“Fertility Equality”

This ethics topic has been lying around on my office floor—literally—for more than a month now. I have not known what to do with it. The New York Times—it is for occasional articles like this that I subscribe to that habitually unethical paper—published an article in July headlined (in the print version) “The Right To A Baby?” It appeared in its “Thursday Styles” section, which specializes in elite trivia (the other piece on that section’s front page was about tattoo artist and dog groomers who make house calls).

Here is the first part of the article:

While plenty of New Yorkers have formed families by gestational surrogacy, they almost certainly worked with carriers living elsewhere. Because until early April, paying a surrogate to carry a pregnancy was illegal in New York state.

The change to the law, which happened quietly in the midst of the state’s effort to contain the coronavirus, capped a decade-long legislative battle and has laid the groundwork for a broader movement in pursuit of what some activists have termed “fertility equality.”

Still in its infancy, this movement envisions a future when the ability to create a family is no longer determined by one’s wealth, sexuality, gender or biology.

“This is about society extending equality to its final and logical conclusion,” said Ron Poole-Dayan, the founder and executive director of Men Having Babies, a New York nonprofit that helps gay men become fathers through surrogacy. “True equality doesn’t stop at marriage. It recognizes the barriers L.G.B.T.s face in forming families and proposes solutions to overcome these obstacles.”

The movement is led mostly by L.B.G.T.Q. people, but its potential to shift how fertility coverage is paid for could have an impact on straight couples who rely on surrogates too.

Mr. Poole-Dayan and others believe infertility should not be defined as a physical condition but a social one. They argue that people — gay, straight, single, married, male, female — are not infertile because their bodies refuse to cooperate with baby making.

Rather, their specific life circumstances, like being a man with a same-sex partner, have rendered them unable to conceive or carry a child to term without medical intervention. A category of “social infertility” would provide those biologically unable to form families with the legal and medical mechanisms to do so.

“We have this idea that infertility is about failing to become pregnant through intercourse, but this is a very hetero-centric viewpoint,” said Catherine Sakimura, the deputy director and family law director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “We must shift our thinking so that the need for assisted reproductive technologies is not a condition, but simply a fact.”

Fertility equality activists are asking, at a minimum, for insurance companies to cover reproductive procedures like sperm retrieval, egg donation and embryo creation for all prospective parents, including gay couples who use surrogates. Ideally, activists would also like to see insurance cover embryo transfers and surrogacy fees. This would include gay men who would transfer benefits directly to their surrogate….

Observations:

  • I see this as an excellent example of how a threshold decision in an ethical analysis of any new idea is whether bias and the automatic prejudice human beings tend to have against any new concept—basically the “Ick Factor”—is making a fair analysis impossible. It’s hard to do; our tendency with such ideas is to think, “That’s ridiculous!” and  stop there. But of course, that was the original majority reaction to many ideas that were revolutionary at one time but that represented the progress of ethics, which is evolutionary by nature and necessity. We always are learning that there are things we thought were right and “natural” that were, in fact, wrong, and that some concepts that society viewed as wrong for centuries were either neutral or benign.

That process is what ethics is. Continue reading

From The “Res Ipsa Loquitur” Files: The Presidential Ranking Survey

One of the more depressing developments during the Post 2016 Election Ethics Train Wreck has been how virtually all of our professions have proven unable to remain objective and trustworthy, instead descending into bias and submitting to peer pressure—exactly the kind of behavior professionals are supposed to have the training and integrity to avoid. Journalists have been the worst in this respect of course, with politicians close behind. However, judges, lawyers, educators, academics, psychiatrists, health officials, performers and, yes, ethicists have also disgraced themselves, among others.

One persistent example of a corrupted profession is historians, and a useful measure of their ethics rot has been Presidential rankings. Here’s one I missed from 2018, when “172 professional historians” were asked to rank the POTUSes from first to last, using a 1-100 scale. A Jimmy Kimmel writer who ran out of current Trump-bashing material circulated this on Twitter, and it is, as they say, “trending.”

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Nice Try, Charley…But You Still Struck Out

I usually skip the New York Times Sunday Review section now. By mid-2017, it had become so partisan and such a nest of rabid Trump Derangement that it was not unusual for 75% of the content to consist of anti-Trump screeds. I finally got bored with it; the stuff was predictable and too often completely bats. If I read it at all, I did so to check how fanatically the Times was supporting the various coup efforts.

Charlie Warzel is one of the less hateful of the Times op-ed writers, though based on his Ethics Alarms file he is also one of most juvenile. He was the author of a New York Times editorial  titled “Open States, Lots of Guns. America Is Paying a Heavy Price for Freedom,” or in my print edition, “Will We Get Used To The Dying?” that I had fun shredding—it wasn’t hardhere. I was curious to see if he’s gotten any better since May in his Wuhan virus hysteria. His title seemed promising:  “How to Actually Talk to Anti-Maskers: You cannot force public trust; you have to earn it.”

I think “anti-maskers” are jerks. It is still unclear to me how much good masks do, and the information from the “experts” has been inconsistent. I still see no reason to wear the things outside when nobody is going to come within ten feet of you, and I don’t. However, the ethical reasons to wear them are still valid:

  • They might make a difference.
  • Wearing them demonstrates good will and that one is trying to be responsible.
  • It places those at enhanced risk at ease.
  • It can’t hurt. The recent claim of Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) that his mask probably infected him was spectacularly dishonest and irresponsible, but you know, that’s Louie.

I also regard fanatic pro-mask hysterics as ridiculous and will say so when pressed.

However, I was interested to see if Charlie, having gotten himself on the Ethics Alarms Naughty List with his previous screed about the pandemic, would redeem himself. For writing op-eds is all about trust too: if I know you shade the facts, omit relevant information, engage in bias and cheat in your logic, I really don’t care what your opinion is. It’s not worth reading.

Charlie begins with an anecdote about how health officials gained the trust of the public in Senegal during an Ebola outbreak. OK—as long as the idea is to make a point about trust. Ebola isn’t the Wuhan virus, and the United States’ culture isn’t remotely like Senegal’s. Then he writes,

Taiwan is welcoming baseball fans back into stadiums. As of June, more than 20 other countries have begun the process of bringing children back to school. Thailand, a country of 70 million, hasn’t had an instance of local coronavirus transmission in seven weeks, as of last Thursday. And yet Americans are staring down nearly 150,000 virus deaths while governors and health officials pleading with citizens to wear masks are starting to sound like substitute teachers who’ve lost control of the classroom.

One indicator of how bad things are: Last week, Anthony Fauci, the United States’ leading infectious-disease doctor, felt compelled to reassure his audience during an online talk, “You can trust respected medical authorities.” He added, “I believe I’m one of them, so I think you can trust me.”

Ah! So Charlie trusts Dr. Fauci on the topic of masks., and thinks we should to. And my immediate reaction to this is.. Continue reading

The “I’d Say ‘Thank God It’s Friday,’ But In A Home Office During A Pandemic Friday’s Just A Name” Ethics Grab Bag, 7/10/2020

1. Re: Privilege and bit more on the Harper’s letter fiasco. At the Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein flags this tweet by New York Times reporter Farnaz Fassihi:

A few thoughts:

  • Why do I subscribe to a paper that would employ someone like this? I forget.
  • She’s a bigot. I just wrote a bit on the “privileged smear” on another thread:

I have to say again that I do not comprehend the “privilege” line of thought at all. In the hands of most who wield it, I find the tactic the equivalent of Butch Cassidy kicking huge Harvey Logan in the balls to start their knife fight….

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Comment Of The Day: “Independence Day With Ethics Alarms 3…Ethics Fireworks (and Duds)!,” Item #5

Extradimensional Cephalopod lassoed itself a Comment of the Day (I love the image of a cepalopod using a lasso!) with his musings on why races were designated “black” and “white,” since the white/black dichotomy is so frequently used to describe good/evil.

Here is his—its?—Comment of the Day on the fifth item (about Twitter banning such words as “whitelist” and “blacklist”) in the post, “Independence Day With Ethics Alarms 3…Ethics Fireworks (and Duds)!”

I’ll be back at the end with a rather lengthy discourse of my own on this subject, because it’s a favorite of mine.

I actually find it annoying that on the one hand, human races (groups of humans who share some similarities in appearance) have historically been identified by colors associated with their skin, while on the other hand, completely independently and before meeting humans from other continents on a regular basis, Europeans started to use colors to indicate whether things are good or bad.

This etymology likely came about because when things rot they often turn black, and because blackness implies darkness (the absence of light), which most humans use to evoke ignorance, fear, or bad luck because they can’t see in the dark. (I use the metaphor of darkness in a much more neutral/benevolent sense, but that’s quite rare.) Interestingly, the color white is associated with death and mourning in many Asian cultures.

With the exception of finance (black ink marking positive numbers and red ink marking negative numbers), most historical evocations of the color black indicate evil, corruption, morbidity, or otherwise something negative. “Black heart,” “blackguard,” “black magic,” “black hat,” “black market,” “blackball,” “blacklist,” “black mark,” “black day,” “black comedy/humor”… Continue reading

End Of Week Ethics Clean-Up!

I blame Woodrow Wilson.

I like to start the week with a clean slate, especially now, when the George Floyd Freakout finds new ways to shatter previous standards of public decorum, civic decency, and respect for nation and community. However, despite over 3,000 words in three posts today, I still had to leave several stories on the bench that I wanted to explore.

Here they are:

ITEM: “18 shot in 24 hours as spike in gun violence in NYC continues”

What a coinky-dink! As soon as  Bill De Blasio, one of those Democratic mayors that Philip Bump says did nothing to make his city more violent, disbanded the NYPD’s  anti-crime unit, the city  had an explosion of shootings. Police said a total of 70 people were shot this week, compared to 26 the same week last year.

This is what more communities have to look forward to as a result of city officials across the country putting their virtue-signaling embrace of white guilt and Black Lives Matter ahead of the welfare of citizens.

ITEM: “New Jersey politicians charged in massive mail-in ballot voter fraud scheme, face years in prison”

Of course,  corruption in New Jersey politics is hardly news, but this story is ironic as Democrats are claiming that Republican opposition to mail-in voting is motivated by a desire to suppress election participation rather than a legitimate concern about the ease of voter fraud.

“New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal charged Paterson City Councilman Michael Jackson, Councilman-elect Alex Mendez, and two other men after the U.S. Postal Inspection Service alerted the state attorney general’s office that it had found hundreds of ballots from a special election last month stuffed in a single Paterson City mailbox,” InsiderNJ reported. According to WNBC-TV, more than 3,000 ballots were set aside over voting fraud concerns in the Paterson City Council election — 16,747 were received, but only 13,557 were accepted — meaning a whopping 19%, or nearly 1-in-5, were rejected. More than 800 of the rejected ballots were invalidated because they were found tethered together in mailboxes. This was especially significant because the margins in two of the contests were razor thin.

I had a devil of time finding out the party affiliation of the politicians charged in multiple news sources. That usually means that it’s a Democratic scandal. It was.

ITEM:Denver “proactively” removes Kit Carson statue from downtown monument ahead of protests” Continue reading

The Ethicist Apparently Endorses Discrimination As Ethical

, the New York Times Magazine’s ethics columnist, just opened a can of metaphorical worms, and I’m going to spread them around a little. It may get messy.

A woman—actually, now that I re-read the post, we don’t know it’s a woman— wrote to be reassured that he or she wasn’t a bad person for wanting to dump a man she had engaged in a nascent romantic relationship after discovering that he had Crohn’s Disease. “I know I’m being selfish, but is it unethical to not date him because of it?” she wrote. ” I don’t know what to do to support him, and I am worried about the future. He said it’s very likely his intestinal issues could get worse, and his life expectancy may be shorter. I want to shield myself from the pain, but I also feel like a terrible person for even thinking about it.”

Hey, don’t feel bad,  sayeth “The Ethicist”:

“Once someone is truly a friend or a lover, you have all kinds of responsibilities to them that you didn’t have before. So for example, it would be deplorable to abandon a spouse because he or she has become seriously ill. That’s part of what’s meant by saying a marriage is to endure “in sickness and in health.” Of course, this can turn out to be a promise someone can’t keep. But precisely because a partnership is for the long term, you can appropriately consider what your lives together would be like before you enter into one. When a potential partner is already seriously ill, committing to this person may be committing to a life as a caregiver. (The specific condition you mention has a wide range of severity; it can be mild and well controlled or genuinely debilitating.) You don’t owe it to anyone to accept that burden; indeed, if you think you don’t want such a life, you have a good reason not to enter into the relationship. It doesn’t make you a terrible person to think about the issue. The terrible thing would be to make the commitment and then to be unable to keep it.”

Oddly for “The Ethicist,” he ducked the main question that was asked, and instead answered what he thought was an easier one.   The questions he answered were ” Is it wrong to reject a commitment to someone because that commitment may be too burdensome?,” and “Is it wrong to think about the issue?” (It isn’t wrong to think about anything, regardless of what Black Lives Matter says. They should see what I think about them.)

What the inquirer was asking, however, is whether she should end a casual relationship—she had only known the guy through Zoom, after all—because he had Crone’s Disease, before she could form an attachment to him and might decide that he was worth the trouble…make that  potential trouble.

I see no distinction between what she wants to do and invidious discrimination in any other relationship, like employment. Discrimination is when you treat someone worse than someone else because of who they are and  features they have no control over, rather than what they do, have done, or “the content of their character.” It is also discrimination to make judgments about someone based on assumptions about people “like” them—profiling, essentially. “I don’t want to date him, even though I really like him, because he has a handicap” is,  as I see it, indistinguishable from saying, “I don’t want to hire her because she has a handicap/ is likely to become pregnant/ is old/ is black.”

That’s discrimination, and that’s wrong. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/25/2020: Dumb And Dumber

Good morning, I guess.

It is clear, if it wasn’t already, that everything hinges on whether the American public is as stupid and inattentive as those seeking to manipulate it think it is.

1. Mobs? What mobs? I just listed to CNN’s health expert, Dr. Gupta, list the reasons there has been a surge in Wuhan virus cases. Notably absent from his list were the mass, no social distancing demonstrations/protests/riots that began two weeks ago as a prominent part of the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck. These, as you may recall, were largely supported by the health experts (though I don’t have a record of Gupta being among them) as they apparently decided that Black Lives Matter matters more than all the black lives that would be put in danger by ignoring the safety measures we shut down the country to install.

I also have yet to read a single news story about the new cases of the virus that highlights the completely predictable effect of the mobs, which are still roaming, as a factor in the so-called “surge,” though I can’t check everything.

Is the news media really certain that if they don’t report this connection, it will never occur to most of the public? I’m already reading accusations that opening up the states is “racist” because of the evidence that African-Americans have contracted the virus and died from it at a higher rate than the rest of the public. By that logic, encouraging the mobs of George Floyd protesters was also racist.

To re-phrase Wilford Brimley from his great scene in “Absence of Malice”: “American Public, are you that dumb?” So far, it seems so. Continue reading

Regarding The Guy Charged With a Machete Attack Who Has A Machete Tattooed On His Face

I know these stories are stupid, but I love them, and besides, I can’t pass up the chance to correct Jonathan Turley.

Justin Arthur Allen Couch, 25, pictured above,  is charged with using a machete to attack the victim in the arm and leg during an argument in Tarrytown, Florida. The victim is alive but may have permanent injuries. Couch, as you can see above, has a drawing of a machete tattooed on his face. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

Of course, the tattoo doesn’t prove that he’s guilty of a machete attack. It’s circumstantial evidence at best. In fact, if I were defending Couch, I’d be tempted to argue to the jury that the machete should make them question whether Couch was the attacker. Who would be so stupid as to use a machete as a weapon when one is right there on his face? I sure wouldn’t. I’d use a hammer, a golf club, a seafood fork, indeed anything but a machete.

Then again, I would never have a machete tattooed on my face. That act alone raises a rebuttable presumption that Couch is an idiot.

Professor Turley, writing about the case, opines,

Face tattoos are unlikely to be receive assistance from the court in allowing a shroud or covering. The machete tattoo is one of the choices in life that comes back to haunt you in your machete attack case.

The Professor could doubtless make me look like a baboon in a law school class, but he is wrong on this topic, which is a specialty of mine. Turley cites some amusing cases, like the man accused of sexual assault with a forehead where a tattoo reads “I’m a pornstar. I fuck Teen Sluts”…

…and this doofus, who faced charges for multiple crimes….

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