Morning Report 8/11/05
Bush Less Complex Than a Grain of Rice, Scientists Discover
Genome breakthrough may explain why president is strictly from hunger, even about Niger
We didn't really need any more evidence that George W. Bush is no smarter than a piece of food.
But a newly reported scientific breakthrough regarding DNA could at least explain why Bush is such a firm believer in "intelligent design." It turns out that a grain of rice is, in one sense, more complicated than a human being.
As the Los Angeles Times notes this morning:
[According to] research published today in the journal Nature, … [it] takes only two-thirds as many genes as scientists once predicted to create a rice plant, but even so, thousands more than required to make a human being.
The japonica strain of rice, the researchers discovered, contains 37,544 genes spelled out in 389 million chemical letters of DNA packaged in 12 chromosomes, compared with about 20,000 known genes in the 24 chromosomes of the human genome.
As for Bush, he's wearing his jeans these days—the president's on an extended vacation at Prairie Chapel Ranch. And as for his genes, he's already displayed the ones controlling his IQ: We won't soon forget his one-finger salute to the press. To which my own genes compel me to borrow a phrase from Dick Cheney and reply, "Go fuck yourself."
Less juvenile observers than I track Bush's behavior. Film director Russell Bates, with the help of noted professor Harlan McCraney, mostly lets Bush do his speaking for hisself. Slate editor Jacob Weisberg does the same thing.
Science may have figured out the rice genome, but it's not always right about humans: Both of Bush's mysterious bulges—the one in his crotch in May 2003 and the one on his back during the 2004 campaign—are proof of "intelligent design."
The same kind of design is evident in the White House's response to the Niger crisis—not the yellowcake, for Christ's sake. You'd have to be a moron to publicly ignore what's going on in Niger now. But then Bush has never been good in a crisis. Look at his initial response to the Asian tsunami late last year. He was picking up debris, all right, but it was branches on his Texas ranch. (Goldurn! He's back on his ranch right now, in the midst of a five-week vacation. Huh.)
And who can forget Bush's reaction on 9/11? That freeze-up under fire ensured his place in U.S. history as our pet goat.
You thought after that episode that Bush just loved children. Apparently, not the ones in Niger. The starving child whose photo I ran in my July 18 item "Famine in Niger? Let Them Eat Yellowcake," has a name: Amissou, according to a July 26 report from the U.N.'s excellent IRIN news service:
A few days ago, this three-year-old victim of Niger's famine could hardly breathe, let alone drink.
Amissou, who weighs just 5.8 kg, was severely malnourished and came close to death's door.
Now he is recovering in the intensive care ward of the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) therapeutic feeding centre for malnourished children in Maradi, a town 600 km east of the capital Niamey.
"It really gives you a sense of achievement when you see a child who is matchstick thin and manages to put on a kilo of weight in less than a week," said Chantale Umotoni, the Rwandan doctor watching over him.
But MSF warns that the worst is yet to come:
- The most critical period will be in August as food reserves will be at extremely low levels and the next harvest is still months away. Admissions to MSF centres is increasing as the levels only worsen. Over 16,000 children have been admitted so far. Over 1,600 new admissions come every week and MSF estimates that over 30,000 children will be cared for by the end of the year.
Since the horrifying crisis in Niger finally burst into public view a few weeks ago, the White House has been silent about the plight of that country's starving multitudes.
It was only by coincidence that in late July we sent Rice to Africa—the Condi variety, not the complex, nourishing kind. Even on that trip, Rice, whose genome defies analysis, blew off questions about Niger.
In Bush's own case, of course, timing is nothing. On June 13, just before the Niger crisis spurred the rest of the world to jump in with both feet, Bush welcomed Niger President Mamadou Tanja to the White House and praised him for his country's steps toward democracy. Bush didn't mention the crisis in Niger, which was known to the West for months.
But why should Bush talk about it with the president of Niger? This is the same Mamadou Tanja who denies that his people need the lifesaving help that people on the outside are now providing.
Since Tanja's pomp-and-circumstance visit, the only mention of Niger on the White House site—still—is in connection with Plamegate and yellowcake. No official statement of sympathy, not even a perfunctory one. Instead, here's the latest White House morsel about Niger, from a July 29 press gaggle with flack Scott McClellan:
Q: First on [John] Bolton, and then another question about today's discussion. Is the President concerned about the apparent error on Mr. Bolton's questionnaire to the Senate, in which he said that he had not been questioned in a federal investigation in the preceding five years, when now it has been revealed that, in fact, he was at least interviewed in the context of the Inspector General-CIA investigation of the uranium potential sale from Niger to Iraq?
McCLELLAN: No, I think the State Department addressed that last night and it was John Bolton who pointed that out.
Q: Is the President concerned about this?
McCLELLAN: Do you have a follow-up?
Q: So is the President concerned about it? (Laughter.)
McCLELLAN: No. I just said, no. The State Department pointed out the—
Q: Great, okay. So, moving on from that, since you want to talk about the economy—in the context of the discussion we've been having here this morning, one gets the sense that you think that there's an "I told you so" coming here for the administration, because the press, in the past four months, has been writing the President off as a lame duck. Is that what you're doing? And, if so, why?
Who the fuck cares?
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.