VIEWS ON THE NEWS
By Sean Prophet
ANTI-CLONING FUROR OFF THE MARK
Recent American polls show between 70% and 90% support for banning all types of human cloning, depending on how you ask the question. It's obvious to me that the public has seen one too many sci-fi films of clones run amok, and is not really cognizant of the science fact involved. There are already millions of human clones running around the world today, and they are no different from the rest of the human race: they are identical twins. Any type of laboratory cloning would produce individuals far less similar than natures' own method. This is because identical twins are the same age and are usually raised in the same environment. Most reproductive cloning would result in babies born far later than their genetic parents. Just ask conventional parents if they've been successful in passing their values to their normally produced children. The fact is, we will never be able to create carbon copies of ourselves. Clones would be equally individualistic as children born the "old-fashioned" way.
One issue that has been raised is the unauthorized cloning of celebrities or others. Of course people own their DNA, and a legal framework for its protection must be established. We know from past experience that if something can be done, it will be done. But what parent would condemn their child to a life of being a celebrity look-alike? In any case, we must give thought to how to prevent such unethical practices.
But in terms of the process itself, we are seeing the same type of hysteria that accompanied the birth of the first "test-tube baby" Louise Brown in the seventies. Today, In-Vitro Fertilization is a time-tested way for otherwise sterile couples to reproduce. Are there medical risks involved in human cloning? Of course, as with any new technology. But technology has a way of being refined over time. A recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal called for a temporary moratorium on cloning while the science is worked out. This makes sense as a precautionary measure. But an outright ban is not only foolish, it would be a complete capitulation to fears that originate with film fantasies and pulpit-pounders. Perhaps ten years hence, people will be receiving life-saving cloned organ transplants and having their Alzheimers and Parkinsons disease cured by cloned tissues. They will thank us for having faced our fears and let the scientists work.
CONDIT LATEST TO FAIL MORALITY TEST
Rep. Gary Condit is the latest in a long line of politicians who have failed to own up to their lustful desires. His waffling is deeply distasteful and has made him the laughingstock of the nation. Now other women are coming out of the woodwork. Did he kill Chandra Levy? We'll probably never know, just like we'll never know if Senator Ted Kennedy had anything to do with the death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick. But the most irksome factor is that, like President Clinton and Rev. Jesse Jackson before him, Condit has been unable to speak the simple truth (either to his wife or the public): "Yes, I had an affair with her, I liked it, and I'd do it again if I thought I could get away with it." None of these people were sorry for their affairs. They were sorry they were caught and sorry for the consequences, but if they were truly sorry, would they have had the liaisons in the first place? In Jackon's case, he fathered a child with his mistress, whom he loves and supports. He should be honored for standing by his daughter. But instead he had to apologize and face public shame.
Why is it so hard for Americans to accept that married people, including those in power, sometimes need outside sexual attention? With estimates of infidelity running around 50% and a 50% divorce rate, why do we go through this ritual of shock and horror every time a married politician is caught doing what the rest of us do? And why do we force our politicians to lie about it? Wouldn't it be easier and more painless for us as a society to accept that powerful people are likely to have concubines? It's human nature and there are thousands of years of historical precedent, for both males and females. If we expect our leaders to conform to puritanical and narrow definitions of perfection, they are guaranteed to disappoint us. We will ultimately end up with no respect for them. How many politicians today have successfully concealed their affairs, and fooled us into thinking they are shining examples of virtue? It was better in the John F. Kennedy era, when dalliances were expected and not questioned. I have real respect for politicians such as former French President Francois Mitterrand, who made no apologies about how he lived, and whose funeral was attended not only by his wife, but also his mistress.
YUCCA MOUNTAIN CLOSER TO BECOMING NUCLEAR WASTE SITE
It's a little known fact that America's nuclear plants have nowhere to put their spent fuel. So it's been piling up in boron-filled waste fuel pools at the plants themselves for as long as 40 years. These spent fuel rods represent a terrible danger, were a plant to ever explode or be attacked by terrorists. They also have to be carefully monitored to ensure they never reach criticality (the point of a runaway reaction). They vastly increase, by 50 to 100 times, the amount of radioactivity that could potentially be released into the environment. Development of a suitable national waste site has been hampered by legal red tape and environmental concerns since the Carter presidency. But the paradox is that instead of burying it in the desert, in stable geological formations, the poisonous fuel continues to be stored above ground near population centers. Talk about an environmental strategy that's backfired! We can't figure out what to do, environmentalists fight every move the govenment makes, so we just leave the stuff near the most populated areas of the country where it could do the most harm! The Energy Department has finally released a preliminary report approving the Yucca Mountain site in the Nevada desert. It must now pass Congress. Let's hope the politicians get their act together and remove these poisons from our cities before a mishap makes us wish we had.
ABC News Story.
NORWEGIAN CROWN PRINCE MARRIES "PARTY GIRL"
Norway has been rocked by the scandal of their Crown Prince Haakon marrying a woman with a 4-year old son. Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby is also accused of having been involved with Oslo's sexy "house party" circuit and associating with drug dealers. Under the searing heat of publicity, the woman has been forced to disavow her past and talk about an entire period of her life as a "rebellion." She is now having to grudgingly assume the task of being a "role model." For appearances sake, she will now condemn something she obviously enjoyed while it was happening. Fortunately, about two thirds of the Norwegian public are rallying to her side. It's just sad that the holders of grudges and voices of so-called "morality" are loud enough that she has had to make a politically expedient denial. Truth is, Norway's princess-to-be was successful in charming her prince because of who she was, which included her beauty, wild nature, and wild past. ABC News Story
CELL PHONE BANS WON'T STOP DISTRACTED DRIVING
Let's ban kids and maps and sandwiches and conversations and car radios and thermoses and CD players and beautiful women walking down the street and makeup and bumper stickers and every other possible thing that causes distracted driving. Or maybe we should just ban the jealous maddening killjoy control freaks who think they should tell us how to live. For every new technology, they have a law. I think some people can't stand the idea of anyone else enjoying themselves or being more efficient. Ban cell-phones in restaurants? You've got to ban all table conversation then. As far as the rude yelling loud phone-ringing crowd who've precipitated the backlash, you get what you deserve and ruin it for the rest of us. Get a clue: vibrate, speak softly, and use voice mail when appropriate. Otherwise, can't we all just get along?
So long, Jesse, we won't miss ya'! It's hard to imagine a more narrow-minded obstructionist and isolationist than Jesse Helms. Even harder to imagine that he was repeatedly elected since 1973. Full story at salon.com.
PORTUGAL DECRIMINALIZES ALL DRUGS
There is a growing trend in the European Union to treat drug use as a public health issue rather than a criminal one. From July 1, 2001, drug users in Portugal with less than a 10-day supply now face administrative fines and confiscation, but no jail time. The Portugese do not discriminate between cannabis and other drugs. They are treated as equal offenses. This is in sharp contrast to U.S. and U.N. "zero tolerance" policies and harsh prison terms. Predictably, various officals responsible for the failed "drug war" are 'deeply disturbed' by this trend. As of this writing, only four EU nations - Finland, France, Greece and Sweden - maintain criminal penalties for marijuana consumption. And it's pretty clear that the rest of Europe is NOT going to hell in a drug-filled handbasket any time soon.
Full Story NORML
FLOWER CHILD NOT THRILLED WITH UPBRINGING
Everyone has a different idea of freedom. For Sarah Beach, there was a dark side to her parents permissive attitudes. Growing up in the sixties and seventies, Beach, 35, was exposed to everything from her parents orgies at home to her father's late-blooming homosexuality. She partook of a free and open sexual lifestyle from an early age and lost count after 150 partners. Having been given a joint for her seventh birthday by her parents, she became a real example of "too much, too soon." Longing for limits and boundaries, she has finally found herself at 35, where she takes comfort in a monogamous relationship and a strong ambivalence about her past. What struck me about this story is that people with extreme upbringings of any sort--be they religious, or hippie, or alcoholic--all long for balance. People who had conservative religious upbringings would probably have killed for a little of Beach's parents' permissiveness, while Beach herself no doubt wishes she'd had a little more middle-class humdrum. Extremism of any kind is always wrong, and with respect to parenting is guaranteed to turn children against you and have the exact opposite result as intended.
Full story at salon.com.
NOVEMBER COALITION TALLIES HUMAN COSTS OF DRUG WAR
Think you understand the true consequences of the Drug War? Not until you read some of the stories of lives and families destroyed by draconian sentencing guidelines and arcane legalities. Imagine any family where the father or mother is suddenly removed and incarcerated, for 10 or 25 years to life. It is worse than a death in the family, because they are not dead. But they might as well be in the eyes of our "enlightened" leadership. READ THE STORIES!! Marriages do NOT survive 10-25 year separations. Children grow up estranged from their parents. Most of these peoples "crimes" consisted of weakness, greed, and poor planning. Often they were victims of sting operations or were simply "associated" and convicted of "conspiracy" where no actual drugs were found. Many of them faced severe obstacles in their lives, while still others were pillars of their communities.
Do we really want to cut a swath through middle America and incarcerate fellow citizens to this degree? Are we truly aware of the damage our tax dollars are doing? 2000 was an all-time record year for the percentage of the American population in the prison system. The exact number either behind bars, on parole, or on probation was 6.47 million, or one in 32 American adults. Many of these are non-violent drug offenders. What is the true cost to society of robbing decades from the lives of people who in reality need our help and compassion? Where is the mercy and a second chance? This despicable carnage of incarceration of non-violent offenders in America is at least as horrendous as any of the consequences of addiction and drug abuse that spawned it.