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    • Review of “Descarte’s Error” by Antonio Damasio
      This book is a bit long in the tooth now, having been published in 95.  The role it suggests for emotion in the use of reason is, in generalities, no longer controversial. But it was a landmark book for me, when I read it, and it’s still relevant and worth reading. There’s been a LOT […]
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Autumn Melange.

Happy Fall, everyone!

The best autumn song anywhere is from the infamous John Coltrane/Johnny Hartman album that reviewers described as “aural sex”.

The lyrics are lovely:

Through the trees comes autumn with her serenade.

Melodies the sweetest music ever played.

Autumn kisses we knew are beautiful souvenirs.

As I pause to recall the leaves seem to fall like tears.

Silver stars were clinging to an autumn sky.

Love was ours until October wandered by.

Let the years come and go,

I’ll still feel the glow that time can not fade

When I hear that lovely autumn serenade.


Speaking of sex, wonkette has a review of a recent paper by University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus that claims that “liberal women are lustier”.

Yeah. So??

Wonkette makes mincemeat out of Rod Dreher’s reaction in The American Conservative:

He thinks this is some incredibly hot stuff, because Regnerus explains that for liberals, politics and sexxytimes have become inextricably intertwined:

“With regard to sex and sexuality in America, being politically liberal tends to mean valuing sexual expression as a good-in-itself, not only as a means to an end or contingent on the context (such as being in a relationship or being married). Talk of “sexual health” is also more common among them and typically takes acts of sexual expression for granted. In this perspective, it is a moral good to express one’s sexuality in actions of one’s own free choosing. Pleasure is reached for and should be. In keeping with this, liberal women are more than twice as likely as conservative women to report past-week and past-day masturbation.”

Gosh, He makes it sound like a *bad* thing.

Wait a sec, back up. What the heck does THIS mean?

“valuing sexual expression as a good-in-itself, not only as a means to an end or contingent on the context (such as being in a relationship or being married).”

What? Is Dreher suggesting that sex is a “good” that can be used as a “means to an end” in some transactional manner to acquire another “good” or “goods”, and that transfer of this good is “contingent” on the receipt of a distinctly identifiable pair bonding arrangement?

Isn’t that perilously close to saying that sex should be withheld until payment has been made in a manner not unlike prostitution? And then what? Because if it is, it completely negates the premise of Dreher’s next argument:

Even worse, liberal women have given up on God, and in fact are unable to even find any meaning in their children, because all they ever think about is sex, and maybe old Sparks songs. Dreher apparently was worried about too much blockquoting in a single brief article (honestly, the thing is virtually all text from Regnerus, plus Dreher exclaiming “I NORITE?”) so this time he photographed the passage he liked:

image: https://img.wonkette.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Regnerus-sanctifying-daily-life.jpg

If you don’t have God in your life, then of course the only substitute is orgasms, and that’s all you find meaning in, you empty, empty husks of people. Oh, sure, you may pretend you love your kids and careers and little kittens and find them fulfilling, but really, you’re just an orgasm addict.

Ultimately, the real reason young women are fucking so much more and enjoying it less is only partially that they’ve been seduced by the wiles of liberalism, but that they’ve lost God, their way, their virginity, and their own sense of special-ness. Really! The numbers can’t possibly lie.

In other words, we are all just empty hedonistic orgasm junkies who cannot transcend our meaningless existences.

Prostitution for attaining some societal/religious approval = good. Sex for love of your partner without transactional expectations = BAAAAD!! Bad, No biscuit for you!!

Stop laughing, these people are serious.

This is not the post to go into a discussion about the merits of valuing and cherishing your existence, and that of your partner for the precious and fleeting things that they are, vs playing by some arbitrary rules in the hopes of making it to some inconclusive afterlife. Anyway, you certainly do not need to believe in god for the former and there is no guarantee of transcendent fulfillment with the latter, just ask your average Mormon housewife. But that is the argument that Dreher is trying to make.

Read the whole thing but don’t bother with the paper. It’s just stating the obvious. Liberal women are hot and conservative women …?


Speaking of papers, Derek Lowe of In the Pipeline wrote a post about a paper studying the evolution of molecules. That’s like the missing link of natural selection. How did all those elements form DNA and proteins, Miss Smartypants drug designer, can you answer me that?? No, no, you can’t. Therefore, god did a Samantha Stevens nose twitch and magicked Adam and Eve into existence. See?? You can’t prove ANYTHING!!

I’ve given up trying to explain evolution to the thought stopped.

But that hasn’t stopped Derek from giving it a try:

That’s a pretty hard question to answer, since we’re looking at a billion years of evolutionary tinkering, driven by all sorts of random craziness and a willingness to run with anything at all that works. But here’s a new paper from a team at the University of Chicago that tries to address the question empirically. They’d previously worked out a plausible sequence for the ancestral steroid receptor, from whence all the others have descended. It’s selective for the estrogen-response-element in DNA, so that was the original mode of action. Way back when, three particular mutations in the DNA recognition region of the protein sent some of them down the track for selectivity to the steroid-response-element (including androgen response elements and others), which is still the major divide in the mechanistic details of the whole family.

In this paper, the group systematically examines mutations at those three key sites (and one adjacent one that also varies in the superfamily). A library of all 160,000 mutants was prepared, and they used yeast fluorescent reporter assays to figure out the DNA binding and transcriptional competency of the whole shebang. As an aside, I really love modern molecular biology and chemical biology, because you can actually do experiments like this – just make every single one of the mutant proteins, test them all, sequence the ones that you find interesting, and nail down the answer. It’s not easy, and it’s not an afternoon’s work, but I well remember the days when a proposal like this would have been considered dangerously wasteful and stupid.

Actually, he’s preaching to the converted. He gives a pretty good overview of the paper but if you’re so inclined you can read the paper in Nature!

Oh wait, no you can’t. Because it’s behind a pay wall and they aren’t letting you read anything beyond the abstract for less than $199 for the subscription to Nature. It used to be you could read a single paper for some highway robbery price ($33/copy, IIRC). But they’ve gotten even more reclusive and demanding these days.

Of course, you could read the pirated version at some Russian journal aggregation site. You *COULD* but it would be wrong. Not cardinal sin wrong, like watching Pornhub on your phone, but someone might have to say a few Hail Marys to get you out of purgatory.

You have been warned.


Pm317 pointed me to a new podcast from Preet Bharara called Stay Tuned! Bharara was the NY Attorney General who was unceremoniously fired by President Dotard Trump for doing his job.

I already subscribed because I am a podcast junkie. {{hanging head in shame}}. I can stop whenever I want.

I just don’t want.

His first episode has just been posted. Let’s give him a listen, shall we?


Music to Lunch by

It’s another perfect day in Market Square.

Shake your peaches.

Friday: Bushed.


The Medicaid Directors of all 50 states issued this statement in opposition to the Graham-Cassidy “healthcare” bill:

So, you know, there’s that…


This tweet is from John Fetterman, Mayor of Braddock, PA:

Ever been to Braddock? Fancy a trip there soon?

*wink, wink, nudge, nudge*


BiFF sent this headline today:

Price and DeVos Using Private Flights to Keep Out of the Swamp

More on this topic from Stephen Colbert:


BiFF also found this “correction” from the Glorious Democratic Peoples Republic President’s press office in NoKo:

The DPRK would like to apologize for calling the US president a “dotard”. The term was inappropriate and unintentional, resulting from poor performance of US-made Google translate softwares. A corrected statement is issued below:

I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US fucktard with fire!

It probably sounded cooler when “Rocket Man” said it in North Korean.


The autumnal equinox occurs today at 4:02pm. Summer was a little confused in Pittsburgh. We had a relatively cool August and we’re about to have a heatwave for the next several days where temperatures will be close to 90 or above. Yeah, that’s cold in Arizona but it’s hot here. Fortunately, the humidity will be low so my hair won’t look like I stuck a finger in a light socket.

Time to say farewell to summer for this year:

The summer smiles, the summer knows

And unashamed she sheds her clothes,

The summer smoothes the restless sky

And lovingly she warms the sand

On which you lie

The summer knows, the summer’s wise,

She sees the doubts within your eyes

And so she takes her summertime

Tells the moon to wait and the sun to linger

Twists the world round her summer finger

Lets you see the wonder of it all

And if you’ve learned your lesson well

There’s little more for her to tell

One last caress

It’s time to dress

For Fall.


There’s a Harvest Moon event at the Carnegie Museum tonight. Jazz and exhibition ballroom dancing is advertised. Thinking of going. This means I will have to dress in something other than jeans. It’s out of my comfort zone in public these days. I have a pair of dance shoes and a tango skirt with a beaded hem that I haven’t worn in 15 years. It will feel weird. Someone talk me into going. Believe it or not, public events freak me out.

Thursday: ARGHHH!!!

There’s just too much news going on this week. It’s hard to know what to pay attention to.

I suspect that if you’re in the Caribbean or Mexico, it’s the natural disasters. Puerto Rico lost 100% of its power during Maria and by all accounts, the island is devastated. So are the US Virgin Islands.

You can help Puerto Rico and Mexico through Stephen Colbert’s page at Late Night with Stephen Colbert.

I don’t think tourism is going to help anytime soon. They need money to rebuild and for basic survival needs right now.


These two items are both so important it’s hard to know which should go first.

Ok, lets start with Paul Manafort. It turns out that the FBI had a warrant to bug him before he even became Trump’s campaign manager.

Just think about that for a second. That means that the Feds knew that there was something going on between Russia and the Trump campaign in July 2016. Did we hear about this investigation from Comey?? No, we did not. Instead, we got some stupid letter about some inconsequential email on Anthony Weiner’s laptop that *might* have come from Hillary Clinton. And that made all the difference in a race that was already tight due to journalistic pile on and fascination with shiny objects like an orange reality TV show habitually lying pussy grabber.

Robert Mueller is now asking for everything related to the crafting of the Russian orphans excuse letter for Donald Trump Jr.

And Facebook is going to turn over the details of 3000 campaign ads that were bought by the Russians to Congress .

Meanwhile, the Graham-Cassidy bill to dismantle healthcare as we know it is hurtling towards a September 30 deadline. Greg Sargent says the bill may be ruled invalid in a crucial part because it isn’t relevant to the reconciliation process. (I see you have My Eyes Glaze Over syndrome. Never mind) The bottom line is that states may get reduced funds through the block grant formula AND still be beholden to certain features of the ACA, such as covering all pre-existing conditions without the ability to heartlessly charge very sick patients more money. So it’s the worst of both worlds.

Over at The Weeds, health policy expert Sarah Kliff and Ezra Klein discuss just how messed up this bill is and just how much time Mitch McConell will allow discussion of it. I think it’s something like 45 seconds per side. No you did not read that wrong. Ezra and Sarah spent more time discussing this bill in public than your senator will. This podcast episode is definitely worth a listen. Sarah breaks this down brilliantly.


And after Trump threatened to blow NoKo to smithereens, he’s now just going to impose economic sanctions.

That’s it? What are we going to do? Impose a tariff on their swank status consumer electronics industry? Prohibit their movies from being exported to the local Cinemark? Really???

It’s not like they make delicious raw milk cheese and fine wines. They can’t even grow enough rice for themselves.

{{rolling eyes}}

No one is going to take anything he says seriously. He’s completely dickless.


I’m headed for the bus stop. Normally I wear my sunglasses and check out the populace. But I left them in the car today.

So I shall squint.

It’s a bright sunshiney day.

Tiramisu for Breakfast

It’s sweet, delicious and loaded with caffeine.

Trying a new perfume sample this morning. It has coffee notes in it. Smells like Angel for men but nicer and softer, not cloyingly sweet.


The quake in Mexico City has left hundreds dead and comes only a couple of weeks after the strongest quake they’ve ever had. One witness says it feels like “God is angry with us”.

There was something about the picture of the scene of people digging through rubble that reminded me of this:

That art is from the 14th century during the Black Death. After losing 1/4 of its population (conservative estimate), Europe was also convinced that God was angry with it and that the end of the world was coming. Of course, it was also dealing with war and famine brought on by the mini ice age so it had reason to be afraid.

But the world didn’t end, in spite of the fact that humanity was far more traumatized than we are today. Most of our traumas are caused by our inhumanity towards each other.

The world is indeed a scary place. But bad things don’t last forever.


That being said, keep your eyes open for any opportunity to assist with hurricane relief. We can’t control the weather but we can help with the aftermath.


Lindsay Graham admits that his new healthcare proposal would severely cut healthcare spending in the major big blue states CA, NJ, NY and MA, and would redistribute the money to states like Mississippi, which turned down Medicaid dollars when it was offered to them in 2014 and would now see a 900% increase in Medicaid spending.

Neat trick! Take money away from some elite west or east coast liberal kid with asthma or epilepsy and give it to some poor red neck in Mississippi who thinks his Republican governor will be doing him a favor after making him suffer needlessly for 3 years.

Nooo, this isn’t socialism where we take from people according to their abilities and give to people according to their needs. This is more like taxation without representation because the blue states most grievously affected by this bill already send far more in taxes to Washington than they get back. They’re already subsidizing the welfare of the stingy red states.

But why waste an opportunity to poke California and New York with a sharp stick in the eye, which will now go untreated?

Well, that certainly didn’t help.

Donald Trump promises to

to ‘totally destroy North Korea’ and calls Kim Jong Un ‘Rocket Man’

No, I’m not really worried. If it looks like he’s going to do something completely insane, I trust that there will be Republicans who will invoke the 25th Amendment or a Jaime Lannister on the Secret Service will give him a fake nuclear football and a joystick to a video game written especially for him that makes it look like he turned North Korea into a glass parking lot and unlocks another level.

Wait, better not unlock the next level. Baron might unintentionally clue him in.

Anyway, the stupid Graham-Cassidy Bill to repeal Obamacare needs immediate attention. Susan Collins says this version is worse than the last one, if that’s even possible.

The repeal thing is like the Walking Dead. What it really needs is an ice pick.

Call your Senators.

Aha! The reason this stupid healthcare bill is coming back to eat our brainz is because the big GOP donors have closed their checkbooks until it and draconian tax reform is taken care of. Yep, they’ll just find the primaries of even crazier people than the ones we currently have in office.

I guess they can get crazier. I just can’t imagine how. Call it my failure to imaginate. My delicate east coast elite sensibilities can’t go there.


Trump makes Kim Jong Un cool.

Yeah, imagine this guy as 420 friendly:

It could happen.

Donald will never be cool.

This one’s for BiFF (who may or may not have moments of coolness. I’m not saying.)

$400,000,000 and Hungary

Hillary recently was recently interviewed by Anderson Cooper about her book. When they turned their attention to 2018, Clinton sounded the alarm. The Koch brothers are planning to dump $400,000,000 into the 2018 elections.

That’s a lot of money for guys who keep screaming that their taxes are too high. They’re using their already considerable tax breaks to fund elections.

And at this point, we should all be asking why if tax cuts are not that important to them.

She mentioned why they’re so intent on winning next year. They want a Constitutional Convention. Don’t laugh. They only need to control 34 state legislatures in order to do it. That’s what all the money is for.

And what is it they want? They want to limit the size of government. Do you know what they mean by that? Next time you hear a Republican have verbal diarrhea about limiting government or reducing the size of government, be sure to get them on record about EXACTLY what they mean. Do they want to roll back Social Security and Medicare? What part of labor protections do they find offensive to their eyes? How much DO they want business to be in charge of our lives? What about net neutrality? Pin them down.

A lot of conservatives want to eliminate the separation between church and state. That may be ok with you now but what if you’re a Catholic and suddenly only Calvinists get the seal of approval? Or what if you’re a baptist and you find that your tax dollars are now supporting Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility Catholic school? What if your celebration of the winter solstice is denied by your local municipality but there’s now a cross with Jesus on its lawn during Easter? What about gay people and women? Will there be laws restricting their ability to work, get credit or control their bodies?
What about Habeus Corpus, Rights against illegal search and seizure, Rights of Attainder, freedom of speech and all the other bulwarks against the bad aspects of 17th century English monarchical reign?

We’d better think long and hard about that. Because other countries, like Hungary, didn’t see it coming. This is what happened when the ruling party achieved their critical mass:

What are the main provisions contained in the amendments?

One provision limits the power of the Constitutional Court and removes its right to strike out any laws that have already been enshrined in the constitution. Another lowers the retirement age for judges – a measure that critics say is designed to weed out non-pliable magistrates.

In the field of the media, there is an article restricting election campaigning to state media alone. Critics say that this will curb freedom of expression.

Several other provisions have been criticised as curtailing civil liberties. These include a requirement for students who have received state grants to stay and work in Hungary for a certain period of time after graduating, or pay back the cost of their tuition to the state.

Another article says that preference should be given to traditional (ie heterosexual) family relationships, and says that marriage and the parent-child relationship form the basis of the traditional family.

Why was the government able to introduce such sweeping changes?

In the 2010 election, a conservative coalition consisting of Mr Orban’s Fidesz party and the Christian Democratic People’s Party won two-thirds of the seats in parliament, and this powerful majority has made it possible for the governing parties to push through several pieces of controversial legislation.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard about this right wing extremist wet dream. It sounds laughable until you realize just how close they’ve already come to accomplishing this goal. Check out this map of where the ideological right already has control of both houses on the state.

They’re very goal oriented and they have lots of money. They’re almost there. Oh, sure, they’d have the power to do it but would they actually do it?

Hey, this is the party that effectively stole a Supreme Court nominee. Of course they would do it. It’s what they live for. They can’t wait to turn a couple more state legislatures red.

I have no idea why they can’t achieve their goals through the amendment process but apparently amendments are not what they want. They want to tinker with the constitution itself.

You’ve got to wonder what it is they want to accomplish? What is it about America as it is and their abilities to accumulate vast tracts of wealth that they find so offensive?

Why do the Koch brothers and their allies hate freedom so much? After all, they have the power to leave any time they like. Why don’t they go but Macedonia or something and move there – permanently?

Ask questions. Because you can be sure they’re going to feed the less attentive voters a bunch of lies and whip them up to an emotional frenzy about corrupt judges and sanctuary cities and the romanticization of the fetus and motherhood.

Don’t say you weren’t warned. Get involved in your local politics and make sure you know what’s going on.