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December 27th, 2006


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11:46 pm - In the news: scary mercenaries and bad science
Here's your horrifying political news for today
The armed forces, already struggling to meet recruiting goals, are considering expanding the number of non-citizens in the ranks -- including disputed proposals to open recruiting stations overseas and putting more immigrants on a faster track to US citizenship if they volunteer -- according to Pentagon officials.

Foreign citizens serving in the US military is a highly charged issue, which could expose the Pentagon to criticism that it is essentially using mercenaries to defend the country.
This was a wretchedly terrible idea when the Roman Emperors did it 2000 years ago, and it looks like an even worse idea today. Of course, if these citizenship-mercenaries were kept in separate units, they would be ideal (from a purely authoritarian perspective) for putting down protests, riots, and other problems within the US, since such troops would have little resistance to firing on US citizens, especially since refusing an order might compromise their ability to gain citizenship), so I can see several reasons why the forces of evil in our government (IOW most elected Republicans and some of the Democrats). I continue to believe that the best combination for avoiding all manner of horrific problems is throwing every last Republican out of office and returning the US to a largely isolationist foreign policy. If the Iraq disaster (hopefully) makes the US public as war-phobic as the Vietman War did, then we won't need more troops, because the US will avoid anything other than 2-3 day microwars for another few decades, which would be the only useful result of the current horrors in Iraq. The US should be giving lots of money to the UN to use for aid to third world nations, and otherwise staying out of world affairs except for the minimum necessary to trade for essential goods and raw materials.

In other news,
Three years after the Food and Drug Administration first hinted that it might permit the sale of milk and meat from cloned animals, prompting public reactions that ranged from curiosity to disgust, the agency is poised to endorse marketing of the mass-produced animals for public consumption.
Public reaction to this annoys me no end, all the criticism of this idea that I've read is about supposed (and purely imaginary) health risks. The level of scientific ignorance necessary to produce such fears is both frightening and deeply sad. Cloned meat is going to be as safe as any other meat. The idea that cloning an animal would make its meat or milk unsafe, or in fact any different that the milk or meat from the original animal is silly. However, the fact that the meat is completely safe does not mean that cloned meat is necessarily a good idea. A farm inhabited by animals cloned from one or two sources is going to be significantly more vulnerable to disease than a farm filled with more genetically diverse animals. Also, current cloning procedures often result in animals that are unhealthy, and so they might require even more antibiotics or hormones than are currently used in meat and milk production.

However, large-scale cloning of animals is almost certain to result in significant improvements in the reliability of cloning technology and reductions in health problems for cloned animals, and could possibly help develop technologies useful for creating vat-grown meat (an idea I whole-heartedly support). So, I can see some benefits coming from the widespread adoption of cloned meat, but it is technology worth examining closely, just not for any of the reasons I've seen mentioned in the press or among so-called "health activists". My suspicion is that the arguments about possible health dangers and a general distrust of the idea comes from a combination of large numbers of profoundly ignorant people who likely imagine clones are created in horrific Frankensteinian laboratories and from various natural foods and environmental activists who share some of my concerns, but also have a particular combination of the technophobia and paranoia all too common among progressives.

I have seen some of these activists "bend the truth" (or, in other words, state outright lies) in order to garner public support for their ideas. Since most people don't care about the risks like the threat of a single disease wiping out an entire strain of cloned animals, I am fairly certain that some activists instead tell the public lies about the made-up risks of new technologies in order to generate public opposition to the product or process the oppose. The current upset about cloned meat is almost identical to the late 80s-early 90s upset about the use of synthetic bovine growth hormone. Giving cows rBGH does absolutely no harm to humans, despite no shortage of fanciful and wacked out claims to the contrary. However, it can be bad for the cows (causing various medical problems) and also the increased costs to many farmers more than offset the increased profits due to increased milk production. In short, it's not a terribly good idea, but not for the reasons most people claim. I very much wish that technophobia and ludicrously bad science were not so closely tied in with attitudes that I often otherwise agree with.
Current Mood: annoyedannoyed

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From:dancinglights
Date:December 28th, 2006 02:06 pm (UTC)
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As opposed to here, wherein we've actually started a war that no one wants and still remember the consequences of our only other option for troop fill when recruitment quotas are unmet for long enough -- a draft directly into said unpopular, losing war.

It's a pity certain people refused to learn from the part about meddling to start such wars in the first place.

I don't know. There's bad options all around at this point. I was wondering where the hell they'd get this "troop surge" from, and I think it's both an awful predatory sort of thing for us as a government to do, but I object to it for the reasons in the original post, as well. I don't think there's any good option but to abandon ship and they just won't do it yet. Blerg.
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From:heron61
Date:December 28th, 2006 04:00 pm (UTC)
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I also strongly oppose the idea that citizens should be expected to perform military service, because the entire concept of war and military service should not be something regarded as common or normal - those sorts of expectations lead to more wars. Also, in the proposed situation, the soldiers are going to be more loyal to their commander than to the US and will lack the resistance that most US-born troops would have to firing on US citizens, and so abuses and atrocities are even more likely than they are now.
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From:jholloway
Date:January 5th, 2007 03:47 pm (UTC)
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This isn't true; immigrants can get citizenship in a number of ways. You can read about it here.

However, serving two terms of enlistment in the Legion does allow you to apply for French citizenship; I believe it is also possible to become "French by spilt blood" if wounded in the Legion.
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From:thebitterguy
Date:December 28th, 2006 05:06 pm (UTC)
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Well, I know that Canadian citizens can serve in the US forces; a friend of mine from Ottawa is in the Navy there.
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From:heron61
Date:December 28th, 2006 10:34 pm (UTC)
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Foreigners serving is one thing, but foreigners serving to earn citizenship means both that these people are more likely to be from repressive 3rd world nations and so have expectations of military conduct and civilian rights that are far from good, and are going to be sufficiently motivated that they are more likely to act on orders to commit atrocities.
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From:alobar
Date:December 28th, 2006 05:28 pm (UTC)
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> IOW most elected Republicans and some of the Democrats

From my perspective, it is most Republicans and most Democrats as well.

> the criticism of this idea that I've read is about supposed
> (and purely imaginary) health risks

A) The meat of cloned animals comes from animals which are sickly and have been pumped full of antibiotics to keep them alive. I do not want to eat meat from sickly animals.

B) The idea of innocent until proven guilty should not apply to new technology which can impact health or the environment. I say that new technology needs to be proven safe before it goes into mass production.

C) Even if safe, cloning is not, imo, a good idea. Every organism has certain genetic quirks which can make it more suseptable to specific diseases or problems. When the genome for food animals is limited to a few select strains, we could be in deep shit if we discover that some organism has evolved to exploit a particular weakness. If a large part of the food supply gets wiped out, there could be famine.

D) When a farmer breeds his animals, he or she owns the offspring. When a farmer uses GM seed, he or she may not save the seeds from those plants to use next year. So the food supply is controlled by Monsanto. I fear a similar situation with cloned animals.
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From:heron61
Date:December 28th, 2006 07:00 pm (UTC)
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I completely agree with A, C, and D. My problem is not with opposition to this idea, but that almost all of the opposition never mentions any of these three points, and instead concentrates on the purely fictitious idea that cloning in some innate way makes meat less safe (rather than making it less safe because of the likelihood of having to use more antibiotics). Scientific ignorance and technophobia often drown out more reasonable objections and allow chemical companies and the government to easily, and in some cases quite truthfully) claim that most opposition to an idea comes from crackpots and the ignorant. Hard facts like your points A, C, and D are truly excellent objections to meat cloning, but if such reasonable objections are either not widely raised or (as seems to be the case, from everything that I've seen) they are drowned out under the weight of the silly arguments about cloning in some way directly tainting meat, then anyone with any scientific training is going to assume that only crackpots object to meat cloning.
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From:alobar
Date:December 28th, 2006 07:18 pm (UTC)
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> purely fictitious idea that cloning in some innate way makes meat less safe

We agree on is point.

I'm not neophobic, but I am suspicious of the motives and the ethics of people who stand to make a lot of $$ if their product sells well. Too many really bad examples of crap sold to gullible people based on fraudulent claims and research. As a kid, I remember ads on TV with actors posing as doctors who told viewers that smoking tonacco is healthy, quiets the stomach after eating, and reduces stress.
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From:alobar
Date:December 28th, 2006 07:20 pm (UTC)
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> We agree on is point.

Sloppy typing. Should be "We agree on this point."
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From:antayla
Date:December 28th, 2006 07:25 pm (UTC)
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What if we clone the "supercows" that have an amazing immune system and have been chosen for cloning because of that? That would result in less need for antibiotics, not more. After all, the old fashioned method of cow breeding is pretty efficient already; switching to cloning would have to provide additional benefits in order to be appealing.

As for Monsanto, as I understand it they make the seed sterile so that it can't breed with the local plant population. A good idea.

I'm all in favor of taking great care in pursuing biotech; but refusing to use it at all based on esthetic reasons is just plain dumb. But... it is really hard to have an informed opinion one way or the other because of all the misinformation people spread around :P.
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From:rialian
Date:December 28th, 2006 09:04 pm (UTC)
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===Actually, the terminator gene makes it so tbat anything that is fertilized by the pollen of that plant is sterilized. It has nothing really to do with keeping it under contol so much as it has the ability to make one dependent on them for seed.

====I have to say I really do not trust anything Monsanto says...they have a long history of dishonorable behavior. (starting in my mind with the attacks on Rachel Carson for her pointing out the problems of DDT, and continuing with the suing of farmers that have their crops tainted by Monsanto tech who had not even WANTED their stuff...and winning. (grrr))
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From:rjgrady
Date:December 29th, 2006 08:05 pm (UTC)
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I view animal cloning as a good trend. The ideal scenario for me would be

1. Obtain animals with particularly desirable traits, such as good milk production, disease resistance, and so forth.
2. Clone them.
3. Perform quality control.
4. Breed the clones with genetically diverse, healthy animals.
5. Profit.

I do have some reservations about cloning... Not in the sense of creating unhealthy food, but from the standpoint of, do we really know what we're doing? Current cloning research has focused on the manipulation of DNA, at which we are becoming rather adept. To me, that leaves open questions about such things as mitochondrial DNA, self-replicating RNA, free floating RNA and aminoes, and so forth. I question whether the product of twinned DNA is really a clone in the sense of being biologically identical to the DNA donor. The rate of deformities and illnesses in clones suggests that even with a complete set of chromosomes, some aspects of the enterprise are missing.

I have no problem with "foreign mercenaries," as it were, provided they are imbedded in US-based units and not units based on their recruitment stations or nationality. Further, the numbers should be limited to that needed to meet current shortages, not as a tool of recruitment in the ordinary course of things. If nothing else, I think the option could be explored with regards to Mexico.

The ultimate answer, of course, is not to land in situations where we require so many soldiers.

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