observations, comments, findings—factual and fictional— beliefs, and thoughts about the world and its creatures started and maintained as a way to keep amuse and possibly edify the world's pilgrims on their journey to we know not where
Friday, December 30, 2005
Truth, Justice, and the Bushbucker Way
The Bushies don't shy from calling the NSA whistleblower(s) a traitor, or worse. If that be treason, we should all plead guilty.
Shall we then call the Bushies "swaggering cowards"--think of the hollow man who in the wake of Katrina's destruction of New Orleans, stood in front of a cathedral in an empty park in that ruined city to tell a television camera what he planned to do for the people there. They, by the way, are still waiting.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Let the Elephants Roam
The article in today's Washington Post by Robert Strauss about elephants in zoos ("The Elephant in the Room") contains a lot of faulty reasoning and self-serving claims for keeping these wonderful and magnificent beings in cages that are far too small for them. For example, Mark A. Reed, the executive director of the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas and the head of the Elephant Task Force of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) made the following statements:
"They are a flagship animal. To some people, elephants mean Africa or Asia. I look at them as the representatives for species in the wild."
**Captive animals are hardly the representatives for their wild relatives. Anyone who's seen elephants in the wild (and I have) knows that zoos cannot possibly provide what these individuals need. Furthermore, zoos ship elephants and other animals around as if they're a piece of furniture ignoring the fact that elephants are extremely social, bright, and emotional beings who live in long-lasting families in the wild and who grieve the loss of friends and family. Elephants are viewed as money-making commodities rather than highly emotional beings who don't like being ripped apart from family and friends.
"What people forget is that sooner or later, every animal in every zoo is going to die, no matter how well we treat them," Reed said, noting that no one has accused any zoo of intentional abuse. "Just because elephants can walk 50 miles a day, it doesn't mean they do -- or even want to."
**Michael Hutchins, formerly of the AZA, has also offered the same sort of vacuous claim--Reed and Hutchins seem to think that this biological fact justifies keeping animals in horrible conditions. One could make the same claim for individuals of *all* species, including humans, and the slippery slope onto which this argument goes is a very dangerous one---a first-grader could likely pick away at it ... To hear people from the AZA make this claim to justify keeping animals in cages is especially disturbing.
Reed also said that just like humans, elephants would rather stay put, and they do if they can find water, shelter and food.
**Once again this is just vacuous. How does he know this? People often makes these claims that individuals are happy or content, but then criticize people who say that individuals would rather "not" do something or don't like something--it's OK for them to make these sorts of attributions but not for those in other camps....Let's not forget that concerning Ruby, another captive elephant who was shipped around as if she was a piece of furniture. Someone from the AZA said she's happy and doing well but then accused others of being anthropomorphic for saying she wasn't happy or that she wasn't doing well ....What self-serving double-speak ...
"Some of this is our own fault. We put up signs at the fence that say an elephant can walk 50 miles in a day and people then say they have to walk that far," said Reed. "We make sure our elephants get exercise, but three, four, five miles is plenty, we feel."
**What does he mean "we feel?" Once again he makes a guess that's self-serving because of how little zoos can really offer elephants and so many other animals
"My first animal contact was seeing Rosie the elephant at the Portland, Oregon, zoo when I was 3 1/2, in 1954. It had a huge impact, and I know it is why I am in this line of work," he said.
**Of course, that's why he feels good about his line of work - keeping elephants in cages that aren't and can't be large enough --
Marc Bekoff and Jane Goodall (EETA): www.ethologicalethics.org
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Yet, many scientists seem collectively to have suspended their disbelief when it came to Hwang Woo Suk's bold claims, beginning in 2004, of having cloned a human embryo, then of creating 11 patient-specific lines of cloned embryos, and finally of cloning a dog. A top geneticist told me years ago that dogs and humans were perhaps the most difficult animals to clone, so Hwang's accomplishments represented technical tours de force. According to his overheated claims, which both echoed and amplified those of other stem cell researchers, science journalists, patient advocacy groups, and the scientific journals that published his work, his accomplishments threw open the doors for producing stem cells for curing Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, and other ailments. With this therapeutic cloning technology he was going to use the patients own genetic material to produce stem cells that would replace what had failed or vanished. Because they were derived from the patient, the new cells would not be rejected, the theory goes.
Problem was, as I've said before and the press has widely reported, Hwang faked his results at least for the May-June 2005 paper and, based on evidence gleaned from that, for the 2004 embryo cloning and dog cloning, as well, and he did so by taking advantage of Western, especially American, scientists' "willing suspension of disbelief." In short, they believe not only in the efficacy of therapeutic cloning but also in the need for America to stay in front of the field. In fact, as Rick Weiss pointed out in the December 24, Washington Post, a chief worry is that exposure of Hwang will tigger demands for increased regulation of research and make less likely a weakening of federal limitations on embryonic research. As if to prove the point, for Christmas, the Post ran a story by Rob Stein on how the scandal had already spurred calls for greater oversight.
I'm interested here in the apparent lack of due diligence by scientists and journal editors. Nicholas Wade reports in the Christmas New York Times that Nature did not seek data that would have conclusively proved--nor data that would have disproved--Snuppy a clone, before announcing the dog's arrival. Hwang was smart: by the time he'd popped Snuppy on Nature, it had twice lost out to archrival, Science, and although the Nature editors would deny it, I have to think they were primed for a headline paper. Data presented for the second paper in Science, at the request of reviewers was problematic, it turns out, but inexplicably neither Science nor its reviewers flagged the problems at the time. The journals say it is not their role to police scientists, but surely editors and reviewers should demand the data--all of it--and if it can't be produced or it's not right, they shouldn't run the paper. As the situation now stands, it appears that fact checkers at a top-flight magazine are more thorough than editors and reviewers at Science and Nature, who seem all too willing to suspend their disbelief for members of the club whose results they approve.
Equally inexplicable is how scientists from around the world could have visited Hwang's lab in Seoul to learn his efficient cloning technique and not seen the famous stem cell lines, not been able to replicate Hwang's results (the sine qua non of experimental science), and, despite that, not raised an alarm.
The big unspoken explanation for all of this is money, the corrupting power of money on science. Stem cells, therapeutic cloning, genomics--nearly all biology is promoted on the promise of curing some degenerative disease or congenital defect or cancer. The Bushies, backed by the "right to death by execution" crowd have stymied federally funded stem cell research, but other countries, states like California, and industry are forging ahead. The goal often appears more to patent and cash in than to elucidate fundamental biological processes. That requires proprietary information, the antithesis of what science demands.
It's inconceivable that something as fundamental as, for example, Newton's second law (f=ma) would be copyrighted or patented, so that anyone applying it would have to pay royalties. Yet businesses, institutions, and groups are permitted to patent individual genes. An army of scientists and their institutions would deny it, but the result is Hwang Woo Suk.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Righting the Record
Left unsaid is that Osama would have to be flat stupid to believe that no one could listen in on his satellite phone calls--and he's not stupid.
To be fair, the Bushbucker-in-Chief seems merely to have been spouting received wisdom, "urban myth," Kessler calls it, that has appeared in at least one book, in the report of the 9/11 commission, and wherever people who don't bother to research anything, including, presumably, reporters and editors for the Washington Times, are given access to a computer or podium.
Kessler contacted the Bushies, who stood by their man's claim that a leak derailed America's pursuit of Osama by alerting him to danger from his phone. That they do and he does explains as much as anything why Osama bin Laden is still at large and why the Bushies are bogged down in Iraq. The Bushies aren't hunting terrorists with intelligence, with the mental adroitness needed to switch tactics to meet new situations. Flat-footed, ham-fisted, they're battling fear with ignorance.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
[Un]Intelligent Design Loses A Round
Monday, December 19, 2005
On numerous other occasions, the Bushy says, "everything changed after 9/11"--for him maybe.
Certainly, before 9/11 some people were quite concerned about radical Islamic terrorists, as well as other fringe groups--does the Bushy recall Oklahoma City? They had blown up embassies, effectively sunk a U.S. Navy warship, attacked the World Trade Center, and served notice that they intended to fly several planes into tall buildings. That threat was considered real enough that the president was given a special briefing on it during his vacation in August, a month before the event. No fast and nimble response there--he let it ride.
September 11 happened for many reasons, but it hardly represented the commencement of a "different kind of war," except in the delusional mind of the Bushy. The "intelligence failures" leading up to 9/11 included prominently the failure of the Bush and his Bushies to apply "intelligence" to warnings and data they had. The war was different to the Bushy because he didn't know the past--remember Condoleeza Rice even (mis)categorized that August briefing as "history."
It's by no means certain 9/11 could have been prevented, but an attentive president would have promptly ordered beefed up security at the airports and more urgent searches for potential terrorists.
That's the Bushy way: Pay no attention until a disaster strikes and then claim no one possibly could have foreseen something so monumental, something so profound it changes all previous relationships and equations.
The terriors didn't suddenly morph into something more diabolically malign after 9/11. That's a Bushy myth to excuse his inattentiveness. It's a myth the media has allowed to go unexamined, to the misfortune of us all, for it conceals the slothful, uninformed man who has brought so much misery and death to the world through his acts of omission and commission.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Listening to Bushy
There are always more than two simple choices, as anyone with a working brain knows.
He figures Congress will cave if only because his own party won't challenge him. Various Democrats will huff and puff and then roll over. Thus, the putsch is made.
I'd like to be wrong and see enough people in Congress rise up to impeach, but I fear they won't. As Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer report in today's Washington Post the NSA spying is just part of a larger program of domestic surveillance, involving NSA, FBI, DoD, and who knows who else. At least some of it violates various laws the Bushy has sworn to uphold, not that he cares for laws. This man, we have been repeatedly told, bases his decisions on his "gut," his instinct; otherwise, he remains deliberately ignorant.
And he gets away with it--time and again.
Executive editor Bill Keller of the New York Times issued a statement Friday, 12/16, attributing the long delay in publishing the NSA story to real journalistic concerns for truth, accuracy, and national security. Paul Farhi of the Washington Post offers a slightly different take, complete with the observation that the revelation was coming out no matter in February in a book by James Risen, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. It appears that the Times editors forgot their responsibility to print the news, so the people can decide.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Snuppy, Clone or Fake
Friday, December 16, 2005
Now, it appears that the Bushbucker-in-Chief also approved extensive, probably illegal eavesdropping by the ultrasecret National Securiy Agency on electronic and telephonic communications by Americans. That revelation by the James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times comes hard on the heels of an NBC investigative report on Department of Defense spying on antiwar activists. The FBI is doing it, too, and doubtless more. Dan Eggen of the Washington Post looks at some of the legal issues in the NSA case.
The Bushbucker-in-Chief's contempt for the Constitution and laws of the land is as great as his disregard for international treaties and basic human rights. Revealing its true nature, Congress, which rose to new heights of moral outrage in impeaching Bubba for receiving blow jobs and using his cigar as a dildo, can't be bothered to pursue open violations of the law and Bushy's oath of office, presumably because a majority of the Republican majority cares only about power and privilege. The Republicans of conscience--that might be an oxymoron--in the Congress should remember that it was the Democrats, then in control of Congress, who challenged LBJ on Vietnam. Certainly, John McCain held firm on torture and Republicans in the Senate joined in blocking renewal of the Patriot Act, but they have more to do.
The question here is why the New York Times withheld publication of the NSA spy story for a year. Ostensibly, the editors--and who else, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the publisher?--were honoring the request of the Bushies, who claimed the revelation would harm national security. Think about this: As Ken Auletta points out in his account of the Judith Miller affair in the December 19 New Yorker, Sulzberger saw the fight over Miller's source as his Pentagon Papers--his father having fought to the Supreme Court for the right to publish those secret papers that exposed many of the lies of Vietnam. As everyone knows, Miller was defending a source who had attempted to damage the wife of a man who had exposed a lie the Bushies had used in justifying their war against Iraq, and she ultimately talked and talked.
But the Pentagon Papers were not only about freedom of the press but also the right of the people to know what their government is doing and the obligation of the press to tell them. So while Sulzberger, Jr., was propping up a sound principle with a bogus support--and then watching it collapse--he and his paper were ignoring the lessons of the Pentagon Papers. They sat on evidence of violation of the law by the president for at least a year, buying the argument, which was used in attempts to suppress the Pentagon Papers, that publishing the story would damage "national security." Right. The spying, the lies, the torture, the corruption, the disregard for the Constitution, international agreements, and human rights--they threaten the nation.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Modest Proposal for 2006
Shall President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard (Dick) B. Cheney be removed from office for crimes against humanity and failure to uphold their oaths of office?
That would give the people a chance to be heard, and since Bush believes in the power of democracy, why should he refuse to stand before it?
Friday, December 09, 2005
But let's assume Dr. Rice means what she says and from the president on down, Americans abide by their own laws and international agreements. That would seem to suggest that if torture was approved and conducted in the past, everyone involved should be prosecuted and or impeached for violating those laws and treaties, not to mention their oaths of office. It torture occurred without approval, then everyone involved should be prosecuted. Unless arrests are made and cases prosecuted, we are left to assume Dr. Rice is lying.
Reports are that Dr. Rice shares the Bushy's messianic complex. That means that the Truth they serve is greater than any lie they might have to tell the infidels in order to serve it--see Seymour Hersh in the December 5 New Yorker on the Bushy's belief that god has chosen him. He believes in he has a divine right to rule. It's time to recognize--past time--that the man is not only willfully ignorant but also, to be polite, delusional. As such, he is a danger to others--witness the body count in Iraq. Problem is that in this Post-Modern Age of Non-Reason such delusional think passes for faith and is celebrated by many people--far too many. When it comes to humans, it appears that Bufon was closer to right than Darwin; the species is devolving.
Monday, December 05, 2005
What Are We Fighting For?
What are we fighting for?"
--Country Joe MacDonald, "The Fish Cheer & I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag"
First, the Democratic Party's foreign policy establishment can't congeal around an Iraq strategy, reports Robin Wright in the Monday, December 5, Washington Post, with appropriate quotes from the usual suspects. Then today, December 7, the Washington Post's Jim VandeHei and Shalaigh Murray report that Democratic Party leaders fear a voter backlash next fall if they take a strong position in favor of a quick pull-out of troops from Iraq. There's a lot of rumbling about not wanting to leave an unstable situation and not wanting to cut and run, but not wanting the current situation either. For balance, there are a few calls for withdrawal by the end of 2006. These are good stories, but who cares what the Democrats think? With a few exceptions, they have allowed fear and itimidation to rule them.
Don't any of them understand that their colleague, John Murtha, is talking for at least a sizeable part of the military.
For some of us, war is always a matter of conscience, and this one never passed muster. Now the stench is so strong that it has even begun to penetrate the noses of Washington's olfactory challenged officialdom. In short, the only reason to fight this war is because we are fighting it, and what the troops are fighting for is honor and devotion to each other. That is no lie; the lie comes from the Bushies who pretend that the war is about something else--substituting a new explanation for each one that falters on "reality."
As Juan Cole lays out in Truthdig.com, the Bushies have succeeded in handing Iraq to Iran by replacing Saddam with a Shiite theocracy. And he does not even deal with the ethnically cleansing Kurds.
The real question is why the foreign policy elites, not to mention the elected officials, of the Democratic and Republican parties are so impotent in the face of the willful ignorance of the Bushbucker-in-Chief, an ignorance that is responsible for 10s of thousands of death?
For a change of pace, check out my dog genome blog at http://thebark.typepad.com/.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Who the Good Guys Are....
"O tempora! O mores!"
Thursday, December 01, 2005
(Un)Intelligent in Kansas
But now, my friend David, who tipped me off to this course in the first place, sends notice that the course has been withdrawn because in an e-mail Professor Mirecki called the supporters of the (u)ID, "fundies"--I haven't a clue what that means but judging from the response in Kansas it must be "repugnent and vile," as KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway reportedly said. The public officials supporting the (u)ID had a field day. The story sounds like a bad farce.
It would be glib to say, "Watch what you put in e-mail, because whatever you write might come back to bite you." That's true, of course. But I'm thinking that the place being Kansas, that land over the rainbow where supenatural explanations for common events are encouraged, we might have to conclude that the (u)ID didn't like having Its work called "myth" and so moved to mute the infidel by turning his own words against him. At least now we know that the (u)ID is computer literate--and watching.
The Irreality of the Bushbucker
(See the official "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" at this Washington Post site.)