fertilization-assigned personhood

A Meandering Consideration of Absolutism

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, 3 March 2015.  (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

“Maybe it’s an unfortunate hallmark of contemporary conservative thought?”

Steve Benen

Over at Slate, Fred Kaplan offers an interesting consideration:

It’s looking more and more like Benjamin Netanyahu committed a strategic blunder in so ferociously opposing the Iran nuclear deal and in rallying his American allies to spend all their resources on a campaign to kill the deal in Congress.

SlateIf current trends hold, the Israeli prime minister and his stateside lobbyists—mainly AIPAC—are set to lose this fight. It’s politically risky for Israel’s head of state to go up against the president of his only big ally and benefactor; it’s catastrophic to do so and come away with nothing. Similarly, it’s a huge defeat for AIPAC, whose power derives from an image of invincibility. American politicians and donors might get the idea that the group isn’t so invincible after all, that they can defy its wishes, now and then, without great risk.

It would have been better for Netanyahu—and for Israel—had he maybe grumbled about the Iran deal but not opposed it outright, let alone so brazenly. He could have pried many more favors from Obama in exchange for his scowl-faced neutrality. Not that Obama, or any other American president, will cut Israel off; but relations will remain more strained, and requests for other favors (for more or bigger weapons, or for certain votes in international forums) will be scrutinized more warily, than they would have been.

There is, of course, much more to Kaplan’s consideration, including the implications of current Congressional momentum and the widening gap between the credibility of favoring and opposing arguments. Toward the latter, he notes, “Most criticisms of the deal actually have nothing to do with the deal”, and that’s about as least unfavorable as his critique of the criticism gets.

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Something About Chimpanzee Personhood

"This is not a welfare issue," argued Wise, who says existing animal welfare statutes permit Tommy to be kept alone in a cage. "The question is whether there is an unlawful detention here." To which Peters rejoined: What is unlawful about the detention?

So … right. Personhood for chimpanzees … and … go:

Can an animal who possesses the essential qualities of personhood ever be considered, in the eyes of the law, a person?

As of now, the answer is no. But a panel of New York state judges yesterday considered that question, which was posed by a group called the Nonhuman Rights Project on behalf of a 26-year-old chimpanzee named Tommy.

(Keim)

It is a compelling question, yet we should not feel silly for failing to grasp the implications; the range and magnitude are unknown, though we might simply say they are tremendous. Brandon Keim of Wired also offered some background when the case arose last year.

It is easy enough to agree with the proposition that species is irrelevant to personhood if one has cognitive capacity when we stare at walking, talking, and often shooting extraterrestrials on the silver screen, or reading adventures of human assassins who might otherwise fall in love with elves, but one might reasonably suggest we have problems dealing with questions of personhood in real life, insofar as they actually pertain to people we would otherwise already recognize as people. To the other, that does not mean the question of whether or not a chimpanzee counts as a person is without merit.

Still, though, given that all this occurs against a backdrop of an election season in which questions of personhood are emerging as a prominent, confusing, and, apparently, confused issue, the chimp factor is the something of a wildcard. That is to say, it seems rather difficult to suddenly screech up and shift contexts, especially because the implications of the new question could, under certain circumstances—e.g., personhood for chimpanzees—further complicate and confuse the ongoing political context that will, under certain circumstances—e.g., personhood for human zygotes—ultimately become a judicial context.

Yet it remains an interesting question.

____________________

Keim, Brandon. “New York State Court Hears Landmark Chimp Personhood Case”. Wired. 9 October 2014.

—————. “A Chimp’s Day in Court: Inside the Historic Demand for Nonhuman Rights”. Wired. 6 December 2013.

Benen, Steve. “Erst stumbles on ‘personhood’ basics”. msnbc. 6 October 2014.

The Unfortunate State of Things

Jen Sorensen undertook the obvious point in the wake of the Supreme Court’s quixotic disaster otherwise known as Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. And, yes, she wins the race on style.

Still, though, a question arises. To the one, we are Americans, and everyone knows just how undignified it would be if people actually acted like those depicted in the cartoon. To the other, we are Americans, and everyone knows just how undignified it is to behave that way unless one is a patriot using a gun to menace locals in the name of the Second Amendment, or shouting at, threatening, and assaulting women.

Savage JusticeThe truth is that no matter how much Justice Scalia might need to be tomatosmacked upside the head, it would be inappropriate to actually start chucking table vegetables.

Meanwhile, the question arises, looms, persists: Then what does it take?

The explanation for this is simple enough under a general psychoanalysis of history: We judge women’s humanity as a reflection of manhood.

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