Thursday, June 28, 2007

One Small Step for - aggh! Ack! Arrggh!

Artificial, genetically engineered, specific-purpose, bacterial lifeforms grown in a laboratory and released into the wide world to do their masters' bidding. Sounds like the prelude to a great and frightening sci-fi movie. But it's real. And it's dangerous.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists have taken a first step toward making synthetic life by transferring genetic material from one bacterium into another, transforming the second microbe into a copy of the first.

They intend to use their technique to custom-design bacteria to perform functions such as producing artificial fuel or cleaning up toxic waste, the researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science. (Full story)

Here's how I see it playing out with one scenario at least. We have a need: to clean up a massive oil spill off the coast of Florida. We have to hurry before the fishing industries and tourist market is affected. No problem, scientists have genetically engineered a new species of bacteria (let's call it SB114a*) that breaks down crude oil without harming the environment. In simple terms, the bacteria eats the crude oil and converts it into harmless sea water. It's so safe that it can actually "clean" petroleum waste off the feathers of hapless water fowl caught in the oil slick. Great. The scientists dump a bucket of the bacterium onto the slick and watch it do its magic.

But wait, they didn't expect the bacterium to do what all living things do: evolve. As SB114a saves the day by devouring the oil slick (and cleaning oil off local rocks, local fish gills, oil-tainted birds) it grows and multiplies, and experiences the occasional genetic mutation that all things growing and multiplying experience. Suddenly, we have an altogether new species. Let's call it SB114b.

SB114b has a new trait that it picked up while it was evolving inside the oil-clogged gills of a certain bottom-feeder fish. In addition to petroleum products, it developed a taste for red blood cells. Huh, imagine that. Suddenly (faster than you can imagine) sea life is dying at an alarming rate. It's impossible to tell the world to stop eating fish, so people start dying, as well as any land animals that swim in oceans or eat from the oceans.

And this is just one scenario of accidental harm from genetic engineering. What if we put this technology into the hands of terrorists or just some crazy whacko scientist? If someone was willing to mail anthrax, what makes us think they wouldn't weaponize this science?

Read Richard Preston's The Demon In The Freezer. It's a true story, and it's frightening to think that world powers experiment with the insanity of combining anthrax bacterium with smallpox virus (among other things).

*SB114a is developed by inserting genetically engineered material into a staphylococcus bacterium (S. aureus), primarily because it is an aggressive species and strong enough to withstand extreme environments.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bush Battles with Definition of Life

Claiming that it's wrong for taxpayer money to be used to fund the destruction of human life, Bush justifies his veto (today) of the stem cell expansion bill that passed the congress.

Pro-life/Pro-choice debate aside, this is flawed logic for someone who supports the death penalty and has directed (as the commander-in-chief of the military) the deaths of thousands of innocent children in the Middle East. Hypocrisy flows from Bush like pus from a festering wound. If destroying an embryo at its earliest developmental stages to advance science and someday save lives is repulsive, inhumane, and "a line that should not be crossed" then the same sentiments should be applied to every living person.

Stand by the principles you claim to hold so dear when cowtowing to the anti-abortion voters, Mr. Bush, and declare that there is no such thing as acceptable collateral damage. The American people, and the civilized world, would stand with you (for once) if you did.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Their Favorite Wurst

According to Reuters, designer bratwurst flavors are all the rage in Berlin these days. They've filed it under "Oddly Enough," but we say there are never enough sausage stories out there. So we had Mitch ask some of the top newsmakers in the nation to describe their favorite bratwurst flavor. We compiled their responses here.

What's Your Favorite Bratwurst Flavor?

Ted Kennedy - I, er, am partial to the gin and, er, tonic flavored wurst.
Bill O'Reilly - Bratwurst, huh? I'll tell you what I'll do with my bratwurst. I'll slide it up and down the small of your back, like a loofa. Then I'll get a good lather of shaving cream and I'll - wait a sec - I've got another call. Hold on, it might be my lawyer.
Rudy Guiliani - First, I really loved this Sicillian bratwurst, probably for more than twenty years. But, things changed, we grew apart and I glommed onto this light, waspy, low-fat vegetarian brat. That affair only made it about one year before I fell head over heels for my current favorite, a rich, robust, REMEMBER WHERE I WAS DURING 9/11!
George Bush - Apple pie. And baseball! Um, and justice. Yes, justice and freedom. The sweet taste of justice and freedom. And baseball.
Dick Cheney - Go fuck yourself, Mitch.
Hillary Clinton - What do the polls say? The Hispanics are shifting to the right? OK, got it. I prefer my bratwurst taco-flavored. Si, un taco con mucho sabor.
Ted Haggard - The council of elders says I can't have sausage anymore.
Alberto Gonzales - I don't recall.
Karl Rove - Kittens. Ground up with puppies. Really young ones whose eyes aren't open yet. That's when they're sweetest. Aagh! Sheryl Crow! Don't let her touch me! It burns. It burns!
Barack Obama - On first inclination, I was going to say "taco-flavored" but my esteemed colleague from New York stole that thunder, despite the fact that I had said as much as four years ago that I was against traditional brats in lieu of a bipartisan approach to more exotic flavors like taco, Philly cheesesteak, and cilantro mango. So I'd like to clarify my stance by stating unequivicably, the latter, without question.
Fred Thompson - Brats are for sissy boys who need their meat on a bun. Give me a steak. Porterhouse. Rare. Just some salt and pepper. And a beer. And not one of those girly German beers. Screw the beer. Whisky. Give me whisky, neat. I don't have time for this debate. Just give me a raw piece of meat and a shot of whisky. Leave the bottle, sissy boy.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Scooter Libby's Prison Ink

Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former top aide to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, was sentenced today to two and a half years in prison for lying and obstructing investigators trying to determine who leaked the identity of CIA analyst Valerie Plame in 2003.

On top of his $5 million lawyer bill, the judge spanked him with a $250 thousand fine. But those aren't the worst of his woes. Assuming his appeal is refused, Scooter has to go through the arduous process of deciding what his prison tattoo will say. And as anyone who has seen him in the showers at the congressional gym will attest, the tat's message is most likely going fall into the "submissive play toy" category rather than the "fuck with me and I'll rupture your spleen" variety.

His wife and family have suggested:
  • Be Gentle, I'm Delicate
  • I Have Powerful Friends. Really, I do.
  • Please Wear a Condom.
  • Republican Ass: What You're Doing is a Sin Against Nature and My God
But I'm suggesting this:

I'm back suckahs!

Word. Mitch is back. No thanks to you suckahs who had me in rehab with Lolo lohan and her pimp tricks hilton and ritchie. What you think its shibby holed up with them tricks? Hell nah! They get all whacky up in daycare prison, be like dogs sniffing they own poo. For a few cigarettes, they do anything. Hell, I made my own Abu Ghraib photo album with a carton of Virginia Slims.

Anyway, I'm not gonna chew your ear off. My cuz is gonna set me up at a valet service. I'll be mackin back in no time. And you know I need a pimpin vessel, so's I already got my eye on a '76 cadillac. Just needs an engine, and some tires. I could fit at least 4 dead bodies in the trunk. Before I go, I gots to shout out to my homies back in the rehab cell block: Darnell the crier, Walks-through-walls, Showers-with-his-clothes-on, and Sir smokes a lot.

As the Bush Turns - Chapter 43

INT. Ambassador Gregorovich's study - Night

The ornate library is dimly lit with candles on the desk and tables. It's raining. Lightning flashes as George slips through the study door in his stately formal tuxedo, nursing a Scotch on the rocks. He examines the room then nonchalantly leafs through papers on the desk.

GEORGE (to himself)
If I had time, Gregorovich, I'd leave you a present. Maybe a steamy presidential package in your top drawer. Heh, heh.

A section of bookshelves slides inward, revealing a secret passage. Vladimir cautiously enters, also wearing a tux. His eyes are red. He's been crying. He walks straight to the window.

I'm glad you were, uh, able to slip away
from the other guests to see me.

Vladimir stares out the window, clutching the heavy drapes.

What's the matter, Pootie?

You know vhat is the matter. You...

George sets his drink down and sidles behind Vladimir.

Tell me.

You, you vant to block my missile. You do not trust me.

No. Never.

Then vhy do you sit with that Gordon Brown?

He's nobody. Just the new kid on the block. It's just for show.

I do not think I can trust you anymore.

Don't say that, Pootie. You know you don't mean it. We have something. Something big. Something special. No one can take it away from us.

But the shield. You vant to push me avay. I feel, I feel betrayed.

Vladimir breaks down and buries his face in the heavy drapes. Lightning flashes.

George gently massages Vladimir's shoulders.

Trust me. The missile shield is for your evil brothers, Uzbek and Belarus. It was never meant for you.

But -

Shh. Remember the first time we met? How I looked into your eyes and -

Looked into my soul?

George gives Vladimir's shoulders a comforting squeeze and leans close to whisper in his ear.

Tonight, after the state dinner, meet me in the topiary garden. We can talk more there.

Like we used to.

Yes, Pootie. Like we used to. I'll make it right between us.

George looks at his reflection in the rain-splattered window. A crack of lightning illuminates a surprised Gordon Brown standing in the opening to the secret passage with a highball glass of Scotch on the rocks.

George and Vladimir spin around, caught. Shell-shocked, Gordon drops his drink.

Cut to
Swiffer commercial.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Three Years of Jackassery

Memorial Day, Turner/Phelps celebrated 3 years with this blog. From haranguing our inarticulate monkey President to lamenting the days when our great nation had money in the bank, it's been fun to see the birth of the god of thunder, tossing Mitch under the bus of grandma jokes, and still not deciding on an official Dennis Culver Day winner.

Good times. Cue the sentimental music...

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