Monday, October 31, 2005

Swinging Pendulum

There is little that can be done to stop the establishment of a conservative Supreme Court. But actually I think that's a good thing in the long run. Just as the Bush administration has turned out to be the disaster we predicted, so would a conservative Supreme Court. If abortion rights (for example) become unbearably restricted, the political environment will reflect that in a backlash against the whole conservative ideology. Sometimes we have to experience a little adversity in order to appreciate the freedoms we have.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Losing the Wheels

Think about it. It's almost like a perfect storm is gathering over the White House and the Republican Congress. Indictments are coming for "senior White House officials", indictments have been handed down for the key leader in the House, an ill-advised war is going poorly, and the country's fiscal state gets more and more precarious. When this administration (hswib) came into power I knew we were headed for dark days. The only skill they had demonstrated was in winning elections (barely) but no skill at actually governing. I hoped with all my heart that the chicken would come home to roost before they were able to sneak out of town and indeed they have. Their downfall is not due to particular zealotry on the part of the opposition as much as it is on professionals doggedly pursuing their public duty. I can only hope that all this serves as an object lesson for future leaders. Short term compromises on integrity have long term negative consequences.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Biotech Cotton 8: Bugs 0

There's an important principle at work here.
"The key to Bt cotton's continued efficacy is the use of refuges -- patches of traditional cotton intermingled with the fields of Bt cotton.

The refuges ensure that the few pink bollworm moths that are resistant to Bt are most likely to mate with Bt-susceptible pink bollworm moths that grew up in the refuges. The offspring from such matings die when they eat Bt cotton.

In contrast, if all of Arizona's cotton was Bt cotton, only pink bollworm caterpillars that were resistant to the Bt toxin would survive. If resistant pink bollworm moths mated with each other, their offspring would be resistant and could feed on Bt cotton. Bt cotton would then become useless against pink bollworm."
It's the principle of integrating the new ways with the old ways. Use genetically engineered crops but keep plenty of non-engineered crops around to keep the selection pressure small on the pest population. It's like having a marine reserve so fish stocks will stay strong. Or preserving wilderness to maintain floral and faunal genetic diversity. It's almost like knowing how to live without utilities just in case.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Anti-Abortion Fallacy

From the FuturePundit:
"The human reproductive system produces a lot of genetically damaged embryos. Think about that. Two thirds of pregnancies end before women even know they are pregnant. Some additional percentage miscarry after a woman knows she's pregnant. Consider these facts in light of religious beliefs held by some that at the moment of conception a spirit is somehow attached to the fertilized egg. Does God attach spirits to all these fertilized eggs that are doomed to never attach to the uterus or that initially attach but fail due to genetic damage?

Consider this result in light of the recent work by Rudolf Jaenisch and Alexander Meissner at MIT's Whitehead Institute to create mouse embryos that can can not grow a placenta. This results in embryos that can not develop very far. Their goal is to find ways to develop embryonic stem cells that will not elicit as many objections from some religious folks. Nature (or God if you prefer) already generates lots of embryos that can not develop into humans. Likely most embryos created naturally lack that capacity. Doesn't that fact make the Jaenisch and Meissner approach more ethically acceptable?"

Friday, October 21, 2005

Rice Scientists Build World's First Single-molecule Car

This is really cool:
"Synthesis of the nanocars also produced major challenges. Tour's research group spent almost eight years perfecting the techniques used to make them. Much of the delay involved finding a way to attach the buckyball wheels without destroying the rest of the car. Palladium was used as a catalyst in the formation of the axle and chassis, and buckyballs had a tendency to shut down the palladium reactions, so finding the right method to attach the wheels involved a good bit of trial and error.

The Rice team has already followed up the nanocar work by designing a light-driven nanocar and a nanotruck that's capable of carrying a payload."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Where to go from here

Liberal Oasis breaks it down:
The Bush Administration has shot our credibility, and a change in leadership and approach is necessary to get it back.

From there, we can also talk about specific course corrections: Increasing the UN presence, getting Bush crony companies out and international companies in to improve the Iraqi infrastructure, a flexible timetable for full troop withdrawal, etc,

As the CIA Leak scandal shows, the Bushies were not honest about Iraq from the beginning. Their word is mud at home and abroad.

We need a foreign policy that is tough, moral and honest. The Republican Party has refused to provide it, Democrats can do better.

A Delicious Scenario

There is talk today that with Bolton aide, John Hannah, getting a target letter from Fitzgerald, the whole Plame thing is about to explode in the hands of key members of the administration. There are rumors that Cheney might resign and Rice could be appointed the new Veep. The problem I've always had with a Bush (hswib) impeachment is that it would leave us with Cheney. But if he goes it makes it open season in my book. Condy, in my opinion, is no less evil than the rest of the pack but at least she is smarter and her capacity for evil acts will restricted at least by the exclusion of stupid evil acts.

The Importance of the Plame Affair

What seems to get lost in the lust for blood (however delicious) is that the actions of the administration directly do get damage to the real war on terror. Not only are they ruthless in pursuing their political goals, they are incompetent when it comes to the good of the nation.
"Imagine, if you will, working in Damascus as a NOC and reading that the president's chief adviser had confirmed the identity of a NOC. As you push into middle age, wondering what happened to your life, the sudden realization that your own government threatens your safety might convince you to resign and go home. That would cost the United States an agent it had spent decades developing. You don't just pop a new agent in his place. That NOC's resignation could leave the United States blind at a critical moment in a key place. Should it turn out that Rove and Libby not only failed to protect Plame's identity but deliberately leaked it, it would be a blow to the heart of U.S. intelligence. If just one critical NOC pulled out and the United States went blind in one location, the damage could be substantial. At the very least, it is a risk the United States should not have to incur."

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Beginner's Campaign (post 10)

Some really good news to report this week. On Sunday, the local newspaper printed its endorsements for my race. Of me they said,"It would be better off to leave the seat empty than to elect this candidate." I wonder how often they have wanted to say that about a candidate but never really had the chance. This is great stuff! Then on Monday they published their feature article about my race in particular. I got a headline! "Unorthodox candidate challenges incumbent" How 'bout them apples. The buzz is beginning to get back to me. Some reported that a local radio station had keyed off the Herald article and had mentioned me on the air. Others dropped by my office and asked if guy described in the paper was really me. Thank you Nathan Isaacs (the reporter) wherever you are. My daughter has even had people come up to her at work and ask about me. After laboring (sort of) in obscurity thus far things are really beginning to break for me. This is the kind of thing I had really hoped for. If I get some street signs out now I think I can maximize this thing.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Round 1 goes to Evolution

The first of many, I'm sure.
"Devastating" early drafts of a controversial book recommended as reading at a US high school reveal how the word “creationism” had been later swapped for “intelligent design”, a landmark US trial scrutinising the teaching of ID heard on Wednesday.

The early drafts of the book Of Pandas and People, were used as evidence to link the book to creationism, which it is illegal to teach in government-funded US schools.