Thursday, January 27, 2005

Still More Artsy and Less Artsy Nekkid Goirls at Red Light District

More nekkid goirls over at the Red Light District. Helps to have broadband I'll admit...

Around the Internets: Pictures of Titan, Ken Layne on Sucession and the American Apartheid System of Voting

(To see these photos go to

The above photo of Titan was rendered by an "amateur". It looks like a nice place to visit, even though it's all methane and explosive gases. Why doesn't it go up in a ball of smoke? They must get lightening on Titan. Looks pretty though.

Interesting Hellraising Atheist Site (He's starting a Carnival of the Atheists.)
A Presidential Run by Robert Kennedy? He would be great. I've seen him in action...And I now predict a plane crash and/or lone gunman will kill him in 3, 2, 1...
Dennis Roddy on Race Haters and the Local Rush Limbaugh Archetype that Sustain Them. More at Honsberger is a liar.

Also at Common Dreams:

10 Worst Corporations (From the guys at the Multinational Monitor)
New Essay From My Indirect Former Boss George Soros

Ted Rall on Tort Reform (Short Version: Won't reduce insurance rates, backdoor way to make your accidental death affordable...check out Public Citizen for more.)
Jackson and Palast on our Ever So American Apartheid Voting System

Why Do We Have Reproductive Choice Laws?


"These women came in dying from botched abortions and infections. It was just such a waste of human life," says Tyrer.

The first deaths "sear the soul," says Tyrer, and they remain fresh memories for her, as do images of women lined up on gurneys outside the operating room 18 hours a day, "waiting for doctors to take them in and scrape out the remnants of what was causing the hemorrhaging and infection."

"One woman came in already in shock, she was hemorrhaging so much. The first thing we did was to give her blood to rebuild her strength so she could go through the surgical procedure to remove leftover tissue from the partial abortion. Despite getting a transfusion, she continued to bleed," says Tyrer, who then discovered that the abortionist had torn the cervix and the uterine artery. Tyrer had to cut through the abdomen and tie off the uterine artery to stop the bleeding

Free Juliana Hatfield Downloads Right Here
The Essential Ken Layne Columns on Secession. Here, here, here and here.

Excerpt or two:

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

To Balkanize Or Not To Balkanize ...

Lots of people are asking -- on blogs, on talk radio, in my e-mails -- how do you chop up a country? Has it been done recently? Can it be done without horror?

Yes, it can be done peacefully, with good will and good riddance toward all.

A dozen years ago, I lived in a country that found itself in the same situation the United States faces today. One part of the country was mostly modern, intellectual, secular, democratic and (as usual) comparatively wealthy. Another part -- with only a third of the population -- was mostly economically backward, socially conservative, fond of "strongman" rulers, xenophobic, reliant on a state-sponsored economy, and (as usual) comparatively poor.

The country was already divided by culture and slight (though exaggerated) linguistic differences, but the elections of 1992 made that divide especially visible. The "Jesusland" in this case chose an authoritarian nationalist as leader of its region. He promised an impossible combination of independence and confederation. The wealthy side was led by a Thatcherite secularist and co-governed by liberal intellectuals.

It took about six months of tense meetings and the dismantling of the federal constitution, and then the two sides shook hands and walked away. That country was Czechoslovakia. (Here's a boring economics article I wrote at the time; none of the good stuff is online. Maybe someday ....) Interestingly, Czechs and Slovaks were overwhelmingly against breaking up the country. It was the political elite who brought about the "Velvet Divorce," mostly because the Slovak leader was impossible to deal with.

Today, the Czech Republic is stable and secure, with a GDP of about $160 billion, a strong export market, low inflation and robust foreign investment. It has weathered various political and financial troubles with relative ease and was rapidly accepted by political and economic alliances.

The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology Has Built A
Timeline for Real Molecular Manufacturing (Short version:10 to 20 years)

You can now get your own Jesusland T-Shirt Here

Monday, January 24, 2005

Artsy and Less Artsy Nekkid Girls at the Red Light Distrist

If you insist that your naked women be rendered in a high class, cutting edge Adobe style, then please check out the various pics of D Young's gifted designer cousin.

If you're not so demanding, check out the other nekkid goirls...

Support the Buy Blue Campaign

Please check out the Buy Blue link on the lefthand corner of Three Rivers Online. It's one way you can show your displeasure with the Bush administration more than once every four years. In other words, you must give up Walmart for Costco.

(Horrible Confession: I have shopped at Walmart even though I know how evil they are. I feel like those people in the Southpark cartoon. When we were registering voters before the election there were some cool places that allowed you to register without hassle. Most Giant Eagles, unionized, for example allowed us to register voters. Waterworks in Homestead shooed us away in under 30 minutes. Took Walmart about 10 minutes. Eeeeevil company that Walmart. SEIU union firebrand Andy Stern is planning a jihad against the Big W.)

Monday, January 17, 2005

Four New Blogs Added to Pittsburgh's Best Blogs

I probably should have added these sooner, but I wanted to take a deeper look at them.

Unspace. (Rare Science blog. They don't get a lot of hits but they're important. Check out his recent posts about Titan.)

Ant In A Hailstorm. (Should have been included originally. Check out those scary and futuristic animated gifs. Looks real science fictional. Does more hip hop writing than the Pittsburgh Courier, which explains its problems and why its back to once a week publishing.)

2 Political Junkies (Leftie political site. I'm a leftie. Do the math.) (Group that wants a nonviolent overthrow of the government.)

I'm still ignoring Tunesmith and Anthony out of vengeful spite. That's just the way I am...

AROUND THE INTERNETS: Cool Politics and Science Links

River at Baghdad Burning Tells Us Life Still Sucks in Iraq
Site About Companies That Engage In Sweatshops
Essay About Corporations Corrupting Academia
Nanotech and Energy Startups
Sunlight Dimming (So much for it an oil industry plot?)
Freedom to Tinker Guy Comments on Wired Article, Wired Writer Comments in the Comments Section
Primer on What the Falling Dollar Means
Oddly In Depth Yet Insulting Profile of Anti-Aging Spokesman Aubrey De Grey("He sho' is weird...he dresses funny! N' he's got that crazy assed beard!)
Predictable Yet Justified Outraged Reaction At Fighting Aging and Cyborg Democracy here and here .

The Return of Media Watch

When In Pittsburgh got bought out those many years ago, there were a number of columns and writers that just didn't seem to be too welcome. One writer was Kathy Jo Kramer, who wrote about life from a working class perspective and her adventures on Pittsburgh buses. There was a labor writer. And then there was the Media Watch. I wrote some of those columns and I'm proud to say those columns were some of my best work. I define best as relentlessly cruel, yet perceptive. New "alternative" ownership, however, effectively killed off those features. I suppose this is what gave me my first insight into how far right so called "alternative" media had gone.

Out here on the Internets, however, there is a free press. With that in mind, I now bring back Media Watch, which will not only feature our usual corporate media suspects, but bloggers of every stripe and hue, local and national...

Watch this space for updates.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

My Private Little War with Ales Rarus: The Final Conflict

I tried to respond to some of the counterarguments you've offered.

"I forgot a point. Go to post-haste and educate yourself."

I did check out that site and I found it to be a kind of propaganda. I'm not saying that the catholics who make up the founding members don't have a right to spout propaganda or that propaganda in itself is a bad thing (In fact, that's what I like about the net is that I have a much better sense of the biases of the authors.), but these are people who will stick to their position no matter what the evidence says. And again, and I hate to repeat this, we do the research to find out things. There may be a way to do embyronic stem cell research without violating the "sanctity" of the embyro. And if you were rational about this your immediate response would be "great". But it wasn't, and so I presume that you're not making your case based on reason and evidence but religious sophistry, ever so circular and ever so arcane.

I feel that the site is on a par with what tobacco companies say about the cigarette/cancer link or how polluters feel about global warming.

I suppose I choose to get my information here at the Union of Concerned Scientists, or from the Henry Waxman website. I might note that I have nothing against adult stem cells. In fact, I probably have a lot more adult stem cells than I do embryonic stem cells. I simply think that the research is very exciting. We could cure many a disease, perhaps even figure out our genetic workings. I think these things should be done.

"This is neither relevant nor true. If I find the time I'll dig into my archives and find a link to an excellent shredding of common myths regarding Galileo. Besides, that's a guilt-by-association argument and blatantly fallacious. It's also a red herring."

Actually, it's both relevant and true. On the other hand, please invite me to your dissertation talk when you tell all those perfessors about how well Galileo was treated by the church. ( I know that the church burned some scientists at the that your standard? "Welluh, at least we didn't burn him at the stake...") More on relevancy later.

War against science?!? I guess you haven't read my autobio. I'm a scientist in training. I do a lot of work in computational aspects of biophysics and proteomics. Going around calling people fundamentalist theocrats might make you feel better, but it doesn't put you on the moral high ground, nor does it advance serious discussions on the ethical issues at hand. Also, not that it really matters, I'm not a fundamentalist. Nor do I believe in premillenial theology. Get your religious insults straight.

And later is now. Keep in mind that I've been following this debate for about five years. I was actually alerted to the Leon Kass problem by notorious right winger Virginia Postrel (who once openly advocated, in my interpretation, beating up anti-war protesters).

Here's how Postrel characterized the pro death (or as I call them the Die on Time crowd 'cause God wants it that way) Kass Crew:

After all, no respectable public figure is pro-death. Right?

Wrong. A pro-death coalition has been building for several years, crossing the traditional left-right divide. Its advocates aren't primarily interested in abortion or euthanasia, the traditional life-and-death political issues. They don't focus on the gray areas of personhood. They oppose the extension of healthy, active human life beyond its current limits. They are, quite literally, pro-death. Their viewpoint got some exposure recently, when the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and the John F. Templeton Foundation gathered scientists, bioethicists and theologians for a conference called "Extended Life/Eternal Life."

Both Kass and Callahan have been arguing for years that open-ended medical progress is an affront to nature and humanity. Both promote static, closed definitions of medicine and health. Both find markets, technology and scientific research far too subservient to the individual desire for life, health and biological self-determination.

In his 1998 book False Hopes, Callahan laments that the spirit of contemporary medicine "is that of unlimited horizons, of infinite possibilities of ameliorating the human condition." He wants "sustainable" medicine that has "embraced finite and steady-state health goals and has limited aspirations for progress and technological innovation."

Yeah, let's stop that horrible option of "unlimited horizons". Sounds just awful.

The other point here is that the Bush stem policy, the notorious 60 lines policy, came from folks who do seem to look at their science in a religious way. Most of the people who serve on the Kass bioethics commission aren't scientists. So, while you yourself may not be a fundie, the site that you quote and the policy you approve seems to be driven by religious fundies, whom, I must contend, find a future of controlled self evolution to be very threatening. And for good reason.

We do, however, know that adult stem cells have shown promise. Isn't a sure thing preferrable to a shot in the dark? Who's operating by faith now? God has nothing to do with seeing that ESCR is all talk and no substance. There is no logical reason for scientists to shun ASCR.

I actually thought Chris Mooney, arguably the best online science writer out there (He actually talks to real scientists and has a ton of them as sources. I'm jealous.) sort of addressed not only the argument between emybronic vs. adult, but the whole "framing" propaganda aspect to the argument.

Boston, Mass.: It seems that adult stem cells have been more fruitful in healing diseases. Why shouldn't billions of dollars be spent of research that works rather than use it for research in embyroic work that still remains immoral and fruitless.

Chris Mooney: Alas, the fact that I'm getting this question--and the fact that John Kerry himself got a similar question in the second presidential debate--attests to the vast amount of questionable scientific information that's floating around out there on this issue. The truth is that all the leading research scientists in this field will tell you the same thing: 1) both "adult" and embryonic stem cells have research promise; 2) at this point it's impossible to say which is "better," and in fact, future cures may well draw upon both types of cells; 3) given this, it would be foolish to cut off either line of research. Don't just take my word for this. Here's a June 2004 letter (PDF) from the star studded International Society for Stem Cell Research to President Bush. "Research on all types of stem cells warrants increased federal funding," it reads. "These include stem cells found in fetal and adult tissues and pluripotent stem cells isolated from blastocysts or derived by nuclear transfer." Furthermore, scientists have been studying human adult stem cells--and particularly hematopoietic stem cells--far longer than they've been studying embryonic ones. So it's no surprise that in some respects, research in this area may be further along. However, we need to be very cautious about claims for adult or embryonic stem cell therapies that haven't been proven safe and effective in clinical trials. Unfortunately there's a lot of this kind of stuff out there.

What's more important, profit or ethics? Even if ESCR could be done ethically, there should be serious discussion before proceeding. Not everyone shares your love of progress for its own sake. You accuse those against ESCR as advocating a theocracy. Has it ever occured to you that those supporting it are advocating a technocracy?

No to the last question. I actually write for a site called Better Humans that's very much concerned with making sure that everybody has access to these new technologies. I've always thought, like William Gibson, that the open anarchic structure of the Internet was just a lucky strike. I personally want genetic research to go forward because I'm of the firm belief that we'll have to reengineer ourselves in order to go into space. (Anyone remember the Guardians of the Galaxy? All the heroes were genetically engineered...)

I also think that the payoffs are beneficial to mankind. I think that the cures for illness, organ engineering and expanded lifespans are worth the cost. I don't define embryos as people with rights. Women throw 85 percent of their own embryos...Is god or nature a "baby-killer"? Perhaps we should firebomb a church to show our displeasure at these policies.

We do, however, know that adult stem cells have shown promise. Isn't a sure thing preferrable to a shot in the dark? Who's operating by faith now? God has nothing to do with seeing that ESCR is all talk and no substance. There is no logical reason for scientists to shun ASCR.

Please read the aforestated Chris Mooney quotes. I never said anything about shunning research. I support research into adult stem cells. I support research into embyronic stem cells and I might note that the president's directive doesn't stop private companies from doing whatever they want. I support your research into AI. Please use whatever tools to advance science. I won't tell you that you can't get ideas from Wolfram because my savior Satan thinks it's a bad idea.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Ales Rarus Taps Outs. Deletes me from comments section....

I actually posted my rebuttal in the comments section of Ales Rarus' site. And like all good fundamentalists if he sees something he doesn't like he stamps it out. I mean, he is the PH D candidate, what is he afraid of...? Perhaps they'll be restored...

Update: The comments reappeared again hours later! It's a miracle of the Lord...Slaughter the Red Cow at once! Or, I should have refreshed the comments in Haloscan, a notoriously clunky comments function. Consider an apology forwarded, not that I haven't been banned by many a decent and some not so decent people...

Take That Ales Rarus...N' That, N' That! Tap out!

First, excellent rebuttal. It's always good to debate somebody who actually knows something. I'm also not sure if I can win since I made such a horrible mistake on getting the South Korean story mixed up with other promising results regarding embryonic stem cells. Then again, I am the guardedly optimistic atheist who expects his vote for democrats to actually be counted...Into the breach...

1) Embryonic stem cells have done nothing noteworthy. Adult stem cells have.

One: That's actually not true. There have been promising embryonic research results here, here and here. (I read them carefully this time! One of the problems with starting a paper all by yourself is that you're usually in a rush...!) This also skips over the point of basic research. We do research because some of us aren't in the common everyday communion with Our God Jehovah Cthulu or the Great Pumpkin. We do research because we wish to find out. That should be left up to Scientists by the way and not the same clergymen who tortured Galileo.

2) Umbilical cord stem cells are categorized under "adult" because they are not from embryos.

Two: You're right. I made a mistake and got it wrong. Let's move on. I'm sure you would do the same if science proved that your Sunday wine didn't turn into Christ's blood or DNA extracts from the Turin Shroud proved Christ was just another guy (with kids, you can trace genetic heritage don't you know) or that the pope was fallible, especially during the holocaust. Of course, that's the great thing about science: you can admit your mistakes and your worldview doesn't crumble around you like so much dust.

3) The federal government hasn't banned privately-funded ESCR. If it's really the market that matters to you and not the science, why care about government involvement? The government didn't drive the microchip revolution.

Three: Actually, the government drove both the microchip revolution and the development of the Internet by way of the space program's need for miniaturization and the military's need for a robust communications system that would survive nuclear attack. Government funding determines which markets will thrive in the future. That's why it would be nice if we had an administration that was pro progress. And again, stop being parochial. We're competing against other countries for what could conceivably be the most important market ever: The Better Health/Short Term Immortality Market.

4) Given #1, why would you want the government to invest in a less promising line of research? Do you like wasteful spending?

Four: Because the argument you make in one is incorrect. We just don't know. Again, some of us don't talk to God on a first name basis.We have to explore and research things to truly know something. By the way, the fate of those donated stem cells is the trash can. And as Futurepundit has pointed out we may have a way of doing the research without harming the "sanctity" of the embryo.

5) Just because other countries are doing something doesn't mean we should. If other countries were making lots of dough by continuing Josef Mengele work, should we follow suit? How about genocide? I bet that has some hefty financial rewards.

Five: Let us agree to disagree. I don't think that this kind of research is the equal of the experiment s done by Mengele. And if you follow the Futurepundit prescription no harm would be done to the embyro, that you would eventually throw away, anyway. Any pro lifers willing to accept implantation to make sure these "people" reach their potential? I'll hold my breath...By not addressing this point by the way you get to the heart of the matter. Your war against science is a war against the future. It's a war you can't win, unless you can get fundamentalist theocratic tribes to initiate nuclear strikes and set back progress by centuries. You might get your wish. I'm hoping I'll be off planet by then. Think of it as a voluntary rapture.

6) Not publicly funding ESCR makes Americans dumb and stupid? Huh? Show me a connection between stupidity in America and ESCR.

Six: If you base your scientific research based on myth or fairy tale or make believe (religion), then, yes, that is a kind of gross stupidity. American preeminence is based upon science, not prayer. Everything can be weaponized. What you don't know can definitely hurt you. You learn things not just for your own self awareness and improvement but because your enemies can use your ignorance against you.

7) Theocratic rule? What?!? You've obviously been listening to too many conspiracy theories. There are lots of people who object to ESCR from non-religious standpoints. I read that Futurepundit link. Begged questions, myths, and lies were abundant. This comment really cracked me up: "Religion offers endless conflict,where as science offers a world without conflict." Riiiiiight.

Seven: Is Osama Bin Laden a secular humanist? Or Jerry Falwell? I would never kill you because of your religion because I find such beliefs to be meaningless. By the way, Futurepundit does trend libertarian. I don't agree with him about the war though. It's not right and certainly not Christian to slaughter 100000 Iraqis for their oil. And if the choice is between science or religion, then I choose science. I don't need or want the bliss stations that religion offers. Or to quote Woody Allen: "If the choice is between air conditioning and the pope, then I'll take air conditioning".

To Jerry: Again, let's do the research. Perhaps you think Jesus or Santa Claus or Krishna is opposed to terabyte storage memory on a keychain. That's great. But let's do the science anyway and find out. And what happened in South Korea was a miracle. I'll take that and air conditioning over prayer any day of the week...

Your Fire, Car Wreck And/or Tsunami/Natural Disaster Story

There was a car wreck, fire and possibly a tsunami in your town today.

People were hurt, burned beyond recognition or swept out into an unforgiving sea in no particular order. Imagine me sticking a microphone into their faces and asking them how they feel. They will say something like "Ouch. The twisting cacophony of metal caused me some discomfort...that and losing my six kids" or "Yowtch. That fire sure was painful. We lost everything, including possibly the cat, or something" or "Glub glub. Nearly drowned. Thank God the supermodel survived".

These kinds of stories, interesting though they may be after 7000 versions (plus murder and petty theft) on your local television news, serve primarily as a distraction. Please study these rules for further explanation and this website for the Bigger Picture.

Meanwhile, there's an excellent possibility that your presidential election was stolen and that aside from that there's a continuous effort to privatize your public institutions and to get you to pay for rights and things that you used to expect for free, perhaps because you thought you lived in a decent country. You were wrong. You should discard a corporate media that doesn't tell you this every day, every hour, every moment.

Saturday, January 01, 2005


Pittsburgh Progressive 01-01-05

HAPPY NEW YEAR. YOUR ELECTION MAY HAVE BEEN STOLEN. TALK AMONGST YOURSELVES: I spent midnight watching a Souixsie Sioux and the Banshees live show on VH1-Classic--a station that's extremely disappointing at times but not last evening--and was surprised by how much they rocked. Killer guitar riffs throughout every tune. I thought I was at a Motorhead concert or something. Her drummer and I think husband was just an incredible player. Every beat sounded triumphal and anthemic. Never saw a guy use mallets like that. Most drummers just live on their hi-hats. You could take those beats to war. Only downside: A woman pushing 50 doesn't have to take off her top. Besides, with her money she can pay to look mid 30s forever. Spend it. Still a great set though...

Later on in the day, without the hint of even an appropriate transition, still watching TV (The sad man's family...) I caught up with my old friend Jerry Starr on CSpan, who's been a one man lobbyist machine for a fair and decent public television. I ran into him when I wrote a media watch column for In Pittsburgh back in the early 90s. I made the argument then (1995 I think) that the net would be our salvation because the Conservative Washington DC players would never allow a progressive public media to emerge, or even an American BBC--I once begged George Soros to create such a thing using his own trust fund. No word yet and no checks yet for your humble site. Jerry still hasn't gotten decent public television but he does have a website. He also promotes a number of shows that you can only see on the Internet, at least here in Pittsburgh. I think I won that point. See the links on the right if you're wondering what a progressive media would truly look and sound like.

This is also kind of what this paper aspires to be, a real alternative to the corporate press. And I don't mean alternative in that I can say "fuck" and post pictures of nude women--which I enjoy certainly. I mean alternative in the sense that I can say that the system is fucked up. It's not fair. It's not even close. You should be thinking about not ever joining the military--either voluntarily and certainly not by a forced draft. The Bush administration is evil enough to steal the election. They've already done it once. You need to respond by getting involved politically and you should measure your every action, your every purchase, by how you can achieve the current regime's overthrow. And with that, I will end my writing for the day and go spend some time with my real family.