Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Sign 357 of the Apocalypse?

Hypoallergenic, Genetically Engineered Cats To Be Sold

Cats To Cost $3,500 In U.S., $10,000 In Japan

POSTED: 8:46 am EDT October 27, 2004

LOS ANGELES -- The biotechnology revolution is shaking up the pet world.

You may soon be able to thank genetic engineering for a cat that won't make you sneeze.

Simon Brodie, president of ALLERCA, said his company is developing a British Short Hair breed of cats that will be nearly free of allergy-causing proteins that plague millions of people. Brodie said his company hopes to perfect its engineering technique by 2007.

"The allergen-free cat, will be a significant new alternative to the traditional treatment of cat allergies given that it eliminates the allergen at its source. People who have lived without the companionship of a household pet because of their allergies will now be able to have a pet of their own without the associated risks and costs of allergy treatments," Brodie said. "The allergen-free cats ... will allow consumers to enjoy the love and companionship of a pet without the cost, inconvenience, risk and limited effectiveness of current treatments."

Brodie said the company will use "RNA interference" to "silence" a gene in cats that produces the irritant, which is excreted through saliva and the skin.

People who are allergic to cats experience moderate to severe allergic and asthmatic symptoms when they come into contact with a cat. In severe cases, an allergic reaction to cats can result in respiratory failure and death.

ALLERCA is now accepting $350 deposits for the biotech cats. They'll sell for $3,500 in the United States and $10,000 Japan.

The four-person company has yet to engineer any cats. ALLERCA expects to sell over 200,000 allergen-free cats each year in the United States when they become available in 2008, with a similar number sold internationally.


What if these things breed with non-altered cats? We simply don't understand the genome enough to be releasing organisms into the wild like this. In the same way that a carrier of sickle-cell anemia is immune to malaria, the proteins that cats carry that are allergens to us might have an unforeseen purpose. Geez, people.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Gotta Love Cintra

Cintra Wilson is a wildly talented writer that Salon lets loose to praise and partially eviscerate celebrities of her choosing. I bring this up only to hit you with a quote I found pretty damn funny. In her recent article praising Christian Bale - who assumes the cowl of the caped crusader in the upcoming Batman film - she offers this critique of the made-for-TV movie where Christian played Jesus:

As Jesus, he is surprisingly wild: by turns broody, tortured, savage and ecstatic. He plays it more like a classic John the Baptist, so the John the Baptist had to overcompensate by screaming his entire performance like John Cleese with a loincloth full of scorpions.

I'll probably chuckle over that one into the New Year. I'll probably steal it and work it into a conversation at the next party to impress all within earshot of my wit, too.
Grim Fates - A Reminder

For those of you fearing for the outcome of the election - all of you: a conservative who thinks Kerry is a Frankenstein of a weenie who will transfer the presidency to a corner office in the UN so he can attend to his real goal of getting every third-generation welfare queen back on the public dole; or a liberal who thinks Bush will continue his conversion of American into one of the biggest third world sinkholes of destitution while he sacrifices an entire generation trying to colonize Arabia - keep in mind that that even through some of our darkest times - the Civil War, the Great Depression, WWII, Vietnam, Watergate, 9/11 - we have persevered and, for the most part, our daily lives have remained what they should be.

Yes, we have or private hopes on what could be better (I still want public education for all through college or trade school, health care for everyone, and a restoration of the civil rights taken because of the drug war and the PATRIOT act, but that's just me).

Yes, the world, which evidently views us as their de facto world government, doesn't really like what we've done for them lately. But, like all nations, we look after our interests first, theirs second. If our interests align, then all the better.

But, overall, our lives won't change - much - from the outcome of this election. We will still have warm houses and meals on the table. Public schools will remain open, and do a decent job of educating our kids; just be vigilant about the propaganda days you are typically warned of in the raft of crap kids have to trek home anymore and make sure you tell your kid how you, the parents, feel about the issue. Hospitals will heal the sick, even when they have to write it off. Commercials will blare from every single pore of the media, from web popups to TV ads before movies you've paid for to endless radio commercials, and the solution - if they bug you - is to simply shut it off.

Regardless of who gets in to office, don't give any information away when you can avoid it. No one but the tax arm of the government and your bank needs your social security number. Rip all junk mail into bits before throwing it out. Encrypt emails if you're going to express your right to free speech in ways that might offend officials, and keep in mind that the subject line can give more away than you intend, so be generic. Tell your doctor only the things he needs to know. Neither the government nor corporations feel you should be protected from their prying eyes, so it's up to you; hide in plain site, and keep your data clean.

Remember to have fun. Be nice as often as possible. Things are fair only when you are fair. Have someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. Go to church if you do, and revel in the fellowship. See only the movies and read only the books and listen to only the songs that you think you'll enjoy; don't let anyone guilt or snob you into consuming something that you think will bore you or make you feel bad. Your most effective vote is to vote with your checkbook. Companies will make what you buy, and stop making things that you don't. If they don't have what you want, make it yourself. You can write and sing and paint and grow gardens, too, you know. Just start.

The cliche is true: the best things in life are free. Love is simply more powerful than the laws or any nation that has ever existed, and it will always transcend the same. Jesus, the Beatles, the Doobie Brothers, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, Kurt Vonnegut, the Honeymooners, and Star Trek were all onto something, and it has everything to do with love and being good to one another.

"Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry."
- W. B. Yeats

"To be cynical is not the same as avoiding illusion, for cynicism is just another kind of illusion. All formulas for meeting life - even many philosophies - are illusion. Cynicism is a trashy illusion."
- Robertson Davies, from The Manticore

"We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world."
- Helen Keller

"God doesn't require us to succeed, He only asks that you try."
- Mother Teresa

"Listen: We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."
- Kurt Vonnegut

"Time flies like the wind, fruit flies like bananas."
- Groucho Marx

Sometimes we all need to remind ourselves of these things. I'll stop now before I hurt myself (and, hopefully, before you puke into your keyboard).

Have a nice day, dammit.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Open Letter

I originally wrote this to a friend after he snarked at me for my "damnable wrong-headed politics!" Upon reading my response, it seemed like it would be a good post. It's been edited for content and to run in the time allotted. We join our letter already in progress...

As for political wrong-headedness: Tell ya what, I would LOVE to hear a damn good reason to vote for Bush this year. So far, all my Republican friends (outside of you and ____) have only touted the party line and haven't given me any good reasons to vote for him, considering Bush's policies, war effort, and tax cuts for the rich. In other words, it's just "liberals are evil" and stuff like that, nothing about policy.

I don't like his administration's attacks on civil rights and the emphasis on privacy on issues that have nothing to do with the war effort. John Ashcroft should be fired and the PATRIOT Act retired (except for the one provision about being able to tap ANY phone owned by an individual or group - that ONE part made sense). I don't like ANY of Bush's monetary policies. I don't like the vilification of Americans who aren't Republican - these attacks on my patriotism and my love for the US are beyond the pale. I'm ambivalent on his record on the environment and the war, with the exception that lives are now being lost for no reason, imo. If we're gonna occupy a nation, we should retaliate against any internal attack with such force that it gives them pause - or get the hell out and let them chew each other up.

I am against the privatization of social security, because I don't think there's enough of a regulatory presence to insure that private companies would be good stewards of those kinds of funds. Think Enron. In my experience, with all of its flaws, the government is the only body that seems capable of not running away to a tax haven with everyone's savings.

I am for public schools, libraries, PBS TV and radio, tax relief for the middle class, an open society - all things opposed by current Republicans. School vouchers are still just a tax scam, which is why every civic vote to allow them has been a landslide defeat.

And, yes, I think health care should be extended so that everyone can get it (with the proviso that exotic procedures that save 10% of those treated just can't be done on the govt. dime - and crap like $1,000-a-day AIDs medications are not included). When I got laid off last year, along with over half the people in my culdesac, there was a space of a few months where none of us had access to any health insurance. And all of us have kids. It is obscene that all these parents and children had no place to go. My unemployment was high enough that I didn't qualify for any other assistance. And COBRA has been so gutted that it's worthless (the original idea and practice was that you could continue on health care at the rates you had when employed - it's been changed so that companies can charge you the full amount paid to the company, which is usually thousands of dollars a month). We have no excuse, given the wealth of our country, to allow that kind of situation.

So, given that, I am serious about getting one good reason to vote for Bush. If you have one, please let me know. If anyone could come up with a cogent reason, you could (or ____ of course).

And, please, don't read any sort of strident or angry tone into the above. There was a time when I was greatly alarmed at this presidency, and I still think it's the worst one we've experienced in my lifetime (with perhaps the exception of Carter, but at least he wasn't a freakin' storm trooper). Now, however, I'm not afraid of Bush being president again - like a lot of liberals are - I just don't like, at all, the direction he will take the nation. So, to me, this is the standard "it's the policies, stupid" kinda discussion, and not "those bastards are EEEEVIL I tell you! EEEEEVIL!" Some of my best friends are Republican, and I don't hold that against them.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

It's Not Fascism, but It's Close

A story flying somewhat under the radar in this year's election is the suppression of legal protest. The various GOP voter-suppression efforts are now getting some airtime, or this would be just another dead canary littering the floor of the coalmine. Since things are so bitterly partisan this year, people on the far edge of either side dismiss out of hand anything by press organizations that supposedly are on the other side. (I myself take anything I hear on Fox with a shaker of salt.) So, anything from Salon, a self-admittedly left-leaning web magazine, is typically ignored by anyone from the right. However, facts are facts regardless of who reports them, and what happened to three Republican school teachers in the second article quoted below is beyond the pale for any American political party.

First, though, since I dropped the "F" word, I want to put it in context. James Lileks is constantly metaphorically rolling his eyes on his blog (see link in left bar) about people squealing that the Bush administration is fascist, and I would agree for the most part. True fascism has not yet occurred on our shores, yet. However, we are close enough that it is time to become concerned. The following excerpt from Salon's "War Room" (the page they've established for this election's news) I feel does a pretty good job of describing just where we stand in our proximity to true fascism. After that is the point of this post.

Bush's retreat from reality

Even if you thought you knew all there was to know about this administration's retreat from the Enlightenment, it's hard not to shudder while reading "Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush," Ron Suskind's New York Times Magazine cover story. It's long been clear that this administration has a hard time acknowledging reality, but Suskind suggests that Bush and his circle have an active and unabashed aversion to it.

Suskind quotes a senior Bush advisor who derides him, along with most journalists, experts and government technocrats, as part of the "reality-based community." As Suskind tells it, the advisor described this group as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernable reality," an approach this administration evidently sneers at.

"I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principals and empiricism," Suskind writes. "He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

It's considered unfashionably shrill to refer to the Bush administration as fascistic, but this is pretty clearly the language of totalitarianism. Indeed, in her seminal 1951 book "The Origins of Totalitarianism," Hannah Arendt wrote, "Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it."

Instead of facts, Suskind shows Bush runs on faith, a faith that demands almost cult-like devotion from his inner circle. "The president has demanded unquestioning faith from his followers, his staff, his senior aides and his kindred in the Republican Party," Suskind writes. "Once he makes a decision -- often swiftly, based on a creed or moral position -- he expects complete faith in its rightness… A writ of infallibility -- a premise beneath the powerful Bushian certainty that has, in many ways, moved mountains -- is not just for public consumption: it has guided the inner life of the White House."

This, too, recalls Arendt's writing on totalitarianism. "The chief qualification of a mass leader has become unending infallibility; he can never admit an error," she wrote. Later, she continued, "The stubbornness with which totalitarian dictators have clung to their original lies in the fact of absurdity is more than superstitious gratitude to what turned the trick, and, at least in the case of Stalin, cannot be explained by the psychology of the liar whose very success may make him his own last victim. Once these propaganda slogans are integrated into a 'living organization,' they cannot be safely eliminated without wrecking the whole structure."

The United States, of course, has not gone fascist under Bush, even if it's less free that it was four years ago. But he's not done yet. Besides, in the above quotes, Arendt wasn't writing about totalitarian societies. She was writing about totalitarian movements that were gaining power but had yet to take over. It's important to maintain a sense of proportion when talking about this administration, which, for all its awfulness, is light-years away from Hitlerian. Finishing Suskind's article, though, there's not much reason for those of us in the "reality-based community" to trust that American democracy can survive intact if this man gets another four years to try to bend the world to his illusions.

-- Michelle Goldberg
[13:28 PDT, Oct. 17, 2004]

Ok, so we're not fascist - just to be clear for James - but let's prick up our ears, shall we?

And here's why:

"We didn't think it would be offensive"

Our question is, why does the Bush-Cheney campaign assume people wearing shirts that say "Protect Our Civil Liberties" are opposed to the president's re-election? Would the campaign welcome guests as obvious Bush supporters if they're wearing shirts that say "Civil Liberties, Civil Schmiberties"?

From the AP: Three Medford school teachers were threatened with arrest and escorted from the event after they showed up wearing T-shirts with the slogan "Protect our civil liberties." All three said they applied for and received valid tickets from Republican headquarters in Medford. "The women said they did not intend to protest. "I wanted to see if I would be able to make a statement that I feel is important, but not offensive, in a rally for my president," said Janet Voorhies, 48, a teacher in training.

"We chose this phrase specifically because we didn't think it would be offensive or degrading or obscene," said Tania Tong, 34, a special education teacher. Thursday's event in Oregon sets a new bar for a Bush/Cheney campaign that has taken extraordinary measures to screen the opinions of those who attend Bush and Cheney speeches. For months, the Bush/Cheney campaign has limited event access to those willing to volunteer in Bush/Cheney campaign offices. In recent weeks, the Bush/Cheney campaign has gone so far as to have those who voice dissenting viewpoints at their events arrested and charged as criminals."

-- Geraldine Sealey
[12:49 PDT, Oct. 18, 2004]

Gosh, is defending the Constitution really that controversial? Does anyone, regardless of political affiliation, really want a government that has no desire to protect our civil liberties, and even threatens us with arrest if we simply state civil liberties are a pretty good idea?

This close folks -------> <------- ... this close.

Check out the debate on Slashdot

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The designation "Third World" is increasingly irrelevant

From ""

Voter fraud isn't just for Florida anymore

From KLAS TV in Las Vegas -- and isn't it heartening to see a local TV I-team actually report on something other than exposes of local strip clubs or the latest household item that can kill you?:

"Two former workers say they personally witnessed company supervisors rip up and trash registration forms signed by Democrats."

"'We caught her taking Democrats out of my pile, handed them to her assistant and he ripped them up right in front of us. I grabbed some of them out of the garbage and she tells her assistant to get those from me,' said Eric Russell, former Voters Outreach employee. Eric Russell managed to retrieve a pile of shredded paperwork including signed voter registration forms, all from Democrats. We took them to the Clark County Election Department and confirmed that they had not, in fact, been filed with the county as required by law."

"So the people on those forms who think they will be able to vote on Election Day are sadly mistaken. We attempted to speak to Voters Outreach but found that its office has been rented out to someone else."

Then there's Oregon. State officials are looking into allegations that a paid canvasser might have destroyed voter registration forms there, too. Yet another local TV station doing its job, KGW-TV, interviewed a paid canvasser who said he was instructed to only accept Republican registration forms. Oregon's Secretary of State Bill Bradbury is beside himself over the allegations: "I have never in my five years as secretary of state ever seen an allegation like the one that came up tonight -- ever," Bradbury said. "I mean, frankly, it just totally offends me that someone would take someone else's registration and throw it out."


It's happening in my home state of Colorado, too. And this time, it's the liberals who've apparently been up to no good.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


Ok, here's what ya do: Go to your victim's office/cubicle/etc. and open this link. Turn their volume waaaaay up, lock their computer, run away. You will be loved.


Monday, October 04, 2004


If there are any constant readers left, apologies for no postings for a bit. Been busy, and I have about only two things to write about these days: 1) politics, which I'm avoiding because at this stage in the game I think most people have decided what they're going to do, and I don't know anyone who's really persuasive in changing most adults' political mind - even someone with the talents of Lileks I doubt has turned any hearts, because it really is about the issues (regardless of what the media portrays) and most know how he or she stands; 2) movies, music, and books. I've not seen any movies to rave or rant about lately. Music, to me anyway, is dead until the big corporations finally realize they can't run it like a brand name chain restaurant. I've stared several books, but have abandoned most of them, because I'm now at the age where I don't have the time for a bad book, and I've now read enough that I can pretty much determine within about 33 pages (and a quick glance at the end if it's a literary (read "no real ending") novel) when something is gonna suck out loud.

Thus, I've had nothing to report. Life is funny that way sometimes. About the only thing I was saving in my blog scrapbook for use later was this mui excellent analysis by Bruce Springsteen on the state of the press these days, so here ya go:

RS: What do you think of how the election is being covered and conducted through the press?

Bruce: The press has let the country down. It's taken a very amoral stand, in that essential issues are often portrayed as simply one side says this and the other side says that. I think that Fox News and the Republican right have intimidated the press into an incredible self-consciousness about appearing objective and backed them into a corner of sorts where they have ceded some of their responsibility and righteous power.

The Washington Post and New York Times apologies about their initial reporting about Iraq not being critical enough were very revealing. I am a dedicated Times reader, and I've found enormous sustenance from Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd on the Op-Ed page. There has been great reporting, but there has also been some self-consciousness in some of the reporting about the policy differences in this election.

This is going to be an issue after the election. I don't know if it began with the Iraq war, but shortly thereafter there was an enormous amount of Fox impersonators among what you previously thought were relatively sane media outlets across the cable channels. It was very disheartening. The job of the press is to tell the truth without fear or favor. We have to get back to that standard.

The free press is supposed to be the lifeline and the blood of democracy. That is the position of responsibility that those institutions have. Those things are distorted by ratings and by money to where you're getting one hour of the political conventions. No matter how staged they are, I think they're a little more important than people eating bugs. I think that for those few nights, the political life of the nation should take priority, and the fact that it so casually does not means something is wrong. If you want to watch people eating bugs, that's fine, I can understand that, too, but let's do it on another night.

Real news is the news we need to protect our freedoms. You get tabloid news, you get blood-and-guts news, you get news shot through with a self-glorifying facade of patriotism, but people have to sift too much for the news that we need to protect our freedoms. It should be gloriously presented to the people on a nightly basis. The loss of some of the soberness and seriousness of those institutions has had a devastating effect upon people's ability to respond to the events of the day.
From: - via Rolling Stone.