The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, September 09, 1999, Page 5, Image 5

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    ■1 Keeping eBay at bay
Attempted auction of kidneys, child display need for increased regulation
From Pez dispensers, to human kidneys to,
well... humans - things certainly have changed
a lot on the eBay auction site. x
Four years ago, it was a dream of increasing
one woman’s Pez dispenser collection. Good ol’
Pierre Omidyar never expected his creation to
one day feature 2.6 million items daily. He never
dreamed that eBay would have more than 1,500
non-Pez categories.
And Pierre never thought there would be
listings for human kidneys and unborn babies
floating in cyberspace along with listings for
used jock straps.
Not that it matters really - Pierre is now a
He probably hired people whose job at
eBay is to do nothing but worry about human
kidneys and unborn baby listings popping
Well, if he hired such employees,
they’d sure have their hands right
now. Ever since a listing for a
human kidney fetched a bid of
$5.7 million last week, a string
of copy-cat kidney listings
have found their way onto
the auction site.
And the ante was raised " . •*
a little higher when an unborn
baby was put on the market, a
child to be born “late in the
month,” whose University of ,
Chicago law school parents’
“intelligence scores” could
be obtained by the bidder
“upon request.”
1 he going price (berore
eBay shut the auction
down)? $109,100.
Yep folks, it’s a sad,
sick, scary world.
I felt a particular
interest when the eBay
story broke last week,
because I’ve been a regis
tered seller on eBay since
I’ve sold probably
200 or so items obtained
from garage sales, thrift
shops or my own attic. It’s
easy really:
You throw an item
description and picture on
eBay, wait a week for bids, wait a few more days
for a check to arrive and then mail off the mer
What bewilders me entirely about the sellers
of human kidneys and unborn babies is their
complete disregard for postage difficulties.
I mean, mailing off a 10-year-old ALF doll is
one thing, but how do you pack up a human kid
ney? Extra plastic wrap? In a Tupperware con
tainer plastered with duct tape? Awfully messy,
if you ask me.
For $5.7 million, I damn well want to be sure
my kidney is not damaged because some moron
tried to mail it in an envelope at “book rate.”
And an unborn baby? Geez, this one is a
packer’s nightmare. Throw the mom in a crate
with some Saltine crackers?
But let’s talk
about the j
intelli- ♦ \ ! f
\ i t
\ \ i i
gence of the buyers and sellers of these auctions
for a minute.
It’s obvious the sellers of kidneys and babies
are counting on people’s frail sense of hope.
Whether or not their offers are serious is ques
tionable. (EBay believes all the ads are hoaxes.)
It’s also obvious the sellers have the intelli
gence of Fun Dip. Not only will they have wast
ed 25 cents on a listing fee, but after eBay sorts
through its membership information, FBI
agents may soon be staining these comic genius
es’ fingers with black ink for attempting to traf
fic human organs - punishable by a minimum of
five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.
Now, a word about the buyers. Hope, as I
said earlier, is a frail thing. When hope is shat
tered, people don’t hesitate to latch onto whatev
er might give them hope again. Therefore,
I don’t blame people who made
bids on kidneys or chil
/ , dren out of des
/ / peration
/ ■ for a
/ / ,
happy, normal life.
I also don’t condone their actions as reason
able. It doesn’t take a Nobel prize winner to real
ize that little hope can come out of an auction
site that has Beanie Babies as one of its biggest
I do hope false auctions such as these have
opened buyers’ eyes to the truth - that hope has
to be found in other (legal) ways.
So what about eBay - the medium through
which all this madness has transpired? Well,
some say this is just icing on the cake of eBay’s
recent troubles: a plummeting stock price and a
multiple-day outage earlier this summer boosted
the popularity of rival auction sites.
I’m not so sure. EBay is about as big and
successful as all other auction sites combined.
No one has more sellers and buyers and despite
other auction sites’ gains, I don’t see any other
site catching up.
But eBay better bet its buttered brown
brownies that things like these need to be avbid
ed in the future to ensure tsuccess. ,
Right now, eBay relies on observant buyers
to report unlawful items for sale. With 2.6 mil
lion items for sale, this is a pretty unrealistic
approach. It wouldn’t be too inconceiv
able for someone to bury a kidney list
ing in a category no one would think
' to work (like in antique fishing tack
le). Sure, you'd get less looks at
. your illegal auction, but you’d also
get less attention and less time in
t,uay prooaoiy neeas xo nire
employees to screen ads. It
would take a heapload of
money and time on its part, but
heck, Pierre has plenty to spare.
If things get really tight, he
can always sell his wife’s Pez
fh\ the meantime, more
things like kidneys and unborn
......... babies are going to go “on
sale” on eBay.
More fragile hope is going
to be screwed with.
More morons are going to
go to jail.
^-v%% v-vv, /\iiu iiiuic mui ics a it
going to be written about the
influence of an auction Web
site on people’s lives and on
the lives of people who just
want to live a normal
life - no matter
what the auction
price of it might
be up to.
Shawn Drapal/DN
KASEYKERBER is a senior news-editorial major and a Daily Nebraskan columnist.
Crime of the heart
, Study correlating abortion and decrease in crime further devalues human spirit
Once upon a time, not so far away, a nation
was bom. A nation nourished on concepts such
as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
And justice for all. I think. Maybe I just
dreamed all of that.
The news broke in the Chicago Tribune: 40
million-plus abortions since 1973 may have
resulted in the current decrease in crime.
Well, iriaybe not resulted in a decrease in
crime but at least correlated with a decrease in
The study was conducted by University of
Chicago economist Steven Levitt and Harvard
Law Professor John Donohue III.
They suggest that as much as half of the
overall decrease in crime between the years of
1991 and 1997 may be explained by the rise in
abortions after the 1973 Supreme Court ruling
in Roe v. Wade.
The theory says that fewer crimes are being
perpetrated by individuals between the ages of
18-24, the peak crime years.
The theory also says the increase in abor
tions reduced potential criminals. (Potential
criminals are identified as unwanted children
bom to unmarried and poor women - these chil
dren are expected to commit the most crimes in
their adulthood.)
Shhh. Does anyone else hear that? RED
I didn’t hear it, either.
A blip or two buried in the news, a faint
rumbling, which I find to be of particular inter
Usually a decrease in crime is an occasion
for every slick-ass politician to don a brand new
tie and woo us into believing it happened as a
result of their brilliant policy or hard work in the
inner cities.
But don’t expect to hear anything soon
about this study from our fearless leaders.
Nobody really wants to talk about it. It’s like
one of those damned skeletons to add to our
nation’s closet.
Pro-life groups denounce the study as
“fraught with stupidity” - mainly because the
study fails to consider a number of possible
social phenomena.
The director of the National Consortium on
Violence Research, Alfred Blumstein, was
quoted in Time magazine as saying Donohue
and Levitt fail to factor in other important vari
ables, such as crime prevention measures and a
thriving economy.
What really gets me is that even the pro
abortion groups don’t want to touch it. They
want to maintain that abortion is a “right.” The
last thing they need is for someone to miscon
strue abortion as a means of population control.
That’s racist, maybe fascist, definitely classist
population control.
So the question is not only how this study
will impact our view of the abortion epidemic
but how sweeping it under the carpet will
impact our “knowledge” of the issue.
The study will add to the growing trend of
identifying the social value of people as a direct
result of their economic status.
It will further devalue the human spirit, low
ering the bar of expectation for those of us not
born with the silver spoon. We’re refusing to
look any further for the truth for fear of what we
know we will find. Maybe for fear of what
we’ve become.
By keeping the ideas introduced by this
study out of popular political discourse, we (as
a society) will log its conclusions as true.
And then the next time we hear that one out
of every four pregnancies end in abortion, we
will privately cling to the fact that it’s better for
society anyhow. It’ll be part of our search for an
absolution that will never come.
You see, as a nation we’ve done some pretty
awful things. And we’re beginning to feel the
We’ve had, and are having, to face and deal
with the reality of slavery and the legacy of
racism and oppression that followed.
You and I look back and wonder how in the
world anyone ever justified slavery for even one
moment. How could anyone have possibly had a
total disregard for human life - especially since
the motivation behind slavery was purely self
Well, just what exactly do you imagine our
great grandchildren will think when they look
back at what we did to our unborn children?
How will we be portrayed in the history books?
In the case of slavery, later generations have
had the opportunity to attempt to right the
wrong. Or at least attempt to ensure that the
descendants of slaves were not treated in the
same awful manner.
Future generations won’t have that option in
the case of abortjon. Those babies will never
have babies.
JESSICA FLANAuAIJS is a senior English and philosophy major and a Daily Nebraskan columnist.