FULLNESS AT THE CORE
Re: Paul Beston’s Carving for Ourselves:
While I can generally understand Mr. Beston’s premise that Presidents’ Day deserves the indifference with which it is generally greeted, he should also be advised that not all American citizens are so blithely dismissive of that significant holiday as some would have it.
I personally, along with my family and some close friends, will attend the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, this coming Presidents’ Day Monday and, on that occasion, we will all be particularly mindful of what was perhaps Mr. Reagan’s finest counsel to the American people:
“Let us renew our faith and our hope. We have every right to dream heroic dreams.” (Jan. 20, 1981)
Happy Presidents’ Day to all,
— Samuel Keck
Indian Wells, CA
NO KICKING THE HABIT
Re: Jackie Mason & Raoul Felder’s A Study in Ingratitude:
I sadly agree with Mr. Mason and Mr. Felder that most American Jews follow in lockstep behind the Democratic Party and its long list of candidates who care little about those who follow them so blindly.
An exception to the rule is the observant Jewish community (admittedly, a small percentage of American Jews). Observant Jews are usually much more conservative, and more often than not, support like-minded Republican candidates. The reason for this is that observant Jews, unlike our more liberal-leaning, secular-oriented co-religionists, share many of the same values as conservatives. On issues such as affirmative action, abortion on demand, and school vouchers, to name a few, we identify strongly with the conservative viewpoint. Don’t take my word for it. Ask Mr. D’Amato or Mr. Giuliani whether the observant Jewish communities stood behind them during their political careers.
Those who disagree with us like to equate us with Islamic fundamentalists by labeling us “ultra-orthodox.” They do this in order to marginalize us by implying that anyone who is observant is, by definition, an “extremist.” Their moral equivalency argument compares us with those who teach their children to strap bombs to themselves and commit murder by suicide. What an insulting outrage. I wish they would just answer us on the issues, so we could at least have an honest dialogue.
So, Mr. Mason & Mr. Felder, you are not alone; there are other members of the tribe who see things clearly.
— Jay A. Shuman
I’ve puzzled for many years over the mystery of American Jews’ slavish devotion to the Democrat Party.
I recently had an interesting insight into this mystery when I came across a Hebrew translation of a Yiddish memoir written in Warsaw, in 1912, by a man with the same family name as mine: Kotik. The memoir, the Hebrew title of which translates to “What I Saw,” turns out to have been the archetype for the Yiddish shtetl memoir genre made famous by the like of Shalom Aleichem. I don’t read Yiddish, but I blazed through the Hebrew edition, utterly fascinated.
Kotik’s descriptions of the Jews’ lives in the Russian Empire, and the survival strategies that they used in that deeply hostile environment, seem to presage the current infatuation with the Dems. The Jews in the Pale of Settlement feared the local peasants more than anything else, so what they did was form a symbiotic relationship with the Empire, on the one hand, and the local gentry on the other. The Empire and the gentry provided physical protection (mostly in the form of deterrence) to the Jews. The Jews, in turn, provided local administrative services to the Empire, and being literate, provided estate management services to the gentry, who were mostly illiterate and mostly interested in drinking, hunting and gambling. This seemed to work pretty well. Local Jewish big shots (like my possible ancestor Aharon Layser) became rich and powerful, and after the Polish Uprising of 1863 was crushed, acquired many of the estates of the rebellious gentry (who got killed or exiled by the Empire) who used to be their accounting clients.
The basic model is this: suck up to an all-powerful State, and manipulate it for gain at the expense of the rest of the population. The Kotiks, and many other Jewish families, also got into the liquor business, so there was a bit of the old opiate-of-the-masses thing going on , too, with regard to the locals.
Well, isn’t this what the current strategy of American Jews reduces to?
Trouble is, of course, that it comes to no good end. The peasants and the gentry eventually catch on. It is also a creepy, and profoundly un-American way to get along.
What I cannot for the life of me understand is how it can be that American Jews can’t figure this out. Whether the Democrat thing has its roots in the shtetl or in FDR, how the hell does an idea that is so obviously bogus persist? Seriously ! It isn’t really in the genes, is it? So what gives?
On another note, I have a serious criticism of your work as columnists : your columns are too few and too short. I’m certain it is great fun screwing around with your legal and show business hobbies, but it seems to me that at your ages you should spend more time on serious things.
— Paul Kotik
Great article. But please include Milton Friedman as one of the most important scientists of the 20th century, and perhaps of all time.
His research, detailed in Monetary History of the United States, placed the country on the path to economic stability.
Without his analysis, the U.S. would still be slamming from inflation to deflation, from boom to bust, from Republican sensibility to Democrat corruption.
Recall the situation at the end of the 1920s when the Great Contraction in money occurred, following the roaring economy of the previous decades. The collapse that followed brought in sixty years of incompetent, and venal Democrat rule. It has taken till today to rid the country of this plague.
A similar situation would’ve occurred following the latest “bubble” if the Federal Reserve had allowed another collapse in the American economy. The Democrats would’ve pandered to the country’s worst fears, gotten themselves re-elected, and bungled foreign policy bad enough to get us in a real shooting war, instead of the police actions we’re in now.
Instead, the Fed and the markets are moderating and preventing the damaging effects of wild swings in money, and the country will weather the latest business cycle easily. The Republicans will gain the power that they have so long deserved, and the nation will be better off.
Please tell the world how important Professor Friedman’s work is. I don’t think he even understands how powerfully he has affected the world.
— Jim Klein
Catholics vote Democrat lock-step as do the Jewish people. Catholics vote Democrat because “Mom and Dad voted Democrat and if I voted Republican, they’d flip in their graves” and “Herbert Hoover was a Republican and we suffered in the Depression.” The fact that the Clinton Democrat party bears no resemblance to the Truman Democrat Party, has no meaning for these Johnny One-Notes.
— Agnes McDermott
Re: George Neumayr’s In Vitro Defects:
As a far from liberal or godless infertility specialist, I feel it my duty to address some of the points that George Neumayr attempts to make in his article at The American Prowler entitled “In Vitro Defects.” I want to discuss the specifics of the study that Mr. Neumayr refers to in detail, but will first address some more general points.
Mr. Neumayr states that “[t]he studies support exactly what the dismissed moralists of the 1970s argued: it is not good for children to begin their lives in petri dishes.” I guess that depends on whether you think not beginning a life at all is better than beginning a life in a petri dish. The fact remains that there are literally tens of thousands of babies born each year using these assisted reproductive techniques (ART) such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), the vast majority of which are completely and perfectly healthy. Without these techniques, these children would not be born. The part of my job that is the most satisfying is assisting these couples, who would otherwise remain infertile and childless, in bringing a new life into the world. Think about it. Would you deny these people the right to have children? I have actually had people in my religion tell me that they thought that there must be a reason that God had not allowed them to have children naturally so we ought not intervene. Using that argument, you’d have to abandon all medical treatment since, for example, if God “allowed” someone to get cancer or appendicitis, who are we to intervene?
As for the study that Mr. Neumayr refers to in his article, a few notes of caution. It is always dangerous to take news reports describing medical studies at face value. They are frequently misrepresented or their significance overstated. And that is certainly the case here. The reported incidence of Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome (BWS) is 1 per 13,700 to 1 per 14,300 live births. This study showed a total of six cases of BWS out of 45,074 IVF births in the UK, giving an incidence of 1 per 7,149 births. Let’s assume that this study is definitive (which it is not). The incidence of BWS is twice as high in this study (which has its methodological flaws — that I won’t go into unless you want me to), but the fact remains that the incidence of BWS is still remarkably low and the chance of having a child born with this malady remote. Is a 1 in 7,149 chance of having this occur worth calling for an end to IVF or decrying it as evidence that the technology is flawed? As a matter of fact, there are numerous studies which have investigated whether there is an increase in birth defects with ART and the vast majority of them have shown there to be absolutely no difference between the naturally conceived pregnancies and IVF groups.
Mr. Neumayr goes on to state that we are “killing” thousands of embryos every year in our labs. I would like to discuss briefly my perspective on embryos. Being an infertility specialist, I do indeed assist in bringing gametes together that results in the creation of an embryo. I watch their development in our petri dishes and it humbles me to be involved in such a miraculous process. The more I learn, the more amazed I am that reproduction ever occurs much less with my help. And in the end, my experience has taught me that God is still in charge. But I have also come to know that not every embryo is created equally, and by that I mean that not all have the potential to become a viable pregnancy that will result 9 months later in the birth of a child. Of the oocytes that fertilize, only about half will grow normally and continue to divide. The ones that don’t divide or grow normally have been studied in the past and the majority of them found to be chromosomally abnormal. In other words, they were destined from the moment of fertilization to never result in the live birth of a child. Am I “killing” these embryos (or by implication a child) by discarding them? Most certainly not; they never had the potential to become a child.
And the fact that there are so many abnormal embryos is not a reflection of the technology but rather a confirmation of what has been observed in spontaneous conceptions (i.e. a high “miscarriage” rate). A study was done in which women took a home pregnancy test every day. A surprisingly high number of women turned up with positive pregnancy test results prior to their expected period. Approximately 40% of these women (with a positive test prior to missing a period) ended up having a normal period at the expected time and thus “lost” the pregnancy without knowing they were ever pregnant (or at least they wouldn’t have know they were pregnant if they hadn’t been in the study). The best information we have says that this is because that embryo created that month did not have the potential under any circumstances to become a child.
While I do think that these things need to be investigated further, it is unnecessarily alarmist to point to this study and say “Aha, I told you IVF was bad.” By far, the most common outcome in those who get pregnant is to have a normal and healthy baby. Let’s not lose sight of that fact. And let’s figure out how we can do things better.
— Frederick W. Larsen, M.D.
Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility