Saturday, May 23, 2015

Observations From the Back Row

Agriculture

“Yes, Monsanto is pure evil,” I said. This was about a year ago, in 2013, and I was defending science and nuanced thinking in the same sentence, no less. “Monsanto is pure evil,” I said, “but genetic engineering is just a tool and in itself is neither good or bad.” My University course literature had given a balanced view of many possible benefits to GM while highlighting a couple of areas of caution. My main insight on Monsanto came from the movie Food Inc., confirmed by plenty of common internet knowledge and a couple of trusted friends of mine……..

In 2012, a new tool was invented that revolutionizes how scientists can examine—and manipulate—plant genetic processes. It’s called CRISPR-Cas9, and unlike its predecessors in the world of genetic modification, it is highly specific, allowing scientists to zero in on a single gene and turn it on or off, remove it or exchange it for a different gene. Early signs suggest this tool will be an F-16 jet fighter compared with the Stone Age spear of grafting, the traditional, painstaking means of breeding a new plant hybrid. Biologists and geneticists are confident it can help them build a second Green Revolution—if we’ll let them……

Benghazi

Treason …. plain and simple. This president and apparently our next one are guilty of treason. And America is down with this? She’s the favorite. The country is broken — whether it is irretrievably broken remains to be seen.  Treason? “What difference does it make?” 

“leadership/ownership/stewardship of this country’s Libya policy from start to finish,” says an email written by one of Clinton’s top aides--and forwarded to Clinton herself--as the Libyan rebellion that sought the overthrow of Muammar Qadhafi appeared to be nearing a triumphant moment. The email is one of those the State Department has thus far given to the House Select Committee on Benghazi. It is among 349 pages of those emails that were obtained by the New York Times and that the Times has posted online in a PDF.

Civil Rights

This is the fight. This is where we make our stand. The Democrats are the party of treason. So this is expected, but the Republicans must be taken to the woodshed on this.

This is the new reality: not only is anyone who stands for the freedom of speech excoriated, mocked and shunned, but the emboldened thugs also now issue threats even to teenagers in high school. France and the West are in for a troubled, bloody future. Teachers, parents and media freedom activists are urging police action after death threats against a French teenager over a school newspaper issue about the extremist attack against satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.  The 17-year-old student, chief editor of the paper at the Marcelin Berthelot school in the Paris...

Economics

Richard Ebeling, Epic Times
CBO calculates that by 2025 “modest” annual budget deficits will add more than $7.5 trillion to the existing $18.3 trillion of federal government debt, for a total a decade from now of almost $26 trillion. This will be more than a 40 percent increase in the federal government’s debt over the coming ten-year period.

Patent law is not something most Americans are passionate about or have ever contemplated — which is exactly why the Obama White House and Congress got away with making radical changes to our time-tested traditions of protecting the fruits of entrepreneurial inventors' labor.  It's yet another progressive horror story of abandoning what works in the name of what's politically trendy. For left-wing saboteurs and their Big Business GOP enablers, this means throwing our unique patent system and its constitutional underpinnings under an 18-wheeler. So-called "patent reform" proposals continue to plague Capitol Hill. But like health care "reform" and education "reform," these government cures are worse than any purported disease.

Education


Pity poor Emma Sulkowicz lugging a mattress around the Columbia University campus now for almost a full academic year.

This act, recalling Christ carrying his cross (that is if any on our college campuses know about this part of our Judeo-Christian heritage any more) has drawn attention to her alleged rape by fellow student and one-time lover, Paul Nungesser, who in turn has filed a Title IX suit against the university for allowing the campaign of harassment against him. Nungesser was cleared by a “campus court” (itself a disturbing extra-legal development).

Sulkowicz’s back-bending activity, however, is actually her senior thesis, “Carry That Weight,” directed by Jon Kessler, a professor in the School of Visual Arts. Kessler, who has received several grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, in the 1980s and 1990s made “kinetic sculptures,” and used video and surveillance equipment in his work to express “political urgency” after 9/11.

Sulkowicz seems to have learned from her professor about the new academic requirements and purposes of art, as her words in an email to AP reveal:

“I think it’s ridiculous that Paul [Nungesser] would sue not only the school but one of my past professors for allowing me to make an art piece. It’s ridiculous that he would read it as a ‘bullying strategy,’...when really it’s just an artistic expression of the personal trauma I’ve experienced at Columbia. If artists are not allowed to make art that reflect on our experiences, then how are we to heal?”

Sadly, Sulkowicz’s performance art project reflects a growing trend of professors giving students assignments that have little to do with real academics. Most colleges now require (or at least allow students to get credit for) service-learning, a sort of charity for liberal causes that garners academic credit. The exercises typically require work in homeless shelters, inner-city schools, parks, and even prisons.

For example, at Boise State University students taking Advanced Spanish Conversation and Composition (SPAN 303) last month went to Idaho Correctional Center in order to translate letters by Hispanic inmates for the American Prison Writing archive page. Students also learned about the collection in the prison library and job training programs for the inmates.

Predictably, the students’ “reflection papers,” many handwritten and on posters interspersed with photos, testified to how the program succeeded in changing stereotypes they held about prisoners. No doubt, the professor, Doran Larsen, whose c.v. includes a collection of prisoners’ writings, was pleased.

In this advanced Spanish language course, discussions with inmates and casual writing (in English) pushed aside hours of study that could have been devoted to Cervantes and Marquez. Likewise, the assignments accompanying service-learning projects are a degraded form of academics. “Reflection papers” replace traditional essays and research papers. One handwritten reflection paper on a poster board display paper looks like a third-grader’s journal. In the past, it would have been their language skills and knowledge about Spanish that mattered. Today, however, students are judged by their attitudes, not their knowledge.

Even in composition classes, reflection papers and participation in preselected protests, such as “Take Back the Night,” take the place of writing formal essays. Composition teachers, as I learned at the 2011 Conference on College Composition and Communication, take students on protests to study the “rhetoric” of slogans and “bodies,” instead of having them read classic works.

Such ideological and emotional assignments, and “performance art,” grew out of the 1960s protest movement and the rejection of Western standards. The radicals who went into academe embraced the new standards and have passed them on.

Performance art has become a favorite of feminists, who follow theorist Helene Cixous, who insisted, “Women must write through their bodies, they must invent the impregnable language that will wreck partitions, classes, and rhetorics, regulations and codes...."

One of the most famous purveyors of this mode is Karen Finley, who in her younger days famously smeared chocolate and honey over her body to express her feelings about the objectification of women. She then took her outrage over the revoking of funding by the National Endowment for the Arts to the Supreme Court, where she, along with her three co-litigants, lost. What is such a transgressive artist going to do without public funding?

She soon found a teaching position at New York University.

She landed there after she was denied a position at Georgia State University (where I earned my master’s degree) as a visiting professor after she refused to sign Georgia’s loyalty oath (requiring that applicants promise not to overthrow the government by violent means). At a 2009 South Atlantic Modern Language Association meeting, English department co-chair Matthew Roudané introduced her and related the story about how he had offered her the position after her NEA difficulties.

In her presentation, Ms. Finley recounted going into “a subtle form of body trauma” after seeing Georgia’s loyalty oath.

“You have to start with an individual, emotional place,” she insisted, describing her principled resistance and her form of art.

She would have fit in at Georgia State. One of my professors allowed another graduate student to write her final paper in the form of a “quilt” of colored paper. A feminist, she was defying the linear, patriarchal form of writing, i.e., organized with a thesis statement and argued logically.

Students are now being asked to follow the lead of performance artists like Finley and do assignments in the nude. This is the case of a visual arts class at UC-San Diego taught by Roberto Dominguez, who famously concocted an electronic Transborder Immigrant Tool, winning awards from the Endowment for Culture Mexico-US. In 2010 he used students to conduct a virtual sit-in to protest cuts in the budget for the California state university system.

Dominguez, naturally, has given a different version to the original complaint by a parent. He told Inside Higher Ed that students have two “clothes-free” options for the class: “The students can choose to do the nude gesture version or the naked version (the naked gesture means you must perform a laying bare of your ‘traumatic’ self, and students can do this gesture under a rug or in any way they choose—but they must share their most fragile self—something most students find extremely hard to do).”

In contrast, “’The nude self gesture takes place in complete darkness, and everyone is nude, with only one candle or very small source of light for each individual performance.... A student may decide to focus on their big toe, their hair, an armpit, as being a part of their body that is ‘more them than they are.’”

Presumably, this should alleviate parental concerns. But a room with naked (in distinction from nude) students in front of their nude professor blubbering about how they feel about their armpits illustrates vividly the decay of academe.

Such assignments do not prepare students for the world of work and adult responsibilities, where their emotions do not factor in performance reviews, where they are expected to communicate in a clear and logical manner, and where they will have to know certain facts in order to build a bridge, argue a legal case, treat a heart attack victim, or teach children to read. Nor do such assignments prepare them to participate as free and literate citizens in a constitutional republic.

So where is the oversight? In the case of the Boise State prison service-learning program, we can see that the inmates are indeed running the asylum. Sadly, this is happening in most of our institutions of higher learning.

Heartland Senior Fellow Bruno Behrend joins Dave Elswick to discuss the latest on Common Core. Behrend and Elswick talk about the popular perceptions of Common Core and public education, and why even more government control is not the solution to our educational problems.

Energy

Ron Arnold, The Daily Caller
John Kerry talks a good game about how we should all reduce our carbon footprint, but he doesn’t put his wife’s money where his mouth is. Kerry invests in at least 365 securities connected to fossil fuel industries. Among the “sinners” in Kerry’s portfolio: ExxonMobil and a Canadian firm with ties to the Keystone XL pipeline.

James M. Taylor and Justin Haskins, Forbes
Fracking for oil and natural gas has created thousands of jobs in the United States. With those jobs come billions of dollars in government tax revenues and immeasurable U.S. economic benefits. What’s not to like? Democratic Party strategist Robert Weiner claims, implausibly, that America’s new energy boom will cause a new Great Depression.

Global Warming

Jim Lakely, Somewhat Reasonable
Carol Andress, director of legislative operations for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), was humiliated in a televised debate with CFACT’s Marc Morano. It is impossible to overstate what a blow-out this debate was for Morano. He was the Harlem Globetrotters to EDF’s Washington Generals.

Health Issues

Posted on by admin

Hardly a week goes by without a “surprise” popping up in the world of cancer research. The understanding of how genetic mutations cause certain cancers continues to evolve, and this is radically changing how we view cancer, which could lead to a revolution in its treatment.

For example, should all leukemias be treated with leukemia drugs? Five years ago there was not much choice. But, back in February we discussed an article by Gina Kolata of The New York Times, which gave us a preview of an entirely new paradigm in cancer research. An elderly woman was extremely ill with a rare (and essentially untreatable) form of leukemia. But instead of trying another leukemia drug, her doctors gave her a melanoma drug. Her response was astounding.

Why give a patient who has leukemia a melanoma drug? You’d have to be out of your mind, right?

Actually, it’s quite the opposite. The genetic mutation that was responsible for the woman’s cancer was the same one that causes at least certain melanomas, and this explains why the drug worked. A completely different way of looking at cancer.

It is important to note that the article was based on a single example, and this type of approach has failed far more than it has succeeded. But the the real story is the concept—examining the genetics of the tumor rather than using a drug that has historically worked against a particular cancer in large populations. This is the essence of personalized medicine.

An article in the May 21st Wall Street Journal gives us another surprise — courtesy of gene sequencing. It sounds crazy, but there appears to be a relationship between breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.

Dr. Charles Sawyers, the chairman of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Sloan Kettering Cancer and colleagues reported in the journal Cell that when samples of tumors from men with late-stage prostate cancer were examined, 15 percent of them contained mutations in the n0w-famous (because of Angelina Jolie) BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. (Despite the fact that the BRCA stands for breast cancer, men also carry these genes.)

Dr. Sawyers said, “Prior to this no one would have entertained treating these patients with those drugs.”

More importantly, the Sloan study demonstrated that 89 percent of these patients had known genetic mutations that could respond to other drugs that would have not have been used to treat prostate cancer. This is incredible.

ACSH’s Dr. Josh Bloom cautions, “These revolutionary concepts of how to view cancer are in their infancy. There will be some spectacular successes and almost certainly many more failures. The entire strategy could even end up being a dead end. It is way too early to predict how this plays out.

“But,” he adds, “Medical breakthroughs do happen and the results can be spectacular. If someone was infected with HIV in 1985, they died. But if it was in 1995, there is a good chance they are still alive. No one in 1985 would have predicted that people who were HIV-positive would, 30 years later, have a nearly normal life span. Unfortunately, many died during the time this research was being done, and the same will certainly be true in this case. This is the nature of biomedical research. Breakthroughs are nearly impossible to anticipate.”

Sean Parnell, The Heartlander
“The real scandal here is the citizens of states send their tax dollars to Washington, DC and the feds will only let them have their money back if they do what Washington wants them to do. It would be a great campaign theme for the various presidential candidates: The only tax money going to Washington should be for what the federal government needs to fulfill its limited, constitutional obligations.”

Jim Waters, The Heartlander
Yet another Obamacare promise broken: Three-quarters of doctors responding to a nationwide survey conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians indicate they have seen an increase in ER visits since Obamacare became law.

Heartland Senior Fellow Dr. Brad Rodu urges the Food & Drug Administration to “show its work.” Rodu says the raw data of taxpayer-funded studies on tobacco use are being kept from the public. Meanwhile, government agencies selectively release sound-bites to media outlets and spin the story towards preferred narratives.

Internet Control

Warner Todd Huston, The Heartlander
“Net neutrality is massive regulatory protectionism for government-crony businesses,” said Seton Motley, president of Less Government. “It outlaws charging bandwidth-hog companies for being bandwidth-hog companies, which means our Internet access prices skyrocket to augment the profits of companies like Google and Netflix.”

Privacy Rights

Jen Kuznicki, The Heartlander
“It’s alarming that one company said they gathered about three million records a day, scooping up info to sell to other companies and possibly the government,” said Melissa Ngo, privacy consultant and former senior counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “This is personal information about where you’ve been and where you’re likely go to, because most of us have set patterns for work, school, and home life.”

Rape!

Another in an endless line of horror stories hit the UK media today about yet another Muslim child sex trafficking gang. Thousands of young girls raped, trafficked, tortured with nowhere to turn. Members of a “horrifying” child sex ring abused two schoolgirls, taking advantage of their vulnerability on a “massive scale”, a court has heard. One girl, who was aged 12 or 13 at the time, alleges that throughout the period she was abused, she was passed between 60 men who had sex with her Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. Eleven men are on trial accused of committing sexual offences against the youngsters, who had allegedly been conditioned into believing that what they were being subjected to was...

 

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