Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arlen Specter switches parties

Wall Street Journal, MSNBC

Well, the news broke barely five minutes before I started writing this (hey, I think that's a new record on me covering something in this space), and already the wailing and gnashing of teeth has begun. Senator Arlen Spector, R-Pennsylvania is now Senator Arlen Specter, D-Pennsylvania, and I saw the complaints starting even before I had read enough to be able to open this tab and write about it.

My analysis: This is powerful symbolism, but ultimately it doesn't matter in practical legislative terms. Cloture will remain the same as it was before; Specter won't suddenly vote down every Republican filibuster because he's now registered as a Democrat. If he'd have done it before, he'd do it now, and if he wouldn't have, he won't. It really just doesn't change anything.

I really don't have a whole lot more to add, but thought I'd better get my (very small) voice of reason in anyway. Beyond the political ruckus, I don't care who's got what letter behind his name in media reports on Congress. Our representatives and Senators are individuals, and should be judged and elected as such. I know that's not what happens, thanks to both the primary system and the large proportion of the electorate who simply vote their party line when it comes time to go to the ballot box, but hey, I can dream.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Stephen Hawking hospitalized

Associated Press

Dr. Stephen Hawking, world-renowned physicist famous for his work on black holes and quantum mechanics, has been rushed to the hospital with a chest infection that he has apparently been fighting for some weeks. I do not know his status beyond that, but Professor Hawking has Lou Gehrig's Disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which has left him paralyzed and presumably more vulnerable to infection due to his body's inability to exercise.

My thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Hawking tonight. His work is invaluable to science, and he is currently our best hope for reaching a unified theory of general relativity and quantum physics, the goal of which is to explain both quantum and what we see as "normal" mechanics within a single framework. Here's to his pulling through.

Thought Reform at the University of Delaware

I could write a big ol' post about this, but I think I'll let the students tell their own story.

"We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us; so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him...You must love BIG BROTHER. It is not enough to obey him: you must love him." - O'Brien to Winston in 1984, by George Orwell

Spread this far and wide. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and this malignancy at the heart of our university system needs disinfecting.