Friday, May 23, 2014

The awesomeness of Ryan Shazier, new Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker

By Michael J.W. Stickings 

I haven't done much blogging recently -- well, any. Not in well over a week. I've just had a lot on the go and haven't had any time to write. But I hope you've been checking in, as we've had some content from Carl and Capt. Fogg, and I'll get back to it soon.

In the meantime, how about some FOOTBALL???!!!

My beloved Steelers took Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier in the first round (15th overall pick) of the recent NFL draft. It was something of a surprise to the very many of us who were expecting a WR or CB, two positions of glaring need, but upon reflection it made perfect sense. This guy is simply an awesome player who will bring lightning speed and a huge football IG, not to mention maturity, professionalism, and leadership, to the playmaking "mack" ILB role in Pittsburgh's 3-4 D. He could be one of the key players in a revitalized D for many years to come.

Anyway, here's a highlight video that just adds to my excitement. Enjoy -- until we get back shortly to politics.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Exporting our national experience

By Carl

This is going to be an interesting and intriguing visit to Cooperstown by President Obama today:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Promoting travel to the U.S. as a job creator, President Barack Obama is planning new steps to make it easier for people from other countries to visit the 50 states and spend money at their hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and other businesses.

Obama planned to discuss the economic benefits of tourism to the U.S. and the latest steps he is taking to boost it at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, on Thursday.

Obama acted two years ago to speed the processing of tourist visas for visitors from China and Brazil, steps that have dramatically reduced the length of time people from those populous countries have to wait for approval to travel to the U.S., said administration officials who previewed the president's trip for reporters.

On Thursday he will tackle the flip side of the problem: long waits for processing at U.S. airports and other ports of entry once tourists arrive.

It's an interesting location, not that the topic itself is that interesting. Not only is the president pushing for more tourists to visit the U.S., but it seems he wants them to include places not normally high on tourists' lists of places to visit.

Think about it: apart from the United States, and perhaps the Caribbean and Australia, where else would the baseball Hall of Fame attract tourists from? (ed. note: um, Canada? -- MJWS)

The actual attraction aside, it's important for the economies of places like Cooperstown, or Canton, OH, or Springfield, MA, or our national parks, and other out of the way places around the country to get some of that foreign gelt. Small town America is hurting, to be sure, unless there's a fortunate happenstance of a natural gas field waiting to be fracked or other resource to be exploited.

And really, is that what we want our ultimate legacy as a nation to be? We raped and pillaged our beautiful countryside to provide wealth to our citizens? It's one thing to profit from our bounty, it's another thing to make that the only way we can profit.

I think it's important to the nation and to the world that places like Cooperstown engage with foreign visitors. It’s far too easy for citizens in remote areas to fear the strange, the difficult to grasp. The opportunities for our country to come together domestically can be greatly enhanced if we all have the common experience of meeting other people, people who don't necessary share our views on things, and who can educate us (and we educate them in turn).

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Never forget?

By Capt. Fogg

It's hard to find a coherent picture of Barack Obama in the roar of inflamed rhetoric. The rhetoric itself is incoherent, mixing accusations and metaphors with the most bizarre results -- and such is the passion for defamation it's probable that no consistent pattern will emerge for a generation. He is what he is, somewhere behind the halo of howling hate that surrounds him.

Whatever you might think of him, it's tempting to plug other presidents of another party and another color into the equation just to test for mendacity and absurdity: such as perhaps to assume Reagan were president during an embassy bombing ( he was) or W. ( he was) and it's tempting to reverse it by assuming it were president Obama not showing up at the dedication of the 9/11 Memorial Museum last week instead of the notably absent Bush whose 8 year career was floated on the attack and the subsequent War on Terror.

George W. Bush deliberately stayed away for reasons, possibly good reasons, of his own and was in Arkansas attending a ceremony for Medal of Honor recipients, but anyone with an unfoxed memory remembers how the Republicans jeered, howled and hooted about flag pins and the size of the flag on Obama's airplane and posted endless doctored photos and forged documents designed to attack his patriotism -- anyone with a sense of irony would wonder what those dancing devils would have done to Obama and snicker at what they certainly are not doing to Bush for staying away. It would have been a three ring, twin tower circus for weeks and months and years if not cause for impeachment.

And of course, I had to find out about this from the foreign press, the mis-titled Liberal American Media being far too concerned with other trumped-up Obama scandals, racist comments by team owners, Benghazi bullshit and other ridiculous attacks on Hillary Clinton, missing airplanes and the various and ever-changing apocalyptic horsemen wearing Obama masks.

Never-Forget George probably didn't forget and he's probably right not to make the dedication all about him, about his going to war with an uninvolved country and permanently giving up important civil rights in the process instead of being about the dead. Still, it makes one wonder at all the "never-forget" passion that was and is as transient as the all the "never-forget" events -- but then, forgetting, like false remembering is part of the game and it is a game after all. The only real goal of that game is winning.

(Cross posted at Human Voices.)


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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Used teabags

By Carl

I wrote a few weeks ago that the Tea Party was a drying wart on the American political landscape, a view cinched last night:

Tactically, the Republican establishment is routing the Tea Party. The insurgency's backslide has been apparent all year, as its handpicked challengers to GOP incumbents failed to gain traction, groups representing it in Washington overreached, and the deficit concerns stoking its base waned. But yesterday, the "backslide" slid right back off a cliff. Tea Party-backed candidates in three key primary races suffered decisive losses in Kentucky, Georgia, and Idaho.

With the handwriting on the wall, deep-pocketed conservative sponsors huddled last Thursday and stewed over how to force the GOP to double down on hard-right policy positions. Those include opposition to a big immigration deal, same-sex marriage, and abortion rights -- issues toxic to the imperative of broadening the party's demographic coalition. But the movement's electoral drubbing suggests its grip on the Republican agenda may finally be breaking.

The question is what will replace it. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the big victors in yesterday's contests, was explicit with Fortune earlier this year that Senate Republicans will not unify behind a governing vision before the November midterms. And even if a more moderate brand of Republicanism is ascendant, the term itself remains relative -- and murky.

McConnell himself ducked the Teabaggers, as Fortune points out, but he still has to deal with the herd of cats in the Senate (and the House) that have managed to survive the apocalypse.

The Teabaggers rose as a result of (ginned up) anger at escalating deficits and government debt, both of which President Obama has reined in. Indeed, the 2012 election showed that Teabaggers were desperately looking for good electoral news and find precious little to rally behind, Obama had done such a good job of mastering the economy and re-energizing the debt reduction machinery.

Read more »

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Modern alchemy

By Carl

Well, now...

God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. Then a trio of physicists said, "We have a simple idea for turning that light into matter" – and they may set off a race to demonstrate an idea first proposed 80 years ago.

Albert Einstein's most famous equation, E = mc², showed that there is a direct relationship between the mass of an object and the amount of energy it contains. Then physicists Gregory Breit and John A. Wheeler built on Einstein's work by arguing that it ought to be possible to take two photons (pieces of light that are considered pure energy) and convert them into a pair of particles (an electron and its antimatter counterpart, a positron).

In their 1934 scientific article describing what came to be known as the Breit-Wheeler process, the pair weren't exactly optimistic that their theoretical prediction would could ever be confirmed in practice. "It is hopeless to try to observe pair formation in laboratory experiments," they wrote in the journal Physical Review.

Oh well, one out of two ain't bad.

In a study published online Sunday in the journal Nature Photonics, three physicists from Imperial College London and the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany, propose a relatively straightforward method for witnessing the conversion of two photons into two particles. The trio came up with the idea and hammered out the key details in a single, coffee-fueled day, according to Imperial.

It's easy to convert matter into energy, as anyone who's ever lit a candle can attest. It's a simple matter to destroy – er, no pun intended.

Turning energy into matter, however, has proved to be far more difficult. That would mean making E=mc² into M=e/c², or to put it in English, creation. Order out of relative chaos (again, no pun intended).

What these physicists have proposed to do is to shoot photons at a gold filter and into a vacuum tube. The gold excites the photons (considered energy, since at the speed of light, they do not gain mass like everything else does), the photons collide and at the other end of the tube, you should see particles like positrons and electrons emitted after an electromagnet separates them to keep them from recombining and creating energy again.

Needless to say, this will require an entirely new particle collider, one that makes CERN look like a merry-go-round.

I think we can bet on it not being built here in the States.

Do you miss science? I do.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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