Sunday, July 09, 2006

Post-Posting the Post

At first, it looks like grade inflation gone completely berserk.
"You have to understand our circumstances. We cannot perform well on the exam because of the problems in Baghdad. And you have to help," the letter began, said its recipient, A.M. Taleb, dean of the College of Sciences at Baghdad University. "If you do not, you and your family will be killed."
Read on, though, and it's really about the inexcusable atrocity being committed by anti-modern forces in Iraq: the decapitation -- figurative and literal -- of Iraqi learning, technology, professionalism, and hope
It's finals time in Iraq. Black-clad gunmen have stormed a dormitory to snatch students from their rooms. Professors fear failing and angering their pupils. Administrators curtailed graduation ceremonies to avoid convening large groups of people into an obvious bombing target. Perhaps nowhere else does the prospect of two months' summer vacation -- for those who can afford it, a chance to flee the country -- bring such unbridled relief.
I can't think of any examples of something like this going on that didn't take at least a generation to recover.

Michael Kinsley makes good points about the morality of stem cell research, but ultimately misses the point
Proponents of stem cell research like to emphasize that it doesn't cost the life of a single embryo. The embryos killed to extract their stem cells were doomed already. But this argument gives too much ground, and misses the point. If embryos are human beings, it's not okay to kill them for their stem cells just because you were going to kill them, or knowingly let them die, anyway. The better point -- the killer point, if you'll pardon the expression -- is that if embryos are human beings, the routine practices of fertility clinics are far worse -- both in numbers and in criminal intent -- than stem cell research. And yet, no one objects, or objects very loudly. President Bush actually praised the work of fertility clinics in his first speech announcing restrictions on stem cells.
The natural conclusion, which Kinsley misses because he's trying to be nice, is that stem cell research is the "wedge issue" which will ultimately result in regulation of all embryonic handling and the death of biological science. "No one objects, or objects very loudly" to fertility treatments because they don't want to scare off millions of potential supporters until they have a stronger legal and rhetorical case and it's too late to reframe the question.

In other fertility news, China is persecuting an activist for exposing abuses committed in the name of China's One-Child Policy. Again, there's a sort of double-edged sword there: most of what he describes is actually pretty much what's required by the policy itself, so he's not really critiquing local officials as much as he is the existence of a population control regime. Which, of course, is why the central government is coming down on him like the proverbial ton of bricks.


Kimberly said...

It took me a second read of the title of this to figure out how you could possibly go from the horrors of Iraqi higher education to the moral issues facing stem cell research debates...thought you were really stretching there to put those together!
But thanks for reading the news for me, since I'm too lazy to surf through the Post. Do enjoy the Sunday Guardian though, when it's out on a table in the cafeteria while the girls are in religious school classes.

Ahistoricality said...

Yeah, every so often there'll be a day in which there's actually lots of interesting stuff in the paper, and I just run it all together. If I'm really lucky, there's a theme....

The Guardian News Blog has become one of my favorite sources, both of international perspective and ocassionally really odd stuff.