Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Crossfire Targeted For Sparking Interest In Civic Affairs

Since it was first broadcast, CNN's Crossfire was the place to go for verbal pugilism in the days before the ascendancy of Fox News and the pervasiveness of talk radio. With its return to the airwaves after an absence of eight years, the program's latest incarnation elicited visceral reactions before it was even broadcast.

In the August 28, 2013 edition of USA Today, Rem Rieder doesn't hold back in his disappointment at the news of this classic program's return and his overall contempt for the argumentative debate format.

Rieder laments, “Crossfire, which features a conservative and a liberal predictably and tiresomely bickering with each other, mirrors perfectly what is so wrong with today's hopelessly polarized and paralyzed politics.”

Rieder goes on to conclude that these days that there is no real attempt to solve problems or get outside of the Beltway.

Reider attempts to cast himself in the role of the kind of dispassionate analyst he claims that he longs to see heading into public affairs programing. However, his words betray blatantly leftist sympathies.
For example, in listing the identities of Crossfire's new hosts, Newt Gingrich is the only one held up for ridicule. Van Jones confessing to be a self-avowed Communist is glossed over as if such an admission is something normal and healthy.

Gingrich might daydream about space colonies. But in the ideal world of Van Jones where he identifies so enthusiastically with that particular form of tyranny, authorities would seize nearly everything you have worked for (with the exception of Van Jones' lavish CNN salary) and violently eliminate those that continue to speak out against a dictatorial regime despite extensive efforts at reeducation and social manipulation.

One might respond that an observation pointing out a failure to expose Van Jones as a leftwing subversive is reading too much into it. After all, with Kardashian bastards and Miley Cyrus stage humping, the average American no doubt finds it difficult to retain this constant barrage of information at the forefront of their cognitive awareness.

Rem Rieder, however, drops another comment that reveals that there is more to his agenda than a dispassionate pursuit of just the facts.

Apart from the incident where Robert Novak (likely suffering from the early stages of a brain tumor) stormed off the set no longer capable of handling James Carville's banshee-like shrieking, one of most recalled moments of the original Crossfire occurred with the visit of Comedy Central's John Stewart of the Daily Show. During the interview, Stewart lamented how the debate program and especially Tucker Carlson was hurting the country.

The thing of it is, the likes of John Stewart has done more to hurt this country than the number of interchangeable hosts and even greater number of guests exchanging wonky barbs at one another ever could.

Personally, I can probably count on both hands the number of times I have seen the Daily Show. The only segment that sticks out in my mind was of some bozo walking around in a giant penis costume promoting safe sex or some similar propaganda.

If that represents the kind of public affairs programming Rem Rieder thinks is needed to either elevate or save the Republic, we are worse off than most of us realize. It is likely not John Stewart's wisdom as a statesman that Reider is praising but something else entirely.

In the waning days of the Roman Empire, lavish entertainment spectacles were put on for the purposes of distracting the population from the public scandals and disasters that confronted the world superpower of that day.

Granted, in much the same way that politics is said to be a form of show business for the unattractive, programs such as Crossfire, Hannity, and The O'Reilly Factor tend to be a form of pugilism or professional wrestling for the physically puny but verbally inclined. But despite any shortcomings that these programs might posses, it cannot be denied that they at least get across the point that there is something rotten in Denmark (or more accurately, the United States of America in this instance).
That's why the likes of Rem Rieder are more enthused about a perambulating giant penis costume. And the reason behind that might not be quite so obvious as one might assume by that shocking verbal formulation.

Elites talk up the delights and wonders of deliberative democracy. But the last thing they really want are those in the servile classes to passionately hold to any fixed standard or belief that would impede this human capital from being reshaped, deployed, and even eliminated in accordance with the most convenient timetable possible.

This is the sentiment spoken of euphemistically when talking heads, academics, bureaucrats, and elected officials express a nostalgia for a bygone era when legislators would get together at the end of the day to hash out compromises over cocktails or, in the case of Ted Kennedy, cocaine and lapdances. That approach might have been OK when the kinds of things discussed were the equivalent of whether a tax rate would be 9% or 10%.

But these kinds of backroom compromises have gone on for so long and the line of acceptability moved back so far that, for the go-along to get-along to continue, those of good conscience are being pressured into betraying the fundamental values and morals without which a ordered yet free society will surely collapse.

For example, if one the ethical building blocks upon which a just and free society rests is the assumption thou shalt not murder, meaning that it is beyond the limits of acceptability to deliberately take the life of an individual that has committed no crime, where is the moral wiggle room for an abortion of convenience or preference? On what grounds do you kill a life form, that will be no more genetically complete than it would be at the time of birth, without the consent of that individual for the purposes of harvesting that individual's stem cells or other biomolecular components?

Most believe that marriage is a sacred covenant instituted by God Himself predating the codification of organized religion in a time when man's relationship with our Creator did not require the medium of the written word. So on what grounds can that definition be changed on the whims of a jurist or plebiscite and on what basis do those making such a claim complain when these fickle procedures decide to change the arrangement back?

Just where does one compromise on these kinds of issues? For if one does, isn't doing so the equivalent of saying it is allowable to slap your spouse one time across the face but twice is going too far?

As these kinds of social developments continue to unfold, it is becoming more apparent that recognition of gay marriage is not so much about these individuals confessing unending love for one another which they are pretty much able to do so already in parts of the country where most mind their own business and where laws prohibiting illegitimate carnal knowledge haven't been enforced for years. Rather, it is about bringing the destructive power of the state crushing down upon those that do not stand around applauding the new world we are being thrust into.

Don't believe me? Perhaps you ought to ask the bakers and wedding photographers whose businesses have been ruined for failing to embrace diversity to this radical extent. What about their ability to express their preferences without fear of retaliation?

Only time will tell whether or not there is a place for a revived Crossfire in a media landscape where the clash of opinions is more the norm than an entertaining novelty, However, even if this particular program falls by the wayside as a result of attention being grabbed by flashier versions of this classic debate format, Crossfire deserves a place at least in the pages of journalistic and mass communications history for admitting that legitimate opinion worthy of national consideration exists beyond the narrowly defined parameters of the mainstream establishment.

By Frederick Meekins

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Protecting Clones

Though it was not the only reason, the American Civil War was fought in part because a significant percentage of the population came to be seen as less than completely human. It is said if we don’t learn from the past we are doomed to repeat it and the only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn anything from history. As such, if society as a whole does not stop to consider certain bio-technical developments now being considered, the world could be in for a nightmare that could make the bloodshed, death, and heartache of the Civil War pale in comparison.

In popular culture and elite scientific circles alike, cloning is being heralded as a process through which humanity will be ushered onto the cusp of a golden age in terms of advances in the areas of agriculture and medicine. As with most advances, those with an entrepreneurial inclination are already positioning themselves to take advantage economically of the opportunities looming on the horizon.

For example, on April 3, 2001, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued Patent US 6,211,429 for a process for animal cloning. One must keep in mind that, apart from agricultural applications, such research is initially tried on animals with the hopes of eventually perfecting the techniques for human usage.

One scholar concerned about the application of this utilitarian mindset to human beings where people could end up being used as something not all that different than barnyard livestock is Paige Cunningham of the Center For Bioethics and Human Dignity. In response, he has formulated a set of principles that could very well stop this tragedy before things get too far out of hand.

The first principle has been stated as the following: “Every human being, however conceived or created, is unique and deserving of protection. From a religious perspective, humans are different than animals and above all animals because humans alone are created in the image of God.” This principle is Biblical as it respects the individuality of the human being as a unique creation no matter how he might have been brought into the world. Even though we might find it unsettling that an individual might be grown in a laboratory and not as the result of a loving (or at least pleasurable) coupling of his parents, that is no reason why, as Cunningham’s declaration argues, such a person should not be granted the same privileges and protections enjoyed by the remainder of our species.

Part of the justification for the first principle, while theologically sound from a religious perspective, that human beings are different than animals because humans alone are created in the image of God, unfortunately may be tougher to sell in a culture contaminated by Darwinian materialism. It is not only from a religious perspective that human beings are different from the remainder of the animal kingdom but in the manner of our fundamental ontology as well. When was the last time someone saw chimpanzees constructing medical facilities or dolphins cogitating on declarations to protect themselves from doing harm to one another? Someone might think they are an animal when it comes to themselves but seldom do they want to be treated like one.

Cunningham’s second principle has been stated thusly: “Every human being has the right to individual autonomy; i.e. that his or her bodily integrity must not be invaded or compromised by others.” The first principle was forceful in its conviction to the point of almost being too explicitly religious in that it overlooked the biological uniqueness of man in favor of the theological,. The second, though well intended, rings with a bit of the vagueness this declaration was promulgated to protect against.

While the Christian can agree with the principle that in most instances that the bodily integrity of the individual must not be invaded or compromised by others, the proposition is not always absolute. Unless enunciated in a strong pro-life context as intended, platitudes about not compromising the bodily integrity of the individual were the very kind of statements that got the ball rolling down the hill of human devaluation in the first place all in the name of “choice” and banshees wailing in the street slogans such as “keep your laws off my body”. One must be clear that the unborn child (either growing in the womb or in the laboratory) possesses the same protections against bodily harm as those enjoyed by the parents.

The third principle, that no person has the right to enslave, own, or control any human being regardless of their stage of biological development is a sound reminder of the basic principles this nation was founded upon, went through numerous struggles to extend to all those living here, and continues to expand into the twenty-first century. This principle does a superb job of upholding the innate dignity of the individual as created in the image of God and the equality of all men before Him irrespective of their power or status.

The fourth principle contends that any organism that is genetically human is a human being. While this statement is necessary in this Postmodern age that loves nothing better than to play word games in an attempt to justify all kinds of moral outrages, in academic circles and the popular press where secular philosophy and the Christian worldview clash almost constantly the position may already be in need of modification.

Though it may sound like science fiction, there is a growing movement called “Transhumanism” that seeks to expand the abilities of mankind beyond the limitations imposed by the biology of the species through genetic or technological enhancements. Some propose to accomplish this by combining human and animal DNA.

Therefore, at some point ethicists, theologians, and concerned scientists are going to have to sit down and hash out what is the bare minimum of human DNA a person can have and still be considered a human being. For example, is an organism with only 90% human DNA worthy of protection as a human being? Such statements may cause one to chuckle, but the matter is so serious, according to Tom Horn of RaidersNewsUpdate.com, that neuroscientists experimenting on mice by injecting human brain cells into the skulls of these rodents are under orders to destroy these vermin if they start to exhibit signs of intelligence.

The fifth principle holds that “A cloned embryo is distinct and separate from the person donating the genetic material, and therefore is a unique being protected in law.” This is a principle that Christians need to be at the forefront of championing.

Often the cloning discussion is framed in terms of setting aside a genetic savings account for a rainy day. For example, if someone needed a spare kidney or liver, one could simply thaw out a non-sentient replicant kept in suspended animation for just such an emergency. However, what really happens when a cloning takes place is more akin to forming a twin of oneself or, if one is unsettled by such age differences between siblings, parenting a child in a non-traditional format. As close as these human relationships are, at no time may we use our family members as spare parts without their consent.

The last principle holds that, “No person or institution has the right to control or profit from any process designed to clone a human being.” While it is a good idea to take the profitability and power out of the cloning process as such an action would cut down on firms entering into this undertaking (including government), if we wait to the point where we attempt to regulate the procedure where it is legislated that the technique must benefit all mankind, things may have already reached the point of no return. Such a response would imply that cloning had already become widespread. Rather, Christians in positions of influence should instead get busy cultivating, as Pope John Paul II use to call it, an ethic of life where blatant disregard for other human beings is such an anathema that no self-respecting scientist would consider participating in such research.

Overall, the policy declaration suggested by Paige Cunningham is to be commended as a good starting point for those within the church to start thinking about these kinds of issues that they may have not taken the time to consider previously but that are about to role over our country and change it in fundamental ways that we do not like unless we rise up now to set things on a better moral path.

By Frederick Meekins