Archive for May, 2008

Najder Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

May 31, 2008

Where does all this leave the biographer? In a fog, it seems. John Stape’s new life follows by a year the re-publication, in revised form, of the leading work in the field, Zdzisaw Najder’s Joseph Conrad: A Life. Najder’s study is the more thorough, Stape’s the more readable, but both have serious shortcomings, as does the other major biography, Frederick Robert Karl’s Joseph Conrad: The Three Lives, now almost thirty years old. Karl gets a lot wrong, and also promulgates all manner of Freudian improbabilities. Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

Najder’s work, the result of half a century in the archives, is unimpeachable as to facts, but its interpretations are often vitiated by a rather free use of conjecture, a feeble textbook psychologizing, and–with respect to anything touching its subject’s land of origin–its author’s obvious but apparently unconscious Polish nationalism.

Stape’s study is written with wit and bounce, and with the kind of ironic worldliness that would seem to be a prerequisite for a biographer but which years of mole-work in research libraries are not inclined to foster. In a spirit of accessibility, he has kept his story short, but at less than three hundred pages, excluding appendices, it is too short. Stape can tell us, of Conrad’s collaboration with Ford Madox Ford, that the latter was supposed to act “as a goad on Conrad to produce, a kind of superior secretary with a stick, ” but that the first result, Romance, turned out to be mostly Ford “topped with a drizzle of Conrad.” Somehow he cannot find the space to mention that Ford later drafted a section of Nostromo, which many critics consider Conrad’s greatest achievement, to buy time during serialization while his friend lay incapacitated with depression. Conrad’s brilliant, despairing letters go largely unquoted, as do the many vivid descriptions his contemporaries left of him. http://louis-j-sheehan.bizOf literary appreciation, the book is similarly devoid: Heart of Darkness gets one wan sentence (“An artistic development of singular importance … “). The last years of Conrad’s life go by in a welter of visits, illnesses, and royalties. The reader will finish Stape’s volume wondering what happened and what all the fuss is about. A truly satisfying biography of Conrad has yet to be written, and possibly never will be.



May 28, 2008

PHOENIX — President Bush “convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment,” and has engaged in “self-deception” to justify his political ends, Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary, writes in a critical new memoir about his years in the West Wing.

In addition, Mr. McClellan writes, the decision to invade Iraq was a “serious strategic blunder,” and yet, in his view, it was not the biggest mistake the Bush White House made. That, he says, was “a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed.”

Mr. McClellan’s book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” is the first negative account by a member of the tight circle of Texans around Mr. Bush. Mr. McClellan, 40, went to work for Mr. Bush when he was governor of Texas and was the White House press secretary from July 2003 to April 2006.

The revelations in the book, to be published by PublicAffairs next Tuesday, were first reported Tuesday on by Mike Allen. Mr. Allen wrote that he bought the book at a Washington store. The New York Times also obtained an advance copy.

Mr. McClellan writes that top White House officials deceived him about the administration’s involvement in the leaking of the identity of a C.I.A. operative, Valerie Wilson. He says he did not know for almost two years that his statements from the press room that Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby Jr. were not involved in the leak were a lie.

“Neither, I believe, did President Bush,” Mr. McClellan writes. “He too had been deceived, and therefore became unwittingly involved in deceiving me. But the top White House officials who knew the truth — including Rove, Libby, and possibly Vice President Cheney — allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie.”

He is harsh about the administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina, saying it “spent most of the first week in a state of denial” and “allowed our institutional response to go on autopilot.” Mr. McClellan blames Mr. Rove for one of the more damaging images after the hurricane: Mr. Bush’s flyover of the devastation of New Orleans. When Mr. Rove brought up the idea, Mr. McClellan writes, he and Dan Bartlett, a top communications adviser, told Mr. Bush it was a bad idea because he would appear detached and out of touch. But Mr. Rove won out, Mr. McClellan writes.

A theme in the book is that the White House suffered from a “permanent campaign” mentality, and that policy decisions were inextricably interwoven with politics.

He is critical of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for her role as the “sometimes too accommodating” first term national security adviser, and what he calls her deftness at protecting her reputation.

“No matter what went wrong, she was somehow able to keep her hands clean,” Mr. McClellan writes, adding that “she knew how to adapt to potential trouble, dismiss brooding problems, and come out looking like a star.”

Mr. McClellan does not exempt himself from failings — “I fell far short of living up to the kind of public servant I wanted to be” — and calls the news media “complicit enablers” in the White House’s “carefully orchestrated campaign to shape and manipulate sources of public approval” in the march to the Iraq war in 2002 and 2003.

He does have a number of kind words for Mr. Bush, particularly from the April day in 2006 when Mr. Bush met with Mr. McClellan after he learned he was being pushed out. “His charm was on full display, but it was hard to know if it was sincere or just an attempt to make me feel better,” Mr. McClellan writes. “But as he continued, something I had never seen before happened: tears were streaming down both his cheeks.”

Plant Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

May 27, 2008

Plant hormones (also known as plant growth regulators (PGRs) and phytohormones) are chemicals that regulate plant growth. Plant hormones are signal molecules produced at specific locations in the plant, and occur in extremely low concentrations. The hormones cause altered processes in target cells locally and at other locations. Plants, unlike animals, lack glands that produce and secrete hormones. Plant hormones shape the plant, affecting seed growth, time of flowering, the sex of flowers, senescence of leaves and fruits. They affect which tissues grow upward and which grow downward, leaf formation and stem growth, fruit development and ripening, plant longevity and even plant death. Hormones are vital to plant growth and, if they were to lack them, plants would be mostly a mass of undifferentiated cells.

Introns Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

May 26, 2008

Introns sometimes allow for alternative splicing of a gene, so that several different proteins which share some sequences in common can be translated from a single gene. The control of mRNA splicing is performed by a wide variety of signaling molecules. Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

Introns may also contain “old code”, or sections of a gene that were once translated into a protein, but have since been discarded. It was generally assumed that the sequence of any given intron is junk DNA with no function. More recently, however, this is being disputed.

At that time Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

May 25, 2008

When the prehistoric Mimbres Indians of New Mexico looked at the moon, they saw in its surface shading not the ”man in the moon” but a ”rabbit in the moon.” For them, as for other early Meso-American people, the rabbit came to symbolize the moon in their religion and art.

When the prehistoric Mimbres Indians of New Mexico looked at the moon, they saw in its surface shading not the ”man in the moon” but a ”rabbit in the moon.” For them, as for other early Meso-American people, the rabbit came to symbolize the moon in their religion and art.

On the morning of July 5, 1054, the Mimbres Indians arose to find a bright new object shining in the Eastern sky, close to the crescent moon. The object remained visible in daylight for many days. One observer recorded the strange apparition with a black and white painting of a rabbit curled into a crescent shape with a small sunburst at the tip of one foot.

And so the Indians of the Southwestern United States left what archeologists and astronomers call the most unambiguous evidence ever found that people in the Western Hemisphere observed with awe and some sophistication the exploding star, or supernova, that created the Crab nebula. The ethereal light of the spreading nebula, now visible by telescope in the constellation Taurus, is the best-known remnant of a recorded supernova. Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire Introns 2004471

May 24, 2008

Some introns, such as Group I and Group II introns, are actually ribozymes that are capable of catalyzing their own splicing out of a primary RNA transcript. This self splicing activity was discovered by Thomas Cech, who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Sidney Altman for the discovery of the catalytic properties of RNA.

Sometimes group III introns are also identified as group II introns, because of their similarity in structure and function.

Nuclear or spliceosomal introns are spliced by the spliceosome and a series of snRNAs (small nuclear RNAs). There are certain splice signals (or consensus sequences) which abet the splicing (or identification) of these introns by the spliceosome.

Group I, II and III introns are self splicing introns and are relatively rare compared to spliceosomal introns. Group II and III introns are similar and have a conserved secondary structure. The lariat pathway is used in their splicing. They perform functions similar to the spliceosome and may be evolutionarily related to it. Group I introns are the only class of introns whose splicing requires a free guanine nucleoside. They possess a secondary structure different from that of group II and III introns. Many self-splicing introns code for maturases that help with the splicing process, generally only the splicing of the intron that encodes it.[4]

There are two competing theories that offer alternative scenarios for the origin and early evolution of spliceosomal introns (Other classes of introns such as self-splicing and tRNA introns are not subject to much debate, but see [5] for the former). These are popularly called as the Introns-Early (IE) or the Introns-Late (IL) views.[6]

The IE model, championed by Walter Gilbert,[7] proposes that introns are extremely old and numerously present in the earliest ancestors of prokaryotes and eukaryotes (the progenote). In this model introns were subsequently lost from prokaryotic organisms, allowing them to attain growth efficiency. A central prediction of this theory is that the early introns were mediators that facilitated the recombination of exons that represented the protein domains.[8] Such a model would directly lead to the evolution of new genes. Unfortunately, the model cannot account for the variations in the positions of shared introns between different species.[9]

The IL model proposes that introns were more recently inserted into original intron-less contiguous genes after the divergence of eukaryotes and prokaryotes. In this model, introns probably had their origin in parasitic transposable elements. This model is based on the observation that the spliceosomal introns are restricted to eukaryotes alone. However, there is considerable debate on the presence of introns in the early prokaryote-eukaryote ancestors and the subsequent intron loss-gain during eukaryotic evolution.[10] It is also suggested that the evolution of introns and more generally the intron-exon structure is largely independent of the coding-sequence evolution.[11]

Nearly all eukaryotic nuclear introns begin with the nucleotide sequence GU, and end with AG (the GU-AG rule). These, along with a larger consensus sequence, help direct the splicing machinery to the proper intronic donor and acceptor sites. This mainly occurs in eukaryotic primary mRNA transcripts.

Released Louis J. Sheehan

May 23, 2008

Dramatic shifts in Middle East diplomacy during the past week, including a political deal in Lebanon and Israeli-Syrian peace talks, are exposing significant strategic divisions between the U.S. and its closest regional ally, Israel.

The tensions, described in interviews with U.S. and Israeli officials in recent months, counter the widespread assumption that the Bush and Israeli governments march in lockstep on foreign policy. They also provide insight into why these new diplomatic initiatives may unravel ultimately, regional analysts said. http://louis-j-sheehaN.NET

Dramatic shifts recently in Middle East diplomacy, including a political deal in Lebanon and Israeli peace talks with Syria, are exposing significant strategic divisions between the U.S. and Israel.

The most profound strategic division between Washington and Jerusalem concerns Israel’s engagement of Syrian President Bashar Assad. In revealing peace talks with Damascus this week, Israeli officials voiced a determination to peel Syria away from Iran, its principal regional ally. Among the goals is to undermine the two states’ support for extremist groups Hezbollah and Hamas, which operate on Israel’s borders.

But U.S. officials say the move undermines their efforts to punish Damascus. The Pentagon accuses Syria, along with Iran, of backing the continued flow of foreign fighters and munitions into Iraq, a charge Damascus denies. And U.S. diplomats believe President Assad has actively sought to topple Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora through his support of Hezbollah and other Syrian allies inside Lebanon. A United Nations-backed investigation implicated Syrian intelligence officials in the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Mr. Siniora’s government agreed Wednesday to a power-sharing deal that many analysts believe significantly strengthens the power of Hezbollah and other Syrian and Iranian allies inside Lebanon. Members of Mr. Siniora’s government have complained Western support for Beirut has been inadequate to compete with the military help provided to Hezbollah by Damascus and Tehran.

The Israelis “don’t seem to understand that our interests and their interests in Lebanon aren’t aligned,” one senior U.S official working on the Middle East said. “In the short-term, the Israelis want to remove a threat on their border. But they don’t care about” the fate of Lebanon’s government.

The State Department’s point man on the Middle East, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, said widening the Middle East peace dialog could be a “good thing” for the region. But he also stressed that Washington has “reservations about the foreign-policy behavior of Syria, and its internal politics as well.”

Speaking Thursday, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni reflected the strategy in outlining her government’s requirements for a peace deal. Syria must understand that peace “involves their complete renunciation of support for terror in Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran,” she said.

Israeli officials say Syria’s secular government is fundamentally averse to its strategic alliance with Iran’s Islamist rulers. They say Damascus needs to be offered economic and diplomatic incentives to offset the assistance supplied by Iran. The talks will also focus on Israel giving control of the Golan Heights region back to Damascus.

Israelis officials are fearful of facing a three-front war involving Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Syria on the Golan Heights. “Maybe it’s time to employ the carrot to remove [Syria] from the axis of evil,” then deputy chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, said in Washington last fall.

In recent months, Washington has moved to exact new financial sanctions against many of President Assad’s closest business associates and political allies. And the U.S. has worked with Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to isolate Damascus diplomatically in a bid to gain its assistance in stabilizing the region. Saudi Arabia and Egypt didn’t send top leaders to the Arab Summit in Damascus this March, to snub President Assad.

Divisions between the Bush administration and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government on Syria may imperil the peace initiative. President Assad has said that such a deal is impossible without the active support of Washington. Damascus believes that American aid and the removal of U.S. sanctions on Syria would have to be part of any long-term agreement.

Bush administration officials have offered no indication that the U.S. is preparing to directly broker Syrian-Israeli talks. Instead, they say, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will focus her remaining months in office on supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace track.

Some Syrian officials have said that a new U.S. administration that comes to power next January could be more supportive of such a peace tract. The two leading candidates to replace President Bush, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain, both released statements saying they supported Israel’s position.

The view in the region, by contrast, is that Israel and the U.S. are still tightly tethered. Suleyman Haddad, the head of the foreign-affairs committee in Syria’s parliament, said Syria won’t agree to any conditions in return for a peace deal, such as giving up support for Hamas or Hezbollah.

He said if Israel wanted peace with Syria it “should give up all these unattainable conditions.” Talking about the talks, Mr. Haddad said he didn’t believe Israel would do anything “without instructions from and cooperation with the United States.”


May 23, 2008

The terms San, Khwe, Bushmen, and Basarwa have all been used to refer to hunter-gatherer peoples of southern Africa. Each of these terms has a problematic history, as they have been used by outsiders to refer to them, often with pejorative connotations. The individual groups identify by names such as Juǀʼhoansi and ǃKung (the punctuation characters representing different clicks), and most call themselves “Bushmen” when referring to themselves collectively.

The term “San” was historically applied by their ethnic relatives and historic rivals, the Khoikhoi. This term means “outsider” in the Nama language and was derogatory because it distinguished the Bushmen from what the Khoikhoi called themselves, namely the First People.[2] Western anthropologists adopted “San” extensively in the 1970s, where it remains preferred in academic circles. The term “Bushmen” is widely used, but opinions vary on whether it is appropriate – given that the term is sometimes viewed as pejorative.[3][4]

In South Africa, the term “San” has become favored in official contexts, being included in the blazon of the new national coat-of-arms. In South Africa “Bushman” is considered derogatory by some groups. Angola does not have an official term for Bushmen, but they are sometimes referred to as Bushmen, Kwankhala, or Bosquímanos (the Portuguese term for Bushmen). In Lesotho they’re referred to as Baroa, which is where the Sesotho name for “South”, “Boroa”, comes from. Neither Zambia nor Zimbabwe have official terms, although in the latter case the terms Amasili and Batwa are sometimes used. [5] In Botswana, the officially used term is Basarwa[6], where it is partially acceptable to some Bushmen groups, although Basarwa, a Tswana language label, also has negative connotations. The term is a class 2 noun (as indicated by the “ba-” class marker), while an older class 6 variant, “Masarwa,” is now almost universally considered offensive.[5] (using class 5 labels with class 6 plurals is a common strategy used by speakers of southern Bantu languages to show contempt for ethnic groups, though there are many societies whose own endonyms are class 1 nouns with irregular class 6 plurals)



May 23, 2008

“Sex and the City,” the former HBO hit about four single women devoted to designer shoes and other forms of self-gratification, is about to be released as a feature film. But isn’t the film out of sync with the spirit of New York at a time when people are scaling back? But the top are not scaling back. That’s what we keep hearing, right? These girls are doing pretty well. My money and Charlotte’s money — that’s big law-firm money.

I like the suit you’re wearing now. Is that a label? That is Oscar de la Renta. They lent it to me, just to wear today.

Obviously, there’s a disjunction between your own life and the characters in this film. Very much so.

A few years ago, you moved in with a woman, after leaving the father of your children. Do you find it easier living with a woman than a man because you have more in common? I think you do have more in common.

You can use the same bathroom in movie theaters, for instance. That’s absolutely true!

Can you share clothes? No. Christine doesn’t wear women’s clothes; she only wears men’s clothes. She won’t even wear any kind of women’s shoes. I bought her a pair of cowboy boots that were from the women’s department, and she was like, “Don’t do this again.”

Does she watch sports on TV? She does. We don’t have a TV. But when there was a World Cup, we went to the local Ruby Foo’s and watched it. And we actually did watch the Super Bowl as well. She tried to explain it to me.

Do you think of her as the male figure in the relationship? No, I don’t at all. Look at what’s happening now. She’s at home with the kids, and I’m the one out pounding the pavement. . . . She’s for Hillary, and I’m for Obama.

What was it like growing up with the name Nixon as a native New Yorker? Horrible. My mother always said — her father was a German — “I lived through World War II with a father named Adolph and through the ’70s with a husband named Nixon.” Horrible!

Has anyone ever told you that you resemble the woman in the Parmigianino painting “Madonna of the Long Neck”? I have a friend who sometimes calls me Bronty, short for brontosaurus, the dinosaurs with the really long necks. They have a new name now, apatosaurus.

What are you working on now? I will be doing a play called “Distracted” next season at the Roundabout. I just did a film called “The Babysitters” with John Leguizamo.

You’ve also appeared as Eleanor Roosevelt in a much-praised HBO movie. Do you think TV is overtaking film as the more creative medium? I do, because I think what is happening with films is happening with Broadway too. It’s got to cost a $100 million. It’s got to be big, big, big. I think TV is the only place left where you can have a midsize something.

So TV is the new Off Broadway? No, TV is the new Broadway the way Broadway used to be in the ’50s.

I hear you were treated for breast cancer in 2006. I had a lumpectomy. It wasn’t that bad. Six and a half weeks of radiation.

Did you stop working then? I was in a play, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” when I was getting radiation. In fact, they had my surgery on a Sunday so that I would not miss a performance. I’m able to shelve whatever emotional reaction I might be having in order to get the job done.

That’s a good definition of a professional. You may be afraid of flying, but you get on the plane.

solar Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

May 23, 2008

Ethanol stocks, once Wall Street’s green giants, have been squashed into wasabi paste. That could be a cautionary tale for today’s alternative-energy darling, solar.


Oil’s march to $133 a barrel has been a boon to green-energy stocks — solar, in particular. Two Chinese solar companies, Trina Solar and LDK Solar, have jumped 25% and 19%, respectively, since May 9. Solarfun Power Holdings has soared 78% during that time.

Ethanol stocks have rallied a bit, but they’re still far from their heyday of 2006 and remain mostly scorned by investors. Pacific Ethanol, which once traded at more than $40 a share — more than four times its 2005 IPO price — closed Wednesday at $5.53.

The similarities between the two industries might scare solar bulls. Both are somewhat at the mercy of commodity prices. Ethanol is suffering from expensive corn. Solar has been pinched by skyrocketing silicon, the key ingredient in photovoltaic modules, the black roof panels that store the sun’s energy.

Ethanol’s margins are also squeezed by a glut that has crushed prices. Solar’s pricing power has held steady, but could be at risk next year, given the vast and growing number of people making solar panels.

China’s Suntech Power Holdings, which reports earnings Thursday, may be on track to be the world’s biggest PV-module maker this year. But at the end of 2006, the latest data available, it had at least 180 competitors, according to Friedman, Billings, Ramsey analyst Mehdi Hosseini. That number has almost certainly grown and threatens to drag PV-module prices lower.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons why the lights won’t go out on solar the way they’ve gone out on ethanol. Both industries depend heavily on government subsidies. But solar seems less likely to fall out of public favor than corn ethanol, which has contributed to soaring food costs.

Solar is cleaner and getting cheaper. Corn ethanol will likely never be economically or environmentally viable without government handouts.

Still, solar stocks are speculative and volatile. While the industry’s prospects look far brighter than ethanol’s, that doesn’t mean they can defy gravity.

Fear Seems Limited; Hope May Be, Too

Despite the Dow’s more-than-400-point drop over two days, there’s not much fear in the stock market. The key measure of market fear, the Chicago Board Options Exchange’s volatility index, or VIX, has jumped 13% this week to 18.59. But when the market came unglued earlier this year, the VIX topped 30.

Back then, investors feared, reasonably so, that the entire financial system was at risk of collapse. This selloff has largely been driven by a slow-motion disaster that’s much easier to understand: soaring, absolutely soaring, oil prices. “I can’t see the bull case for stocks until we can get oil under control somehow,” said Todd Clark, director of trading at Nollenberger Capital Partners in San Francisco.

That clarity may help keep panic out of the market, but it doesn’t necessarily mean good news for stocks. The darkest days of the financial crisis were over pretty quickly, but the lingering effects of $133-a-barrel oil are much harder to solve and can have much broader effects onprofits.