Friday, October 31, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

'Cheshire Cat' Escape Strategy

The study of one of the most abundant unicellular eukaryotes seems to show that sex was invented to escape viral infections. In their normal haploid form-
Emiliania huxleyi produce mineral scales and form gigantic populations that are visible from space. But when attacked by marine viruses, they transform into haploid cells which only contain a single chromosome (N). These new, non-calcifying, highly motile cells are totally invisible to viruses (and undetectable on satellite photos) so that the species can live in peace to await safer times.
Primitive single-celled predecessors to the Earth's flora and fauna changed their form by separating their 2 chromosomes to become motile and to eliminate binding points used by invading viruses. When the viral onslaught abated they recombined into their normal two-chromosome form. The fact that the process accelerated genetic variations and precipitated evolution to more complex forms was just an unavoidable by-product.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hitchens on Palin

I really hate the fact that this once, just this once I agree with Christopher Hitchens. It makes me want to hack and spit.
"This is what the Republican Party has done to us this year: It has placed within reach of the Oval Office a woman who is a religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus. Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist. They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured. And those who prate of spiritual warfare and demons are not just 'people of faith' but theocratic bullies. On Nov. 4, anyone who cares for the Constitution has a clear duty to repudiate this wickedness and stupidity."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Whose wealth is it?

When Obama talks about spreading the wealth, the conservatives have such a narrow view that they assume wealth is a zero-sum game. The only way to spread it is to take it from someone that has it. When I hear "spreading the wealth", I think of all those hard-working people who have experienced stagnant wages in the Bush economy while rich folks reaped tax benefits based on money borrowed by the federal government. If the government is going to borrow money I think that money should go to programs that increase the earning power of as many people as possible. It would be a rising tide that lifts all the boats.

Friday, October 24, 2008

76 Flip-flops and Counting

Steve Benen weighs in on the particulars of how McCain has changed his positions in order to appease the right-wing and secure his candidacy to be president.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Afghanistan

After watching Lara Logan's segment on 60 minutes tonight I was reminded again of my concern back in 2001 when I heard that we were going in there. Afghanistan is an incredibly hard place to fight any sort of conventional war. The geography is a guerilla fighter's paradise with mountains so high and steep that any and everyone in the valleys are sitting ducks. The elevation is so high that helicopters must restrict their loads. The only time you can see your enemy is when he is shooting at you. The only warriors to best Alexander the Great were Afghans (after 4 years of fighting he made peace with the biggest warlord and moved on to India). Now we are fighting a war there with against well-equipped, motivate enemy. It is doomed to be a losing war unless we can get unfettered access to the havens in nominally Pakistani tribal areas. I say nominal because Pakistan doesn't really rule that part of the world either. The tribal areas are autonomous because no one has ever been able to successfully impose their will upon them. Not the Persians, not the Greeks, not the Hindus, not the Moguls, not the Russians.

Even if we get access to the Pakistani tribal areas it will be a hard slog that is costly in human lives. Despite all the rhetoric about accomplishing a final defeat of the Taliban, we have to understand what it may cost us.

It seems to me that the only way we can be truly successful is to somehow become the champion of the local people to the point where they prefer association with us to association with the Taliban. Given that American ideology differs so much from local traditions, that is a tall order.

What Went Wrong

A postmortem from the Washington Post of what mistakes were made and who made them.

Houston Chronicle endorses Obama

The Chronicle endorsement:
"After carefully observing the Democratic and Republican nominees in drawn-out primary struggles as well as in the general campaign, including three debates, the Chronicle strongly believes that the ticket of Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden offers the best choice to lead the United States on a new course into the second decade of the 21st century.

Obama appears to possess the tools to confront our myriad and daunting problems. He's thoughtful and analytical. He has met his opponents' attacks with calm and reasoned responses. Viewers of the debates saw a poised, well-prepared plausible president with well-articulated positions on the bread-and-butter issues that poll after poll indicate are the true concerns of voters. While Arizona Sen. John McCain and his running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin have struck an increasingly personal and negative tone in their speeches, Obama has continued to talk about issues of substance."

Colin Powell's Endorsement

I agree with Steve Benen's take.
"The timing couldn't be much worse for the McCain campaign. Hoping to generate some sense of momentum, McCain was nevertheless hit by a one-two punch this morning -- Obama demonstrated a stunning level of support with his $150 million fundraising haul, which was immediately followed by Colin Powell announcing his enthusiastic support for the Democratic nominee."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tire Swing Defined

Lily Shapiro explains the new phrase for this political season.
"In response I hereby coin the term 'Swinging on the Tire' to describe a reporter who has gotten way too cozy with a politician and has had their supposed objectivity affected.' Hence, our use of the term throughout this campaign season."

McCain's Economic Cluelessness

As further worrying evidence of McCain's economic ignorance he gives an interview to John Grizzi. It's clear he has no idea what actually caused the current crisis. He blames Fannie, Freddie, the CRA, and the national debt to China. Unregulated loans don't seem to even enter his mind.

How can anyone seriously believe that he would be the least bit helpful in office.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

Gregoire deserves four more years

The Olympian endorses Gregoire.
Gregoire is a good negotiator, an innovator, a proven leader and a solid manager. She's a good governor but a terrible campaigner. She's bright, but her personality is not warm and charming. She's an efficient policy wonk running against a slick carnival hawker.

Gregoire is a woman of depth who has a commitment to solving problems with rational solutions and compromise. That makes her the superior candidate for governor. Rossi cannot match her vision, top-level management experience or commitment to public service. Re-elect Gov. Chris Gregoire on Nov. 4.

Baby-sitting the economy

In addition to the kind of work that has won him the Nobel Prize, Paul Krugman is my man because of how he can make sense out of the economy. A simple example can tell a great deal about what happens in the real world.

Congratulations, Paul.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tao Berman has hat in the ring

This is interesting. A professional white-water kayaker is running for a legislative seat in the Washington 15th LD. There is an article about him in today's TriCity Herald but no link is available yet. I had the opportunity to meet Tao at a Democratic Party function earlier this year. He is new to the game but brings the same kind of intensity that he carries with him in his sporting career. He running against a fairly secure incumbent and he knows that his odds of winning are long. I hope it is a learning experience for him and that we will see more of him in the future.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The view from Alaska

Within the culture of Alaska, this writer points out that Sarah Palin-style Alaskans are a blight on their state. The Mat-Su valley epitomizes the strip-mall, oil-greed mentality that has come to the state in the wake of it's oil economy. These folks are an anathema to long-time Alaskan citizens.

More Right-wing talking points shown to be lies

It an article about who is really to blame for the mortgage meltdown, McClatchy newspapers point out that all those big-government programs that the right wing loves to vilify are not part of the problem. It was the unregulated private sector that created the problem. As more and more sub-prime loans were made Fannie and Freddie actually lost market share since so many of the loans did not meet the tougher standards under which they operate. Neither was the source of the problem the Community Reinvestment Act. Only commercial banks and thrifts are required to follow CRA rules. Instead it was an army of non-bank lenders that got into the mortgage business, especially the sub-prime business.

So we can't blame this meltdown on the existing governmental institutions. Rather we should rightly blame the forces in our government that failed to act to close a regulatory gap that these non-bank lenders exploited. Who are these slow-to-regulate forces?

Generally every de-regulation Republican should be excoriated for their part in today's mess.

A question for the Congressional candidate debates might be:
According to an article published by McClatchy newspapers on October 11 by David Goldstein and Kevin G. Hall entitled "Private sector loans, not Fannie or Freddie, triggered crisis" [ http://www.mcclatchydc.com/251/story/53802.html ] the cause of the mortgage meltdown was sub-prime loans made by an army of non-bank lenders who exploited a gap in our banking regulations.

Do you think that the supporters of the constant drumbeat for deregulation should share a major portion of the blame for the current financial crisis? As an incumbent, what have you done or failed to do to foster essential financial regulation? As a challenger, what would you do to close both the current gap with it's catastrophic consequences and potentially unrecognized gaps that may be future time-bombs?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Juicing up the ticket

Garrison Keillor has such a way with words.
Low dishonesty and craven cynicism sometimes win the day but not inevitably. The attempt to link Barack Obama to an old radical in his neighborhood has desperation and deceit written all over it. Meanwhile, stunning acts of heroism stand out, such as the fidelity of military lawyers assigned to defend detainees at Guantánamo Bay -- uniformed officers faithful to their lawyerly duty to offer a vigorous defense even though it means exposing the injustice of military justice that is rigged for conviction and the mendacity of a commander in chief who commits war crimes.
It was dishonest, cynical men who put forward a clueless young woman for national office, hoping to juice up the ticket, hoping she could skate through two months of chaperoned campaigning, but the truth emerges: The lady is talking freely about matters she has never thought about. The American people have an ear for B.S. They can tell when someone's mouth is moving and the clutch is not engaged. When she said, "One thing that Americans do at this time, also, though, is let's commit ourselves just every day, American people, Joe Six-Pack, hockey moms across the nation, I think we need to band together and say never again. Never will we be exploited and taken advantage of again by those who are managing our money and loaning us these dollars," people smelled gas.

Some Republicans adore her because they are pranksters at heart and love the consternation of grown-ups. The ne'er-do-well son of the old Republican family as president, the idea that you increase government revenue by cutting taxes, the idea that you cut social services and thereby drive the needy into the middle class, the idea that you overthrow a dictator with a show of force and achieve democracy at no cost to yourself -- one stink bomb after another, and now Gov. Palin.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Buffett stacks his nuclear deals

That master of the long view, Warren Buffett, has invested in a couple of nuclear power plays, GE-Hitachi and Areva-Constellation Energy.