Saturday, October 13, 2007

Putin Too Powerful

Does anyone besides me find this statement about Vladimir Putin by Condi Rice ironic?
"In any country, if you don't have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development," Rice told reporters after meeting with human-rights activists.

Phoney General

Yet another Army General has joined the ranks of those that think the Iraq War is "a nightmare with no end in sight". Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said:
“From a catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan, to the administration’s latest surge strategy, this administration has failed to employ and synchronize the political, economic and military power”.

Too bad he didn't speak out a bit sooner. He will now join the ranks of the phoney soldiers.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Pseudo-Downtown Shopping

It's the latest thing in shopping, at least in the Rockville/Gaithersburg portion of the state of Maryland. A shopping mall that looks like Downtown, USA. The "mall" has streets with sidewalks, parallel parking, the village square, ponds with water fowl, hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, all kinds of shopping including big box shopping. But it's all designed to look like small downtown buildings. Ironic isn't it. Gaitherburg, MD was a small, nice little rural town in the 1970's. Who knows what is left of the real downtown. We destroy small town America and then rebuild it outside of the small town. At least they now have a fake downtown at the Washingtonian Center..

Dissing Al Gore

As expected the conservative comments on various blogs are coming in as expected. I'm only going to focus on Michelle Malkin (because she is so good at going after a 12 yr. old kid) who seems to be upset that President Bush said he is happy that Gore received the Nobel Prize. Let's look at a few of the comments on her website. Of course Ms. Malkin doesn't necessarily agree with these comments:
Even a dolt like me can see that the weather always changes; it always will. If the climate gets too cold in Mexico City, the people there will move to a cooler place. (Quick, advertise cool climates in Argentina!)
If it gets hot here in Texas - hot is what my men and women in combat feel, it’s only warm here in Big D - I’ll move or dig a hole.

Someone make Gore leave us alone, please!!

Seems to be a theme here for recent Nobel awards, the meme being a connection to terrorism and hatred of the US. Too bad Saddam was executed, otherwise he would probably have been in the running.

This is disgusting! The White House wasted one more opportunity to expose Al Gore and the left-wing-whackos for what they are: Lying, hypocritical, elitists who hate America.

I believe in evolution. I also believe that algore is one of the biggest idiots on the planet. I hope he lives a long life so he gets to see everything he has said and done be seen for what it is. Lies and fantasy.

Until someone finds some trans-species fossils, of which their should be BILLIONS if evolution were to be a viable theory, let’s not pretend evolution is fact. It’s not even a plausible theory.
[I love that one]
The comments then begin to devolve into a discussion of the theory of evolution.

The right wing appears to be upset that General Petraeus didn't get the Nobel Peace prize. Huh?

Congratulations Al Gore - Nobel Prize Winner

Al Gore wins the Nobel Peace prize. I was hoping that he would. He deserves it. Mr. Gore is donating his share of the Nobel Prize money to the Alliance for Climate Protection Now cue the right-wing noise machine to start disparaging VP Gore.

VP Al Gore joins Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter and VP Charles Dawes in being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

I wonder if there would be more world peace today if the Supreme Court had "awarded" the presidency to Al Gore? It's comforting to know that there is at least one politician (ex-politician?)in the USA that has the respect of the international community.

Steve Spruiell (writes for National Review) is on NPR (On Point) saying the Sunni Sheiks of Anbar Province should have received the Nobel Peace prize. Actually, anybody but Al Gore.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

How Does It Feel To Die?

Really interesting article at the New Scientist: Death Special: How does it feel to die?
Death comes in many guises, but one way or another it is usually a lack of oxygen to the brain that delivers the coup de grĂ¢ce. Whether as a result of a heart attack, drowning or suffocation, for example, people ultimately die because their neurons are deprived of oxygen, leading to cessation of electrical activity in the brain - the modern definition of biological death.

The article goes on to discuss death by drowning, heart attack, bleeding, fire, decaptitation, electrocution, falling, hanging, lethal injection and my personal favorite, explosive decompression. Enjoy.

Epigenetic Effects

Got 10 minutes to learn more about genetics? This PBS NOVA slide show explains how the epigenome can affect the phenotype (appearance) of individuals that have identical DNA. Click on "launch interactive".

Cost of Living Extremely Well

George Will writes a bit about rich people in his Washington Post op-ed today. It concerns the problems the rich are experiencing purchasing enough to keep our economy humming.

America's richest 1 percent of households own more than half of the nation's stocks and control more wealth ($16 trillion) than the bottom 90 percent.

The richest 20 percent account for almost 60 percent of consumption. So it's easy to see the problems the rich have in spending enough to keep our country's economy humming along. Forbes magazine has a CLEW index (Cost of Living Extremely Well) and that index is rising faster than the CPI (consumer price index).

Lucky for the rest of us, prices of things the rich love to buy have been increasing. Learjet 40 (7.9 mil) up 2%, Sikorsky S-76C+ (10 mil) up 11%, Hatteras 80 (4.7 mil) up 4% or an Olympic size swimming pool (1.3 mil) up 12%.

Lucky for the rest of us, that top 20% of taxpayers don't have to pay too much more in taxes than the next 40 percent of taxpayers. If they did, that would be redistribution of wealth.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wide Stance

The words "wide stance" have entered the lexicon. Toe-tapper is not far behind. See the Urban Dictionary definition of wide stance here. Google "wide stance" and you get 485,000 hits.

Even youtube wide stance videos.

A Democratic Unitary Executive

If the next president of the USA is a Democrat and if he/she insists on using the new "expanded" powers of the executive office, what will the Republicans say? I've been wondering about this for some time. Well, here is an interview with a historian and VP Dick Cheney that provides some insight on the responses of conservatives. Here is a small taste of the interview (written by Gary Hart):
The Historian: But this administration has said it is merely continuing your theory of the "unitary executive," that you merely laid the groundwork for a new powerful executive.

Cheney: Big difference. We knew what we were doing. This crowd doesn't. We knew how to use power. They're totally out of control, as I said.

The Historian: With due respect, Mr. Vice President, your lawyers, particularly Mr. Addington and Mr. Yoo, said that the Constitution permitted aggregation of power in the presidency, that anything not specifically denied by the Constitution could be done by the president and his administration and neither the Congress nor the Courts could do anything about it.

Cheney: Look. Don't try to twist things. That was then. This is now. Everything is different.

Poor Science Writing and the Hygiene Hypothesis

There is an op-ed article in todays NYT by Jessica Snyder Sachs called "Nice Shots". It concerns one of my favorite topics...the hygiene hypothesis (and here and here). The hypothesis, formed by D. P. Strachen in 1989, is that children that are raised in modern "clean" environments develop more allergies in later life than children raised in less clean environments. This makes sense because our immune system evolved under conditions where we were under constant attack from pathogens.

Unfortunately, Ms. Snyder Sachs starts with the premise that children are not being vaccinated because parents are aware of the hygiene hypothesis and thus think that illness is "good" for children.
More parents than ever before — nearly 65 percent — intend to vaccinate their young children this year, according to a poll by the University of Michigan. But that leaves more than a third unenthusiastic about doing so. Their reluctance may reflect not only weariness with the increasing number of childhood immunizations but also the widespread sentiment that colds and flus are a “natural” part of childhood, even vital for toughening up a developing immune system.

I doubt that is the reason. More likely parents have bought into the idea that childhood vaccinations cause autism. Ms. Snyder Sachs goes on:
Dr. Strachan’s original hygiene hypothesis got a lot of press, not only in the news media but in serious medical journals. Less publicized was the decade-long string of follow-up studies that disproved a link between illnesses and protection from inflammatory disorders like allergies and asthma. If anything, studies showed, early illness made matters worse.

For some reason Ms. Snyder Sachs assumes that the hygiene hypothesis states that you must be exposed to disease causing germs to result in later protection from allergy. She also assumes that the hypothesis means that exposure in early life to a "dirty" environment will protect you from other diseases in later life. The hypotheis does not say that.

I don't know how much press Dr. Strachan received concerning his hypothesis but I do know that the average immunologist is only vaguely familiar with the hypothesis. As for recent results disproving the hypothesis, that is a load of bunk. The hypothesis is as valid as ever, although the originally proposed mechanism of action is probably wrong. There are more up to date immune mechanisms that explain the hygiene hypothesis.

Ms. Snyder Sachs somehow has jumped to the conclusion that early exposure to respiratory disease-causing bacteria and viruses are the basis of the hygiene hypothesis.
A second misconception common among vaccine-shunning parents is that there’s something “natural” about the 6 to 10 respiratory infections the typical American child gets every year (or even the two to four we adults experience). Common, yes; natural no, not if “natural” represents the forces that shaped the human immune system during all but the last sliver of our 250,000 years as Homo sapiens. Colds, flus and most other contagious diseases found a central place in our lives only after we and our domestic animals began crowding together in large settlements some 5,000 years ago.

In reality the culprit is more likely intestinal worm infections. Prior to the 1950's a large proportion of individuals, especially children, harbored intestinal worm infections. The most common worm infections, pinworm and whipworm, do not cause serious disease in most individuals. These worms are also easily spread to others by contamination.

Ms. Snyder Sachs writes of the "calming" effect on the immune system caused by infection with organisms that do not result in disease. One of the problems with science writing, especially in op-eds, is that you tend to make overly simplistic statements due space constraints. Most bacteria, "good" or "bad", can induce physiologic changes in the body. The point here is how one defines "disease". As for the "calming" effect on the immune system....that statement is just embarrassing coming from a science writer.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

SITE intelligence group, a small private company, secretly obtains an Osama bin Laden video from a supposedly secure Al Qaeda network a month before it is to be released. They've been monitoring Al Qaeda for years. They give the video to the Bush Whitehouse asking that they not make it public until Al Qaeda releases the video. What happens next?
Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.
Techniques that took years to develop are now useless.

Vote Republican, the party that can keep you safe from the terrorists.

Thank You House Progressive Caucus

The following New York State members of the House of Representatives Progressive Caucus have been looking out for our civil liberties and need to be thanked: Clarke (NY-11), Hinchey (NY-22), Maloney (NY-14), Nadler (NY-8); Rangel (NY-15); Serrano (NY-16); Slaughter (NY-28) and Velazquez (NY-22). When considering the FISA bill they are standing up for civil liberties over tactics of fear. Their position is very clear.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Jane McCrea

I don't need to relate the story of Jane McCrea. There is already plenty online. She was murdered several weeks before the Battle of Saratoga, supposedly by indians loyal to the British.

The whole story of her exhumation is here.

Battle of Saratoga - The fight

Battle of Saratoga - Colonial Muster

Fridays Nobel Prize Award

The Uk Times says that Al Gore is the favorite to win the Nobel peace prize this coming Friday. I would love it if Al Gore wins a Nobel Prize. Think about all the conservative apoplexy that it will cause.

Oliver Smithies Gets Nobel

Congratulations to Prof. Oliver Smithies for sharing the Nobel Prize in medicine along with another American and a Brit. Dr. Smithies discovered the gene targeting technique that allowed for knocking out genes in mice. These mice are now routinely used in medical research. He was a professor in the Department of Genetics at the Univ. of Wisconsin when I was a grad student there. Over 10,000 different genes have been knocked out in mice.

Rep. McHugh Says He Holds Public Forums

In todays Plattsburgh Press Republican Rep. John McHugh says:
More than seven years ago, I initiated the first "mobile office" program in the 23rd Congressional District, where my office regularly visits communities throughout our region, setting up shop for a morning or afternoon at a local venue to provide any citizen the opportunity to come and discuss any federal issue of their choosing. While this is a regular program routinely conducted by my staff, I personally hold these meetings when the congressional schedule allows. For example, over the past five months alone, I have personally conducted forums in nine communities, including Tupper Lake, Malone, Massena, Camden, Indian Lake, Mayfield, Gouverneur, Pulaski, and as recently as this past weekend, Waddington.
He goes on:
To the point of the Letters to the Editor in question, I am, frankly, at a loss to explain why, after more than seven years, some are apparently unaware of my efforts. None of the forums are held in secret. We issue press releases alerting the media of any upcoming meeting, we post the relevant information beforehand on my official Web site, and we call local officials to advise them I will be visiting their communities on a specific date and time. All of the events are open to the media and are often covered by newspapers, radio and television stations from the area. If any of the authors of the letters in question had inquired on this subject, perhaps this misunderstanding might have been avoided. Still, I have to assume that the responsibility to better communicate on this matter rests on my shoulders, as well.

You are damn right it rests on your shoulders Mr. McHugh. What good are public forums if people do not realize they are being held.

Battle of Saratoga - British Encampment

The Grenadier Guards suck.

Battle of Saratoga - Sutlers Encampment

Battle of Saratoga - Colonial Dragoon Encampment