Monday, April 14, 2008

The perils of corporate funding

If Elizabeth Whelan truly believes that corporate funding doesn’t influence scientists (” ‘Conflict’ chills research,” Op-Ed, Tuesday), I have an old prescription for Vioxx I’d like to sell her.

Mrs. Whelan’s fringy group thinks scientists who work for drug companies one day should be able to sit in judgment about those companies’ products the next day. Defending corporate influence over science isn’t just a talking point for the so-called American Council on Science and Health, it’s the business model.

The group is a receptacle for payments from pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology, food and other companies who appreciate the convenience of having their grantees and former employees serve on government science panels. The “obsession with transparency” about funding sources hasn’t troubled the ACSH, which stopped disclosing its donors in the 1990s, presumably out of embarrassment.


Executive director

Center for Science in the Public Interest


Abbas and Hamas

The decision of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s administration to shun Jimmy Carter during his upcoming travel to the Middle East because of Mr. Carter’s interest in meeting with Khalid Meshaal, “the leader of a terrorist organization,” is sadly ironic (“Olmert to snub Carter over Hamas visit,” World, Friday). If Mr. Olmert and his colleagues are opposed to dealing with hardened terrorists, they should cease giving away land and money to Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction, which continue as ever to perpetrate attacks against Israeli civilians.


Alon Shvut, Israel

Scotland’s dark path

Tom Gallagher is right to query First Minister Alex Salmond’s comparison of Celtic Tiger Ireland with post-industrial Scotland (“Scotland’s Huey Long,” Commentary, April 7). Scots are risk-averse and hostile to market economics, but young Irish graduates are not. Scotland has one of the lowest rates of business start-ups in Western Europe. That’s why the comparison with East Germany is particularly appropriate.

Plus, not ever having been an industrialized nation, Ireland does not suffer from post-industrial malaise and poor labor relations as Scotland does.

Having taught and worked in Irish and Scottish universities in the past five years, I can confirm that the difference in attitude is striking. Scots are cautious and defensive, instinctively controlling — as Donald Trump is finding out in his attempts to open a golf course in northeast Scotland.

Irish students are far more open to debate and given to enterprise and experimentation. They are prepared to work long hours for very little.

As for Mr. Salmond’s cozying up to radical Islam, he has been active against U.S. interests in opposing the Iraq war in the Stop the War Coalition since 2003 and in siding with Islamists. The latest overture to Iran and the prospect of an Edinburgh-Tehran axis ought to warn any sensible person off the direction in which he appears to be taking Scotland. It goes without saying that many in Scotland are uneasy with these moves.


Edinburgh, Scotland

America engenders hatred

Suzanne Fields’ column “Teaching violent intolerance” (Op-Ed, April 7) completely missed the boat. Mrs. Fields nicely describes an Iranian cartoon of a little boy with President Bush in which the president asks the boy where his parents are, and the child replies that the president “has killed his father in Iraq, his mother in Lebanon, and his brothers in Gaza.”

Mrs. Fields concludes that such cartoons incite “primitive blood lust,” but she misses what is right in front of her. When Americans and Israelis kill Muslims in Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza, we engender deep hatred. We are killing people’s fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. Middle Eastern cartoons and textbooks aren’t the cause of hatred. The killing we commit is.

If we’re worried about indoctrination, we ought to take a look at our own textbooks first. I attended the Hebrew Academy of Washington for 10 years. We were taught that we transformed a land of empty deserts and swamps into the great country of Israel. We weren’t taught that Israel was created by the violent displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. The depopulation and destruction of entire Palestinian villages wasn’t anywhere in the curriculum. Nor were the Jewish terrorists who were the first to plant terrorist bombs in crowded Palestinian markets.

Mrs. Fields complains that Palestinian children are taught only violence. She seems to miss the far greater problem: Palestinian children continue to face real violence and are denied the right to return to their homes. Peace will not come before we learn to treat others as we ourselves would want to be treated.


Winston-Salem, N.C.

Educational indoctrination

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry upon reading Gary Andres’ Thursday Op-Ed column, “Where have all the Republicans gone?” Here was another Republican pundit citing reams of statistics on which faction leans Republican or Democrat. Oh, for crying out loud.

Look, Jane, look. See our schools turn out little socialists year after year. Watch them compete for pet liberal “causes.” Observe the National Education Association, its state chapters and spinoffs (such as Uniserve) lobbying for decades while retaining a tax-exempt status. Witness the Bible, ROTC and patriotism — all spinning down the proverbial toilet.

See our school curricula, watered down along with standardized tests. Notice how they are imbued with psychological fare. Read over school codes like Michigan’s, which specifies that only those who have “earned doctorates in psychology … and related behavioral sciences” are qualified to “interpret” tests. If tests weren’t primarily mental health surveys, would such a caveat be necessary?

So, here are behavioral psychologists analyzing and scoring largely subjective assessments for “preferred” opinions. Now a liberal education establishment can determine just how much of its leftist message, embedded in curricula, is being “internalized” by pupils. If the answer is “not enough,” next year’s courses will be more aggressive.

Meanwhile, chronological history, even as boomers knew it, is now, well, history. Students no longer recognize key events, who the Framers were or what they debated. Health classes have been stripped of physiology. Science courses help ensure that our children waste more energy than they conserve on “green” projects. Then there’s victim theology, entitlement rhetoric and classrooms full of children dressed like hookers and pimps. Yesterday’s lax conduct has morphed into punching, shooting, cursing and raping.

But, hey, no ibuprofen tablets.

Republicans think that because a few Young Republican clubs are scattered around, conservatives will win out. Here’s a reality check: The “Star Trek Enterprise” series was canceled because just 2.8 million people watched. In 1958, 2.8 million folks doing anything made headlines. Today, it’s nothing. Do we even have 2.8 million Republicans on campuses?

I’d settle for just 20 conservative Republicans in Congress.



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