Archive for the ‘Health’ Category
“Late last year, biologists looking for cave cockroaches accidentally discovered a dodo skeleton in the highlands of Mauritius.”
I love that line, do scientists live exciting lives or what? Yes, the dodo may live again. Scientists hope to extract the DNA from dodo bones discovered deep in a cave. The dodo was a flightless bird that lived on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. (A modern reconstruction is pictured above.) They went extinct within 80 years of human settlement on the island. They were basically a big flightless pigeon, dogs and rats made short work of them. They were also good eating, which didn’t help their cause any. And now, because of a lucky discovery by cockroach studying scientists, efforts to recreate the dodo may yield…dodos. With any lucky, dodo drumsticks coming soon to a Safeway® near you, who says science has no practical applications?
Actually, while dodo DNA may teach us a great deal about this bird, there’s no plans to recreate it anytime soon. Jurassic Park type science fiction aside, recreating extinct life from old DNA soups is still a ways down the road. These dodo bones should yield well preserved DNA, caves are usually dry and at a constant temperature, good for preserving things. The dodo in question has posthumously been named Fred. Fred fell down a hole in a cave and couldn’t get out. A common problem as I discovered myself while exploring old mine shafts in Nevada in my youth. It was not unusual to find mummified or skeletonized animals at the bottom of mines, it was kind of creepy actually.
Moving right along, I thought I’d check into and report on efforts to clone extinct animals. So far the only practical applications in this field is the cloning of rare and endangered animals. There’s been one success so far, a gaur was cloned, a rare Asian antelope. It died though, and there have been no further successes. Efforts are under way though to clone rare animals, such as a desperate attempt to save a species of turtle. Even if none of these efforts succeeds soon, at the least the DNA is being properly preserved so that when the engineering of cloning advances, we will have the DNA to clone from.
Degraded DNA is is why cloned dinosaurs and such are unlikely, it really doesn’t seem very likely that DNA can be preserved that long. The one attempt being made to recreate an “extinct” animal is an effort to recreate a breed of goat that the last one recently died, its DNA being carefully preserved before it passed on. Right now cloning is being used to clone individual high value animals, like prize bulls or beloved pets. It is poised to be used to clone animals that will enter the human food supply, at least in the USA it may soon be possible to eat cloned meat. I guess that’s OK, but still, do we really need to do this?
It gets worse. Aside from cloning animals, there’s other weirder stuff being done with this technology. Science has succeeded in cloning mice and pigs over many “generations” thus bringing closer the day when animals can be used to grow human organs. This isn’t new news, but for example I just heard that scientists have succeeding in making mice with functioning human brain cells. An animal with parts of two different animals was a mythical idea called a chimera. Now we can literally make animals out of the parts of different animals in the lab.
Including humans, as in this case with the mice with human brain cells. Um, gee, correct if I’m wrong, but isn’t this awfully close to creating a human mouse hybrid? I mean, we don’t think brain cells are self aware or have consciousness, but nonetheless these are functioning human stem cells living inside a mouse’s brain. Just using animals to grow human organs creeps me out, mice with human brain cells kinda scares me. I can see how this would aid in the study of human health, but still, I can also see why many people have ethical qualms about it.
And of course the obvious question, will mice with human brain cells be smarter than humans? I wonder if the fact we are actually conducting these Frankenstein type experiments says the answer is no. Going to be an interesting century, “leave your ethical qualms at the door” seems to be a recurring theme so far.
(A tip of the hat to Living Journey for alerting me to the mouse story.)
(“Ballista at the wikipedia project, the creator of the above image, hereby grants permission to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled “GNU Free Documentation License.”)
Some time back I wrote a post where I discussed some aspects of personal identity and how it relates to genetics and gender. A story in the news recently made me think about our personality, is that who we are? And how fragile it apparently is in some cases. A gentleman left his home to walk his dogs last fall. A few hours later his dogs wandered home, but Joe Beiger was nowhere to be found. For twenty five days he wandered the streets of Dallas, apparently with no knowledge of who he was or where he lived.
Then he was spotted by someone who knew him, and after a few minutes conversation his memory began to return. He was returned home, 20 lbs lighter and badly in need of a shave, but within a few hours his normal memory returned…right up to the moment he wandered away. Months later he still has essentially no memories of what he did while he wandered the streets.
Diagnosed with an extremely rare condition called dissociative fugue, Joe now carries a phone with a GPS locater should he wander off again. Science has no idea what causes this or other types of amnesia, though stress or psychological conflict of some sort is strongly suspected. Obviously anything could have happened to him as he wandered away, in fact it makes me wonder how many people who disappear or wander aimlessly into traffic have suffered something like this.
There was a case in CA where a person who just entered a dissociative fugue was discovered in her car at the side of the road. She was alternatively completely unresponsive or extremely combative when two policemen approached her car stopped at the side of a busy freeway. She was taken into custody as a suspected drunk, and when she woke up in a cell the next morning she had no idea who or where she was. Suspected of faking amnesia initially, she was fairly quickly diagnosed as having suffered a dissociative fugue. If the two policemen had not found her when they did she would likely have eventually wandered into an emergency room as such folks often do. Or she would have moved to another town, picked a new name, and started a new life.
Hollywood has really made a mess of retrograde amnesia. Cases like the above two are extremely rare, but they do happen. Sometimes they are triggered by some sort of stress, and often there are previous minor incidents of amnesia in the sufferer’s life. Sometimes they are triggered by a minor head injury. A bump on the head and you’re a new person, your skills and memories intact, but no knowledge of who you are or your personal history. And unlike Hollywood, they person in question does not always miraculously recover their lost memory after another bump on the head or exposure to their friends and family, sometimes they don’t recover it at all.
This is why I always buckle up or hold the hand rail as appropriate. One life and one personality is plenty for me, I have no desire to start over. There was a nineteenth century case where an amnesia sufferer was found years after he disappeared, living in another state with a new name and a new family. He was terribly upset when discovered, he didn’t know what to believe. On his death bed, his last words were, “Please tell me, who am I, really?”
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and it is central to illustrating the post. Credit: © Frederic Bonn / la modern association – 2000-2005 at Look at Me.)
I have been wandering around pro-war sites and marvelling at some of the stuff I read, it must be nice to be absolutely sure of yourself. If the wars had gone the way the war advocates had confidently predicted, I’d have changed my tune. I wonder how bad it has to get before war advocates will admit that the invasions might have been a mistake? Though to be honest most of them from the get-go would not acknowledge even the possibility they might be in error. If one’s basic premise is that one s always right, it’s easy to find the evidence needed to support one’s beliefs. Actually, belief has transformed into faith at that point. Still, for the sake of discussion, here is some of my current thinking. I welcome attempts to change my mind, criticism is encouraged. In no particular order a few aspects of the wars I have been pondering. Some inspired by my visits to war advocacy sites, some just from my general ramblings.
The Cost of War. Thousands of dead Americans, tens of thousands of wounded Americans, hundreds of thousands of damaged Americans. Yes, nearly two hundred thousand Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans have already applied for disability. That’s about one out of four. In most Hollywood movies the good guys return home from the war and rest on their laurels and live happily ever after. In the real world, war is a sick unhealthy life shattering experience that leaves many of its participants with permanent scars, mental and and/or physical. These disability costs alone are going to cost us 1-2 trillion dollars, on top of the 500 billion the wars have already cost.
One has to wonder, what in the name of God was Saddam going to do to us that would cost us trillions of dollars, kill and maim thousands of Americans, and leave hundreds of thousands of Americans permanently damaged? I don’t see any way Saddam could have done that kind of damage to the USA, so quite literally the cure is worse than the disease. Not to mention that the idea that Saddam was plotting to attack the USA assumes that Saddam was planning on committing personal and national suicide, the USA would have turned Iraq into a molten parking lot in response to such an attack. Saddam was evil, not stupid.
Are Iran and Syria supporting the insurgents? Possibly, wouldn’t anyone in the same position? If Iran conquered Mexico and Canada, the US would sure as hell send arms to insurgents. The extreme position here, that Iran and or Syria are responsible for or causing the insurgency is silly. Insurgencies cannot survive without significant popular support. Blaming problems on “outside agitators” is a slick way of avoiding critical self analysis. Our enemies are going to do what they can to foil us, getting in a high dudgeon about this is like complaining about the rain. Give me a break. We put ourselves in this position, we need to figure out how to get out of it.
Iran will invade Iraq if the USA withdraws? I’ve seen it confidently stated that “of course” Iran will invade southern Iraq if the US pulls out. On the one hand, people that claim they can predict the future with near certainty have a very poor track record historically. In fact for the argument to be valid the basic premise is that the only reason Iran doesn’t invade Iraq is the US presence in the country. Such a simplistic premise strikes me as prima facie absurd, the world is a far more complex place than that and the USA is by no means the arbiter of reality.
On the second hand, here’s a few other things that make the “Iran will invade” conjecture very hard to support. For one thing, it’s not clear that the Iranian military has the logistical structure to support a large scale foreign adventure, such things are very expensive and only a few of the world’s industrial countries have the resources to sustain such operations. Even if they did invade, that would give the USA the green light to bomb Iran at will, destroying much of the country’s infrastructure and military capability at terrible cost to Iran. What could they gain that would be worth that? The most important reason though is that Iran has no need to invade southern Iraq, they have worked very hard for two decades to forge good relations with their fellow Shiites. An independent Shiite southern Iraq or an independent Shiite dominated Iraq would be Iran’s willing ally. In other words, the idea that Iran will invade Iraq is like claiming that the US will invade England, in a word, it’s silly. It’s not even clear that the Iranian’s are evil, and they’re certainly not stupid.
The US will attack Iran soon? Well, there are still rumours that a US attack on Iran is “imminent.” My current guess is that if it doesn’t happen this spring or sumer, it’s not going to happen. For more than anyone ever wanted to know about this subject check out: Target Iran. At this point I’m hoping that no attack will take place, it’s hard to imagine what the USA would get from such an operation, in all likelihood it would make the situation worse both domestically and internationally. Still, sometimes people do really risky things, especially when they convince themselves there are no other options. My guess is that if an attack is made, it will have some very clear and obvious trigger in order to rally support for the war. A Tonkin Gulf incident or some such. So if someday soon the headlines are hysterically screaming that Iran attacked a US ship or seized US hostages, a US attack on Iran is imminent.
Will Iran Attack the USA? While I don’t think it’s likely, some have even postulated that Iran might decide to launch a preemptive war on USA forces in the region. The war gamers have been worried about this for awhile, and war gamers have an annoying habit of being frighteningly accurate sometimes. Some of the greatest military debacles in history were preceded by war gamers telling generals that their plans were flawed…and being overruled by generals who “knew better.” It’s a scary thought, the loss of even one USA carrier would severely weaken the USA’s ability to project force overseas, the loss of more than one would be a catastrophe. Not to mention it would be the start to a vastly wider war, and widespread wars never turn out the way people predict, so I’m not even going to try.
And if an Iranian preemptive war against the USA does happen, George W Bush is the one who deployed the USA military within striking distance of Iran and has been sabre rattling since he took office. In fact no matter what happens in the middle east the next few years, I hope that the American people remember that the USA voluntarily and unilaterally decided to deploy our forces in the region. We set up the playing board, if an enemy spots a weakness in our deployment and exploits it, the people who moved our pieces are the ones responsible for what happens to them. How can it be otherwise?
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is central to illustrating the post and it is not being used for profit. Credit: Pentagon. This is a government photograph that was released to the public in response to a FOIA request.)
BRITNEY SPEARS ANNOUNCES ENGAGEMENT TO DON IMUS, BUSH ACTIVATES TWENTY THOUSAND RESERVE JOURNALISTS TO COVER THE EVENT. Plus: Tony Blair Resigns
Closer than we think?
What, you thought the laid back schoolbook style of the last few posts was going to continue? Meh, I just needed a break from all the excitement. If I get too involved in my subject matter, I get upset, then my cats suffer. And when my cats suffer, I suffer. Mine recently demonstrated once again that they are the master race, and we are but their lowly servants. I am redecorating my apartment and a litter box got removed from one room, now that the cats aren’t being segregated anymore, it had to go. In its place I temporarily stashed a clothes hamper. My little darlings didn’t miss a beat, they simply started using the clothes hamper as a litter box. Sigh.
No, she’s not, the title is a joke. With Britney though, anything is possible. Moving right along, in science, there’s been some very interesting and quite possibly macabre and disturbing news on the medical research front. Everyone knows that when the heart stops beating, one “dies.” More importantly, if the heart isn’t restarted within a few minutes, the brain cells and heart cells start to die and that’s all she wrote. Well, turns out that it just isn’t so. The cells in question live for an hour or longer without oxygen. If however they are re-oxygenated, then they die.
So what does this means? It means a number of things. The first is that if a way can be found to re-oxygenate the cells without killing them, it may be possible to revive people an hour or longer after clinical death. (And people who have already been revived after being underwater an hour or longer prove the concept is quite viable.) This research could also lead to ways to artificially induce a “death like” coma where people could have their heart stopped long periods for surgical procedures. It’s pretty exciting really, and there are already practical applications being researched along these lines.
However, and the article linked above doesn’t cover this, there are some macabre and ethical aspects if this technology becomes widely available. Could a murder or accident victim’s brain be”revived” to answer questions about what happened? What of there was no chance of actually restoring them to life, say someone had been beheaded? Would it be ethical to “revive” their severed head so it could answer questions? Creepy, and hopefully aways down the road, but maybe the living heads in a bottle of Futurama are closer than we thought.
In another promised story, the brightest supernova ever observed by man is exciting astronomers and scientists world wide. It’s a previously theorized but never before seen type of supernova that can only occur in stars a hundred as massive or more than the sun. The supernova, SN 2006gy, is about 150 times as massive as the sun. Stars like these are rare indeed, the most massive star in our galaxy is Eta Carinae, only 100 to 120 times as massive as the sun. Now SN 2006gy isn’t visible to the naked eye, being 240 million light years away in anther galaxy. Eta Carinae is a mere 7400 light years away, and if it goes supernova (as some signs indicate it may do someday) it will be visible enough to see during the daytime, and bright enough to read by at night. It even poses an infinitesimal danger to Earth if it spews a gamma ray burst our way, but one is more likely to die from ferret attack on a golf course, so I wouldn’t be too concerned.
In England, Prime Minster Tony Blair announced his resignation. This is called “getting out while the going is good.” Thus Bush is losing his only real ally in the Iraq debacle, he can’t be thrilled to get the news. And speaking of Iraq, the bloodbath continues, but there are interesting developments. That’s for tomorrow’s blog.
(The above screen capture of the Futurama show is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, it’s central to illustrating the post, it’s scaled down and rendered in grey scale, and it’s properly attributed. Credit: 20th Century Fox Television.)
Volcano on Io. Credit: NASA
The top main stream news story today was about a certain radio announcer defending his racist name calling as “irreverent” and “controversial.” I think he’s one sick f**k and am not going to use his name or link to him in any way. I think the whole “shock jock” and related phenomena where “commentators” engage in name calling in order to titillate people and get ratings is disgusting. That people are getting paid big bucks for behaviour that is basically stupid grade school bully talk is a sad commentary on our times. So enough main stream news for today, here’s a science round up:
Natural Opening Surgery. Well, just what it sounds like. Doctors are experimenting, and succeeding, with new procedures that involved surgery via the body’s natural openings. Brain tumours removed through the nose, the appendix removed through the mouth. While on the one hand it sounds creepy, in actuality it is more natural and much easier on the body than cutting through skin and flesh to get to the surgical site. It still involves some slicing and dicing, but interior flesh has fewer nerves and heals better with less pain than surface tissue. Someday virtually all surgery will be performed through the body’s natural openings. All of them, it’s best not to think about it too much. And yes, the surgeons have to use long skinny surgical tools.
A Roman gladiator’s graveyard has been excavated in Turkey. This discovery has led to new insights into the lives and deaths of gladiators in ancient Rome. Gladiators were the sports stars of their day, successful ones retired after a few years in the ring to lives of wealth and acclaim. Unsuccessful ones died in the arena. While gladiators were slaves, they also were for the most part volunteers, since it was a shot at freedom if you were touch and strong. It was a pretty nasty business though, imagine if some players died in every pro football game. Yikes.
Good news for Mars explorers. Turns out there’s a lot more ice on the planet than had been imagined, all below the surface. It is also becoming clear that Mars has a lot more going on in the water department than was realized, and a lot of that ice turns to water and gas periodically. Mars has a more eccentric orbit than earth so it undergoes more extreme heating and cooling cycles. And of course, our understanding of the planet is in its infancy and many more discoveries lie ahead. In fact, NASA is thinking ahead about some of the unpleasant possibilities that a manned Mars mission might entail.
Speaking of NASA, they just released new images taken by the New Horizons Probe as it flew past Jupiter. In fact the probe flew closer to Jupiter than any probe before and captured stunning images of the giant planet. I love how scientists make full use of every probe that is sent out into space, in this case the probe is on its way to Pluto, but swinging past Jupiter to pick up speed it is both testing it’s cameras and instruments and providing us with stunning new data that scientists will study for years. Another curious tidbit is that the probe took about a year to get to Jupiter, where it will speed up considerably, yet it will take another seven years to get to Pluto! This illustrates nicely just how incredibly far away the outer planets are.
And in some final science news, a new experiment in quantum physics research has yielded some odd results. The results are so strange that some scientists are suggesting that they indicate that reality doesn’t exist when we aren’t looking at it. I’m not going to go into the details, because I don’t understand quantum physics. No one does, that’s the problem. In a nutshell, the science of quantum physics has proved that reality as we know it is more than just a giant three dimensional clockwork mechanism. Beyond that it gets sketchy for lesser minds such as mine to understand; suffice it to say that someday this research may lead to faster computers, instantaneous communication no matter what the distance (a big boon for space exploration,) and maybe even more exotic possibilities like transporters and wormholes a la Star Trek.
Not yet though, I still have to take a bus to work this morning. G’day everyone.
(The above NASA image is being used in accordance with NASA guidelines. Here is another cool picture of a volcano on Io.)
Well, when the author of a blog named “Doug’s Darkworld” gets depressed, pretty good bet the posts aren’t going to be filled with lightness and mirth. I’m depressed. Brace yourselves. These are various sad and depressing things I have found on line and in the news recently. From a depressing point of view. Just one day of this, I promise, then we can get back to all the fun in Iraq and elsewhere.
Gamma Ray Bursts. Ever hear of gamma ray bursts? When certain types of star collapse, apparently they concentrate radiation into two giant jets and spray them across the galaxy like a billion Star Trek phasers from hell. Recently it was thought Earth was safe from this sort of unpleasantness, new studies indicate we might not be safe after all. It has seriously been suggested that gamma ray bursts are the reason we don’t see aliens flying around, because most planets get sterilized by gamma ray bursts every few hundred million years, and life simply doesn’t have time to evolve intelligence. Earth has just been very very lucky. On the plus side, the odds of this happening in our lifetimes is extremely low, we wouldn’t see it coming, there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it, and it would be over fairly quickly. There, I feel better already.
Stock Markets Continue Slide. World stock markets have continued to slump going into a second week. This is not a good thing, though it’s not a disaster yet. Personally I believe the “global economy,” IE economies based on the shipment of resources and materials willy-nilly (instead of encouraging as much local production as possible) is a recipe for disaster in the long run. Is the long predicted global economic meltdown underway? I hope not, but time will tell.
China Gets Pumped. China has announced a huge increase in its military spending. This is both depressing and amusing at the same time. It’s depressing because arms races have a nasty tendency to lead to wars sooner or later. It’s funny because it shows once again just how stupid the American policy of trying to maintain absolute global military superiority is. At a very modest cost, and even by the highest estimates China’s military spending is nowhere near that of Americas, the Chinese both dramatically improve their military…and force the US to spend fabulous amounts of money it doesn’t have to stay ahead of China! Heck, the US is going to have to borrow money from China to do this! And since we know the Bush administration couldn’t modify their “strategy” under any circumstances, China can be sure that like Pavlov’s dogs, the USA will now spend itself even further into debt buying exotic military gadgets.
Troubling Stories. And just in case readers got the impression from yesterday’s blog that problems with health care for veterans was limited to one Army hospital…they’re not. There are problems across the board in veteran’s health care as Bush has privatized it and generally ignored the problems. Thank God this story is finally getting out, the veterans of Bush’s wars are finally realizing just how hollow Bush’s “support our troops” mewling really is. Now can we start talking about impeachment?
There, I’m glad that’s out of my system. I hope everyone had a great weekend, or at least a better one than mine. Snarl.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. Credit © copyright: 121hypnosis.)
Supporting the troops Bush Administration style: “Some do not properly understand the need to communicate to the wounded and their families that we have no higher priority than their care.”
Walter Reed Hospital in 1919.
The current scandal at the US Army Walter Reed hospital defies description. Listen to this quote again by the Secretary of Defense: “Some do not properly understand the need to communicate to the wounded and their families that we have no higher priority than their care.” Excuse me? This is a matter of communication? If the Bush Administration actually had no higher priority than the care of veteran’s health, there would be no need to communicate anything with anybody. This is yet another stunning example of the Bush administration in action: All spin, no traction.
And just so I don’t get accused of blowing this out of proportion, what is Bush’s reaction to the scandal? He will appoint a bi-partisan commission to investigate the quality of military health services. It takes a commission to determine that hospital rooms with rat feces, dead cockroaches, and mold are fucked up? There’s nothing to investigate, Bush is the commander in chief, he needs to order the Army to fix this. That his response is yet ever more politics is a symptom of how he has attacked every failure of his administration. That, and throwing yet more money at corrupt contractors.
For that appears to be in a nutshell what has gone on at Walter Reed. Bush privatized it at the beginning of his administration, threw buckets of money at a Haliburton spin-off, who promptly replaced all sorts of experienced staff with new inexperienced (cheap) hires. More experienced staff quit in disgust. And the situation has declined for years, in fact health care declined throughout the Veterans Administration while their budget doubled. This is no way to run a health care system for American heroes. Hell, it’s no way to run a war. But that’s a story for another blog.
Even if Bush does manage to fix this, it never should have happened in the first place. Hundreds of billions ostensibly spent to prevent terror, and he can’t prevent rats and cockroaches from invading our largest and most important Veteran’s hospital? Yeah, this is the man who people think is defending America. Jesus wept.
Here are some bipartisan links to the mess at Walter Reed:
Bloomberg.com: Walter Reed care spawns probes, political attacks
Forbes.cm: Army secretary resigns in scandal’s wake
Political Affairs.net: Privatization behind disaster at Walter Reed hospital
This upsets me to no end. The Bush administration has never seemed to place our soldier’s and veteran’s health and safety in very high regard. Hell, in 2005 a Pentagon spokesman even said that “…the cost of veterans’ benefits was “hurtful” to national security.” No, what is hurtful to national security is the Bush Administration.
(The above image pre-dates 1927 and is considered public domain under US copyright law.)
Today I am going to comment on Conservapedia. Fair warning, this is going to be like shooting fish in a barrel with a grenade launcher. What can I say, I’m feeling lazy this morning and tired of trying to explain the complicated nuances of history, war, and foreign policy. Hell, I’m still trying to understand the complicated nuances of history, war, and foreign policy; there’s times when not being a biblical literalist is a real drag. History, war and foreign policy is easy for them apparently, certainly nothing complicated or nuanced. And fortunately, now biblical literalists can avoid all of the complicated nuances inherent in reality. Conservapedia has arrived, the “Christian” answer to Wikipedia. Yes, Wikipedia apparently is a godless liberal bastion, filled with the sort of dangerous misinformation that many conservatives home school their children to avoid exposing them too.
Now as a codicil, when talking about conservatives and Conservapedia, I am talking about a very small group of people (Dear God, I hope it’s a small group of people) who take the Bible literally and pretty much reject everything that came after Newton. In fact I’m still not entirely convinced that Conservapedia isn’t some sort of elaborate hoax or satire. Like the frequently tasteless Landover Baptist Church for example. Also note that Conservapedia apparently has bandwidth problems, often their site can’t be accessed. If one can get onto it, it’s curious. Their entries are nothing if not concise, this is not Wikipedia yet. For example, the entire entry on feminism reads “Feminism is the philosophy that women deserve to have the same rights as men.”
Their page on “Examples of Bias in Wikipedia” pretty much covers it. They object to the occasional use of B.C.E. and C.E. instead of B.C. and A.D., easily the most pointless controversy in history. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Good, there’s times where ignorance is the better strategy. They claim that Wikipedia doesn’t give enough credit to Christianity. Credit for what isn’t specified, so, um, maybe. Their third objection is about a purported liberal attack against some conservative group I have never heard of. So I stand corrected, there is a controversy more meaningless than the B.C. thing. They then claim there is a strong anti-American and Anti-capitalism bias in Wikipedia. Heck if I know, most Wikipedia entries look somewhat neutral to me, which is why I link to it frequently.
Then, we get to objection number five. Wikipedia, get this, Wikipedia sometimes uses foreign spelling. And by this I mean, they use English spelling in some places. And even more shocking, Wikipedia frequently uses the foreign spelling of foreign words! This is of course a sign of anti-American bias, and fear not, Conservapedia uses American spelling throughout! I mean, give me an effing break, because I use Canadian spelling on my blog, now I’m anti-American? In any event, check them out if interested, I’m not going any further.
For those who do want a more nuanced view of war, history, and foreign affairs, there’s a great interview in Alternet today that I highly recommend: Chomsky on Why Bush Does Diplomacy Mafia Style. The title of course is annoying, and highlights something that always bugs me, people often phrase things in such a way that is discourages the readers who most need to read it. And by most need to read it, I mean people with diametrically opposing views. Because if we can’t dialogue with the people on the other side of the fence, everyone loses in the long run. I know I’m guilty of it too sometimes, but at least I’m trying to write in such a way that anyone of any political/religious stripe can read my work and not be offended. Or not so offended that they can’t grit their teeth and carry on. I read the Drudge Report, so dammit, Drudge Report readers should be able to read Doug’s Darkworld.
Moving right along, the article covers in detail numerous subjects and lines of thought that I have either blogged about, or will blog about. Korea, Iran, the purpose of American foreign policy, why our leaders aren’t actually interested in democracy either in America or foreign lands. When reading it, keep in mind they are talking primarily about every American administration since WW2, if not the entire 20th century. This is not an attack on Republicans in general, snarky remarks about Bush aside.
It’s especially curious near the end when it makes the case that we will get universal health care in the USA soon. Why? Because the American health care system has grown so costly and inefficient that it is now acting as a serious drag on other industries. Because health care costs are ultimately paid by employers whether directly or not, that’s where people get their money to buy health insurance from. The cost to build a car is about $1000 less in Canada because of this difference. It’s an interesting take on the problem, one I definitely plan to blog about. Again though, read the whole article, if you dare.
(The above is an image of the author’s cat SnowBee: the world’s fastest orange cat. It was taken by an amateur photographer with the world’s cheapest digital camera, it is public domain and may be freely copied and distributed. Please note his fine stripes, he is particularly proud of them. In fact, SnowBee is eagerly awaiting some mail order stripe enhancer, this will make him run even faster.)
Bush claims that the the proposed congressional vote to stop his “surge” plan could signal the world that the USA is divided about the war in Iraq. More specifically, Tony Snow, White House spokesman said “Does this send a signal that the United States is divided on the key element of success in Iraq?” Um, is the White House unaware that the rest of the world long ago figured out that there is opposition to the war in the US? Seriously, is that what they think? This is just such a bizarre narcissistic take on reality that it is hard for me to fathom.
It should be noted that in regard to Bush’s “surge,” Congress is spinning its wheels and making a lot of noise. Bush can send troops anywhere he wants in Iraq. Congress abrogated its responsibility for declaring war decades ago, other than that they are limited to budgeting the war. And so far they have given Bush a blank check, unless they are seriously proposing cutting off funding for the war, anything Congress does is just so much meaningless noise. Not entirely true, they have given Bush a blank credit card, not only has Congress let Bush have his war, they are letting our grandchildren pay for it. And these are the loyal opposition? As far as I can tell, none of the Demoslugs could take an opposing viewpoint if their life depended on it .
For example, Congress quietly gave control of the National Militia to the president last October. For over two hundred years state governors were in command of their state’s national guard in time of natural disaster or other emergency. No more, in another disturbing case of power concentrating in Washington, one of the last real examples of states’ rights in the Republic is gone. Speaking of the National Guard, they have shortages of helicopters to deal with the terrible storms that struck the USA this winter. Why? Because they are in Iraq. Far from defending the nation, Bush and Congress have made the nation far more vulnerable with their foreign crusades.
In other pessimistic news, the doomsday clock has been reset two minutes closer to midnight. It’s as close as it’s ever been now, though they cheated by adding global warming as a threat. Originally the Doomsday Clock just reflected the fear of nuclear annihilation. Now it includes other threats. On the one hand, doomsday hasn’t arrived yet. Still, pessimistic scientists don’t fill me with confidence.
There is some good news in the world. Scientists have begun implanting microchips in cats to cure them of hereditary blindness. This is good for cats, and since it may eventually lead to treatments for blind people, good for us too. I’m not the biggest fan of animal testing, but this seems destined to help both animals and people, so I hope the researchers are conducting their experiment with all due diligence in regards to avoiding cruelty.
Oh well, strange days. Still, cats can see better even as the White House retreats further from reality. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. It came from Avatar Farm.)
I’m tired of all the war and violence posts, heck, I’m tired of all the war and violence period. Plus my charming cats kept me up all night, so I think I’ll see if there’s any good news making the rounds this morning. Something, anything to cheer me up. Considering the news lately, this will be a challenge, but with enough coffee all things are possible.
There’s been some positive signs in Israel/Palestine. Most parties have agreed to a cease fire, time will tell whether or not this one holds. Still, any talks and any attempt to reduce the tit-for-tat violence has to be a good thing.
A male birth control pill has been developed that will allow men to take a pill a few hours before sex and have no lasting effects, IE it wears off by the next day. I can confidently predict that other than making some money for the pharmaceutical industry, this will have no other consequence. Responsible people already take appropriate precautions to avoid unwanted pregnancy, irresponsible people aren’t going to magically become responsible because a pill is available. Still, it’s a good thing, more birth control options are always a boon. Lastly, this pill is a spin-off from research into drugs that treat schizophrenia. I’m sure that means something, but I’d rather not speculate.
Um, Pope Benedict has gone several weeks without putting his foot in his mouth. (OK, scraping the bottom of the barrel here, there just simply isn’t a whole lot of good news in the headlines today.) He is travelling to Turkey this week, and people are already protesting his trip, so he will have ample opportunity to stir up trouble with ill considered remarks. In my opinion, if Benedict does manage to “innocently” say something that offends millions of Muslims on this trip, it’s a going to be damn hard to explain away. My fear is that a heckler will bean Benedict with a Turkish pastry, and he will go into a tirade a la Kramer or Mel Gibson. By nightfall half of Europe will be burning, while NATO and America gear up for “Operation Find the Pope’s Head.”
Moving right along, a spectacular pre-Inca tomb complex has been found in Northern Peru. The breadth and depth of known human history just keeps expanding. When I was a kid it was all so much simpler. Fertile crescent, Egypt, Greeks, Rome, Dark Ages, Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Voila: blissful modern times with the world neatly divided up into the civilized Europeans and Americans, and everyone else who was catching up to our high standards as we blessed them with “independence” and the wonders of western culture. Even at the time I had a little trouble with the likes of Nixon and Gilligan’s Island being the pinnacle of human civilization, but still, it was a simple and satisfying world history for a privileged white kid who didn’t want to use his brain.
Since then many ugly interactions with reality have forced me to use my brain as something other than a shock absorber, and I know now that human history is a lot richer and more complex than I dreamed when I was a kid. Heck, it’s even possible now to publicly admit that maybe there is more to world history than the history of what white male Europeans and Americans were doing. At least in some parts. On the other hand, human history is still remarkably simple in some ways. Some thousands of years ago a guy picked up a rock and realised he could use it to bash the head of his annoying neighbour. The idea spread like wildfire. And here we are today, the end result of all that head bashing…Doug’s Darkworld!
One final bit of good news, science is very close to developing a pill that will lessen the mental anguish of painful and traumatic experiences. A pill to forget so to speak. Like washing the bad taste out of one’s mouth, now people will be able to wash the bad parts of memories out of their brains. If they make enough of these pills, everyone will be able to read my blog in comfort and safety! Heck, Maybe I’ll be able to watch Bush give a speech without his smirk and tortured English burning holes in my grey matter. Just kidding, no pill in the universe could do that. And truth be told, I’m starting to feel sorry for the guy.
(The above Doug’s Darkworld image Copyright © 2006, Doug Stych, all rights reserved. Image created using Terragen landscape generation software, Terragen software may be used free as long as generated images are not used for profit.)