Open Thread

If open threads are outlawed, only outlaws will open threads.

Check Your Head

Pot linked to schizophrenia?

The Institute of Psychiatry study gave THC, CBD or placebo capsules to adult male volunteers who had not abused cannabis.

They then carried out brain scans, and a battery of tests, and found that those who took THC showed reduced activity in an area of the brain called the inferior frontal cortex, which keeps inappropriate thoughts and behaviour, such as swearing and paranoia in check.

The effects were short-lived, but some people appeared more vulnerable than others.

In a second study, a team from Yale University administered THC intravenously.

Even at relatively low doses, they found 50% of healthy volunteers began to show symptoms of psychosis.

Volunteers who already had a history of psychotic symptoms appeared to be particularly vulnerable.

Like most of my science posts I don’t have any political agenda to push here. If pot contains chemicals that have promise in medicine then I think it deserves research just like any other potential cure. In the spirit of full disclosure I’m wearing a pair of hemp pants right now, and it seems like a pure shame that the cotton biz has succeeded so well in keeping this great material down. Looking back at a fairly normal youth in America, all of my scary pot stories involve either the fact that it is illegal or people doing crazy things under the influence of either some additional drug or their own underlying craziness. So call me lukewarm when it comes to the dangers of wacky tabacky, and hopeful about the potential good from destigmatized research and industrial use.

I certainly wouldn’t classify pot in the same category as serious habit formers like heroin and cocaine or mind benders like LSD or psilocybin. But given our almost total knowledge vacuum about what cannibinoid molecules do inside the brain, treating them as harmless makes little sense either.


I don’t want to steal Tim’s content, but this is going to be ALL SORTS OF BLOODY:

The woman charged in a federal indictment with running a high-class Washington, D.C. call girl service says she plans to call her prominent clients to testify at her trial.

Jeane Palfrey, dubbed the D.C. Madam, says among those she will call to testify are Randall Tobias, who resigned Friday as deputy secretary of state after confirming to ABC News that he had been a customer of Palfrey’s escort service.

Tobias said he “had some gals come over to the condo for a massage” but denied any sex was involved.

Tobias is the second prominent man to be identified as a customer of the Palfrey’s “sexual fantasy service.” Two weeks ago, Palfrey alleged that military strategist Harlan K. Ullman, creator of the “shock and awe” combat theory and now a scholar with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was also a customer. Ullman has said that the claim was “beneath the dignity of comment.”

I wish there was a way that only the hypocrites could be named and hurt by this.

Poetry Slam!

I’m not that big a fan of honoring every random thing with its own calendar slot,* but I like poetry so it seems fitting to send off National Poetry Month with at least one post on the topic. The whole idea of favorite poets does a disservice to the art, since we go through times when any of two dozen poets and specific works speaks to us more strongly than the others. I have had Donne periods, Frost, Pound and Wislawa Szymborka. Often I switch between being mesmerized at the mythic renderings of Gary Snyder’s beatnik life and frustration with the way that he poemizes ordinary journal entries by adding arbitrary line breaks. For a few demented nights in college I was a Neruda guy.

So instead of picking our favorite poets, let’s use this thread to recall the poems that we can write down without looking them up. By definition that will make this a thread for poetry wonks, as if that is a bad thing. I will lead off with one of the few poems that I both like and (hopefully) remember in full.

Fire and Ice
Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if I had to perish twice,
I think I’ve known enough of hate
to say that for destruction ice is also great
and would suffice.


(*) Please remind me when Intergalactic Coblogger Week comes around this year. For some stupid reason I keep missing it.

Hope For Alzheimer’s

Before going too far into this new study, non-scientist readers should remember that every year basic research produces hundreds of promising leads that for whatever reason don’t pan out. Either the proposed treatment has too many side effects, it doesn’t work as well as something already on the market, follow-up work discredits the original report or the treatment doesn’t work when translated from mice to humans. As a general rule exciting lab results should raise an eyebrow but we should hold off on changing our lives until the clinical trials are in.

That said, keep an eye on new results from a team at MIT:

Scientists found mice with a similar condition to Alzheimer’s were able to regain memories of tasks they had previously been taught.

A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found two methods – brain stimulation and drugs – both worked.

[…] After six weeks with the brain disease, the mice were no longer able to remember how to perform these tasks.

Some of the mice were then placed in a more stimulating environment with toys, treadmills and other mice.

The playground mice were able to remember the shock test far better than the mice in other cages. They were also better at learning new things.

Scientists then tested a class of drugs called histone deacetylase, or HDAC, inhibitors on the mice.

These also improved memory and learning, similar to improvements made by environmental stimulation

Also reported in the Washington Post, which emphasizes the treatment’s potential to recover lost memories.

HDAC proteins reduce gene expression by tightening the interaction between histone proteins and DNA. Inhibiting these lifts the block on silenced genes and increases overall gene expression, although it remains unclear how exactly gene silencing relates to the protein plaques that cause Alzheimer’s disease.

Although none of the reports I have found identify the drug (anybody?), it struck me that this class of drug alost exactly counteracts a red wine-related polyphenol called resveratrol, a drug that should sound familiar to frequent readers of this blog. Although none fo the reports have made the jump from lab animals to humans, resveratrol and related polyphenols have shown promising results in preventing cancer, decreasing infectious diseases, extending lifespan, increasing stamina and most intriguingly, increased mental agility in rats. If HDAC inhibitors fight Alzheimer’s disease, and resveratrol almost directly counteracts the effects of HDAC inhibitor drugs, does that mean that resveratrol makes Alzheimer’s disease more likely? Why would resveratrol-like polyphenols increase mental agility and at the same time almost the exact opposite drug fights Alzheimer’s?

This work lies outside my personal expertise so all that I can offer is provocative questions. But the odd contradictions here suggest that something weird is going on, and a lucrative prize waits for whoever figures it out.

Welcome Aboard, Rick

This is your captain speaking, and I would like to take a moment to welcome Rick Moran aboard the Defeatocrat cruise ship for his maiden voyage. Since Rick is new, I will repost the itinerary for his first morning with the Defeatocrats. The ship will board in Berkeley on May Day.

Defeatocrat Itinerary- Day One

5 AM- Sunrise Yoga Session led by Deepak Chopra. Come join us as we get in touch with our inner selves to a beautiful California sunrise while listening to melodic new age music.

6 AM– Community Showers led by Code Pink and Mothers Against the War. Don’t forget to bring your soap and deodorant, but remember that some of your fellow cruise matesmay be sensitive to perfumes, so no cologne.

7 AM– Vegan breakfast. Come feast on our delicious and fulfilling breakfast by the bay, which will feature all bran cereals with added wheat bulger, unflavored yogurt, and a variety of all natural, home grown fruits- and I don’t mean Harvey Fierstein.

8 AM– Prayer Session led by Al Sharpton and Cindy Sheehan

8:30 AM– Loyalty Oath, trading of black armbands. Duringthis brief session, new cruise members will pledge loyalty the the House and Senate leadership. At this point, you are no longer permitted to refer to Senator Reid as Senate Majority Leader, and must simply call him “Leader Reid” out of deference to our Soviet roots.

10 AM– Q and A Session led by Scott Ritter and Joe Wilson. This will be held in the Y. Arafat Memorial Meeting Room in the local CAIR chapter. In memory of Arafat, date palms and raisins will be served and all attendees will be asked to use a bucket when they need to go to the bathroom

11 AM– Group Therapy- Many notables will be present to help newer members adjust, including Bob Barr, Andrew Sullivan, Greg Drjerijan, and Pat Buchanan.

I think you will find the itinerary eases you in nicely, and remember, there are no fees or charges, because hating America is free.

Weekend Open Thread

Nerf warlocks.