Saturday, December 15, 2007

Deep Snow

WAMC - The North Country Doesn't Need You

I was going to comment about the attempt by WAMC public radio to steal the 91.7 FM Lake Placid frequency away from North Country Public Radio. But Adirondack Almanack has already done so (and probably better than I would have). Please click on the link and read what the Almanack has to say.

Friday, December 14, 2007

S.1943 Anti-torture Bill Blocked by Senate Republicans

What a surprise!!!! Senate Republicans have blocked the anti-torture bill on a "technicality". And who is the Senator that put a hold on the bill? Mr. anti-torture himself...Senator Lindsey Graham.

Letter To Senator Schumer

Dear Chuck,

How is S.1943, the anti-torture bill you co-sponsored coming along? You know the one I'm talking about? The one you said AG Mukasey would enforce if passed. Let me refresh your memory from the email you sent to me (and many others I'm sure).
Therefore, I hope Congress will soon pass S.1943, a bill I am cosponsoring to explicitly ban the use of waterboarding and other abusive interrogation techniques. Judge Mukasey not only made clear to me that the president would have no legal authority to ignore such legislation, but also pledged to enforce such a law.
From the vote in the House, it sure looks to me like you will not get the necessary 60 votes in the Senate to pass the bill. And lets say that somehow it does get through the Senate [oops I spoke too soon, looks like the Senate Republicans have found a way to block S. 1943 already], want to bet money on whether Bush will veto the bill or not? I'll even give you odds.

But you assured us that you were not worried even if the anti-torture bill does not get passed. Again let me remind you what you wrote:
Further, even if we don't pass a new anti-waterboarding law, on the issue of torture we would be better off with Judge Mukasey than with a caretaker.
Sure sounds like your AG is helping you out on the CIA torture tape inquiry.

You can forget any future support from me Chuck. I take the torture issue very seriously. Alot of the responsibility for the future torture of any individual by the US government will lie upon your head Mr. Schumer.

Bush Shreds Paper

John Cook at Radaronline points out that the Bush Admin. has been a boon to the paper shredding business. Federal spending on paper shredding is up 600% since Bush took office. Is anyone surprised?

Why Congress Isn't Working

I assume that most intelligent people realize that the current Democratic-led Congress isn't getting many things done for a reason. The reason is two simple words...Republicans & Senate. Remember that filibuster that Republican Senators were complaining about so much when they were in power just a year ago. Turns out that the filibuster works pretty well for them.

You remember that filibuster. The one that Trent Lott complained about:
“Filibustering is wrong. It’s not supportable under the Constitution. And if they insist on persisting with these filibusters, I’m perfectly prepared to blow the place up.”

or the one that Mitch McConnell disliked so much:

"The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail … and so far it’s working for us."
The filibuster is good for G.W. Bush. Bills with majority Democratic support (even bipartisan support) never even get to him. Thus, he doesn't have to use his veto power. This absolves Bush of any responsibility which is ironic because Bush was never big on responsibility throughout his pre-presidential life.

Take this example reported in the Washington Post a couple days ago.
In fact, the Senate Republicans are so accustomed to blocking measures that when the Democrats finally agreed last week to their demands on a bill to repair the alternative minimum tax, the Republicans still objected, briefly blocking the version of the bill that they wanted before scrambling to approve it later.

[my emphasis]
Senate Republicans are so quick to filibuster that they are now filibustering legislation that they agree with.

Republicans in the Senate have blocked the energy bill. Apparently they don't think oil companies should be taxed. I wish they could explain that to car owners given the current climate of rising gas prices and oil company profits.

Unfortunately, the "liberal mainstream media" doesn't really seem to get it either. Or they get it but just don't want to lay responsibility where it belongs - at the feet of the Republicans.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

House Passes Anti-Torture Bill - McHugh Votes Against It

By a 222-199 vote, the House of Representatives passed the FY2008 Intelligence Authorization bill. This is the bill that bans waterboarding and confines interrogators to using only techniques permitted by the Army Field Manual.

Rep. John McHugh joined all but 5 of his republican colleagues in voting in favor of torture.

NY Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, gives his two cents below.

Adirondack Photographs (And More)

Visit Mark Kurtz Photography to see some great pictures of the Adirondacks (also NYC and a few other places). Mark shoots in black and white and most of the pictures are panoramic views. Well worth a visit.

Mitt Romney - You Used to Like Him

The internets are a wonderful thing!

Supporting Obama

At the risk of hexing the Obama campaign (I supported Howard Dean) I'm coming out in support of Barack Obama as the Democratic candidate for President of the USA. But I like all the Democratic contenders for President and anyone of them would make a good President.

This is an extremely tough decision considering that we have a woman and a black man running for the Democratic nomination for President at the same time. Hillary Clinton would make an excellent President. Unfortunately, I'm just not ready to go through another 4-8 yrs. of Republican attacks and whining about the Clintons. And, Hillary comes across as someone who might be trigger happy when it comes to foreign intervention. Edwards would also make a good President but I'm not sure he can get the nomination.

Although I'm a hard core "blue stater", I would genuinely love to see more of a "purple" political process in this country. We need to start compromising more and that is where Barrack Obama comes in. I take him at his word when he says he wants to be President of the USA....not blue and red America.

There is another reason I am supporting an Obama candidacy. His name and his face. That's right...because he has what to many of us is a foreign name and he is black. On the world stage, I think that is just what the USA needs at this time. I think it will send a positive message throughout the world that citizens of the USA are willing to elect someone with the "scary" middle name "Hussein" to represent us. Obama will also be a much more difficult candidate for Republicans to run against. They want to run against Hillary Clinton because they know how to run against Hillary Clinton.

Unlike G.W. Bush, I think Obama's upbringing has given him some insights into multiculturalism. True, like G.W. Bush Obama does not have a huge amount of experience, but neither did Bush. However, unlike G.W. Bush, Barack Obama has been successful in what he thus far accomplished in his life.

Of course I will support the Democratic candidate that wins the nomination...what choice do I for "flip-flopper" Romney...."warmonger" Guiliani...."hang em high" Tancredo or "preacher" Huckabee?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Seven Wonders of the Adirondacks

Adirondack Almanack has a great idea (I wish I had thought of it).
Which human and natural constructed things/places inside the Adirondack Park's Blue Line are the most significant, must-see attractions, marvels of engineering, historically important, or have other significance that makes them one of the top seven?
I've already made my suggestion for the must-see human constructed place to visit. So everybody should visit Adirondack Almanack HERE and vote for their favorite human-made and natural attraction in the Adirondack Park. I'm anxious to see if I've already visited them.

DEC map of State campgrounds.

This Modern World

Click here to see this hilarious cartoon about the latest NIE concerning the Iranian nuclear program.

Are Jesus and Lucifer Brothers?

Mike Huckabee, ordained Baptist minister, asks a question about Mormon beliefs in next weeks Sunday NYT Magazine.
"Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?" Huckabee asks, according to a preview of the article posted on the Times website. He made the comment after being asked whether he believes Mormonism is a cult, as some evangelical Christians do.

Mitt Romney replies:
"I think attacking someone's religion is really going too far," Romney said on the "Today" show. It's just not the American way, and I think people will reject that."
I assume Mitt means attacking Christian religion is un-American. I'm pretty sure attacking any other religion is OK.

But does the LDS preach that Jesus and Satan are brothers. Mitt suggests no. What does the LDS have to say about it? Well, the "Bible Belt Blogger" gives us a link right to the an LDS website. You can click here to see what the LDS has to say about the matter (scroll down a bit to the second article).
On first hearing, the doctrine that Lucifer and our Lord, Jesus Christ, are brothers may seem surprising to some—especially to those unacquainted with latter-day revelations. But both the scriptures and the prophets affirm that Jesus Christ and Lucifer are indeed offspring of our Heavenly Father and, therefore, spirit brothers. Jesus Christ was with the Father from the beginning. Lucifer, too, was an angel “who was in authority in the presence of God,” a “son of the morning.” (See Isa. 14:12; D&C 76:25–27.) Both Jesus and Lucifer were strong leaders with great knowledge and influence. But as the Firstborn of the Father, Jesus was Lucifer’s older brother. (See Col. 1:15; D&C 93:21.)
Now maybe that paragraph can be parsed somehow, but it's pretty clear that Jesus and Satan (Lucifer) were at least "spirit brothers".

W. John Walsh disagrees.

Here is what Spencer Woolley Kimball, a distant relative of mine and once President of the LDS, has to say:
Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, Pg.87

"There is another power in this world, forceful and vicious. In the wilderness of Judea, on the temple's pinnacle and on the high mountain, a momentous contest took place between two brothers, Jehovah and Lucifer, sons of Elohim. When physically weak from fasting, Christ was tempted by Lucifer: "If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread." (Luke 4:3.)
It is so much fun that the GOP Presidential candidates have to satisfy a religious fundamentalist base.

Who detests illegal immigration the most?

That is the question being asked of potential voters for Republican Presidential candidates.
"Americans are very frustrated that they feel like their government has just ignored a problem, let it get worse, spiraled out of control and, by golly, they expect us to fix it," Huckabee said during a stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he was joined by Minuteman co-founder Jim Gilchrist.
Huckabee is a man's man....first he gets asskicker Chuck Norris on his side and now he's got America's current "first" Minuteman - Jim Gilchrist. Some brown ass is sure to be in trouble now.

Yes sir, this is an issue for conservative voters that is more important than healthcare, the economy, terrorism and the wars all put together. It's an issue that allows one to be fearful and hateful at the same time.

Huckabee is really uping the ante on the other Republican Presidential contenders and kissing the asses of the Minutemen big time.
"There are times when I, probably in the early days of the Minuteman, I thought, 'What are these guys doing . . . what are they about?' " he told Gilchrist during their press conference in Iowa. "I confess, I owe you an apology for even questioning why in the world you guys would do it. As all of us have seen, the federal government has failed to secure the borders -- they failed to bring a policy that is good for everybody involved."

Being a member of the Minutemen seems pretty easy. All you need is a pair of binoculars, a lawn chair and a cooler full of brewskis. Maybe Huckabee can give some of the minutemen advice on how to lose some weight.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Huckabee Supports Subservient Wives

Mike also believes that wives must be subservient to their husbands. He signed a full page ad stating A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ."

I'm sure there are some conservative Republican wives that believe they must graciously submit to their husbands. Sounds a bit like a radical islamic belief also. But does Huckabee still believe this nonsense now that he is running for president? This belief is even more weird than not accepting the theory of evolution.

Voyager 2 Reaches Boundary

Remember Voyager 2? The space probe that was launched in 1977? It has finally crossed the boundry of our solar system - the place where the solar wind falters. About 84 astronomical units from the Sun (7.8 billion miles).

Image courtesy NASA/Feimer

Malaria Vaccines - Sanaria Goes Back to Basics....Way Back

The last twenty years or so have seen various attempts at making an effective anti-malaria vaccine using the latest and greatest scientific techniques. Subunit vaccines, DNA vaccines, recombinent vaccines using viruses as vectors, vaccines targeting pre-erythrocytic stages, erythrocytic stages, even the parasite stages that are found in the mosquito vector.

It now appears, according to an article in today's NYT Science Times, that scientists at a company called Sanaria, are attempting to use techniques that go way back to the 50's and 60's for developing an anti-malaria vaccine. The technique involves obtaining a stage of the malaria parasite called a sporozoite from malaria-infected mosquito salivary glands. Obtaining mosquito salivary glands is done by gently separating the head of the mosquito from the thorax. Tedious work I can assure you, since I personally spent many hours doing so.

To really appreciate the complexity of malaria and producing an anti-malaria vaccine you really need to understand the malaria life cycle.

Different forms (stages) of the malaria parasite are found in the mosquito (very specific mosquito species and only females), in the liver and in red blood cells. Malaria infection begins with the bite of an infected mosquito. The mosquito injects a stage of the parasite called a sporoszoite into the blood vessel of a human host. It is the sporozoite that one hopes the immune system will target and destroy. Unfortunately, within about 30 minutes or so, the sporozoite penetrates the cells of the liver (hepatocytes). This is unfortunate for a couple of reasons. First, the sporozoite is no longer free in the bloodstream available to attack from antibodies and phagocytic cells. Second, once penetrating the hepatocytes, the sporozoite is no longer recognized by the immune system as a sporozoite. 100% of the malaria sporozoites must be destroyed by the immune system prior to the sporozoite penetrating the liver. A single surviving sporozoite can result in malaria.

It was shown 40 years (or more) ago that if you irradiate malaria sporozoites with just the right amount of gamma radiation, the sporozoites are still alive but can no longer penetrate the liver. This allows the sporozoites to remain in the blood stream thus stimulating the immune system to develop high levels of specific anti-sporozoite antibodies. Small experimental anti-sporozoite vaccine trials have been done on humans. In the late 40's prisoners at Stateville prison near Joliet, IL were used as experimental subjects. The results of these trials were not that impressive.

So, the multi-million dollar company Sanaria has gone back to the days of yore to find the illusive malaria vaccine. This involves raising roomfulls of mosquitoes which are infected with the most dangerous species of human malaria - Plasmodium falciparum. You do not want these mosquitoes to escape. A team of technicians must dissect infected salivary glands from tens of thousands of mosquitoes - a really, really boring job. The malaria sporozoites must be separated from the mosquito salivary gland tissue. This is really important. When mice that received a prior injection of ground up infected mosquito salivary glands were given a second injection of the same material...the majority of the mice would die within five minutes due to anaphylactic shock. The purified sporozoites must then be irradiated and frozen (cryopreserved). A crude vaccine prepared pretty much the way Pasteur made vaccines well over 100 years ago.

Will this work? And by work, I mean rid the world of malaria. In my humble

Monday, December 10, 2007

If It Were Anyone Else They'd Be Dead

Cool ad in found in ten Iowa newspapers today. Well, maybe not anyone else, but surely one of those 47 million US citizens that do not have health insurance. Dick Cheney is one of those lucky federal employees that do not have to be too concerned about cost of health care.

The ad is sponsored by the California Nurses Association.

Cairo, Egypt - Great Pyramids - City of the Dead

Karina is a young women from Saranac Lake who has lived in Mongolia and currently resides in Belgrade. She has just returned from a visit to Cairo, Egypt. You can see her pictures here. The USA is lucky that we have people like Karina representing us. Karina's blog is here.

Sciencedebate 2008

Do you think it's important that the President of the USA be scientifically literate? There is now a formal call for a presidential debate that would focus on science and technology policy. This call is being made by such noted scientists as David Baltimore, Ken Miller, Bill Nye and Harold Varmus. It also includes David Kennedy, editor-in-chief of Science; Shirley Tilghman, president of Princeton Univ., Niles Eldredge, curator at The American Museum of Natural History as well as several congressmen and congresswomen.

We believe current scientific and technological challenges can bring out the best in the entrepreneurial American spirit. America can be a leader in finding cures for our worst diseases, invent the best alternative energy sources, and graduating the most scientifically literate children in the world - or we can concede these economic and humanitarian benefits to other countries.

We believe a debate on the policy side of these issues would be the ideal opportunity for America and the candidates to explore our national priorities on the issues, and it is hard to imagine any candidate not wishing to be involved in such an occasion.

How many candidates do you think would agree to such a debate? Do you think such a debate would just end up being a display of scientific illiteracy on the part of the candidates?

Obviously we would need to have someone other than the slick haired talking head pundits ask the questions. Some people that actually know something about science and science policy. Questions concerning energy independence, ethics of stem cell research, view on evolution theory, whether the US must maintain its technological and scientific lead over the world.

Supreme Court Rules Federal Guidelines Not Mandatory

Today the Supreme Court ruled that judges may impose lighter sentences for crack cocain than those recommended by Federal Guidlines.
The crack cocaine decision was one of two today in which the justices, with identical seven-member majorities, reinforced their view that federal sentencing guidelines are advisory rather than mandatory [my emphasis], and that judges may deviate from them so long as their decisions are reasonable.

I never have understood why crack dealers/users are sentenced 100x harder than cocaine dealers/users. Unless it was a way for the man to oppress the little guy. It only takes 5 grams of crack cocaine to warrant the same sentence as someone dealing 500 grams of cocaine. You can find out more about the differences crack cocaine and cocaine at these links.

The ACLU has been calling for an end to the sentencing disparity for several years.

G.W. Bush: Is the Joke on Us?

Tengrain at Mock, Paper, Scissors asks whether the joke is on us.

Who Will Be the GOP Candidate for President?

Ross Douthat (a two time Bush voter) of The Atlantic doesn't think any of them has what it takes. They are either too liberal, too conservative, too religious, too untrustworthy or too looney. None of the current GOP candidates can seem to garnish much more than ~30-35% of the vote nationally or in a given state poll. Douthat writes:
Note that I'm not saying the Republican field is weak, exactly. In a certain sense, it's the most accomplished primary field of any major party in a long time; indeed, you could argue that almost all the GOP candidates (including Huckabee) have more impressive resumes than the three leading Democrats, who between them can boast about ten years in the Senate and the weird quasi-accomplishment of being First Lady. It's just that ideologically-speaking, none of the Republican contenders make nearly as much sense as candidates for the nomination of the present-day GOP as Obama, Clinton and Edwards do as candidates for the nomination of the present-day Democratic Party.
Time to haul out Jeb Bush? Newt Gingrich?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Democratic Leaders Have Some 'Splainin to Do

It appears that in 2002, 4 members of congress met with the CIA and were given an extensive virtual tour of the "torture program".
Yet long before "waterboarding" entered the public discourse, the CIA gave key legislative overseers about 30 private briefings, some of which included descriptions of that technique and other harsh interrogation methods, according to interviews with multiple U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge.

With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).

I think these Senators owe the public an explanation.

UPDATE: It appears that Jane Harman at least sent a classified letter to the CIA protesting the interrogation techniques.

Hummers for HOPE

Or maybe that should be HOPE people will believe hummers are necessary. HOPE is Hummer owners prepared for emergencies. I now realize why it is necessary for people to own Hummers. It's for our own welfare.

Maybe now people will stop flipping the bird at Hummer owners.