SocraticGadfly: 11/19/23 - 11/26/23

November 24, 2023

Science news roundup: Brains and neuroscience; cancer, microbes and contagion

Per a piece by Carl Zimmer, we know that there are, at a minimum, more than 3,000 different types of cells in the human brain. This is reinforcement for what I said years ago: That neuroscience, and related science and science-philosophy fields like cognitive science are still in the Stone Age. We maybe Neolithic rather than Paleolithic now, but still the Stone Age. Here's the biggie further reinforcing that:

The researchers found many new types of neurons, cells that use electric signals and chemicals to process information. But neurons make up only about half the cells in the brain. The other half are far more mysterious.
Astrocytes, for example, appear to nurture neurons so that they can keep working properly. Microglia serve as immune cells, attacking foreign invaders and pruning some of the branches on neurons to improve their signaling. And the researchers found many new types of these cells as well.

We just don't know what these cells do. And, we don't know how they interact with each other. 

So, there's all this to ponder and study:

Megan Carey, a neuroscientist at the Champalimaud Center for the Unknown in Portugal who was not part of the brain atlas project, said that the research provided a staggering amount of new data for researchers to use in future studies. “I think this is a tremendous success story,” she said.
Yet she also cautioned that understanding how the human brain works would not be a matter of simply cataloging each and every part down to its finest details. Neuroscientists will also have to step back and look at the brain as a self-regulating system.
“There will be answers in this data set that will help us get closer to that,” Dr. Carey said. “We just don’t know which ones they are yet.”
Adam Hantman, a neuroscientist at the University of North Carolina who was not involved in the study, said that the atlas would be a big help for some kinds of research, like tracing the development of the brain. But he questioned whether a catalog of cell types would elucidate complex behavior.
“We want to know what the orchestra is doing,” he said. “We don’t really care what this one violinist is doing at this one moment.”

There you go.

November 22, 2023

JFK Assassination at 60: Various thoughts

Just dropping tidbits here, including parts of my editorial column from last week for starters.

First, it's "lovely" that NY Mag's Intelligencer is platforming a conspiracy theorist in Scott Sayare. And, the tiny bits of loose thread of Jeff Morley that he pulls on further than Morley does are hilarious. That said, it's funny that Rick Atkinson, when an editor at the WaPost while Morley was a staff writer there, found his research to that point "boring." That said, NY Mag already platforms a Russiagate conspiracy theorist in Jon Chait, so, while this is "lovely," it's not surprising.

Related? I covered Morley's most recent bouts of idiocy, including about George Ioannides, not quite a year ago.

Second, I've already covered James Robenalt's co-authored book with Secret Service agent Paul Landis as well as noting that I don't get why Gerald Posner hasn't followed up on Robenalt. That said, given that Posner's a full-on Zionist to the point of hasbara, at the current time, I have no desire to visit his Substack to see if he has anything new on this issue. Sadly, Fred Litwin, considered the doyen of assassination researchers by many, has nothing on his site about the book, and his Twitter shows he's as much an in-the-tank Zionist as Posner, so no desire to engage him, either.

Third? I found a better conspiracy theory than any I've seen before: Mossad whacked Jack over Dimona

Fourth? Snippets from my editorial column last week. (My newspaper group still doesn't have a website.)

For a summary, there’s this, first on the conspiracy theories, and second on other assassinations. 

Castro? When he heard what had actually happened, he thought, per Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s desire to do similar to Nicaragua in 1981, that the U.S. would bomb Cuba into a parking lot.

Khrushchev? The USSR thought Lee Harvey Oswald was nuts from the day he got on their soil.

LBJ? The man was, if not as depressed as in the summer of 1961, still too depressed to have either the willpower or the organizational level to pull it off.

As for Oswald being a nut? Most actual or attempted presidential assassins were, even if not clinically insane.

The insanity defense didn’t exist in the 1830s, but a man who tried to assassinate President Andrew Jackson, Richard Lawrence, was sent to an asylum after being found guilty.

John Wilkes Booth was a megalomaniac, at minimum.

Charles Guiteau, President James Garfield’s assassin, thought that a minor political service on behalf of the Republican party merited a diplomatic appointment or something similar.

Leon Czolgosz, William McKinley’s assassin, was so mentally unstable that Emma Goldman, herself an anarchist like him, distrusted him.

Squeaky Fromme, one of the two women who attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford, was one of “Charlie’s girls.” President Ronald Reagan’s would-be assassin,

John Hinckley, was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and got decades in an institution.

So, Oswald was far from an outlier. He was part of the pack.

JFK Assassination at 60: Mossad did it over Dimona??

We need a new conspiracy theory! And I have one!

Israel whacked Jack because he knew too much about Dimona!

No, seriously, within the warped thinking of conspiracy theorists, this one is totally sane. Per the National Security Archive website, Jack warned Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion in 1963 that failure to be able to inspect Dimona would jeopardize US-Israel relations. Seriously:

Beginning in April 1963, Kennedy insisted that the Israeli leadership accept regular bi-annual U.S. inspections, or in diplomatic language, “visits,” of Israel’s nuclear complex at Dimona in the Negev Desert. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and his successor, Levi Eshkol, tried to evade and avoid inspections, but Kennedy applied unprecedented pressure, informing them bluntly, in a near ultimatum tone, that Washington’s “commitment to and support of Israel “could be “seriously jeopardized” if it was thought that the U.S. government could not obtain “reliable information” on the Dimona reactor and Israel’s nuclear intentions.

And, per that piece, Ben-Gurion and his successor, Levi Eshkol, did all they could to stall Jack out.

And, the timing fits:

In early 1963 American concerns resurfaced. In January, Kennedy received a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that highlighted the weapons potential of Dimona. It pointed out that the Dimona complex was likely to be operational later that year. According to the NIE, once Dimona was operating at full power, Israel might be on its way to produce enough plutonium for one or two weapons a year.

Boy, oh boy.

Gets better:

Ben-Gurion was expected to respond to Kennedy’s request on Dimona during his next meeting with Barbour, but he was not ready for a direct showdown with a determined U.S. president. Nor was he ready to accept Kennedy’s goal of semi-annual visits; that would have ended Dimona as the embodiment of Ben-Gurion’s existential insurance policy. Instead, he tried to avoid a confrontation by diverting Kennedy’s attention.

"Diverting" Kennedy, eh? What's the ultimate diversion?

But, it would have been Eshkol to have done that, as Ben-Gurion soon resigned. But Kennedy wouldn't let him off the hook.

Surprised by Kennedy’s tough demands on Dimona just days after taking office, Eshkol’s first response was to ask for more time for consultations. Only on 19 August, more than six weeks after he received the letter, did Eshkol come up with a response, which at times was vague. Under Kennedy’s pressure, Eshkol reluctantly assented, in principle, to allow regular visits by U.S. scientists to Dimona. Nevertheless, he did not agree to an early visit and avoided making a commitment to the bi-annual U.S. inspections that Kennedy sought.

Aug. 19, eh? Tight frame, but three months for an organization as skilled as Mossad, which had pulled off the Adolf Eichmann kidnapping just three years earlier? Not a problem.

Since Mossad had nabbed Khrushchev's famous de-Stalinization speech, it likely had eyes on Lee Harvey Oswald when he went to the USSR, and again when he came back to the US. Oswald's attempt to infiltrate the DRE would have been seized on as the opportunity to use him. 

Mossad agents would have been able to play up Oswald's leftist sympathies and brainwash him. He would be disposable as an assassin and untied to them. In case he were arrested, Jack Ruby, being Jewish, would be a perfect "cut-out" to take out Oswald. After all, he admitted to Earl Warren himself during Warren Commission investigation that he was being controlled:

Ruby could well have been paying off an IOU the day he was used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald. Remember: "I have been used for a purpose," the way Ruby expressed it to Chief Justice Warren in their June 7, 1964 session.

There you go. Not the mob, but Mossad, was the Shin Bet, not Cosa Nostra, to whom he owed a debt.

Finally, this explains everything LBJ.

He knew early on the Mossad background, because he got hints sent to him. The Warren Commission was created as a cover-up. And, with those "hints," this is why he never pushed Israel on Dimona the same way Jack did. And I haven't even mentioned the USS Liberty.

November 21, 2023

Texas Progressives talk political strawmanning and fellating

It's "nice" that the Trib, and a reporter in Denton who should know better, think that Sherman is "rural" when reporting on the kerfuffle about the transgender student yanked from performing in Sherman ISD's school musical, then reinstated by the school board. The fact that the board reinstated him alone shows that the city and ISD aren't stereotypically rural. The rest of the story runs with the "rural Sherman" trope right into strawman territory first, only then getting to the meat — the board has removed oversight of the fine arts program from Superintendent Tyson Bennett and hired an investigator to review his decision. WHY Sherman ISD hired him 18 months ago when he's been a Religious Right Pander Bear since his hiring itself goes undiscussed. And, methinks in other ways that Ayden Runnels is the new Simone Carter and around these parts, that's far from a compliment.

State Board of Ed rejected 7 of 12 eighth-grade science textbooks because climate change

Off the Kuff has updates on the State Bar disciplinary lawsuit against Ken Paxton and the whistleblowers' lawsuit, also against Ken Paxton. 

SocraticGadfly looks at what's behind Pat Fallon's campaign flip-flop.

Did Southwest fix all the problems of 11 months ago that led it to be The Grinch that Stole Christmas? Well, maybe, maybe not. The story notes that rapid expansion in Denver, without rapid expansion of deicing gear, triggered delays elsewhere. Problems related to that reportedly have also been fixed, as has its crew-scheduling software, notoriously bad for a decade or more. A biggie unrelated to last year, though, is that Southwest pilots could be striking at the end of December.

David Rothkopf is showing himself to be more and more of a Biden fellator at The Daily Beast. This time, it's praising his summit with Xi Jinping, even though his own Secretary of State, Blinken, is shown grimacing when Biden said he thought Xi was still a dictator.

Wall Street is officially shifting from DeSantis to Haley as "the" anti-Trump Rethuglican.

What if money had an expiration date? An interesting piece.

Anti-abortion laws are reducing domestic violence screenings. Related to that? Those largely White-state folks, with fewer ob-gyns there now, will also face more Great Replacement problems!

Elon Musk: Destroying human bodies in his lie-based chase to land on Mars, as it will do nothing to save humanity. And OSHA, under both Donald the Don and Neoliberal Joe, appears to be doing nothing about Musk not reporting most this information to it. (Reuters uncovered this all on its own dime and mostly off private records and lawsuits.)

DosCentavos offers some week-ending thoughts on Greg Abbott's latest bigoted law; a giving link; and a COVID report as the holiday season arrives. 

Neil at the Houston Democracy Project posted the Project's 2023 Houston municipal runoff recommendations

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs. Texas Monthly revisits the 1991 mass shooting at the Luby's in Killeen and how it led to the profound loosening of our state's gun laws.  

Your Local Epidemiologist points to a worrying trend in the overall vaccination rate. 

The Current bemoans the inaccuracies of the reporting on the wingnut immigration bill still working its way through the Lege. 

 The Bloggess responds to a critic of her San Antonio bookstore.

David Spiller, Texas Lege vouchers sellout

So, my House Legiscritter, David Spiller, was one of four rural Republican members of the House, anti-vouchers steadfast through the regular sesssion of the Texas Lege, and the first three special sessions, who jumped ship this time to be a mouse in the Abbott-Patrick pocket.

This has to be all the more embarrassing, the overall vote, as Abbott agreed to tie this to improved public school funding this time around. That improved funding included an increase in the state basic allotment to schools AND a promise it would be COLA-ed from 2026 on. (That said, as that's a regular Legislature enactment, not a special, stipulated bureau of the state government like the Social Security Administration at the federal level, I don't think a COLA being tied in would have any legally binding power on future Legislatures.)

Anyway, even without further speculation, maybe that was enough to satisfy Spiller. Or maybe, since his HD68 overlaps the SD30 where Drew Springer said earlier this month that he won't run for re-election, just maybe Abbott and Patrick recruited him. If so, as I noted last week, you heard it here first.

As for the issue at hand? Rural House Republican Gary VanDeaver (a former superintendent) gets it — a small-town school district is the heart of a town. Yes, my region includes a place that also has a private school. But, vouchers would open the door on homeschooling that has no bricks-and-mortar presence, no focus for students, parents or larger community, and more.

November 20, 2023

Internalized Hispanic racism in New Mexico

Today, I'm plenty familiar with Juan de Oñate's barbarity, but, growing up in Gallup, New Mexico, probably about the same time that Deborah Jackson Taffa was growing up in Farmington, we were never taught in history classes (I moved away after my sophomore year in high school, but started first grade there, on up) about Oñate's barbarisms.

I had heard about the most recent violence in Española about plans to once again re-install the Oñate statue there, the reinstallation being pushed by a Rio Arriba county commissioner.

I'm Anglo, not Hispanic, but I can identify with Taffa's piece for Searchlight New Mexico about how many Hispanics identifying as "Spanish" is a form of internalized racism at times. In Gallup, the Muñoz family lived in our neighborhood. As in the parents of today's New Mexico state Senator George Muñoz. His one brother was in my grade. The family insisted on identifying  as Spanish.

On the other hand, by blood? Mark Muñoz looked like a Spanish Hapsburg or something, he was so "sangre azul." Skin so pale white it was translucent and he looked like he had dark circles under his eyes in elementary school.

On the third hand? Our police chief at the time, NOT "sangre azul," simply said, "I'm Mexican," or "I'm Mexican-American." He refused "Chicano," though.