Ezra Pound, a Major Literary Figure of the 20th Century, “Loved the Movies of Walt Disney”

(p. C5) “Mussolini asked,” in A. David Moody ‘s retelling, “what was his aim in writing The Cantos, and Pound replied, ‘to put my ideas in order’; and Mussolini said, ‘What do you want to do that for?’ ” When the poet turned from this dismissal to economic policy, which had lately become the central obsession of his life, the dictator was unimpressed by Pound’s list of 18 proposals, alighting particularly on his assertion that “in the Fascist state taxes were no longer necessary”: “Have to think about THAT,” Mussolini said and ended the interview. To the fascist dictator, Pound, by any measure one of the 20th century’s major literary figures, merited hardly more bother than a fly.
. . .
(p. C7) . . . he was not always an elitist. He loved the movies of Walt Disney, . . .

For the full review, see:
DAVID MASON. “The Makers of Modernism; Pound’s generous spirit looms over 20th-century literature, and in the early years his megalomania seemed harmless.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Dec. 6, 2014): C5 & C7.
(Note: ellipses added; italics in original.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 5, 2014, and has the title “The Tragic Hero of Literary Modernism; Ezra Pound’s generous spirit looms over 20th-century literature, and in the early years his megalomania seemed harmless.” The first part of the title in the print version was intended to cover both the review of the Pound biography and an accompanying review of a biography of the writer and publisher James Laughlin.)

The book under review is:
Moody, A. David. Ezra Pound: Poet: Volume II: The Epic Years. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Lower Cost LEDs Will Reduce Light Prices, and Increase Quantity Consumed (Yes, Virginia, There Really Is a Law of Demand)

(p. A29) The growing evidence that low-cost efficiency often leads to faster energy growth was recently considered by both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency. They concluded that energy savings associated with new, more energy efficient technologies were likely to result in significant “rebounds,” or increases, in energy consumption. This means that very significant percentages of energy savings will be lost to increased energy consumption.
. . .
That’s not a bad thing. Most people in the world, still struggling to achieve modern living standards, need to consume more energy, not less. Cheap LED and other more efficient energy technologies will be overwhelmingly positive for people and economies all over the world.

For the full commentary, see:
MICHAEL SHELLENBERGER and TED NORDHAUS. “The Problem With Energy Efficiency.” The New York Times (Thurs., OCT. 9, 2014): A29.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date OCT. 8, 2014.)

Government Encouraged the Dust Bowl of the 1930s

Timothy Egan in The Worst Hard Time helps us to understand the motives and struggles of those who suffered in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s in the Great Plains of the United States. Sometimes he also illuminates the role that the government had in encouraging ordinary people to move to a place that would soon be hell on earth.
In the next few weeks, I will quote several of the most thought-provoking passages of Egan’s book.

Book discussed:
Egan, Timothy. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

TransCanada Plans to Use Eminent Domain to Build the Keystone Pipeline

I am not opposed to the Keystone Pipeline on environmental grounds. But I have long believed that property rights should be defended, and that we too readily allow the violation of property rights through eminent domain.
If the Keystone Pipeline can be built without eminent domain, then I am in favor of allowing it. If it can only be built by violating landowners’ property rights, then I oppose it.

(p. 1A) LINCOLN — As the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate pledged quick approval of the Keystone XL pipeline early next year, final offers were landing Tuesday in dozens of Nebraska mailboxes.

TransCanada Corp. said it mailed new offers of right-of-way payments this week to more than 100 Nebraska landowners who have refused to sign an easement contract.
The letters also say the company will pursue eminent domain against landowners who don’t agree to terms by Jan. 16. The company says Nebraska law requires condemnation proceedings to start within two years of the state’s approval of the pipeline route, which occurred Jan. 22, 2013.

For the full story, see:
Joe Duggan. “TransCanada sends final offers to 100-plus Nebraska landowners.” Omaha World-Herald (Weds., DECEMBER 17, 2014): 1A & 3A.
(Note: the online version of the story has the title “Keystone XL pipeline: TransCanada sends final offers to 100-plus Nebraska landowners.”)

Stalin Was “a People Person”

(p. 12) In “Stalin. Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928,” a masterly account that is the first of a projected three-volume study, Kotkin paints a portrait of an autodidact, an astute thinker, “a people person” with “surpassing organizational abilities; a mammoth appetite for work; a strategic mind and an unscrupulousness that recalled his master teacher, Lenin.”

For the full review, see:
JENNIFER SIEGEL. “‘Stalin,’ by Stephen Kotkin.” The New York Times Book Review (Sun., NOV. 30, 2014): 12.
(Note: the online version of the review has the date NOV. 26, 2014, and has the title “‘Stalin,’ by Stephen Kotkin.”)

The book under review is:
Kotkin, Stephen. Stalin: Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928. New York: Penguin Press, 2014.

Double-Blind Clinical Trials Are NOT the Only Source of Good Evidence

(p. 16) Back in her office, . . . [rheumatologist Jennifer Frankovich] found that the scientific literature had no studies on patients like this to guide her. So she did something unusual: She searched a database of all the lupus patients the hospital had seen over the previous five years, singling out those whose symptoms matched her patient’s, and ran an analysis to see whether they had developed blood clots. “I did some very simple statistics and brought the data to everybody that I had met with that morning,” she says. The change in attitude was striking. “It was very clear, based on the database, that she could be at an increased risk for a clot.”
The girl was given the drug, and she did not develop a clot. “At the end of the day, we don’t know whether it was the right decision,” says Chris Longhurst, a pediatrician and the chief medical information officer at Stanford Children’s Health, who is a colleague of Frankovich’s. But they felt that it was the best they could do with the limited information they had.
A large, costly and time-consuming clinical trial with proper controls might someday prove Frankovich’s hypothesis correct. But large, costly and time-consuming clinical trials are rarely carried out for uncommon complications of this sort. In the absence of such focused research, doctors and scientists are increasingly dipping into enormous troves of data that already exist — namely the aggregated medical records of thousands or even millions of patients to uncover patterns that might help steer care.
. . .
(p. 17) . . . , developing a “learning health system” — one that can incorporate lessons from its own activities in real time — remains tantalizing to researchers. Stefan Thurner, a professor of complexity studies at the Medical University of Vienna, and his researcher, Peter Klimek, are working with a database of millions of people’s health-insurance claims, building networks of relationships among diseases. As they fill in the network with known connections and new ones mined from the data, Thurner and Klimek hope to be able to predict the health of individuals or of a population over time. On the clinical side, Longhurst has been advocating for a button in electronic medical-record software that would allow doctors to run automated searches for patients like theirs when no other sources of information are available.
With time, and with some crucial refinements, this kind of medicine may eventually become mainstream. Frankovich recalls a conversation with an older colleague. “She told me, ‘Research this decade benefits the next decade,’ ” Frankovich says. “That was how it was. But I feel like it doesn’t have to be that way anymore.”

For the full story, see:
VERONIQUE GREENWOOD. “Eureka; Dr. DATA; Can Statistical Analysis Tell Us What Clinical Trials Cannot?” The New York Times Magazine (Sun., OCT. 5, 2014): 16-17.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed name, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 3, 2014, and has the title “Eureka; Can Big Data Tell Us What Clinical Trials Don’t?”)

26 Different Drugs Lengthen Healthy Life Span in Mice

(p. F5) For thousands of years, people have sought to escape or outrun their mortality with potions, pills and elixirs, often blended with heavy doses of hope and will.
In the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” a Mesopotamian king searched for the secret of immortality after the death of his best friend. At least three Chinese emperors in the Tang dynasty died after consuming treatments containing lead and mercury that they hoped would make them immortal. In the late 19th century, a French-American physiologist seemed to have found the elixir of life by injecting the elderly and himself with extracts from animal testicles.
. . .
“By targeting fundamental aging processes, we might be able to delay the major age-related chronic diseases instead of picking them off one at time,” said Dr. James Kirkland, a professor of aging research and head of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging at the Mayo Clinic. “For example, we don’t want to have situation where we, say, cure cancer and then people die six months later of Alzheimer’s disease or a stroke. It would be better to delay all of these things together.”
This is where the field known as the biology of aging is moving — to develop drugs that will increase life span and what researchers refer to as health span, the period of life when people are able to live independently and free from disease.
Dr. Kirkland said that at least six drugs had been written up in peer-reviewed journals and that he knew of about 20 others that appear to affect life span or health span in mice. The goal is to see if those benefits can be translated into humans to increase their longevity, “to find interventions that we can use in people that might, say, make a person who’s 90 feel like they’re 60 or a person who’s 70 feel like they’re 40 or 50.”
Other researchers are studying centenarians, seeking to understand whether certain genes have carried them past 100 years old and kept them in good health.

For the full story, see:
TRACEY SAMUELSON. “Science (and Quacks) vs. the Aging Process.” The New York Times (Weds., Nov. 19, 2014): F5.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date NOV. 18, 2014.)