SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Chemical Eye on the Laws of Motion
by Preston MacDougall


October 30, 2007

Newton's Third Law of Motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The same explosive inter-molecular forces that eject hot exhaust gases at supersonic speeds in one direction, also propel the rocket in the other.

This law is also pretty handy when it comes to anticipating political movement in our two-party system.

Politics isn't rocket science, however. If it were, I can think of a few Republican presidential candidates that would like to have sent Ron Paul to the Moon during the debate in Michigan this past week.

True to Newton, it was equally clear that Ron Paul was repulsed by some of the responses from elsewhere on the stage. Such as when Mitt Romney was asked whether or not the President should seek Congressional authorization before launching an attack on Iran, and his advice was "You sit down with your attorneys."

jpg rocket

Rocket Launch
Photo by Florida photographer Alex DeClerk

Three things immediately came to my mind: Harriet Miers, Alberto Gonzales, and where is the nearest bomb shelter? When the questioning came back to Ron Paul, he was predictably exasperated by the apparent disregard for the Constitution, a recurring theme in his campaign and in his speeches from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

A few days before the Michigan debate, Ron Paul had a campaign rally in Nashville's War Memorial Auditorium, which was fitting since he is the only Republican candidate who would immediately make the Iraq war a memory.

I couldn't make it, but was expecting to read all about it in Sunday's Tennessean, especially since his recent fundraising has not been far behind the Republican frontrunners. Live reports on the radio said that people who didn't arrive early couldn't join the capacity crowd, so the story that I imagined reading with my morning coffee was growing bigger.

Sunday came, I thanked God, opened the paper, and cursed the editor. Nothing, not a word. There were press releases disguised as journalism covering the presumed nominees - Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani - as well as local interest candidate Fred Thompson.

That's when I realized that Newton's Third Law is also pretty handy when it comes to understanding the flow of ink in the mainstream media. The fonts aren't slanted at all, but the stories in The New York Times tilt in equal and opposite directions to the stories in The Wall Street Journal.

Other newspapers, that aren't yet household names, often try to "balance" their Op-Ed page with two commentaries - one from the left, and one from the right. Seen in this light, the omission of the Paul story makes more sense. How do you balance a story about the most Libertarian candidate when no one is openly running as a Totalitarian one?

The Internet quickly fills gaps left by polarized ink, however, and I soon found the text of Paul's letter to the Americans regarding his contrarian, but Constitutional views on foreign policy. In it, he says "A non-interventionist foreign policy is not an isolationist foreign policy. It is quite the opposite. Under a Paul administration, the United States would trade freely with any nation that seeks to engage with us. American citizens would be encouraged to visit other countries and interact with other peoples rather than be told by their own government that certain countries are off limits to them."

Party primaries are not mentioned in the Constitution, but they play a big role in determining which names are on the ballots in general elections. Instead of the status quo, we are witnessing an unusual amount of primary motion this election - both in the dates that states want to hold theirs, and for which party voters want to cast their ballots.

As a result, a lot of party leaders have been sitting down with a lot of lawyers, but legal barriers cannot completely channel the will of the American people. There are bound to be some big surprises next year.

A state-by-state summary of primary dates and types can be found by Googling "The Green Papers". Here in Tennessee, we have an open primary, so regardless of voter registration, our personal reactions to political actions are unfettered. This tends to favor candidates who have good chemistry with a wide range of voters, and that's the way I like it.


On the Web:

Chemical Eye On... Columns by Preston MacDougall

Preston MacDougall is a chemistry professor at Middle Tennessee State University. His "Chemical Eye" commentaries are featured in the Arts and Public Affairs portion of the Nashville/Murfreesboro NPR station WMOT (

E-mail your letters & opinions to

SitNews ©2007
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska