Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Kuntar and Israeli propaganda

The attack by Israel on Lebanon recently has brought up history of a 1979 attack by the PLF, the events,  motives and significance of which are contested, but widely used as a rallying cry for a militant state. There are some important comments to make on this.

The following is a comment I posted on a blog by a very good journalist Richard Silverstein who I slightly disagree with on what to make of the story. The comment is mildly revised. I think Silverstein's suspicions are not unwarranted but require a more careful reading of the facts than his source gives, and much of this in the end can only be speculation. Unfortunately also for Silverstein, he is a target on Twitter and in his own comment section of trolls who do everything to tempt him with neutered political philosophy to threaten to "wrap terrorist in pigskin and feed 2 dogs" (mike28tt ) and remind him that "Palestinians are acting like animals and should be put down as such!" (Steambuilder1). It's largely due to this harassment I followed him in the first place, assuming he was -- in his harassers eyes -- someone defying state hegemony, and thus likely telling necessary truths.
*   *

The most pressing questions are not being answered. Does the government handle hostages situations effectively? How does the government try suspects, and is it an open and fair process? Finally, in what way does the intention to go to war corrupt the understanding and beliefs about threats the society faces? Haaretz writes that "In September 1979, a year and a half after the IDF’s Litani Operation [in south Lebanon], Weizman concluded a discussion on the objectives of the war, defining them as “breaking up the terrorist groups in southern Lebanon and the coastal areas.” (brackets in original) (1)

I think these are more important than who in fact was responsible. That said, I think it would be doing a disservice to the cause of the independence and anti-war movements to create a conspiracy theory. The last thing we should do is discredit ourselves by becoming myopic. I'm unconvinced by the testimony of the psychologist, although I don't think the story being told about Kuntar/Qintar is a neutural one. Part of his motivation is to sell a book, which he plugged in the interview. Should we listen to Bill O'Reilly or Samantha Power with as much reverence? Much of his evidence seems to come down to "He told me and I believe him." But everyone in jail is innocent, and truly believes it. In my opinion, to deny your own crime is a sign of humanity, that your conscience cannot handle accusing itself. A true psychopath would not care to deny it.
In its last large offensive on Gaza, Israel obliterated entire families. Israeli propaganda is well-served to have this crime projected onto a foreigner. If one were to sink as low as the IDF's knee-jerk defenders, one could even argue Kuntar was targeting the daughter as an unfortunate  human shield.

Similar motivated reasoning is almost certainly involved in the standard version of the events, and its mirror image. However, at the time, everything was being suppressed as a matter of principle, not just this case. (1) Referencing the time period "there was a plethora of books, speeches and articles made by those involved in the war, as well as analysts and critics, but “not a single one was based on sensitive, classified information.” According to Norman Finkelstein, Israel's image was hurt severely by these wars. The hoax "From Time Immemorial" by Joan Peters published was in 1984 "after Israel invaded Lebanon and suffered its first public relations debacle" (Beyond Chutzpah, p90).

Rather than an explicit coverup, it's likely that the 30 year suppression was simply a matter of policy to conceal as much as possible, regardless. In this way, one can still see why the standard version of events could hurt Israel's image and thus hurt any attempt to plan a new war. The standard version goes that Kuntar attacked a family, and after dispatching with a daughter's protector, went on to lustfully attack the defenseless child. Part of this is corroborated by Kuntar's alleged (though suspect) confession upon his arrest.  “Immediately following his capture, when his remand was extended, Kuntar confessed that he had bludgeoned Einat to death with the butt of his rifle. Later, however, when testifying in court, Kuntar denied the charges.” But a forensic account found brain matter from the child was on the butt of the rifle. (2) However, what motivated him to hurt the poor girl was not a premeditated genocidal attack but to separate the father from the daughter to claim the father as a captive, and this is quite routine in warfare. While still denying the murder “According to the terrorist, Danny Haran insisted on holding on to his daughter, and had he not done that, they would have only taken him to Lebanon.” (3) To me there is some truth hidden in this guilty conscience.

While not taking either his own or his captor's testimony at face value, this is the most plausible picture I think that can be painted. It may not be as sexy as uncovering an immense fraud (which takes serious scholarly work) but to assume that the facts will always fall into our lap in a neat package plants a false overconfidence, and distracts from the work needed to be done to change official policy. Again, it's mistaken to fall into the trap of speculating on events and lionizing a young man simply for being upset with society as much as we are. This version I put forth could be wrong. Who knows? What matters is what we can do about it and what we are prepared to do that it doesn't happen again.

 (1) http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.588972?date=1450603804830
 (2 https://web.archive.org/web/20151117112111/http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/ForeignPolicy/Terrorism/Palestinian/Pages/The%20Kuntar%20File%20Exposed%20-%20Yediot%20Aharonot%2014-Jul-2008.aspx
 (3) http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3569961,00.html

Friday, December 18, 2015

Governor Rauner: the rent-seeker you can have a beer with

Illinois' new governor, like much of his party, has recently been blaming Democrats for mishandling the state finances. Republican state representatives concur that "it's up to the Governor to bring spending back in line with revenues," that it's "Chicago Democratic leaders who have held up the budget process." Adding a personal flourish to the the message, representative David Leitch condemns "the ineptitude of the entrenched super-majority." Representative Ron Sandack states proudly that the Republican Party will "stand together" in the face of these troublemakers.
The corporate press is not so convinced that the blame lies solely with Democrats (which I guess should tell you something) but cannot bring themselves to squarely face the real underlying problems either. To blame Rauner and his allies would feel unbalanced, maybe bordering on psychotic. Crain's Chicago Business' Rich Miller complained that while "Rauner won't even talk about crafting a state budget until his nonbudget demands are met," on balance his opponents "refuse to see the damage they've done to this economy with their decidedly not pro-business laws" which protect the working people of the state. A profile bythe New York Times hailed as a devastating undressing of the oligarchy included the received wisdom that Illinois is broke due not only to elite negligence, but the will-to-power of teachers and firefighters. "Public employee unions, assured that the state’s Constitution made their retirement benefits untouchable, focused on lobbying for other spending. By last year, the state owed billions more in unpaid bills."

One error in this view is the assumption that the failure of the pension fund, and therefore much of the budget impasse, was a result in any way of worker lobbying. As I've discussed elsewhere, the focus on employee pensions is partially a distraction from the failure of the banks and their allies to make good on promises. The pensions shortfall began immediately after they were privatized by a Republican governor in 1982 with a promise of higher returns. When the privatized pension fund failed to live up to its promised amount, as predicted by Governor Thompson's own commission, the banks got a bailout, but the state government refused to fix the Goldman Sachs-created gap in the pension fund stocks.

A second error is the word "untouchable." The pension funds are anything but. They not only provide a reliable source of money to the market itself, but are a source of fees for the firms that "manage" them. Those firms are connected both to the mayor of Chicago and Rauner himself. In addition to facing the people with outright personal histories with these companies, employees and the people of Illinois are now up against what the conservative Illinois Review has noted are "Chicago's wealthiest families - the Crowns, the Pritzkers, etc." who have taken to lobbying to cut pensions because they "mean business."

The solution that Rahm Emanuel and the Republicans and the corporate media are holding out for is for the people of Illinois to plug this hole with cuts to essential services and wage penalties. 

What's truly unfair about this, besides the cuts themselves, and besides that the entire mess can be laid at their own feet and can possibly be solved with a moderate adjustment to the payment plan, is that the governor himself along with other economic winners use a tax shelter in Montana to avoid plugging the hole with their own money.

In 2014, the Chicago Tribune reported Rauner's "strong interest in open land conservation" that led him to win a spot on the Montana Land Reliance, a trust that his campaign was quick to note produces beer. Another sitting trustee is Hamilton E. “Tony” James, the CEO of Blackstone which "manages" the "untouchable" pensions. Conservation is not the only benefit of being a trustee, according to a publication by Montana State University. The other benefit is that "the donor of a conservation easement in perpetuity may also be eligible for certain tax benefits...The gift of a perpetual conservation easement to a qualified receiver can qualify as a charitable deduction for federal income tax, state income tax, inheritance and estate taxes. Term easements are not tax-deductible. To qualify for tax benefits, an easement must be for “conservation purposes” outlined in the Tax Treatment Extension Act of 1980 (Public Law 96-541)."

The majority of pollution in Illinois comes from the energy and transportation sectors. Despite protests, not only will Illinois coal mining surge to an "estimated 60 million tons being mined next year, up from 50 million this year," but Rauner has teamed up with a man the Illinois government website has labeled an "avid conservationist," Wayne Rosenthal. The Huffington Post's Illinois environmental writer has a different take. Rosenthal's environmentalism in practice includes "being an enthusiastic supporter of fracking" while receiving "at least $20,000 in campaign contributions from corporate interests he would be charged with regulating."

Governor Rauner and his friends are clearly dodging taxes which used to get you in trouble in Chicago. But I suppose we first have to slay the terrible beast of the legal protection of the people in Illinois before we sort out a problem like that.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Jobs Over Baghdad

Apparently there is little progress on stopping imperialism with our current Democratic candidates.

I was originally pretty hopeful for both. Coming out of the Iraq war and especially the horrors in Syria, I thought we'd see a more isolationist foreign policy. But while Clinton may be held back by the Iran Deal, she hasn't had to be held responsible for the disastrous war in Libya. In fact, she bragged how she hunted down even more of the evil foreigners during the debates.

And once the IMF said no to democracy in Egypt, we no longer care. Some of her best friends are dictators.

Bernie Sanders cannot escape criticism. Not only has he been weak at best on Palestine, he blocked efforts reduce weapons going into Guatemala and El Salvador as massacres were carried out:

"So when dozens of antiwar activists blocked the entrance to the local General Electric plant because it was manufacturing Gatling guns to fight the socialists in Central America, the protesters expected the mayor’s full support. Instead, he lined up with union officials and watched as the police made arrests, saying later that in blocking the plant, the activists were keeping workers from their jobs."

Obama did this too. From 2011 in The Washington Post:

The Obama administration on Thursday announced an arms deal with Saudi Arabia valued at nearly $30 billion, an agreement that will send 84 F-15 fighter jets and assorted weaponry to the kingdom.

In announcing the completion of the deal, the White House also touted its domestic benefits, saying in a statement that, according to industry experts, it would “support more than 50,000 American jobs.”
Have to commend Katharine Chris Floyd and Asad Abukhalil for the commentary here.

I think Sanders shouldn't sell out the cause of peace just because some people get paid to make guns.
 But unfortunately, he probably only knows what the media tell him.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Fragile X Review

Therapy or opposite protein or gene
Upregulated processes

S-Adenosylmethionine-dependent methyltransferase activity
tRNA aminoacylation for protein translation

Amino acid transport

Chaperone activity
protects from stress “triggered by elevated levels of FMR1”
Glucose catabolism

leucine and isoleucine improved glucosemetabolismin CCl 4 rats by promoting glucoseuptake in skeletal muscle”

upregulationof these glucosetransporters has been shown to be caused by acute
  • cytokines,
  • angiotensin II,
  • endothelin-1,
  • vascular endothelial growth factor,
  • transforming growth factor-beta,
  • and hypoxia
Green tea?

4. arganine
Gentiana manshurica
folic acid

5. Rhodiola increase in the anti-inflammatory cytokines IL-4 and TGF-ß1. - Rhodiola rosea
* *
sertraline therapy might have exerted immunomodulatory effects through a decrease in the proinflammatory cytokine IL-12 and an increase in the anti-inflammatory cytokines IL-4 and TGF-β

Ubiquitin cycle
In an attempt to get rid
of the excess of FMR1 mRNA, the cell might attract chaperones or elements of the ubiquitin/proteasome system.
Muscle repair?

Neuroprotective effect of silymarin in a MPTP mouse model of Parkinson's disease

J Pérez-H, C Carrillo-S, E García, G Ruiz-Mar… - Toxicology, 2014 - Elsevier
Abstract Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease secondary to the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. 1-Methyl-4-phenyl-1, 2, 3, 6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) produces in mice and primates histopathological changes ...

Protein folding
Pre-50 upregulated? Purα, Rm62, CUGBP1,
hnRNP A2/B1, SAM68, and DROSHA-DGCR8,
Isomerase activity

GABA α1, 3,4; β2; γ2 cerebellum
GABA α3,
GABA α4;
GABA β2;


Downregulated processes

Oxygen binding (neuroglobin(Ngb) and cytoglobin
(Cygb) are supposed to be involved in oxygen (O2) storage and delivery )

stimulating energy producing, catabolicpathways (fatty acid oxidation, glucose transport, etc.).

Research in Britain has shown that the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelinalso affects AMPK levels

Cytosolic calcium ion concentration elevation
(Ashwaganda, Li+)
Nuclear pore
- Alzheimer's / memory

fisetin: Colophospermummopane mopane,[2]mopani,[citation needed] balsam tree,[2]butterfly tree,[2]or turpentine tree

kaempferolHYPERLINK "https://scholar.google.com/scholar?start=10&q=DAF-16/FOXO+&hl=en&as_sdt=0,14"and fisetinon thermotolerance, oxidative stress and FoxO transcription factor DAF-16 in the model organism Caenorhabditis …
Capers, canned26.74 mg100 gramsKaempferolKale, raw13.33 mg100 gramsKaempferolDill weed, fresh13.00 mg100gramsKaempferolCress, garden, raw10.30 mg100 gramsKaempferolDock, raw10.00 mg100 gramsKaempferolChives, raw6.16 mg100 gramsKaempferolBroccoliHYPERLINK "http://nutrition.merschat.com/food-nutrition-facts.cgi?NDB_No=11090", raw4.80 mg100 gramsKaempferolTurnip HYPERLINK "http://nutrition.merschat.com/food-nutrition-facts.cgi?NDB_No=11568"greens, raw

tea, broccoli, cabbage, kale, beans, endive, leek, tomato, strawberries and grapes) and in plants or botanical products commonly used in traditional medicine (e.g. Ginkgo biloba, Tilia spp, Equisetum spp, Moringa oleifera, Sophora japonica and propolis
Transcriptional activator activity

expression was decreased for some of
these same genes (for example, gad1, ssadh)

improved memory?: ,α1
overexpression ofgenes for several GABA A receptor subunits (for example,α1,3,4; β2; γ2) and proteins involved in GABA metabolism(gad1, ssadh) has been observed in the cerebellum, but
not the cortex, of CGG dut KI mice, which could be relatedto the motor phenotype observed in FXTAS [82,83].

In BD, however, a suppression of transcription factors involved in cell differentiation may contribute to GABA dysfunction. \par
Glycoprotein biosynthesis
reexposing dark-reared mice to light rapidly upregulatesArc/

Lipid catabolism
Alpha lipoic acid?
Omega 3?

Transcription initiation

Serpina3, a serine protease inhibitor that is released during inflammatory responses, was up-regulated and may reflect the increased prevalence of autoimmune disease (for example, lupus, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, thyroid disease)

Involvement of hippocampal Arc in amnesia and its recovery by alcoholic extract of Ashwagandha leaves

A Gautam, R Wadhwa, MK Thakur - Neurobiology of learning and memory, 2013 - Elsevier
... 2.6. RNA in situ hybridization. ... through different receptor system, like NMDA-R, mAChR and TrKB leads to PKA, PKC or ERK dependent increase in Arc mRNA and protein ... Further, NMDA-R activation leads to increase in the transport and translation of Arc mRNA in dendrites. ...

vitamin e?

Whey protein, as exclusively nitrogen source, controls food intake and promotes

NAC, an antioxidant
that promotes glutathione The cruciferous family of vegetables is one of the richest food sources of glutathione. The most potent vegetable is Brussels sprouts. Others include cauliflower, broccoli (particularly the flowers, not the stem), cabbage, kale, bok choy, cress, mustard, horseradish, turnips, rutabagas, and kohlrabi.
  • In addition to the cruciferous vegetables, both garlic (Allium sativum) and the ripe seeds of the common green bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) help make glutathione and its dependent enzymes more effective.
  • In the Slovak Republic, researchers discovered in animal studies that eating red beets not only reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but also decreased cholesterol deposits in the aorta and increased GST enzyme levels, making the animals less susceptible to chemically induced colon cancers.
  • At the University of Illinois, researchers found that including the herb rosemary in the diet could increase GST enzyme activity. The strongest activity resulted when an extract of the herb was given by injection, but ingesting the herb extract orally (at concentrations of 0.25 to 1.0 percent of the diet by weight) showed a 3.5- to 4.5-fold increase in GST activity, which is very significant.

selenium, which promotes glutathione
peroxidase synthesis and activity

Lipoic acid increases glutathione production


Intermediate filament

Epidermal differentiation
LemonGrass !

Centella Asiatica?

** In BD, however, a suppression of transcription factors involved in cell differentiation may contribute to GABA dysfunction. \par

Cell cycle arrest
TNFα, contributing significantly to translation upregulation of these mRNAs upon cell cycle arrest
Symporter activity


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Ideology of violence in mainstream US

Chicago is said to be increasing in violence. The solutions to this violence unfortunately are decided more by ideology than an honest reading of the scholarship.

When countering the fear-mongering about crime, people will typically cite the book The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker. The book is hundreds upon hundreds of pages long, written by a Harvard psychology professor, and is almost universally taken to be gospel by the mainstream left. Outside of the mainstream, such as in the International Socialist Review, some of the conclusions about foreign policy have been rightfully debunked, a mirror of past faux-scientific studies of terrorism that Noam Chomsky, another lefty critic, had debunked.

In my own research, Pinker has done more than only mishandle US foreign policy and attribution of blame. He's also mishandled the scientific understanding of violence.

Pinker attributes drops in violence to what he calls the Leviathan, an enlightened hegemon imposing its power. He cites a major study on American homicides by Randolph Roth.

I've placed above the black bar the Elias civilizing process as summarized by Pinker, and highlighted in red the stripped re-interpretation done by Pinker (emphasis mine):

The two civilizing forces, then, reinforce each other, and Elias considered them to be part of a single process. The centralization of state control and its monopolization of violence, the growth of craft guilds and bureaucracies, the replacement of barter with money, the development of technology, the enhancement of trade, the growing webs of dependency among far-flung individuals, all fit into an organic whole. And to prosper within that whole, one had to cultivate faculties of empathy and self-control until they became, as he put it, second nature.
_________      [snip snip]     ________________
Figure 3-12 superimposes Roth's data from New England on Eisner's compilation of homicide rates from England. The sky-high point of colonial New England represents Roth's Elias-friendly observation that "the era of frontier violence, during which the homicide rate stood at over 100 per 100,000 adults per year, ended in 1637 when English colonists and their Native American allies established their hegemony over New England." After this consolidation of state control, the curves for old England and New England coincide uncannily.
The rest of the Northeast also saw a plunge from triple-digit and high-double-digit homicide rates to the single digits typical of the world's countries today.

Note "the growth of craft guilds." The summary of Elias is the only reference to labor power in the book. Pinker has, in his interpretation of Roth and Elias, missed their similarity. What Elias described as "guilds" today are called unions. On page 440 of American Homicide, Roth observes:

Obsessed with proving his Leviathan theory, Pinker not only glosses the eventual genocide on the continent, usually done with some help from "Native American allies" warring on behalf of colonial hegemons, but omits the more recent evidence by Roth that it is not only power from above but below that civilizes a country.

Whatever the cure is for violence should be, the debate is far too narrow. Why are colonial practices prized more than labor power? Steven Pinker and others in the mainstream practice what is at best greedy reductionism. Pinker has since gone on to research how IQ makes people rich, attracting the interest of young technocratic racists. Modern eugenics.

Assuming violent crime is on the rise, Chicago cannot be a better example of Pinker's Leviathan failing to reduce violence. Rahm Emanuel and his business allies consider a de-centralized Chicago to be a "risk" to regional growth. The recent commission to decide whether to build a George Lucas museum on the gorgeous Chicago lake was "composed of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s appointees and three new members." The plan to modernize Chicago with a manufacturing school on the West Side was hampered by high dropout rates, an absurd dumbed-down curriculum, and did nothing to check the skepticism of continuing control through racist domination in the workforce.

The one single program that reduced violence, by about a third where it was put into force, was axed after the police "suggested the anti-violence group undermines respect for police in some neighborhoods, as it sometimes mediates conflicts without police involvement." The announcement to ax the program was only a little over a year after the police complaint (June 12, 2012). Emanuel denies police input in the decision instead citing charges aimed at one of its members, which looks a lot like a hand-wave to me. They were indeed dropped. Regardless of the motive, Leviathan won.

As can be seen by his treatment of people in Section 8 housing, mayor Rahm Emanuel buys into the platform of "New Urbanism" which argues that the ills of society are cultural. Violence is coded racially, often hiding behind terms like "schools," "neighborhoods," and "traditional morals." The mayor has since blamed the Black Lives Matter movement for an increase in violence, a debunked trope sometimes called "the Ferguson effect."

Black people, like Native Americans and most people who have been conquered or considered enemies, are seen as culturally backward, refusing to integrate middle-class values. White people I know, even while dealing drugs, will often tell a story illustrating the correct behavior around cops to explain why black people are so harassed by the state. The ideology runs deep. But, white people commit crime too. And sometimes white people most responsible for continuing  violence are far from poor.