Quote if the day: There’s too much democracy


That’s not our opinion: In esnl‘s opinion there’s too little of it, because democratic governance governance depends first and foremost on free and informed decisions by a fully informed citizenry, and we live in an information age characterized, sadly, by the lack of a broad-based common forum.

Instead,m we exist in a world characterized by an increasingly fragmented mediascape, where each of us in enclosed by a filter bubble, where we receive information tailored by us and the corporateers running the media to prey upon our basest impulses and desires, while excluding other inputs that might challenge us to actually think about viewpoints other than our own.

Additionally, he rise of the anonymous comment system has brought about the rise of new levels of incivility, where the commenter is freed from any responsibility for her/his own remarks, allowing for new levels of sheer ugliness in public discourse.

One of those who has profited most handsomely from this new mediascape is Peter Thiel, Silicon Valley venture capitalist and co-founder of Pay-Pal and a major early investor in Facebook.

Thiel is also the co-founder of Palantir Technologies, a cyberspook firm with corporate and government clients and one of the principals in a Bank of America-backed plan to sink Wikileaks and journalist Glenn Greenwald.

From Palantir's proposal to use cybertechology to destroy Wikileaks.

From Palantir’s proposal to use cybertechology to destroy Wikileaks.

Thiel has garnered abundant headlines of late from his successful backing of Hulk Hogan’s invasion of privacy action against Gawker Media, owners of the website that also outed the German-American billionaire as gay.

And now he’s taking the platform at the GOP convention in Cleveland tonight to hail the virtues of his chosen exemplar, Donald Trump.

And with that, our QOTD from Ben Tarnoff of the Guardian:

What Trump offers Thiel isn’t just an excuse to be contrary and politically incorrect. Trump gives Thiel something far more valuable: a way to fulfill his long-held ambition of saving capitalism from democracy.

In a 2009 essay called The Education of a Libertarian, Thiel declared that capitalism and democracy had become incompatible. Since 1920, he argued, the creation of the welfare state and “the extension of the franchise to women” had made the American political system more responsive to more people – and therefore more hostile to capitalism. Capitalism is not “popular with the crowd”, Thiel observed, and this means that as democracy expands, the masses demand greater concessions from capitalists in the form of redistribution and regulation.

The solution was obvious: less democracy. But in 2009, Thiel despaired of achieving this goal within the realm of politics. How could you possibly build a successful political movement for less democracy?

Fast forward two years, when the country was still slowly digging its way out of the financial crisis. In 2011, Thiel told George Packer that the mood of emergency made him “weirdly hopeful”. The “failure of the establishment” had become too obvious to ignore, and this created an opportunity for something radically new, “something outside the establishment”, to take root.

Now, in 2016, Thiel has finally found a politician capable of seizing that opportunity: a disruptor-in-chief who will destroy a dying system and build a better one in its place. Trump isn’t just a flamethrower for torching a rotten establishment, however – he’s the fulfillment of Thiel’s desire to build a successful political movement for less democracy.

Antioxidants may do more harm than good


One of thousands of products peddled with the promise of antioxidant health benefits.

One of thousands of products peddled with the promise of antioxidant health benefits.

You hear about them all the time, and countless foods and supplements containing them are peddled with promises that they’ll fix you up, keep you healthy, and put a little extra spring in your step.

But do antioxidants really fulfill all that hype? Or can filling up on them actually be harmful to your health?

A new cautionary note has been sounded in a study from scientists in Britain and the Netherlands, and our post includes the announcements from their respective universities.

First, from Maastricht University:

Researchers Professor Pietro Ghezzi of the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and Professor Harald Schmidt of Maastricht University urge caution in the use of antioxidants. Many people take antioxidants to treat or prevent disease. Ghezzi and Schmidt’s research has shown that such supplements help only in clear cases of vitamin deficiency, and that some antioxidants may even have harmful effects. The study has been published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.

Chart of the day: A case of Melaniacolia


From Gallup, the least popular potential First Lady in years:

BLOG Melania

Graphic Representation: Party time in Cleveland


As the GOP convention in Cleveland heads into its final day, it’s time for some more visceral visuals.

We begin with the editorial cartoonist of the Columbus Dispatch:

Nate Beeler: The Party of Lincoln

BLOG GOP Beeler

And from the Tulsa World:

Bruce Plante: RNC Convention 2016

BLOG GOP Plante

From the editorial cartoonist of the Sacramento Bee:

Jack Ohman: Make Robots Great Again…

BLOG GOP Ohman

Next up, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Mike Luckovich: Human like

BLOG GOP Lucko

The Minneapolis Star Tribune offers a more playful [?] take:

Sack cartoon: Donald Trump pumps them up

BLOG GOP Sack

Our penultimate offering comes from the Kansas City Star:

Lee Judge: Who ya’ gonna call? Who? Who??

BLOG GOP Judge

And finally, the Guardian went to Comic-Con in San Diego and asked some of America’s finest graphic artist to offer their Trumpian takes. Here’s one from the award-winning creator of the self-published comic book series Bone:

Jeff Smith: Emperor Trump

BLOG GOP comiccon

Gut microbes linked to Alzheimer’s progression


The human body is an interspecies cooperative, the with bulk of the cells in our body belonging to other species than homo sapiens, primarily the bacteria within out gut that enable us to digest the food on which our very lives depend.

But those bacteria excrete all manner of chemicals, and we’re only now beginning to learn that the complex stew they brew impacts us in very many ways.

Previous posts have noted newly established links between our intestinal microbes and multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, anorexia, Alzheimer’s disease, and even our emotional states.

And now comes the latest bombshell: Our intestinal inhabitants impact the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

From the University of Chicago:

Long-term treatment with broad spectrum antibiotics decreased levels of amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, and activated inflammatory microglial cells in the brains of mice in a new study by neuroscientists from the University of Chicago.

The study, published July 21, 2016, in Scientific Reports, also showed significant changes in the gut microbiome after antibiotic treatment, suggesting the composition and diversity of bacteria in the gut play an important role in regulating immune system activity that impacts progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

“We’re exploring very new territory in how the gut influences brain health,” said Sangram Sisodia, PhD, Thomas Reynolds Sr. Family Professor of Neurosciences at the University of Chicago and senior author of the study. “This is an area that people who work with neurodegenerative diseases are going to be increasingly interested in, because it could have an influence down the road on treatments.”

Two of the key features of Alzheimer’s disease are the development of amyloidosis, accumulation of amyloid-ß (Aß) peptides in the brain, and inflammation of the microglia, brain cells that perform immune system functions in the central nervous system. Buildup of Aß into plaques plays a central role in the onset of Alzheimer’s, while the severity of neuro-inflammation is believed to influence the rate of cognitive decline from the disease.

For this study, Sisodia and his team administered high doses of broad-spectrum antibiotics to mice over five to six months. At the end of this period, genetic analysis of gut bacteria from the antibiotic-treated mice showed that while the total mass of microbes present was roughly the same as in controls, the diversity of the community changed dramatically. The antibiotic-treated mice also showed more than a two-fold decrease in Aß plaques compared to controls, and a significant elevation in the inflammatory state of microglia in the brain. Levels of important signaling chemicals circulating in the blood were also elevated in the treated mice.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Mr. Fish: Psycho Analysis


From Clowncrack, his blog of carminative copromancy:

BLOG Fish

DroughtWatch: No change in the Golden State


All of California remains in some condition of drought, with percentages unchanged from last week as the dry season advances.

From the United States Drought Monitor:

BLOG Drought