Historic Storm Nemo And The Feminization Of America. Crucial Photographic Updates

Nature’s loveliness
Post’s original title: Feminization continues apace: Wall Street Journal edition

The old joke has been modified: A sweater is a garment a citizen puts on when the government gets cold. Used to be child-mother. It still is, only the State has become our mother. And it has done so at our request.

The snowstorm Nemo—that it was given a name is another symptom of our decadence—dropped gently eight full inches of snow on New York City. This is not a lot. It was and is a weekly event in the near infrastructureless town in which I spent my formative years (tiny Gaylord, Michigan). Blasting through a foot of the freshly fallen stuff in a four-on-the-floor Chevy Chevette was not thought remarkable.

It was once not noteworthy in the larger town I moved to, either. As few as ten years ago, a snowfall this size would occasion nothing more than a radio announcement, “Alternate side parking suspended tomorrow.” Now we have salaried, pensioned, probably sober government officials running to the microphone before inclement weather telling us to “dress in layers.” Put on a sweater, I’m cold. Nanny-in-Chief Mike Bloomberg solemnly warned, “Do not go out. You might slip and fall in traffic.” I wish I were kidding.

Yesterday’s routine, predictable, even pretty normal winter event caused the Wall Street Journal to trumpet this headline:

Blizzard Resurrects Sandy Anxiety

Gas Lines Lengthen, Residents Stock Up as Storm Disrupts Roads, Rail, Flights

Were they talking about the handful of folks still living without heat down by the ocean, who understandably would not appreciate a layer of insulative snow on their roofs? No, sir, they were not. They were discussing New York residents in general, some of whom became anxious and rubbed their hands together fretfully. And why shouldn’t they? The storm had been trumpeted for forty-eight hours as “possibly deadly”, “historic”, “powerful”, “Get out and shop now before it’s too late!” People did:

Moe Akar, a co-owner of an Exxon station in Bloomfield, N.J., said he had run out of all grades of gas by noon Friday and experienced about double the pump volume as normal.

“People got scared,” he said.

On top of all this, flights were canceled. Trains, too. People, in no danger of losing their lives, had to wait. Why doesn’t the government do something? The phones of therapists began to ring.

But no calls came from the Starr household. They sat out the storm, hunkered in their “weekly family meeting.” What was on the agenda? “[E]veryday family issues.” Before these sedative conclaves, Mrs (if we’re still allowed that honorific) Starr said, “We were living in complete chaos.”

Like many parents, the Starrs were trapped between the smooth-running household they aspired to have and the exhausting, earsplitting one they actually lived in. “I was trying the whole ‘love them and everything will work out’ philosophy,” she said, “but it wasn’t working. ‘For the love of God,’ I finally said, ‘I can’t take this any more.'”

As dad Bruth said, “Having weekly family meetings increased communication, improved productivity, lowered stress and made everyone much happier to be part of the family team.” Perhaps confused by these strange words, the WSJ reporter wrote, “The past few years have seen a rapid erosion of the wall that once divided work and family…A new generation of parents is now taking solutions from the workplace and transferring them home.”

Family meetings used to be called “dinner.” Things change. My dad’s idea of increasing productivity was to hand me a sledge and wedge and tell me to split more wood. No wood, no heat. There wasn’t then a government program to deliver logs. There probably is now. And there’s probably another to regulate the process or yet one more to fine you for generating “flue pollutants.”

The last full-page headline of today’s paper (each of today’s headlines topped a different section) was a lament by a female named Rachel Dodes and her “nerve-racking, soul-searching, exhilarating process of Shopping for a Handbag.” Poor thing, for months she has “been carrying a decidedly unglamorous bag to work.” “Nobody,” she said, “likes it.”

We learn Rachael has spent “countless hours looking at images of bags online”, none of which were acceptable. Which explains why she then began “wallowing in a shame spiral for spending so much time thinking about something as inconsequential as a sack in which to stuff my sorries.”

Luckily our heroine learned she wasn’t alone and that other females felt as she did. We hear from many of these ladies. We commiserate with their woes. There may have been tears.

They were from me.

Some of the hundreds forced from their homes by Nemo
Some of the hundreds forced from their homes by Nemo
One of the storm's many victims
One of the storm’s many victims

Selective Abortion To Create Master Race: Progressive Academic Pushes For Moral Enhancement

Evil often smiles
Today’s discovery is yet another academic with the map to Utopia glistening in his mind’s eye. David DeGrazia of George Washington University, author of the peer-reviewed paper “Moral enhancement, freedom, and what we (should) value in moral behaviour” in the Journal of Medical Ethics, is certain sure perfection can be reached if we could cull the immoral from the herd.

Why? “[B]ecause there is such an abundance of immoral behaviour” and “because the status quo of moral behaviour is deeply problematic and traditional means of moral enhancement may prove inadequate to achieve needed improvements”. Prominent immorality examples are slavery and prostitution, but also grievous “harms and injustices” such as “lack of access to safe water” and the USA’s failing to donate more than “1% of its Gross Domestic Product to foreign assistance”. Perhaps applying the exciting new techniques of moral enhancement can treble this amount?

DeGrazia, coiner of the phrase “post-person”, often erupts into enthusiasm and speaks in italics: “Behavioural improvement is highly desirable in the interest of making the world a better place and securing better lives for human beings and other sentient beings.”

What is an “enhancement”?

Enhancements are understood as interventions designed to improve human form or function without responding to genuine medical need…

I will here define ‘enhancement’ as any deliberate intervention that aims to improve an existing capacity, select for a desired capacity, or create a new capacity in a human being. This covers…music lessons and…embryo selection.

He’s most keen on “moral bioenhancements”, “such as our capacities for sympathy and fairness.” He doesn’t merely tout “explicit instruction and consciousness-raising groups”, he’s angling for “non-traditional means of moral enhancement” such as drugs, surgery, and eugenics.

Exemplars of medical augmentation: “Glucose as a means of increasing resistance to temptation to do something wrong”, SSRIs for everything, “Propranolol as a means of decreasing unconscious racial bias”, zapping brains to reduce aggression (frying synapses calms).

Then eugenics:

  • Selection of embryos that contain a gene coding for a greater disposition to altruism
  • Genetic interventions to gametes, embryos or postnatal human beings as a means to the same end
  • Embryo selection or genetic engineering as a means of avoiding or neutralising genes associated with antisocial personality disorder
  • Either of these means as a way of securing a stronger predisposition to fairness
  • An artificial chromosome that includes multiple genes coding for stronger predispositions to a variety of moral virtues

Fiddling with genes via selective abortion might work— it’s the same method farmers use to control stock—if we could unambiguously define moral behavior. Here DeGrazia concedes views differ. Some say morality means “strong partiality towards members of one’s own community” and freedom of religion. Others push for an “acceptance of a government” to meet unmet needs and for a “rejection of traditions and mores that seem regressive”. So do we abort kids who’d have a propensity to watch Fox News and allow only NPR listeners?

Who’ll be in charge of the killing of the substandard, parents or the State? Our tenured professor says, “it might make sense to permit parents to adopt more debatable visions of morality—among reasonable alternatives”. Parents would be given a menu of permissible traits—blue eyes or brown, say—but deviations would not be countenanced.

The hit list includes those whose genetics point towards “moral cynicism”, such as tax cheats, those not wanting to contribute “one’s fair share”, those with “defective empathy”, and those who suffer “a failure of insight or motivation”. Malcontents such as those unwilling “to find common ground” or with “Weak will[s] or susceptibility to temptation”, and the morons with an “Inability to find creative solutions to difficult problems involving competing interests and values” or an “Inability to grasp subtle, complicated details” also get flushed down the toilet.

Enough. The key fallacy in DeGrazia’s perfervid argument is that genes are responsible for all behavior. That some genes influence some behavior is true; that genes provide a crude blueprint for us, the platform where behaviors are created, is also true. But it is false that genes control all growth and development. If genes were responsible for all behavior then all identical twins would act identically. Identical twins raised apart are often found to be particularly different. Therefore any scheme which kills those with “substandard” genes must fail because of that and because it is impossible to unambiguously measure which genes control which behavior. Does anyone this side of sanity believe there is a gene or genes which causes an “Inability to find creative solutions to difficult problems involving competing interests and values”? Or that can predict tax cheats? But hey, if we expunge the gene for Y chromosomes we could almost eliminate violence!

It’s not unlikely that high self-esteem “experts” will believe they have found the gene(s) to control unwanted behavior, though. What a curious world it will be when they are given the power to implement their schemes.


HT to Wesley J. Smith where I first learned about DeGrazia’s derangements.

Announcement David Theroux of the Independent Institute tells us “Philosopher Alvin Plantinga Receives Prestigious Rescher Prize.”

Sex Selection And In Vitro Fertilization

We made it through the gauntlet!
I’m always on the lookout for remunerative ways to spend my time. There yesterday on the American Statistical Association jobs site was a situation for a Medical Statistician, which is me all over. Close to home, too; only two blocks away.

My enthusiasm abated after learning that the Center For Human Reproduction is running trials on diminished ovarian reserves, frozen donor egg programs, which might be okay, but also “economical” in vitro fertilization and “gender selection” which aren’t.

IVF is dicey because only about one out of every thirty embryos make it—this is after the sperm meets the egg, folks, and therefore embryos are tiny human beings—, the other twenty-nine are “sacrificed” or die en route to the womb. I’m too squeamish to contribute to studying how to make dead people, even small ones.

The “sacrificing”, i.e. the killing, is often done for reasons of eugenics. Such as in “medical” and “elective” gender selection. The CHR uses “preimplantation genetic diagnosis”, a scientific sounding term:

On the third day after fertilization, when embryos have reached 6- to 8-cells, one of the cells is removed from the embryo, to be analyzed for its chromosomal makeup. (The removal of the cell at this stage does not negatively affect the embryo’s growth competency.) This chromosomal analysis allows us to determine whether the embryo is male or female. Then, only the embryos of the desired gender are transferred to the uterus.

In plain English it means they check whether the embryo is a girl and then kill her if she is. Or kill him if it’s a boy, if that is the parents’ preference. It’s a “war on (pre) women” in most places, though: I suppose it would be interesting to do the statistics of sex-preference of upper class Manhattanites (with an eye for ever-present racial “disparities”).

I also wonder how true that parenthetical statement is. Cutting out one-eighth to one-sixth of a person sounds rather dramatic. I’d bet they didn’t carry out a definitive experiment such as expunging cells from one group of embryos and leaving another group intact and then watching what happens. You’d have to watch for a lifetime to be sure of no deleterious effects, such as increased cancer rates.

They don’t just kill embryos because of their sex. They also whack them if they suspect “sex-linked diseases.” These

are inherited via the mother but only male offspring are affected (muscular dystrophy, hemophilia, etc.). In other cases, conditions are more severely expressed in one gender (Fragile X syndrome, autism in males, etc.) than the other.

Understand: they are not testing whether the embryo is (say) autistic, and then washing it down the sewers if it is, though there’s nothing redeeming in that practice—plus, there is no reliable way to tell—they are killing the male embryo because it’s more often boys than girls who develop autism.

That means the “disease of the week” (whatever is featured on TV talk shows) can lead nervous parents to request babies of the sex least effected. If you think not, then you weren’t paying attention to the recent vaccination-and-autism panic, which is only now waning. It’s also curious that all the maladies listed are those typically found in boys. So maybe in Manhattan, unlike the rest of the world, it’s a “war on men”.

Anyway, sex selection isn’t illegal here (they advise “patients” in countries where the practice is illegal to pay them a visit). But there are murmurings and skittishness among politicians and the public; the practice makes most uneasy. Laws might be passed. Much of the verbiage of the CHF page therefore is preemptive; they give medical- and scientific-sounding justifications to salve consciences and stave off lawmakers. Consider:

Medical reasons for gender selection can, however, also be psychological: a single female may feel better equipped having a daughter than a son; parents who lost a child may feel a strong need for a child of the same gender…

The most frequent indication for such gender selection is “family balancing,” when one gender is already represented in the family unit and the other gender is desired.

“Indication” has a nice medical ring to it. And if you can’t get the public to swallow the “might be” justification (might be autistic, might be a hemophiliac, etc.), then you can always find a shrink to claim mental distress. A “single female” who feels “better equipped” to have a daughter rather than a son probably isn’t equipped to deal properly with either. But I am not a psychologist, so I could be wrong.

I am however a bioethicist, and in that capacity I was fascinated the CHF anticipated single females. Who needs men?

E-books Will Lead To A Decrease In Reading

Der Kindle
Der Kindle
I have a Kindle. (It was generously donated by a reader a few years ago.) I have, say, 200 books on it, nearly all free from Project Gutenberg and similar sites. I have bought only five or six e-books.

No, strike that. I did not “buy” books for the Kindle. I bought licenses which allow me to read the electronic versions of those titles, at Amazon’s pleasure. We all recall how via remote control Amazon forcibly and surreptitiously removed 1984 from Kindles after a dispute with the publisher of that title. Amazon claims that this sort of thing won’t happen often—which is not the same as saying it won’t happen. You do not own an e-book, you do not even rent one, you instead purchase a license so complicated only a lawyer would love it.

Since you do not own the e-book, you may not do with it as you will. You may not, in many cases, loan it, though you may loan out the entire e-reader, which is like giving up your entire library at once. You may not sell the e-book. This means there will be no used e-books, and no used e-bookstores. And since used books are a major way readers discover new authors, well, readers won’t discover as many new authors; that is, they won’t buy e-books from authors who they did not discover.

Further, the lack of used e-books also drives the average price of a title up since the purchaser must always buy “new.” Since a title will cost more on average, fewer of that title will be sold. The timing of this depends on each title’s mix of physical and e-books, since usually, but far from always, e-books licenses are cheaper. (In some cases, e-books cost more.)

E-readers cost significant money, or require the purchase of other expensive equipment (iPad, etc.) which is always undergoing upgrades. A physical books costs whatever it costs. But e-books cost the license plus the non-constant cost of the technology to read it on. Certain e-books (say with color or even video) will have to repurchased when technology changes (records to 8-tracks to cassettes to CDs to mp3s…). The list price of the e-book fibs. It masks the true cost of reading. Many don’t or won’t want to spend the initial large chunk of money to enter the e-books world.

Overall and soon, e-books will cause a decrease in number of books sold. It will be difficult to peg the decline of reading on e-books, though, because people on average are reading less. Here, “on average” means that people who own e-book readers generally now read more titles, but the percentage of citizens who read is itself declining and will continue to do so.

There is nothing in principle, save greed, which bars used e-bookstores. Amazon already sells used physical books, right along side new books. They have links for readers to sell their used copies to Amazon, who will then re-sell the titles to the public. Many readers prefer buying new regardless, perhaps because the books are gifts, or because they prefer the smell of a new book. The choice exists, however.

A used e-book suffers no shelf wear, so who would prefer to buy the new and more expensive license when a discounted used license exists? In the case of used e-book licenses, the customer receives the identical product. Publishers and e-book sellers thought these very thoughts, which is why no used e-books exist. But their conclusion is flawed. They should still allow used licenses.

When a used physical book is sold, only the seller takes a cut of the profit. The publisher gets nothing directly; indirectly, they have advertising which goes with the books, a significant benefit. With e-books, publishers can agree up front that if a used license is sold, they take a portion of the sale. The seller and publisher have already made their initial money on the first sale of the license; further re-sales are pure profit. Used e-books will not “eat into” the market of a title any more than used physical books do.

Update Physical books won’t die. If you think they will and that e-books will dominate, you have not tried to read a book of mathematics on an e-reader, or to study a set of books with scholarly intent. Flipping through e-books is impossible. Jumping from an earlier page to a later one is like trying to run through a vat of molasses. Marginal notes are technologically possible, but in practice are a horror to use. “What page was that equation on?” There are no pages and no page numbers. How do you tell somebody where to look? “On your Kindle 2.0 set your resolution at 12pt and then navigate to 12.45% and then search for X; but if you’re on version 1.7, set at 14pt…” Sheesh. Want to have more than one book open at a time? Why not instead fly to the moon flapping your arms?

Update Free reading wasn’t working, so…Library offers free pole dancing class to draw visitors.

Update Complete anti-theft DRM is always impossible (for text-only books). Just open the book on any device and re-type (cheap to have done, too).