August 7, 2005
DAN GILLMOR: “Google is a young company. We shouldn’t be surprised that it sometimes acts its age.”
DAN GILLMOR: “Google is a young company. We shouldn’t be surprised that it sometimes acts its age.”
A WHILE BACK, I wrote about Hampton Sides’ Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission, and suggested that the story would make a good movie.
I guess someone else thought so too.
TOMORROW will be InstaPundit’s fourth bloggiversary. (Click here to see what I was writing about back when it started).
How has the blog changed? You may have a clearer sense of that than I do. I think it’s become a bit less opinionated — the older entries were mostly opinion; now I’m more likely to link to somone’s actual reporting, or to an item of news without commenting on it much. I tend to express my longer opinion-oriented takes elsewhere, at TechCentralStation or GlennReynolds.com, rather than here at the blog.
I think that the tone has gotten milder. This was never a rantblog, but I decided over a year ago, during the election runup, to try to be extra-conscious about word choice, and to avoid name-calling as much as possible. Over-the-top hysterics on other blogs turn me off even when they’re from someone I agree with, and I suspect many people feel that way. You can have strong opinions without strong language, and they’re usually more persuasive that way, or so it seems to me.
I’ve learned — well, come to appreciate, anyway — that there are huge numbers of very smart people out there, in all sorts of settings that aren’t usually thought of as smart-people settings. Every academic should have that experience.
The blogosphere has certainly gotten bigger, which I see as pretty much an unalloyed good.
The other thing I’ve learned: To take a vacation from blogging now and then. I’ll be away next week, and Ann Althouse, Megan McArdle, and Michael Totten will be filling in again. Austin Bay, as I mentioned earlier, will be filling in over on MSNBC at GlennReynolds.com. (My TCS column will run as usual on Wednesday).
See you guys next weekend. Enjoy the guestbloggers, who did a terrific job last time, and who I’m sure will do just as well this time.
NOT VERY IMPRESSIVE: “Four DMV workers in Oakland took cash bribes from illegal immigrants and others in exchange for driver’s licenses or state identification cards, federal prosecutors said Thursday.” I doubt a National ID system would be free of this kind of fraud.
IT’S NOT YOUR FATHER’S ARMY: “A pair of female Army captains temporarily traded in their camouflage uniforms and combat boots for evening gowns and high heels and entered and won each of their state beauty pageants.” This can’t hurt enlistment.
UPDATE: On a more serious note, Chester notes a different kind of change.
Meanwhile, Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule note that the judiciary seems less adaptable than the Army.
LESSONS FROM THE NON-FATAL AIR FRANCE CRASH:
The Air France evacuation required an extraordinary degree of social coordination – which emerged among a group of strangers with virtually no time to prepare. Once out of the wreckage, they were aided by other strangers who, on the spur of the moment and with no expertise in emergency situations, had pulled off a nearby highway and calmly charged into the scene, despite the risks posed by an exploding plane.
While this sort of behavior is often described as remarkable, it is actually what researchers have come to expect. Studies of civilians’ intense experiences in the London Blitz; the cities of Japan and Germany in World War II; the 1947 smallpox outbreak in New York; the earthquake in Kobe, Japan, in 1995; and even fires have found that people, however stressed, almost always keep their wits and elevate their humanity.
Indeed, the critical first responders in almost any crisis are ordinary citizens whom fate has brought together.
BUSINESS WEEK has an article on podcasters vs. Big Radio: They call it a “David and Goliath” battle, but it’s really an army of Davids against Goliath.
BLEAK NEWS on voting in Venezuela.
GLOCAL? Well, it doesn’t sound any worse than “blog.” . . .
WHEN people ask my thoughts on the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, I always feel uncomfortable. As a Japanese, I know how I’m supposed to respond: with sadness, regret and perhaps anger. But invariably I try to dodge the issue, or to reply as neutrally as possible.
That’s because, at bottom, the bombings don’t really matter to me or, for that matter, to most Japanese of my generation. My peers and I have little hatred or blame in our hearts for the Americans; the horrors of that war and its nuclear evils feel distant, even foreign. Instead, the bombs are simply the flashpoint marking the discontinuity that characterized the cultural world we grew up in.
Read the whole thing.
ARTHUR ALLEN: “As the writer who first told the thimerosal story in depth in the New York Times Magazine two and a half years ago, I have been astonished to see how badly it has been handled since. . . . Since then, four perfectly good studies comparing large populations of kids have showed that thimerosal did not cause the increased reporting of autism.”
I wonder if anti-vaccine activists will be held to the same standard of responsibility as the pharmaceutical companies they — often unjustly and sometimes dishonestly — criticize.
AUSTIN BAY will be guestblogging for me at MSNBC this week, so the least I can do is plug his Iraq novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness.
I read it, and it’s excellent.
AVIAN FLU NEWS: “Government scientists say they have successfully tested in people a vaccine that they believe can protect against the strain of avian influenza that is spreading in birds through Asia and Russia.” Good.
SALMAN RUSHDIE writes on the need for an Islamic Reformation.
A small Russian submarine was freed today from its undersea entanglement off the Far East coast by an unmanned British rescue vehicle that cut away the nets that ensnared it. All seven inside were alive and rushed aboard a Russian surface vessel, where they were being examined by a medical team, Russian news agencies and the U.S. Navy said.
Nick Danger at RedState notes that the cooperative efforts to rescue former enemies offer a lesson:
I will confess that I did not expect to see this in my lifetime. It is a bit like my father’s reaction to seeing Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon.
I’m not sure what the lesson is here… but I am certain it is something we need to keep in mind as we go about the War on Terror. The day will come when we will all rush off to aid Iranians trapped in a mine, and we will cheer when they are rescued.
May it come soon.
DAMIEN CAVE wonders why we’re not hearing more about the heroes of the Iraq war.
The answer, of course, is that those of us who are getting our war reporting from the right places are hearing about them, while those of us who are still relying on the Times probably aren’t.
More comments here, though I think they’re a bit harsh on Cave, who’s a good reporter in my experience.
UPDATE: Related thoughts, with video, here.
The Mudville Gazette offers more background, and observes: “But kudos to the Times for wondering if they have a problem – the next step in recovery would be to admit that they do.”
Read the whole thing, especially if you’re an editor at The New York Times. Or one of its competitors.
MORE: Some help for the NYT is offered, over at Bayosphere.
LETTER TO ZARQAWI: Arthur Chrenkoff points to political and organizational issues for the Al Qaeda-backed insurgency in Iraq:
Abu Zayd claims that the Mosul Emirs are incompetent; attacks lack diversity; suicide bombings are focused more on quantity and not quality; those who are in the network are disobedient; a legitimate organization in Mosul does not exist; collaboration between the Emirs is lacking; “Muslim money” is squandered on petty expenses; numerous security violations occur; “inaccurate and blurred” updates to the Sheikh are reported; and foreign fighters endure “deplorable” conditions to include lack of pay, housing problems and marginalization.
Read the whole thing for some interesting political analysis, too.
WOLF BLITZER is slammed for military cluelessness. You know, we’ve been at war for almost four years. By now there’s really no excuse for that sort of thing.
THE ECONOMIST has an interesting article on the politics and culture of videogames:
Ironically, the “Grand Theft Auto” episode has re-ignited the debate over the impact of video games, just as the industry is preparing to launch its biggest-ever marketing blitz to accompany the introduction of its new consoles. Amid all the arguments about the minutiae of rating systems, the unlocking of hidden content, and the stealing of children’s innocence, however, three important factors are generally overlooked: that attitudes to gaming are marked by a generational divide; that there is no convincing evidence that games make people violent; and that games have great potential in education. . . .
Like rock and roll in the 1950s, games have been accepted by the young and largely rejected by the old. Once the young are old, and the old are dead, games will be regarded as just another medium and the debate will have moved on. Critics of gaming do not just have the facts against them; they have history against them, too. “Thirty years from now, we’ll be arguing about holograms, or something,” says Mr Williams.
IN THE WAKE OF THE LONDON BOMBINGS, we’ve heard — rightly — that Muslims need to be less tolerant of terrorist sympathies within their own communities. But implicit in that is the notion that authorities will act when someone tells them about threats, and that hasn’t always been the case in the past:
A leader at a mosque visited by one of the London July 21 bombing suspects says he warned police that Hamdi Issac was dangerous more than two years ago.
An elder at the Stockwell Mosque in south west London says he wrote to a senior police officer urging him to help deal with a group of young people who had been “harassing” and intimidating the moderate Muslims.
Toaha Qureshi, one of the mosque’s Trustees, told CNN that Issac — the alleged Shepherds Bush attempted bomber currently fighting extradition from Italy — was a prominent member of the group.
Qureshi told CNN that mosque officers had made it clear they regarded 27-year-old Issac as a threat and a destabilizing force.
Presumably such complaints will get more attention now. (Via Ed Morrissey).
SISSY WILLIS has a lengthy post on Darwin and ‘Intelligent Design.’
A WOMEN’S RIGHTS PROTEST in Iraq.
KAMAL ABOUKHATER has made a film called Blowing Smoke, and you can now order the DVD via the Blowing Smoke blog. Cool.
KNOXVILLE WANTS TO INSTALL RED-LIGHT CAMERAS, but it’s decided to keep the details of the contract secret:
City administration officials released a revised policy Friday for withholding information related to the selection of a company to install and operate cameras to catch red-light-running drivers. A city evaluation committee has selected Reflex Traffic Systems for exclusive negotiations, and the Knoxville Police Department expects to present a contract for City Council members’ consideration at their Aug. 16 meeting.
Hmm. I’m suspicious. Is this one of those deals where the cameras are operated by the contractor, and the contractor gets a cut of ticket proceeds? That provides an incentive to cheat, as has happened elsewhere. (Via Michael Silence).
UPDATE: Reader Allen Cogbill emails:
As you likely know, there is a distinct incentive to cheat, both for the company operating the system and the city, the latter due to “revenue enhancement”. Often in such situations, the orange-light period is shortened, increasing the likelihood that someone will run the red light. This is particularly bad, as it is fairly well-known that longer orange-light intervals (up to a point, of course) decrease accidents.
Yes, and that’s happened in quite a few places. This is all about revenues, of course, and not about safety.
TERRY HEATON notes that blogs are not mass media. No, they’re not. And they won’t be, except perhaps in a collective sense.
I MEANT TO MENTION THIS BEFORE, but Eric S. Raymond is blogging again.
ARE BIG MEDIA pushing back against the blogosphere?
U.S. SPEAKS OUT, as Azerbaijan cracks down on pro-democracy activists.
It’s rich that the former head of the United Nations Oil-for-Food program, Benon Sevan, is now protesting the secrecy surrounding U.N. records that he himself set up as confidential. . . .
But it would have worked out far better for the U.N., and the rest of us, had Sevan achieved this appreciation of transparency and access back in the years when he was running Oil-for-Food, from 1997-2003. Today, Sevan remains on the U.N. payroll as a $1-per-year “adviser,” retained by the secretary-general with no apparent duties but to “assist” in the U.N.-authorized Oil-for-Food inquiry — which Lewis, Sevan’s lawyer, is now denouncing on Sevan’s behalf as a cover-up in search of “cartoon villains, not the truth.”
It would be more helpful still, were Sevan’s boss, Kofi Annan, to conceive even at this late date a similar urge for open and honest U.N. dealings and public access to U.N. records. Such priorities have so far eluded the secretary-general, perhaps because — as Sevan’s lawyer correctly points out — the Volcker inquiry has applied a double standard. Sevan aside, the committee’s findings have imposed spit-shine discipline on a few obscure U.N. officials, while dismissing as merely “inadequate” Annan’s failure to inquire competently into conflicts of interest involving six-figure payments to his own son — and excusing Annan’s growing list of memory lapses along the way.
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: Austin Bay has more thoughts on the unfolding UNSCAM scandal.
GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS about avian flu.
JOE GANDELMAN writes that Robert Novak is now damaged goods.
I was never a fan, myself.
AUSTIN BAY offers advice to soldiers deploying to Iraq, based on his own experience there.
VIRGINIA POSTREL will be on Penn & Teller’s show-with-the-name-you-can’t-say-on-CNN tonight at 10 Eastern, on Showtime, where the name is permitted.
GATEWAY PUNDIT has a roundup on the stranded Russian mini-sub in the Pacific. The Russians have asked for U.S. help.
STEPHEN PRESSER AND RICHARD EPSTEIN are debating the Supreme Court over at Point of Law.
STEPHEN GREEN BREAKS THE RULES.
STRATEGYPAGE: How Europe encourages Islamic terrorism.
ROGER ABRAMSON HAS A COVER STORY in The Nashville Scene: “Why prosecuting victimless crimes is a colossal waste of time.”
A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE BEEN WONDERING whether Valerie Plame was mentioned in Joe Wilson’s Who’s Who entry. Kevin Aylward took the unprecedented step of actually looking it up (okay, actually he had a librarian do it for him) and reports: “via Who’s Who, the name ‘Valerie Plame’ has been associated publicly with Joe Wilson since the Clinton era.”
UPDATE: What’s the meaning of this? I dunno. It’s not consistent with the idea of Valerie Plame being deep cover. On the other hand, it may make Novak’s position worse, since he didn’t use her name but identified her as an agency operative, with the Who’s Who making it easy for people to connect the dots. But, of course, that only matters if she was under cover to begin with. That’s why I leave this stuff to Tom Maguire.
CAMPAIGN-FINANCE HYPOCRISY from John McCain?
ANDREW MARCUS has released a couple of clips from his forthcoming blog documentary. I’m a bit embarrassed by one of them, but you can see them here.
THIS SOUNDS PROMISING:
Scientists looking for easier and less-controversial alternatives to stem cells from human embryos said on Friday they found a potential source in placentas saved during childbirth. . . .
It is not yet certain that the cells they found are true stem cells, said Stephen Strom, who worked on the study. But they carry two important genes, called Oct 4 and nanog, which so far have only been seen on embryonic stem cells.
“We were just blown away when we found those two genes expressed in those cells,” Strom said in a telephone interview.
I hope it works out, but the state of scientific knowledge is still rather limited. Stay tuned.
THE CARNIVAL OF THE RECIPES is up!
NANOTECHNOLOGY ROUNDUP: Lots of people want to know more about nanotechnology. The Foresight Institute website (here) is a good place to start. There’s also a lot of good stuff at the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology’s blog. There’s also a short, non-technical explanation of the technology, and some of its implications, here, in an article I wrote for the Environmental Law Reporter a while back.
Eric Drexler’s seminal book, Engines of Creation : The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, is still a must-read for people wanting to learn about the subject. A (much) more technical treatment can be found here, and a less-technical treatment can be found here.
I haven’t read Glenn Fishbine’s The Investor’s Guide to Nanotechnology and Micromachines, but it gets good reviews. And I recently reviewed J. Storrs Hall’s Nanofuture: What’s Next For Nanotechnology, which makes a nice introduction for laypeople.
MORE RIOTS IN IRAN: I’m skeptical of the official claim that “anarchists” are behind them.
Investigators have concluded that the former chief of the Iraq oil-for-food program, Benon Sevan, took kickbacks of at least $160,000 under the humanitarian operation and refused to cooperate with their probe, his lawyer said yesterday.
While the amount of money is small compared to the size of the program Sevan oversaw — one of the largest humanitarian operations in history — the findings would be a major blow because of his stature in the organization and the control he had over it.
Indeed. (Via Newsbeat1).
UPDATE: Some financial perspective here.
LOTS OF WAR NEWS at The Dawn Patrol, a regular feature of The Mudville Gazette.
NORM GERAS interviews Daniel Drezner.
Imagine a cancer drug that can burrow into a tumor, seal the exits and detonate a lethal dose of anti-cancer toxins, all while leaving healthy cells unscathed.
MIT researchers have designed a nanoparticle to do just that.
The dual-chamber, double-acting, drug-packing “nanocell” proved effective and safe, with prolonged survival, against two distinct forms of cancers-melanoma and Lewis lung cancer-in mice.
The work will be reported in the July 28 issue of Nature, with an accompanying commentary. . . .
The team loaded the outer membrane of the nanocell with an anti-angiogenic drug and the inner balloon with chemotherapy agents. A “stealth” surface chemistry allows the nanocells to evade the immune system, while their size (200 nanometers) makes them preferentially taken into the tumor. They are small enough to pass through tumor vessels, but too large for the pores of normal vessels.
Once the nanocell is inside the tumor, its outer membrane disintegrates, rapidly deploying the anti-angiogenic drug. The blood vessels feeding the tumor then collapse, trapping the loaded nanoparticle in the tumor, where it slowly releases the chemotherapy.
The team tested this model in mice. The double-loaded nanocell shrank the tumor, stopped angiogenesis and avoided systemic toxicity much better than other treatment and delivery variations.
Faster, please. (Via NanoDot).
A WHILE BACK, RACKSPACE TURNED OVER INDYMEDIA SERVERS to the FBI. Now Declan McCullagh reports that this was because RackSpace didn’t know what it was doing, not because the FBI asked for the servers:
In October 2004, a federal prosecutor sent a subpoena to Rackspace Managed Hosting of San Antonio, Texas, as part of an investigation underway in Italy into an attempted murder. Under a mutual legal assistance treaty, the U.S. government is required to help other nations secure evidence in certain criminal cases.
The newly disclosed subpoena, which has been partially redacted, asks only for specific “log files.”
But Rackspace turned over the entire hard drive at the time, taking the server offline and effectively pulling the plug on more than 20 Independent Media Center Web sites for about a week.
Rackspace claimed at the time that the subpoena required the company to turn over the customer’s “hardware.”
Now that the documents have been unsealed by a federal judge in Texas, though, Rackspace is backpedalling.
If I were a Rackspace customer, I’d want some sort of assurance that they wouldn’t make this kind of mistake again. (Via SlashDot, many of whose commenters seem to be oblivious to the fact that the subpoena originated with the Italian government, not John Ashkkkroft).
TOUGHENING IMMIGRATION RULES IN BRITAIN:
LONDON — Prime Minister Tony Blair on Friday announced new deportation measures against those who foster hatred and advocate violence, as his government tries to counter Islamic extremists in Britain.
Blair said the government would draw up a list of extremist Web sites, book shops and organizations and said that involvement with them could be a trigger to deport foreign nationals.
Nice touch, announcing that right after Zawahiri’s message.
BRIAN MALONEY: “Was a veteran CBS radio reporter sacked after complaining about her spiked terrorism reporting?”
My favorite take, though, is James Taranto’s: “And it’s very important to investigate every aspect of a prospective Supreme Court justice’s life. After all, he may threaten the right to privacy!”
WHO KILLED STEVEN VINCENT? The Mudville Gazette has a roundup.
BOB NOVAK WALKS OFF THE SET: Crooks & Liars has the video.
So does Ian Schwartz.
UPDATE: Kaus thinks he knows why Novak left.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Nick Gillespie doesn’t really care:
CNN has suspended Novak indefinitely. Which is no way to treat the guy who just delivered the only interesting bit of video on that flagging network since Jon Stewart called Tucker Carlson a dick on the now-cancelled Crossfire. And before that, it was what, Peter Arnett touring Iraqi baby milk factories?
The great thing about the blogosphere (and its close cousin the onlinemagazineosphere) is the variety of voices, and if one blogger is busy or feeling a little burned out or just doesn’t have anything he or she feels driven to dig into and write about, there are always other bloggers busy blogging away.
PUBLIUS REPORTS that the Andean Free Trade Agreement is progressing nicely in the wake of CAFTA’s passage.
BILL QUICK’s co-blogger Lastango is unhappy with the war effort, which he regards as insufficiently vigorous: “Unless the pillars of the Republican party shake, unless conservative desertion threatens the GOP with ruin at the coffers and the polls, unless the president and his close team fear disgrace, there will be no War On Terror.”
On the other hand, here’s a claim that Bush is trying too hard. Well, sort of.
UPDATE: Eric Scheie has further thoughts.
ANOTHER UPDATE: The public seems uncertain.
STILL MORE KELO BLOWBACK. It’s a report on the effort to condemn Justice Souter’s house and build a hotel.
BRENDAN O’NEILL writes that Al Zawahiri is a rip-off artist. “He ‘s only doing what al-Qaeda bosses have consistently done since 9/11: taking the West’s own fear and loathing and throwing it back at us in a supposedly scary, finger-wagging statement to camera.”
UPDATE: Jeff Goldstein has further thoughts on Zawahiri’s rhetoric.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Similar thoughts from the wonderfully-named Drink-soaked Trotskyite Popinjays for War.
BLOGS OF WAR: John Hockenberry has an excellent article on milbloggers in the latest Wired. It’s now available online.
PALMEIRO’S STEROID USE: It’s all Bill Clinton’s fault!
Put me down as unpersuaded.
MORE KELO BACKLASH, this time in Alabama:
Alabama yesterday became the first state to enact new protections against local-government seizure of property allowed under a Supreme Court ruling that has triggered an explosive grass-roots counteroffensive across the country. . . .
The backlash against the judicial ruling has not received much attention in the national press, although legislative leaders in more than two dozen states have proposed statutes and/or state constitutional amendments to restrict local governments’ eminent-domain powers.
Besides Alabama, legislation to ban or restrict the use of eminent domain for private development has been introduced in 16 states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas.
Legislators have announced plans to introduce eminent-domain bills in seven more states: Alaska, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Dakota, South Carolina and Wisconsin, and lawmakers in Colorado, Georgia and Virginia plan to act on previously introduced bills.
In addition, public support is being sought for state constitutional prohibitions in several states — Alabama, California, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey and Texas.
I guess my prediction (“I suspect that this decision — somewhat like Bowers — will cause a lot of activists to shift their focus to state legislatures and state courts”) has been borne out. (More on that here.)
IRAQ SENDS A FEMALE AMBASSADOR TO EGYPT: And here’s something else I had missed — the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq has weighed in in favor of women’s rights in the new Iraqi constitution: “On Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad urged the framers to protect women’s rights as a ‘fundamental requirement for Iraq’s progress.’”
JOHN KERRY is seriously unpopular, according to the latest poll data. Brendan Nyhan has thoughts on what that means.
CLIVE DAVIS: “At some point in the next few days, I suppose, someone in the moral equivalence industry will try to argue that the dropping of the atomic bomb was an act of terrorism.”
Max Boot: “It is hard to imagine how many more GIs and Tommies would have perished in 1944-45 had Anglo-American leaders flinched from using all the means at their disposal to hasten the end of the war. Indeed, if the U.S. had staged a blood-drenched invasion of Japan while holding back its atomic arsenal, President Truman would have been indicted for that decision too.”
PUSHBACK: A few years ago we saw a raft of anti-technology stuff — Bill Joy’s article in Wired, Frank Fukuyama’s anti-posthumanist screed, various pronouncements by Jeremy Rifkin, Leon Kass and Daniel Callahan, etc.
I notice now that we’re seeing more from the other side. You’ve got Ramez Naam’s More Than Human : Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement, Ron Bailey’s Liberation Biology, Gregory Stock’s Redesigning Humans: Our Inevitable Genetic Future, Joel Garreau’s Radical Evolution : The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies — and What It Means to Be Human,and, of course, Ray Kurzweil’s forthcoming book, perhaps the most ambitious of the lot.
Democrats should also do with stem cell research what Republicans did with gay marriage: present the issue for a vote on every possible state ballot. Republican Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader from Tennessee, just demonstrated the power of the issue. Frist’s surprise endorsement of a bill that would approve federal funds for new lines of stem cells enraged the right. But Frist knows the political center supports it, and the political center is where a presidential contender wants to be. In stem cell research, Democrats, for once, have an issue that fires up their base and cuts to the center, across diverse demographic groups.
I think that’s right. This is an issue where the GOP is tied to its base, and where swing voters go the other way. Interestingly, there’s plenty of opportunity for the GOP to weaken this assault by supporting other kinds of life-extending and life-improving research — into aging, for example — to blunt efforts to tar it as the party of Luddites and fundamentalists. Will they be smart enough to do that?
UPDATE: Reader Randolph Resor emails regarding Liberation Biology:
I’ll probably end up reading the book, but I wanted to mention a PBS special of a few months ago called “Harvest of Fear”. It dealt with genetically modified plants, and considering the ominous-sounding music, appeared to be an attempt to raise questions about GMOs. However, the pro-GMO folks came off as intelligent, literate, and genuinely interested in helping people, while the opponents looked like a bunch of crazies.
Most impressive was a black South African botanist, a woman, discussing genetically modified sweet potatoes. When asked about opposition to GMOs, she said, “These people have never been hungry in their lives. Who do they think they are, telling me I can’t help my people feed themselves?”
Indeed. The opponents of scientific progress on both the left and the right seek to clothe themselves in moral superiority, but it’s pretty much a sham.
ANOTHER UPDATE: In response to a couple of reader emails, I should note that the “opponents of scientific progress” that I’m referring to are the Kass/Fukuyama/Rifkin sort mentioned at the top — not necessarily opponents of embryonic stem cell research, whom I regard as wrong, but not necessarily Luddite or immoral.
Meanwhile Phil Bowermaster has some further thoughts on pushback:
One could make the case that this is cyclical — that there’s a Kurzweil for every Fukuyama, but that there will be a Leon Kass for every Kurzweil and then a Ron Bailey for every Leon Kass and on and on it goes. But I doubt it. I think something else may be at work here.
Maybe in spite of all the hype and scare stories and just plain bad information, the idea is getting through that we really can expect technology, in the coming years, to make unprecedented changes in what human life is and can be. . . .
So why the switch from Fukayama to Kurzweil? Well, as Stephen points out, some of these major, world-shattering changes promise to show up right on schedule. We may look for direction from someone like Joel Garreau, who can discuss both the pros and cons of inevitable change. But a Kass or a Fukayama…arguing against change istelf?
Sorry, we just don’t have time for that any more.
Read the whole thing.
MORE: Brendan Nyhan thinks that state initiatives are a bad idea on policy grounds, regardless of their political uses.
THE CARNIVAL OF GAMERS is up!
MICHAEL YON offers combat-photoblogging from Mosul. As always, it’s a must-read.
I DEFEND THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY from some rather half-baked criticism, over at GlennReynolds.com.
MAN BITES DOG: Brian Micklethwait notes a Hollywood actress talking sense about poverty.
States across the country are rushing to pass laws to counter the potential impact of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that allows state and local governments to seize homes for private development. . . .
The issue has spawned an unusual alliance among conservatives opposed to the principle of government seizing private property and liberals worried that poor people would be the most likely victims.
I’m glad to hear it.
BEYOND BORDERS is a new blog about immigration from Southern California.
ROBERT KC JOHNSON has thoughts on academic freedom.
IS ANN COULTER faking it?
The good news is that in many ways, preparations for the two overlap. In particular, developing technologies to produce vaccines and antiviral drugs much more rapidly and effectively would drastically reduce the dangers from both.
RON BAILEY THINKS that bio-conservatives may be mellowing.
JOHN BOLTON’S FIRST DAY ON THE JOB, as reported by James Lileks.
MICHAEL BARONE has a blog! And, unsurprisingly, it’s good.
“WHY NOT TRY FOR THE POPULARITY CONTEST?” I never knew that Moore could be so funny. Or give such good advice.
IN RESPONSE TO STEVEN VINCENT’S DEATH, reader Eric Boyer emails:
I’m anxiously awaiting Linda Foley’s statement condemning the “number and the brutality, and the cavalier nature” of the insurgents toward the killing of journalists in Iraq.
Aren’t we all.
UPDATE: Some ways to honor Steven Vincent, here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Read this moving post at The Mudville Gazette.
I FINISHED RON BAILEY’S BOOK the other day, and he’s certainly hard on the anti-GMO folks:
Why would leaders of these African nations risk starving millions of their citizens over fear of food that 290 million Americans have been eating safely since 1996? Because antibiotech activists such as [Vandana] Shiva and nongovernmental activist groups such as Greenpeace have been misleading the public about the alleged dangers of genetically improved crop varieties. . . .
Scientists trying to help the world’s poor are appalled by the apparent willingness of biotechnology opponents to sacrifice people for their cause. At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in February 2000, Ismail Serageldin, then director of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research posed a challenge: “I ask opponents of biotechnology, do you want two to three million children a year to go blind and one million to die of Vitamin A deficiency, just because you object to the way golden rice was created?”
The answer, basically, is “yes.”
PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW what I think about the Hackett / Schmidt election in Ohio. Not much (though this was amusing). Pundits and press always try to turn these by-elections into big leading indicators of the next election, but they’re usually one-offs of no enduring significance. I think this was one of those. And no, my “silence” didn’t mean that I was covering things up, or in denial (about what?) or, well, anything except that I didn’t have much to say.
As Bob Somerby said to one of his critics: ” A column doesn’t become ‘disingenuous’ if it doesn’t address ‘the main issue’ for you.” Or a blog. Jeez.
UPDATE: Jason van Steenwyk, on the other hand, has an opinion or two.
ANOTHER UPDATE: So does the now-blogging Michael Barone, whose opinions on this sort of thing are worth a lot more than mine. He agrees that partisan swings in by-elections don’t mean much, but he does suggest bad news for the Republicans nonetheless:
The reason is that in the present state of polarization of politics, turnout is the key to winning elections. Turnout in 2004 was up 16 percent over 2000—a historic rise. John Kerry got 16 percent more votes than Al Gore, but George W. Bush got 23 percent more votes in 2004 than he did in 2000. That’s why the Republican percentage for president rose from 48 to 51 and the Democratic percentage dropped slightly.
The results in the Ohio 2nd go the other way. According to the latest results I have before me, 112,375 people voted in the special election. That’s just 34 percent of the 331,104 who voted in the district in 2004. Republican Jean Schmidt’s vote total was only 27 percent of Bush’s. Democrat Paul Hackett’s vote total was 46 percent of Kerry’s. Democrats did a better job of turning out their vote. . . .
In this week’s election, Democrats apparently were able to motivate their Bush-hating core to go to the polls. Republicans, who demonstrated such prowess at turning out their voters in November 2004, did not do nearly as well in motivating their base. Turnout will be much higher in November 2006. But this result will give heart to the www.dailykos.com Democrats who argue that all they need to do is to turn out Bush-haters. And it should give pause to Republicans and raise the question as to whether the Republican base—much larger in this district than the Democratic base—will turn out in record numbers in November 2006 as it did in November 2004.
Judging from what I read in a lot of blogs, I think that Bush’s fair-weather federalism and general lack of enthusiasm for small government means that a lot of the base is less motivated. And I can see why.
BAD NEWS ON ADULT STEM CELLS: “Such cells are seen as the potential key to the treatment of certain muscle diseases. However, a study currently being conducted at Bonn’s University Clinic has produced some sobering findings: although the cells are able to migrate into the muscle fibres, they do not generally take on any tissue-specific functions. This, according to the Bonn medical scientists, means the cells would not serve as a substitute for defective muscle cells.”
There’s still a lot of stem-cell science to do before people can claim that one approach or another is clearly the best. Which is why we should be doing the science.