Wednesday’s Crony Open Comments

For one thing, conservatives are cheap dates. You do not have to convince the readers of National Review or Republicans in Valparaiso that American business is in general a force for good in the world.

For one thing, there is a kind of moral asymmetry at work: Conservatives may roll their eyes a little bit at promises to build windmills so efficient that we’ll cease needing coal and oil, but progressives (at least a fair portion of them) believe that using fossil fuels may very well end human civilization. The nation’s F-150 drivers are not going to organize a march on Chevron’s headquarters if it puts a billion bucks into biofuels, but the nation’s Subaru drivers might very well do so if it doesn’t.

The same asymmetry characterizes the so-called social issues. The Left will see to it that Brendan Eich is driven out of his position at Mozilla for donating to an organization opposed to gay marriage, but the Right will not see to it that Tim Cook is driven out of his position for supporting gay marriage. For the Right, the question of gay marriage is an important moral and political disagreement, but for the Left the exclusion of homosexual couples from the legal institution of marriage was something akin to Jim Crow, and support for it isn’t erroneous, it is wicked. Even those on the right who proclaim that they regard the question of homosexual relationships as a national moral emergency do not behave as though they really believe it: Remember that boycott of Disney theme parks launched with great fanfare by the American Family Association, Focus on the Family, and the Southern Baptist Convention back in 1996? Nothing happened, because conservative parents are not telling their toddlers that they cannot go to Disney World because the people who run the park are too nice to that funny blonde lady who has the talk show and dances in the aisles with her audience.

and this historical gem,

If you have not read it, spare a moment for William H. Whyte’s Cold War classic. In the 1950s, Whyte, a writer for Fortune, interviewed dozens of important CEOs and found that they mostly rejected the ethos of rugged individualism in favor of a more collectivist view of the world. The capitalists were not much interested in defending the culture of capitalism. What he found was that the psychological and operational mechanics of large corporations were much like those of other large organizations, including government agencies, and that American CEOs believed, as they had believed since at least the time of Frederick Winslow Taylor and his 19th-century cult of “scientific management,” that expertise deployed through bureaucracy could impose rationality on such unruly social entities as free markets, culture, family, and sexuality. The supplanting of spontaneous order with political discipline is the essence of progressivism, then and now.

Read the whole damn thing.

Friday’s Massacre Memorial Thread

Presidio La Bahia Chapel, Goliad

Letter from Capt. B.H. Duval to Father William P. Duval.

Goliad, March 9th, 1836    Dear Father, It has been some time since I have had an opty. of writing to you, A gentleman leaves here to day for the U. States but have my doubts if he gets fifty miles from this post as we are surrounded by Mexican troops- By last express, yesterday from San Antonio we learned that our little band of 200 still maintained their situation in the Alamo, the fort outside of the town- They have been fighting desperately there for 10 or 15 days against four or five thousand Mexicans Santa Anna is there himself and has there and in his vicinity at least six thousand troops    Contrary to the expectation of every one he has invaded the Country when least expected- Not a Texian was in the held, nor has even one yet made his appearance at this post- The greater portion of the Mexican troops are mounted, and of course have greatly the advantage over us- We now muster at this post 400 strong, and from the preparations we have made shall be enabled to give any number a desperate fight- San Antonio I fear has fallen before this; -from its situation and construction, I cannot believe it possible so small a band could maintain it against such fearful odds- D. Crockett is one of the number in the fort- We are expecting an attack hourly. An express yesterday was chased in by 200 cavalry eighteen miles from this- Sixty miles south of this is another party of 650 who have been quartered at San Patricio for some days, waiting reinforcements. Several of our parties of 20 and 30 have been cut off by them-

As I anticipated, much dissention prevails among the Volunteers, Col. Fannin, now in command (Genl. Houston being absent), is unpopular- and nothing but the certainty of hard fighting, and that shortly, could have kept us together so long- I am popular with the army, and strange as you may think it could lead them or the majority of them where I choose- They have offered to give me every office from a Majority to Comdr. in Chief- I have seen enough to desire no office for the present in Texas higher than the one I hold- I have fifty men in my Company, who love me and who cannot be surpassed for boldness and chivalry- With such a band I will gain the laurels I may wear or die without any- I am situated at present with my company, in a strong stone house immediately across the street and opposite one of the bastions of the fort from the bastion I have built a Bridge to the top of the house on which is placed a Brass Six Pounder…

Zombie Genes Thursday Open Comments

When do we actually die?

Doctors in a Canadian intensive care unit have stumbled on a very strange case – when life support was turned off for four terminal patients, one of them showed persistent brain activity even after they were declared clinically dead.

For more than 10 minutes after doctors confirmed death through a range of observations, including the absence of a pulse and unreactive pupils, the patient appeared to experience the same kind of brain waves (delta wave bursts) we get during deep sleep. And it’s an entirely different phenomenon to the sudden ‘death wave’ that’s been observed in rats following decapitation.

Then there the cases of genes that actually FIRE UP after death!

Led by microbiologist Peter Noble, a team from the University of Washington has been investigating the gene activity in deceased mice and zebrafish, prompted by previous research that identified a handful of genes in human cadavers that were active more than 12 hours after death.

The researchers ended up identifying more than 1,000 genes that were still functioning even days after death, but it wasn’t like they were taking a bit longer to sputter out than the rest of the body – they actually increased their activity.

In mice, 515 genes were seen kicking into gear, and were functioning at full capacity up to 24 hours after death. In the zebrafish, 548 genes retained their function for four whole days after the animals had died before showing any signs of winding down.

Some of these zombie genes are developmental, some of them not so beneficial:

What’s maybe even stranger than that is the fact that these ‘postmortem’ genes weren’t just any genes, they were the kind of genes that ramp up during emergencies.

As Mitch Leslie reports for Science Magazine, we’re talking about tasks like stimulating inflammation, firing up the immune system, and counteracting stress. Some of the genes they identified usually switch on to help form an embryo, and then are never heard of again… except after death, apparently.

“What’s jaw-dropping is that developmental genes are turned on after death,” Noble told Leslie.

It’s not all beneficial genes, though, the team also found that certain genes that promote cancer growth also sparked after death in these animals, prompting the researchers to suggest that in a newly deceased corpse, the body reverts to the cellular conditions of a rapidly developing embryo.

“While transplantation is a life-saving therapy… it also puts recipients at an increased risk for developing cancer, in part because of medications…,” says Eric A. Engels of the US National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Cancer Institute.
/snip
The crazy amounts of immune-suppressing drugs transplant recipients have to take to make sure their body doesn’t reject the organ could partly explain the heightened risk of cancer, but active postmortem genes in the organ could also be at play, Noble told Science Magazine.

Interesting. When we die, it seems our body tries to revive itself up to days later, and in the process turns on developmental genes AND cancerous genes as well. That makes sense – they are both involved in rapid reproduction and growth of cells. The impact this could have on transplant patients is profound – treating them for cancer as part of their rejection therapy.

Maybe this is why zombies look the way they do.

Puts “born again Christian” in a whole new light, too.

Tuesday Open Comments

Thank your God and your lucky stars this man is a Justice on your Supreme Court.

In today’s Leonard v. Texas, Justice Clarence Thomas sharply criticizes civil forfeiture laws. The one-justice opinion discusses the Supreme Court’s refusing to hear the case (a result Thomas agrees with, for procedural reasons mentioned in the last paragraph); but Thomas is sending a signal, I think, that at least one justice — and maybe more — will be sympathetic to such arguments in future cases…

and by Justice Thomas,

[II.] Modern civil forfeiture statutes are plainly designed, at least in part, to punish the owner of property used for criminal purposes. When a state wishes to punish one of its citizens, it ordinarily proceeds against the defendant personally (known as “in personam”), and in many cases it must provide the defendant with full criminal procedural protections. Nevertheless, for reasons discussed below, this Court permits prosecutors seeking forfeiture to proceed against the property (known as “in rem”) and to do so civilly.

In rem proceedings often enable the government to seize the property without any predeprivation judicial process and to obtain forfeiture of the property even when the owner is personally innocent (though some statutes, including the one here, provide for an innocent-owner defense). Civil proceedings often lack certain procedural protections that accompany criminal proceedings, such as the right to a jury trial and a heightened standard of proof..

Partially as a result of this distinct legal regime, civil forfeiture has in recent decades become widespread and highly profitable. See, e.g., Institute for Justice, D. Carpenter, L. Knepper, A. Erickson, & J. McDonald, Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture 10 (2d ed. Nov. 2015) (Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund took in $4.5 billion in 2014 alone). And because the law enforcement entity responsible for seizing the property often keeps it, these entities have strong incentives to pursue forfeiture.

This system — where police can seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use — has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses. According to one nationally publicized report, for example, police in the town of Tenaha, Texas, regularly seized the property of out-of-town drivers passing through and collaborated with the district attorney to coerce them into signing waivers of their property rights.

Read the whole thing here.