Slant Right's John Houk presents the life and assassination of a Muslim who campaigned for religious tolerance as a sign of universal Muslim intolerance. Similar Houk logic must see the assassination of Martin Luther King as proof of universal white violent racism.
Nancy Hanks at The Hankster notes encouraging politicians in California, encouraging electoral college developments in Oregon, an encouraging idea from an electoral analyst all from an independent voter perspective.
The Delphic David Everitt-Carlson of The Wild Wild East Dailies in Vietnam educates a befuddled client on why a process can be a better solution than a solution can be.
The Mind of Bryan Lee Peterson has reprised an old plan that died for lack of technological support. Technology has changed and the plan lives again. Just might work this time. Bryan is an old internet friend, and we especially wish him well.
Treating cancer is a frustration for the best doctors, the ones who really care. Successful treatments are brutal. Surgery, poisonous chemotherapy, the effects of which must sometimes be mitigated with steroids, are debilitating to patients. The miserable life that victims lead, being slowly whittled away arm by leg by breast, sometimes is tentatively rewarded anxious years later with an announcement that the cancer is in remission. Often the misery is only a prelude to rapid deterioration and death.
But what if there was a drug that somehow targeted cancer cells? Well, scientists have been working on it. A drug that targets tumors by cutting off their oxygen has provided some promise. So doctors began trying it out in a clinical trial. It didn't work on its own. But when it was combined with other more traditional treatments things began to look hopeful. The drug retarded tumor growth in late-stage breast cancer.
But then the heavy hand of regulation stopped progress cold in its tracks. The FDA will not allow women with late stage breast cancer to use the drug.
These desperate women are not without allies. The manufacturer, Genentech, has rounded up some legislative pressure to change the ruling. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) says the prohibition is typical of the new regulatory direction of government, "the beginning of a slippery slope leading to more and more rationing under the government takeover of health care." He has been joined by 5 members of congress. Representatives Kay Granger (R-TX), Rodney Alexander (R-LA), Jo Bonner (R-AL), Tom Latham (R-IA), and Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) jointly signed a letter to the head of the FDA expressing their concerns with the hasty decision.
This is not the first time federal regulation has kept much need medication from women. Decades ago, drug manufacturer William S. Merrill came up with a significant advance, a drug to help alleviate the distresses that precede the miracle of birth. The medication, Kevadon, had been developed in Germany and was proven effective in more than 20 European countries and in Africa. It was a painkiller, a tranquilizer, and it was widely known for its effectiveness in dramatically reducing morning sickness, the frequent nausea and vomiting that plagues women beginning in the early stages of pregnancy. It had been used for years.
When it came time for routine FDA approval, one bureaucrat held it up, despite the fact that women in the United States were desperate for the same benefits enjoyed by women in other countries. The single holdout was not some outstanding icon in the medical community. In fact, her main claim to fame had been as a teacher at a small college in South Dakota. She was a recent hire, flexing her muscle, having been with the FDA for less than a month. Her demand was for more studies on top of those already documented. She based the delay on one English study that indicated a possible nervous system side effect. Her theory was that a lack of complete research in one tiny area might indicate some holes in other precautionary studies, a sort of clinical slippery slope. It was deliberation bordering on bureaucratic nitpicking. The drug was almost completely kept away from American women for more than 2 years. TWO YEARS.
There was some pressure brought to bear. You can't stop progress for long and expect no protest at all. Ordinary people became involved when the manufacturer distributed Kevadon pills for a while to doctors in the United States as a promotion.
Those of us in age groups with numbers that are uncomfortably high may remember the controversy. The generic name for the drug was thalidomide. In 1962, newspapers were filled with ghastly photos of Thalidomide children in Europe and Africa. The birth defects were a grim vindication of FDA caution. Affected children numbered in the tens of thousands. Exact figures were hard to get and may never be known. Only ten birth defects afflicted children in the United States, all from the promotional distribution. Frances Oldham Kelsey was the bureaucrat. In 1962, she was given an award by President Kennedy in appreciation for all the American children she had saved.
Today's anti-Cancer drug, the one that targets cancer tumors, is called Avastin. The FDA did approve it temporarily with the understanding that more study needed to be done. When those studies came back, it turned out the drug does retard breast cancer, but the effect is temporary, lasting for a few months. Then the cancer bounces back strong as ever. But the toxic side effects are like the under the breath warnings on television commercials: holes in the intestines, "tract perforations", are accompanied by kidney damage and heart failure. Yikes. A 12 member FDA board voted 11 to 1 to withdraw approval.
Back in the 1950's the FDA began testing for effectiveness as well as safety. It looked like a small change at the time. After Thalidomide, the FDA was given much broader authority when Congress passed the Kefauver-Harris Amendment, putting the new FDA approach into law and extending the agency's overview to other drugs.
The tens of thousands of adults still carrying the defects they were born with from Thalidomide might provide evidence that regulation ought not to be opposed so reflexively. US adults might join them if there was some way of identifying the thousands of children here who were saved by Frances Oldham Kelsey, the FDA's new hire in 1960.
Frances Oldham Kelsey
In 1960, this recent hire by the FDA held up a new drug in the US that later produced many thousands of birth defects in Europe and Africa. Shown here receiving from President John F. Kennedy the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service.
My boss said to me: 'If you don't get him hired, you're fired.
- - Kevin McLoughlin, NFL post-production film director, January 4, 2011
It was Thursday of the last week of the last year of the decade. The coming New Year's Eve fell on a Saturday. So most businesses not committed to retail sales closed Friday, and released employees early on Thursday. As most folks prepared for the coming celebration, 5 planes secretly took off from three airports in the Ukraine. They carried enough fissionable material to build 2 nuclear bombs. It had been stored in relatively unsecured locations, easy targets for terrorists. And there was some interest among dangerous people in getting their hands on it.
The negotiations leading to the removal of the enriched uranium could not have been easily done without the cooperation of Russia, which is melting down the material, blending it to make it useless as a weapons core. A few days before, a similar operation removed vulnerable nuclear materials from Serbia. In all, 19 countries have gotten rid of unsecured stockpiles of weapons grade nuclear materials with the help and prodding of the United States, the most obvious target of any weapons falling into the wrong hands. 16 more countries are still negotiating. So far enough material to make 122 nuclear bombs has been taken out of the reach of terrorists.
The entire operation has been the result of precisely the sort of secret backroom deal making that makes open door advocates cringe. "Any time people with power plan in secret," said Julian Assange in a recent press conference, "they are conducting a conspiracy. So there are conspiracies everywhere." Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks, which publishes US secrets. His belief makes the Wilsonian proposal of "open covenants of peace, openly arrived at" less of a program and more of a religious dogma.
Secrecy conceals much evil. An early mission statement offered Daniel Ellsberg as an organizational ideal. It was partly a guide to whistle blowing, partly a guarantee of source protection, and partly a manifesto. A four paragraph analysis of whether indiscriminate leaking is irresponsible focused on false or misleading information (could be rebutted in the open) and invasion of privacy (embarrassing information can expose injustice).
The first recent WikiRevelations did indeed expose atrocities, one caught on video. The second was different. A dozen participants left the organization after documents were inadequately redacted. Ordinary people who stumbled into contact with information about terrorist attacks have stopped several threats. In exchange, their identities were protected. WikiLeaks blacked out names but carelessly published other identifying information.
Also revealed were negotiations with Pakistan to secure its nuclear arsenal, safeguarding it from terrorist attempts to secure weapons. And so the chances of more Ukraine-like deals may be less likely.
In its mission statement, WikiLeaks insists, reasonably, that a free society must protect journalists, a point echoed by well meaning defenders. "In its landmark ruling on the Pentagon Papers, the US Supreme Court ruled that 'only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.' We agree." Well, duh and duh again. Legality is only one issue.
What is right ought to carry some moral weight. When Philip Agee left the CIA and published the names of 250 secret operatives around the world, he was breaking no law. But two identified British agents were executed in Poland as a result, and the revealed head of the Athens CIA station was assassinated. Those are only what was made public. Even though it was completely legal, the outrage in the free world was ubiquitous.
Decades later, when Bush senior deputy Karl Rove directed that Valarie Plame's secret role as a CIA spy be revealed, it was to strike back at her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson for putting the lie to claims of nukes in Iraq. The outing of Plame also made public the "company" she worked for as a CIA front, which revealed the identities of other CIA operatives. The damage cascaded. Every informant with Plame or the other agents was put into some degree of danger. Defenders of Rove went to law books and calendars to make the argument that Plame had not been in service long enough to put Rove into technical criminality.
The year 2000 brought with it a new millennium, the election of sorts of a new Republican President, and a new ethic: that what matters is not what is right, but what can be gotten away with at the edges of the law. Secrecy does disguise many instances of evil. Occasionally, it also keeps ordinary people of good will from getting killed when they take huge risks. And sometimes it leads to a reduction of not-made-up-for-invasion chances of poisonous mushrooms. The distinction between good and evil escapes this elite band of brothers: Agee, Rove, and Assange.
Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) had been a hard nosed opponent of gay rights for nearly half a century. He not only voted against gay marriage, he pushed for a constitutional amendment to keep states from allowing gay marriage on their own. He vigorously opposed any sort of protection for gays against discrimination. He even spoke out against protecting gays from hate crimes. He lectured the Senate on how important it was "for us to stand up now and protect traditional marriage, which is under attack by a few unelected judges and litigious activists." Religious conservatives were crazy about him.
When he was detained for soliciting sex from a plainclothes police officer in an airport restroom, he protested that it was all a series of misunderstood movements. The defense that became the most famous was that his "wide stance" had been mistaken for a sexual advance when his foot caressed that of the officer beneath the stall. It was one of several gestures that finally led to his arrest. He eventually pleaded guilty, then tried to withdraw the plea. Previous incidents came up. "I am not gay," he insisted in a press conference. "I never have been gay." Nobody believed him. Anti-gay crusader, secret gay, Senator Larry Craig became ex-Senator Larry Craig.
The incident was startling to me beyond the scandal itself. It served as a reminder of something I happened to stumble upon decades before. A small article in a 1960s newspaper had reported on the trial of a man arrested in a restroom for soliciting sex from an undercover police agent. The solicitation was the suspect tapping his foot under the wall of an adjoining stall. Police said this was well known by homosexuals as a sexual signal. The judge found the man not guilty. Tapping a foot under a stall did not meet the standard of proof required for a guilty verdict. The man went free.
I remember agreeing with the reasoning and the verdict. How awful that an accusation of something so shameful was based on something so innocent. The poor fellow could have been tapping as some tune ran through his head. Who among us could be the next to be falsely arrested?
It did not occur to me at the time, or for many years thereafter, that the awful crime for which the accused was arrested was not awful and ought not to have been a crime. I did not reject the thought, exactly. It was not even that I did not give it a second thought. I did not give it a first thought. Rejecting homosexuality as perversion seemed at the very core of normalcy.
Solicitation was the crime to which Larry Craig pleaded guilty. Hypocrisy is a part of guilt that is beyond legality. But even at that I wondered. Is it possible that his own unquestioning acceptance of a bigotry that may have seemed so normal forced him to an uneasy truce with his own wide stance?
The way of much prejudice, I think, is not mad, drooling monstrosity. Evil can more often be, as Hannah Arendt pointed out 45 years ago, banal. We accept it, even embrace it, holding it close to our hearts because it seems so normal. We do not recognize it for what it is.
“I don’t have prejudices,” a man boasted to me during that era of my younger innocence. “I’ll tell you who is prejudiced, though. It’s those god damn Irish Catholics.” He spoke with all the vehemence of Bill O’Reilly on a red faced rant. He spoke without showing a hint of conscious irony.
I sometimes wonder what unexamined biases lie comfortable and undisturbed within my soul. Most of my life has been spent in companionship with patient expectation that wisdom would come if I waited long enough. Over the years, I have witnessed much, and it is true that I have learned. But the greatest wisdom I have acquired is surprise at how little wisdom has come to me with age. It turned out to be a bad bargain.
I should have stayed young.
First of all, I would like to acknowledge that you have a gift. It almost gave me chills, as your writing often does. Even as you expound the virtues of magic, you move me. You would have made a good Easter bunny.
“The dons have decided to kill him. The statement is not falsifiable. Every friendly gesture can be seen as part of the plot.”
You reminded me of Heller’s Catch 22, which takes place in a war zone.
Yossarian confides in his friend Clevinger in the following conversation:
“They’re trying to kill me.”
“No one’s trying to kill you,” Clevinger says.
“Then why are they shooting at me?”
“They’re shooting at everyone”
“And what difference does that make?”
Yossarian is accused of paranoia. He answers that “just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not after you.”
Soft sciences, such as psychology, are not falsifiable, and yet are embraced by the scientific community. In fact, that is one of the definitions of a soft science if you believe a book I read last year about “junk science” vs “real science.” Of course, anybody can put anything in a book, no matter how far fetched their words may be, as Christians know firsthand.
I think science tends to reject religion, not because it is “not falsifiable,” but because it finds no evidence to suggest it may be true, and at the same time, the “proof” presented by most apologists of the faith is in fact full of contradiction and easily falsifiable.
Early Christians devised a brilliant strategy to ensure their survival. They constructed their God out of ether. You cannot destroy it. You cannot bend it or break it. To eradicate it, you must eradicate all who have a memory of it, as it is made up of nothing other than belief. This impenetrable armor protects their God from physical attack. To protect His intellect, they teach their people that reason is not needed to support a belief in the Christian God. Faith alone is adequate. Now no one can reason with the Christian, as he rejects reason as useless in spiritual matters. Of course, anyone who would use logic to refute the notion of God probably has no divine faith of his own. Against the Christian’s belief, the atheist’s weapons are useless – an indestructible God made of nothing, supported by faith, a substance unassailable with reason – The early Christian Church built an unsinkable ship! So, what do modern Christians do? They find a way to sink it.
They adopt a more secularly acceptable approach to defending the faith. They start arguing that it is reasonable to think what they think, and that scientific thought and historical study are not inconsistent with the tales in their texts. They allege they can prove their position and that the Bible can be shown to be the infallible word of God if we just understand it well enough.
It is a departure from their roots, and one that will undo them. The Apostle Paul developed a very clear political approach to maintain authority: eternal reward over unimaginable punishment; faith over reason; proselytizing over compulsion; peace and love. If he were here today, I am confident he would warn Christians of the dangers of science and history and the secular approach to knowledge. “Stop debating and put it in an epistle that does not answer back,” he would say and he would never invoke the name of science or literary criticism in his letters.
So, though an atheist could never sink the Christian Titanic, over time, Christians will find a way.
In the meantime, for those lacking the blessing of faith, God is not the sum of the unknown. And neither is magic.
Nonbelievers do not dream of a really powerful and mystifying creature to worship as the answer to all questions that are too complex for man’s current intelligence to figure out. The nonbeliever’s ignorance is its own explanation and needs nothing more to prop it up.
When a Christian implies that we must believe in magic, the atheist’s gut reaction is to chuckle. However, it is not the far fetched illusion the atheist thinks he sees. It is the main support that easily withstood the weight of 2000 years of atheistic philosophy. The atheist amuses himself with the notion that the Christian is wasting his time, since nothing is there; but it is not nothing. It is everything. Christianity relies on a belief in magic, not because miracles exist, but because without it, Paul’s Christianity is impossible. It is part of the architectural design.
My daughter was a precocious little girl. She loved to read at an age when children are not expected to go much beyond illustrations. Her mother and I decided from the beginning on some safety precautions, and they were enforced. Once she graduated from car seat to seat belt, her place continued to be the back seat, where she would be safer.
One day I drove a beat up old car, newly purchased by us, transporting her to some event. She, of course, sat buckled in the back seat. The car was equipped with what might have been thought of as state-of-the-art technology when it was manufactured. One bit of gadgetry allowed the driver to tap a hidden button under the brake pedal. The radio would find the next available station.
As we drove along, the radio changing from station-to-station as I looked for something interesting, I asked my daughter if she knew how I was changing what was on the radio without touching the dial. She considered the question, as I demonstrated my ability. Then she came up with the answer.
"Magic," she said, and went back to her book.
Science pretty much rejected this approach toward the end of the Dark Ages. Although embraced by Creationists, it is slowly finding its way toward it's true home, bumper stickers on the backs of old beat up cars equipped with outdated technology. Comedian Lewis Black discusses on stage those who insist that humans and dinosaurs co-existed. "...these people are watching The Flintstones as if it were a documentary."
The hostility toward the "it's magic" approach is sometimes seen as antagonism toward religion, and occasionally it does become just that. More often it is our defensive regard of any criticism of faith as impermissible disrespect bordering on threat. Science simply rejects as meaningless those questions dealing with the deepest, which is to say spiritual, mysteries of life. My limited understanding of the scientific method is that "meaningless", taken in context, means only that science is self-limiting in what can be contemplated. Scientists refuse to deal with questions of spirituality or answers that depend on divine intervention. That strikes me as a wise restriction in the scientific method.
There are certain premises in the scientific method that are calculated to avoid obstacles to inquiry. A rejection of the its-magic approach is only one. An assumption that our observations have some relation to reality, a rejection of the life-is-but-a-dream approach, is another. A statement must be falsifiable to be meaningful in science. So "God exists" is not true or false in that realm. It is just not a proposition that science can handle. It is scientifically meaningless.
Philosopher R.M Hare objected to the application of that rigor to ordinary life. What is scientifically meaningless can be very meaningful on a personal level. He offered a hypothetical example. A student becomes convinced that there is a sinister conspiracy afoot at Oxford University. The dons have decided to kill him. The statement is not falsifiable. Every friendly gesture can be seen as part of the plot. He may even be right. His belief is not meaningful, if he adopts the standards of science, but his belief is very meaningful in the way he conducts his life.
A more positive proposition, that we are creatures of a loving and caring God, is also not subject to the scientific method. It can't be verified or falsified. But it can be a personally meaningful proposition.
We can and must contemplate the idea, but science can't and shouldn't.
A philosophical zombie or p-zombie is a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from a normal human being except that it lacks conscious experience, qualia, or sentience. When a zombie is poked with a sharp object, for example, it does not feel any pain. While it behaves exactly as if it does feel pain (it may say "ouch" and recoil from the stimulus, or tell us that it is in intense pain), it does not actually have the experience of pain as a putative 'normal' person does.
- - From Wikipedia
Chuck Thinks Right correctly takes on a little nervousness about PC legalities concerning Christmas, attributing it to a leftist anti-Christian mentality and incorrectly interpreting a bit of NPR sarcasm as endorsement. Silly Chuck.
Gwendolyn Barry, on the tax deal and other issues at New Global Myth, is disappointed in our President, but likes Keith Olbermann, Jimmy Stewart, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. I like what she likes. I'll call back on what she dislikes.
Slant Right's John Houk demonstrates his tenuous hold on American history with this sentence "State Nullification is actually nothing new in America". It is actually an old idea defeated during the war over slavery. I always suspected John's middle name might be Calhoun.
- Manifesto Joe of Texas Blues reviews three popular movies and kind of liked all of them, True Grit being excellent. His most intense and thoughtful perspective is on Boxing Gym.