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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A radio telescope will be focused on the recent strange interstellar visitor. The shape of Oumuamua is also very strange and almost unique in astronomy - elongated like a 600 M flattened cigar. The radio telescope will be focused on this for 10 hr and the object analyzed at four radio frequencies on the far out possibility that this is an object from an alien civilization! Shades of Clark's "Rendezvous with Rama"! 

Of course it is probably more likely that this is a natural object: it is rocky without any water ice and is red, which is the expected color of an asteroid exposed to Cosmic radiation for a long time. But..... just imagine if it turns out to be something else!!! One can dream.

See this video: 

CRISPR and RNA editing

I find it somewhat satisfying that the field of RNA editing (in the broad sense) which I worked on for so long is contributing, at least linguistically, to one of the most exciting gene modification techniques developed in recent years - CRISPR. Initially Doudna showed that joining two RNAs, one encoding a DNA nuclease and the other a short RNA sequence complementary to the site to be edited produced an RNA that could recognize and modify specific sites in genomic DNA. The mechanism of site specificity was simple base pairing and they used the term "guide RNA or gRNA" to describe this construct. This was the mechanism my lab had discovered in 1990 by which the insertion/deletion of uridine residues at precise sites in the cryptogenes encoded in maxicircle mitochondrial DNA of trypanosomatid parasites was achieved. We coined the term, guide RNA to describe short RNAs encoded mainly by the thousands of catenated minicircles in the kinetoplast mitochondria DNA which could recognize specific sites to be edited and to recruit multiple protein complexes that precisely cleaved the mRNA, inserted uridines and then joined the two DNA fragments. Several additional “editing” phenomena were soon discovered that changed C to U in mammalian ApoB mRNA and changed encoded adenosine resides in multiple mammalian mRNAs to inosine, which behaved like guanosine. Again the site specificities, at least in ADAR editing, were determined by the mRNAs encoding complementary sequences in cis which acted by foldback to identify specific sites by base pairing and then recruiting ADAR adenosine deaminase enzymes. In fact, in our RNA editing Gordon Conferences at that time, the term “RNA editing” was used for both the trypanosomatid insertion/deletion of U’s and the method by which precise A’s were changed to G’s (functionally) or C’s to U. And now ADAR and APOBEC editing has solved one of the major problems of the CRISPR system by allowing the efficient production of specific nucleotide changes in mRNAs without non-specific changes elsewhere in the genome.

Truly, the incredible insight of Jim Watson and Francis Crick in their DNA double helix model in 1953 which was based on the base pairing of nucleotides in the two strands led to their understated ending comment in their Nature paper that it has not escaped their attention that this would lead to an elegant mechanism for DNA replication. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A New Old Drug Against an Old Disease - African Trypanosomiasis 

There has been a truly exciting drug development against African trypanosomiasis. The previous arsenical drugs used were either very toxic to the patient and the more recent (2009) combination of nifurtimox-eflornithine (NECT) had to administered as a combination of pills and 14 intravenous infusions. The NECT was not toxic and could kill parasites even after they entered the brain. The down side was that this treatment could not easily be used in rural African villages. The same organization that developed NECT in 2007 rediscovered fexinidazole, a compound that Sanofi had developed as an general antiparasitic drug but had  not pursued it any further. Researchers supported by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative found both in animal models and in humans that this drug  taken orally cured 99% of people in the early bloodstream stage of the disease and 91% of people in  the tertiary stage where the trypanosomes had entered the brain!  The drug was taken through clinical trials and should be approved by the European Medicines Agency for use  in infected humans in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by the end of 2018. This may prove to be the magic bullet against this devastating disease in tropical Africa. I myself hope that resistance will not be rapidly developed. The best way to avoid development of resistance would be to combine another effective drug with fexinidazole, which unfortunately remains to be discovered.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

An Interstellar Visitor

Astronomers have long speculated that debris from exoplanet formation could be ejected from another solar system but nothing so far has been observed (if we ignore the domestic molecules formed from elements created by supernova and kilonova explosions). On October 19 an unusual small object designated A/2017 was detected by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System or Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawaii by a postdoctoral fellow, Rob Weryk, while searching for near earth objects for NASA. The motion of this body could not be explained as a normal asteroid or comet since it did not follow the normal orbits of near-earth objects but was on a hyperbolic trajectory crossing the ecliptic (plane of the planets) inside Mercury’s orbit and then made a hairpin turn due to the gravity of the sun under the earth’s orbit at the rapid speed of 27 miles/sec. Weryk and Karen Meech, an astronomer who studies small bodies possibly involved in solar system formation, both realized that this object probably came from another solar system around another star. Davide Farnocchia and Matt Holman,  scientists at NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory also concluded that the evidence suggested an interstellar origin!!! A graph of the orbit is shown in the following  UTube video

If this is true, this asteroid must have spent millions  if not billions of years traveling from another solar system to the earth. I find this discovery fantastic and exciting.

An astronomer friend of mine, Ben Zuckerman, reminded me that this type  of astronomical phenomenon makes the suggestion  of "panspermia" or "lithopanspermia" - that life arrived on earth from other planets or even from exoplanets in other solar systems - in the realm of possibility.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Nevada Massacre

The massacre of over 50 people in a Nevada hotel by one man with an automatic rifle is due entirely to the Nevada gun laws or lack thereof. Nevada has some of the most relaxed gun laws in the United States. Firearm owners there are not required to have a license, and do not have to register their weapons. The state does not prohibit the sale of assault rifles, and places no limits on the number of firearms an individual can possess and the capacity of ammunition magazines.
The second amendment to the US Constitution states: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Since there are no longer any militias in this country as in the days when the US Constitution was being written, this clearly does not allow people to "keep and bear arms" as was interpreted by the Supreme Court in 2008 in the Heller decision and is used by the right wing as justification for the unlimited ownership of guns in this country.
This however was not the worst Supreme Court decision in our history. That goes to the Dred Scott decision in 1857 by the Taney Court. It has been said that this decision was characterized by "convoluted logic, tortured misreadings of key constitutional provisions, contempt of precedent, distortion of history, and judicial activism on a world-historical scale". It led eventually to the Civil War.
The Heller decision has led to the modern day gun lobby headed by the National Rifle Association or NRA and to this country being the most violent civilized country in the world. The NRA has not yet made its normal soothing statements about the holy American gun rights after the Nevada massacre, since it must first wash the blood off its hands.
Guns must be banned from our country as is the case in England and every other civilized country. There will be enough death and destruction in our country and in the world as climate warming gets worse, but the absence of guns in private hands will decrease the killing of innocent people.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

It is Time...

For the sake of this country and the entire world, Trump must be removed as President of the United States. He is Commander in Chief of the military forces in this country and has the sole authority to launch nuclear weapons. Ponder that for a moment. We are relentlessly moving towards a military confrontation (=war) with North Korea, and Trump’s response is to threaten “fire and fury” and call the North Korean dictator schoolyard names such as Rocket Man and Little Rocket Man. Very recently there was an exciting news story that the United States had a “back channel” with North Korea which could possibly be used for negotiation, and Trump tells the Secretary of State “Don’t waste time talking to Little Rocket Man” and “Save your energy, Rex, we’ll do what has to be done”, a Trumpian way of saying that we will attack North Korea, thereby initiating World War III which almost certainly would involve the use of nuclear weapons. This is in spite of both China and Russia saying that they would intervene if the US attacked first and this intervention would almost certainly be militarily. Ponder that for a moment.
Trump is clearly mentally incapable of the duties of the
Presidency and is too dangerous to be allowed to be ”doing what has to be done.” Meanwhile, Trump is planning to attend a Golf Trophy Ceremony while at the same time sending horrible tweets to the Mayor of San Juan who had the courage to tell Trump that her people have no houses to live in, potable water to drink, electric power to communicate and fuel to run trucks and cars (and generators) from the recent hurricane. She said that her people are dying and that the US and Trump are killing them by their inefficiency and bureaucracy. The ghost writer of Trump’s “Art of the Deal” says that he is “deeply disturbed” and utterly “untrustworthy”. Add to that - belligerent, thin-skinned, unable to apologize for anything, a sexual predator, anti-science and a climate denier. But these pale against his threatening nuclear war.
Congress should create a commission to examine if the 25th
amendment should be invoked to replace Trump with the Vice President, Mike Pence, who is a religious nut case and a disciple of the Republican mantra of tax cuts for the wealthy and repeal of Obama Care, but not crazy enough to attack North Korea and use nuclear weapons.
I urge the Congress to do this as soon as possible and hopefully
prevent a third world war.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Power Emergency in Puerto Rico - an Idea

The Class 4 -5 Hurricane Maria has apparently cut off all electronic communication with the outside world. There is only a single cell phone service and this is very fragile. The Governor has warned people not to expect restoration of the island’s electric grid possibly for several months.  Puerto Rico’s electric grid is 44 years old and the only power company, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), has recently declared bankruptcy and for some time has prevented or limited the development of solar power in the island, even though Puerto Rico is a tropical island and has more than 10-fold the extent of sunlight as, e.g. Miami, ignoring cloud cover.  

I have a suggestion that may speed up the restoration of power to the island and also at the same time act as a model system for the use of solar power in a new type of decentralized electric grid in general. I suggest that solar power should be installed on or adjacent to every house and business together with appropriate Tesla-like storage batteries. Of course, reconstruction of the structures is required before the solar panels can be situated. So, this is definitely a non-trivial exercise, but the reconstruction of houses and businesses (and the grid) must proceed in any case. Of course a grid expert must be involved in devising a novel type of “micro-grid” that would of allow total decentralization as well as installation of devices at each set of panels for easily removing  the panels from the grid. The benefit of this proposal is that electric power will be restored much more rapidly than simply replicating the old electric grid system and relying on centralized fossil fuel generation of power. And the most important benefit is that this will be a test of the possibility of decentralization that could be  used in other island disasters or even in mainland cities after extreme destruction, natural or man-made. One possible man-made disaster could  be EMP pulses created by explosion of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere.

I just discovered that there is now a possible commercial solution (Novagen) to the problem of installation of solar power in sites as exist now in Puerto Rico.

The integration of the Rapid Roll technology into a side-opening ISO shipping container, combined with inverters and a larger battery bank, creates an easily transportable self-sufficient solar power system capable of generating 10 times more power than competitive products. Deploying a huge solar array measuring 5 metres (20 ft ISO) or 10 metres (40 ft ISO) in width and up to 200 metres in length, this represents by far the largest containerized deployable solar array yet conceived. At this scale a multi-MW solar power plant could be deployed in a matter of hours – city-scale power sufficient for a large mining site or military main operating base.
Renovagen envisages that this technology could revolutionize the cost-effective and environmentally-friendly provision of large amounts of off-grid power in remote locations across many industries – including military, disaster relief, mining, oil & gas, construction, events and telecommunications. Indeed it has the potential to save lives by – for example, reducing or eliminating the need for military fuel convoys or by powering medical facilities in disaster zones.
An ISO container form factor utilizes existing transportation and container-handling infrastructure, but it may be sufficiently light-weight to be air-lifted by transport aircraft or heavy-lift helicopter. By integrating more efficient solar cells in the future, systems of up to 600kWp may become possible – for the first time mobilizing truly industrial scale solar power.
Rapid Roll "T"
The Rapid Roll “T” trailer/tactical version provides an extremely mobile solution which can be airlifted by a wide range of medium and heavy-lift helicopters (gross weight from 1,500 kg) but packs enough power for energy intensive operations. Easily mounted on an on-road or off-road trailer or flat-bed truck, the Rapid Roll “T” provides many options for deployment to practically any global location imaginable. With simple deployment in just a few minutes without needing solar engineers onsite, it provides a practical solution for humanitarian and disaster relief, military, mining, events, film production and other temporary power-hungry operations in remote places which require equipment mobility. The size and weight of the Rapid Roll “T” when trailerised (2,000kg – 3,000kg total trailer weight) also makes it easy to tow with standard 4×4 vehicles and it fits on a number of commercial air freight pallets or 463L military pallet and also becomes extremely easy to transport internationally very quickly. Easy handling is facilitated with bi-directional forklift pockets and lifting rings.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Dossier(s)?

The Dossier(s)?

The prison bars are slowly closing around Trump. I hope fast enough to prevent a war with North Korea. Following are two recent articles about the infamous dossier, including the salacious portion.  I myself have been closely following the dossier investigation. One nice thing about the dossier is that in the published version someone used a yellow highlighter to emphasize the best parts (Perhaps the use of a yellow highlighter is an “in joke”). Although it is possibly leaning towards a type of  “schadenfreude” (Translation: “the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another”) but I just can’t help it with this numbnut (Translation: The stupidest of the stupid. A complete dumbass, one whose intelligence quotient does not surpass that of the average rock), but I myself have been pushing for more on the salacious portion of the dossier.

And now for two recent articles about the dossier:

 How's THIS for a bombshell? It comes from BBC World News Correspondent Paul Wood (and was published in THE SPECTATOR, a weekly UK magazine):

"Steele is not the only source [on the infamous "pee tape]. I heard of Russian "Kompromat" - compromising material- on Trump from two sources months before the Steele Dossier came to light. That might be evidence for Trump's statement that Russian intelligence, as well as the US agencies, are out to get him. There are, though, reports of witnesses in the hotel who corroborate Steel's reporting. These include an American who's said to have seen a row with hotel security over whether the (alleged) hookers would be allowed up to Trump's suite. The dossier's account of hookers in a Moscow hotel room was the subject of gossip among a select group of  journalists, politicians, and intelligence people for months before it was published. Now claims are circulating of  more tapes showing an even more extreme behavior. Expect these allegations to emerge in due course."

And of course the following BBC-published report from Paul Wood can't possibly be retweeted enough times.....

"Former MI6 agent, Christopher Steele, is not the only source for the claim about Russian Kompromat on the president-elect. Back in August, a retired head of an East European intelligence agency told me he had been informed of its existence by the "head of an East European intelligence Agency." Later I  used an intermediary to pass some questions to active duty CIA officers dealing with the case file - they would not speak to me directly. I got a message back that there was "more than one tape", "audio and video", on "more than one date", "in more than one place" - in the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow and also in St. Petersberg - and that the material [in the Trump tape held by the Kremlin] was "of a sexual nature"."

Don’t forget to call your Congressperson and push for impeachment. Treason alone just won’t do it, but an old-fashioned  sex scandal just might. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Recent Major Non-Trump-related Advances in Science

In spite of the emotion and turmoil of my hearing Trump take the US out of the Paris Climate accord and also the storm of new information daily about Trump and the Russians ( I personally feel that these leaks are payback from Trump  having insulting the entire intelligence community), I want to calm myself and write a little about several recent exciting science discoveries. In spite of  having retired and closed my lab in 2014, I have tried (I admit with some difficulty) to keep up with papers and discussions in Nature and Science. And I also subscribe to a fascinating magazine for the educated layman (and retired molecular biologists) called The New Scientist.

Discovery of gravitational waves.
These are non-electromagnetic waves traveling at the speed of light produced by the deformation of space-time by massive accelerating gravitational objects. Einstein  had predicted these in  1916 in his General Theory of Relativity but it was thought that they were faint to be ever observed. In 1974  however, these waves were indirectly detected  by observing a binary neutron star system over a 2 year period by radio astronomy. Hulse and Taylor found that the period of rotation was decreasing exactly as predicted by Einstein’s theory if gravitational waves were being radiated.
               To actually detect gravitational waves requires an instrument that can measure a movement of 10-19 meters (a distance of 1/10,000 of a proton)! The best way to measure small distances is still to  use interferometry, as used by Michelson in  1880  to show that the speed of light was constant in any direction and therefore a hypothetical medium in which light moved called the  “ether” did not exist.  This led directly to Einstein’s relativity theories. To detect  gravitational waves required a series of truly incredible engineering advances: production of an extremely powerful and stable 200 watt laser, seismic isolation systems that sense ground movements and make corrections, passive movement damping system involving pendulums supporting the 40 kg mirrors, production of extremely high quality vacuums in the two L-shaped 2.5 mile long tunnels in both the Hanford and Livingston sites, and finally a network of supercomputers to process and archive the terabytes of data produced every day. The project initiated in 1990 and was upgraded in 2010. The first detection of gravitational waves at both sites occurred in 2015, just a few days after the installation of upgraded detectors.

And suddenly there was a new window on the universe not based on electromagnetic waves! To date there have been three separate observations of gravitational waves.

In order to clear my head of  Trump nonsense, I plan to discuss several additional major advances in science in upcoming blogs.  These include:

1.      Entanglement.
2.      Dark matter
3.      Dark energy
4.      The multiverse and the quantum universe.
5.      Growth of brain organoids from stem cells.
6.      The role of micro RNAs in gene regulation

7.      Development of the CRISPR/Cas gene editing system

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Most Dangerous Organization in the World

Noah Chomsky is a famous American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian and social critic. Recently he asked (clearly, rhetorically) ”…has there ever been an organization in human history that is dedicated with such commitment to the destruction of organized human life on Earth? Not that I’m aware of. Is the Republican organization—I hesitate to call it a party—committed to that? Overwhelmingly. There isn’t even any question about it.” 

As an example, he mentioned the UN-sponsored Conference on implementing the Paris Accord on Climate Change which took place in Morocco last November. As soon as the news came in that Donald Trump has been elected American President, the Conference abruptly terminated its discussion of Climate Change, leading Chomsky to say “Can the world survive when the richest, most powerful country in world history … not only is withdrawing from the effort to try to save the world from destruction, but is undertaking a dedicated commitment to race to the precipice as quickly as possible?”

Chomsky noted that President Trump wants an increase in the use of fossil fuels (including coal), removal of all regulations, termination of aid to developing countries trying to move to green energy and, most serious of all, destruction of the EPA and the Department of Energy by selecting climate deniers as directors and cutting their budgets by more than 30%.

Clearly, the Republican Party is the most dangerous organization in the world.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The rat lung worm is a nematode parasite that has snails as an intermediate host and can infect humans as incidental hosts and cause a fatal brain disease

Climate denial by Trump and Scott Pruit, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is not only stupid, but could turn out to be very dangerous for human health.

Angiostrongylus cantonensis is a nematode that lives in the lungs of rats and has snails as intermediate hosts.  It is endemic in humans and can cause an often fatal brain disease that is untreatable. The rat disease was discovered in 1935 and is found world-wide, and the first human case of the disease was recorded in Taiwan in 1944.  Recently, human cases have been identified in Hawaii, California, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, and along the Gulf Coast. “It is a worm infection introduced into North America through globalization,” said Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Transmission to humans occurs when people eat the intermediate hosts, which may even not be detectable on a leaf of lettuce that wasn’t washed. Even the slime left by an infected slug could transmit the disease and eating raw freshwater prawns, crabs, and frogs is also dangerous. In Maui there were six cases in a three month period.  The infected rats defecate worm larvae that are then eaten by snails, slugs and shrimp.  Humans are infected by eating contaminated food or even directly from handling infected snails. The parasites migrate to the brain meninges and can even penetrate into the brain. The disease is very difficult to diagnose.  Even though humans are not a true host, the presence of the worms causes a meningitis with severe headache, tremors, pain and inflammation caused by death of the worms and the host immune response. In fact, treatment with drugs used against other worm parasites can exacerbate the disease by killing the parasites and increasing inflammation.  

The rapid increase in the range of these parasites is almost certainly caused by climate change and globalization. There is an excellent recent paper entitled Geographic Range Expansion for Rat Lungworm in North America in Emerging Infectious Diseases (Volume 21, Number 7—July 2015) by Emily M. York, James P. Creecy, Wayne D. Lord, and William Caire.

Unfortunately, we are in the era of the fake-President Donald Trump, a climate denier, who is proposing a 30% decrease in the EPA budget. In fact, EPA workers are not allowed to even mention the term “climate change”. That reminds me of the king who once demanded that the ocean waves stop. I just hope that the FBI finishes its investigation and Trump and his crowd are indicted for treason and prosecuted. It should prove difficult for Trump to do more damage to our country when he is in jail.

But also unfortunately, this will certainly prove to be one of the least problems caused by climate change, and will pale in relation to the financial and ecological disasters caused by the rise in ocean level which will submerge major coastal cities worldwide, the expected mass migrations of people affected by the losses of water and food, and by the possibly nuclear wars caused by these migrations. In fact I doubt that our civilization will survive this tremendous damage to its infrastructure. 

Ah well, I have no children to suffer, but I am sure that the politicians such as Trump and the Republicans have children and grandchildren who will wonder why their ancestors let this happen to our world!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Republican talking Points and Fake News

There is a Fake News Republican talking point that Obamacare is in a “death spiral”. Unfortunately for their talking point, Obamacare is doing quite well, thank you.  Another talking point especially by the Lier in Chief, Donald Trump, was the repeated calling of Hilary especially in the debates, “crooked Hilary”. If  fake news is repeated enough times, it becomes a fact , whereas it is merely a “walking zombie”.  Reince Priebus said that Obama’s health care reform law is “imploding and exploding”. Speaker Paul Ryan  said many times that the ACA is in a “death spiral” and that “the law is collapsing”. Trump said that the ACA is “just about ready to implode” and “Obamacare is dead.”. He also said the immoral hope that after the failure of the new Republican Health Care law, Obamacare will collapse and he will pick up the pieces.

The CBO recently found that the health insurance “market would probably be stable in most areas.  And the New York Times pointed out that the healthcare market under Obamacare would probably be stable.  The death spiral lie was started when Aetna pulled out of 11 states and the CEO blamed this on a “death spiral”. This was actually done because Aetna was not allowed to merge with Humana and to avoid antitrust scrutiny. Another argument against a death spiral is that fewer young adults, who usually are more healthy, would buy policies through the exchanges, but in fact 85% of  the new policy members are protected from premium increases by subsidies. In 2017, 121.2 million people were signed up on Obamacare. There probably would have been more except that Trump stopped funding government adds reminding people of the deadlines for enrollment. The number will increase since four states people who started the enrollment before Jan. 31 to be enrolled. And Louisiana recently expanded Medicaid.  Experts agree that Obamacare would probably stabilize in the next few years. However, there are a few states where the markets are near collapse, but in Wisconsin, Idaho, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Arkansas and California, the markets have multiple insurance companies. New York has 17 insurance carriers and total enrollments increased 28% for 2017. Also fake news is that doctors are leaving due to Obamacare. But the total number of active physicians has increased 8% from 2010 and medical school applicants and students are at an all-time high. Finally the Medicaid expansion covers around 11 million people and has driven down the uninsured rate by around 7%.

There are definitely some problems in Obamacare, but most are due to Republican governors refusing to expand Medicare.  And a recent Trump executive order instructed agencies to relax Healthcare rules, and the IRS complied by refusing to enforce the individual mandate.

In 1897, the American writer, Mark Twain, said that “the report of my death was an exaggeration”. If the Republicans want Obamacare to die, they will have to do it themselves, which they are quite willing and capable of doing.  The only saving feature is that current users of Obamacare and Medicaid (Democrats and Republicans) have been filling the town hall meetings of their Congressmen and shouting down any signs of wanting to destroy Obamacare. This is something that Trump and friends can think about in their jail cells. The fact is that only the thing that is in a “death spiral” is the Republican Party. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Too Good to be True?

A paper came out in Nature recently with the mind-numbing  title: “The antibody aducanumab reduces Aplaques in Alzheimer’s disease.” But in perusal of the Abstract a statement jumped out to me: “In a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) aducanumab is shown to enter the brain, bind parenchymal Ab, and reduce soluble and insoluble Ain a dose-dependent manner. In patients with prodromal or mild Ab, one year of monthly intravenous infusions of aducanumab reduces brain Ab in a dose-and time-dependent manner. This is accompanied by a slowing of clinical decline measured by Clinical Dementia Ratings-Sum of Boxes and Mini Mental State Examination scores.” They concluded that “..these results justify further development of aducanumab for the  treatment of AD.”

Now, I am not in the AD-amyloid field, but this appears very exciting. I know very well that there has been a great controversy whether amyloid-plaques and tangles have anything directly to do with the clinical development of AD, but these data show that this antibody reduces brain Ab plaques. It also provides preliminary evidence for an effect on the clinical development of AZ.

But before you run out and tell your mother about this, a larger Phase 3 clinical study with many more patients must be performed, but it already gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Computer viruses

I had written a blog entry recently about the possibility that the Kaspersky Antivirus Company could be involved with the Russian hacking of our election, but I never posted it, just in case it was wrong. The reason I thought that this was a possibility is that I had read that the CEO, Eugene Kaspersky, was a close friend of Putin. In addition, Kaspersky was the first company to forensically uncover the Stuxnet worm and its progeny, Duqu 2.0, that attacked the Iranian nuclear program as well as the entire Kaspersky computer network. This worm was presumably created by the NSA and the Israeli intelligence agencies.

So it was no great surprise that I read today that Ruslan Stoyanov, the Kaspersky Manager in charge of investigating computer hacking, was arrested in Russia and charged with Treason!  However, in view of all the recent publicity about Russian computer hacking, this has the definite smell of disinformation.

More to come, I presume.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Just Saying

I copy below a Reuters News item that just appeared recently:

Staffers at the Department of Energy say President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team is seeking a list of employees who have worked to cut carbon emissions, a move many fear means an impending purge of those fighting climate change. A report by ABC News late Friday said staffers had received a 74-point memo on Tuesday asking for information on several of the department’s programs, as well as a list of names of staffers who worked on certain projects. One question specifically asks for the names of those who attended international conferences on climate change. “It looks like Trump and his administration are planning a political witch hunt which has no place in American government: purging or marginalizing anyone who has worked on the issue of climate change,” John Coequyt, climate policy director at the Sierra Club, said in a statement on Friday. Trump has repeatedly described climate change as a hoax created by the Chinese. His choice of Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier, to head the Environmental Protection Agency has further fueled fears that the Trump administration will undo all progress made fighting global warming by the Obama administration.

Let me remind you of a time in the 1930’s when similar lists of names were also acquired in Germany. 
In May 1935, Jews were forbidden to join the Armed Forces, and that year anti-Jewish propaganda appeared in Nazi German shops and restaurants. The Nuremberg Laws were passed around the time of the Nazi rallies at Nuremberg; On September 15, 1935, the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor was passed, preventing sexual relations and marriages between Aryans and Jews. At the same time the Reich Citizenship Law was passed and was reinforced in November by a decree, stating that all Jews, even quarter- and half-Jews, were no longer citizens of their own country. This meant that they had no basic civil rights, such as that to vote. In 1936, Jews were banned from all professional jobs, effectively preventing them from exerting any influence in education, politics, higher education and industry. Because of this, there was nothing to stop the anti-Jewish actions which spread across the Nazi-German economy. As of March 1, 1938, government contracts could no longer be awarded to Jewish businesses. On September 30, "Aryan" doctors could only treat "Aryan" patients. Provision of medical care to Jews was already hampered by the fact that Jews were banned from being doctors or having any professional jobs. Beginning August 17, 1938, Jews with first names of non-Jewish origin had to add Israel (males) or Sarah (females) to their names, and a large J was to be imprinted on their passports beginning October 5. On November 15 Jewish children were banned from going to normal schools. By April 1939, nearly all Jewish companies had either collapsed under financial pressure and declining profits, or had been forced to sell out to the Nazi German government. 
All of these actions required lists of names and addresses of Jewish people. 

Just saying....

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Shock and Despair

After the initial shock and subsequent despair for this country, I gave some thought to why this  happened. Poor Hillary, she did not deserve this. It does show that if lies are repeated enough times, people start to believe them. She has had this all her political life. And then came the Trump  madman. His calling her "crooked Hillary"  again and again without any evidence then led to his saying in a debate not only that she should be in jail but that, as President, he himself would have his Attorney General find her guilty (of what?). It is ironic that he himself was 100 times more guilty of everything and more that he accused her of. 

OK, but then she was still on the road to winning easily, but the anti-Hillary conspiracy began to really gel. First there was the hacking of her emails by the Russians and the slow feeding of Julian's Wikileaks monster to leak the hacked emails slowly to the press, with madman Trump actually asking the Russians to find her "missing" emails. And it is highly likely that  the Russian masters of these hackers made subtle modifications of selected emails. But amazingly Hillary was still leading in all polls. Then came the coup de Gras in the form of the FBI Director, James Comey. What he did can best be explained by copying a Newsweek essay by Kurt Eichenwald:

James Comey should not simply be fired as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He must be barred forever from any form of public service. In the last 10 days, Comey has whipsawed the election for president of the United States. Now we know he did it for no reason. When his agents found information that suggested there were emails on a laptop that might have relevance to the investigation of Hillary Clinton and her email servers, Comey did not wait until he knew even a scintilla of information before announcing it to the world. Reasonably, lots of voters assumed there must be a there there—who could imagine a person with the power of the FBI director would turn the election on its head for no particular reason, on the basis of nothing?
Then, Sunday, Comey handed down another missive from on high: Never mind. His agents had looked through the emails and decided they were piffle. His majesty, the FBI director, has not yet deigned to officially inform his subjects—the American people—whether the emails related to the Clinton case or what they were. (However, people involved in the case tell Newsweek that almost all of them were duplicates of what the bureau already had or were personal.) He just said “nothing to see here” and waived us on our way.
Well, forget it, Jim. We’re not moving on. America has just witnessed one of the most—if not the most—egregious abuses of power in the service of one man’s ego in its history. Joseph McCarthy and A. Mitchell Palmer at least believed they were fighting a Communist threat. Richard Nixon, in Watergate, at least had the motive of retaining power and covering up wrongdoing. But Comey—who I do not believe did this for partisan reasons—has no such motive. This was about him, about preserving his now forever-destroyed reputation, about preening with his self-satisfied standing as a maverick who acts based on what he thinks is right, regardless of others’ opinion. But there is a very thin line between being independent and being reckless. And Comey has demonstrated he does not know the difference.
Before launching into a full Comey tear-down, a few facts must be understood. The FBI is an investigative arm of the Department of Justice. Nothing more, nothing less. An extremely small minority are lawyers, or even have basic legal training. They do not—thank God—decide who gets indicted and who doesn’t. Prosecutors run criminal cases and direct the agents. As many prosecutors have told me over the years, there is almost never an instance where agents who have been investigating a case for months do not recommend for prosecution. Tunnel vision is one reason; the fact that agents rise in the ranks by delivering cases that lead to prosecution is another. That is why prosecutors—and through them, grand juries—make the decision to charge or not. They both serve as a backstop to agents who don’t know the law and have no ability to objectively review their own evidence.
This is why all this nonsense pushed by the Fox Newses of the world has been so deceptive: Screaming “the agents wanted to indict” is on par with “the fish wants to swim.” More important—if any agents really did say these things—they are unfit for the bureau; they must be found and fired immediately for this separate abuse of power.
What that means is, if the FBI does not even conclude it has enough evidence to write a memo recommending prosecution to the Justice Department, there is simply nothing there. Assuming someone committed a crime when the FBI concludes the evidence obtained in the investigation is not worth turning over to prosecutors is like assuming it must be raining when the skies are clear.
The FBI is never supposed to comment on ongoing investigations and, except in exceptional circumstances, never disclose whether it has or has not recommended prosecution. Instead, on indictment, prosecutors stand up at a press conference, announce the charges, then thank the agents and offices of the FBI who conducted the investigation. If the bureau does not develop enough evidence to merit even a recommendation for prosecution, in those exceptional circumstances where it says anything, those are the words officials use: We have not developed evidence that merits a recommendation for prosecution.
In the last few months, unfortunately, Comey has demonstrated he understands none of this. He has broken these rules time and again, leaving himself in the position where he decided he had to break them a couple of more times. He has acted with a lack of accountability that has not been seen since J. Edgar Hoover held the post. It is unforgivable.
Comey came into the job as FBI director having been a federal prosecutor and the deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration. As anyone who has met him knows, he prizes his reputation for integrity and as one who rises above politics. In fact, he prizes it a little too much. And that is what even his allies in government are saying led to his disastrous decisions in recent months. Like Icarus, driven by hubris, he chose to fly too close to the sun and now has fallen into a sea of near-universal public contempt.
The signs of Comey’s coming downfall showed up quickly. In fact, the event that led to his golden reputation as a man of integrity, when viewed through in the context of everything Comey has done in his time as FBI director, looks quite different. He was cheered when the public learned that, while in the role of acting attorney general at a time when his boss, John Ashcroft, was in the hospital, he refused to sign a document authorizing the continuation of a warrantless wiretapping program used as part of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism efforts. Lots of drama surrounded the event, with Comey—in his later retelling of the story to Congress—as the hero. But in truth, by behaving as if only he knew the truth of the law, Comey burnished his reputation but changed nothing. A couple of fixes were made to the program, and he signed the authorization later.
Plenty of people in Washington knew of Comey’s self-infatuation and predicted it would lead to the exact kind of problem born of his arrogance that has convulsed the country for more than a week. In fact, shortly after he was nominated for FBI director, the Daily Beast quoted an unidentified Justice Department official saying these frighteningly prescient words: “If past is prologue, something will happen in the context of a legal, policy, or operational disagreement where Jim may get on the high horse and threaten to resign or take some other action unless things go the way he believes they should.” When he wanted to issue the now-famous first letter, the attorney general and everyone else consulted in the Justice Department said it was against policy and advised him not to do it. But Comey ignored everyone.
That’s the way it has been throughout Comey’s tenure at FBI. When the Obama administration adopted a policy of cutting down on mandatory minimum sentences, Comey stepped up to the microphones to declare the president wrong. Such sentences, he proclaimed, are helpful in developing cooperating witnesses. (In fact, there is no evidence to support Comey’s statement—mandatory minimums do nothing to persuade potential witnesses to cooperate. He just said it because he thought it was true.)
That was the same standard he used later in talking what was called the “Ferguson effect,” a term used to describe the idea that subjecting police to greater oversight and scrutiny increases the chance that they will be murdered. Not only is there no evidence supporting the idea, it has been thoroughly disproven. Yet Comey advances the idea as gospel based again on nothing but his personal beliefs. He was even urged to stop at a White House meeting, but as always, Comey felt certain he knew best, and continued spewing this falsehood.
Then came the time when the FBI needed to gain access to an iPhone that belonged to the extremists who committed an attack in San Bernardino, California, in 2015. Comey was told that an administration-wide encryption program was under development that would be harmed if he pushed Apple. He ignored the White House and the Pentagon and, in an action that thwarted the government encryption effort, demanded that Apple be forced to unlock the phone.
Time and again, Comey did what Comey wanted to do—regardless of the advice, regardless of what others thought, regardless of whether his arguments had no evidence supporting them. This all came to a head, though, with the investigation of Clinton’s use of a personal email server.
When the FBI concluded its investigation with the decision not to recommend charges, that was all any professional in the position of FBI director would say. There are many reasons for that—primarily, that is the extent of the bureau’s job. It is not an arbiter of morality or competence. More important, if the bureau goes further, both the powerful and powerless are in no position to argue the facts. A sentence that starts with the words “The FBI says…” is almost sacrosanct because of its history in the last number of decades of self-control.
Comey did none of these things. Instead, in an action that horrified many officials who have worked in Republican and Democratic administrations, Comey held a press conference where he blathered on and on about his personal opinions and presented details—sometimes incorrectly—about the investigation. He consulted with none of his colleagues, not even the attorney general. And while he proclaimed he would not be recommending prosecution, he excoriated Clinton for her use of the private email server—a statement that was totally beyond his role. He later told Congress that no prosecutor could ever make a case against her based on the evidence—words that should have cheered Clinton partisans, but which again were horrific. Comey does not speak for prosecutors. The arrogance reflected in that one statement was astonishing.
Then, Comey went further. He opened up the Clinton investigative files and had them posted online. This act was again unprecedented, unnecessary and unexplained. Put simply, Comey was out of control. He was acting under all his own rules—calling press conferences, absolving Clinton, condemning her, speaking for prosecutors, dumping FBI files online—and seemed to be making them up as he went along.
His recklessness opened him up to even more criticism from Republicans. Had he simply made the usual statement about no referral, there would have been nothing else to review. But with his endless proclamations and document dumps, he opened himself and the FBI for more criticism as people with no training in investigations or law—but plenty of interest in politicizing the FBI—picked through everything he said and every scrap of paper to scream that the only reason Clinton wasn’t indicted was because of politics. So much information had been placed in the public record by Comey that no one in the public could tell what was a manipulation of the facts and what was real.
Of course, despite all the outcry, Comey did not consider the possibility he had made a mistake. In a message to his employees in September, first reported by CNN, Comey tersely proclaimed that Jim Comey had been right about everything, if he did say so himself. “I’m OK if folks have a different view of the investigation (although I struggle to see how they actually could, especially when they didn’t do the investigation), or about the wisdom of announcing it as we did (although even with hindsight I think that was the best course),” Comey wrote.
Then came late October. Agents had been investigating allegation that former Congressman Anthony Weiner sent illicit, sexual text messages to an underage girl in North Carolina. As part of the inquiry, those agents seized a laptop and eventually discovered emails on it potentially related to the Clinton case. (Huma Abedin, a senior Clinton aide, is the estranged wife of Weiner, and it is her emails that were found on his laptop.) About a week after they had obtained the device, the agents told Comey about their find late on Thursday, October 27.
The emails had not been reviewed. No one reached out to either Weiner or Abedin to obtain permission to review them. No one tried to get a warrant. Literally, the bureau knew next to nothing. But still, the day after he was briefed, with no further information, Comey sent his letter announcing the non-development to Congress. The letter was vague and almost incomprehensible, leaving it to the politicians and reporters to fill in the blanks.
With Democrats reeling and Republicans declaring the announcement as proof that Clinton was about to be indicted, calls came from every side of the political spectrum that he provide more information. But once again, Comey stood firm, telling his employees at the FBI that—shock of shocks—he was right and everyone else was wrong. “There is a significant risk of being misunderstood,” Comey told the bureau employees in the communication, explaining why he was so vague in his letter to Congress. “It would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record. At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression.”
Please. As any fifth grader not suffering under the weight of Comey’s ego could know immediately, saying next to nothing created a tremendously misleading impression. The numbers tell the ugly story. According to the prime political statistics site, FiveThirtyEight, Clinton’s probability of victory collapsed in the aftermath of Comey’s letter, falling from 85 percent to 65 percent in just a few days. Polls in Senate races changed. And throughout Comey’s week of silence, millions of people cast their votes. I personally know several people who changed their votes because of Comey’s letter—some to Trump but some to Clinton because they thought Comey was engaged in Hoover-like corruption of the FBI.
A huge swath of the public now thinks the FBI is a completely political organization: A large number of Democrats, because of the original letter followed by a week’s worth of leaks from other agents about other investigations, are convinced that the bureau is manipulating the election for the Republicans and cannot be trusted. Meanwhile, plenty of Republicans are arguing that Comey’s newest findings can’t possibly be true and that he caved to pressure from the Democrats. In other words, no matter what side of the political spectrum anyone is on, they agree that the FBI is political.
It’s not. Unfortunately, though, it is led by a man who finally outsmarted himself with his own arrogance. He has done more damage to the reputation of the FBI than any director since the Nixon administration. Comey will, without doubt, be listed as second only to Hoover as the worst director to ever hold the office because of his willingness to abuse his power.
Fixing the damage Comey inflicted on the FBI will take a long time. So long as a man is in charge who thinks he’s always right and cares more his personal reputation than his duty, the repairs cannot begin. Comey must be fired. But let’s wait until November 9.

Well, today is November 9, the worst has happened and now Comey will most likely never be even reprimanded  by the Tea Party Republicans still in power in the House and Senate. In fact he will probably be promoted by the presumptive new Attorney General, Rudi Guliani. Sad and horrifying at the same time.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

A Double-Wow Discovery

I rate science discoveries by the “wow” scale and I feel that this is at least a “double wow” discovery.

A second earth-like exoplanet has been discovered only four light years away (25 trillion miles), which is one of the closest star systems to earth. The planet is in an 11 day orbit around the red dwarf star, Proxima Centauri b. The mass of this planet is around 1.3 times that of earth and the planet appears  to be rocky. Even though it is closer to its star than mercury is to the sun, the star is cool enough that the surface temperature of the planet would allow the presence of liquid water, that is, it lies in the “Goldilocks” region. The study of this planet is just beginning and of course there will be an intense search for the possible presence of alien life. 

Incidentally, the Alpha Centauri system is the planned target of the “StarShot” project of Steven Hawking, Freeman Dyson and others which will involve large numbers of very small space craft (nano-crafts) that will be powered by meter-sized “LightSails” only a few hundred atoms thick driven by 100 gigawatt lasers on earth to 20% of the speed of light, allowing the 4.37 light years flight to be accomplished in 20 years. The data obtained would take 4 years to return to earth. 

This initially has the appearance of insanity, but  the list of experts is  very impressive and the Director will be Pete Worden,  the ex-director of Ames Research Laboratory.

And of course Hawking will make sure that the spacecraft do  not have a return address, so as to avoid the possibility that the aliens are intentionally or non-intentionally malevolent.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Highlights (or lowlights) of Republican Convention June 19, 2016

Yesterday was a big day for delectable highlights of Republican stupidity. Here are  a few:

- Melania Trump gives a  major speech and a journalist, Jarret
Hill, rapidly discovered that multiple lines were plagiarized
almost verbatim from, would you believe, Michelle Obama in a
2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Trump's surrogates responded with incredible absurdities: 

Katerina Pierson: She rejected the idea that part of the
speech was taken from Michelle's speech because these are just
words for Republican values and Michelle Obama did not invent
the English language. (And a thousand monkeys can write a
Shakespearean play).

Paul Manafort, Trump's Campaign Manager:Denied that the
relevant parts of the two speeches are the same since these are
just common words and value. "To think that she'd be cribbing
Michelle Obama's words is crazy." (Put crazy on top of that).

The former Trump aide, Corey Lewandowski, said that
Melania is not a native English speaker and relied on other
people to make sure the speech was right. However, Melania
said that she wrote her speech herself with as
little help as possible.

New Jersey Governor, Chris Christy,said that "Ninty-
three percent of the speech was original."  (Duh!)

Rep. Joe Wilson ( the "You Lie" man), said that it was
meant as a compliment to quote a First Lady.

Alex Castellanos, a Trump pundit, said that it is hard
to stay organized when writing a speech. (Somehow Micelle's
speech was sitting around and the pages got mixed up.)

     And "Morning Joe" says that three different reporters
say that Manfort claims that Melania herself is the one that
added Michelle's words to the speech.

Mississippi ex-Governor, Haley Barbour ("Boss Pig"),
suggested that the Trump campaign actually planned the
plagiarism to draw more attention to the message of the
plagiarized words - that Michelle had said that Barack
Obama would do these things and did not.

The Trump Campaign actually blamed Hillary Clinton's
campaign for the plagiarism. Manafort said that when a woman
threatens Hillary Clinton, she seeks to demean her and take her
down. (Wow!!!).

And finally the coup de grace for Melania was the
discovery that she had claimed in her Biography that in her
20's she earned a University degree in Architecture in Slovenia,
but the truth is that she dropped out of college after her
freshman year. (I actually feel sorry for Melania. Stephen Colbert
said that Trump should have kept the box Melania
came in so he could send her back when she turns 51).

Please note that I have not even mentioned what was actually 
said in the speeches. Well, OK, I will mention a few winners:

        The over the hill TV actor, Scott Baio, tweeted a picture of
Hillary Clinton standing in front of a wall with the word,
"count" on it, and her head blocked out the letter "O". Baio
said that it was just a picture.

        Trump was on the telephone with Fox News precisely when the
grieving deranged  mother was speaking about Bengazi.

         Rep. Steve King was on a panel with Chris Hayes where he
claimed that Western civilization was created by white Christian
people. This led to the meeting breaking up and Chris
Hayes having to apologize to people for King's white supremacy
comments. (King is only surpassed by his close friend, Louie Gohmert.
Trump never apologizes).

    Tony Schwartz, the man who ghostwrote "The Art of the Deal "
for Trump said he "put lipstick on a pig". He said that if Trump
wins and  gets the nuclear codes, it may lead to the end of
civilization (that is, if climate warming does not accomplish
this first).

    The actor, Antonio Sabato (OK, I don't know who he is either),
said that President Obama is a muslim.

Yes,  it was a fun day.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Requiem for Ted Cruz

Requiem for Ted Cruz

I copy below a great article from Daily Kos by Chauncy Devega which analyzes and annotates the farewell speech by the religious fascist who ran for President, Senator Ted Cruz.

CRUZ: Let me tell you about the America that I love. Our nation is an exceptional nation. We were founded by risk takers and pioneers, brave men and women who put everything on the line for freedom. [1] We began with a revolutionary idea that our rights don’t come from kings or queens or even presidents but from god almighty.
That every one of us has an unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. [2]
  1. America was built on land stolen from First Nations people and with the labor and blood of black American slaves. The United States was also founded as a white supremacist Herrenvolk democracy that defined freedom relative to the near exclusive right of white men to own black human property. The reality of the color line—and of black Americans’ experiences in particular—is the asterisk that complicates every narrative about “democracy” and “freedom” from the founding to the present.
  2. Except for the gays and lesbians, transgender, and other people who Ted Cruz, the Christian Right, and movement conservatives want to see disenfranchised and stripped of their equal rights under the Constitution.
And that to protect those rights the constitution serves as change to bind the mischief of government. [3]
3. Contemporary movement conservatism is motivated by a desire to make government so weak that it can be drowned in a bathtub like a baby. Today’s Republicans view government as an enemy. Their conceptions are fixated on what is known as a “negative” conception of liberty. Their ideology is unable to accept that government can be a force for good that can protect individual and group rights, promote economic growth, provide a social safety net, and improve society by properly tending to the Commons. In total, this is the “positive” liberty and freedom understood by presidents such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, and black Americans who after the Civil War, spoke of being “freed into the arms of government”.
For more than two centuries, we have protected those rights. We believe in equal rights for everybody—that everybody deserves dignity and respect whether they agree with you or not. [4] That there will always be evil in the world and injustice in the world but America stands up to it and confronts it. [5]
4. The eliminationist and other violent rhetoric toward “liberals,” “Democrats,” and “progressives,” as well as efforts to censor, intimidate, and bully by elected Republican officials and the right-wing hate media, undermine this fantastical claim.
5. America, like other nation states, is selective in its use of both hard and soft power. The United States does not always confront “evil” and “injustice.” There are many such examples: The United States is waging a war on “terrorism” that, by its own admission, has killed many thousands of innocent people in the Middle East and elsewhere. The United States has supported dictatorial and authoritarian regimes around the world. The United States has also suppressed people’s movements and efforts to create democratic change across Latin America, Asia, and Africa. The United States also chose to not intervene to stop genocides in countries/regions such as Rwanda and the Sudan.
Even from a Montgomery jail our voice for justice and equality rings out for the ages. [6] America is hopeful, optimistic. America is kind. We are not boastful or mean-spirited. America is brave. We keep our word and we believe in peace through strength. [7]
6. Conservatives consistently misappropriate the name and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King was a radical thinker. Conservatives both during King’s life and in the present reject his humanistic vision and deep criticism of white supremacy, classism, and militarism. Dr. King supported slavery reparations, peace abroad, a robust social safety net, guaranteed income, affirmative action for black Americans, and wanted the United Nations to investigate the United States for violating the civil rights of black and brown people. These are all positions that Ted Cruz and the Republican Party enthusiastically reject.
7. Victims of America’s drones, other covert actions, and those who were tortured and killed by those foreign officers and soldiers trained at the School of the Americas would likely disagree. The many innocent people who were tortured by the Central Intelligence Agency, contractors, and United States military personnel during the post 9/11 “War on Terror” would also disagree with the premise that the United States is “kind,” “brave,” and not “mean-spirited.” The hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and others who have died across the Arab world and Middle East because of America’s pre-emptive wars and coups would also disagree.
We have spilled more blood, spent more treasure in defense of liberty than any country in history yet we do not engage in wars of conquest. We do not seek to enrich ourselves at our neighbors’ expense. [8] America is the land that gave my mom, an Irish Italian girl growing up in a working class family the chance to be the first in her family ever to go to college, to become a pioneering computer programmer in the 1950s.
8. The Monroe Doctrine and “Manifest Destiny” established a sphere of influence for the United States in the Western hemisphere. Within this sphere of influence, the United States has overthrown governments, allowed its corporations to exploit the resources of independent countries, and seized land and resources at will. The Mexican American War and various other “police actions” and “interventions” were direct efforts by the United States to conquer other countries and to enrich itself at the expense of its neighbors.
The United States has engaged in wars of conquest outside of this sphere of influence through the use of proxy states and movements, covert actions, and on occasion, publicly known direct action by the military or other forces. The United States protects and maintains its empire through 800 military bases in 80 countries.As David Vine observes in The Nation, this is likely more than any other empire, people, or nation in human history.
I love you, mom. America is the land that welcomed my father as a penny immigrant. He’d seen oppression, prison and torture in Cuba and for him America was hope. It was opportunity. In 1957, if someone had told that teenager washing dishes for $0.50 an hour that one day his son would be elected to the Senate and he would get a chance to cast his ballot for his son to be president of the United States …
That teenage immigrant washing dishes could never have believed it and yet that’s exactly what happened. Only in America. [9]
9. This is a standard “American Exceptionalism” talking point about the myth of meritocracy and how the United States is a “unique” country of “immigrants.” There are many examples, from countries around the world, where people willingly immigrate or arrive as refugees and enjoy intergenerational upward mobility.
In recent months, a lot of people have been talking about what happened 40 years ago at the Republican convention in Kansas City—our party’s last contested convention. When I look back at that convention in Missouri, I think of the speech that Ronald Reagan gave to our party. He spoke not of the next four years. He saw not the close horizons that of interest to those who seek to build their own fortunes in the short term but instead he looked to the distance times and — that concerned the men and women who’s purpose it is to secure the blessings of liberty to their posterity. [10]
10. Ronald Reagan’s policies destroyed unions and hollowed out the American middle class while further enshrining the neoliberal order in service of the global plutocrats. Reagan was also pragmatic. He raised taxes 11 times, passed gun control laws, tripled the federal debt, expanded the federal government, engaged in bipartisan policy-making with Democrats, and negotiated with both the Soviet Union and “terrorists” in Iran. Reagan also expanded reproductive health rights for women in California during his time as governor. At present, Ronald Reagan would be rejected as too “liberal” and a “R.I.N.O.” conservative” by the Republican Party and its media.
Ronald Reagan spoke of the next 100 years and of the generations of Americans who would come to know whether our nation had escaped the existential threat of nuclear war, who would know whether our party had succeeded in its fight against the erosion of constitutional freedoms that only grow and multiple under rule of the Democratic Party. [11] Ronald Reagan spoke of the purpose that defined our party then and that must unite and drive our party now.
11. Ted Cruz confuses the “right” of Christian theocrats and other conservatives to deny the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and liberties of other Americans with an “erosion” of constitutional freedom. Moreover, Republicans through voter suppression laws and other means have acted to restrict the voting rights of millions of Americans.
Gays and lesbians and other groups have seen their constitutionally protected rights vastly expanded (and respected) by the Democratic Party.
Also, see my previous comments on “positive” versus “negative” liberty.
The Republican Party of Ronald Reagan and of George Herbert Walker Bush ensured that thousands of nuclear missiles that the Soviet Union and the United States had targeted each other were never fired and that Soviet communism was consigned to the ash heap of history. [12]
12. The Soviet Union was defeated by the continuity in American foreign policy (some aspects successful; other aspect not so much) across presidential administrations and parties. Contrary to Republican myth-making and fantasy, the Berlin Wall was not brought down because Ronald Reagan told Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”
They fought hard so that our American freedoms were not lost to any foreign foe nor sacrificed in pursuit of any domestic agenda of the Democratic party. [13]
13. See my earlier comments on eliminationist and violent rhetoric by Republicans and the right-wing media. They don’t see Democrats as simply one of the country’s two, main, institutionalized political parties. No. They are mortal enemies, traitors, and a type of fifth column that wants to destroy the United States of America. This language is encourages violence and domestic terrorism.
Yet the challenges we face today remain as great as ever. Americans are deeply frustrated and desperately want to change the path that we’re on. We have economic stagnation at home and our constitutional rights are under assault. Under the Obama-Clinton foreign policy, Russia has emerged as a resurgent threat. [14]
14. Under Barack Obama, the unemployment rate is now near 5 percent. Gas is at the lowest price in recent memory.
Russia “re-emerged” as a “threat” in response to the Bush-Cheney administration.
China looks with a covetous eye on the lands of our allies in the region. A nuclear North Korea and a near nuclear Iran yearn to devastate our homeland and radical Islamic terrorism unleashes an evil that threatens the world. [15] This year, two weeks before our party gathers in Cleveland all Americans will celebrate the 240th birthday of the United States of America.
15. Iran is not an existential threat to the United States. Likewise, Islamic terrorism is not an existential threat to the United States or Europe. North Korea represents a very particular and unique challenge for global diplomacy, one that has vexed policy makers in multiple countries across many years. Iran is a sovereign country and regional power that like other nation states has an inherent right to develop nuclear weapons. Foreign policy experts in numerous countries and across lines of party and ideology have praised the Iranian nuclear deal as the best option and outcome reasonably available.
American parents and grandparents will watch the fireworks with their kids and will dream of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren to come and wonder how those future generations of Americans will remember what we do not only this summer but in the coming decades. Will we rise to meet the challenges that face our nation on the international stage or will we withdraw and cower timidly from the world?
Will we secure freedom of thought, expression and religion for future generations?
Or will we succumb to the tyranny of a political correctness and the temptation of radical politics and balkanization here at home? [16]
16. The Republican Party has become increasingly radicalized and extreme since the election of Barack Obama, the United States’ first black president. There are many examples of this revanchist and borderline seditious behavior.
The GOP has refused to cooperate on basic legislation and in service to the letter and spirit of the United States Constitution in terms of the Supreme Court or filling other vacancies.
During Obama’s tenure, the Republican Party has taken unprecedented actions such as shutting down the government and threatening to default on the country’s financial obligations. Republicans have used the language of the Southern slaveocracy and Confederacy such as “nullification” and “states’ rights” to oppose Obama and the Democrats. The Republican Party and its media have also slurred Obama with “birtherism” and other bizarre conspiracy theories that were designed to mark the country’s first black president as illegitimate and a usurper who is not a “real” (read: white) American.
Will we hold fast to our founding values of rewarding talent, hard work and industry or will we continue on that path of creeping socialism that incentivizes apathy and dependency? [17]
17. Since the Reagan ‘80s, the social safety net has been eviscerated in the United States. Republicans have continued this assault: public education, school lunch and breakfast programs, aid for the unemployed, as well as assistance to the poor, women, and children have been gutted. America’s infrastructure is inefficient, dangerous, and poorly maintained. Wealth and income inequality are at extreme levels that rival the Gilded Age. If there is “socialism” in the United States it is embodied by the submerged state and how the financiers, bankers, and other Wall Street plutocrats are subsidized by the public, do not pay taxes, are protected from prosecution for their misdeeds, and are a parasitic class that lives off of “carried interest” and other dividend income.
Will we deliver control of health care to citizens and their doctors or will we continue down the Obamacare road to second rate socialized medicine? [18]
18. “Obamacare” has been a great success. Millions of Americans now have access to quality and affordable healthcare. The number of uninsured people has continued to drop; costs are also being controlled, and in many cases, lowered.
Countries in Europe and elsewhere with “second rate socialized medicine” have longer life spans, are happier, and far better health outcomes for most illnesses than the “for profit” American health care system.
Will we keep America safe from the threats of nuclear war and atomic terrorism?
Or will we pass onto future generations a land devastated and destroyed by the enemies of civilization? [19]
19. See my earlier comments on existential threats (not) facing the United States. Global warming is much more likely to destroy the United States than is nuclear war or atomic terrorism. Cruz’s comment is important, however, for how it fits into the Christian right-wing’s millenarian eschatological “End Times” fantasies about the “Second Coming” of Jesus Christ and a war between the forces of “Satan” and “God.”
This is the responsibility with which we have been charged by history. This is our challenge. This is the fight that falls to our generation. When we launched this campaign 13 months ago we saw a movement grow. The pundits all said it was hopeless but we saw over 300,000 volunteers all across this nation.
Over 1.5 million contributions averaging about $60 each.
Many of those volunteers, many of those contributions you never forget. Just a few days ago two young kids ages four and six handed me two envelopes full of change. All of their earnings from their lemonade stand. [20] They wanted the campaign to have it. That’s what built this campaign. That’s what fuels this movement.
20. “Christian” Ted Cruz takes money from children with the full knowledge that his presidential campaign is going to end imminently.
Thank you to each of you. Incredible patriots who have fought so hard to save our nation.
And I’m with you. I am so grateful to you, to my amazing wife, Heidi.
To our precious girls.
To my mom, the prayer warrior. [21]
21. The Christian Right is an extremely powerful force in the Republican Party. Cruz represents the Dominionist and Reconstructionist wing of the GOP, a group that believes that the United States should be a theocracy run by “Biblical law.” Cruz has signaled to this repeatedly during his campaign, most notably his comment that he is a “Christian” before he is an “American,” and that the United States Constitution should be reconciled with the Bible.
The language of “prayer warrior” has a very specific meaning. Christian fascists believe in the power of prayer to impact public policy. In fact, there are “prayer warrior” training camps across the United States where Christian fascists are taught that it is “God’s will” that they enter politics and use any means—including lies, trickery, and deception—to change America’s secular politics and law. The Christian Right’s prayer warriors want to impose a Christian dictatorship in the United States.
To my dad who has traveled this nation preaching the gospel.
To Carly Fiorina who has been an incredible, phenomenal running mate.
What you have done — the movement that you have started is extraordinary. I love each and every one of you.
From the beginning I’ve said that I would continue on as long as there was a viable path to victory. Tonight, I’m sorry to say it appears that path has been foreclosed. Together, we left it all on the field in Indiana. We gave it everything we’ve got but the voters chose another path. And so with a heavy heart but with boundless optimism for the long term future of our nation, we are suspending our campaign. But hear me now I am not suspending our fight for liberty.
I am not suspending our fight to defend the constitution, to defend the Judeo-Christian values that built America. [22]
22. This is another signal to the Christian Domininist and Reconstructionist fascist movement. Movement conservatives and other members of the Republican Party are also receptive to this narrative. Contrary to the myth-making, lies, plagiarism, and willful distortions of American history as offered by “scholars” such as David Barton, the United States was not founded as a Judeo-Christian country. The Framers desired that there be a strong wall between Church and State. The Framers also included among their number Deists, atheists, and agnostics.
Ted Cruz, like other Republicans, is also confirming his right-wing bonafides as a supporter of Christian Zionism and Israel’s policies against the Palestinian people. In keeping with their mythological and primitive thinking, Ted Cruz and other members of the radical Christian right think that Israel must be protected because it will be the site of the “End Times” battle they believe is necessary for them to be “raptured” into “heaven.”
Our movement will continue and I give you my word that I will continue this fight with all of my strength and all of my ability.
You are extraordinary and we will continue to fight next week and next month and next year and together we will continue as long as god grants us the strength to fight on.
For one thing remains as true today as it was 40 years ago in Kansas City. In this fight for the long term future of America there is no substitute for victory. There is no substitute for the America that each and every one of us loves with all of our heart, that we believe in with all of our heart and that together we will restore as a shining city on the hill for every generation to come. Thank you to each of you and God bless you.
It is unclear if Ted Cruz and the other Republican candidates who recite the narratives and talking points highlighted above actually believe them, or are simply following a script that in their estimate will satisfy the average, low-information GOP voter. Both rationales do great harm to the American body politic. The first, perhaps, can be understood as the result of ignorance and how people have a remarkable capacity to twist the facts in order to fit their desires and standing priors. The second explanation is craven realpolitik where victory matters more than serving the truth and the Common Good: This is a betrayal of democracy.
As historian Richard Hofstadter argued some decades ago, the modern Republican Party, and movement conservatism more generally, are a type of political religion. They exist outside of empirical reality—the right-wing news entertainment disinformation machine has fully propagandized its public and as such, epistemic closure is the status quo ante for the American right.
The brain structures and psychological processes of conservative-authoritarians are fear-centered, tend toward simplistic binary thinking, and have an in intolerance for ambiguity and complexity. Conservative-authoritarians, as explained by “terror management theory,” also have a profound fear of their own mortality and tend to fixate on “the flag, guns, and God” to soothe those anxieties.
The Republican Party is facing a crisis of both demography (their voters are older and more white than a general population that is becoming more diverse and young) and empirical reality. As demonstrated by Ted Cruz’s surrender speech to Donald Trump, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win presidential elections precisely because their voters live in an alternate reality—one that cannot be reconciled with the world as it actually exists.
Consequently, the Republican Party establishment is left with a problem of its own making. Do they tell rank-and-file conservatives that they have been systematically lied to by their leaders, and together, forge a new path forward? Or do the Republican Party’s elites double down on the lies, conspiracy theories, and disinformation with the hope that the right mix of deception will help them win the 2020 presidential election?