breaking: george w. bush is still a walking piece of excrement

The other guard dragged me out with my toes tracing the way, and threw me in a truck, which immediately took off. The beating party would last for the next three to four hours, before they turned me over to another team that would use different torture techniques.
“Stop praying, motherfucker. You’re killing people,” [ ? ? ? ? ?] said, and punched me hard on my mouth. My mouth and nose started to bleed, and my lips grew so big that I technically could not speak anymore. The colleague of [ ? ? ? ? ?] turned out to be one of my guards; [ ? ? ? ? ?] and [ ? ? ? ? ?] each took one of my sides and started to punch me and smash me against the metal of the truck. One of the guys hit me so that my breath stopped and I was choking. I felt like I was breathing through my ribs.

Did I pass out? Maybe not. All I know is that I kept noticing [ ? ? ? ? ?] several times spraying ammonia in my nose. The funny thing was, Mr. [ ? ? ? ? ?] was at the same time a “lifesaver,” as were the guards I would be dealing with for the year to come; all of them were allowed to give me medication and first aid.

After 10 to 15 minutes, the truck stopped at the beach. My escort team dragged me out of the truck and put me in a high-speed boat. [ ? ? ? ? ?] never gave me a break; they kept hitting me.

“You’re killing people,” said [ ? ? ? ? ?]. I believe he was thinking out loud: He knew he was committing the most cowardly crime in the world, torturing a helpless detainee who was completely submissive and turned himself in. [ ? ? ? ? ?] was trying to convince himself that he was doing the right thing.
Inside the boat, [ ? ? ? ? ?] made me drink salt water, I believe it was direct from the ocean. It was so nasty I threw it up. They put an object in my mouth and shouted, “Swallow, motherfucker!” I decided inside not to swallow the organ-damaging salt water, which choked me as they kept pouring the water in my mouth. “Swallow, you idiot!” I contemplated quickly, and decided for the nasty, damaging water rather than death.

More (much more) here, if you can stomach it.

And the man ultimately responsible for this stain on our collective conscience was verbally fellated by every living U.S. President last week. But remember, we're supposed to consider the "whole man" because he writes nice thank you notes.

Fuck. That.

a rare post about sports (kind of)

--Someone please tell Chris Hansen that he just got played. The NBA has figured out that the most valuable thing to it about Seattle is to use us as a threat to get more money out of other owners and host cities. (Speaking as a Seattle taxpayer for now, I am totally OK with this, BTW.)

--That sound you heard yesterday morning was about a third of the WNBA clearing their throat.

--A lot of people want to lay the backlash against Tim Tebow on his outspoken Christianity. It seems more likely to me that his outspoken Christianity might have contributed to him getting more attention than his actual playing ability (in the NFL) warranted.


this and that

From the weekend's reading...

--A piece from the Wilson Quarterly about the potential relationship between genetic diversity of human populations and economic prosperity. In short: too much diversity and you don't get enough cooperation. But too little, and there is no dynamism. The sweet spot is in the middle somewhere. (Also, Ethiopia is the most genetically diverse country on earth. I did not know that.)

--A profile of the unfortunately-named Jan Assmann and his controversial ideas about how the introduction of monotheism fomented a level of conflict previously unseen among the previously polytheistic societies of what we would now call the Middle East. (Astute readers will note that this was essentially the premise of the Battlestar Galactica spin-off/prequel Caprica.)

--Porn star/model/aerialist/writer Stoya on casinos, megachurches, and what both have to do with human evolution.


quote of the month

first election 2016 post

Don't worry, this won't become a habit. I promise.

But it is worth noting the news today that Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is retiring at the end of his current term. At first glance, this looks like a seat that could be an easy pickup for the GOP in '14. However, if you've paid any attention to Montana politics in recent years, you might know that its massively popular and recently term-limited Democratic governor Brian Schweitzer is an early odds-on favorite to run for the seat, and very likely to win it.

The Democratic bench for 2016 is rightly derided for being bereft of promising candidates that aren't named Hilary Clinton. Personally, I think Schweitzer could make a fine president: he had a successful governorship, he's served in the Executive Branch, he's done international development work (in the Middle East, no less), AND he's worked in the private sector.

The only thing really holding him back is that most Americans don't know who the hell he is. But if recent history has told us anything, a two-year stopover in the Senate is really all it takes to fix that...



Here's the thing that bugs me about the bombing in Boston (besides the obvious.)

It really doesn't fit a pattern. Or actually, it fits a couple of patterns imperfectly, that are more or less mutually exclusive.

Islamists (and other religious/political terror groups, like the IRA) historically make a point of claiming responsibility for their work. As far as we know, there haven't even been dubious claims of responsibility for this one. So even though the M.O. of a low-tech IED set to maximize random carnage fits the profile of AQ and their wannabes, nothing else really does. (Some might argue that these guys look a little...swarthy...but so does Gino. So do I after a week at the beach, for that matter. Seriously, the only thing that we can say about the suspects from those pictures is that they are not sub-Saharan Africans, and at least one of them isn't east Asian. They probably aren't Swedish, either.)

On the other hand, our home-grown politically motivated terrorists do tend to like this particular week in April, but they also tend to go after government buildings. Avenging Waco seems like a hell of reach, too.

What I am struck by, though, is the ingenuity (please don't mistake my word choice here for admiration or approval) of the timing and the setting of the attack. And to a lesser extent (because it might have been serendipitous) the physical nature of the blast damage.

I'll take the second point first. Based on the injuries suffered, it would appear that the blasts and shrapnel radiated outward along the ground. That's why so many people lost legs and feet, and probably why one of the casualties was a little boy. It makes for a horrific scene. In some ways, grievously injuring a couple of hundred people is more of a spectacle than killing a handful.

Which brings me back to the first point. The bomber(s) weren't targeting the marathon. They were targeting the crowd on the side of the course. At the finish line.

In other words: a crowd of people in a place and time where nearly everyone had their camera out. Add to that the delay between explosions was too short for the old tactic of waiting for the first responders to arrive, and setting off a secondary explosion. But it was just right to be certain to be caught on any number of camera phones being whipped out after the first one.

Maybe this was political, or religious, or some warped version thereof, a la Eric Rudolph. But really, this just looks to me like someone wanted to really hurt some people, and for the world to see it.

Needless to say, I sincerely hope the bastard(s) responsible for this are brought to justice. But I think we should be ready to find the answer to the question "why?" very, very unsettling.


why equality matters

This is completely indefensible.

A gay man was arrested at a hospital in Missouri this week when he refused to leave the bedside of his partner, and now a restraining order is preventing him from any type of visitation.
Roger Gorley told WDAF that even though he has power of attorney to handle his partner’s affairs, a family member asked him to leave when he visited Research Medical Center in Kansas City on Tuesday.
Gorley said he refused to leave his partner Allen’s bedside, and that’s when security put him in handcuffs and escorted him from the building.
“I was not recognized as being the husband, I wasn’t recognized as being the partner,” Gorley explained.
He said the nurse refused to confirm that the couple shared power of attorney and made medical decision for each other.



the president's teachable moment on interacting with female colleagues

Mr. Obama created a minor stir last week--particularly among a lot of his core constituencies--by noting that California Attorney General Kamala Harris "...happens to be, by far, the best looking attorney general,” in public remarks.

A few thoughts.

1. That was a dumb thing to say. Lindy West does an admirable job of pointing out why, with typical good humor.

2. When a man works 80-hour weeks and has every public utterance recorded, transcribed, and scrutinized, it is inevitable that he will occasionally say dumb things, and we will know about it. Mr. Obama is one of the least gaffe-prone public figures in recent memory; I think he can be forgiven a momentary lapse of judgement without also dismissing what he said as "no big deal."

3. If you, as a man, find this confusing or frustrating, please allow me to offer a bit of friendly advice. I'm no expert on gender relations, nor a dedicated student of feminist theory--but seriously, this isn't rocket surgery. Here's a very handy rule of thumb: if it would be weird to say it to one of your male colleagues, it most likely isn't appropriate to say it to one of your female colleagues. Stick to that, and you will rarely, if ever, go wrong.



Is there any event more deliciously communal than the death of a polarizing figure?

Those who love you have the chance to sing your praises. Those who hate you a chance to stomp on your grave. The former the chance to deny the latter their joy--all in the name of decency, of course. The latter the opportunity to bask in the sheer force of their conviction. All while the indifferent get to revel in the simple pleasures of falling for neither hero-worship nor the unseemly impulse of schadenfreude.

Satisfied self-righteousness for all! There's even room for the odd columnist (or blogger!) to craft a few clever words and pretend he's somehow above it all, even when he knows deep down and damn well that he is not.

So, regardless of how you feel about the late Mrs. Thatcher: enjoy the day. It's rather hard to see how you couldn't.

Mark the sequel: Not long afterwards, I was at a reception in the Rosebery Room of the House of Lords. She came. (I'll try and keep this brief.) A mutual Tory friend offered to introduce us. I agreed with some alacrity. The subject of the moment was Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. I held one view on this. She held another. The introduction was effected. Did I imagine it, or did she recognize the name of the scribe who had hymned her feminine allure? At once we were embroiled in an argument on the subject of racism and decolonization. I was (I only mention it) correct on my facts as well as my principles. She was lousy on both. But what a bonny fighter! She wouldn't give an inch. I found myself conceding her a trivial point, and bowing as I did so. She smiled."Bow lower," she said.Suddenly robbed of volition, I complied."No -- much lower."By now near to drowning in complicity and subjection, I obeyed. She withdrew from behind her back a rolled-up copy of the Parliamentary orders of the day, and she gave me a sound smack before I could --how does one put this? -- straighten up. I regained the perpendicular in some blushful confusion and difficulty, to see her swing away and look over her shoulder, the words "naughty boy" floating over me in my near trance-like state, as the journo witnesses closed in to say, "What was that all about?" I told them they would never understand, and -- what do you know -- they never did.


an aside on comment moderation

I'm using moderation instead of captchas to police comment spam because 1) I hate captchas, and 2) I really, really fucking hate captchas.

Generally, I turn your comments around rather quickly, because notices go to my email, which goes to my phone, which I (almost) always have with me.

I have, however, noted a couple of quirks in the system. One is that notices sometimes get "threaded" in Gmail, which means that if several come in in quick succession, I might not notice the one in the middle. I think this has happened a couple of times. I've made every attempt to rectify that. The other is that if you hit "publish" (even inadvertently) it is going to come to me. A couple of times there have been clear cases of double posting, or of an incomplete version of a subsequent comment coming in. Here, my guideline is common sense: if it is obvious that the second comment says what was intended (but incomplete) in the first, I just publish the latter comment.

The second scenario is the only time I have knowingly deleted/neglected to publish any comments. I'm not saying I'd *never* refuse to publish something here (other than spam), but honestly, you'd have to say something pretty horrible. And if I did, the fact of it and my reasoning would be acknowledged in that comment section.

In case you were wondering.


quick thoughts on the brain initiative

I will probably have a great deal more to say about this in the coming days/month/years, but here are a few very quick points I want to make:

1. I am broadly in favor of big public investments in basic science, and not only because my livelihood depends on them. I think it is good policy. Unforeseen benefits tend to accrue from asking fundamental questions that don't have immediately obvious application. Examples include the device on which you read these words and most cancer drugs. There are many, many others.

2. That being said, I am less of a fan of congress or the president setting strategic priorities for research, for precisely the same reason. Most of the publicly-funded science done in this country in the last half-century has been investigator-initiated. It's a "bottom-up" model and I think that on balance it has worked exceedingly well. Science funding is largely zero-sum, both in terms of the money itself, and the time and creative energy that individual scientists put into developing their projects. A "top-down" approach diverts monetary and intellectual resources into what the politicians decide is important and away from the scientists themselves think is worth pursuing.

3. The comparisons to the Human Genome Project are tenuous. The HGP had a well-defined endpoint. We knew what the data would be, and we knew when we would be "done". Getting there was simply a matter of brute force. The brain is infinitely more complex than "ATACGGATTACG ATTACCGATAG CGGCTAGCCTAG, etc."

4. $100 million isn't as much as you probably think it is.

5. Much of what the BRAIN Initiative purports to accomplish is the subject of research already underway by very capable investigators. A cynic might be tempted to point out that this smacks of politicians (and particularly the President) trying to swoop in and take some credit for whatever happens next (and was going to happen anyway.)

when a place you love goes horribly wrong

I'm going to keep this one in my back pocket for the next time I hear Republicans whinging about how their religious liberty and/or the Constitution is under attack:

A bill filed by Republican lawmakers would allow North Carolina to declare an official religion...
House Bill 494, a resolution filed by Republican Rowan County Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford, would refuse to acknowledge the force of any judicial ruling on prayer in North Carolina – or indeed on any Constitutional topic:

"The Constitution of the United States does not grant the federal government and does not grant the federal courts the power to determine what is or is not constitutional; therefore, by virtue of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the power to determine constitutionality and the proper interpretation and proper application of the Constitution is reserved to the states and to the people," the bill states.

"Each state in the union is sovereign and may independently determine how that state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion," it states. 


SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.
SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.
The 1st Amendment has been incorporated many times over, of course. The most the bill's sponsors can hope for is to pass the bill and then waste state money defending it unsuccessfully in court.

Oh well...it's nice to know one state has money to spare these days.


credit where credit is due dept., spd edition

Yesterday afternoon, I was feeling a bit out of sorts, so I decided to leave the lab a little bit early and catch a bus up to Pike Place Market to take in the view of Elliot Bay and buy some tulips for my wife (it's peak season, they are super-fresh this time of year from just up the road in the Skagit Valley, and they are her favorite flower.)

Hopping off the bus at 3rd Ave and Pike, there was a rather large tangle of people ahead of me on the sidewalk at the corner of Pine St., and a couple of police cruisers at the curb. Neither of which is terribly remarkable in and of themselves--that block, despite being two blocks from tourist central in one direction and from the core of the downtown shopping district in the other, is a well-known open air drug market. Shit happens there all the time, but it rarely gets truly dangerous.

Turns out this was one of those rare times.

I found myself near the front of a crowd that one SPD officer was working mightily to keep back (he wasn't very tall, and so I didn't see him until I got much closer than I would have on purpose.) Behind him, two or three officers were on the sidewalk, trying to stop a guy with multiple wounds from bleeding to death. Based on the size of the adjacent puddles, I'd say he'd lost a liter or two of blood at that point. Multiple police units arrived to help with crowd control, and my morbid curiosity quickly gave way to a much more prudent sense of "don't be here". I turned back and crossed over a block down.

It was at least another three minutes before the ambulance got there, due to rush hour bus and car traffic. Based on the police report, I figure I walked up within a minute or two of the stabbing.

I've heard a few people wondering how the police on the scene--who were literally right around the corner when this happened, and actually saw the beginning of the confrontation between the two men--managed to let the assailant get away. I have to say that based on what I saw, those guys did the right thing. If they hadn't immediately starting administering first aid, putting their backs to a chaotic and potentially dangerous situation a few feet away (particularly if someone had decided to come back and finish the job) that kid would surely have died before the ambulance showed up.

They did their job, and they did it well. 


a distinct advantage of the smart car

This guy is looking at hit and run charges instead of vehicular homicide.

Seattle Police arrested a 28-year-old Capitol Hill man in Saturday night’s reported hit and run involving a Car2Go vehicle striking a bicyclist at the intersection of Bellevue Ave and E Olive St.

According to an SPD report on the incident, officers were able to track the driver down at his Capitol Hill apartment with help from the car sharing service. Saturday night, Car2Go was able to provide the name and address of the person who had last rented the car reported by the victim and witnesses at the scene of the 8:30 PM incident and also located the vehicle — still checked out to the suspect — at E Thomas and Harvard Ave where it sat with “fresh damage to the front end.” We’ve asked Car2Go for more information about its policies regarding this type of incident but have not yet heard back from the company.

The 28-year-old booked on investigation of hit and run of a pedestrian told police he was driving the Smart Car at the time of the hit and run but was not aware of having hit anybody.
If you've ever seen a Smart Car up close, you know that it is rather unlikely that you could run over a bottle cap without knowing it. 

I wonder whether the driver would have tested over 5 ng/ml?