October 13, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 PM


A Nobel winner's moral achievement (William Saletan, 10/11/2012, Pioneer Press)

Shinya Yamanaka, a scientist at Kyoto University, loved stem-cell research. But he didn't want to destroy embryos. So he figured out a way around the problem. In a paper published five years ago in Cell, Yamanaka and six colleagues showed how "induced pluripotent stem cells" could be derived from adult cells and potentially substituted, in research and therapy, for embryonic stem cells. This week, that discovery earned him a Nobel Prize, shared with British scientist John Gurdon. But the prize announcement and much of the media coverage missed half the story. Yamanaka's venture wasn't just an experiment. It was a moral project.

In the introduction to their Cell paper, Yamanaka and his colleagues outlined their reasons for seeking an alternative to conventional embryonic stem-cell research. "Ethical controversies" came first in their analysis. Technical reasons -- the difficulty of making patient-specific embryonic stem cells -- came second. After the paper's publication, Yamanaka told a personal story, related by The New York Times:

Inspiration can appear in unexpected places. Dr. Shinya Yamanaka found it while looking through a microscope at a friend's fertility clinic. ... (H)e looked down the microscope at one of the human embryos stored at the clinic. The glimpse changed his scientific career. "When I saw the embryo, I suddenly realized there was such a small difference between it and my daughters," said Dr. Yamanaka. ... "I thought, we can't keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way."
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Posted by orrinj at 7:47 PM


PBS Frontline has just done its quadrennial show on the election choice facing America and, as always, it's terrific. The takeaway is that Barack Obama is deeply unsuited to the presidency, while Mitt Romney is so driven by goals and so fixated on the goal of repairing the economy that he could potentially be a successful president:  

Watch The Choice 2012 on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 PM


At last, Cameron gets the Right message across : The Prime Minister and Mitt Romney now make similar claims: we want to extend wealth, not protect the wealthy (Janet Daley, 10/13/12, The Telegraph)

Mr Cameron and Mitt Romney now have a remarkably similar message: we do not want to protect the wealthy, we want to extend wealth. Whereas, the parties of the Left in the US, Britain and Europe say they want to protect the poor but what they are really doing is extending poverty.

As my great hero, the economist Arthur Laffer, has said: "If you pay people to be poor, you will get more and more poor people." Here are Mr Cameron's words, but they could have come from Mr Romney or his running mate: "The mission for this Government is to build an aspiration nation... to unleash and unlock the promise in all our people. And for us as Conservatives, this is not just an economic mission - it's also a moral one."

We have arrived at the era of Postmodern Conservatism. What will it take to fulfil the promise of what may (or may not) have been the most important, game-changing speech of Mr Cameron's leadership? Political nerve and rigorous argument. This is only a beginning: the Tories have just stepped up to the crease - or in American terms, come out of the dugout. It will be a hard and dirty fight against the assumptions of an overwhelmingly Left-wing intellectual establishment.

But there is a coherent position to be defended here, which is not alien to an earlier incarnation of Cameron Conservatism: economic liberalism - the belief in the liberating power of free-market capitalism - is consistent with social liberalism.

...is if two conservatives in the Anglosphere had divergent messages.
Posted by orrinj at 7:28 PM


Cracking the Quantum Safe (ADAM FRANK, 10/13/12, NY Times)

Classical computers use "bits" of information that can be either 0 or 1. But quantum-information technologies let scientists consider "qubits," quantum bits of information that are both 0 and 1 at the same time. Logic circuits, made of qubits directly harnessing the weirdness of superpositions, allow a quantum computer to calculate vastly faster than anything existing today. A quantum machine using no more than 300 qubits would be a million, trillion, trillion, trillion times faster than the most modern supercomputer.

Going even further is the seemingly science-fiction possibility of "quantum teleportation." Based on experiments going on today with simple quantum systems, it is at least a theoretical possibility that one day objects could be reconstituted -- beamed -- across a space without ever crossing the distance.

When a revolution in science yields powerful new technologies, its effect on human culture is multiplied exponentially. Think of the relation between thermodynamics, steam engines and the onset of the industrial era. Quantum information could well be the thermodynamics of the next technological revolution.

Posted by orrinj at 5:12 PM

Posted by orrinj at 2:05 PM


The Edge of Panic (Rick Wilson, Oct 12, 2012, Ricochet)

Last night's performance by Biden - capering, giggling, near-maniacal opera buffa - was targeted in one place: a dispirited, demoralized Democratic base on the edge of panic.

Paul Ryan was businesslike, steady, and on-point. He hit solid doubles all night, and that's all he needed to do. If he'd been as amped and manic as Biden, it would have been a political and imaging disaster.

Biden aimed to throw the Obama base a lifeline. He fed the Kos Kidz desperate need to see some fight, but at the cost of his remaining (and mostly notional) dignity. If you want a gibbering, snorting, mumbling clown with a rictus-grin locked on his mug a heartbeat away from controlling America's nuclear arsenal, Joe Biden's your guy.

Ryan aimed to meet the standard of gravitas and presence, to demonstrate to the fabled female/suburban/swing/moderate voters that he's not a scary granny-killing Terminator sent from the future to throw seniors into the snowbank. He had to demonstrate steadiness, stature and knowledge. Done and done.

...the election is already lost.  At that point you're just trying to salvage seats downticket.

Posted by orrinj at 1:41 PM


The United States Wins, But There Is No Joy in Mudville : When does a huge win feel a bit like a deflating loss? When everybody on the team is left wondering why the U.S.' dramatic 2-1 victory over Antigua and Barbuda had to be so difficult. (JOHN GODFREY, OCTOBER 13, 2012, ASN)

At the end of most soccer matches it's easy to distinguish the winners from the losers. One group of players tends to hang their heads in a defeated posture, or perhaps stare around with a glazed expression thinking about what they could have done differently.

As the final whistle blew on the United States' 2-1 World Cup qualifying victory over Antigua and Barbuda, all 22 players on the pitch looked as if they had lost.

Jurgen Klinsmann may or may not be a decent coach, but his team selection is always awful.  

Anyone can pick a better team, here's just one, with some emphasis on the younger players who might actually be in their prime for the next World Cup instead of the last one:

Goal-Bill Hamid

Central Defense--Omar Gonzalez and Stephen McCarthy

Fullbacks: Michael Parkhurst and Eric Lichaj

Central Midfielders: Michael Bradley and Geoff Cameron

Attacking Midfielders: Graham Zusi and Diego Fagundez

Forwards: Jozy Altidore and Chris Wondoloski

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Posted by orrinj at 1:26 PM


Nobel Committee Gives Peace Prize to European Union (ALAN COWELL and NICHOLAS KULISH, 10/12/12, NY Times)

By naming the European Union the recipient of the 2012 peace prize on Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee made an unconventional choice that celebrated the bloc's postwar integration even as a financial crisis and political infighting threaten to tear it apart.

Members of the Nobel committee lauded six decades of reconciliation among enemies who fought Europe's bloodiest wars while simultaneously warning against the hazards of the present. The decision sounded at times like a plea to support the endangered institution at a difficult hour.

Posted by orrinj at 10:31 AM


Mitt Romney would honor Obama administration's illegal immigrant work permits (Allison Sherry, 10/12/12, The Denver Post)

Young illegal immigrants who receive temporary work permits to stay in the United States under an executive order issued by President Barack Obama would not be deported under a Mitt Romney administration, the GOP presidential hopeful told The Denver Post Monday.

"The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid. I'm not going to take something that they've purchased," Romney said.

Exclusive poll: Obama's support among Hispanic voters eroding (Holly Gregory, October 13, 2012, Bay News 9)


The Romney stimulus plan should be blanket amnesty as his first act in office.

Posted by orrinj at 10:28 AM


Barbra Streisand supporters didn't have to go through metal detectors at Barclays Center, but Jay-Z fans did (RICH CALDER, October 13, 2012, NY Post)

It looks like the Barclays Center thinks Jay-Z fans are more likely to cause 99 problems than the upper-crust Barbra Streisand set.

The arena forced the crowd at the rapper's recent concert series to herd through its new airport-style metal detectors -- while fans of the legendary diva were spared the same indignity at her show on Thursday.

Posted by orrinj at 10:17 AM


Staggering Idiocy : Panicky progressives struggle for reasons to support Obama (ANDREW FERGUSON, 120/22/12, Weekly Standard)

"We are three months away from the presidential election," [Dave Eggers] wrote, "and there is a stunning lack of energy displayed by likely Obama voters." His solution: Each day, for the 90 days before the election, a different contributor--a writer, a singer, an artist, an activist, all members in good standing of the counterestablishment--would write an essay offering a pithy reason why Obama should be reelected. "Obama cares about women's health." "Obama repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell." "President Obama Supports Women's Right to Choose." "Obama is on the right side of land use and transportation policy." Some reasons are pithier than others.

The essays themselves show all the magic of political discourse in the Internet age--the freewheeling energy, the unconventional lines of argument, the damn-the-torpedoes prose--which is another way of saying that Eggers really needs to hire a copy editor. [...]

For the counterestablishmentarians, "program" and "funding" are words with talismanic power. President Obama will "fund programs" or "not cut programs" that will rescue the environment or curb domestic violence or teach civility or help the disabled or train the jobless. The proper program can do everything but play canasta. And it can be advocated without wondering how it might work or whether it would work or what other programs would not be funded so it could be.

As they've piled up on the website the last couple months, I've found this kind of Reason oddly dispiriting, precisely because it's so conventional--it's the kind of thing you might even hear from a Republican. From a counter-establishment, I expect more reasoning like Jamaica Kincaid's (Vermont). "I am a woman," she writes. "From the time I was 14 years of age until I was 57 years of age, every twenty-eight days or so, I had a menstrual period." She concludes, after several long paragraphs of logic-chopping, that Obama's "simple, firm, clear support for a woman's right to choose .  .  . is what makes me committed to his reelection." QED.

But such arguments are increasingly the exception on 90days-90reasons.com. What a strangely conventional thing Eggers's hipster counterestablishment turns out to be! Why, in my day, sonny, a lead singer for a band with a name like Death Cab for Cutie wouldn't be caught dead endorsing a Democrat, especially one who's busy convincing the country of his pragmatism and moderation. Counterestablishments simply lived outside categories like right and left and Democrat and Republican. And they were never suckered by White House commissions and federal initiatives.

No longer, apparently. Whether the counterestablishment has taken over the Democratic party or the Democratic party has overtaken the counterestablishment, I don't know. But it's clear they'll be very happy together.

The Daughter offered the best reason: "He still owes me a pony."