Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lying's No Big Deal

Anthony Weiner finally resigned his seat in congress today after having disgraced both himself and his office. Fox News commentator Alan Colmes, who is a liberal, argues that he should not have. Colmes argues that character doesn't matter as long as the congressman votes the way he wants him to vote, and that lying to the American people is not sufficient reason to relinquish one's power.
This is pretty stunning, I think. Is it not the case that if someone lies to his employer in the private sector it's grounds for firing? Is it not the case that our elected representatives, whom we remunerate with six-figure salaries and handsome benefit packages, should be held to a higher standard of conduct than the average American? Any elected official of whatever party who did what Weiner did should have resigned or been thrown out of office. Why should taxpayers be compelled to continue to pay people like this?

Colmes takes a stab at rationalizing Weiner's lying by saying that he was trying to preserve his dignity and marriage, but everyone who lies has some self-serving motive for doing so. Preserving one's personal dignity hardly justifies lying to the American people and further eroding the trust we have in our political class. When one believes that the greatest good is advancing one's political agenda (Weiner and Colmes are both left-liberals) then anything which accomplishes those goals is morally acceptable. This reasoning, though, puts us on course to agreeing that if lying would have enabled Weiner to ride out the scandal then lying is no big deal, and this leads inevitably to the conclusion that lying is almost never wrong.

People criticize Rush Limbaugh for asserting that it's in the nature of liberals to lie, but Colmes, to the extent that he's representative of the left, gives us a pretty vivid confirmation of Rush's claim.

Parenthetically, Colmes seems to have momentarily forgotten that he was on Fox News when he said that if we're going to demand Weiner's resignation we should also have demanded President Clinton's resignation for lying to the nation about his tryst with Monica Lewinsky. I think most Fox viewers watching that exchange were vigorously nodding their heads in agreement with that conclusion.

Fast and Furious

For those who may have missed the story the Department of Justice via the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms was apparently running an operation named "Fast and Furious" that allowed criminals to smuggle guns from the U.S. to gangs in Mexico.

The ostensible purpose was to track the weapons to drug cartels to ascertain their hideouts, but several ATF agents complained about the operation, arging that it was illegal and predicting that allowing guns into the hands of criminals would not turn out well. Several of the guns subsequently turned up at the scene of violent crimes including the murder of an American border patrol agent and now the DoJ is on the hot seat.

Congressman Darryl Issa is holding hearings on the operation, and it looks as if some DoJ officials may have lied to his committee. If so, there will be contempt citations and more pressure on Attorney General Holder to resign.

Hot Air has the details. The evening news probably won't.

Bypassing Stem Cells

Science Daily is reporting another fascinating development in the quest to reprogram skin cells to build other kinds of tissue:
A research breakthrough has proven that it is possible to reprogram mature cells from human skin directly into brain cells, without passing through the stem cell stage. The unexpectedly simple technique involves activating three genes in the skin cells; genes which are already known to be active in the formation of brain cells at the fetal stage. The new technique avoids many of the ethical dilemmas that stem cell research has faced.

For the first time, a research group at Lund University in Sweden has succeeded in creating specific types of nerve cells from human skin. By reprogramming connective tissue cells, called fibroblasts, directly into nerve cells, a new field has been opened up with the potential to take research on cell transplants to the next level. The discovery represents a fundamental change in the view of the function and capacity of mature cells. By taking mature cells as their starting point instead of stem cells, the Lund researchers also avoid the ethical issues linked to research on embryonic stem cells.

In experiments where two further genes were activated, the researchers have been able to produce dopamine brain cells, the type of cell which dies in Parkinson's disease. The research findings are therefore an important step towards the goal of producing nerve cells for transplant which originate from the patients themselves. The cells could also be used as disease models in research on various neurodegenerative diseases.
There's more at the link. The article doesn't talk about all the applications of this research, but if fibroblasts can be turned into nerve cells the implications for people who have suffered spinal cord and brain injuries are staggering. Permanently paralyzing injuries might become as rare as polio. It sounds too good to be true.