Archive for January 26th, 2007

Vibes Needed

Please send any prayers, good vibes, or positive thinking you have to the shadowy and mysterious Codename V. and her gran.

Thank you.

UPDATE: Huzzah! She made it through the surgery and is “doing great”! Many thanks to the well-wishers.

5 comments January 26th, 2007 at 06:10pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Uncategorized

Let Me Field This One…

Eugene Robinson asks:

What kind of president can see one of the nation’s greatest, most historic cities ruined and not make its rebirth his highest priority? What kind of president gives a State of the Union and doesn’t even mention New Orleans?

A very bad one.

This has been another edition of Simple Answers To Simple Questions.

5 comments January 26th, 2007 at 04:38pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Politics,Wankers

It’s All Coming Back To Me…

I finally remembered what it was that Bush’s give-the-poor-tax-breaks-on-health-insurance-they-still-can’t-afford plan reminded me of:

School vouchers. They don’t provide enough money for poor parents to get their kids into a good private school, but they’re a nice little windfall for parents who could afford private school anyway.

Tax breaks and subsidies for those who don’t need them, bupkus (at best) for everyone else. It’s the Republican way.

5 comments January 26th, 2007 at 10:48am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Politics,Republicans

Shorter Greg Sargent

On Wanker Of The Day Tom Friedman:

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for an if only?

(h/t Atrios)

January 26th, 2007 at 10:30am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media,Politics,Wankers

Knock, Knock.

Who’s there?

Babs’s insula.

Babs’s insula who?

I don’t know, Babs. But I do know this:

Scientists studying stroke patients are reporting today that an injury to a specific part of the brain, near the ear, can instantly and permanently break a smoking habit. People with the injury who stopped smoking found that their bodies, as one man put it, “forgot the urge to smoke.”

The finding, which appears in the journal Science, is based on a small study. But experts say it is likely to alter the course of addiction research, pointing researchers toward new ideas for treatment.

While no one is suggesting brain injury as a solution for addiction, the finding suggests that therapies might focus on the insula, a prune-size region under the frontal lobes that is thought to register gut feelings and is apparently a critical part of the network that sustains addictive behavior.


The researchers, from the University of Iowa and the University of Southern California, examined 32 former smokers, all of whom had suffered a brain injury. The men and women were lucid enough to answer a battery of questions about their habits, and to rate how hard it was to quit and the strength of their subsequent urges to smoke.

They all had smoked at least five cigarettes a day for two years or more, and 16 of them said they had quit with ease, losing their cravings entirely.

The researchers performed M.R.I. scans on all of the patients’ brains to specify the location and extent of each injury.

They found that the 16 who had quit easily were far more likely to have an injury to their insula than to any other area. The researchers found no association between a diminished urge to smoke and injuries to other regions of the brain, including tissue surrounding the insula.

“There’s a whole neural circuit critical to maintaining addiction, but if you knock out this one area, it appears to wipe out the behavior,” said Dr. Antoine Bechara, a senior author of the new paper, who is a neuroscientist at the Brain and Creativity Institute at U.S.C….

The patients’ desire to eat, by contrast, was intact. This suggests, the authors wrote, that the insula is critical for behaviors whose bodily effects become pleasurable because they are learned, like cigarette smoking.

The insula, for years a wallflower of brain anatomy, has emerged as a region of interest based in part on recent work by Dr. Antonio Damasio, a neurologist and director of the Brain and Creativity Institute. The insula has widely distributed connections, both in the thinking cortex above, and down below in subcortical areas, like the brain stem, that maintain heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature, the body’s primal survival systems.

Based on his studies and others’, Dr. Damasio argues that the insula, in effect, maps these signals from the body’s physical plant, and integrates them so the conscious brain can interpret them as a coherent emotion.

The system works from the bottom up. First, the body senses cues in the outside world, and responds. The heart rate might elevate at the sight of a stranger’s angry face, for example; other muscles might relax in response to a pleasant whiff of smoke.

All of this happens instantaneously and unconsciously, Dr. Damasio said – until the insula integrates the information and makes it readable to the conscious regions of the brain.


“The question is, Can you learn to deactivate the insula?” Dr. Volkow said….

Or at least isolate it.

I look forward to a rash of DIY smoking cures involving hammers and rolling pins.

6 comments January 26th, 2007 at 09:56am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Science

Making A Little More Sense Now…

Good news-bad news from the Libby trial:

A former spokeswoman for Vice President Dick Cheney gave testimony in the trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. on Thursday that directly contradicted Mr. Libby’s version of events during a crucial period that is at the center of the perjury case against him.

Cathie Martin, Mr. Cheney’s former spokeswoman, testified that she had a clear memory of telling both Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby that a prominent war critic’s wife worked for the C.I.A., days before he contends he first learned it from a reporter.


She testified that both Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby were intensely interested in Ms. Wilson and her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had been sent to Africa to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium from Niger for his nuclear weapons program.

Ms. Martin, who no longer works for Mr. Cheney but remains at the White House as a communications assistant to the president, described how Mr. Libby had telephoned a senior Central Intelligence Agency official in her presence sometime in early July and asked about the Wilson trip. She said she was then put on the phone with Bill Harlow, the C.I.A. spokesman, who told her that Mr. Wilson went to Africa on behalf of the agency and that his wife worked there.

She testified that, later that day, in a meeting with Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney, she related the fact that Mr. Wilson’s wife worked at the agency.

Mr. Libby is facing five felony counts that he lied when he told a grand jury and F.B.I. agents that he learned of Ms. Wilson’s identity from reporters….


Over all, however, Ms. Martin was a self-assured witness whose testimony appeared to have frayed Mr. Libby’s version of events. She is also a loyal Republican who was recruited to work for the vice president by Mary Matalin, a close friend of both Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney.

She is married to Kevin Martin, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and now works as the deputy director of communications for policy and planning for President Bush.

The good news is that her testimony further damages Libby’s credibility (as well as further implicating Cheney). The bad news is that her and her husband’s White House ties play right into Scooter Libby’s scapegoat defense, which Wells will use to spin and dismiss any testimony from Bush/Rove loyalists (Ari Fleischer, who testifies next, will fall into that category as well).

Also, I wonder if Wells will ask the question that came to my mind: Why is the spokesman for the CIA telling people who its agents are? Did the CIA want that information to get out there? Does that make any sense?

FDL is probably all over this angle, but I can’t access it from my Treo any more…

January 26th, 2007 at 09:32am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Cheney,Libby/Plame,Politics

Friday Quote & Deep-Sea Shark Blogging

This week’s quote is from what was the only live-action Dr. Seuss movie for about 50 years, The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T:

I want my undulating undies with the maribou fringe.

And, of course, there’ll be other people’s freaky deep-sea sharks…

Oh my.

(h/t Pink Tentacle and NYT, which also has an extinct marsupial lion and a link to some live giant squid footage)

7 comments January 26th, 2007 at 07:59am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Friday Quote & Cat Blogging

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