Three stories, the first more interesting, the next two much better than all the other depressing stuff smothering the news. (None of these are up-to-the-minute. I’ve been offline, not to say out of it, for a while.)
(J. Pathol., abstract, and ScienceDaily.) Professor Ruth Itzhaki and her team at the University [of Manchester's] Faculty of Life Sciences have investigated the role of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) in [Alzheimers Disease] ….
Most people are infected with this virus, which then remains life-long in the peripheral nervous system, and in 20-40% of those infected it causes cold sores. Evidence of a viral role in AD would point to the use of antiviral agents to stop progression of the disease.
The team discovered that the HSV1 DNA is located very specifically in amyloid plaques: 90% of plaques in Alzheimer’s disease sufferers’ brains contain HSV1 DNA, and most of the viral DNA is located within amyloid plaques. The team had previously shown that HSV1 infection of nerve-type cells induces deposition of the main component, beta amyloid, of amyloid plaques. Together, these findings strongly implicate HSV1 as a major factor in the formation of amyloid deposits and plaques, abnormalities thought by many in the field to be major contributors to Alzheimer’s disease.
This is a major breakthrough against Alzheimers, if the results hold up on further research.
Two huge triumphs, quietly happening:
Read more »
As someone who’s criticized Obama repeatedly, and repeatedly, how’s the evidence shaping up as he moves toward Inauguration? I’ll keep a vague tally over time to keep track or whether I was on the right track or not.
- Net neutrality.
- universal broad(ish) band
If actually implemented, these are right up there in importance with freedom of the press.
- Continuing, sometimes slightly subtle, sometimes atrocious, ignored bigotry. (Since it’s ignored, I can’t give you a link that shows anyone in Obama-world not ignoring what they’re ignoring.)
- Mugs. What celebrates the High Holy Days better than a leftover campaign cup?
- Emails. He has the better part of a billion dollars in campaign contributions. The DNC took on over $11,000,000 in debt just for his convention bash. Common courtesy requires him to use his unspent $30,000,000 in campaign funds to pay off the DNC’s $15,000,000 debt. Instead, as President-elect no less, he’s hitting up the voters to donate yet more money. Bleah.
- Peculiar fundraising resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth in untraceable donations.
Actually, I need yet another category. The hideous:
- Continuing the use of torture and continuing the use of gulags, like Guantanamo.
This country is dead. It just doesn’t know it yet.
Nothing against David Bain, who looks like someone with a sense of humor, but this sort of thing is the reason I never formally studied philosophy. It’s my natural habitat — meandering on about things nobody else worries about — but there is just too much goddamn silliness involved.
Take these four “brain teasers” on the BBC on World Philosophy Day. They either have blindingly obvious answers or they’re purely theoretical and not worth the waste of neurons.Print This Post
A group of Princeton chemists, publishing in Physical Review Letters (which, as you might guess from the name, is not a biological research journal), feel they’ve found a mechanism that shows proteins direct their own evolution based on environmental conditions. Or something like that.
Evolution’s new wrinkle: Proteins with cruise control provide new perspective
A team of Princeton University scientists has discovered that chains of proteins found in most living organisms act like adaptive machines, possessing the ability to control their own evolution.
The quote is from the press release, there’s no citation to the actual article, but, Google being my friend, the abstract wasn’t hard to find. (Full text behind paywall.) Read more »Print This Post
Well, the US has done it again. Elected an arrogant empty bigoted suit. It didn’t work out for us so well last time. At least this one is smarter. Although that may not be a good thing.
I don’t know what’s happened to the rumor about Krugman and Volcker being in the Cabinet. (Mentioned in my comment to the previous post about “Vote present.”) Now the talk is of Larry Summers. An economist, who obviously flunked any basic bio he might ever have had, who said the following:
“Personally, I believe that there are innate differences between Latino people and non-Latinos, and these innate differences might be one reason fewer Latinos succeed in science and math careers. I also question how much of a role discrimination plays in the dearth of Latino professors in science and engineering at elite universities.”
Except what he really said was “women” instead of “Latinos.” Astonishingly enough, that didn’t make it all right, probably because he had the misfortune to be in that hyper-radical country called Cambridge, Massachusetts. He had to resign his Presidency of Harvard over it. But that’s okay if BO gives him an even huger stage for his bigoted ideas. He’s always made a point of saying he’ll surround himself with good people. Good for what, I’m not sure.
And then there’s Prop. 8 here in California. (Background: the California judiciary recently said it was unconstitutional discrimination to stop same-sex marriages. That led to a ballot initiative so that people could vote to make it illegal again.) It passed, about 52% to 48%. The scuttlebutt has it that what pushed it over the top was new and homophobic Obama voters. The Big 0 himself came out saying marriage was between a man and a woman, a sound bite much used by the vote-yes-on-8 crowd. I’m ignoring the news so I have no idea how this is striking other people, but it breaks my heart. I don’t know why it breaks it so much more when presumed progressives are jerks than when conservatives are, but it does.
And so it goes. He’s already used racism just to score cheap political points. Age-ism is fine, too. So, whoever you are, don’t worry, you won’t be left out. You’ll be paying for this guy’s election unless you’re one of the few from whom he needs something.
Is there any hope? Well, with the economy in the tank, job one is going to be getting that kickstarted. There are two ways to do that. More war, or huge public works projects. I’d say the US is tapped out on the war thing, but you never know. BO talks feelingly of escalating in Afghanistan. However, there is one blindingly obvious public work that has to be done: realigning energy infrastructure away from oil. His ideas are to speed up global warming with coal gasification and to compensate for that by poisoning the planet with nukes. But solar and wind are becoming cheaper so fast that events may overtake his desire to help his paymasters at Exelon. If the current disasters actually push the next Administration into shifting the country toward sustainable energy, it will be worth the awful price. The price only goes up, and if you think it’s expensive to switch now, come back in 10, 20, 30 years.
As for foreign policy, well, it’s hard to see how anyone could be worse than the Shrub-Cheney combo. I’m sure it’s possible, but it is hard. And BO has actually been outside the US. And he’s not stupid. But the only thing he cares about is himself. I shall watch our future progress on this one planet of ours with considerable interest.
(I’m too depressed to look for links. Search for “obama” on this blog, and you’ll find all the references. None of this is new.)Print This Post
I don’t have anything against real hope. I’m like everyone else: I can’t live without it. But hopiness is toxic. It’s important not to swallow it.
Before I get rolling, I’ll say right away: No, McCain doesn’t scare me as much as Obama does. I know McCain lies, but Obama is a lie. That’s worse. I know McCain called his wife a cunt. Obama told her to get over it. That’s worse. Read more »Print This Post
We’ve had out first rain in months here in Southern California, and there is nothing, nothing, half so worth seeing in life as a hummingbird taking a bath.
(This is my first ever video, so I apologize for all the rough edges. Let me know in comments if you know about software — free or cheap! — that I could be using. I’ve started on VirtualDub. There’s no sound, and it’s about 45 seconds long. Update Oct 11: This was crossposted to Shakespeare’s Sister, and thanks to suggestions from Portly Dyke there, I’ve uploaded a somewhat improved and slightly longer version.)Print This Post
As Krugman says, we’re a banana republic with nukes. This bailout bill gets goofier by the day.
You know my feelings on it. We’re all in this lifeboat called the economy. The thing has been holed. It doesn’t matter now whose fault it is or that they should be killed. Time enough for that if we reach land. The only thing to do right now is bail out the boat before we all sink. We should bail as intelligently as possible — and good for Dodd, Frank, and Clinton!, for trying to do it. But right now, use those buckets.
I’m not surprised when people, who aren’t too clear on how bad this thing can get, think the most important thing is to figure out how to steer the boat. It was . . . three years ago, or will be a few months from now. But what makes my jaw hit the floor is people in the thick of the action who see this as just another way to make a killing. Read more »Print This Post
Once upon a time I was filled with sick horror at the thought of a McCain Presidency. Now? Not so much. He hasn’t changed. He does have a new running mate, but she doesn’t scare me. After Dubya, it feels petty to pretend that inexperience is some kind of showstopper. What’s changed for me is the growing sick horror with which I view an Obama Presidency.
Obama’s hope-and-change talk in the primaries turned into a vote for telco immunity. The all-together-now speeches came from a bus that ran over women, blacks (e.g.), gays, and anyone who cares about civil liberties. The way he’s aided and abetted sexism to grab the nomination has been despicable, especially because he stayed alert to any sign of racism. I don’t understand how anyone who cares about equal rights can support him after such a blatant display of contempt for women. The list of appalling positions he’s taken just keeps getting longer.
Granted, McCain’s positions are even worse, but it’s not really what the candidates say that matters. It’s what they can do. And that depends on how much we let them do. That’s what horrifies me about an Obama Presidency: not him but us.
People will do two things if he’s in the White House. The first will give us another reign of Republicans after his one term. The second will be worse.
The Republican chickens are going to be coming home to roost in a big way in the next four years. If the Democrats have the House and the Senate and the Presidency, they’ll be cleaning up the mess and getting the blame. People, too many of them anyway, pin the fault on the visible target. Based on his record, there is no reason to think Obama is a millennial statesman capable of leading us away from the mountain range of shit. He may turn out to be, but he hasn’t been so far. If he doesn’t succeed, the Republicans will gain power in 2012 for another eternity. And they’ll get the benefit of however much clean-up the Democrats have managed to accomplish. I say let the Republicans deal with their own mess. Then we have a hope of getting thirty years of actual improvement, such as, just maybe, actual universal health insurance instead of “We radically changed [the health care bill] in response to concerns that were raised by the insurance industry.” (Obama, 2004/05/19)
The other reason, the even bigger reason, is that I think Obama could do more damage to the country than McCain. People pretty much know what McCain stands for and whether they’re for it or against it. Good-looking governors make it a warmer ticket, but don’t change the fundamental equation. Obama, on the other hand, does one thing, says another, and enough people are so desperate to believe in him that they lie to themselves so that they can keep doing it. Look at the reaction on the left when he started promoting faith-based government. Suddenly the left, the left, was trying to find reasons why it wasn’t such a bad idea after all. The ability to make people believe night was day was Reagan’s talent. He succeeded in making selfishness respectable, and then even admirable. He could make people forget which way was up. It’s very hard to climb out of a morass if you can’t even see that.
Obama, judging by the evidence so far, has the same talent. Based on what he’s done rather than what he’s said, he’s a Republican. Maybe Republican-lite, but that’s not the important part. What scares me is the large majority who, a year ago, finally understood that they don’t want that crap. But he can make them think they do.
That’s why I think Obama may be a bigger disaster for the country than McCain.Print This Post
Using data from NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), scientists have identified an unexpected motion in distant galaxy clusters. The cause, they suggest, is the gravitational attraction of matter that lies beyond the observable universe.
“The clusters show a small but measurable velocity that is independent of the universe’s expansion and does not change as distances increase,” says lead researcher Alexander Kashlinsky
Hot gas in moving galaxy clusters (white spots) shifts the temperature of cosmic microwaves. Hundreds of distant clusters seem to be moving toward one patch of sky (purple ellipse). Credit: NASA/WMAP/A. Kashlinsky et al.
Betraying my essential nerdery, I have to admit I’m so excited about this I’m practically speechless. New physics! Other universes! Boldly going!
Right. Sorry about that. I’ll get back in my basket now.Print This Post
That is actually not the question. Not now.
The time to ask that question was four, five, six, and more years ago. The time to ask it was when the shadow banking system started growing. It was invented to avoid regulations. It made a lot of money doing it.
While the party was on, while yee-haa mortgages were driving up real estate prices and making everyone feel richer, while loans on that inflated home equity were keeping the economy afloat, nobody wanted to be the wet blanket on the house of cards.
That’s the real problem. No amount of new oversight bureaucracies will change the fact that when a party is on, nobody wants oversight. We had plenty of oversight in place. We just didn’t use it. The real solution to the current crisis would have been not to get drunk at the party in the first place. Anybody reading this blog already knows that. (So why am I saying it? I dunno. Just venting, I guess.)
But now what? Why should the innocent get stuck paying the bills of the guilty?
Because there’s no other choice. Not now.
The current bailout plan is estimated to cost about $2000 for every human being in the country. Leave aside the question of whether we may eventually recoup some or all of it. Say we don’t. Let’s also assume that’s an underestimate, which is probably a safe bet. Let’s say it’ll cost $4000. (I’m getting most of my information via Krugman and Calculated Risk. They have good analysis and lots of details. The $4000 figure is not from them. That’s just my pessimism.)
We don’t have a choice between spending $4000 or saving it for, say, a college education. At this point if there is no bailout, the global financial system literally would collapse. It was flirting with that on Wednesday last week. A financial collapse would shrink pension funds to shadows. You’d likely lose your job. Crime would skyrocket. That’s expensive for everybody, and beyond price for it’s victims. The list of ways a financial collapse would cost you goes on forever. It would cost you $4000 in the first week and then keep costing you for the rest of your life.
The choice is to spend $4000 or to spend hugely more than $4000. If we had a real government, it would be structured so that we got something back for our largesse. But we don’t. So even that’s not possible.
The only thing anybody could ever do about this situation is not succumb to smooth-talking politicians telling people what they want to hear.
Good luck with that.Print This Post
Yowzer. This one has everything. Freedom of religion, fairness in the workplace, immigration, general free-floating bigotry. (But no sex, drugs or rock-n-roll, so maybe not everything.)
A meatpacking company Wednesday laid off about 100 Muslim immigrant workers who walked off the job last week in protest of the firm’s refusal to give them time to pray during the holy month of Ramadan. … The Muslim workers, mainly Somali immigrants, have recently flocked to the plant, replacing many of the 262 workers, mostly Latinos, who were detained as illegal immigrants following a federal raid in late 2006. … Some other Swift workers, however, were angered by the Muslims’ requests for extra prayer time. “Somalis are running our plant,” worker Brianna Castillo told the Greeley Tribune. “They are telling us what to do.” Non-Muslim workers complained they had to do additional work when Muslims went to pray, which devout followers do five times a day. … “Many companies pay time and a half for working Christian holidays,” Gonzales said. “It’s a different time now, and we should respect different people’s values.”
Let’s unpack that. Read more »Print This Post
I’ve been thinking a lot about rights lately, and that took me to Wikipedia’s page on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Here’s Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
What is wrong with this picture?
Yes, the very next Article goes on to say, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, . . .” and so on through the usual list. But still. Language and thought shape each other. It’s not an either/or proposition.
And man (ahem) am I tired of the language. To say nothing of the thoughts. This primary and election season have sensitized me to the point where my reaction is about what it would be to poison ivy.
That first Article is proof I really didn’t need of the truth of Portly Dyke’s earlier post.
[Equality] between men and women would wreak the most profound level of change in humanity . . . . It’s the revolution that would have to take place everywhere – it’s the revolution that would strike at the heart, hearth, and home of human society, regardless of geography, culture, race, religion, or creed.
As she says, what’s important is not whether it’s the worst oppression. What’s important is that it’s the one we love the most.
That’s all. I had to vent. Carry on.Print This Post