Archive for December 14th, 2006

Cynical, Morbid Question

Given that Democratic Senator Tim Johnson (get well soon, Tim!) can only be replaced by South Dakota’s Republican governor (thus returning control of the Senate to the Republicans) if he dies (or retires), I have to ask…

If he ends up braindead and on life support, will the Republicans and their fundie minions put up the same fight to keep him alive that they did for Terri Schiavo? Or will they start gravely pontificating about the importance of his right to “die with dignity”?

I know, I’m a horrible person for even thinking about this, and I want nothing more than for Johnson to make a full recovery and for this situation to remain eternally hypothetical. But when vicki made a snarky comment about Frist doing a diagnosis-by-video, it got me to wondering just how deep the Republican commitment to preserving life really runs, especially when that life stands between them and something shiny.

9 comments December 14th, 2006 at 09:47pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Favorites,Politics,Religion,Republicans,Schiavo,Wankers

Note To Self:

Get Roller Coaster Tycoon 3.


Courtesy of the shadowy and mysterious Codename V.

6 comments December 14th, 2006 at 08:35pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Favorites,Monday Media Blogging

Progressivism A La Carte

By way of Swopa over at FDL, George Lakoff has a fascinating analysis of what happened in last month’s election. I was particularly intrigued and encouraged by his take on the conservative/centrist Democratic candidates (bold emphasis added):

There was a marvelous moment on NPR right after the election: Melissa Block asking newly elected representative Heath Shuler of North Carolina, a former NFL quarterback, what it meant for him to be a Democrat, given that he opposed abortion, opposed gay marriage, and supported gun ownership. “Well, it’s a reflection of my district,” Shuler replied.

What makes you a Democrat, Block asked. Shuler replied that it was what his parents and grandparents taught him: “A Democrat helps people that cannot help themselves.” What about fiscal responsibility? Earmarks like bridges to nowhere are irresponsible, Shuler replied; instead we should be spending money on education, social security, universal health care, preserving the environment, and renewable energy.

In short, what Shuler really cares about, what he was running on, and what he got elected on were progressive policies – even though he happened to hold some conservative positions that inoculated him in his district against charges of being “too liberal.”

Shuler is what I’ve been referring to as a “biconceptual,” someone who has progressive positions in certain areas of life and conservative positions in others. What makes Shuler a Democrat is that he identifies himself politically with the progressive values he ran on, despite having conservative positions he didn’t run on.

Bob Casey happens to be a Catholic who opposes abortion rights, but every position he ran on was a progressive position. Jon Tester believes in gun ownership in Montana, but that is not what he ran on. He ran on his progressive beliefs – by the dozen. These candidates ran primarily on their progressive positions. Despite having some conservative positions, they do not run primarily on their conservative positions. It was the progressive values they ran on that have given them their mandate.


Meanwhile, Harold Ford, Jr. lost in Tennessee for many reasons, including a racist ad campaign against him. But among the reasons was the way he campaigned. He ran enthusiastically using conservative code words: personal responsibility, strong moral values, character education, pro-family, a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, eliminate abortions, and so on. In short, he had Heath Shuler’s positions, but unlike Shuler, he ran overtly on those positions and made a big deal of it, trying to convince good ole boy Tennesseans that he was one of them. As Shuler understood, if you really have those positions and really are part of your community in that way, you don’t have to say so…. What he was running on did not, in toto, fit any consistent moral worldview. He was trying to be too many things to too many people.

In short, the Democratic candidate who campaigned on conservative values lost; those who may have had such values, but campaigned on their progressive values, won.

Like Shuler and Casey, swing voters are biconceptuals, with both conservative and progressive worldviews in different areas of life and with both available for politics. How did these biconceptual candidates appeal to biconceptual swing voters? By taking progressive positions, and campaigning vigorously on them. How did this work? They activated the progressive values in the brains of swing voters.

This is the exact opposite of the DLC approach: Instead of emphasizing their similarities to Republicans, the successful centrist candidates glossed over them in favor of showing off their similarities to Democrats… or the Republicans’ similarities to criminals and buffoons. In other words, their centrism manifested as a sort of “negative” conservatism: As far as their public utterances were concerned, they weren’t for conservative values, they just weren’t for their progressive counterparts. So instead of saying, “Don’t be afraid, I love guns and hate gay marriage!”, they simply didn’t make an issue of them. Presumably if anyone asked, they would say where they stood, but it wasn’t what they campaigned on. The really encouraging thing is that voters responded to this approach and rejected the Ford approach of packaging themselves as Republican-lite, which puts the lie to the Republican/DLC spin that the election was somehow a grand victory for conservative values.

Of course, I would much rather have Democratic candidates who were in favor of choice and gay marriage. But if they’re in a red state or district and feel that those views would be electoral poison, then better to just keep quiet about them rather than publicly reinforce the Republican platform. This also cuts to the heart of why Democrats like Lieberman are so offensive to progressives even while agreeing with us on many issues: Their mix of policy views may be comparable to that of many other Democrats, but they repeatedly show off their conservative views, thus giving the Republicans phony “bipartisan” cover and undercutting their own party.

In today’s world, for better or worse, words speak louder than actions.

6 comments December 14th, 2006 at 08:19pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Elections,Favorites,Lieberman,Media,Politics

Planes On A Belt! Follow-Up

Some more thoughts on the Can-A-Plane-Take-Off-From-A-Conveyer-Belt Conundrum (I considered just updating the original post, but this issue is too damned important):

o I like Anders’ summation of the conveyer belt as no more consequential then a gremlin spinning the wheels of a plane hovering above the conveyer belt.

o The jet engines are exerting a force on the plane to move it forward, and that force is not being transferred or dissipated anywhere, unless you believe that the freely spinning wheels are transferring it to the conveyer belt, which I can’t buy. So according to my rudimentary understanding of mechanics, the plane has to move forward.

o Alternate Scenario #1: Imagine a giant hovering in midair and pushing the plane forward with the same amount of force as its engines (which are turned off). Would the plane move forward? If so, how is this different from if the jet engines are supplying that force?

o Alternative Scenario #2: You’re standing on a miniature version of the conveyer belt, wearing well-oiled roller skates and a jetpack which thrusts horizontally. Assuming you have superhuman balance, would you move forward, or would you just stand still while the skates and the treadmill spun furiously?

December 14th, 2006 at 04:22pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Science

Icky Mantle

Blech. Judith “If I Did If I Did It” Regan has nine lives and zero shame. The bottomfeeder-di-tutti-bottomfeeders, America’s premier purveyor of shit that I won’t eat, is going after Mickey Mantle now:

The memory of Mickey Mantle will be sullied by ReganBooks in a “biographical novel” that has the Mick recounting an imagined past replete with pornographic passages and foul jokes.

Author Peter Golenbock admits that much of “7: The Mickey Mantle Novel” – including a steamy scene where Mantle beds Marilyn Monroe behind Joe DiMaggio’s back – are based on “not documentable” stories.

The publisher gives this description of the novel’s premise: “Mickey finds himself in heaven – much to his surprise – and realizes he’s carrying a huge burden around with him. He needs to tell someone all the horrible things he did.”

So Golenbock does it for Mantle in 286 lurid pages, some of which read like they were ripped from the pages of Penthouse Forum.


Golenbock describes Mantle succumbing to Monroe’s charms, even as she “just lies there staring at him with cold, accusing eyes” while they are having sex.

Mantle expresses no remorse in cuckolding DiMaggio. “What had he ever done for me?” he says.


Former Yankee pitching star Whitey Ford said the idea that Mantle would seduce Monroe “is the stupidest thing I ever heard.”

“We met her once at a ballpark in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Joe was with her,” Ford told The News. “Mickey was too bashful to say hello to her.”

But at least Golenbock is honest about something…

Golenbock… makes his reasons for writing this book clear in the prologue, where he imagines himself talking with Mantle.

“Maybe this is the book that will make me rich,” he writes. “I’ll publish the raunchiest book about you, and my guess is it’ll be a smash because no one has ever written a book like this before.”

Yeah, this is totally something the world can’t live without. Judy Regan is performing a valuable public service.

Seriously, what’s it gonna take to make this woman go away? Is there any limit to this country’s appetite for lies and sleaze? Wait, don’t answer that.

1 comment December 14th, 2006 at 09:24am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media,Wankers

Stop-Motional Rescue

Also from David Pogue’s Technoblog:

Dear Tony – You are a jerk!

Which reminds me: Has anyone seen The Wizard Of Speed And Time? It’s low-budget but charming, and Mike Jittlov’s stop-motion skills are quite impressive IMHO. (Film-within-a-film excerpt here – don’t expect it to be all stop-motion, though)

1 comment December 14th, 2006 at 01:23am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Monday Media Blogging

Now My Brain Hurts.

From David Pogue’s Technology blog in the NYT:

…I found it presented at 8452:

“Imagine a plane is sitting on a massive conveyor belt, as wide and as long as a runway. The conveyer belt is designed to exactly match the speed of the wheels, moving in the opposite direction. Can the plane take off?

“I say no, because the plane will not move relative the the ground and air, and thus, very little air will flow over the wings. However, other people are convinced that since the wheels of a plane are free spinning, and not powered by the engines, and the engines provide thrust against the air, that somehow that makes a difference and air will flow over the wing.”

The guy behind me at the airport told his buddy that, in fact, the plane WOULD take off, and his buddy seemed to agree. Do we have any physicists in the audience?

The emerging consensus (at least as far down as I read) seems to be that the plane wouldn’t take off, because it wouldn’t have enough airspeed to generate lift. But that argument seems to take it as a given that the conveyer belt is preventing the plane from moving forward, which to me seems silly. As the quote above says, the thrust would be provided by the engines, which are pushing against the air, not the conveyer belt. I liked the comment that suggested picturing a prop plane instead of a jet, since the props pulling the plane through the air is somehow more intuitive than the jets pushing it. (This is all assuming that friction would not be a factor, and I don’t think this puzzle is really about friction.)

Anyone else have any thoughts on this? Can anyone explain how the conveyer belt would prevent a plane from moving forward fast enough to generate lift?

16 comments December 14th, 2006 at 01:08am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Science

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