"Huh." part XLVII

December 9th, 2008

You cannot tickle yourself.

Apparently, part of what makes tickling ticklish is surprise. If you try to tickle yourself, your brain - which is, after all, doing the finger moving - knows in advance what sensations to expect, and is not surprised.

Better not be slow-churned...

December 3rd, 2008

If a pint of vanilla ice cream were to hit the earth traveling at 99% the speed of light, it would release energy equivalent to approximately 50 megatons of TNT, the same size as the Tsar Bomba, the largest hydrogen bomb ever exploded.

Mmm, ice cream.

Diogenes rolls his eyes

December 2nd, 2008

A friend recently pointed out David Brooks' recent column about the staffing-up of the Obama administration. It's quite a good column, but being the bitter leftist that I am I also observed that David Brooks is a hack. Which he is.

My friend then challenged me with the observation that I say the same about all conservatives. And there's a lot of truth to that, and it's because most conservative commentators are hacks. Leaving aside the frothing liars such as Limbaugh and Hannity and O'Reilly and Beck, and the creepily dishonest writers like Jonah Goldberg and Ramesh Ponnuru and Donald Luskin, you are still left with people like David Brooks and George Will, who although civilized and intelligent, consistently present highly dubious and slanted material as truth: witness George Will's recent attempt to push the totally bogus proposal that the Depression was, in fact, made worse by the New Deal.

People have various reasons for their political opinions, and when it comes down to it the strongest reasons are usually emotional rather than coolly logical. Certain issues or stances or actions just boil your blood, and that's why you vote as you do. Probably my single most emotive issue is that conservatives are, simply, liars. Repeatedly and enthusiastically and unashamedly. Since the 1970s they have created whole institutions to back up with gerrymandered "facts" the ideas they want people to believe. I can't abide it.

Not to say that liberals are providers of the unvarnished truth, far from it. But in the recent past the Republican party has gone overboard in their willingness to undermine, smear, misrepresent, shout over, and just plain toss aside the truth in any discussion or presentation.

So it's a hot button issue for me, and I come down perhaps unwarrantedly hard on people like Will or Brooks (hack) who indulge in the entirely human predilection to believe what they want rather than what is true, but are otherwise erudite and considerate people.

But to the main thrust of this column: are there any conservatives, in the general commentariat, who are both smart and honest? There are large numbers of honest conservatives who are not smart, and there are a great many conservatives who are smart but not honest. But now, at this time, when conservatism has been guided down this path by this generation of dissemblers and bunko artists (see list above) and their rubes, are there still any honest and intelligent conservatives left?

Of course there are. It's an insulting question and it makes me uncomfortable to ask it, because I'd much rather live in a world where I didn't have to.

Here's one: Greg Mankiw. Harvard economics professor and former member of the Bush Council of Economic Advisors. He's patently intelligent and just as patently conservative. Read his take on the difference between the right and the left's economic beliefs. Neither a demonizer nor a pollyanna.

Now, he's wrong, of course, but that's just a matter of opinion.

Good Guy Watch: the Spungen family

December 1st, 2008

The Peer Bearing (as in ball bearings) company of Waukegan, Illinois, employs 230 people and in 2007 had $100 million in sales. The company was founded in 1941 by the grandfather of the current generation of owners.

Or rather, former owners, for the Spungen family just sold Peer Bearing to the Swedish SKF group for an undisclosed amount. All well and good, and classic modern capitalism. The surprise is what they did with some of that money - $6.6 million of it, to be precise.

They gave 'thank you' bonuses to all of their employees, many of them tens of thousands of dollars, based on years with the company.

Here's to you, Spungens, for sharing your good fortune with the others who helped make it possible.

Linguistic Jibe

November 25th, 2008

Winston Churchill's famous speech to the House of Commons from June 4, 1940:

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the Old.

An interesting feature of this speech is that the portion "we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender" contains only words linguistically descended from Anglo-Saxon, except for the final word, which is from Old French.

Very appropriate in 1940, I think.