The Present Craziness
Thanks for the optimistic article “Can We Create New Life?” (Feature Story, November 26). One has to be suspicious of any government policy being fast-tracked, especially one as revolutionary as genetic-engineering promotion. From a rational perspective, such a mysterious business requires more caution than normal, not less. To express the problem/risk as simply as possible requires an analogy:
Think of GIGO — garbage in, garbage out — as used in information processing. The “mal-ware,” such as viruses, etc., which can damage computers, are created to appear to be normal information. In this way the computer is tricked and absorbs these programs into the computer software as if they are beneficial. Only later does the damage appear. But by then it is too late; your work is garbage, or lost altogether.
Science often regards humanity’s existence as depending on a delicate balance of forces in nature. These forces evolved this balance over a long time with perhaps trillions of iterations of trial and error in genetic combinations to get to us and our environment now.
With this in mind, think of the information that we must absorb in order for our life programs to exist, to continue, to improve. Food is not just energy that we consume to keep the machine going. Food contains genetic information that our bodies have evolved with since our beginnings. When we eat, we accept and integrate that information via our messenger RNA into our own DNA and are so modified. Genetic engineering tricks our cells into accepting new, unnatural information as if it were the familiar natural information.
Possible dangerous consequences may not appear right away, or even in the present lifetime of the unwitting victim, unlike the genetic damage caused by nuclear radiation, which seems to be limited to existent life. This makes genetically engineered products ingested by living beings even more dangerous than radiation poisoning. Why? Because once our DNA integrates the new information as if it were natural, the new characteristics will be passed on to the next generation and the next and the next. This is because it is not recognized as damaging and does not trigger the disabling of the germs of reproduction.
Bottom line: the closed testing of genetic engineering, before introduction into the environment, requires at least a couple of generations of experimentally reproduced human subjects. This is only rational. The present course is therefore irrational. I hope that nature somehow provides some remedy to our progeny to reverse or repair the results of our present craziness.
I was very alarmed to read your cover story on marijuana (“Shopping at Weedmart,” November 20). What your story did not say is that, yeah, marijuana has medicinal benefits; no, marijuana is not safe. That’s why the medical profession does not use it. If you’re going to smoke anything into your lungs, you’re going to get bronchitis or cancer. The human body is not fit for smoking. You’ve got to have your head up your a** to think that it is. The people you talked to who have medical issues have better alternatives, such as Chinese medicine, ayurvedic medicine, or acupuncture. Those things have been proven safe and effective.
The group that advocates legalization, or decriminalization, of marijuana in the U.S. is aiming at the wrong target (“Shopping at Weedmart,” Cover Story, November 20). Times are tough here, but a majority of citizens still won’t support relaxing laws against pot. The crisis south of the border is much more dire than it is here. All of the main sources of revenue in Mexico are dwindling. Money from oil, tourism, and remittances from abroad are all down. They desperately need another source of revenue. Legalizing marijuana would solve those problems. The drug wars would become unnecessary. Tourists would return in greater numbers. Mexican farmers would have a very popular crop to grow. The farmers could produce different kinds and potencies of pot. The idea may sound strange, but what is the better alternative — legalizing the happy weed or chaos?
In the opening paragraph of this story (“Shopping at Weedmart,” Cover Story, November 20), Joseph O’Brien writes, “Colleen Daley lives on a sunburnt patch of overzoned Chula Vista real estate. She is besieged by the odoriferous crosscurrents of wafting grease and the crackling bark of drive-in order speakers — her one-bedroom ranch is surrounded by fast-food joints. And that’s where she thinks her problems as a marijuana farmer started.”
Considering that she suffers from multiple sclerosis and might benefit medically from using cannabis, I suppose it would be churlish of me to suggest that her problems as a marijuana farmer started when she decided to grow a crop the cultivation of which over a certain limit and, despite the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, remains a prosecutable offense under federal law.
There’s No Nothingness
I found misleading Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal’s response to the question “What happens when we die?” quoted by Matthew Lickona in the October 30 Letters column (“Answer, Rabbi”).
It is true, as Rabbi Rosenthal says, that “Judaism has a range of beliefs,” but “once you’re dead, you’re dead, and there’s nothing afterwards” is not one of them. No doubt there are Jews who have departed so far from traditional Judaism as to believe this. However, it has not been one of Judaism’s “range of beliefs” since ancient times when that opinion of the Sadducees was repudiated (Talmud, Sanhedrin 90a-91b).
The rabbi’s “simple answer” (“we don’t know”) is correct so far as the details of the afterlife are concerned, which in any religion must be imagined based on faith rather than knowledge. But missing from his response was any mention of Judaism’s unwavering assertion that all things, including the condition of our souls in the afterlife, lie in God’s hands. Whatever particular images of life after death Judaism does have — resurrection, purgation, temporary hell, reincarnation, the world to come — Judaism teaches that we, like everything in the universe, exist within the will of the Creator. Hence, it cannot be that even in death we could fall into total nothingness out of the mind of God, which, being eternal, must hold us eternally if it holds us now. “There’s nothing afterward” is therefore not a possibility that Judaism (as distinct from doubting individuals) admits.
In case Mr. Richard, the letter writer, is more than merely curious but, like many of us, is seeking some authority for hope, he may appreciate knowing that in traditional Judaism among the blessings recited three times every day is one which acknowledges that God “brings the dead to life.” The Talmud (Sanhedrin 91a) also records the following exchange: To a skeptic who asked, “If even the living die, shall the dead live?” Rabbi Gebiha son of Pesisa replied, “If what did not live lives now, surely what lives now will live again.”
This is a question concerning John Brizzolara’s article “I Feel My Liver Donor’s Presence” in the November 13 Reader. He’s talking about a liver-transplant patient, David Clark, and he quotes Mr. Clark on page 50, the second column, as saying, “I wasn’t real happy with the endgame part of the carrot on that particular episode.” It’s a very interesting story, but what does that sentence mean? Is it garbled or what? Would somebody please translate that?
The sentence should have read, “I wasn’t real happy with the endgame on that particular episode.” — Editor
The Clinical-Trials People
Elizabeth Marro is to be congratulated on the candor and perceptiveness of her article about human clinical trials (“Hi, Connie. We’re Ready for You,” Cover Story, November 13). This article has filled in the missing link with some information from the point of view of the clinical-trial subject that simply is not usually available to the primary investigator in such matters.
I am a medical doctor and psychiatrist and have been primary investigator in a number of clinical trials over the past 20 years. I have been serving as the primary investigator of a clinical trial of a natural substance for San Diego.
When I ran clinical trials of psychotropic drugs for a large Midwestern university, I believed with all my heart that clinical trials were of benefit to the drug company for the collection of powerful data to improve treatments, as well as of benefit to the patient. As I truly believed with all my heart, we were simply making available treatments that were not yet commercially available to treatment-resistant patients who were suffering. I noticed even then that a large amount of the patients whom we recruited were the uninsured and those who probably could not afford any care other than the clinical trial. I felt I was giving them a wonderful chance. I always felt, as I do in my current work, that patient health is paramount, that a patient must be pulled from a clinical trial if another treatment would be better. I knew that when I did such things at least some people were unhappy because they wouldn’t receive the full compensation for completing the trial. I thought it was just a different viewpoint. What I could not see then is that we are developing a separate subpopulation of people who do clinical trials. These are people who need compensation to live — compensation which may be directly proportional to the risks, even risk of death, that may accompany a clinical trial. Once there were a few “creative” people who would get an occasional clinical-trials job to get out of a scrape or, in the more famous case of El Mariachi director Robert Rodriguez, to finance a movie.
Now there is a body of citizens who use the clinical trial to make a living. Many people are against using animals in clinical research because they consider this cruelty. Recent data eloquently presented in the Reader by Elizabeth Marro establishes correctly that recent trials locally involving blood products may have been responsible for higher death rates and that some recent clinical studies in the United Kingdom have caused Europeans to revisit clinical-trials criteria.
My recent clinical work has been far removed from either universities or pharmaceutical companies. I have been clinically studying natural substances. Nobody involved with any of my interests has enough money to compensate patients.
I have received countless telephone calls from would-be patients who hang up when they learn I can offer only a minimal compensation for mileage.
If research on animals is inhumane, then research on humans can only be worse. There seem to be plenty of people in America who are genuinely dependent upon money received from clinical trials. Usually the clinical-trial protocols aren’t equipped with controls to detect people who deceive in order to evade dismissal or prolong their participation and earn more money. We are foolish to trust the veracity of the scientific data they provide.
We are inhuman in terms of our own ethics. We simply cannot let this practice continue. The USA, once the first country to have workable social programs, now obviously has inadequate ones for these people to even exist. We have review boards that check the ethics of practices of human research. Their power is restricted to interpretation of a series of criteria in a meticulous way. It is time to do something about the criteria. They have not been examined in the light of current social realities.
There is an amazing amount of knowledge streaming from high-quality science endorsing natural and nondrug treatments.
We cannot permit the clinical-trials establishment to be a weak and poor substitute for inadequate social programs.
We must stop the human experiments right now. Review the human ethics. We know plenty about how to heal people. Let us simply heal the people, without exposing them to risks in the name of commercial profit. This may present a problem for large institutions, like universities, which have allowed thousands of trials — run now more often by commercial organizations — to pay them. The bias is evident, but it is removable. There is plenty of good human clinical science, perhaps some older or less flashy, to teach healers how to cure patients. Only by letting go immediately of the clinical-research-money bias can educational institutions win the faith of a questioning, angered public.
Stop human clinical research, at least until all ethical guidelines are reviewed.
We as doctor-healers must go back to our ancient roots.
Primum non nocere — first, do no harm.
Preserve and increase the quality of human life at all costs.
Estelle Toby Goldstein, M.D.
Brass Tacks Needed
Poor Rico Gardiner (Letters, November 13). All he does is offer a bit of well-intended and constructive criticism of San Diego so that the poor sods unfortunate enough to live here might somehow better themselves and their benighted burg, and what does he get for his pains, naught but abuse. Sadly, such is often the lot of those of superior intellect who stoop to show lesser minds the errors of their ways. Hoping for a lively and elevated discussion, Rico instead has scorn and vituperation heaped upon him. But what else could he expect from witless troglodytes?
Perhaps part of this stems from Gardiner’s habit of denying city status to San Diego. Maybe if he were to explain to us what makes a real city such as San Francisco as opposed to an ersatz city like San Diego it would help to clarify matters. Unfortunately, Rico can only offer up vague generalities that leave little room for rebuttal since they are almost entirely lacking in substance. It would help if he got down to brass tacks.
He lauds his lone defender, attributing her higher intelligence to the fact that she hails from the Bay Area. I cannot argue with him there as I was also born and raised in the Bay Area.
San Francisco is indeed a great city. It is, however, not without its faults. For instance, the amount of litter and trash strewn up and down its streets is vastly greater than here in San Diego. The panhandlers are far more numerous and aggressive than here. And, finally, the homeless have a habit of constructing their cardboard wickiups right on Market Street in the heart of the financial district. But who knows, it may be that Rico regards such things as civic assets.
But one thing is certain, Mr. Mission Hills needs to be reminded that whining is the last refuge of the pathetic.
What’s He Doing Here?
The letter submitted November 6, “Crasher Basher,” by Robert Lowth was so true, and it needed to be said. Robert is a very observant man. His profile of Josh Board was right on the money. Great job, Robert.
I have always been convinced that Josh B. and his “Crasher” column is beyond mundane. In fact, it wouldn’t even appeal to third graders. Also, I find it strange that Josh the party crasher is on this quest to find a party worth writing about. It is apparent he is void of creative writing skills. It’s very one-dimensional how he describes a party. There is no character to his storytelling. His way of writing is very generic and boring.
But on a more serious note, Josh Board appears to be a party predator who preys on innocent partygoers and criticizes the party in question, then writes about it in very poor taste. How deranged can you be? I can’t believe he gets paid to do this. How on earth is he employed by the Reader? Who would hire such a person?
However, I do recall Josh B., music critic for the Reader over half a decade ago. He wasn’t that bad until he interviewed two former members of local progressive metal band Psychotic Waltz in 2004. Josh could have written a nice story, but instead he caused some conflict based upon his lack of knowledge and history on what Psychotic Waltz has accomplished. Josh B. could have been sued for slander, but it never happened.
I understand why people are fed up with Josh and his sarcasm. I find it odd that there are those who enjoy his awful “Crasher” column and seem to defend him. In this day and age, I don’t know what to think, and I can’t believe he still works for the Reader. His occupation as the crasher is nothing to be proud of, especially when you are void of imagination, such as is the case with Josh Board.
The moral to this story is Josh Board is not a genuine writer, and it is unfortunate he stains the reputation within the Reader, and I know there are a thousand people out there that would agree. As a fan of the Reader for 25 years, my only concern is, I hope the Reader staff is aware of this situation. I can’t imagine Josh B. and the “Crasher” continuing on and on for years to come. That would be sinful.
Tony D. Metal
On your October 16 cover you had a picture of Pavle Ikonic from Belgrade, Serbia (“Keep That Sign Moving”). He was very entertaining with his signboard. I would see him as I went by on the bus. I hope someone helped him get a better job because he took his job seriously. I hope he makes a good life for himself in America because the country needs people like him.