Sunday, November 29, 2009

Comment Elsewhere: Soft-handed hypocrisy

In a discussion of the new Senate report on the failure to capture bin Laden at Tora Bora I wrote

Rumsfeld’s argument at the time, the report says, was that deploying too many American troops could jeopardize the mission by creating an anti-US backlash among the local populace.

I haven’t seen anyone point out the irony of this argument. If it’s sincere, it represents a bizarrely uncharacteristic soft-handed approach by an administration which routinely denigrated anyone who publicly suggested such a direction. I suppose you could just chalk that up to rank hypocrisy, which is plausible.

Or it could just be a smokescreen for incompetence. Either works.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Comment Elsewhere: The Dark Side of Thanksgiving

After reading a devastating revisionist history of the origins of Thanksgiving (really: if you're at all sentimental about the history of the holiday, don't read it. If, like me, your sentiment is reserved for the modern practice of the holiday, the admittedly invented traditions and family memories, you should be fine.) I wrote:
I'm having a more complex reaction to this post, though. As it notes, huge numbers of Native Americans died as a result of disease rather than direct European action: this sets up a causality problem. Even in the absence of European eliminationist violence, Native American communities were going to be devastated in the short run, and possibly the long run, due to disease. Conversely, even in the absence of the "Columbian Exchange" diseases, European eliminationist violence was going to disrupt and dislocate Native American society in the long run, though it might have looked different in the short run.

I'm having trouble imagining plausible alternative histories. It's a failure of imagination on my part, perhaps, but that's where I am at the moment.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Comment Elsewhere: God and Vegetarianism

Over at Acephalous, where I learned that the creators of South Park also wrote a musical based on the Packer expedition, I commented on Sarah Palin's invocation of the immortal sentiment, "If God didn't intend us to eat [X], then why did he make them edible?" I remarked:

The theology is twisted. God didn't intend for humans to eat animals. Genesis, Chapter ONE*:

29: And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
30: And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

Only later, after the abomination and destruction of all life but Noah&Co., does God permit the eating of meat. Chapter Nine:
1: And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.
2: And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.
3: Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

God then goes on to start writing the rules of Kashrut. God may have made animals (and people) edible, but allowing them to be eaten was Plan B.

* KJV, since I'm sure she wouldn't accept any other translation.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Quoted: We can do that?

Just browsing through some ScienceBlogs stuff and ran across the following passage:
Producing proteins in the lab (often in bacteria) is pretty routine work. However, producing a posttranslationally modified protein can be much more difficult, because you generally have to have access to an enzyme that will perform the desired modification. On the other hand, it is generally much simpler to mutate the source DNA, and then use that DNA to produce a modified protein (generally with one amino acid substituted for another)

Routine? Simpler to mutate?


Friday, November 06, 2009

Comment Elsewhere: Quis Custodiet Psychiatrists?

In a discussion of the Fort Hood tragedy over at archy, I noted that:
What's actually interesting to me about this, as it develops, is how normal this case is looking: harassed but intelligent loner, desperate circumstances, civilian handguns (and lots of ammo), lashing out at the institution which he blames for his plight. This is a thoroughly American slaughter.
I also said that, because the Major was a psychiatrist, that "There are going to be a lot of awkward quis custodiet discussions in counseling offices over the next few months."