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November 4, 2011

elizabeth warren in the future

You've no doubt heard about how some Tea Party was so filled with the spirit that he called Elizabeth Warren a "socialist whore."  Surely not the worst thing she's been called, and hardly will this be the last time that she is the target of a very personal sort of public obstreperousness.

But dig this, Warren's reaction after the event was over:

“I actually felt sorry for the guy. I really genuinely did,” Warren later told the Huffington Post. “He’s been out of work now for a year and a half. And bless his heart, I mean, he thought somehow it would help to come here and yell names.”

She also added: “I’m not angry with him, but he didn’t come up with the idea that his biggest problem was Occupy Wall Street. There’s someone else pre-packaging that poison — and that’s who makes me angry.”

That might not rise to the level of 2004-DNC-Convention-Keynote-Speech, but the last time I thought, "That person could be president," they became president.  And that's what I thought when I read that.

Just sayin', etc. etc.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:51 AM

November 3, 2011

the heim theory!

I do love posts like this, Esther Inglis-Arkell explaining hypothetical physics patiently for I09's sci-fi readership:
Einstein used four dimensions to equate matter with energy, laying the groundwork for a new way to produce energy in nuclear reactors, which convert solid matter to energy. Heim's goal was to find ways to convert between all kinds of energy, and in adding two dimensions to his calculations he was able to equate, at least in theory, gravitational energy and electromagnetism. This could give rise to a new kind of starship engine, which uses electromagnetic fields to slip free of gravity.

The Heim in question is Burkhard Heim, a German physicist who invented two more dimensions to not only approach a unified field theory, but a unified field theory with awesome spaceship implications.&mbsp; I mean, Brian Greene is fun and all as he dreamboatedly lobbies for string theory with its difficult-to-remember number of dimensions, but is that going to get us to the Crab Nebula anytime soon?

The Internet needs more patient explanations of stuff I don't already know.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:04 PM

great moments in op-ed: infrastructure!

Here's a little, "This is awful, try it!" — an op ed in the Washington Post whose writer is skeptical of any kind of infrastructure crisis in America:
So how come my family and I traveled thousands of miles on both the east and west coasts last summer without actually seeing any crumbling roads or airports? On the whole, the highways and byways were clean, safe and did not remind me of the Third World countries in which I have lived or worked. Should I believe the pundits or my own eyes?

Yeah, right!  And if there's this so-called global warming, how come I needed to wear a coat this morning?

To be fair to the writer, he does go on to make less specious points, but only by a little, as they are all based on a single report on global competitiveness from the Global Economic Forum, which ranks the world's countries in various categories, and which has nothing to freaking do with whether we're dealing with an infrastructure that may be failing us in catastrophic and embarrassing ways in the future.

Or, even like right now, as a couple hundred thousand people are still without power in New Jersey and Connecticut, because the Northeastern powergrid is apparently vulnerable to snow.

Maybe next vacation the author of the linked story should drive his family around transmission lines, or sewers.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:23 AM

November 2, 2011

in god we trust

This did not quite make the front page this morning, but the House of Representatives passed a resolution confirming that the motto of the nation is, "In God We Trust."  Also, confirmed instead of proclaimed because the motto is already on the books, by an act of law in 1956.  So if this passes the Senate, makes it through reconciliation and then is signed by the President, then the motto will really really be, "In God We Trust."

And no story of the fecklessness of the House GOP would be complete without an appearance by Eric Cantor:

Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, said earlier this year that he would try to prevent votes on measures that were not “substantive and meaningful.” The House did not vote, for example, on an independent resolution, passed in the Senate this year, to honor the troops who carried out the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. His office did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Why didn't he respond?  Maybe he was afraid that some Occupy Wall Streeters were hiding behind the bushes?  Maybe he leaves all the distasteful work for his minion, Speaker Boehner?  Or maybe he didn't want to be asked exactly how stupid he thinks his own base is?

(The answer to which has to be, "Pretty freaking stupid," right?  I mean, anyone shallow enough to be swayed by such obvious pandering meaningless in a time of such dire economic straits really makes you contemplate the implications of representative democracy.)

Posted by mrbrent at 10:13 AM

November 1, 2011

sigh, david brooks

Urgh, David Brooks.  I know my hate-crush may be off-putting, but his knack to (genially?) be wrong about every last thing tend to set me off.

This Tuesday's model is par for the course.  It's called "The Wrong Inequality," which is enough to anticipate where's he's going to go with it, considering how much ink income/wealth inequality has received in the past month of Occupy Wall Street.  But let's get the brazenly offensive passage out of the way, on why this income inequality is at the forefront:

That’s because the protesters and media people who cover them tend to live in or near the big cities, where the top 1 percent is so evident. That’s because the liberal arts majors like to express their disdain for the shallow business and finance majors who make all the money. That’s because it is easier to talk about the inequality of stock options than it is to talk about inequalities of family structure, child rearing patterns and educational attainment. That’s because many people are wedded to the notion that our problems are caused by an oppressive privileged class that perpetually keeps its boot stomped on the neck of the common man.

Not only is David Brooks contemptuous of our class awareness, he can't make up his mind on what's the worst thing about it: our Big City condescension, our art school unctuousness, or (of course) our lack of hygiene and punctuality.

And it's the inequality of "educational attainment" that is, for David Brooks, a much more important focus, as higher education becomes less of an option for what he calls Red States, and (according to statistics! oh, are there statistics) a college degree means that you will make more money, better life decisions, and have a brighter, more dazzling smile.

What Brooks does not understand, and what makes him naive more than anything, is that calls for "educational opportunity" are, in this country, immediately translated into calls for a boom in the education industry.  Access to education ends up having nothing at all to do with the actual increase in opportunity (which is of course a total crock, and if Brooks would read a newspaper he might know that), and everything to do with "institutions" like the University of Phoenix and other degree factories that pin their profit margin on the scandalously unfair treatment of student debt.  And I don't think that David Brooks is trying to be sneaky about this, taking money from charter school corporations and trying to look innocent while talking blithely about Our Childrens' Future — I think that's just the state of the way things are, that if something is worth thinking then there is some patriotic American out there trying to figure out a way to commodify it, and certain things just shouldn't be commidified.

Of course, there's also the point that college is so unattainable because of slow trickle of wealth from what used to be the middle class to the one percent, but what's the fun in that?

Posted by mrbrent at 9:08 AM

October 31, 2011

population asplotion

You may not have noticed since you have been busy out buying candy for the children and the Sexy Whatchamacallit costume for the parade tonight, but today is the day that the planet hits seven billion occupants.  Now this is not really the day that this happens, as no one is really paying that close of attention to have a firm number, not to mention that even if someone was, that's an awful lot of people to keep track of, what with all the birthing and dying and all.  It's just the arbitrary day that the UN Population Fund figured makes the most sense.

This may seem like a trivial little fact (i.e., it's a small world but I wouldn't want to paint it, etc.) but do keep in mind that this seven billion number, the homo sapien population load of our little planet, has doubled in fifty years, and if that's a steady trend, then we're looking at fourteen billion people walking around and bumping into each other by 2061.  And even if you're one of those science-agnostic anti-climate-change types, just try to imagine what would happen if the need for food and potable water were doubled.

Looks like we're gonna need a bigger planet.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:37 AM