October 18, 2009 - October 11, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
I've got a couple of real
posts I'm working on, which I may get
to even today if time is kind, but a lot of what I do is lurch around
the internet looking for things that take my fancy or provoke my ire.
Internet lurching doesn't always produce ideas that go anywhere, but
sometimes it's like being in a pinball machine -- you bump against
something and there's a jingling accompanied by a light flash --
and then you bounce off in some unexpected direction. It can be fun
even when the end result is disappearing into the black hole between
your own incompetent flippers. You win when there's that distinct CHUNK
of a free game sound, and then you know there's a post you want to
Here's a bit of pinball that just didn't do that. Some flipper action,
maybe, but not enough points scored to jazz the adrenalin.
I'll give you one example, but after that it'll be mostly as random as
it mostly is.
I came across this fascinating NYT
about the Large Hadron Collider. The one that's searching for
the elusive Higgs particle, which some people have colorfully nicknamed
the 'God Particle.' But the multi-billion-dollar project has had its
problems. So much so that when it restarts:
[I]t will be time to test one of the
most bizarre and revolutionary theories in science... the notion
that the troubled collider is being sabotaged by its own future. A pair
of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the
hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the
collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would
ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make
one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.
Holger Bech Nielsen, of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and
Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in
Kyoto, Japan, put this idea forward in a series of papers with titles
like “Test of Effect From Future in Large Hadron Collider: a Proposal”
and “Search for Future Influence From LHC”...
“It must be our prediction that all Higgs producing machines shall have
bad luck,” Dr. Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished
essay, Dr. Nielson said of the theory, “Well, one could even almost say
that we have a model for God.” It is their guess, he went on, “that He
rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them.”
This malign influence from the future, they argue, could explain why
the United States Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find
the Higgs, was canceled in 1993 after billions of dollars had already
been spent, an event so unlikely that Dr. Nielsen calls it an
After a few irrelevant jingle-flashes, I hit the flippers and banged
an article by Richard Dawkins called, "God Among Atheists," presumably
explaining why the idea of divinity is antithetical or entirely
inferior to all the accomplishments of Oxbridge science. Then, I admit, I didn't read it.
Not a word. I may go back, but I just didn't feel like it at the time.
The man makes my skin crawl, and so the steel ball rocketed straight
between my dilatory flippers into the void, the one in which, I
suppose, the great man created his own random universe.
Personal laziness on my part? Possibly. By all means check out his
argument and flip it back into my ken if you think I should flipper it.
I just never heard the CHUNK I was listening for...
Maybe the intervening jingle-flashes had something to do with my mood.
I got caught in one of those rat-a-tat scoring stretches with some Jonah
about defending against worldwide zombie attacks,
which I recommend to you sci-fi critters in the audience, before the
ball tumbled into one of those perfect black holes pinball machines
have, in which you're rewarded for basically being stuck in place with
no control over when you'll be suddenly popped back into the game.
Jonah's fiendish trap was one of the simplest and most addictive
shooting games I've ever come across.
. I got
to Level 4 before something intervened -- the phone or a FedEx delivery
-- and disgorged me into motion.
A lot of the slamming around is pointless because it sends you
careening into the same bumpers everyone else has unquestionably
collided with today. I know some of you tell me I shouldn't take it for
granted that you've also encountered what seems over-hyped to me, but I
don't think you come here for what so many other sites exist to copy,
repeat, and try to take ownership of with a single lame remark or
caption. But, like everyone else, I do bumper into them:
Jingle-flash. Nobel Peace Prize Rap:
Jingle-flash. Black-on-black racism in
the Limbaugh slanders:
and the torrent of accusations
against his father, who is actually skeptical
of the theory that Hillary Clinton is a reptilian alien:
Oh, but flip-flip to a pointless cul de sac of more YouTube evidence.
I never knew she was a reptilian
Never even knew that reptilian shape-shifters were a proven fact:
Jingle-flash. How can one believe anything anymore? Now they're saying
that Harry Reid has actually admitted government healthcare will cost
Gotta be nonsense. Kind of like these
Democrats understand how dangerous the
[Price-Waterhouse-Coopers] study is to their effort to pass a
health-care bill because it exposes a crucial and irrefutable flaw in
the health-care plan approved this week by the Senate Finance Committee.
And what is that flaw? In short, the plan sponsored by Finance
Committee Chairman Max Baucus would almost certainly lead to a death
spiral in many private health insurance markets.
Insurance death spirals occur when regulators force insurers to offer
coverage (“guaranteed issue”) at premiums below the known risk of those
they are insuring, without any assurance that the shortfall can be made
up elsewhere. When insurers comply with these rules and offer
relatively low cost health insurance policies to all comers, quite
predictably, many sick people step forward to sign up. When the
insurers then try to turn around and charge higher premiums to the
relatively healthy to cover their costs, the healthy, also quite
predictably, are more reluctant to enroll because they can see the
premiums they would have to pay would very likely exceed their
health-care costs. So they often say "no thanks" to the insurance and
decide to take their chances by going without coverage instead. As more
and more healthy people exit the marketplace, insurers are then forced
to raise premiums for everyone who remains, which only further
encourages the lower risks to opt out. This vicious cycle of rising
premiums and an increasingly unhealthy risk pool is called a ‘death
spiral’ because it eventually forces the insurer to terminate the plan.
This is not a hypothetical, textbook scenario of what might happen to a
poorly run insurance market. It has happened before — many times and in
many places. See, for instance, the experience in Kentucky, and in
Washington state, and in Maine too. There’s no reason it couldn’t
People like this are evil, dangerous, or dreaming dangerously evil dreams
No way to tell if he's reptilian or
the Higg's particle...
FLIP. But there might
way to tell some truth about the nature of the empathy contemporary
rational-atheists have for the people whose lives they feel so well
equipped to guide and govern. I skipped by an anecdotal post that
seemed interesting in passing but not necessarily significant until I
caromed off this brief
You Good to Your Maid?
Wanted to share a note that made me smile — maybe it will you, too. A
reader wrote in response to an item I have in today’s Impromptus about
personal wealth and personal politics. He said, “Fifty-five years ago,
my New Deal dad said of some of his friends, ‘I never knew a Communist
who was good to his maid.’”
Perfect. And it reminded me of an old line, which I learned — and
learned the truth of — long ago: “A Marxist is someone who loves
humanity in groups of 1 million or more.”
The post was by Jay Nordlinger, who, in addition to Jonah Goldberg, has
become my favorite National Review
writer. (They're complementary opposites if you care. Goldberg is an
erudite South Park Republican, as in love with sci-fi as the youngsters
here; Nordlinger is truly learned in music and language, but with a
mischievous sense of humor that eliminates any possibility of
pomposity.) Look for Nordlinger's regular column Impromptus and you'll
see what I mean.
FLIP back to the anecdotal
I hadn't dwelt on before. It's about the recollections of
Secret Service agents who served presidents from JFK to the present.
These excerpts suddenly seemed significant:
[T]he president subject to the greatest
scorn is Jimmy Carter.
Carter is portrayed as a phony according to the agents interviewed by
Kessler. Carter would put on a show for the public to convey himself as
a common man, but it was never anymore than an act. For instance, we
are told that when Carter would make a point of carrying his own
luggage in front of the press, he was really carrying empty bags. He
expected others to carry his real luggage. Unfriendly, Carter “didn’t
want the police officers and agents looking at him or speaking to him
when he went to the [Oval] office,” explained an assistant White House
usher. “The only time I saw a smile on Carter’s face was when the
cameras were going,” one former agent told Kessler.
After his presidency, Kessler reports that when Carter would stay at a
townhouse maintained for former presidents in D.C., he would take down
pictures of other presidents and put up more pictures of himself! “The
Carters were the biggest liars in the world,” one agent told Kessler of
the Carter era.
Carter, not surprisingly, denied to Kessler through a lawyer many of
the allegations in the book.
The man who sent Carter packing from the White House could not have
been more different according to accounts from agents. Ronald Reagan
would constantly interact with his secret service agents and other
staffers who worked for him. He was apologetic when he would take
secret service agents away from their families on holidays. While
Carter would make secret service agents pay for any leftover food they
consumed after White House parties, we are told Reagan would insist the
secret service eat leftover food (without charge, of course)...
Vice President Al Gore was exceedingly obnoxious to his agents
according to Kessler. When scolding his son for not doing well in
school, Gore chastised him by warning that “if you don’t straighten up,
you won’t get into the right schools, and if you don’t get into the
right schools you could end up like these guys.” The “guys” Gore was
referring to were his secret service agents!
Still no CHUNK, though. It's all exactly as I would have guessed,
including the kindness and consideration of Bushes 41 and 43.
Exception? The Obama part:
While many conservatives may bristle at
the domestic and foreign policies of current President Barack Obama,
judged by the way he treats his secret service agents it is fair to
conclude that Obama is personally a decent man. One agent who protected
Obama on the campaign trail says that Obama twice invited agents to
dinner at his home.
Kudos to him. Which, on a cold Friday in October, is as as close to
hope as I can get today. Unless he's really a canny reptilian, I think
it's a very good sign. Best news I've had in nine months. But vague, unsubstantiated hope is hardly the basis for an illuminating post...
YOU tally my final score.