Thursday, December 31, 2009

The summer of my medical tourism, Part III

There's a big topic looming for this blog.  "Is going overseas for egg donation -- some could call it fertility tourism -- something leftists do?"  
I've put off this topic for months now, given that H and I returned from Cyprus, pregnant, in late August 2009.  
I've felt compelled, all this time, to address this topic because this blog isn't just "All About Moi" or "Procrastination for writing a journal article" or  "My Pregnancy Journal" or "Yet another psychology professor's blog."  I choose the quirky name "I married a communist" for some kind of purpose, so from time to time there should be something about how being associated with the political far left influences one's daily life or at least internal monologues.  
H already had this discussion with one of his communist friends, a sometimes reader of this blog.  I hear they mused about the topic but didn't come to a conclusion.   
But I've come to some tentative conclusions, after conversations with friends, on two topics:  Is it okay to be the wealthy foreigner throwing money around in a less-developed country?  Did I exploit a woman from an under-developed country by purchasing a part of her body?  
Is it okay to be the wealthy foreigner? Yes: I have a choice where to spend my money -- why not spend it in a developing country?  
In the world I want to live in, disparities in wealth would be sufficiently small that there would be no economic motivation for anyone to build a hospital in poor country X with the hope of bringing in overseas clients from wealthy country Y.   Am I acting to continue global wealth inequalities by participating in fertility tourism?  I'd enjoy hearing comments from globalization experts, but here's what I've gleaned from some diverse readings:  Many experts are saying we need less *aid* and more *trade.*  When wealthy countries directly give money/resources to poor countries, it breeds corruption.  'Free' money incites competition to confiscate the give-away.    
Regular tourism isn't an ideal wealth-creating  industry because it can sequester locals in dead-end jobs of being maids and gardeners.  Medical tourism is hard work.  Yes, there may be a rich capitalist in Turkey who is making extra money off of his investment in Istanbul's Jinemed hospital, but Jinemed doesn't just serve rich tourists -- it's a vibrant city clinic.  Medical tourism has the advantage of training locals for the whole necessary panoply of medical professionals, doctors, nurses, technicians etc.   The prenatal/fertility clinic in Cyprus that  did my invitro sees several infertile foreign couples per day, but still most of their work is with Cyprus locals.  The day of my embryo transfer we waited while a dozen or more Cypriots gathered to attend/celebrate a birth, as my doctor was also their obstetrician.  So locals benefit from the presence of the expertise that was partially funded by the wealthy tourists.  
The feminist angle: Poor women's bodies have always been exploited -- by man and by wealthier women.   Did my action of buying a woman's eggs contribute to that?  
There are certainly some delicate issues here.  
In the realm of buying a piece of someone's body, egg donation seems to me to be on the more benign side, for the following reasons:  
Because women produce about 400 eggs in a life-time,  I bought a replaceable piece of a woman's body.  Not as benign as purchasing blood, but no where near as drastic or life-influencing as buying a kidney.  
Side-effects are rare (between 1 in 500 and 1 in 1,000), but span the spectrum from an easily-cured infection to infertility.  Because of the rare chance of an extreme negative outcome like infertility, in Cyprus, women are encouraged to be egg donors only if they have already had all of the children they want.  I was told my donor was married, 25 and already had the 3 children she desired (3 children is the average for Turkey/Cyprus).    
One reason I choose Turkey/Cyprus as the place for egg donation was that I had read some exploitative stories about Eastern Europe, where young women are drawn in from the country side to the supposedly glamourous, fast-paced cities, housed in dormitories, given little compensation, treated like egg-donation machines, and thrown aside when they had a negative outcome. In contrast, Cyprus is a small island that doesn't leave room for the phenomena of women leaving rural areas to go to the big city where bereft of family support they can be exploited by ruthless organ middle-men.    (But see this story about eggs of Eastern European women being sent to Cyprus.) 
An angle I know less about is the Islamic side.  Under Islam, egg and sperm donation are not permitted, being t is tantamount to adultery. For historical reasons including influence from Greece, Cyprus has never been as Islamic as Turkey (it takes work and locomotion to hear a call to prayer).  Still, because the citizenry is Islamic, egg donation is not something to openly discuss.  Women do it privately.   In order to continue to be allowed to legally provide egg/sperm donation,  the clinics have to be careful to avoid scandals,  and thus need to be scrupulous about medical care and treatment of their egg donors.  
Finally, the communist/internalist perspective.  Classically, communists are opposed to nation states  (the communist anthem is the "International").   Even in a utopian, egalitarian society, there will be infertile women who want the chance to become pregnant via egg donation, and there will be fertile women who don't mind being a donor, either for some extra cash or for just for the secret joy that they gave an infertile woman the gift of pregnancy.    

I think often of the "Cypriot Beauty."  Did my clinic (a Cyprus clinic, not run by overseas organizations) tell her that implantation worked, in my case? Will she wonder about the twin boys that are her genetic offspring, growing up half-way around the world?  I imagine that in the future we'll visit Cyprus as a family, and my sons may feel their Eastern Mediterranean roots.   Comrade, thank you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Obama, controlled by aliens...

Like many ever hopeful reformists , last January I liked Obama.

But during his televised address about sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan last night,  I had the sinking impression that he was being controlled by aliens.

What a capitalist tool, I thought, in horror.

I'll use this space to let a better writer, and more politically expert commentator, put my feelings into words.

December 1, 2009 The Obama Puppet -- The world's least powerful man    Paul Craig Roberts 
[Paul Craig Roberts, a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal]

It didn't take the Israel Lobby very long to bring President Obama to heel regarding his prohibition against further illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Obama discovered that a mere American president is powerless when confronted by the Israel Lobby and that the United States simply is not allowed a Middle East policy separate from Israel's.

Obama also found out that he cannot change anything else either, if he ever intended to do so. The military/security lobby has war and a domestic police state on its agenda, and a mere American president can't do anything about it.

President Obama can order the Guantanamo torture chamber closed and kidnapping and rendition and torture to be halted, but no one carries out the order. 

Essentially, Obama is irrelevant.

President Obama can promise that he is going to bring the troops home, and the military lobby says, “No, you are going to send them to Afghanistan, and in the meantime start a war in Pakistan and maneuver Iran into a position that will provide an excuse for a war there, too. Wars are too profitable for us to let you stop them.” And the mere president has to say, “Yes, Sir!”

Obama can promise health care to 50 million uninsured Americans, but he can't override the veto of the war lobby and the insurance lobby. The war lobby says its war profits are more important than health care and that the country can't afford both the “war on terror” and “socialized medicine.”

The insurance lobby says health care has to be provided by private health insurance; otherwise, we can't afford it. 

The war and insurance lobbies rattled their campaign contribution pocketbooks and quickly convinced Congress and the White House that the real purpose of the health care bill is to save money by cutting Medicare and Medicaid benefits, thereby “getting entitlements under control.”

Entitlements is a right-wing word used to cast aspersion on the few things that the government did, in the distant past, for citizens. Social Security and Medicare, for example, are denigrated as “entitlements.” The right-wing goes on endlessly about Social Security and Medicare as if they were welfare give-aways to shiftless people who refuse to look after themselves, whereas in actual fact citizens are vastly overcharged for the meager benefits with a 15% tax on their wages and salaries.

Indeed, for decades now the federal government has been funding its wars and military budgets with the surplus revenues collected by the Social Security tax on labor.

To claim, as the right-wing does, that we can't afford the only thing in the entire budget that has consistently produced a revenue surplus indicates that the real agenda is to drive the mere citizen into the ground.

The real entitlements are never mentioned. The “defense” budget is an entitlement for the military/security complex about which President Eisenhower warned us 50 years ago. A person has to be crazy to believe that the United States, “the world's only superpower,” protected by oceans on its East and West and by puppet states on its North and South, needs a “defense” budget larger than the military spending of the rest of the world combined.

The military budget is nothing but an entitlement for the military/security complex. To hide this fact, the entitlement is disguised as protection against “enemies” and passed through the Pentagon. 

I say cut out the middleman and simply allocate a percentage of the federal budget to the military/security complex. This way we won't have to concoct reasons for invading other countries and go to war in order for the military/security complex to get its entitlement. It would be a lot cheaper just to give them the money outright, and it would save a lot of lives and grief at home and abroad.

The US invasion of Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with American national interests. It had to do with armaments profits and with eliminating an obstacle to Israeli territorial expansion. The cost of the war, aside from the $3 trillion, was over 4,000 dead Americans, over 30,000 wounded and maimed Americans, tens of thousands of broken American marriages and lost careers, one million dead Iraqis, four million displaced Iraqis, and a destroyed country.

All of this was done for the profits of the military/security complex and to make paranoid Israel, armed with 200 nuclear weapons, feel “secure.”

My proposal would make the military/security complex even more wealthy as the companies would get the money without having to produce the weapons. Instead, all the money could go for multi-million dollar bonuses and dividend payouts to shareholders. No one, at home or abroad, would have to be killed, and the taxpayer would be better off.

No American national interest is served by the war in Afghanistan. As the former UK Ambassador Craig Murray disclosed, the purpose of the war is to protect Unocal's interest in the Trans-Afghanistan pipeline. The cost of the war is many times greater than Unocal's investment in the pipeline. The obvious solution is to buy out Unocal and give the pipeline to the Afghans as partial compensation for the destruction we have inflicted on that country and its population, and bring the troops home.

The reason my sensible solutions cannot be effected is that the lobbies think that their entitlements would not survive if they were made obvious. They think that if the American people knew that the wars were being fought to enrich the armaments and oil industries, the people would put a halt to the wars.

In actual fact, the American people have no say about what “their” government does. Polls of the public show that half or more of the American people do not support the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan and do not support President Obama's escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Yet, the occupations and wars continue. According to General Stanley McChrystal, the additional 40,000 troops are enough to stalemate the war, that is, to keep in going forever, the ideal situation for the armaments lobby.

The people want health care, but the government does not listen.

The people want jobs, but Wall Street wants higher priced stocks and forces American firms to offshore the jobs to countries where labor is cheaper.

The American people have no effect on anything. They can affect nothing. They have become irrelevant like Obama. And they will remain irrelevant as long as organized interest groups can purchase the US government. 

The inability of the American democracy to produce any results that the voters want is a demonstrated fact. The total unresponsiveness of government to the people is conservatism's contribution to American democracy. Some years ago there was an effort to put government back into the hands of the people by constraining the ability of organized interest groups to pour enormous amounts of money into political campaigns and, thus, obligate the elected official to those whose money elected him. Conservatives said that any restraints would be a violation of the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech. 

The same “protectors” of “free speech” had no objection to the Israel Lobby's passage of the “hate speech” bill, which has criminalized criticism of Israel's genocidal treatment of the Palestinians and continuing theft of their lands.

In less than one year, President Obama has betrayed all of his supporters and broken all of his promises. He is the total captive of the oligarchy of the ruling interest groups.Unless he is saved by an orchestrated 9/11-type event, Obama is a one-term president.Indeed, the collapsing economy will doom him regardless of a “terrorist event.”

The Republicans are grooming Palin. Our first female president, following our first black president, will complete the transition to an American police state by arresting critics and protesters of Washington's immoral foreign and domestic policies, and she will complete the destruction of America's reputation abroad. 

Russia's Putin has already compared the US to Nazi Germany, and the Chinese premier has likened the US to an irresponsible, profligate debtor. 

Increasingly the rest of the world sees the US as the sole source of all of its problems. Germany has lost the chief of its armed forces and its defense minister, because the US convinced or pressured, by hook or crook, the German government to violate its Constitution and to send troops to fight for Unocal's interest in Afghanistan. The Germans had pretended that their troops were not really fighting, but were were engaged in a “peace-keeping operation.” This more or less worked until the Germans called in an air strike that murdered 100 women and children lined up for a fuel allotment. 

The British are investigating their leading criminal, former prime minister Tony Blair, and his deception of his own cabinet in order to do Bush's bidding and provide some cover for Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq. The UK investigators have been denied the ability to bring criminal charges, but the issue of war based entirely on orchestrated deception and lies is getting a hearing. It will reverberate throughout the world, and the world will note that there is no corresponding investigation in the US, the country that originated the False War.

Meanwhile, the US investment banks, which have wrecked the financial stability of many governments, including that of the US, continue to control, as they have done since the Clinton administration, US economic and financial policy. The world has suffered terribly from the Wall Street gangsters, and now looks upon America with a
critical eye. 

The United States no longer commands the respect it enjoyed under President Ronald Reagan or President George Herbert Walker Bush. World polls show that the US and its puppet master are regarded as the two greatest threats to peace. Washington and Israel outrank on the most dangerous list the crazy regime in North Korea. 

The world is beginning to see America as a country that needs to go away. When the dollar is over-inflated by a Washington unable to pay its bills, will the world be motivated by greed and try to save us in order to save its investments, or will it say, thank God, good riddance.