Friday, February 20, 2009


I've said for a while now that I think Obama's popularity is driven by a "cult of personality," or perhaps a "cult of celebrity." Either way, I tend to think that there's a lot more at work behind this than people thinking his policies are super-duper.

The response I tend to get from liberals to this range from, "Nu-uh," to, "You're just jealous 'cause you lost." Perhaps. Then again, when I see stuff like this, I can't help but feel vidicated. I'll include a screencap in case it goes away.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pelosi and the Pope

Not a news story per se, but I enjoy this National Review post discussing Nancy Pelosi's recent visit to the Vatican. The short version is that the Pope gave her (and by extension, all pro-choice Catholic politicians) a dressing down for supporting abortion.

While it's no secret that I disagree with Catholic theology (one of these days we'll finish a conversation, Ryan) on everything that separates them from Protestants, I appreciate that the Pope doesn't pull any punches on this issue. In the structure of the Catholic church, there is no room for "disagreement" on issues like this. If you're going to claim the church as your own, you have some requirements to meet. I think that the broader Christian church is the same in principle, though there's obviously no central power structure for enforcement. Not that we've seen any pro-choice Catholic politicians excommunicated recently.

I must disagree with the author of this on one point, however. He states that politicians like Pelosi are where they are because they're poorly catechized, getting their teachings from high-brow Catholic intellectuals who don't want to deal with "embarrassing" teachings. I can't give them this much leeway. The teachings of the Catholic church are accessible enough that there should be no mystery on what it really teaches. For crying out loud, Pelosi just got it from the horse's mouth (so to speak). If she suddenly changes course and becomes a pro-life politician, I'll offer up a heartfelt apology, but I doubt she, nor any other pro-choice Catholic politician, is going to change anytime soon. These people hold onto their religious affiliation, I suspect, out of political expediency, even necessity, rather than any heartfelt conviction. Perhaps it's the cultural identity that they desire instead. Either way, there is no other explanation for people who claim a title while denying its most important or relevant teachings.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Who will police the police?

Coast Guard?

Okay, enough Simpsons references. This is an interesting story. It seems that a cop in Iowa emailed a bunch of mugshots (the article leaves us to guess who they were sent to) of people wearing Obama shirts. Apparently he remarked on the quality of Obama's fanbase and it was not well received. He was suspended for 30 days and will be undergoing "DPS training." Whatever that is.

On the surface, this looks like an unseemly quashing of free speech. The officer sent the email on his own time from his own computer. However, the article seems to imply that the officer broke some sort of departmental policy in doing this. Perhaps the mugshots he made public were not quite ready to be made public? We're left to guess.

Still, can you imagine if such an event had happened during the Bush administration? I'm not sure we'd be hearing the end of it.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Pandora's Cell

Developmental biology is a Pandora's Box of scientific mysteries. We understand a lot of things about how indeterminate lumps of matter know to become a thumb or a finger, the spine or the lungs, or any number of other things. For all that we know, however, there's an almost endless list of things we don't know or don't understand. Especially when it comes to humans, since the methods that would be used to study them are almost universally considered unethical, even to people who don't think twice about harvesting embryos for stem cells.

So, when I read about experiments like this, where scientists try to make human/animal hybrid embryos, I start to wonder how we get scientists so devoid of morals or ethics.

My best guess as to why this fails is probably genetic incompatibility with the transcription factors. Transcription factors are the proteins which latch onto your DNA and signal for other proteins to be made. They're usually pretty picky about where they will bind, and even slight changes in either the TF or the DNA it binds can be fatal. More than likely, the TFs in the animal cell just aren't good enough to keep things going.

My only other guess would be that they're attempting to turn on genes which turn off at development. Cells turn these genes off (and work very hard to keep them off) because letting them run rampant leads to all kinds of problems. Cancer is usually the most obvious result, but I'm sure it's not the only one.

I'm really not complaining about the failure. The monsters who do these sorts of things ought to have their degrees stripped away.