Archive for the ‘william saletan’ tag

#  The Minicow Boom →

June 22nd, 2009 at 18:41 // In Worth Knowing 

What’s most interesting about “minicows” which are apparently experiencing a “miniboom” because they’re more efficient in a feed to commercial-cut analysis, is that they’re not some new scientific breakthrough, but old technology. The “miniature” breeds that some farmers love are just the regular cows from 100 years ago.

“Feed prices were relatively cheap, and grazing lands were accessible,” Lemenager said. “The plan was to get more meat per animal. But it went way too far. The animals got too big and eat so much.”

(via Human Nature)

#  What Tiller Means →

June 1st, 2009 at 18:41 // In Worth Reading 

I earlier said that William Saletan is “the most serious liberal writing about [the] difficult issues” of pre-birth life. I stand by that and direct your attention to this poetically structured piece about what the murder of an abortion provider means. If you’re too lazy, here are the meatiest lines:

If a doctor in Kansas were butchering hundreds of old or disabled people, and legal authorities failed to intervene, I doubt most members of the National Right to Life Committee would stand by waiting for “educational and legislative activities” to stop him. Somebody would use force.

#  Why are there so many black athletes? →

May 5th, 2009 at 9:21 // In Worth Knowing 

In an article encouraging us not to use genetic tendencies for racist ends, William Saletan offers a possible genetic answer:

One example is the RR variant of ACTN3, a gene that affects fast generation of muscular force and correlates with excellence at speed and power sports. The opposite variant of the gene is called XX. Tests indicate that the ratio of people with RR to people with XX is 1 to 1 among Asians, 2 to 1 among European whites, and more than 4 to 1 among African-Americans.

Obviously discipline, coaching, economics, and millions of other factors also matter. But this fact was new to me.

#  Sexism and Sex Selection →

April 16th, 2009 at 14:15 // In Worth Knowing 

In discussing the results and ramifications of China’s “one-child” policy, William Saletan revealed a fact I’d not known:

The government is very aware of the problem and has openly expressed concerns about the consequences of large numbers of excess men for societal stability and security. As early as 2000 the government launched a range of policies to specifically counter the sex imbalance, the “care for girls” campaign. This includes changes in laws in areas such as inheritance by females, as well as an educational campaign to promote gender equality. These measures have had some success, with reports of lower sex ratios at birth in targeted localities.

The result appears to have been a drop in the imbalance from 124 boys per 100 girls to 119.

#  Soda Taxes →

April 10th, 2009 at 19:58 // In Worth Knowing 

Ceaselessly patrolling the boarders of our corporeal liberties, William Saletan notes the looming attack on “sugared beverages.”

New York City’s health commissioner, Thomas Frieden, is leading the way. He’s the guy who purged trans fats from the city’s restaurants and made them post calorie counts for menu items. Lately he’s been pressuring food companies to remove salt from their products.

Now he’s going after soda.

That paragraph put into my head this line: “First they came for the transfats, I said nothing…” Apologies to Niemöller fans.

#  Science, Morals, and Stem Cells →

March 11th, 2009 at 19:06 // In Worth Reading 

Perhaps it’s just because my opinions on embryos are so close to his, but William Saletan seems to me the most serious liberal writing about these difficult issues. His piece on the way to treat the President’s recent decision to overturn the embryonic stem cell ban is good. This part especially:

The danger of seeing the stem-cell war as a contest between science and ideology is that you bury these dilemmas. You forget the moral problem. You start lying to yourself and others about what you’re doing. You invent euphemisms like pre-embryo, pre-conception, and clonote. Your ethical lines begin to slide.

There is also a follow-up here.

#  Mother Issues

November 24th, 2008 at 17:52 // In Worth Considering 

William Saletan has two recent piece about motherhood that caught my eye. They are, as usual, full of interesting but vaguely tangential ideas.

The first is about grandmother surrogacy:

Take the Japanese case from a couple of years ago. Japanese law treated the child’s gestational mother—the genetic grandmother—as its legal mother. Therefore, the genetic mother had to adopt the child from her own mother. In the Virginia case, the genetic dad ended up telling reporters, “Mommy’s doing fine. Not this mommy. Grandma mommy.” Imagine looking at your mom and realizing that in a way, she’s your sister. Imagine getting into an argument with your mother-in-law over the way you’re raising your kids—religion, discipline, whatever—and realizing that in a way, she’s their mother.

The second is about, well, this: “What’s the next best thing to having your own baby? Having your identical twin’s baby.”

#  Organ Harvesting →

October 7th, 2008 at 12:06 // In Worth Reading 

As ever shouldering his responsibility to tackle moral gray areas, William Saletan offers an enlightening (if unsettling) look into the battle over our organs.

How can we get more organs? By redefining death. First we coined “brain death,” which let us take organs from people on ventilators. Then we proposed to allow organ retrieval even if nonconscious brain functions persisted. That goal has now been realized through “donation after cardiac death,” the rule applied in Denver, which permits harvesting based on heart, rather than brain, stoppage.

Stoppage is complicated. There’s no “moment” of death. Some transplant surgeons wait five minutes after the last heartbeat. Others wait two. The Denver team waited 75 seconds, reasoning that no heart is known to have self-restarted after 60 seconds.

#  Apartheid →

August 1st, 2008 at 16:08 // In Worth Reading 

Before making the liberal’s argument against it — “restricting options in low-income neighborhoods is a disturbingly paternalistic way of solving the problem” — William Saletan puts Los Angeles’s fast-food-restaurant ban in perspective:

What we’re looking at, essentially, is the beginning of food zoning. Liquor and cigarette sales are already zoned. You can’t sell booze here; you can’t sell smokes there. Each city makes its own rules, block by block. Proponents of the L.A. ordinance see it as the logical next step. Fast food is bad for you, just as drinking or smoking is, they argue. Community Coalition, a local activist group, promotes the moratorium as a sequel to its crackdown on alcohol merchants, scummy motels, and other “nuisance businesses.” An L.A. councilman says the ordinance makes sense because it’s “not too different to how we regulate liquor stores.”

#  War is Halo →

July 24th, 2008 at 22:23 // In Worth Considering 

William Saletan sees the impersonality of killing with aerial drones — now made more videogame-like by Raytheon — as a bad thing:

Is the “synthetic environment” real? That depends on which end of the missile you’re looking at. In the targeted car, it’s as real as death. But from the console, it looks more like virtual reality. If the drone goes down, you’re not in it. The environment you actually inhabit is pretty nice. To enhance “operator comfort,” Raytheon offers “ergonomic, memory seating,” “ergonomically-correct displays,” and “adjustable hand and foot positions.” According to the Associated Press, “The leather chair is adaptable to individual users, who can also control a heating and cooling duct above their head at the touch of a switch.”

If you’ve seen combat in the flesh, you know what the fireball on the screen means to the people in the car. But to a teenager raised on Doom and Halo, it looks like just another score. He can’t feel or smell the explosion. He isn’t even there. The eeriest thing in the demo video is the total silence that accompanies the car’s destruction. The only sound that follows is the pilot’s triumphant verdict: “Excellent job.” It’s like something you’d read on the screen after getting a high score at an arcade.

#  Paid to Pee, II →

July 10th, 2008 at 13:29 // In Worth Considering 

Taking off on the Indian experiment, William Saletan envisions a future in which all Americans are paid for using public toilets:

I bet somebody will figure out pretty soon how to monetize toilet waste. And it won’t be the government; it’ll be the private sector. Did you see the New York Times story a few weeks back about restaurant grease? It’s being illegally siphoned from filthy bins and barrels. Bandits are selling it for conversion to biodiesel. When bandits start siphoning public toilets, maybe governments will wake up and get in on the action. And you’ll stop having to pay.

#  Sexual Hypocrisy →

June 30th, 2008 at 19:18 // In Worth Reading 

The consistently interesting William Saletan points to — and considers — an innovative argument about sexual propriety:

The defendant is accused of purveying obscene material from a Florida Web site. To be judged obscene, the material has to be found patently offensive or prurient by “contemporary community standards.” According to Matt Richtel of the New York Times, the defense attorney in the case, Lawrence Walters, will use Google Trends to argue that the community’s standards are lower than advertised. Walters “plans to show that residents of Pensacola are more likely to use Google to search for terms like ‘orgy’ than for ‘apple pie’ or ‘watermelon,’” Richtel reports. (Evidence here.) The point is “to demonstrate that interest in the sexual subjects exceeds that of more mainstream topics—and that by extension, the sexual material distributed by his client is not outside the norm.”

…[Th]is case is more than a titillating gimmick. It’s an early attempt to think through human duality in the age of the Internet. In the old days, there was a private you that lived in your head, a semi-private you that lived in your house, and a public you that lived in your community. You could commit adultery in your fantasies, try bondage with your spouse in the bedroom, and sing about purity in church. The Internet has confused these distinctions. Now the private you can sneak around the semi-private you and become semi-public. (I doubt those folks in Pensacola have talked to their spouses about orgies.) Your fantasies are no longer confined to your head. They’re visible, in the aggregate, on Google Trends.

…And don’t judge a porn site operator by the open-air standards of his geographic community. That’s not where he peddles his smut. He peddles it online, where the standards, as we now know from Google, are different.

#  My Son’s Flaw →

June 25th, 2008 at 18:08 // In Worth Distraction 

Sarah Bird desperately wishes that she could change her son’s sexual orientation: she wants him to be gay.

How could I not dream of having a son who cared deeply about all the right things: fashion, musical theater, interior décor? But mostly a son who cared deeply about the most right thing of all: his mother? How could I not yearn for a son who would tell me that the bias cut emphasized my saddlebag thighs, that no one was staining concrete anymore, that the tiniest bit of white on the upper lids would open up my eyes and make me look 10 years younger? And now that California is handing out marriage licenses, what mother could resist the opportunity to micromanage a union in which both participants would obsess with her about whether the color theme celadon and peach or apple green and hot pink best expresses their love?

Not unrelated: William Saletan discusses a feasible genetic cause of male homosexuality.

#  Viriginity Restoration →

June 11th, 2008 at 10:49 // In Worth Knowing 

Hymenoplasty — recreating a hymen for a woman whose has broken — is gaining in popularity, especially for Muslims. One quote justifying having it done:

“In my culture, not to be a virgin is to be dirt,” said the student, perched on a hospital bed as she awaited surgery on Thursday. “Right now, virginity is more important to me than life.”

And while Dave Pell thinks that’s depressing, William Saletan defends the procedure.

#  Sexual Permissiveness →

May 16th, 2008 at 14:38 // In Worth Considering 

William Saletan, while decrying those who attempt to conflate gay marriage and polygamy, says that both are increasingly approved of and tolerated. Oh and incest too.

We’ve heard this slippery-slope argument before. Five years ago, Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania put it this way: “If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest. …”

I hate to say it, but things are playing out pretty much as Santorum predicted.

#  Lab-grown Meat →

April 22nd, 2008 at 14:52 // In Worth Considering 

William Saletan’s got a number of interesting things to say about PETA’s X Prize:

In principle, I’m a big fan of lab meat. But you have to understand what a colossal concession this is for the animal-rights movement. Lab meat “would mimic flesh,” says PETA’s press release. Mimic? Lab meat is flesh. That’s the whole point. The contest rules explicitly demand a “product that has a taste and texture indistinguishable from real chicken flesh.” In fact, the product has to satisfy “a panel of 10 meat-eating individuals sourced from a professional focus group services provider.” It won’t walk or quack like a duck, so technically, it’s not a duck. But if it tastes like duck, chews like duck, and comes from duck, it’s duck.

#  Let’s Talk About… Abortion →

January 23rd, 2008 at 22:18 // In Worth Considering 

Slate’s William Saletan’s got some useful ideas about America’s most controversial legal case.

Today [yesterday actually, because I’m slow], Roe v. Wade is 35 years old. If you’re tired of rehashing the same debate every Jan. 22, here are two ideas that would advance the debate to a better place by this time next year. To pro-choicers: Talk about abortion the way you’ve been talking about teen sex, embracing an ideal number of zero. To pro-lifers: Accept that the best way to advance toward zero is through voluntary prevention.