Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What's the BFD about DNA? Anyone who wants some of mine can have it.

In high school in the 1960s I learned about an obscure molecule called deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). All I remember about it was that it was distinct (better?) from mere ribonucleic acid (RNA).

When I was an advertising copywriter in the 1970s, I wrote an ad for a stereo receiver. It used Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistors (MOSFETs) which were much better than mere Field Effect Transistors (FETs) used by the competition.

I haven't thought much about RNA, MOSFETs or mere FETs in many years, but DNA is a plot element in probably half of the cop shows I watch on TV.

DNA is also a plot element in news stories about people being freed from jail after years of improper imprisonment. Some of the district attorneys who were involved in the original, improper convictions are sore losers who don't want to release a prisoner -- regardless of reality.

Defense attorneys often ask expert witnesses "is it possible" that the client's DNA sample does not really match the sample from the crime scene, despite the gazillion-to-one odds.

DNA was big news yesterday. The Supremes ruled that it's OK for cops to collect DNA by  swabbing inner cheeks of people who have been arrested -- but not convicted of crimes.

Perhaps even bigger news was the unusual makeup of the usual 5-4 decision.

Emily Bazelon wrote in
Slate: "The dissent is a smoking Scalia special—and he’s joined by Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor rather than the court’s conservatives. Anthony Kennedy picked off Stephen Breyer (along with Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and John Roberts) to eke out a majority."

In a New York Times Op-Ed, Akhil Reed Amar and Neal K. Katyal wrote that Scalia's "argument is deeply flawed, because he did not get his history quite right."

Scalia is a pompous asshole. I almost never agree with him about anyhting, but for once he's on the right side of a ruling (even if it's for the wrong reason).

For a change, I do not agree with the left-leaning justices.

Anyone who wants some of my DNA can have it.

What's the BFD? It doesn't hurt to give a sample. I don't have a limited supply of DNA.

It's not like the scene from Dr. Strangelove where General Jack D. Ripper (above, right, played by Sterling Hayden) was horrified that the dreaded commies would "sap and impurify" Americans' precious vital fluids.

My DNA sample might show that my sister is my sibling or that my ancestors came from eastern Europe or that I didn't leave blood or semen at a crime scene. Horrors!

I have much more to be concerned with than accurate identification.


"Double helix" illustration from Forbes.com. Scalia photo from Reuters.Thanks. 

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