Field of Science

What I Read (2010)

In reverse order
(Grade A-F, no E's) Title-Author Additional thoughts

A The Red Queen by Matt Ridley A reread spurred by some recent discussions and thoughts on sex and evolution. The book addresses 3 main questions, although never answers them: Why does sex exist?, How does sex affect human personality, and ....

A- Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks Been a Brooks fan since reading the Stones of Shannarra many years ago, this book (and the previous three) reminded me of those early stories much more than a lot of the intervening books.

B Confronting Collapse by Michael C. Ruppert Must read! Although you really want a lot of booze on hand when you're done with it.

B- American Gods by Neil Gaiman My first Gaiman. Interesting take on gods.

B- The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

B Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

A The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell Took me over a year to read this book, but it was worth it. Need to reread it already, but some many other books that haven't been read once yet.

B+ Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by R.K. Rowlings Not as good as the first, but one of those books that keep the kids coming back for more.

B+ Shadowrise by Tad Williams The story is progressing along, but needs to end with the next book or it will become tedious as Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series did.

D A Figure in Hiding by Franklin Dixon All the Hardy Boys stories are the same.

F Star Wars The Last of the Jedi #4 Death on Naboo by Jude Watson Didnt read it for my sake Part 1.

B+ Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

B Never Call Retreat by Bruce Catton

D The Three Muskateers (kids edition)

D The Sinister Signpost by Franklin Dixon All the Hardy Boys stories are the same.

C Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

B+ Guards, Guards by Terry Pratchett

B Terrible Swift Sword by Bruce Catton

F Star Wars Jedi Apprentice #1: The Rising Force by Dave Wolverton Didn't read it for my sake Part 2.

D Tuck by Stephen R Lawhead The first 2 books were realistic in the suffering and losses of the characters. This one wrapped everything up too nicely.

C The Curse of the Blue Figurine by John Bellairs

A The Coming Fury by Bruce Catton I especially liked the discussion of events (election of Lincoln) leading up to the secession of South Carolina and the Civil War

C The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder by John Bellairs

C Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology and Politics in Science by John Grant

A+ The Truth by Terry Pratchett. My favorite Pratchett book to date, beating out Mort and Reaper Man.

D The Hidden Harbor Mystery by Franklin Dixon All the Hardy Boys stories are the same.

26 books this year. Of course you have to consider 10 were read to my son. Of the remaining 16: 9 were fiction for fun (of which Terry Pratchett wrote 5), 3 were US Civil War history, 1 was philosophy/history, 2 were science (1 was biology), and 1 was policy/environmentalism.

Kids vs Psychiatrists: Final score 1-0

ResearchBlogging.orgBy now many have heard about the recent study published in Pediatrics which, of course, shows a clear link between extensive video game playing and depression in teenagers. You may have also heard about another recent publication of a study conducted by 8-10 year olds.

"How are these studies related?" You may ask.

"They are not." I may respond. Actually I will respond. These studies have nothing to do with each other. However, they are related from the perspective that they are BIG news!

In the first case MPR was all over it this morning. Here is the audio of the program:

Kerri Miller had a psychiatrist on to discuss this paper and she did an excellent job IMO in noting the post hoc ergo propter hoc argument that would be immediately made. Dr. Richard Gallagher noted this issue but then ignored it. The take home message of this study is that teenagers who played video games a ton of time were more likely to have symptoms associated with depression a couple of years later. So what does this mean?

First, let's back up and ask whether there is reason to think this study means nothing. This study was conducted in Singapore and the children in the study were primarily from China, Malaysia, and India. Does this matter? YES! The are significant cultural differences between these students and US students, to whom these study results will be applied (This study wasn't on MPR to highlight issues specific to students in Asia).

Just because a study primarily uses students from another culture does not discredit said study, but it is an important factor to consider. A study on American children may not be applicable to France, but that does not mean it should be ignored, it simply means we need to 'critical think' about the data (as we always should).

Alright back to the Pediatrics study at hand. The conclusion that will be the headline in newspapers, "Video game playing leads to teenage depression," is it valid? Kerri Miller basically pointed out that correlation does not equal causation. I agree with her. Dr. Gallagher reiterated these points, but immediately back pedaled every time as far as I heard. He noted that isolation may lead to depression (or be a symptom of depression), which explains why playing a lot of video games is bad. I called in, but didn't get on air, with the question if 'isolation' is the problem, then what is the depression incidence in kids that watch 30+ hours of TV or read for 30+ hours (30+ hours of video game playing/week was the linked criteria in the study). If Dr. Gallagher's hypothesis is correct, then any activity that results in social isolation should promote depression. (Caveats: the authors of the study did not differentiate social video game playing from asocial video game playing AND depression symptoms were identified but this was by self-assessment and no clinical criteria for depression was used nor associated with playing video games.) 

Before the whines come in, I am NOT saying playing video games for 4-5 hours daily is a good or neutral thing for middle/high school students or anyone else). But maybe kids disposed to depression will find any venue of escape, video games being the current modus operandi. In the 1970s it was TV, in the 1950s it was books, etc.

My concern is that we, as a society, will use this or similar studies to ignore real issues affecting the metal well-being of our children. BTW, don't let your children play video games 4-5 hours/day every day. I mean REALLY!?!?!

Now to offset this study, I present the children of Blackawton Primary School in England. These kids just published a paper in the journal Biology Letters. This is a research paper in which the research was conducted by a group of 8-10 year old students (2-4th graders in US terms). Before I discuss anything about the paper, you should READ THE FUCKING THING!!! Dr. Lotto worked with some elementary school students, had the devise a previously untested hypothesis and test it. The kids learned something NEW!!! Something I didn't know about the universe, and something you certainly didn't know either. Read their paper!!! This is science at its unadulterated best. The kids were not twisting science to try and get funding from some institution with an agenda. They were doing science like many of us started out 'doing' science, because it is AWESOME!!!!

I love the idea of playing, and science as being playing 'with rules.' "Wait!" You say, "Rules are constricting, and how could a constricting environment lead to new information?"

Great question! I would argue that the 'rules' of science are not constricting. Nay, the 'rules' of science are part and parcel with the 'critical thinking' issues I was discussing in the previous post. These kids nail it. Regardless of whether you agree with me or not, READ THIS PAPER!!!11!!11 It was written primarily by 8-10 year olds, now 10-12 year olds. You do not have to be smarter than a fifth grader to read this paper, although you do need to be smarter than a teabagger. A couple of great points about this paper. There are no references!!! The students came up with these ideas on their own independent of some deep framework. So who would you reference? The group that reported bees were alive? The figures are in crayon! Of ~1/3 of the seminars I see, the presenters could benefit from graphic design tips from these kids. Finally, with an N = 1, I find that kids do not conflate 'is' with 'ought'. The kids say it best themselves (from the last paragraph of their paper!),

"Before doing these experiments we did not really think a lot about bees and how they are as smart as us. We also did not think about the fact that without bees we would not survive, because bees keep the flowers going. So it is important to understand bees. We discovered how fun it was to train bees. This is also cool because you do not get to train bees everyday. We like bees. Science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before. (Bees—seem to—think!)" (emphasis mine).

This can be offset by the aforementioned study, which ends thusly,

"This study begins to provide data to answer questions about the risk factors,
cause, course, and outcomes of pathological gaming. Pathological gaming seems not to be simply secondary to other disorders but to predict poorer functioning longitudinally, and it can last for several years. Several important questions remain to be answered, including information on protective factors, how children can be helped, and what types of help
might be most effective." (See our data doesn't show it, but playing video games too much leads to depression, which can be treated, or at least prevented, by limiting video game playing....paraphrase mine).
Blackawton PS, Airzee S, Allen A, Baker S, Berrow A, Blair C, Churchill M, Coles J, Cumming RF, Fraquelli L, Hackford C, Hinton Mellor A, Hutchcroft M, Ireland B, Jewsbury D, Littlejohns A, Littlejohns GM, Lotto M, McKeown J, O'Toole A, Richards H, Robbins-Davey L, Roblyn S, Rodwell-Lynn H, Schenck D, Springer J, Wishy A, Rodwell-Lynn T, Strudwick D, & Lotto RB (2010). Blackawton bees. Biology letters PMID: 21177694
Gentile DA, Choo H, Liau A, Sim T, Li D, Fung D, & Khoo A (2011). Pathological Video Game Use Among Youths: A Two-Year Longitudinal Study. Pediatrics PMID: 21242221

Critical Thinking: What Is It?

Previously, I posted a set of four questions related to 'critical thinking'. This was driven and has been reinforced by a number of factors that have all come to a head in kind of a perfect storm. First, there was the 'class' on teaching where we discussed this issue; second, there was the release of the report by the authors of Academically Adrift stating that 1 in 3 students learn jack shit in college; third, there was an MPR discussion this week on Morning Edition with Kerri Miller entitled Is Higher Education Losing Its Meaning? Together these episodes, plus the insights I gained by serving on a committee to revise the state science standards, became the impetus to begin a post, which is developing into several posts, on critical thinking.

I think we can make several solid statements regarding 'critical thinking' that essentially everyone agrees on.

1. Critical thinking is something we want students to learn.
2. We value 'critical thinking' as a societal good.
3. We believe that it is possible to teach critical thinking.

I am happy to engage in a discussion of these points, but this is where I am starting from.

So the first question I asked in the original post was:

"What is the your definition of "critical thinking"?"

I want to thank those who responded (although I will guilt trip the FoS-collective, excluding Emily, for not participating). From these comments, comments at Academic Philosophy, and the discussion from my faculty group interested in improving teaching, I feel gratified  that this question is a good place to start.

To be fair, I am taking the philosophically weak-ass position of PASS. I do this because I think the question is a poor one. The idea of 'critical thinking' is something I expect everyone has some kind of intellectual sense of, like art. But when put to the test of defining it, we end up in a "I know it, when I see it" mentality. 

In general I agree with Emily's response "I think it comes down to being skeptical of any unsupported statement and recognizing holes in arguments." While not critiquing the response itself, I do not think this goes far enough. This was the response from the Academic Philosophy thread as well. Indeed, this viewpoint was promoted in the teaching working group I am involved in. In all cases, these responses do describe 'critical thinking' skills. But not critical thinking itself. Also I will argue that they describe one aspect of critical thinking, but not all aspects of critical thinking (akin to a 'species concept' that only deals with the rare sexually reproducing  organisms).

I want to briefly introduce Bloom's taxonomy, of which the 'cognitive' taxonomy is most familiar (at least in the circles I run in). Here is an example of  this type of taxonomy
The lower tiers are considered the lower cognitive functions and higher the higher. (To be clear here, this taxonomy is NOT a judgement call. Knowledge is essential and not less important than Analysis, simply that Analysis requires (according to Bloom) higher cognitive ability.

I introduce Bloom's taxonomy, because conscious or not, I believe that this is the default approach teachers take. I also believe it is reflective in the ideas of critical thinking' described by my responders and my teaching group. When we think 'critical thinking,' we think deconstruction (Analysis-Evaluation on Bloom's scale). Look at the responses if you don't believe me. Indeed, this is the easiest way to demonstrate a critically thinking scientist in action (go to a departmental journal club to see it in action). You see us ripping apart, finding fault, pointing out limitations to any and all studies! This is exactly the exercise described by Emily and taught in Logic classes. (I am not beating on Emily, I teach an entire class that is essentially this approach. In fact, this is important essential critical whatever, it is just not sufficient to be considered 'Critical Thinking'.)

What I think is missing here is what was included in the revised Bloom's Taxonomy:
Creating. Now as anyone who knows me will attest, I am not a fan of creationism. However, 'Creating' is different and is, in my opinion, the antithesis to deconstruction. Yes, 'critical thinking' encompasses deconstruction. Can you look at an argument, data set, etc. and find the limitations, holes, faults? However, 'critical thinking' is so much more. Can you look at two, three, seventeen datasets and develop a new idea? Can you read a paper on the physics of water molecule tension and apply it your research on plant stomata cell function?

I am not advocating that we teach all possible aspects of 'critical thinking' at all times. But it is important to know what 'critical thinking' is, so that we can know when we are (or should) be teaching it.

This post was based on the question "What is the your definition of "critical thinking"?" and I passed on answering it. I still pass on answering it, because I have come to the conclusion that any definition I can come up will lack some important facet (kind of like the 'species concept'). So I will say instead that 'critical thinking' is a skill set that allows one to establish the veracity of an idea, data-set, etc. and to develop logically cohesive ideas, hypotheses, etc.

And it is this idea that 'critical thinking' is better thought of as a skill set than an easily definable term that will be the basis of the subsequent post.

A Critical Thinking Question for My Readers

In my quest to become a more effective instructor (among other things), I joined a group of faculty to talk about ways to become more effective instructors. As you might imagine a group of people coming together in this way results in 70-80% of the time being used in a non-productive manner. However, we were discussing what I think is an important, but ultimately difficult topic,  and decided to recruit some outside feedback. Our whole discussion, which were based on some assigned readings, was critical thinking. I will share my thoughts later, but I don't want to bias the feedback with my thoughts. So my questions to you are....

1. What is the your definition of "critical thinking"?
2. Is it important to teach "critical thinking"?
3. Is it possible to teach "critical thinking"?

4. If so, how does one teach "critical thinking"?

You don't have to answer all the questions. Im interested in any and all relevant feedback. Also, this issue extends beyond the sciences. For example, if you are an artist, what does critical thinking mean to you?

BTW. If you used wiki before answering #1, how do you look at yourself in the mirror (assuming you're not a vampire).

New Thoughts on How Plasmodium Changes its Spots

ResearchBlogging.orgPlasmodium falciparum is the leading cause of malaria in people, although there are Plasmodium species, spp., that infect virtually all the tetrapods (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians). As most people know, malaria is acquired from mosquito bites (Anopheles mosquitoes to be specific), because Plasmodium spp. have complex life cycles that require both an insect (mosquito) and a tetrapod host. Importantly, there is essentially no overlap between the Plasmodium spp. that cause frog, mouse, or human malaria. This host specificity is due to the inability of the parasite to survive in the wrong host as well as the general specificity mosquitoes show in source of bloodmeal, in other words mosquitoes that feed on frogs do not feed on humans.

Now in order to successfully infect a human being, P. falciparum cells must deal with the immune system. The immune system is exquisitely good at destroying foreign invaders, which is why you are alive to read this. So in order for an organism to survive within your tissues and bloodstream it must have a way (or ways) to deal with your immune system. Some organisms simply destroy important parts of the immune system, helper T-cells in the case of HIV, thereby short circuiting the entire system. However, Plasmodium spp, at least the ones that infect mammalian hosts take a different approach. They duck and weave.
Mickey: "I said duck and weave!"

From the CDC. We are dealing primarily with the bottom right blue circle. 
Much like a virus, Plasmodium spp. can only grow within an infected cell. When P. falciparum enters the human bloodstream from the mosquito, it first infects liver cells (hepatocytes). Here it divides a bunch of times and differentiates into cells called merrozoites. At this point the immune system is essentially unaware that P. falciparum parasites are growing within the body. Once parasites (merozoites) burst from the hepatocytes, they enter the bloodstream and can infect only red blood cells. This they do quite well, which leads to the production of more parasites (within the red blood cell), which burst forth from the now dead red blood cell looking for fresh red blood cells to infect. This ultimately leads to the reduction in red blood cells in your body, which lead to many of complications associated with malaria.

Marti figure showing Plasmodium within a PV.
What is interesting is that while growing within the red blood cell, the Plasmodium cell is actually growing within a bag inside the red blood cell called the parasitophorus vacuole (PV) not in the cytoplasm (this figure from a review by Matthias Marti et al shows a real life and a cartoon version of PVs within a red blood cell). So the immediate environment from the Plasmodium's perspective is the PV (the yellow area in the cartoon). However, the source of Plasmodium's nutrient come from the cytoplasm of the red blood cell (the red area in the cartoon). As you might expect, Plasmodium secretes proteins into the yellow area that enter the PV membrane and are used to take up nutrients from the red blood cell cytoplasm. (Proteins within the Plasmodium plasma membrane can then move nutrients from the PV into the cytoplasm of the Plasmodium cell). Damn, that's complicated. You might want to reread this paragraph again.

Now everything is well and good from Plasmodium's perspecitve, it can get enough food. However, it still interacts with the more distal environment, the bloodstream, which means Plasmodium needs to make proteins that enter the PV, cross the PV membrane enter the red blood cell cytoplasm, and then enter the plasma membrane of the red blood cell to be able to see what's going on in the bloodstream!!!

The major protein that actually does this is called the Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1 for short). For the record, an erythrocyte is a fancy word for red blood cell. So PfEMP1 is out there interacting with the bloodstream doing all the things it needs to do, which is primarily interacting with other host (your) cells.

Sounds like everything is kosher for Plasmodium right? Wrong. Once this protein, which is made by a foreign invader, is exposed on the bloodstream, your immune system can see it. You may recall that your immune system kicks ass, so once it sees this PfEMP1 protein hanging out, it will ramp up the defenses and kill the red blood cell (including the growing Plasmodium cells within it). YAY! for you, boo for Plasmodium. It can also kill any RBCs infected with Plasmodium expressing PfEMP1. 

Obviously, malaria wouldn't kill 3 million people a year if it let the immune system kick its ass. Nope Plasmodium learned long ago (yes Im anthropomorphizing) that sticking PfEMP1 out of the red blood cell is essential yet lethal. To overcome the lethality (from your immune system), Plasmodium encodes ~60 slightly different PfEMP1 proteins. As the immune system ramps up its defenses against one specific PfEMP1, a small subset of Plasmodium cells express a different PfEMP1 protein. The immune system kills off the red blood cells infected with the Plasmodium expressing the original PfEMP1 protein, but is completely unaware of the PfEMP1 protein being expressed. These new Plasmodium grow like mad, killing more red blood cells, until the immune system resets and notices the new PfEMP1 protein and the system repeats. All the while you are losing more and more red blood cells and your immune system is becoming less efficient because you are tired and weak. Ultimately you will die or your immune system will finally gain an edge (6-12 months later) and you recover.

This process of swapping proteins to avoid the immune system is referred to as antigenic variation, antigenic switching, phase variation, phenotypic switching, etc. Probably the best known example of this is the Trypanosomes (the topic for another post).

A Plasmodium cell is thought to only express a single form of PfEMP1 on the red blood cell. Upon infection of a new red blood cell, the specific form of PfEMP1 to be expressed can change in a very small subset of cells, but still only a single form of PfEMP1 is expressed. This is the "duck and weave" strategy mentioned above. However, a recent report in PLoS Pathogens suggests that things may not be so clear cut as one type of PfEMP1/red blood cell. 

Adapted from Figure 1 of Joergensen et al.
The authors grew P. falciparum cells that express a specific PfEMP1 (PFD1235w) in culture for a short time and then looked for expression of the original PFD1235w PfEMP1 as well as a different PfEMP1, PF11_0008. Lo and behold, the authors found infected red blood cells that had both PfEMP1 proteins expressed! To walk you through this, the authors used antibodies specific to either PFD1235w or PF11_0008, these antibodies bind to their respective PfEMP1. You can then add a fluorescently labeled antibody that only binds to the original antibody used in the first step. This gives the green and red colors. You will note that in rows A and B only green or red staining is observed. These are controls showing that this approach works and is specific (the antibodies are not cross-reacting) Thus, the red blood cells infected with  P. falciparum expressing just one or the other PfEMP1 do not have any crossreactivity with the antibodies being used for detection. Row C is the money row. This red blood cell is infected with P. falciparum expressing both PFD1235w and PF11_0008 and thus is both red and green. This result suggests that at least when grown in culture, P. falciparum can express more than a single PfEMP1 within the red blood cell. The authors include a ton more controls, in fact most of the paper is controls to demonstrate this result is real.

Adapted from Figure 6 of Joergensen et al.
So why is this important? First, the dogma, and I use this term loosely, was one and only one PfEMP1 form can be expressed in an infected red blood cell at any time. This paper suggests that we should rethink the strength of this original idea. Second, PfEMP1 is important to interact with additional host cells, primarily the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels. This interaction allows P. falciparum-infected red blood cells to adhere to endothelial cells (which can help lead to things like cerebral malaria. Third, the results reminded me of something I thought was extremely interesting. I noted that PfEMP1 interacts with endothelial cells. Well, it does this by binding to specific proteins found on endothelial cells. Proteins like ICAM-1 and CD31 (PECAM1). The authors actually looked into this issue and found that infected red blood cells expressing both PFD1235w and PF11_0008 PfEMP1s bind better to endothelial cells (see figure). The first two bars (black and light gray) are infected red blood cells expressing a single PfEMP1 and the third bar (darker gray) is infected red blood cells expressing both PfEMP1s. The fourth bar (another light gray) is an extremely smart control. This sample is basically a mix of the samples used in for the first two bars. This shows that there is no in trans effects between red blood cells. Finally, the fifth bar is yet another control that you can read up on in the paper if you are interested. So why is this "extremely interesting" to me? Well when thinking about this paper, I recalled some immunology I had eons ago and reread several years back dealing with these same endothelial cell proteins.
Adapted from Immunobiology Figure 2.36
See neutrophils, critical cells of innate immunity, travel through the bloodstream. If you have an infection in your arm, your cells send signals to the endothelial cells to get the neutrophils over stat! (Kind of like calling 911.) Endothelial cells express ICAM-1 and other molecules that help the neutrophils pull over out of traffic and leave the bloodstream at the appropriate places where they can then take a bite out of crime kill the pathogens. Here is a clear example of evolution using the same strategy to accomplish some function. These endothelial cell molecules play critical functions in your body, such as ICAM-1 to stop neutrophils flying through the bloodstream. For Plasmodium to survive it needs to stop, or at least slow down while in the bloodstream. Why not simply use to tools already in hand at co-opt the system used for neutrophils?

Finally, it is quite simple to conclude that more binding is better and therefore infected red blood cells must frequently express distinct PfEMP1s. However, this may not be true. First, there is much evidence that infected red blood cells only express a single PfEMP1 type at a time. In fact, if different PfEMP1s were expressed at the same time, the immune system would be able to recognize them, which would more or less cause Plasmodium to duck into the punch. Second, it is unclear if this actually happens in the host or is an issue with laboratory culturing. Regardless, this paper clearly suggests new questions, which heretofore would not have been asked because it was well known that Plasmodium-infected red blood cells only express a single type of PfEMP1.

Joergensen, L., Bengtsson, D., Bengtsson, A., Ronander, E., Berger, S., Turner, L., Dalgaard, M., Cham, G., Victor, M., Lavstsen, T., Theander, T., Arnot, D., & Jensen, A. (2010). Surface Co-Expression of Two Different PfEMP1 Antigens on Single Plasmodium falciparum-Infected Erythrocytes Facilitates Binding to ICAM1 and PECAM1 PLoS Pathogens, 6 (9) DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1001083

Republican Leaders Conspire to Commit Murder

This is reactionary I admit it. Not all the facts are known, but sometimes we can make educated guesses.

US Representative from Arizona Gabrielle Giffords was shot at a "Town Hall" meeting today. She will likely survive, although what surviving being shot in the head means is up in the air at the moment. A US federal judge John Roll, a young boy were not so fortunate, and numerous others did not survive. Of course there will be much hand wringing and appeals to let the facts play out, I agree, but here are some facts to get you started:

Fact #1: Gabrielle Giffords is a registered democrat. She also supports health care.

Fact #2:
One down Sarah, 19 to go. Oh by the way Palin had this say on Facebook "My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today's tragic shooting in Arizona.    On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice." Great when you're done praying, do you think you could stop with the vitriol and maybe deal with political issues in a civilized way? No? Oh, then FUCK YOU!

Fact #3

Thanks Sharron Angle for suggesting this as an approach for Americans to take. What? She didn't advocate this merely pointed out it might happen? I wonder what she met when she quoted Jefferson then "In fact, Thomas Jefferson said it's good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years."

Fact #4

Michele Bachmann, a voice of Christian virtue, helps promote the "Real American"  meme, which makes others what exactly? Oh and please lets have a helping of inquisitions investigations into those awful democrats.

Fact #5
Socialist, Fascist, Communist, Elite, the list goes on.

I hold the republican party as a whole (I haven't heard many republican voices arguing to tone down the rhetoric) ultimately responsible for this attack. They have been stirring the fires of discontent for over a decade. Dancing merrily around, fanning the fires of hatred. Wrapping themselves in the flag and religion, pushing and pushing and pushing. Well, when one of your vile progeny grows into an evil caricature of a human being and unloads an oversized clip into "the others," I expect you'll be all anguishing and whinny about the need for civility. You should celebrate, your seeds are sprouting into the little blossoms of death you've long been cultivating.

UPDATE: How fucking soon before a republican asshole blames Gifford for the shooting because of her support for healthcare?

Check out my FoS partner's thoughts.