts, a patient with Leigh’s syndrome.

The sources of fibroblast nuclei raise other ethical dilemmas. The first research was carried out using female fetal fibroblasts. Later research involved creating human embryos with Leigh’s syndrome.  Leigh’s syndrome results from a genetic defect of the mitochondria, the cell “power plant,” which is inherited from the mother and only found in the cell cytoplasm, not the nucleus. Reports are already ignoring the fact that the donor’s twins were produced with the express intention of destroying them for their inner cell mass. At least one is predicting that this is a technique which can be used to create future children for mothers who have the abnormal mitochondria.

The report, Tachibana et al., “Human Embryonic Stem Cells Derived by Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer,” Cell (2013),http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2013.05.006, is available on-line and in PDF (as of today).

You decide: Physician-Assisted Suicide — NEJM

You can comment, let the New England Journal of Medicine editors and the world know your thoughts.

Do you believe that Mr. Wallace should be able to receive life-terminating drugs from his physician? Which one of the following approaches to the broader issue do you find appropriate? Base your choice on the published literature, your own experience, and other sources of information.

To aid in your decision making, each of these approaches is defended in the following short essays by experts in the field. Given your knowledge of the patient and the points made by the experts, which option would you choose? Make your choice and offer your comments at NEJM.org.

via Physician-Assisted Suicide — NEJM.

My opinion is that poisoning Mr. Wallace, or writing the prescription so that he can attempt to intentionally commit suicide, is a direct infringement of Mr. Wallace’s inalienable right not to be killed.

Liberty Movement 101 (or Re-love-ution 10.1)

Check out the ongoing comments on my post at TexasGOPVote.org, if you’ve wondered about the philosophy of the Ron Paul supporters who are trying to win control of the Republican Party. They reaffirm my conclusion after years of flirting with (capital L)ibertarian philosophy: the Libertarian Party is not compatible with conservatism. Conservatism advocates small government, with a few rules, while utilitarianism, and especially objectivism, celebrate license rather than liberty and all too often de-volve into nihilism.

I can sympathize with the proponents of Libertarianism, having spent years participating on the Libertarians for Life list-serve in the ’90’s and early 2000’s. I even tried out to justify “Christian Libertarianism,” which I’ve concluded is an oxymoron. (Check out the blog, Vox Popoli, which, unlike most Libertarian groups, supports traditional marriage.)

The comments at TexasGOPVote.org by one man on marriage were probably the most enlightening:

If two men or women want to get into a contract we see as morally wrong, who are you or me to tell them no?? They don’t have to accept our definition of marriage, and we don’t have to accept their definition of marriage, but neither one of us have the right to use government force to make the other accept our values. That would be Statism. Additionally, faith is a gift, and not all are blessed with it. You, nor I have the right to claim we know that which is unknowable. We can speculate, and we can have faith, but we cannot judge others who may have different beliefs.

These aren’t the first time we’ve heard/read/countered these arguments. Remember the calls for “open marriage” and “do your own thing” in the ’60’s? Demands for restructuring marriage and the family are pervasive in virtually every historic “revolution” EXCEPT the American Revolution, which was based on Judeo-Christian principles:  from the enclave that gave us the Enlightenment, to the French Revolution, to the Soviet Revolution and the various social experiments of the 20th Century.

A little philosophy, a lot of optimism

I sometimes forget that libertarianism is one step away from  anarchy, and that anarchy is  one step away from nihilism. But a nice little online chat with objectivist (Ron Paul supporter) will remind me almost every time. On the same page blaming “Zionists” and a couple of posts past reminding me that Ayn Rand should be my conscience, I am told that we are due for an “upheaval” resulting in war or a dictator, and that America is a failed state.

America is not a failed state. We are a Nation of individuals with infinite possibilities. I do believe that necessity is the mother of invention and that a free United States will continually prove that.

The nihilist asks what good is there in defeating an enemy? It’s a whole lot better than losing and history shows that if you don’t win, you risk losing both the war and your soul.  We saw Chamberlain give up Czechoslovakia for “peace in our time” and Vichy France betray not only the French, but the Jews.  And then, we saw Churchill resolve never, never, never to give in and even Truman and his decision to end the war with Japan by dropping nuclear bombs.  I’ll stand with the latter two men.

I’ve posted a couple of blog pieces wondering whether we are at the “de Tocqueville moment,” that point in a democratic state when the majority takes from the minority that de Tocqueville warned us about.  I don’t believe we are. What it comes down to is that this time, the individuals who understand history and inalienable rights are outside the gates, fighting to get in, rather than the barbarians.

Here’s a fitting quote from Sir Winston: ““Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.””

Edited for spelling, added categories, 3/28/12 BBN

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