Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Mysteries of Sleep

So, this piece on the insomnia of baby dolphins leads me to point out something I've thought about a lot. Sleep is weird.

We spend roughly a third of our lives asleep, we go crazy if we can't sleep, but we haven't got a clue why we need to sleep at all! When you look at the biological basics, we understand the functional purpose of a lot of the biggies--we know why we get hungry and eat, why we need to breathe, why we have sex...but sleep? Nobody knows .

I find this a very exciting thing. The fact that we don't understand sleep at all suggests that there is a huge breakthrough in scientific knowledge or theory to be made--something as earthshattering as quantum mechanics, or the discovery of the microscopic world. We have plenty of data points on sleep, but we simply have no understanding of the functional purpose of the phenomenon. I suspect that once we are able to understand sleep, we will also be able to understand a lot of other things--many forms of mental illness, the biology underlying emotional states and affecting social interaction, etc.

Anyway, it's nice every once in a while to look out the window and marvel at all the undiscovered country. Rock on, baby dolphins!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The CIA also believes in the Javits theory...

About a month ago, I made the argument that Iraq's porous borders mean that Iraq isn't flypaper, where all the world's terrorists go in, get stuck and die--it's a convention center, where they go in, get training, and then leave to wreak havoc elsewhere.

It appears the CIA agrees that this observation is correct.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Food Police Found!

This has got to be the funniest thing I've read in months. It includes the priceless quote, "Be very cautious and skeptical of door-to-door sales of meat or seafood."

Update: The AG got his conviction! Go food police, go!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

And, um, who exactly ARE the food police?

I'll admit it--I had to stop reading today's NY Times, because the cognitive dissonance in so many articles damn near made my head explode. Josh Marshall links to a gadflyer analysis of the flagship disgrace, an article speculating on the impact that increasing longevity may have on Social Security's solvency, an article that fails to mention even once that this is not a recent observation and Social Security has already (and always has) factored in increased longevity in its solvency projections.

But the article that made me throw down my Times in disgust was Melanie Warner's love letter to lobbyist Rick Berman. Entitled "Striking Back at the Food Police," the article details the struggle of Berman, a lone David struggling against the mighty Goliath of the Organized and Impressively Funded food nazi bridages.

Here are some interesting things I learned from this article. If one negotiated on behalf of Bethlehem Steel and campaigned against a minimum wage increase, one can be described as having "buil[t] a career working on labor issues." If a company markets unhealthy food the same way that Phillip Morris marketed tobacco, lying to the consumer about its health effects and attempting to create confusion about the evidence, the real bad guys are: "trial lawyers [who] are circling and are starting to turn food into the new tobacco." If one says something on a scientific issue that is either factually inaccurate or tangential and blatantly tendentious, one's argument will be met with the gentle retort that "these are useful points" and "many scientists question whether [this particular point] really matters," and the debate will be framed thusly: "Amid the claims and counterclaims, Mr. Berman and his opponents duke it out, taking sides on major questions about obesity..."

The gentleness of her response to Berman is striking in light of the fact that some people in the scientific community are arguing that obesity will lead to a decrease in life expectancy in the coming years.

This is like reading articles on climate change, in which the arguments of Exxon-Mobil's lobbyist are credulously parroted and the scientific community is all still up in the air about whether humans are having an impact on the climate.

Seriously, I am thinking of starting up a Flat Earth lobbying shop/think tank, becuase I think the coverage would be hilarious: "theorajones points out that Magellan's circumnavigation means little, as much of 17th century science has been discredited. 'My opponents want to go back to the era of wooden ships and candles, but we believe in progress.' Many scientists agree that the 17th Century had wooden ships and candles..."

What was the point of this article? And could someone please tell me who the hell these food police are? All I see is an industry hack and a bunch of non-profit do-gooders, scientists, and impartial government employees. You'd think a reporter would ask "hey, those food police you keep railing against, they with the 25th or what?"

Friday, June 10, 2005

Beat Your Wife to Death? $50 and Time Served!

Via Bobo's world, a guy in Oklahoma who apparently beat his wife to death has been charged with "a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of $3,000 or both."

In Texas we get a story about a guy who beat the crap out of his pregnant girlfriend until she miscarried, and the focus of the article (as Amanda points out) is abortion, specifically the politics and legality of abortion. It even asks why Erica would choose to have her boyfriend beat the crap out of her instead of getting a legal abortion, and suggests the answer is that she was in denial about her pregnancy and that this is common in teen girls. Becuase apparently, the salient issue isn't the fact that we have a teenager in a violent, abusive relationship that did her such physical harm that she miscarried--no, the real issue here is abortion rights and the wacky things that crazy teenage pregnant girls do!

See, where the Oklahoma woman went wrong was in getting old and not being pregnant when she let her husband beat her to death. Becuase, you know, if he'd hurt the fetus inside her, then we'd have a crime! But without a fetus in her...she's just a worthless empty cunt, I guess.

FBI Catches Major Suspects! (don't read the fine print)

Yesterday's Headline:
Father and Son Held in California are Tied to Al Quaeda Camp

Today's Headline:
Affidavit Changed in Terrorism Accusation

Ah. Our strategy in the War on Terror apcontinues to be a roundup of little fish and non-fish, with lots of triumphant press releases (and torture!) but not much in the way of actual productive investigation.

I feel safe.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

So, who trained 'em to disassemble? My god, the FBI!

"I'm aware of the Amnesty International report, and it's absurd...We've investigated every single complaint against the detainees. It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of -- and the allegations -- by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble [sic] -- that means not tell the truth. And so it was an absurd report. It just is." --George Bush (emphasis mine)
Plausible, yes? The enemies of America train their followers to lie and therefore we should not believe it when prisoners claim they were tortured. Ah, but then there's this:
The first public claims of U.S. torture at Guantanamo Bay were made by three Britons from Tipton, England. Shafiq Rasul, 27, and Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed, both 22, were released without charge in March under pressure from the British government. In August, they and their lawyers presented a 115-page report on their treatment, likening it to the abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The Britons said they were beaten, shackled in painful positions, left in extreme temperatures and forcibly injected with unknown drugs while held for more than two years. At that time, the U.S. military denied the Tipton men's allegations.

Which sort of makes me confused. I mean, if these guys were important enough to our enemies to get counter-interrogation training, then why the hell did we release them?

And perhaps more importantly, there were FBI reports of abuses that FBI agents personally witnessed at Guantanamo, as well as clear indications that there was more going on that they didn't see firsthand. Should I believe that our FBI has been infiltrated by the enemies of America who are training our agents to disassemble? And if this is true, shouldn't the president be launching an investigation? Maybe he can find someone who will give him a list of known disassemblers...