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Monday: Does anyone in the Democratic party know how to play this game???

Pathological prions crack the whip

Let’s recap the last couple of days:

  • Republicans get just about everything they ever wanted in tax cuts and then some.  They managed to get the president and most of the rest of the Democratic caucus to agree to extend tax cuts for the rich and stick all future Social Security recipients with the bill.  Check!
  • The Republicans have put the repeal of DADT on Obama’s desk to approve or reject.  This is after two years of Obama doing his best to fuck over the gay community, avoid doing ANYTHING on their behalf and using the justice department to actively oppose the rulings of federal judges.  And his brave opposition in the ace of overwhelming odds- oh, sorry, for his passivity in the face of overwhelming pressure, we are supposed to praise him and treat him like a frickin’ hero.  By the way, how did that Paycheck Fairness thing go that he worked so diligently for last month? Oh, yes, the Republicans blocked it.  The cloture vote failed by 2 votes, meaning it is OK to screw women and their families out of the additional income they are entitled to instead of giving it to them during a prolonged recession where the extra money could have been used to stimulate the economy.
  • After negotiating so well on the “tax cuts for the wealthy; misery for everyone else bill”, Obama and the Democrats fail to hold Republican feet to the fire to get them to ratify the new START treaty.

Brilliant.  Just Brilliant.

This is just so bad I can’t believe it happened.  Why didn’t they try, “If you don’t ratify START now, you get no tax cuts later”?  Actually, this thing kinda flew under the radar, didn’t it?  Well. except for the fact that the Big Dawg brought it up during his press conference- er, Obama’s press conference that he couldn’t be bothered to finish.  Remember the press conference where Clinton said passing the new START treaty was important?

The first two paragraphs of the article on the START treaty in the NYTimes must have been fun to write:

WASHINGTON — The top two Senate Republicans declared Sunday that they would vote against President Obama’s nuclear treaty with Russia as the bipartisan spirit of last week’s tax-cut deal devolved into a sharp battle over national security in the waning days of the session.

With some prominent Republicans angry over passage of legislation ending the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, the mood in the Senate turned increasingly divisive and Mr. Obama and Democratic lawmakers scrambled to hold together a coalition to approve the treaty.

So much Kabuki, so little face paint.

So, after the repeal of DADT passes the senate with a vote of 65-31, presumably with the aid of 8 Republican senators, the Republicans are going to throw a hissy fit.  Let’s be clear about this: if 5 Republicans broke ranks to vote with Democrats on DADT, it’s because the Republican leadership gave them permission to do it.  The repeal of DADT passed because REPUBLICANS wanted it to.

But what does their outrage over the passage really say?  That they are upholding the moral values of their segment of the country’s voters that objects to the possibility that gay soldiers *might* proposition straight soldiers and force them to take showers with them.  The remote possibility that someone straight might be hit on by someone gay while both are serving in the military was enough to deny gay men and women the right to serve their country and deprive them of any semblance of a normal family life.

It’s funny how the Republicans aren’t getting their knickers in a twist over the fact that female soldiers have to run a gauntlet of male gropers on their way to the latrine when they are deployed overseas.  This very real phenomenon is  just part of the package.  Women soldiers are expected to suck it up.  But straight guys have to have their feelings protected from fantasies of a phalanx of gay men gawking at them and feeling them up when they drop the soap.

In summary, Barry once again fails to make any argument to the American people as to why repeal of DADT is important.  He fails to fight for fairness for women as well.  He fails to get the best deal for the American people when it comes to our economic future, first by asking for too little in stimulus money last year and now by shafting them on their future Social Security benefits.  And finally, he fails to use whatever influence he has to get the new START treaty ratified.

You don’t have to be a Republican to be totally disgusted by Obama and the Congressional Democrats.  Their failure is going to become legendary.  Historians centuries from now will be puzzling over the ineptitude and passivity of the Democrats during this period of time.  This was a Congress and a party that had everything going for them in 2008 and they threw it all away for the $28,000 donations to the party apparatus from the wealthy and well connected during the 2008 election year.

I’m sorry but I am not going to praise incompetence.  What the Democrats have achieved by repealing DADT, which was the right thing to do, is that they have handed the Republicans a cudgel which will be used to bash them in the next election. They have failed to make the moral argument for fairness and equality.  Republicans thrive by using social issues to trick their voters to go to the polls to vote for their real agenda: making sure that the working class guy has no power to fight back against big business.  The Democrats have left us high and dry.

Podcast du jour: Digby and Susie Madrak got together last night and talked about the payroll tax cut and California libertarianism, among other things, on Virtually Speaking.  Try to ignore the references to “Teabaggers” and the gratuitous bashing of Sarah Palin.  They still don’t get it that they’re alienating the very voters they need to come over to our side.  Seriously, ladies, just stop.  You’re just digging a deeper hole.  Susie is pretty good on these shows.  Digby just talks too much.

In science, those of us interested in the mechanisms of protein folding have a new challenge.  It turns out that prions, those little bits of infectious protein that cause stuff like mad cow disease and Creutzfeld-Jacob disease, are capable of adapting to their hosts by changing their folds.

Prions, which are composed solely of protein, are classified by distinct strains, characterized by their incubation time and the disease they cause. In addition to BSE/mad cow disease in cattle, diseases caused by prions include scrapie in sheep, chronic wasting disease in deer, and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. Prions have the ability to reproduce, despite the fact that they contain no nucleic acid genome.

Mammalian cells normally produce cellular prion protein or PrPC. During infection, abnormal or misfolded protein — known as PrPSc — converts the normal host prion protein into its toxic form by changing its conformation or shape. The end-stage consists of large sheets (polymers) of these misfolded proteins, which causes massive tissue and cell damage.

“The infectious prion protein can fold in different ways, and depending on the fold, a different prion strain results,” Weissmann said. “As long as prions are maintained in the same host, they retain their characteristic fold, so that strains breed true.”

When prions multiply, however, that fold is not always reproduced correctly, so a prion population contains many variants, albeit at low levels.

The new study found that when a prion population is transferred to a different host, one of the variants may replicate faster — an evolutionary advantage — and become the dominant strain. This new population also contains variants, one of which may be selected over others when transferred to a different host.

“The result is that prions, although devoid of genetic material, behave similarly to viruses and other pathogens, in that they can mutate and undergo evolutionary selection,” Weissmann said. “They do it by changing their fold, while viruses incur changes in their nucleic acid sequence.”

Cue the Twilight Zone music.  Seriously disturbing.  On the other hand, a Republican prion jumping species would explain a lot of the current Democratic party weirdness…

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for a prion infection, like Mad Cow disease.  Usually, you have to get rid of the whole herd.

 

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Saturday: We’re in the basement

The B-52’s Legal Tender:
We’re in the basement, learning to print
All of it’s hot!
10-20-30 million ready to be spent
We’re stackin’ ’em against the wall
Those gangster presidents
Livin’ simple and trying to get by
But honey, prices have
shot through the sky
So I fixed up the basement with
What I was a-workin’ with
Stocked it full of jelly jars
And heavy equipment
We’re in the basement…
10-20-30 million dollars
Ready to be spent

Walk into the bank, try to pass that trash
Teller sees and says
“Uh-huh-that’s fresh as
grass.”
See the street pass under your feet
In time to buy the latest
model get-away Jeep

So I fixed up the basement with
What I was a-workin’ with
Stocked it full of jelly jars
And heavy equipment
We’re in the basement,
Learning to print
All of it’s hot
All counterfeit

I’m in the basement today trying to finish this sucker before the Superbowl tomorrow and Brook’s Birthday on Monday.  There’s a brandy new TV to pick up.  The old TV works just fine but I’m frequently forced to watch Josh and Drake for hours on end and I can’t take it anymore.  Brook now has an art studio and there are 3 packs of boxes in the car from Ikea with nifty cubbies for all her stuff that I can now get out of the living room.  But before that all goes in, there is flooring to put down and trim to paint.  I don’t know if I can face another brush and can of paint but I must have courage.

In the meantime, I’m still thinking about the impact of the Lilly Ledbetter act, that will allow women to sue for wage discrimination.  In order to make use of this law, you have to be able to prove that there has been wage discrimination in the first place.  But the disclosure provision wasn’t included in the Ledbetter Act.  It is included in the Paycheck Fairness Act, which took a dive.  SO, let’s recap:  You can sue provided you know you’ve been screwed.  But your employer has no obligation to let you see whether you’ve been screwed.  I guess you’ll just have to put on your sleuth hats and investigate whether your colleagues are living well or not.  For example, does your male colleague at your level have a stay at home wife when you can’t afford one?  (we *all* need a wife)  Is he taking vacations when you  take staycations?  How many new cars does he have?  Are you living in a townhouse while he lives in a single family dwelling?  Listen to him at lunch.  Does he complain about having to mow his big yard on the weekend?

Meanwhile, Alegre had an interesting statistic the other day.  For women such as myself who graduated from college in the mid 80’s, it is estimated that we lag our male colleagues by a cumulative amount of of ~$440,000.  I suspect this is the real reason the Paycheck Fairness Act didn’t get passed.  It was probably one of those “Oh, S%^&!” moments for American employers.  They’d be in a heap of trouble if they suddenly had to start paying that money.  But then again, paying women less and reducing pay disparity overtime by keeping men’s wage increases small has been a real hallmark of movement conservatism’s free capitalism.  Wages have been sort of stagnant since the mid-seventies when women started to enter the workforce in large numbers.  As this post points out (h/t lambert), the whole conservative argument boils down to one thing: keeping wages as low as possible.  Every conservative argument can be reduced to that goal like physics can be reduced to F=ma.

Heidi Li writes that it is time for a new emancipation movement focused on women.  After all, traditionally, by the time women get equality in any area, everyone else will have already preceded us.  So, why not just cut to the chase and emancipate women first and the rest will fall into line?  It’s stupid and frustrating that we even have to do this in the 21st century.  But the forces of feudalism never die seemingly.  It’s going to be another protracted struggle against greed and tyranny but getting women on an equal footing is going to have short and long term benefits for everyone.  And let’s face it: right now, “we’re in the basement”.