Bourgeois Aestheticism & Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

Long story in The Guardian about attempts to reduce Dengue Fever incidence using genetically modified mosquitoes & the predictable blowback of hysteria from middle-class Western activists. Now, I am deeply skeptical of GM crops, mostly because of the corporatist economic model on which they are based, but the opposition to the modified mosquitoes is really just an anti-science aesthetic that has noting to do with either the actual science nor with any reasonable cost / benefit analysis. Ask the Cambodian or Vietnamese farmer what he or she thinks about reducing the incidence of Dengue & I suspect you would get a different response than you get from the Western liberals who have the luxury to comment from a safe distance.

Update: On the other hand, I draw the line at this sort of genetic modification. Not so much on the science as on the motive.

Landmines & Unexploded Bombs in SE Asia

This article in the NY Times provides one more piece of evidence–as if any more were needed–in an indictment of American callousness regarding the legacies of the American War against Vietnam. In Vietnam, Cambodia, & Laos, thousands of people, many of them children, have been killed, and tens of thousands injured, by unexploded bombs, landmines, and other lethal garbage left from the American War. I am glad that the Lao government took Secretary Clinton to see the actual human damage caused by these devices. Here are some reliable statistics that give some idea of the scope of the problem. Technologies exist for dealing with these devices, but the moral will, apparently, is lacking, at least in the United States. It occurs to me that the Secretary’s husband, former President Bill Clinton–so famous for being able to “feel your pain”–might gall up a few of his rich & super-rich pals, or talk to them on the golf course, and put together a fund dedicated to removing all the explosives over, say, a ten-year period. It was President Clinton who normalized relations with Vietnam in 1995. More than twenty-five years later, the United States needs to take moral responsibility for this ongoing tragedy. There is simply no excuse not to act. We could begin by signing the international treaty against cluster bombs. Perhaps Secretary Clinton could suggest this modest step to her boss the current president.

Unbundling the University

My colleague Stephen Casper sent this around via departmental email a couple of days ago & it seems prescient, which makes me feel old. I told Stephen when I saw him in the mail room that I’m glad I’m not, like him, just starting my academic career — because the old model of the university that’s being unbundled suited me fine. And maybe I would be more hopeful about these developments if they were not in so many cases driven by market forces unmoored from and value but that of the bottom line. Read Stephen’s blog, The Neuro Times.

You Can’t Paper Over . . .

. . . class warfare with the stentorian pages of the New York Times editorial pages. This morning Brooks & Cohen are extolling the virtues of British Tory austerity. Since Paul Ryan turned out to be not quite so serious-minded & mature as Brooks thought a couple of weeks ago, it now looks as if the American working classes are supposed to accept the gutting of “entitlements” because it is so very British. Stiff upper lip & all that.