Thursday, July 31, 2008

Spain Shrugs

In Ayn Rand's famous novel, Atlas Shrugged, the author depicts a US awash in socialism. As one small dramatic example, she shows the government mandating that the trains run at slower speeds. In the category of "life imitates art" comes this story of recent events Spain.

As if capitulating to jihadists wasn't bad enough, the country continues a trend of slow economic suicide. Sadly, this is what one expects from socialist control. Rather than ramp up nuclear power generation to the level of France, which they could approach within a few years, they choose an austerity program instead.
To protests from motorists and mockery in parts of the press, the Socialist government plans to cut motorway speed limits to 50mph and town speeds to 25mph. New austerity rules will be imposed on the air conditioning and heating of all public buildings. Street-lighting will be cut by half.

Almost 50 million low-energy light bulbs will be handed out by the government in an attempt to drive high-consumption bulbs out of the market in the next four years. The government will also sponsor a project intended to introduce a million electric or hybrid electric-petrol cars on to Spanish roads by 2014.
And, when it comes right down to it, for no good reason at all. Spain could easily be a very wealthy country. It has a highly educated population, ample land, wind, and sunshine, a long history in banking, a large wine industry, and a healthy tourist trade. Yet, its per capita income is more than 10% below the EU average; it is ranked lower than Greece[pdf], of all places.

As if more evidence were needed, this is one more instance of shooting oneself in the head for the sake of the religion of viropaganism.

Whether the Spanish people will become angry enough to put an end to this foolishness remains to be seen. But there is hope:
[A] poll of Spanish motorists by a TV channel found little evidence of the JFK spirit. Manolo of Madrid said: "Tell the minister that things are just fine as they are. We don't want to cut our speed. People would be honking their horns all the time if they had to go that slow."
By all means, Spaniards, make some noise. Otherwise, the next sound heard from you will be a death rattle.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Democrats Oppose Oil Company Property Rights

It would be more common to assert that Democrats oppose oil drilling. That's true, but it doesn't get to the heart of the matter. The Democrats believe in essence, wrongly — as wrong as it is possible to be on this issue — that they own all land in and around the United States.

Ownership, rational economists teach, entails the right of use and disposal. The contrapositive is equally true. If someone, like an oil company, does not have the freedom to use a given property, they don't own it.

And Democrats are determined to see that they never do.
“I am unalterably opposed to drilling,” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, who cited a massive oil spill that closed nearly 100 miles of the Mississippi River last week.
The spill to which the brain dead Senator refers involved a collision between a tanker and a barge. I.e. (a) something that will happen once in awhile; that's the cost of doing business in the real world, and (b) an event that is totally irrelevant to drilling in Alaska, producing oil from shale in Colorado, and other disputed areas.

Other Congresspersons are less rigid on the subject. Less rigid, but no less authoritarian.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) urged Reid to be “very careful about drilling off the coast of Alaska.”
Er, let's set aside the fact that the Senate Majority leader — a politician his entire adult life — couldn't drill a clean hole in a 12-inch pine board, much less an oil well. Senator Cantwell's statement implies that the eminent Mr. Reid owns and operates oil wells. He does not.

The putrid Ms. Pelosi has a similar view.
[She] told The Hill that lawmakers should focus on the National Petroleum Reserve on Alaska’s North Slope instead of offshore. “There are tens of millions of barrels in the reserve. If you want oil in Alaska, drill there,” she said.
This implies that Rep. Pelosi has the right to dictate to oil company executives where they should do business (and, by implication, where not). She does not.

No member of Congress has the right to determine when or where any oil company should search for or extract oil. The power, yes. The right, no.

And that difference is the entire problem in a nutshell.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lessons From The Berlin Airlift

In another fine editorial in the Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby provides some background on the Berlin Airlift.

The Soviet Union had blockaded western Berlin on June 24, 1948, choking off access to the city by land and water and threatening 2.5 million people with starvation. Moscow was determined to force the United States and its allies out of Berlin.

For President Truman, retreat was unthinkable. "We stay in Berlin, period," he decreed. Overriding the doubts of senior advisers, including Secretary of State George C. Marshall and General Omar Bradley, the Army Chief of Staff, Truman ordered the Armed Forces to begin supplying Berlin by air.

Military planners initially thought that with a "very big operation," they might be able to get 700 tons of food to Berlin. Within weeks, the Air Force was flying in twice that amount every day, as well as supplies of coal.

"Pilots and crew were making heroic efforts," David McCullough recorded in his sweeping biography of Truman. "At times planes were landing as often as every four minutes - British Yorks and Dakotas, America C-47s and the newer, much larger, four-engine C-54s . . . Ground crews worked round the clock. "We were proud of our Air Force during the war. We're prouder of it today," said The New York Times. [emphasis added]

Yet the pressure to abandon Berlin persisted. The CIA argued that the airlift had worsened matters by "making Berlin a major test of US-Soviet strength" and affirming "direct US responsibility" for West Berlin. The airlift was bound to fail, the intelligence analysts warned. Truman didn't waver. "We'll stay in Berlin - come what may," he wrote in his diary on July 19. "I don't pass the buck, nor do I alibi out of any decision I make."

It would take nearly a year and more than 277,000 flights. But in the end it was the Soviets who backed down. On May 12, 1949, the blockade ended - a triumph of American prowess and perseverance, and a momentous vindication for Truman.

Sound familiar?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Obama the Zero

I try to write as little as possible about the zero who is Barack Obama (in part because I try to think as seldom as possible about him).

But, because he is likely (based on present evidence) to be the next President of the US, I feel compelled to say something occasionally. Now that he's made a tour of Europe and the Middle East, pretending to be President already, it seemed like a good time.

Fortunately, the unpleasant burden of commenting on his speech of empty platitudes in Berlin has been carried for me. I offer two very good examples.

From Helen Cadogan at American Thinker:
Obama gave his long awaited speech in Berlin today. It was much ado about nothing...

The walls that must come down, according to Obama, are racial and religious walls.


Had Obama made that speech in Gaza, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia, then his speech would have been courageous and there would have been some merit to it. For, the Islamic countries of the mid-East are hotbeds of racial and religious intolerance, hellholes in which torture is par for the course, in which Jews are as cattle for slaughter and blacks are "abd." [sic]

To the Islamic hellholes in the mid-East, Obama uttered mere platitudes. No condemnation, no exhortation to permit freedom of worship, no demand for civil rights for blacks. He issued no call for Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran to stop funding terrorism and religious intolerance around the world, no words of support for the oppressed women—burqa-clad and subject to honor killings, no requirement for Muslim men to exercise self- control and stop blaming women for being raped.

And, from Victor Davis Hanson, a consistently intelligent observer and someone who actually knows what he talking about:
Given the size of the audience in Berlin Thursday, the enthusiastic response, and the standard lines about how we-were-, -are-, and -will-be-friends boilerplate, one wonders whether all it took to win the Euro-hearts and minds was to have a charismatic, multiracial American spice up a standard George W. Bush speech about helping the world, addressing AIDs, more troops in Afghanistan, etc.?

So supposedly sophisticated Europeans, who constantly dissect American politics and culture, seem suddenly to like us now, because a younger, more mellifluous figure repackaged the standard American trans-Atlantic rah-rah speech, dressed up with a little Obama messianic sermonizing: “People of Berlin — people of the world — this is our moment. This is our time!” along with some throwaway lines about global warming and Darfur?

That’s all it took?

A few minutes of Obama’s Elvis-like hope and change? And now the Europeans will pour troops into Afghanistan, match our AIDs-relief dollars, stand up to Iran, be balanced in the Middle East, get off our backs about Iraq, and stiffen their spines with the Russians, because the days of Bushitler are by fiat over with?

Besides the usual rock-star stuff that he excels at, Obama still does not do history well. He started, as in now usual, almost immediately by mentioning his race (“I know that I don’t look like the Americans who’ve previously spoken in this great city.”) But that simply was not true, given the fact that for the last seven years both American Secretaries of State — who have been the faces of American foreign policy in Europe — were African-American.

His reference to why Berlin did not starve in 1948 (“But in the darkest hours, the people of Berlin kept the flame of hope burning. The people of Berlin refused to give up. And on one fall day, hundreds of thousands of Berliners came here, to the Tiergarten, and heard the city’s mayor implore the world not to give up on freedom.”) seems somewhat misleading: the city was kept alive not by “the world” or even the courage of the hungry Berliners, but by skill and courage of the U.S. Air Force.

This last is particularly interesting because it shows once again that either (a) Obama is ignorant of history, or (b) lying again to suit his purposes. I vote for (c) all of the above.

By the way, about that "likely" prediction above: Man, do I hope I'm wrong.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Politicians Bring Prosperity?

In a recent New York Times story about the reorganization of McCain's campaign, I found this:
"Voters don’t care about the organizational chart of our campaign," said Jill Hazelbaker, the campaign spokeswoman. "What they want to hear from John McCain is how he plans to bring about economic prosperity and secure the peace for future generations.[emphasis added]
I daresay most Americans would think that quote very unremarkable. I think it's outrageous, and displays a fundamental error.

The idea that politicians can create wealth is absurd. They help create, at best and only partially and rarely, conditions which make it possible for productive people to create goods and services for trade. Researchers who invent wearable kidneys, executives who manage oil refinery construction, and the man who runs a machine producing camera parts — these are the individuals who create prosperity.

Politicians have a valid role to play here: to create and modify legislation to protect property. They are tasked with protecting property rights by defining how those operate in specific circumstances. They have no valid role to play in creating the property in the first place, nor have they ever.

That a candidate can get away with touting a plan to create prosperity already shows how deep the problem is. That plan will get pored over with the finest of microscopes by advocates and opponents both. Its pros and cons will be scrutinized and hotly debated on hundreds of news sites and blogs. Few will challenge him for presenting one in the first place.

As usual, the basic social problems this country faces are not primarily power-lusting politicians, destructive as they are. It is that all too many are willing to hand them power they ought not have in the first place.

Monday, July 21, 2008

UCLA Researchers Develop Wearable Kidney

Researchers at UCLA have developed a wearable kidney-like device that would eliminate the need for dialysis. Unlike dialysis, though, the device functions continuously, avoiding the buildup of toxins that occurs in between traditional treatments.
UCLA–VA has also signed an exclusive licensing agreement with the Singapore-based company AWAK Technologies Pte. Ltd. to develop [the] commercial wearable kidney based on the design by Martin Roberts, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a dialysis consultant with the VA Healthcare System, and David B.N. Lee, a professor of medicine at the Geffen School and a consultant nephrologist at the VA.


The design for the peritoneal-based artificial kidney — which is "bloodless" and reduces or even eliminates protein loss and other dialysis-related problems — is summarized in an article published in the current issue of the journal Clinical and Experimental Nephrology...

Amazing. What's even more amazing is that, according to the story, the two funded the research that led to the invention out of their own pockets.

Bravo to doctors Lee and Roberts.

[Hat tip: Levi Beckerson, Daily Tech]

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Media Lies — Forward and Backward

The ways in which the mainstream media lie are often very subtle. I refer in this case to a CBS news report of 19, July 2008 covering Barack Obama's triumphant Presidential European tour.

That description strikes you as premature? Clearly, you are not employed by CBS — or any of the other dozens of so-called news organizations.

By the simple act of juxtaposing four facts, they have attempted to anoint Mr. Obama, without the messy necessity of an actual election. To wit:
    1. First, they describe in loving detail how Mr. Obama has proposed (yet again) a 16-month timetable to withdraw a number of U.S. troops out of Iraq, while treating it as the equivalent of a presidential plan.

    2. Then, they describe — as if it were somehow relevant — Prime Minister Malaki's favorable view of this proposal, as if he were agreeing with a U.S. President.

    3. They then go on to assert that Mr. Obama sees the Afghanistan theater as the most important front in the 'War on Terror.' (Contrary to al Qaeda's view up to yesterday, but never mind that now.)

    4. Finally, they observe that President Bush — the actual president, it might be useful to remind them — has agreed as well, or so they say.
There are so many subtle distortions in this report, it's difficult to know where to begin. Let us plunge in at random.

That it's helpful to beef up the troop presence — enact a 'surge' — in Afghanistan is an idea not only touted by Senator McCain, but an obvious one anyway. For CBS to claim on Obama's behalf that somehow he is being original here is absurd.

Far worse is to slyly suggest to the inattentive viewer that somehow President Bush is seeing the light as a result of the illumination shed by the wise Mr. Obama. Obama is not only totally devoid of any experience in foreign affairs, he has never even bothered to hold sub-committee meetings on the subject, though he chairs one.

That the mainstream news outlets are fawning over Mr. Obama's tour is no surprise. After all, he shares to a 'T' nearly all their chief views and values — his leftist philosophy, and the cynical, pragmatic method of lying about it in order to keep ratings up.

But even for the habitually mendacious CBS and its cousins, the stories covering Obama's belated tour as if he were already president is a bit much. That they present the situation as if he is actually leading, rather than following, is beyond the pale.


The trend continues as the Philadelphia Inquirer picks up on CBS' talking points. More spin, misdirection, and reversal of timelines.

Another Medical Wonder

Dr. Karen Wooley and her colleagues at Washington University are developing chemo-toxins delivered by nanoparticles to combat brain tumors. (The blood brain barrier makes it difficult to effectively deliver many compounds inside the brain. Nanoparticle technologies promise a way to get around that.)
Some of the properties of the nanoparticle important to Wooley's group are its carrying capacity and the way it releases the cancer toxin into the body. Most polymeric based nanoparticles have at best a three to four percent drug capacity. Wooley's group's particles boast an up to 19 percent loading, five times the typical delivery vehicle's capacity. While the large increase in toxin is beneficial, not all of the toxin in these particles will be released.

Another difference is the rate at which the drug is released into the patient. Most cancer-targeting nano and macroparticles verily explode a cancer cell in one way or another. The WU group's particles are designed to release the toxin more slowly over time. The group is working to tune these properties further, allowing a tailored particle delivery vehicle.

Kudos to another hero of medical science.

[Hat tip to Daily Tech]

Thursday, July 17, 2008

ANWR, Green Pandering, and the Feds

In a generally excellent post on Power Line, John Hinderaker analyzes the Democratic faux attempt to assuage the recent push to open up domestic oil drilling.

Yet, there is an important question that Hinderaker, and many conservatives unfortunately, fails to ask: Why should it be up to the Feds to determine what Alaskans do with resources within that state?

The history of ANWR gives the sad answer. In brief, it amounted to yet another in a long and depressing line of Federal land grabs, based at least in part on Green pandering.

According to one source (Univ. North Carolina), the acreage was 'set aside' in 1923 for the purpose of securing a strategic oil reserve. But more recent legislative history shows otherwise. According to the website of Patrick Leahy, senator from Vermont:
In 1960 President Eisenhower established the 8.9 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Range, in order to protect its "unique wildlife, wilderness, and recreational values."

In 1980 Congress and President Carter expanded the Range and renamed it the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Further additions enlarged the Refuge to 19.5 million acres.

Congress permanently protected most of the Refuge but set aside 1.5 million acres in the coastal 1002 area for oil exploration and potential development, subject to further Congressional approval.

Several subsequent efforts to open the 1002 area for development failed in Congress, one after the Exxon Valdez disaster and one by presidential veto. The 1002 area is the last 5% of Alaska's northern coastal plain that is not open to oil and gas development.

So, a drunken ships' captain runs his tanker aground, causing a large oil spill. Some birds die. Exxon spends billions to clean it up. Yet, forever after, private oil companies are not permitted to extract a very valuable resource and market it in the face of high demand.

Alaska became a state in January, 1959. So, again, I ask, why is the Federal government involved at all?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sowell on Obama's Proposals

In yet another of a very long line of brilliant articles, Thomas Sowell asks the question: Are Facts Obsolete? In particular, he lays out a few of Barack Obama's economic proposals and shows how they all would be both nothing new and utter failures. In his usual fashion, he does it calmly, by showing how such ideas have fared in the past.

For example, he writes:

Raising taxes, increasing government spending and demonizing business? That is straight out of the New Deal of the 1930s.

The New Deal was new then but it is not new now. Moreover, increasing numbers of economists and historians have concluded that New Deal policies are what prolonged the Great Depression.

Putting new restrictions of international trade, in order to save American jobs? That was done by Herbert Hoover, when he signed the Hawley-Smoot tariff when the unemployment rate was 9 percent. The next year the unemployment rate was 16 percent and, before the Great Depression was over, unemployment hit 25 percent.

The entire article is not only worth reading, but studying, and not only for the facts he cites but the method he uses.

If it's true — though I strongly suspect it is not — that some Americans are eager to elect a black man for President to "compensate for America's past deeds," it's a pity they are looking to Barack Obama, and not Thomas Sowell. Were the latter the case, America would, indeed, be a far different place.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

How to Analyze A Global Warming Story

The latest from the Global Warming front:
The Arctic ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the waters too hot, according to a report to the Commerce Department yesterday from the [American] Consul at Bergen, Norway.

Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers, he declared, all point to a radical change in climatic conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone. Exploration expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met with as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes. Soundings to a depth of 3.100 meters showed the gulf stream still very warm.

Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, the report continued, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared. Very few seals and no white fish are being found in the eastern Arctic, while vast shoals of herring and smelts, which have never before ventured so far north, are being encountered in the old seal fishing grounds.

Latest? Oops, my error. This text is actually from an AP story published in the Washington Post in 1922.

But there's more here than simply evidence (as if we didn't have enough already) that climate naturally varies, or that ice in the North has been freezing and melting for eons. Observe how the story exhibits the same alarmist tone and, worse, the same absence of objectivity as contemporary stories.

For example, note that when it says "icebergs are growing scarcer," the story doesn't say by how much, nor in comparison to earlier periods. "[W]ell known glaciers have entirely disappeared." Forever? For the first time in history? Do we have any reason to care?

The story says "seals are finding the waters too hot." How hot is too hot? Too hot for what? Worst, perhaps, is the statement: "Soundings...showed the gulf stream still very warm." Er, "very warm"? Is that a lot? Warm, compared to what? Is that bad?

Note, overall, the complete lack of specificity, and the absence of any recognition of the climate history of the area (apart from the vague "hitherto unheard of" bombast). There is no way for scientist or layman to evaluate the seriousness, or lack, of the information provided. It's safe to conclude, then, that the only purpose of the story was to alarm the reader.

Just like today.

[Hat tip to Power Line.]

Friday, July 11, 2008

How To Kill a Culture

CBS the other day ran a glowing interview with the Editor-In-Chief of Muslim Girl magazine. If they keep up that sort of thing, and there's no backlash, New York is likely to be glowing in a different way in a few years.

I have no special knowledge of the Editor. She may very well be a decent person. She may simply be colossally ignorant and foolish, which would be in line with Islam's view of women in general.
The men are made responsible for the women, and God has endowed them with certain qualities, and made them the bread earners. The righteous women will cheerfully accept this arrangement, since it is God's commandment...

If you experience rebellion from the women, you shall first talk to them, then deserting them in bed, then you may beat them. Sura 4:34

One has to admit that a hajib is an excellent garment for covering up those unsightly bruises.

"Surely," the more moderate will say, "a fashion magazine for Muslim teen females couldn't be more innocuous." That, I suppose, depends on what your goal is. I wouldn't presume to adopt a conspiratorial air and claim that anyone sinister is behind this ridiculous publication.

But, the magazine's website does ask:
"Would you like to be our Values for Life or Qur'an Notes correspondent? You'll have the opportunity to reflect on an important Qur'anic principle or Islamic value and to discuss how you apply it in your daily life.

Since the job appears to be open, it would behoove applicants to know what the Qur'an says. Among other gems, we find such things as:
"If you have made a treaty with infidels who are honorable, do not break the treaty until after the holy months are past. Then fight them and kill them wherever you find them, and take them captive, and besiege them, and ambush them."9:4-5

And, in a related Islamic text, one of the Hadiths, we find:
"Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him."Hadith Al Buhkari vol. 9:57

Perhaps the editor had no thoughts of such ugly things when she posted the job opening. But even such trivial things as:
Mohammed said, "Don't wear false hair for Allah sends His curse upon such ladies who lengthen their hair artificially." Vol. 7:133

could be a problem for a teen fashion magazine. I guess if you continually wear a veil, that problem just won't come up.

At a time when the West is at war with jihadists motivated by Islam, it's a poor time to be publishing a magazine praising Islamic culture, whatever its editorial slant. But until enough Americans with the ability to influence American culture stand up and denounce CBS, et al for their fifth columnist activities, the problem will continue.

There's grim comfort in knowing it won't continue forever.

The larger problem, of course, isn't the nonsense contained in this absurd religion. It is the American acquiescence in the face of its being presented so casually as "just another lifestyle choice." The subjectivism underlying that politically correct multiculturalism is the disease at the root of the problem.

Long past time for an intellectual surge to pour some Enlightenment Weed-B-Gone on it.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Saddam Hussein's Nuke Program — Myth or Reality?

I haven't written much publicly about the Iraq War yet, apart from scattered comments on other sites. Fortunately, it may be over before I get around to it. But in the meantime, there is one thing that has long been a bone of contention between some of those who opposed invading Iraq and those who support(ed) it: the putative presence (or absence) of WMD as justification for the effort.

I always thought it was not the best way to argue in favor of the war effort, especially since that causus belli was entirely unnecessary. But whether or not WMD were present in Iraq is a matter of fact, not philosophical argument. Like many, I thought Hussein had them, especially since he'd used them on the Kurds.

Whether or not he had nuclear weapons, or an active program to produce them was trickier to decide. Many, perhaps most, based on alleged lack of such materials found after the invasion, decided he had not. Some argued they had been spirited off to Syria; possible, but not likely. If they had been found, others argued, the Bush administration would have trumpted it loudly, in order to say "I told you so" and justify the invasion.

But, oddly, no renewal of those arguments has been heard in the blogosphere the past few days, even though this story has recently been widely reported.

The last major remnant of Saddam Hussein's nuclear program - a huge stockpile of concentrated natural uranium - reached a Canadian port Saturday to complete a secret U.S. operation that included a two-week airlift from Baghdad and a ship voyage crossing two oceans.

The removal of 550 metric tons of "yellowcake" - the seed material for higher-grade nuclear enrichment - was a significant step toward closing the books on Saddam's nuclear legacy. It also brought relief to U.S. and Iraqi authorities who had worried the cache would reach insurgents or smugglers crossing to Iran to aid its nuclear ambitions.

Now, I'm far from an expert on nuclear weapons production. But, having researched nuclear power extensively for several years, I'm not completely ignorant of the subject, either.

So, I wonder why (when he had 550 metric tons of yellowcake) doesn't it follow that Hussein can reasonably be said to have had an active nuclear weapons program? After all, once you have the material, and a means for refining it (which he could have, I understand, acquired from AQ Khan's network for the asking, along with a bomb design), the rest would seem pretty straightforward.

[Aside: One of the things Bush got beat up for was being wrong ("lying," if you prefer the alternative interpretation, I don't) about Hussein getting yellowcake from Niger.]

I loathe conspiracy theories, and the mentality which latches eagerly on to them. But, I don't see here why it would be unreasonable to declare that Hussein had a WMD program that could readily have brought to fruition a nuclear bomb had he desired.

Anyone familiar with the details, please straighten me out.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

July 4th Reboot, From Thomas Jefferson

A reader pointed out a flaw in Calvin Coolidge's speech, which I quoted on July 4. I took exception, probably too strong an exception, to his complaint. I herewith rectify that blunder with the following quotation from the last letter of Thomas Jefferson, written July 4, 1826 (exactly 100 years prior to the Coolidge speech), declining an invitation to a celebration owing to ill health:

I should, indeed, with peculiar delight, have met and exchanged there congratulations personally with the small band, the remnant of that host of worthies, who joined with us on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we were to make for our country, between submission or the sword; and to have enjoyed with them the consolatory fact, that our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made.

May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government.

That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

I trust no sane person will take exception to that quote; I'm confident that particular perspicacious reader will not.

[Hat tip to Paul Hsieh, Noodlefood, for the reference to the quote.]

Friday, July 4, 2008

Change and The Declaration of Independence

It would be a joy to have a presidential candidate like this to vote for:
"About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern.

But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final.

No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people.

Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers." Calvin Coolidge, 1926

In a campaign season when "change" is a major theme, it's wise to consider that not all change is equal in value and that some truths are eternal.

[Hat tip to Powerline]

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Choose The Future: Embryonic Screening

Couples in the UK can now choose to have a baby free of certain genes that increase the propensity for select diseases. Through a method called embryonic screening:
The couple produced 11 embryos, of which five were found to be free from the gene. Two of these were implanted in the woman’s womb and she is now 14 weeks pregnant.
Doctors screened out from the woman’s embryos an inherited gene that would have left the baby with a greater than 50% chance of developing [breast] cancer.

While the risks of developing cancer are often overstated (reporters sometimes overemphasize the genetic factors), this is nonetheless fantastic news. Here again we see a technique that applies to a specific problem that could be adapted to many others.

The story doesn't specify who developed the technique [researchers at Guy's Hospital in London], but hats off to the couple's physician, Dr. Paul Serhal, medical director of the Assisted Conception Unit at University College London hospital, for his courage in electing to use it.