Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ironies abound

Some stories are so delicious, even crumpling up the newsprint and devouring them -- ink and all-- seems highly palatable. On the weekend, we learned that Watson, of the former DNA duo, Watson and Crick, learned some startling news. But first, the preface: Watson, in October of this past year, made statements that can basically be summed up in the phrase "I'm a racially superior git." He basically said that Africans/blacks are somehow genetically less intelligent than their white neighbors. Well, even if Watson had never had this view, he is still a less-than-desirable fellow, and his deceptive qualities should fleshed out in all their dispicable glory. Watson and Crick are known as the DNA "pioneers" and double-helix discoverers. Along with Maurice Wilkins, their research assistant, Watson and Crick won the Nobel Prize and a long list of other accolades. Their pursuits into the mapping of the human genome were well-wrought enough, but they, like the media, rarely if ever accredit the true scientific source of the double helix structure: Rosalind Franklin. Wilkins, a molecular biologist who also worked with Franklin, took the information that she had created and found, from both her laboratory and her speeches, and shared this, in some cases confidential material with Watson and Crick. By filching Franklin's initial leg-work, Watson, Crick and Wilkins modeled a structure for DNA, which Franklin later proved incorrect. Without her groundwork and later input, Watson and Crick would have gone nowhere fast.

So it seems, after taking advantage of the intelligence of women, Watson has moved on to insulting the intelligence of black people. He is equally incorrect and in the complete wrong on both counts, and at least now, people won't put up with his bigotry as they did in the 1950s and 60s when Rosalind Franklin was overlooked, and shunted into scientific oblivion. As a culture we might have treated Franklin wrongly, but science and karma have finally aligned. (read this story:
As you can read, the story explains that Watson's own genetic footprint shows his ancestry to be made up of not only white Europeans, but around 16% African descent, and around 9% Asian. Watson had submitted his own genome years ago to be mapped. It should be noted these results are preliminary, and the accuracy of genetic tests is debatable, but it sheds light on something most people forget: Race is a social construct. No one is "one" thing. We all live in a large melting pot (which is simmering, to a boil now, due to global warming), and our considerations of white, black, Asian, etc. are so temporal, and so insignificant in the span of human existence, that it is laughable and equally depressing. Our social networks and beliefs are tied up in an imagined circumstance, and unfortunately that circumstance is one of surface appearances.
Of course, you have to wonder what Watson is thinking, about hopefully he's adjusting his prior misconceptions -- But, let's hold out for the test that proves he's also a woman.

In another ironic story, the Bush administration: the executive branch that notably has no problem abusing the Patriot Act and subpoenaing, or just taking an un-ajudicated peak at your phone records, was delivered a mighty blow on Monday by the US District Judge Lamberth (
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22299136/). The White House argued that their visitor logs were presidential records and therefore deserved to be kept private. However, Judge Lamberth ruled they were logs created by the secret service, and therefore subject to the Freedom of Information Act, a lovely bill issued in 1966 and amended during the Clinton era that makes many government records available to the public, the secret service logs of visitors being one of those open records. The fact that Bush is unwilling to even allow people to know who he and Cheney visits with is none-to-surprising, but sad nonetheless. Visits from "prominent religious conservatives" are what the Bush administration wanted to hide. Now, Bush and his cronies have tracked people, their monetary information, etc. It seems highly unfair not to know who the president is talking to -- he makes decisions, often ill-advised, and many people would like to know exactly who is putting these bugs in his ear. Bush wants to appeal to another judge, one he himself appointed, but most can see the unfairness in that argument without even opening their eyes. Unfortunately, if Bush's Executive Order 13233 stays in force, this may be the juiciest info we ever get from Bush, even after he's long gone. 13233 limits the access of the public to records of former presidents. Bush issued it in November 2001. Now, this may be incorrect, but given everything Bush has done since November 2001, perhaps Bush and his advisers had a little more forethought than they are given the credit for. At least, the forethought needed to cover up their own legacies.

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