Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Frontier Justice

It's hard not to feel sympathy for this woman although when you read the details it turns out she probably could have handled the situation a little less violently:

Tammy Gibson will be spending three months behind bars for taking a baseball bat to a sex offender for talking to her then-10-year-old daughter last summer.

Is this Puyallup, WA, mom remorseful or scared? "I'd do it again, if not better," she tells ABC News Seattle affiliate KOMO-TV.

If the man, who the story tells us is 7'3" tall, had been talking to the daughter when the mother attacked him her behavior may not have gotten her any jail time at all, but actually that wasn't the case. The police had passed out flyers saying the man was living in the neighborhood, and she recognized him from the flyer as a man she had seen talking to her daughter some time before.

She then went to his house with the bat and started beating him and even threatened to kill him. Doubtless the man's intentions in talking to her little girl were not innocent, yet he hadn't actually molested the girl so the mother probably should have handled the situation differently.

At least, most of the commenters think she should have handled it differently. They think she should have killed him.


More Progress with Stem Cells

Progress continues apace on the stem cell front. In 2007 scientists developed a way to turn ordinary skin cells into pluripotent stem cells - cells that can develop into other kinds of tissue. This was a giant step in rendering the use of embryonic stem cells unnecessary and thereby avoiding the ethical problem creating by destroying human embryos in order to harvest the cells. There was a catch, however. In order to insert the requisite genes into the skin cells to induce the transformation viruses had to be used as a shuttle, but the virus was a potential trigger for cancer.

Now this obstacle seems to have been overcome:

Researchers said on Sunday they had found a safer way to transform ordinary skin cells into powerful stem cells in a move that could eventually remove the need to use human embryos.

It is the first time that scientists have turned skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells -- which look and act like embryonic stem cells -- without having to use viruses in the process. The new method also allows for genes that are inserted to trigger cell reprogramming to be removed afterwards.

Stem cells are the body's master cells, producing all the body's tissues and organs. Embryonic stem cells are the most powerful kind, as they have the potential to give rise to any tissue type. However, many people object to their use, making iPS cells an attractive alternative, provided they can be made safely.

Researchers have known for some time that ordinary skin cells can be transformed into iPS cells using a handful of genes. But to get these genes into the cells they have had to use viruses, which integrate their own genetic material into the cells they infect. This can cause cancer.

The alternative approach ... appears to avoid the risk of such abnormalities.

Let's all hope so. The promise stem cells offer for healing disease and other infirmities is breathtaking.


End of an Affair

David Brooks of the New York Times is just back from the Damascus road where the scales have apparently fallen from his eyes:

Those of us who consider ourselves moderates - moderate-conservative, in my case - are forced to confront the reality that Barack Obama is not who we thought he was. His words are responsible; his character is inspiring. But his actions betray a transformational liberalism that should put every centrist on notice. As Clive Crook, an Obama admirer, wrote in The Financial Times, the Obama budget "contains no trace of compromise. It makes no gesture, however small, however costless to its larger agenda, of a bipartisan approach to the great questions it addresses. It is a liberal's dream of a new New Deal."

Brooks goes on to explain his disillusionment with the man he supported for the presidency last year. It's a remarkable essay as much for its tacit admission of inexcusable ignorance as for its criticism of Obama's radicalism. How could anyone who follows politics as closely as Brooks does not know what kind of an agenda Barack Obama would seek to implement once elected? It's as if all the evidence was there to be seen, but, like an infatuated teenage girl swooning over the class playboy, Brooks was so smitten by Obama's charms that he simply failed to see what was obvious to just about everybody else on both the left and the right.

And he's not the only one. Christopher Buckley is having second thoughts as well. Now that the intellectual psychotropics are wearing off, these erstwhile conservatives are emerging from their stupor, blinking their eyes, and wondering what happened to them.

Well, one thing that happened to them is that they pretty much lost whatever credibility they once had.