OK

Pigs in Feedlot
This morning in punditry... Maureen Dowd talks down to the president, and Congress, and everyone... Ruth Marcus righteously kicks Dowd's butt... both Dana Milbank and Ross Douthat are at CPAC, but seeing somewhat different conventions... Missouri thinks your chickens are too happy... and more after the break.  But first...

Pagan Kennedy peers down the microscope at all us participants in the ongoing experiment.

If you walk into a farm-supply store today, you’re likely to find a bag of antibiotic powder that claims to boost the growth of poultry and livestock. That’s because decades of agricultural research has shown that antibiotics seem to flip a switch in young animals’ bodies, helping them pack on pounds. Manufacturers brag about the miraculous effects of feeding antibiotics to chicks and nursing calves. Dusty agricultural journals attest to the ways in which the drugs can act like a kind of superfood to produce cheap meat.

But what if that meat is us? Recently, a group of medical investigators have begun to wonder whether antibiotics might cause the same growth promotion in humans. New evidence shows that America’s obesity epidemic may be connected to our high consumption of these drugs. But before we get to those findings, it’s helpful to start at the beginning, in 1948, when the wonder drugs were new — and big was beautiful.

That year, a biochemist named Thomas H. Jukes marveled at a pinch of golden powder in a vial. It was a new antibiotic named Aureomycin, and Mr. Jukes and his colleagues at Lederle Laboratories suspected that it would become a blockbuster, lifesaving drug. But they hoped to find other ways to profit from the powder as well. ...

Mr. Jukes wanted more Aureomycin, but his bosses cut him off because the drug was in such high demand to treat human illnesses. So he hit on a novel solution. He picked through the laboratory’s dump to recover the slurry left over after the manufacture of the drug. He and his colleagues used those leftovers to carry on their experiments, now on pigs, sheep and cows. All of the animals gained weight. Trash, it turned out, could be transformed into meat.

Feeding the animals the slurry from a chemical trash heap. Sure. No possible problem there.
You may be wondering whether it occurred to anyone back then that the powders would have the same effect on the human body. In fact, a number of scientists believed that antibiotics could stimulate growth in children. From our contemporary perspective, here’s where the story gets really strange: All this growth was regarded as a good thing. It was an era that celebrated monster-size animals, fat babies and big men. In 1955, a crowd gathered in a hotel ballroom to watch as feed salesmen climbed onto a scale; the men were competing to see who could gain the most weight in four months, in imitation of the cattle and hogs that ate their antibiotic-laced food. Pfizer sponsored the competition.

...experiments were then being conducted on humans. In the 1950s, a team of scientists fed a steady diet of antibiotics to schoolchildren in Guatemala for more than a year,while Charles H. Carter, a doctor in Florida, tried a similar regimen on mentally disabled kids. Could the children, like the farm animals, grow larger? Yes, they could.

By the way, the children to whom the drugs were fed in that experiment were totally helpless, definitely non-volunteer participants. But then, that's pretty well true of the rest of us.

Think it's just food quality and quantity that's making America's kids fat? Read the rest of this article.

Then waddle on inside for more.

Maureen Dowd has decided to stop speaking to the readers of the New York Times as if they are fifth graders. Instead, she's decided to treat them like second graders.

Pooty-Poot and his own party are socking it to Bam. ... The right wing seems risible, swooning over Pooty-Poot, as W. dubbed Putin. They gleefully claim the Russian strongman is Carterizing Obama and act huffy that the only one parachuting into Kiev is John Kerry. “What are you going to do, send the 101st Airborne into Crimea?” says Terry McCarthy, the president of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. “The way Republicans are dumping on the president, saying anything short of Armageddon shows that he’s weak, is silly. It’s kind of shocking that foreign policy, which used to be nonpartisan, now becomes partisan so quickly.”
Maureen follows up gossip-girl foreign policy with duh 101 electoral advice and a finger-shaking lecture to the president over nominating Debo Adegbile.
Obama called the defeat “a travesty,” but the White House seemed oblivious to the fact that they were putting Democratic senators in red states in a squeeze between the Fraternal Order of Police and civil rights groups. Adegbile had worked on an N.A.A.C.P. legal team that filed a Supreme Court brief in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a writer and former Black Panther convicted in the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia police officer, Daniel Faulkner. Abu-Jamal called himself a political prisoner and turned into such an international cause célèbre that a Paris suburb named a street for him.
See, Maureen thinks it was silly of Bam, er, Barry, I mean President Obama to nominate an experienced attorney like Adegbile because, you know, it forces the Senate to deal with real issues. Which is so not cool.

Ruth Marcus has a slightly different opinion on that matter.

For Republicans to block one of President Obama’s nominees is dog-bites-man non-news. For members of the president’s party to defect is more notable. And for Democrats to worry more about their political hides than a nominee’s fitness for service — as happened in the Senate this week — is simply revolting.

The nomination at issue involves Debo Adegbile, chosen to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division. Adegbile was a child actor on “Sesame Street” who grew up to be one of the country’s leading civil rights lawyers. Alongside the Justice Department, he argued the 2012 case in which the Supreme Court eviscerated the Voting Rights Act. Paul Clement, George W. Bush’s solicitor general, called Adegbile “a formidable advocate of the highest intellect, skills and integrity.” ...

As litigation director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Adegbile signed two friend-of-the-court briefs on Abu-Jamal’s behalf, at the Supreme Court and the federal appeals court in Philadelphia. The Legal Defense Fund then became Abu-Jamal’s lead lawyer and Adegbile signed a brief urging the Supreme Court, again successfully, not to consider reinstating the death penalty.

In the modern media environment, this translated to headlines like Townhall.com’s “Obama Nominates Cop Killer Advocate to Head DOJ Civil Rights Division.” Fox News’s Greg Gutfeld denounced the nomination of a “cop-killer’s coddler” as “a hate crime against our nation’s police.”

...

This is John Adams and the Boston Massacre meets Willie Horton on the Senate floor — a recipe for senators to do the wrong thing. Which they reliably did.

The New York Times isn't chicken about taking a stand in a... okay enough puns.
California voters and lawmakers have decided that, starting next year, all eggs sold in that state must come from hens that can stand up, lie down and extend their wings fully without touching another bird. This is a perfectly reasonable effort to improve, at least for one creature, the deplorable conditions associated with modern industrial farming. It could also improve public health. Astonishingly, the attorney general of Missouri, Chris Koster, has decided to sue to overturn the rule in federal court. The court should dismiss the case.

Mr. Koster argues that the rules violate the commerce clause of the Constitution by imposing regulations on businesses in other states. But courts have long held that states can enact food, safety and other regulations in the public interest, as long as they do not discriminate against businesses in other states. California’s egg-production rules clearly meet the nondiscrimination standard, because all egg producers who want to sell their products in the state must abide by them.

Missouri, proud home to puppy mills and beakless chickens, once again shows that there's no level of animal misery it's not willing to champion. Oh, and we once again see that there's no suit, no matter how futile, on which Koster is unwilling to waste the state's money.

Ross Douthat looks into the boiling pot of CPAC and makes some 2016 predictions.

We’re accustomed to a narrative of Republican politics that pits the Tea Party against the establishment, the right against the center right. But that has always been an oversimplification, and in a wide-open presidential campaign, it’s likely to fit political reality more poorly than usual.

A better framework is suggested by Henry Olsen, writing in The National Interest, who argues that Republican presidential campaigns are usually defined by four factions rather than two. One faction is centrist (think John McCain’s 2000 supporters, or Jon Huntsman’s rather smaller 2012 support), one is moderately conservative (think the typical Mitt Romney or Bob Dole voter), one is socially conservative (think Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum backers), and one is very conservative but more secular (think Gingrich voters last time, or Steve Forbes voters much further back).

The moderately conservative faction holds the balance of power, which is why the party usually flirts with ideologues but settles down with a safer, establishment-endorsed choice. But different campaigns take very different paths to this result.

...

Before the traffic problems in Fort Lee, Christie seemed poised to follow in Romney’s and McCain’s footsteps, uniting moderates and moderate conservatives and then trying to outlast whichever challengers emerged from the religious and nonreligious right. ...

Then there’s the potential Ted Cruz coalition, which could look like Reagan redux: secular conservatives plus religious conservatives to start, and then just enough moderate conservatives to win. But Cruz would need to consolidate the religious faction early, which is why he should be hoping that Huckabee and Santorum decide to forgo another run.

And then there is the fascinating case of Rand Paul, who has a potentially formidable base in two factions that don’t usually ally — moderates who like his social libertarianism and secular conservatives who like his economic views.

Despite all this initial speculation, Douthat lands on Rubio as the most likely candidate. And of course what he doesn't mention is that any one of these guys could pick up all four pieces of this GOP coalition, and still get their cans handed to them in the general election.

Dana Milbank also examines the factions at CPAC. Oh, wait. Did I say factions? No factions here!

Paul Ryan, addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference this week, disputed the notion that “the Republican Party is in this big, massive civil war.”

“I don’t see this great divide in our party,” the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee said.

Ryan had a point. The notion of “civil war,” often used to describe the clash between the Republican establishment and the tea party, implies a conflict with identifiable sides. In reality, the GOP condition is more of a free-for-all.

The annual CPAC gathering, conservatism’s trade show, provides a snapshot of the anarchy:

The group’s much-celebrated straw poll of presidential candidates listed no fewer than 26 prospective contenders on the ballot this year — a sign of just how fractured the party is in advance of 2016.

Read Milbank's piece, if for no other reason than to enjoy the saga of the Breitbart crowd that's too crazy for CPAC.  Keep in mind, that means too crazy for this...
Take away the shared contempt of Obama, and there was little left. After strolling past the talk-radio booths (sponsored by Koch Industries), participants could hear sessions on “The American Dream vs. The Obama Nightmare,” and “Health Care After ObamaCare: A Practical Guide for Living When No One Has Insurance and America Runs Out of Doctors.”
Yeah, there's a positive, upbeat group.

Kathleen Parker is concerned about changes in the SAT. Which she sees as making the test easier. Which is of course because students today are coddled and public school teachers are in unions and she can't help it if poor kids don't know how to construe Xenophon.

Yet today grades are inflated to assuage low student self-esteem and justify flaws in curricula and instruction. In this setting, it seems that rigorous standardized testing is more crucial than ever. As for the income differential in comparing test scores, outcomes have more to do with access to good schools and teachers than whether certain words aren't common among lower-income students.

Does anyone really think that asking a college-bound student to know the difference between punctilious and punctual is a function of income-related bias? One would hope that college-bound students are both of these. ...

But there are other confounding factors that contribute to inequality as measured by testing. More prosperous students also tend to be beneficiaries of educated families that provide a ­learning-rich environment. Inestimable is the immense advantage of growing up in a house full of books and witnessing parents who read them.

Inestimable is? Inestimable is? Where's my grade book?

Leonard Pitts takes a break from big political issues to talk about something more important.

Eighty-three-year-old Ron Kilmartin was in a hospice, dying of lung cancer. His daughter was at his bedside, cracking jokes about it. Here’s one:

“ Last week, Dad coughed and said, ‘choking.’ I tried to give him water but he just wanted me to turn off the men’s Olympic hockey game.”

Cracking jokes is what Laurie Kilmartin does for a living. She’s a standup comic and an Emmy-nominated writer for Conan O’Brien. In February, she was also a daughter losing her dad. And as he slipped toward transition, she went with what she knew, live-tweeting her father’s death under the handle @anylaurie16. The result: a running, 140-characters-or-less commentary that was, by turns, painful, profane and profound, but almost always funny.

“ Good luck getting an answer to the question, ‘Did I give you too much morphine?”

Sad and hilarious, an all too apt description of the basic human condition at any time, this is a perfectly bittersweet article. Read it.

John Kiriakou has a complaint, and it's very personal.

The confirmation in December that former CIA Director Leon Panetta let classified information slip to "Zero Dark Thirty" screenwriter Mark Boal during a speech at the agency headquarters should result in a criminal espionage charge if there is any truth to Obama administration claims that it isn't enforcing the Espionage Act only against political opponents.

I'm one of the people the Obama administration charged with criminal espionage, one of those whose lives were torn apart by being accused, essentially, of betraying his country. The president and the attorney general have used the Espionage Act against more people than all other administrations combined, but not against real traitors and spies. The law has been applied selectively, often against whistle-blowers and others who expose illegal, corrupt government actions.

After I blew the whistle on the CIA's waterboarding torture program in 2007, I was the subject of a years-long FBI investigation. In 2012, the Justice Department charged me with "disclosing classified information to journalists, including the name of a covert CIA officer and information revealing the role of another CIA employee in classified activities." I had revealed no more than others who were never charged, about activities — that the CIA had a program to kill or capture Al Qaeda members — that were hardly secret.

Eventually the espionage charges were dropped and I pleaded guilty to a lesser charge: confirming the name of a former CIA colleague, a name that was never made public. I am serving a 30-month sentence.

Actually, Kiriakou asks a damn good question.

Science Daily shows that favoring the right may be genetic... if you're a bird.

Flocks of birds manage to navigate through difficult environments by individuals having predispositions to favour the left- or right-hand side, according to research published in PLOS Computational Biology this week.

Scientists at The University of Queensland's Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Vision Science found that budgerigars display individual bias to fly to the left or right. This allows flocks to quickly navigate past obstacles by being able to split and not slow down due to crowding.

If only splitting left and right allowed humans to quickly get past obstacles.

Originally posted to Devil's Tower on Sat Mar 08, 2014 at 09:09 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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