Friday, February 13, 2004

Prion the truth ought of you... 

Nature's mistakes, like those of a good friend, are impossible to tease away from the good qualities that are also integral. Now, it is beginning to look like prions are another example of--not exception to--this rule.

The Scientist notes that: "researchers ascribe prion-like properties to an elegant mechanism involved in maintaining memory".

The prion-like protein involved goes by the convoluted name of cytoplasmic polyadenylation element-binding protein (CPEB), and it appears to facilitate polyadenylation and the translation of proteins associated with synaptic strengthening. In other words, dormant (inactive) proteins are shaped by the prion-like CPEB in a "positive feedback" situation that activates these proteins to increase the efficacy of the synapse, thus creating stronger neural pathways--in other words, memory.

The human brain matures, interestingly, through death. Neural pathways are carved at the expense of the surfeit of synapses that are present in the immature brain. This helps explain why we can remember events from our youth with crystal clarity, but can't remember with whom we had lunch yesterday in our 30's, 40's and beyond. It is, to paraphrase a famous "Far Side" cartoon, literally because our brains are too full as adults.

Prion-like proteins may thus be the link between events and their long-term retention in the brain.

It doesn't surprise that there is this link between good/bad. As World Changing notes, though: "At minimum, better understanding of the role that properly-functioning prions play in biology can help us figure out ways to block or repair badly-behaving prions. Similarly, figuring out the mechanisms of memory could lead us towards cures for memory-attacking diseases such as Alzheimers (which, in its most severe forms, displays symptoms similar to the effects of CJD, the human form of mad cow). Finally, this moves us further on the path towards unlocking deep brain physiology and really figuring out how the brain and mind work."

Anything that can go right can also go wrong--sometimes, like prions and HIV, way wrong. One amazing thing about such a complex system as the human body is how much goes right. Probably due more to redundant systems that to a Wolfram-championed simplicity, though. After all, there is no "new" kind of science for nature, and hundreds of millions of years of evolution have led to some rather elegant parallel systems.

Another example, you ask? I mentioned HIV, and part of its ability to fool the immune system is by posting receptors similar to those that helper T cells bind to in order to mediate an immune reaction. In order words, HIV is probably an anomalous combination of RNA that, in the statistical cauldron of the trillions of cells in billions of people, was somehow inevitable. It is devastating because it "targets" a crucial part of the body's ability to defend itself. We don't notice the thousands--or millions--of less harmful viruses floating in our cells or inserted in our chromosomes.

Finally, how about auto-immune disorders? Your body's overzealous ability to seek out invaders can lead to inflammation, and in some cases this leads to extravasation of the immune cells into areas of the body that immune cells normally do not go/are not exposed to (synovial fluid in the joints for rheumatoid arthritis, oligodendrocytic myelin for multiple sclerosis, etc.)--in other cases, exposure to a virus that has homologous antigen to a familiar body tissue can lead overreaction and autoimmunity (e.g. lupus, Grave's disease, one form of diabetes, ...).

Every complex system contains within itself the code to its own destruction. When the code is broken, the unraveling can be lightning fast. The late but not forgotten Ilya Prigogine is rightly respected for showing how order can be created out of chaos--nature should always be rightly respected for the converse.


Another quick thought... 

Any jack-ass who thinks Kerry is Bush ought to read the following satire rolling around the Internet these days:

"The Beverly Hillbillies" Based on the performance by Theme Song
"A Boy Named Bush" Parody by Sharon Krebs

Come and listen to my story 'bout a boy name Bush.
His IQ was zero and his head was up his tush.
He drank like a fish while he drove all about.
But that didn't matter 'cuz his daddy bailed him out.
DUI, that is. Criminal record. Cover-up.

Well, the first thing you know little Georgie goes to Yale.
He can't spell his name but they never let him fail.
He spends all his time hangin' out with student folk.
And that's when he learns how to snort a line of coke.
Blow, that is. White gold. Nose candy.

The next thing you know there's a war in Vietnam.
Kin folks say, "George, stay at home with Mom."
Let the common people get maimed and scarred.
We'll buy you a spot in the Texas Air Guard.
Cushy, that is. Country clubs. Nose candy.

Twenty years later George gets a little bored.
He trades in the booze, says that Jesus is his Lord.
He said, "Now the White House is the place I wanna be."
So he called his daddy's friends and they called the GOP.
Gun owners, that is. Falwell. Jesse Helms.

Come November 7, the election ran late.
Kin folks said "Jeb, give the boy your state!"
"Don't let those colored folks get into the polls."
So they put up barricades so they couldn't punch their holes.
Chads, that is. Duval County. Miami-Dade.

Before the votes were counted five Supremes stepped in.
Told all the voters "Hey, we want George to win."
"Stop counting votes!" was their solemn invocation.
And that's how George finally got his coronation.
Rigged, that is. Illegitimate. No moral authority.

Y'all come vote now. Ya hear?

Kerry was a bona fide war hero. He wants to be President for the old fashioned reason that he is truly brave, truly heroic and he has the energy and leadership. It is not for his resume, not because he found God instead of a worm at the bottom of his tequila bottle. Lobo is right--sock anyone who can't tell the difference, it'll do them good.


A Quick Thought 

If anyone tells you that Kerry is just like Bush, sock 'em.


Thursday, February 12, 2004

At a loss for words! 

I have been lightly blogging because I just don't know what to say anymore. My brain has vapor locked after trying to make sense of "Bush through the Looking Glass." All of us Alices in Wonderland are slowly realizing things don't and won't ever make sense with the pRezident. Here's Maureen Dowd with a column on the Bush's surreal trip through recent history(warning: best read after dropping LSA or smoking pot):

I think President Bush has cleared up everything now.

The U.S. invaded Iraq, which turned out not to have what our pals in Pakistan did have and were giving out willy-nilly to all the bad guys except Iraq, which wouldn't take it.

Bush officials thought they knew what was going on inside our enemy's country: that Iraq had W.M.D. and might sell them on the black market. But they were wrong.

Bush officials thought they knew what was going on inside our friend's country: that Pakistanis were trying to sell W.M.D. on the black market. But they couldn't prove it — until about the time we were invading Iraq.

"The grave and gathering threat" turned out to be not Saddam's mushroom cloud but the president's mushrooming deficits.

The president is having just as hard a time finding his National Guard records as Iraqi W.M.D. — and those pay stubs look as murky as those satellite photos of trucks in Iraq.

Mr. Bush said yesterday that smaller developing countries must stop developing nuclear fuel, even as the U.S. develops a whole new arsenal of smaller nuclear weapons to use against smaller developing countries that might be thinking about developing nuclear fuel.

After he weakened the U.N. for telling the truth about Iraq's nonexistent W.M.D., Mr. Bush now calls on the U.N. to be strong going after W.M.D.

Gen. Pervez Musharraf pardoned the Pakistani hero and nuclear huckster Abdul Qadeer Khan after an embarrassing debacle, praising the scientist's service to his country. Mr. Bush pardoned George Tenet after an embarrassing debacle, praising the spook's service to his country. (So much for Mr. Bush's preachy odes to responsibility and accountability.)

The president warned yesterday that "the greatest threat before humanity" is the possibility of a sudden W.M.D. attack. Not wanting nuclear technology to go to North Korea, Iran or Libya, the White House demanded tighter controls on black-market sales of W.M.D., even while praising its good buddy Pakistan, whose scientists were running a black market like a Sam's Club for nukes, peddling to North Korea, Iran and Libya.

Mr. Bush likes to present the world in black and white, as good and evil, even as he's made a Faustian deal with General Musharraf, perhaps hoping that one day — maybe even on an October day — the cagey general will decide to cough up Osama.

The president is spending $1.5 billion to persuade more Americans to have happy married lives, but plans to keep gay Americans from having happy married lives.

Mr. Bush said he wouldn't try to overturn abortion rights. But John Ashcroft is intimidating women who had certain abortions by subpoenaing records in six hospitals in New York, Philadelphia and elsewhere.

The president set up the intelligence commission (with few intelligence experts) because, he said, the best intelligence is needed to win the war on terror. Yet he doesn't want us to get the panel's crucial report until after he's won the war on Kerry.

Mr. Bush said he had balked at giving the 9/11 commission the records of his daily briefings from the C.I.A. until faced with a subpoena threat because it might deter the C.I.A. from giving the president "good, honest information." Wasn't it such "good, honest information" that caused him to miss 9/11 and mobilize the greatest war machine in history against Saddam's empty cupboard?

Mr. Bush says he's working hard to create new jobs in America, while his top economist says it's healthy for jobs to be shipped overseas.

The president told Tim Russert that if you order a country to disarm and it doesn't and you don't act, you lose face. But how does a country that goes to war to disarm a country without arms get back its face?

Mr. Bush said he was troubled that the Vietnam War was "a political war," because civilian politicians didn't let the generals decide how to fight it. But when Gen. Eric Shinseki presciently told Congress in February 2003 that postwar Iraq would need several hundred thousand U.S. soldiers to keep it secure and supplied, he was swatted down by the Bush administration's civilian politicians.

Yes, it all makes perfect sense, through the Bush looking glass.


This says it all...WMD = War-Mongering Dolt 

I run this Opinion from the Seattle Times in its entirety, because it reveals what "W" has now done to the U.S. forevermore. A pre-emptive war by the world's major power over nothing...Sad!

Too easily persuaded into an unnecessary war

Why did we invade Iraq? One scene from "The Price of Loyalty," Ron Suskind's look through the eyes of Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, helps answer that. The book is, of course, from the point of view of a man who was fired. But he was a man with a reputation for telling unpleasant truths. Furthermore, the president he describes does look like the president we see on television.

O'Neill describes a meeting of the National Security Council, including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Condi Rice and others. It was Jan. 30, 2001. Bush had been in office 10 days, and 9-11 was more than eight months off.

CIA Director George Tenet rolled out a photograph onto the big table. It was an aerial photo, enlarged and grainy, of a factory in Iraq. He said it might be making chemical or biological weapons.

"Here are the railroad tracks coming in," he said, pointing with a stick, "and here are the trucks lined up over here. They're bringing it in here and bringing it out there."

"You have to take a look at this," said Cheney, and they crowded around.

To O'Neill, who had recently retired as CEO of Alcoa Aluminum, it looked like just another industrial building. What was so suspicious about it? Trucks were coming in night and day, Tenet said.

That meant nothing. But Bush was already sold. "Actual plans were already being discussed to take over Iraq and occupy it in an unspoken doctrine of preemptive war," the book says.

On my way to work, I sometimes see people with a banner, "BUSH LIED." There is not a hint of that in Suskind's book. Looking at the man, I think: No, he believes this.

Maybe I am being kind because I voted for him.

Apologists now say Bush was "misled" by bad intelligence. He says in his defense that others in the U.S. and British governments saw the same intelligence, and reached the same conclusions. The French and Germans didn't. The intelligence people, including Tenet, now say they never asserted such certainty.

A national commission will dig into the intelligence — and report after the election. Meanwhile, a thought from O'Neill: A president with a probing, restless mind, like Richard Nixon, would not have been so easily persuaded.

O'Neill worked for Nixon. Bush, he says, does not have that sharp and demanding an intellect. That is the conclusion of the book, and the best explanation, I think, of why America started an unnecessary war.

Bush had run as a candidate opposed to hegemonic war and the follow-on "nation-building." But he made the mistake of recruiting his father's men, who thought differently. By all appearances, he was sold on the war by the people around him.

In turn, he sold the Congress by asserting that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons. Its soldiers did not. We know that for a fact. For months, it has been suggested Saddam Hussein hid his best weapons, which is a very odd thing to do before the great battle of one's life. We have spent months looking, and have found Saddam in his spider hole, but not the "weapons of mass destruction."

It has been nearly a year. It's time for Bush's supporters to admit that there weren't any such weapons. Essentially, the president did this in the "Meet the Press" interview with Tim Russert this past weekend.

That is a serious admission. It means America was led to war under false pretenses. It means that in the first instance of the new American doctrine of preemptive war, we preempted something that wasn't real.

From the Bush camp comes much blowing of smoke over this. Bush says Saddam could have developed a nuclear weapon and given it to a private group to set off in the United States. A lot of things can be imagined, but the world's mightiest power cannot go to war over an imagination. The justification for killing people has to be stronger than that. There need to be facts — facts that stand in your path, shout in your face and block all paths other than that of mechanized violence.

The president didn't have the facts. Some people said in his defense that he probably knew more than he was saying. They overestimated him.


Smart move... 

Following up on Clark Went, Clark smartly will be backing Kerry's nomination tomorrow. Leaving the fray before the doomed Edwards may bring the reward of vice presidency...not a bad sinecure if you can get it, and Kerry seems in fine health.


Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Clark Went 

Almost Superman. But not quite. Clark bowed out gracefully and graciously after another Kerry steamroll through the northern South. Edwards and Dean are now competing to "be the last man standing", ignoring Sharpton and--like the voters--Kucinich. The romp in Virginia ends the issue for Edwards. And Dean has proven that getting more than 7% below the Mason-Dixon line is a pipe dream for him. He says he'll stay on after Wisconsin, but getting 20% there to Kerry's 60% isn't going to make it worth it. Maybe he knows Kerry is hardly going to pick a running mate from a neighboring New England state, and doesn't know what is left for him to do...go back to surgery, Dr. Dean, you've already permanently changed the election, and we thank you for it.

Will Kerry pick Edwards? Not sure he needs him, so long as Bush' economy is so fragile...Opec cuts production and he's toast. How can the South vote for Bush again? They're not even sure when he's there.

Regardless, thanks, Wesley, for showing that the Centrist Republicans are now Dems. Thanks also for bowing out without rancor.


Who'll cry for the dark ones? 

The kidnapping in Sarasota Florida is proof that evil exists in this world and that it often ends up in Florida. But why did we all find out about this particular kidnapping and murder? This case seems vaguely familiar - a young innocent girl kidnapped or missing. Polly Klaas [not sure of spelling], Jon Benet, that Smart girl in Utah, and Amber. We've heard about them and mourned their loss of life or loss of innocence.

The media loves to get involved when there is an abduction because it is always terrifying for the parents (unless they are the ones who offed the kids) and it tugs at our heart strings in a fundamental way. Oh, and the media must feel that if the little girl is Anglo-American that it will really tear us apart because that is all they ever show. Have you noticed that? If we look at our list of abductees you're not going to see a "Wei-chen", a "Chaniqua" or an "Angelita" because the media doesn't give a flying f--- if the kid is of color. Do they think we are too stupid to notice?

This isn't just a matter of media coverage, it's a matter of justice. If a little kid comes out on CNN because they are missing they are going to have a much better chance of being found (even if dead) and of finding the culprit as appears to have happened in Florida.

This rant is pointing out race issues but it's also about class issues. Many of these stories also come out because of the parents and their ability to communicate with the media. If you don't know how to work the media then nobody's going to listen to you.


Monday, February 09, 2004

Like a Dog...or...I Have a Scream Part II 

Couldn't decide on whether to take a Kafka-esque approach to this blog, or a Munch approach. But, we'll get to that shortly. First, let's see how the "Liberal Media" responds to "W" going off with a scream like Dean's, and not even right after he'd seen his campaign go down the toilet...or maybe he is seeing that happen, dare I hope?

His voice rising to a shout, President Bush lashed out at Democratic rivals...

Either way, let's explore the metaphors. Kafka's (and perhaps the 20th Century's) greatest work, "The Trial", ends with the protagonist gouged in the heart "like a Dog". And the shame of it would live past him. Some see the Holocaust and the shadow it casts three generations later foretold in this story. How is Bush "like a Dog?" Well, aside from the shame of him being our President for four years--barring an appropriate but unlikely impeachment--and the shame of it outliving us by centuries (Bush will be known as America's Sulla throughout history), how's this for starters? Instead of trying to extricate us from Iraq, address an epochal deficit, and learn a new oxymoron to replace "jobless recovery", all "W"hatever! can do is go around peeing on fire hydrants...

It was Bush's 15th trip to Missouri and another case of the president appearing in a state recently visited by Democratic presidential hopefuls. He went to South Carolina on Feb. 5, two days after that state's Democratic primary; in late January, he visited New Hampshire, two days after its primary. Missouri's primary was last Tuesday.

Like a dog. Of course, other more unkind analogies can be made, and why should I pretend to be above them? Is "W" Cheny Dick's lapdog? Can a White Whale have a lapdog? Are "W", Cheny Dick, Rumsfeld, and the rest rolling around in crap? Too easy, too easy.

On to Munch, and the scream.

Suddenly the sky turned blood-red.
I stopped, and leaned against the railing, deathly tired -
looking out across the flaming clouds that hung like blood and a sword

Although Munch is given credit for Expressionism with this 1892 painting, the skies were actually quite red in Norway in 1883 because of the eruption of Krakatoa, and some now believe this is what gave Munch at least subconscious stimulus for the Scream. Bush can scream, but his is the scream of a spoiled brat, while his inane policies stimulated by revenge and greed cause the red skies that make the world scream.

Chomp and Munch, chew and crunch, there's a planet to destroy
Inch by inch, it's a cinch, broken down by a spoiled brat boy
...(apologies to the Brave Little Toaster)

Want to scream some more? Let's see what urine Bush used to pee on the Missouri fire hydrant just vacated by the Dems...

The visit coincided with the release of a White House report predicting that the economy would grow by 4 percent and create 2.6 million new jobs this year. If the jobs forecast is realized, it would mark the first year of the Bush presidency with a net increase in jobs. Since he took office, the country has lost 2.2 million payroll jobs.

Man, that's great stuff. No comedian can beat that straight-faced delivery. But give Kerry credit. He made the obvious--but still damn funny--retort:

The rosy view of the economy presented in the new report was probably "prepared by the same people who brought us the intelligence on Iraq" Kerry said.

Touche. And by the same people who want to bring the world Red Skies at Night. Nobody needs that Fixx.


North vs. South 

In an earlier post I mentioned that to many voters John Kerry is like Abraham Lincoln in that he is a solid speaking, old hat politician. I think it was Bill Maher who compared him to the apple-throwing trees in Wizard of Oz. But the media seems to think that, and I'm starting to agree, Kerry is much more like Abraham Lincoln because he is a Northerner.

Is it true? Will white Southerners vote for Clark and Edwards because they are Southerners? If this is true then Kerry will come in third in Tennessee and have a tough time (not win) other Southern states as they cast their votes.

I know I make fun of them because they sleep with their relatives and their slow drawl makes them sound slow-witted but is the South still carrying a grudge over the Civil War? Gore wasn't able to win his own state of Tennessee in the last presidential election. I assumed that was because on the campaign trail he was as exciting as bingo for one. But maybe it was because the South turned on him after they realized that he was more Park Avenue than Tennessee.

This certainly explains Dean's earlier comments about getting votes from folks with confederate flags on their pick-up trucks. He wasn't only referring to rednecks, he was reaching out to all Southerners in his twisted way.

Look for this North/South issue to be the determining factor in who is ultimately selected for the Vice Presiden't slot on the Democratic party ticket.


Sunday, February 08, 2004

Spin Zone... 

I hate being right about this stuff...especially so soon after noting that Bush will now change the reasons he went into Iraq from WMDs to "Saddam is naughty".

51% of you will believe we did not go into Iraq because "W" lied about the WMDs come November...more if they already have Osama and are just waiting for October to tell us.

But we did.


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