Google, Haiti, and Taxachusetts

Saturday, January 23, 2010

There have been so many juicy topics to cover, it’s been difficult to keep away. Every time I’m moved to write, though, I really have something else to do or simply don’t want to devote the time to it. That said, here is, in summary, how to think about the following issues:

Google/China: Yes, if Google was #1 in China this wouldn’t have happened, but they’re not and it did. As a result, this is one of the great humanitarian corporate moves of all time. Perhaps the greatest (there’s not a lot of competition, I’m guessing). Google should follow through and close their business there. As arguably the most important corporation in the world, the move will properly shame China and the many companies that remain in that authoritarian country. Here’s a question that any one doing business there should ask: Would I want to live here?

Haiti: Nothing to do in the aftermath but help. In the long term, I’m with David Brooks and Bret Stephenson. Let’s stop giving money to countries “in need.” It does nothing, and may actively do harm. It’s difficult, because it is human nature to try to help fellow humans in need, but it’s also the right thing to do. Certainly, what the first world has been doing for decades has not worked.

Taxachusetts: I would have voted for Scott Brown too. Seriously. I would have voted for a cardboard cutout against Coakley. Although she was inept, I would have done it to send the message. I have said, many times, that if Obama and this Congress can’t get it done, then there is no hope for us. Year one has been an epic, unmitigated failure. Iraq, Afghanistan, secrecy, deficit spending, bank coddling, and worst of all, the healthcare nightmare. I blame Obama for not using his robust post-election strength to strong arm Pelosi (failure) and Reid (failure) immediately. Weak, poorly managed, pathetic. Obama, where are your balls? It’s time to lead.

And, btw, why do you need the 60 votes? Make an exceptional bill and let the GOP filibuster. Call their bluff. If they do it, and the bill dies, you hang it around their neck. Now, the bill dies, and it’s a Dem failure. Disgraceful.

(But then there would be no healthcare bill, someone wails. So fucking what? Paul Krugman can cry to his cats. This is not the most pressing issue in America. Budget restraint, financial reform, and confiscatory, punitive taxes on very wealth bankers, should be the priority. Followed by a 10% spending cut across the entire government, no exceptions.

We are going to have to suffer, period. Let us start suffering already so we have a shot at not fucking our children.)

The bottom line for me, in all this, is that I have really given up hope. I don’t believe our Congress (and the state legislatures) are capable of introducing the change (ethics, responsible spending) that is necessary.

Something very, very bad is going to happen in the next ten or twenty years. War with China, epic depression/inflation/default, or, in the best case scenario, a benevolent military coup (and a draft) that reforms the government in a way that makes it possible for America to function properly.

David Petraeus, are you out there? Rome needs you. Cross the Rubicon. Cast the die!

P.S. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Nevertheless, letting it stand.


Healthcare is the New BMW

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tunneling Nanotubes

Friday, November 21, 2008

From New Scientist:

HAD Amin Rustom not messed up, he would not have stumbled upon one of the biggest discoveries in biology of recent times. It all began in 2000, when he saw something strange under his microscope. A very long, thin tube had formed between two of the rat cells that he was studying. It looked like nothing he had ever seen before…

…At the time, it was not clear whether these structures were anything more than a curiosity seen only in peculiar circumstances. Since their pioneering paper appeared, however, other groups have started finding nanotubes in all sorts of places, from nerve cells to heart cells. And far from being a mere curiosity, they seem to play a major role in anything from how our immune system responds to attacks to how damaged muscle is repaired after a heart attack.

Essentially, these nanotubes allows animal cell interiors at some distance to “communicate” so that they act can in concert. This had previously been thought nearly impossible as cell communication seemed to occur almost entirely by releasing chemicals that can be detected by receptors on the surface of other cells.

There are potentially enormous implications for this discovery, not least in immunology. For instance, there is speculation that HIV may avoid an immunological response by traveling through nanotubes. Another fascinating aspect is this:

Using fluorescent proteins, the team also discovered that relatively large cellular structures, or organelles, could move from one cell to another through the nanotubes.

You have to understand the basic structure of a cell to grasp what this means. The human cell is a like micro-machine that generates it’s own energy and functions like a little organism, producing proteins to perform all sorts of activities including making new cells. To be able to pass an organelle from one cell to another is something like (but not quite) one human being being able to pass a kidney to another human being without the fuss of surgery.

Cell biology and immunology are among the most fascinating areas in science. I am not practiced enough to write about these topics at length, but if you want to understand how beautifully strange and complex life is, cell biology and immunology is a great place to start.


Post-Obama Syndrome

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I’ve got it bad. A woman I know called it post-Obama depression. I slept 14 hours on Friday night. 14 hours! I haven’t slept that much since I was 14.

Now, in my case, I also happened to catch a cold just as it all came to an end Tuesday night. Literally, the symptoms arrived moments after PA was announced, so I feel I was just holding it all in. I also had an enormous professional (non-political) responsibility come to end simultaneously with the election so I have a double excuse.

Nevertheless, after a weekend of essentially blobbing out, I’m feeling a little more energized. Pleased with Rahm Emmanuel and Obama’s first presser. Looking for Larry Summers to be named this week at Treasury.

It’s been an amazing week. I hope everyone had a chance, especially Obama, to rest this weekend.


Palin and Rape

Friday, October 17, 2008

This is a powerful ad:


Palin, GOP Exploit Child with Special Needs

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Right-Wing Nut blogosphere and the McCain campaign is lit up because Biden suggested that if they really cared about children with a “developmental disability, who were born with a birth defect” they’d support stem cell research.

Continuing the Christianist crusade against science, Sarah Palin does not.

And this after Sarah Palin dragged her four month-old up on stage at the Republican National Convention under the hot lights and amidst a deafening din. That child, special needs or not, should have been in bed. Period. But the opportunity to show Palin as a tough mother was too good to pass up. Would anything have been lost except a photo op if, say, Trig and Todd were back at the hotel?

Of course not. They probably would have gained something by explaining why he wasn’t there.

Beyond that, among the first words out of her mouth were a pander to the parents of special needs children. Like McCain milking his POW experience to such a degree that it makes my ex-Marine father cringe, Palin/McCain will exploit any shameless opportunity for an advantage.

These people mean not only to stand in the way of scientific progress, but they are actively working to put America at a competitive disadvantage in one of the most important fields of the 21st century – biotechnology – all while exploiting a little boy with Down’s Syndrome for political advantage.

The new low in politics is Sarah Palin and the Palin/McCain ticket.


Joe Conason on Bristol and Levi

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Conason makes a good point about the two teenage expectant parents. It’s one thing to be supportive and loving, it’s quite another to bring them up on stage together in celebration of their impending shotgun nuptials.

What is the message conveyed to teenagers here? From the piece:

With all due respect to this young woman, her future husband and the rest of the family — and best wishes to all of them for a successful birth — let us first stop pretending that this is good news. There are excellent reasons why we discourage teenage pregnancy and motherhood, and none of them have disappeared simply because the Republicans are about to put Sarah Palin on their ticket.

Adolescents are rarely prepared to take on the challenges of raising a child. Often they drop out of school as a result, and usually become dependent on their own parents for support (which may be complicated for a family whose mom is running for vice president). Pregnancies in adolescence are high-risk, and the babies born to teenage mothers tend to have more illnesses during their first year of life. Teenage marriages — whether or not they occur because of an unplanned pregnancy — have a tendency to work out poorly, too. (“I don’t want to have kids,” noted Bristol Palin’s prospective husband Levi Johnston, 18, on his MySpace page, according to the New York Post, and at his age, why would he?)

Is this the party of family values?

It isn’t hard to imagine a teenage girl fantasizing a scenario just like Bristol Palin’s: the loving boyfriend who will marry them and hold their hand in front of everyone. The problem is that only one girl’s mom is running for Vice President. The rest of them are living just like us. In the real world.