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Democrats in La-La Land

Update: For all you balletomanes, Anaheim Ballet is currently hosting the Anaheim International Dance Festival.  AIDF attracts some of ballet’s leading dancers, including dancers from ABT and San Francsisco Ballet.  In about an hour, Anaheim Ballet will start livestreaming some of their workshops.  You can catch the workshops here.


The opening paragraphs of this NYTimes piece on the Democrats possible response to Romney’s choice of Ryan as his running mate are priceless:

The selection of Representative Paul D. Ryan as the Republican vice-presidential candidate provides President Obama with something he has been eagerly looking for — a bigger target.

A race that has revolved, at least in part, around each month’s mediocre jobs report and Mr. Obama’s persistent failure to move unemployment below 8 percent will now allow Democrats new lines of attack — starting with the assertion that Republicans are intent on dismantling Medicare — while setting off a larger debate about the role of government in the economy and society.

For Mr. Obama, that seems more promising territory, a chance to press the offensive against his challengers rather than just defend his record. Instead of a referendum on his own performance, the president has an opening to turn the election into a referendum on the vision that Mr. Ryan has advanced and Mitt Romney has adopted.

The sentence in bold is the funniest thing I’ve read all year. Obama wouldn’t be in this predicament if he’d actually made life better for the people who were screwed by the bankers’ gambling addiction.  Successful presidents defend successful records successfully.  Or, put it another way, “Luck favors the prepared mind”.  Or “If you study consistently, you won’t have to cram”.  Or “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”.

Second term elections are always a referendum on the president’s record.  It’s like a performance evaluation.  This year, Obama’s record will get even more scrutiny. So, what the media is suggesting is that by defining himself as the champion of the social safety net, Obama can cover up his dismal performance in creating the necessary policies to help put people back to work. That’s like assuming that you can use your verbal gifts on your section of the evaluation form and fool your boss into ignoring the fact that your major project is 48 months behind schedule and needs a complete overhaul.  If it were *slightly* behind and you hadn’t lost your major project contributors through poor planning, maybe you could squeak by in the middle of the pack.  But when your project is the one that was expected to keep the company going for a couple of decades, and everyone can read the progress reports, “baffling with bullshit” looks like a losing proposition.

In any case, if changing the subject is what the Times is recommending, that’s a little like falling right into the trap that the Republicans have set for Obama. By defending the extra spending that has pushed up the deficit, Obama will be calling attention to the fact that so many people are out of work.  Rather than obfuscating his shitty performance, he’s going to be shining a big spotlight on it.

Not only that but he’s perfectly OK with slashing that social safety net.  Slashing is easy; presidentin’ is hard. If he plunges into haggling over what to slash and we’re subjected to two months of mindnumbing details about COLA calculations, he could keep the spotlight off of his record.  It could be like two long months of debates over kerning and san serif fonts.  But in the end, it will still be Ugly and Son of Ugly slashing the deficit, imposing austerity on innocent bystanders and in way that will result in a more depressed economy, which will throw more people out of work, and so on and so on.  So, you know, there’s that.

But wait! There’s more:

That strategy may put Mr. Obama, a self-declared agent of hope and change four years ago, in the awkward position of seeming to be the defender of a status quo that is not working, or at least not working well enough. He risks having Republicans seize the mantle of reform that he used so skillfully in 2008 by contrasting his stay-the-course incumbent’s message with the youthful Mr. Ryan’s energetic willingness to tear up the old order and reinvent it for troubled times.

What??  I think the talking points from the political operatives have mutated themselves into insensibility.  I have no idea what that paragraph is supposed to mean.  It’s like that famous sentence by Noam Chomsky, “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”.  Grammatically, it’s correct and even descriptive but it’s still a collection of words in a sentence with no meaning.  Is he trying to say that Mr. Cool’s “hope and Change!™” defense of the status quo is going to have to go head to head with “ADHD” Ryan’s youthful offensive for pro-old rich white guys’ wet dreams?  You’d almost think that there are no actual people or voters with any vested interest in the outcome.

Hokay, it must be tough to be a reporter these days.

Anyway, I’ve got better things to do with my time today.  It’s going to be a nice day.  Why bother trying to sort through all of the silly political kabuki this year?  It’s hard to hide a f^*( up of these proportions.  Everyone at this point knows what’s going on and who’s zoomin’ who.  I’d rather be gardening.

Here’s a video I found accidentally last night that makes me wish I had taken up nature photography as a profession.  It’s from the BBC program Planet Earth.  I’ll bet it will look really good in Google Glasses:

30 Responses

  1. Or, to put it a bit differently,

    “by defining himself as the champion of the social safety net, Obama can cover up his work to destroy the social safety net.”

  2. I live in Ohio so I get see all the political ads repeatedly (yippee-not). Romney is running a clip of Obama saying, in 2008, that if he couldn’t cut the deficit in half in four years that he deserved to be a one-term president. I remember thinking at the time that Obama must have started to believe his own con.

    It’s time for him to keep at least one of his campaign promises and step aside.

    • Agree. Of course, that would be a win for us and totally not what the GOP wants.
      But I do find it encouraging that both parties are campaigning in battleground states. It means the voting machines aren’t completely fixed yet and the voters do still count. We ought to take advantage of that this year because who knows what will happen in 2014

  3. That BBC clip made me think of The Extreme Ice Survey project . . . which is using time super-lapse photography from fixed position cameras overlooking various major glaciers to photo-document the Big Melt.http://www.extremeicesurvey.org/

    And speaking of nature, I was out looking at my cornplants this morning before work. A fair number of them are tasseling. Well! . . . I saw a “bumble”bee gathering pollen from one of the tassels. Then I looked around and saw collectively at all the different tassels at once . . . about 6 or so honeybees gathering pollen. So bees do gather corn pollen. Now IF a batch of GMO Bt corn were planted and IF that corn expressed the Bt toxin IN the pollen grains and IF bees were to gather that pollen, would they be poisoned by it? I don’t know that it ever happened. But I now know that it is theoretically possible IF every domino in the line of dominos were to fall just right. Could those left wing people you once referrenced as accusing GMO corn of killing bees have read a theoretical explanation of how it COULD happen in THEORY? Or did they read of actual incidents of it actually happening? I don’t know. I don’t know if they ( those left wing people) know.

    But I see exactly how it could happen in theory. One hopes the GMO corngineers study every corn for that problem before release.

    • I know you’re talking about the unforeseen spread of genes generally, and it’s a valid point. Scientists don’t know everything and especially corporations need to remember that. Scientists are usually fairly aware of it.

      But about the Bt specifically. It’s based on a bacterial substance that affects peculiarities of some insect digestive tracts. The bee killing potential has been studied, and, so far, nobody can find any. Other problems, especially broad spectrum biocides, are a much bigger problem for bees. Like dozens of times bigger.

      • Good. One less thing to have to worry about for real, then.

        What I had recently read is that a lot of CCD problems are traceable
        to Bayer’s neonicotinoid insecticide whose name I forget. How so? What I read is that the chemical is mixed into a multipurpose pelleting-coating which is deposited onto-around each corn kernel. The neonic is absorbed through the corn-plant roots and spread throughout the corn plant. It is “excreted” through the pollen which bees may eat. This is suspected to be a problem pathway by which the neonic gets to the bees. I have seen this “excretion” of absorbed neonic from the seed pelletization coating mis-referred to as “expression”. That could be a source of some mental confusion problems on the part of some people just lately.

        Now . . . if feral bee colonies are seen to be collapsing in huge areas of National Forest where no neonics are used, then those collapses must be due to some other cause or causes.

        • Expression usually refers to the manufacturing of a particular protein or other substance within the cell. We can induce expression in the cell by applying certain chemicals. In the lab, we can insert a gene into an expression system, like e coli, using a plasmid which has a small snip of a gene called a lac promoter. When the number of ecoli in the flask reaches an optimum population, a chemical is added to the flask that will turn the lac promoter on and the ecoli will express the protein that was engineered into the plasmid.

          • That’s what I had vaguely thought, though in nowhere near so much detail. So at least I basically understood the technically correct usage of the term “expression” in this context, and its difference from “excretion” as in “excretion” of neonics picked up from the seed-pelletization-material.
            And it sounds like a fairly fine-grained level of control is possible with these e. coli cultures.

          • I’ve only worked with e coli and insect cells but there are many different expression systems. You can get plant and animal cells to express just about anything. Not only that but you can change their ribosomes. Mammalian cells express slowly but accurately for mammalian genes. But let’s say you want to speed things up and express a mammalian protein in a e coli. You could use an ecoli with an engineered ribosome and use a synthetic gene. Because nucleotide triplets coding for amino acids are redundant for some amino acids, based on the what is native to the expression system, you could use a ribosome that is optimized to express a synthetic gene. Now we’re really getting kinky with interspecies organelles. It’s pretty interesting stuff. Personally, I think biologists are getting ahead of themselves. The possibilities are so mind blowing with pieces parts and swapping ribosomes in and out and synthetic genes that there’s bound to be surprises.
            You can get plant cells to express mammalian proteins, goats to express spider silk, ecoli to express cancer proteins. Amazing, awesome and a little bit scary. Like a roller coaster.

          • Excretion comes after expression. Sometimes, the cells package up the protein or substance and send them to the cell surface. Sometimes, you have to break the cells open and collect the protein, that’s the way it’s done with e coli and insect cells. We centrifuge the cells down from the growth medium, collect the cell pellet, resuspend it in buffer and then shatter the cell membrane with a sonicator. Then we centrifuge the suspension, discard the cell shells and save the liquid, called the supernatent. The supernatent has the protein you’re looking for and a bunch of other garbage from the inside of the cell. Usually, the gene that codes for the protein of interest is terminated with something called a HIS tag. This is a bunch of histidinees. Histidines are amino acids that coordinate with metals like iron and nickel. So the supernatent is purified by passing it through a column that contains nickel. Everything that doesn’t have a his tag passes through the column and the protein of interest sticks to it. Then when all of the garbage has passed through, the protein is released from the column with a wash. Then we check for purity with a process called gel electrophoresis. It’s a long process. It takes about 2-3 days with ecoli. For insect cells, the transfection step is a little different. The cells have to be infected with a virus that transfers the gene clone to the cell. Then it takes a while for the cells to grow and mature before they are harvested.

        • Imidacloprid is probably the broad-spectrum insecticide you’re thinking of. And, yes, it’s a doozy, and, yes, it’s been shown to be part of the cause of bee Colony Collapse Disorder.

          • Thank you. I can’t remember a name that long. I keep thinking of it as “Bayer’s neonic”. One would have hoped the beekeeper lobby and the bee-pollinated crops lobby and the honey lobby would have been strong enough to force Bayer’s neonic into a tiny corner of permission or all the way off the market altogether. But so far, no.

            Maybe if more people buy and eat more honey instead of other sweeteners, the beekeeper lobby and the honey lobby in particular might have more money to use for buying more power to use against
            the friends of Bayer neonic.

      • Thanks for that, Quixote. The “Gm corn kills bees” idea just won’t go away. You’re absolutely right that we need to proceed carefully but it’s a myth that the FDA doesn’t meticulously check this stuff before its released. You’d think we were all brewing batches of stuff in the lab with no oversight. Well, that’s somewhat true. But by the time we get to development stage, the safety checks have been applied to death.
        We might be mad scientists but we’re not crazy.

      • The studies I’ve read involve directly feeding Bt toxin to bees. However, we all know via study of invasive species that selectively introducing or deleting a species from the ecological environment can have profound effects. One possibility here is that removing corn worms via Bt affects the food chain to the extent that it increases the populations of parasites that directly affect bees? I haven’t found any ecological studies involving Bt, probably because what I’m saying may at least have some validity, so nobody wants to fund finding out for sure.

        But I eat my GMO corn like a good girl. It’s cheap, convenient, and sweeter, probably due to some other GMO mod that I don’t know about. I also like supporting my local and organic growers, but then I have to add a little sugar to my corn water to get the same sweetness as the grocery store corn :-D.

        • To the best of my limited knowledge, no SWEET corn varieties for direct human consumption have been subjected to the GMO treatment until just earlier this year. If my memory is correct, the sweetest of sweet corns you have eaten got that way through classical and neoclassical breeding methods. Johnny’s Selected Seeds of Maine gives a good overview of the different categories of sweet corn in their ink-on-paper catalog. They give a much sketchier view in their online catalog. I believe there are the “normal” sweet corns, the “sugary enhanced” sweet corns, and the “shrunken” (as in shrunken-kernel-when-dried) sweet corns. The Su and Sh series of sweet corns are not that much sweeter than the others at the moment of picking the ear off the stalk. But what they do is turn the sugar to starch in the post-harvest ear much slower, so the original sugar level is retained much longer.

          and what do you know, the supersweets (last of three entries) do start out sweeter than the others, as well as staying sweet a long time.

          I would expect the canned sweet corn currently in stores is the last remains of last year’s harvest. I don’t know that for a fact, but I plan to buy a hundred cans or so so that I can eat them down over time while I mull over the concept of buying GMO canned sweet corn in the future . . . or not.

          Perhaps a farmer at farmer’s market would be willing to tell you whether the sweet corn he/she is selling is a newly released GMO variety or one of the Traditional Conventional varieties. Perhaps he/she will just tell you the NAME of the variety and you can google up THAT NAME to see if it has been GMO’d or not. I might take that approach. OrGANic corn is pretty expensive and I have been satisfied with mainstream TradCon corn until now.

          I am purely hobby growing a Southern Mountain variety of corn called Hickory Cane. It can be eaten at the on-the-cob stage. It is 75% as sweet as the modern sweet corns but has a much richer deeper cornful taste and flavor, as well as being densely chewy.
          I am amateurisly trying to guide my seedline through selection to being able to perform in Southeast Michigan conditions.

  4. Gets excited listening to scientists.

    • The work Riverdaughter is in sounds almost analogous to making music . . . getting all the instruments to do just what is wanted.

      I wonder how much genetic knowledge has changed/advanced since I got a D in Intro Genetics 30-some years ago. I think I barely remember gel electrophoresis, for example. The mix of molecules suspended in a gel or on a gel they could travel through or over to different distances depending on how they responded to a persistent
      electric field applied.

      • 30 years ago? Oh boy. This is the text for introductory Cell Bio (Intro!): Lodisch et al., 2012, 973 pages. And that’s just the recent edition updated since 2007. Every three years you’ve got that much new to learn just to stay current with the basics. That’s how fast the field is moving.

      • 30 years ago? Oh boy. This is the text for introductory Cell Bio (intro!): Lodisch et al., 2012, 973 pages. And that’s just the edition updated since 2007. Every three years you’ve got that much new to learn just to stay current with the basics. That’s how fast the field is moving.

        • And I got a D at the time anyway.

          • How did you manage to get a D in genetics? That’s probably the easiest bio course I ever took.
            In any case, quixote is right, it’s impossible to keep up these days. Biology is exploding with more information than we can process.

  5. Democrats in Tra-La-La Land

    One banana, two banana, three banana, four
    Four bananas make a bunch and so do many more.
    Over hill and highway the banana buggies go
    Coming on to bring you the Banana Splits show

    Making up a mess of fun, Making up a mess of fun
    Lots of fun for everyone

    Tra la la, la la la la, tra la la, la la la la
    Tra la la, la la la la, tra la la, la la la la

  6. ( I have a comment in moderation. It seems like an inoffensive comment to me).

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