You won’t be surprised that the fainting couches got some pretty heavy duty use at the Corner last night. I do hope they put the plastic covers on first because I imagine it’s hard to get the stains out after 15 wingnuts have crapped themselves.

Over there there is very little about Ryan and his arguments. Rather they have post after post about how Biden was an oleaginous demagogue (Charles R Kesler), bizarrely impertinent (Michael Knox Beran), buffoonish (Victor Davis Hanson), a bully (Kathryn Jean Lopez), disgracefully rude (David Limbaugh – there’s another fucking Limbaugh? Why the fuck wasn’t I told?) and appalling and sophomoric (Rich Lowry).

All they have is screeching about how Uncle Joe had the gall to actually engage in debate in a fucking debate. Well, that and the CNN poll they are all trumpeting – a national poll with a grand total of 381 respondents, a higher than usual number of Republicans and a margin of error of 5%, which Congressman, sorry, Mr Ryan still only managed to win by 48% to 44%.

While the Village will almost certainly enable the wingnut freak-out, the reality as shown in the transcript is that Ryan sat there and spluttered and dissembled like a smug teenager who’s been caught puffing on a joint, while Biden hit him with facts on topic after topic, in between taking every opportunity to stick on the shiv (Sarah Palin and Jack Kennedy, anyone?). Read the rest of this entry »

Right round, like a record baby

Yesterday I was reading the lovely blog of Mr Lawrence Miles, because he’s always good for a laugh or a crossly-worded diatribe.

For those of you who are not ming mongs, Mr Miles is a gentleman of the crabby and outspoken persuasion who has written some rather excellent Doctor Who novels, and who co-authored About Time, a Doctor Who guide so compendious that it makes The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire look like Listverse’s Top Ten Whacky Romans.

I found Mr Miles musing about wormholes and perpetual motion machines. Now, dear Lawrence does like to hear the sound of his own fingers typing, but I can’t criticise him for that, particularly when he muses so charmingly about the history of scientific thought and entropy. As I often do, I suggest you may wish to read the whole thing.

We can be sure, at least, that wormholes work. Which is to say, we can be sure we won’t look stupid if we bring them up in conversation. We know this because Carl Sagan told us so. Needing a way to bring humans and aliens into Contact, and not wanting to resort to anything silly like spaceships travelling faster than light in real-space, he concluded that the most feasible method of travelling bbbillions and bbbillions of miles in order to meet one’s own dead dad was to interpret General Relativity in a rather dynamic way. This idea wasn’t new, and the w-word had been used by a rather apologetic John Wheeler in the ’50s, but it’s informed every generation of nuts-and-bolts sci-fi since 1985. Nobody has yet proved wormholes impossible. In theory, they’re still the fastest way to get from A to A-but-on-the-other-side-of-space.

Note the sentiment buried in that logic, though. It’s a sentiment – perhaps in more than one sense of the word – that’s found even in Sagan’s own musings. Not wanting to resort to anything silly like faster-than-light travel. Current Scientific Thinking is an awkward, chimerical thing, always slippery, always mutable, but mutable in surprising ways. Thankfully, and despite the best attempts of creationists to suggest otherwise, it’s well aware of its own nature: yet even so, there are principles for which even the most flagellantly self-analytical physicist feels an attraction stronger than reason. You don’t mess with the speed of light, even if the Standard Model is incomplete. And you don’t try to outwit the Laws of Thermodynamics, especially not the second one.

The thing I particularly wanted to point out, because I suspect you lot would enjoy it, is Mr Miles’ proposal for a perpetual motion machine.

It’s really very simple. The core of the device is a vertical tube, within the gravitational field of a planet (or any other sizeable body). A projectile, let’s just call it a metal ball, is dropped into the tube. It turns the “water wheel”, and the energy is stored in whatever medium suits you. After that, the ball falls to the bottom of the tube and enters your wormhole. The wormhole has been arranged, and space-time carefully folded, so that the “exit” of the wormhole is at the top of the tube. Travelling from bottom to top without actually being lifted, the ball begins its journey again. The wheel keeps turning. Infinite energy is produced.

No, I couldn’t see the problem either. But I’m one of the half-learned.

The obvious difficulty – I say difficulty, not flaw – is that entropy strikes at the heart of the machine. The ball will wear down the wheel; the machinery will fall apart. But this ceases to be a problem when you realise the vast amounts of energy being produced out of nowhere, more than enough to fuel a self-repair system. Vast energy permits the replacement of matter, so it’s an engineering problem, not a problem with the physics. (And if you’re prepared to countenance the wormholes, then something clever involving nanites is probably going to be on the cards.) This aside, it all looked moderately rational.

Given my background, however, it seemed… a little unlikely that I’d found a way of punching entropy in the face.

Have at it. My immediate thought (and I stress that my book learning on science is pretty much restricted to what you get from Doctor Who novels and Buffy, so I believe all sorts of weird shit) was that the machine works (if it works) because it is not, in fact, a perpetual motion machine (assuming we define perpetual motion as motion that continues indefinitely without any external source of energy) so much as a way to harness gravity on an ongoing basis.

The ball is in free fall and continues to accelerate at a constant rate due to gravity (assuming (again) a uniform gravitational field). The machine captures energy from the ball roughly equal to the amount of the acceleration when hits the waterwheel, and siphons it off to run flying cars and time machines.

So while the machine might run until gravity runs out, it can’t run perpetually and would be extinguished, as us all, in the final heat death of the universe.

[Image copyright: Lawrence Miles]

That’s why her hair is so big. It’s full of secrets.

I don’t know if don’t know if any of you noticed – what with all the important discussion you had last week about how Tod Akin and Niall Ferguson have teeny, tiny balls and no dicks – but Maureen Dowd really, really hates Paul Ryan, with a ferocity which suggests either that he dumped her three hours before the prom or, more likely perhaps, didn’t call after that blowjob under the bleachers at Homecoming.

Now, we all know that in a few months Maureen will go back to stealing people’s lunch money and mocking Democrats for being nancy lah lahs and pooves, but when the queen bitch of the school gets her claws out at someone other than you it’s worth savouring.

He’s the cutest package that cruelty ever came in. He has a winning air of sad cheerfulness. He’s affable, clean cut and really cut, with the Irish altar-boy widow’s peak and droopy, winsome blue eyes and unashamed sentimentality.

Who better to rain misery upon the heads of millions of Americans?

He’s Scrooge disguised as a Pickwick, an ideologue disguised as a wonk. Not since Ronald Reagan tried to cut the budget by categorizing ketchup and relish as vegetables has the G.O.P. managed to find such an attractive vessel to mask harsh policies with a smiling face.

The Young Gun and former prom king is a fan of deer hunting, catfish noodling, heavy metal and Beethoven. He’s a great dad who says the cheese, bratwurst and beer of Wisconsin flow in his veins. He’s so easy to like — except that his politics are just a teensy bit heartless.

Rush Limbaugh hails Ryan as “the last Boy Scout,” noting that the tall, slender 42-year-old is a true believer: “We now have somebody on the ticket who’s us.”

Maureen then proceeds to describe Ryan as “like a friendly guidance counselor who wants to teach us how to live, get us in shape, PowerPoint away the social safety net to make the less advantaged more self-reliant, as he makes the rich richer”. She smears his particular brand of prudish, hypocritical pseudo-Randianiam all over him and it’s good, although her heart doesn’t really seem to be in it until she lets fly in her last few paragraphs:

Although the Catholic Ryan told Fox News’s Brit Hume in an interview that aired Tuesday night that he “completely disagreed” with Rand’s “atheistic philosophy,” he said his interest in economics was “triggered” by her.

His long infatuation with her makes him seem even younger than he looks with his cowlick because Randism is a state of arrested adolescence, making its disciples feel like heroic teenagers atop a lofty mountain peak.

The secretive, ambiguous Romney was desperate for ideological clarity, so he outsourced his political identity to Ryan, a numbers guy whose numbers don’t add up.

This just proves that Romney will never get over his anxiety about not being conservative enough. As president, he’d still feel the need to prove himself with right-wing Supreme Court picks.

Ryan should stop being so lovable. People who intend to hurt other people should wipe the smile off their faces.

Now, aside from the florid prose (something about which I am hardly permitted to complain) and the ridiculous suggestion that Romney would have the slightest hesitation before appointing someone to the right of Antonin Scalia’s older, crankier brother Fredo to the Supreme Court, I thought that was a pretty good effort. Well worth reading, especially as the page ends with those most wonderful words “Thomas L. Friedman is off today.”

However, one week later it becomes clear that Maureen was just warming up.

Tom Morello, the Grammy-winning, Harvard-educated guitarist for the metal rap band Rage Against the Machine, punctured Paul Ryan’s pretensions to cool in a Rolling Stone essay rejecting R&R (Romney ’n’ Ryan) as R&R (rock ’n’ roll).

“He is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades,” Morello writes, adding: “I clearly see that Ryan has a whole lotta ‘rage’ in him: A rage against women, a rage against immigrants, a rage against workers, a rage against gays, a rage against the poor, a rage against the environment. Basically, the only thing he’s not raging against is the privileged elite he’s groveling in front of for campaign contributions.”

In my experience, when a presidential candidate needs some outside force to animate him — Michael Dukakis needed Kitty, Bob Dole needed C-Span, Willard needs Paul — it spells doom.

The fresh Gen X vice-presidential contender — like Sarah Palin, he favors the exclamation “awesome” — has had mixed reviews in his debutante cotillion.

Now that is quality bitchiness. Notice how she pivots off the Morello quote, with a perfect non sequitur (Romney as automaton) with double loser (Romney is Dole and, gasp, Dukakis – she’ll be calling him History’s Greatest Monster before the month is out), and then straight into a fine “My, isn’t he young?” with added Palin, and then sticks the dismount with that wonderfully nasty “debutante cotillion”.

I may have watched too much gymnastics during the Olympics, by the way. Read the rest of this entry »

Everyone stay calm! This is not happening!

My apologies for having been away for so long, dears. I’ve found the thought of writing about politics a little too draining for the last few weeks, but I suspect I’ve got my anger back now.

I’ve also been stone drunk for the last two days celebrating the fact that one of my voodoo dolls finally seems to have worked. I’ve been sticking pins in that fucking thing for months and had all but given up hope. Megan McArdle had better watch her back.

Now, I’m choosing to blame the fact that I’ve consumed Rush Limbaugh’s body weight in vodka in the last week, but I have a disturbing feeling that Erick Assupwardsson has written a column [WARNING: Redstate link] that is not a complete steaming pile of raven poo. I didn’t guffaw or want to claw out my eyes at all when I read it, and I even found myself nodding in agreement several times.

It must be the drink. The alternative is that Ragnarök is upon us, and I’m not nearly drunk enough to cope with that. Read the rest of this entry »

The little things that keep me sane

I apologize that I’ve been quiet recently. There hasn’t been much posting because every time I sit at my computer and start to write, I have an overwhelming urge to repeatedly slam my face into my keyboard, and frankly ten pages of:


does not make compelling reading (even if it is more coherent, incisive and factually-based than anything Megan McArdle has managed to write in the last ten years).

I’m going to try and get my mojo back with a post about things that have enabled me to survive a month in which it seemed like everyone in the world had turned into a raging dickhead except you and me (and honestly I was a little bit dubious about you and me).

First – geekery! A new Doctor Who trailer with lots of recycled stuff, but a few intriguing new glimpses of pyramiddy goodness.

I think I might be a little old for Matt Smith, but it would be nice to add a fourth Doctor’s notch to my bedpost. Anyway, you never know, he might be interested in a woman who’s almost as old as his character. Read the rest of this entry »

How long is it until we can leave David Brooks out on a hillside to die?

[Image: Cardinal Mazarin Dying - Paul Delaroche (1797-1856)]

As I have mentioned before, I try very hard not to read anything that David Brooks writes, just in case my brain becomes so revolted it tries to crawl out my ears.

His most recent excresence, however, is so appalling, such a pile of unthinking horror topped off with scads of twaddle masquerading as sympathy, that I can’t leave it alone.

The fiscal crisis is driven largely by health care costs. We have the illusion that in spending so much on health care we are radically improving the quality of our lives. We have the illusion that through advances in medical research we are in the process of eradicating deadly diseases. We have the barely suppressed hope that someday all this spending and innovation will produce something close to immortality.

Obviously, we are never going to cut off Alzheimer’s patients and leave them out on a hillside. We are never coercively going to give up on the old and ailing. But it is hard to see us reducing health care inflation seriously unless people and their families are willing to do what Clendinen is doing — confront death and their obligations to the living.

My only point today is that we think the budget mess is a squabble between partisans in Washington. But in large measure it’s about our inability to face death and our willingness as a nation to spend whatever it takes to push it just slightly over the horizon.

Read the rest of this entry »