fly brains on cigs and coffee, hold on, give me some of that old time liberalizing

You’ll control me,
Oh so boldly.
Rule me ’til I’m free.
‘Til the pain that shakes me,
Finally makes me,
Get up off of my knees.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Maybe I’ll be fast as you.
Maybe I’ll break hearts too.

from Fast as You by Yoakam Dwight. Who knew SciAm was so ‘fast’ and such a tease – Prescription for a Healthier Brain: Coffee and Cigarettes? – Discovering why even bad habits can protect the brain

Inspired by human studies showing that avid coffee drinkers and smokers have a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, scientists at the University of Washington decided to see what java and cigarettes do to fruit flies. The tremors and other movement impairments of Parkinson’s are triggered by the death of dopamine-producing cells in the brain, so the investigators used flies that had been genetically engineered to have their dopamine cells die off as they age. When Leo Pallanck and his colleagues fed coffee and tobacco extracts to these flies, they found that the animals’ dopamine cells survived and their life span increased. The scientists ruled out caffeine and nicotine as the protective substances, but there are other promising compounds in coffee and tobacco, which the researchers intend to test in these short-lived creatures. ( you’ll get a subscription to read the whole article).

Caffeine and nicotine are heart breakers…and cheap counseling…and friends when no one else is around, but there is no way of knowing whether smoking and coffee will deliver any net benefit to the user. Since nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs on the market so it’s difficult for many people to mark up a fling as just a bad affair. A cup of coffee ain’t no big thing, but just one cigarette is also increasing blood pressure, decreasing oxygen to the brain and signaling the lung cells to perform some repair functions. Smokers who try to quite will feel bad or strange because of withdrawal – which includes not having those smoking initiated dopamines kick in. I had a friend who quit smoking and had to go on anti-depressants for a few months. Most likely because their brain was so used to being doped up by the nicotine. They might have saved themselves some trouble by starting an exercise program at the same time. That would have upped the dopamine levels. It will be interesting to find out what other chemicals there are in coffee and tobacco which keep dopamine cells from dying. Yet strange that a possible treatment or cure for Parkinson’s disease might have been right there in front of us all this time.

hold on

The National Review will be terribly disappointed I found a moderate Muslim. According to NRO there are none, nada, zip.  Get Over the Quran Burning by Asra Q Nomani

On the plan to burn Qurans this weekend, I say to Muslims: Let’s get over the symbolic insult and deal with the very real issues of literal interpretations of the Quran that are used to sanction domestic violence, terrorism, militancy, and suicide bombings in the name of Islam.

[  ]…I believe the Qurans are being burnt because we, as Muslims, haven’t dealt sincerely and intellectually with very serious issues that certain Quranic passages raise, particularly in the West. These include verses—when literally read—that say that disobedient wives can be beaten “lightly,” that Muslims can’t be friends with the Jews and the Christians, and that it’s OK to kill converts from Islam.

We, as Muslims, need to tear a few pages out of the Quran—symbolically, at least, by rejecting literal adherence to certain problematic verses.

I recently sniped an article by Sam Harris who basically said the same thing about Christianity. For Christianity to progress Christians had to give up the idea it was moral to own slaves or deprive women of the vote. Regardless of one’s politics most Americans would agree we are better off as a country because of the liberalization of religion in America – though you cannot use the word liberal as it has been so demonized over the last fifty years. The National Review is not saying Islam could use some liberalizing, a push toward modernity. No, it is saying what every religion has ever said about the religion of others at some point in history – your religion is evil. Period, end of argument. I won’t waste a wish that eliminationists conservatives learn a little something Occam’s razor (pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate). I’d be thrilled if they would use a dull steak knife instead of a bloody chain saw in forming their arguments and world view.

Self Portrait by Renoir 1910. Renoir died in 1919. I wonder if the eye, drawn to resemble the skull socket, was his way of dealing with his age at the time.

Back as far as 2008 right-wing pundits and politicians were calling President Obama a socialist, a secret Muslim, the anti-Christ, a racist who pals around with terrorists, the next Hitler, the next Stalin and OMG, a community organizer. In 2010 Obama says about his critics the meanest most low down comment one could possibility imagine. Small children are in tears. Dogs won’t eat their Alpo. Waterfalls have reversed course because Obama said “They talk about me like a dog”. Oh and the same right-wing suspects are deeply truly hurt that the President would accuse them of being mean and using slang they don’t understand.

Or this passage from An Anthology of African American sermons, 1650 to the Present:

The only way you can bother me out there is if I let you in here. And so I’ve decided tonight, you ain’t getting in here. Roll your eyes at me; cuss me out; talk about me like a dog, but you ain’t getting in, because, Satan, I know where you want to go. You want to control my reality. You want me to believe that this pain that I’m experiencing is more powerful than the joy of the healing that God can bring.

In the Middle-East, among Arabs, to call someone a dog is an insult. Thus right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin is convinced Obama is using coded Muslim language as an insult directed at her and her komrades on the Right. Poor Malkin constantly finds herself in unfamiliar territory – the world of thought.