Wednesday, August 31, 2011

AIRPORT - September 1, 2011

Last week I had the unpleasant experience again of reaching Madison through Chi from a foreign airport. After going through the security check in London, I had togo outside the customs barrier at Chi, carrying my hand luggage, and taking a train from one building to another and then repeating the security inquisition for a second time in the same trip. As earlier, it occurred to me that any city or state that wants to play in the arena of excellence in international science or business must have easy access by the standard air routes. I figured out once how WI could do that without involving any State costs. When I raised the suggestion with my Assemblyman, I was rebuffed with no reason given. When I asked my State Senator, I was told that it was too ambitious for WI to consider. This time, it occurred to me that unless there were a desire in MSN and MKE to be included in the wider world of science and business, the idea that the State capital and the seat of the University were only accessible dependably by local bus was a substantial impediment to keeping competitive with MI and MN, which have the national and international connections. Our world reaches out to the edges of the universe, both geographically and philosophically. Yet in many ways, it feels as though Madison is a leftover, as in the dismissal of the Middle West as the Flyover People. The sense that the real world is absent on another planet is one that plays a central part in luring talented people from the Midwest. The possibility of having an international airport in Jefferson County, linked to MSN and MKE by high-speed electric railroad is one that might still exist, if there were the desire to move this part of the world closer to the intellectual center of this country

UK RIOTS - August 25, 2011

I have been following the news on this outbreak of rioting in UK, but until yesterday, I had only the vaguest idea of what it was that was driving the onset. It stems from the killing of a black man named Duggan by a policeman. The exact sequence of events was never clear at first. What was patent was that the policeman did kill Mr. Duggan and there was no indication that there was even a suspicion that the killing was unjustified. In similar circumstances, one might have expected that the killer would have been suspended pending an investigation of the circumstances, but no such announcement was made. After several days, a crowd went to the local police station to inquire after the state of matters. They were left standing in the street for four hours without comment, after which they turned their backs and walked away. In the light of decades of relationship between the police and the black community in UK, the absence of any recognition of the urgency of having something to say was left to die unanswered. It had come upon the heels of an announcement that Mr. Duggan had killed a policeman or, in a later version, that he had had an exchange of gunshots, and seemed to validate the killing. The crowd exploded. They turned to the one thing that was sure to elicit a response. They broke things. Like the story of the mule trainer that started out beating the mule with a 2x4 “to get its attention”. But the Government has taken shelter in the canard that those who sought attention to the events leading up to the riot were claiming that that justified the explosion of anger and by the allegation that those who demanded clarification were justifying the theft. The issue was not the theft. It was the killing of Mr. Duggan. The attempt to focus on the theft shows the shallowness of Tory understanding.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

OBAMA, AGAIN - August 18, 2011

A few years ago, a writer produced a book called What’s wrong with Kansas? His thesis was that the Conservatives never produce the laws that their conservative voters want, but they continue to re-elect them. All that seems required is that they show themselves as minded in the indicated directions, as a contrast to the Dems. Since I have doggedly tied myself to the desire that Obama wishes to do the things he says, and he seems to make no effort to achieve those things, I am in the same position as the Kansas voters, though in reverse. Since I do not take Obama for a fool, I am forced to the conclusion that he takes me for one, and you too. The purpose for his failure to exhibit any of the strength that he patently showed in the 08 election might be his re-election rather than one of the Tories, but there does not seem to be any urgent desire to accomplish the things that the US people gave him the mandate to do, or at least to attempt. So maybe he does consider me a fool, and maybe you, too. I thought Gore was not worth voting for and, in the light of the present President, maybe that was right, but look what the Bush regime has cost us. And when I succumbed and backed Kerry, that also looked like Kansas in reverse. Meanwhile, UK is now suffering from a government even worse than Blair or Brown, and it looks like there will be no release from the ravishing of the present generation of adolescents as far into the future as anyone can see. And back at home I have the choice of settling for a President who is a block against progress or taking a chance on a Bush clone, or even worse, if that is possible. And I tremble at the thought of who may be orchestrating this parody of Democracy and how they bring it about, while desperately clinging to the hope that we have not been sold out while saluting the Democrats’ shining banner and marching in the ranks of the betrayed believers.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

TRAFFIC - August 11, 2011

Here in London, we are coming to understand that the re-allocation of road space from cars to bicycles contains costs that are not apparent from the outset. It is one thing when we are dealing with little-used suburban and local streets, but quite another when the appearance of bicycles in dozens and scores forces following traffic to advance at bicycle speed. This is especially true when outraged motorists are impeded and demand that bikes share their lanes with cars and trucks, often close and frequently fast. The law in WI has always required that they take a full lane, so as not to subject this fragile traffic to the danger of being forced off the road or crushed. I have even been harassed by police in the Arboretum for not moving over to share a single lane with a police car. The secret lies in the growth of traffic. As urban housing and offices dictate the razing of 3- and 4-story houses to apartment blocks of 12 or 20 stories, even worse in cities like London, where, as 30- and 40-story buildings are increasingly to be seen, the streets will have no room into which to expand. As an engineering problem, I see no solution but the division of the space over the roads into motorized traffic at the street level and elevated promenades for pedestrians and non-motorized bikes and skates. A civilizing dent can be made by saving the sky over the sidewalks and having the light traffic as high as the third story to allow a sense of space to those using the lower level. Otherwise, in time the bicycles will push the cars and trucks off the streets entirely, though at significant peril. And if we are to find some recourse in downtown construction, we had better get building very soon. If we wait long enough, the construction alone will be very costly and more intrusive. Meanwhile, we can expect the existing roads to become increasingly crowded and dangerous, and increasingly unattractive as an engineering problem.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

ENTITLEMENT - August 4, 2011

The fiasco of the collapsing of the Murdoch regime in US and UK makes clear the expectation of entitlement on the part of the proprietor class in the world of the Free Market (FM) and the relative triviality of the application of that term when relating to the struggle of the poorest and least powerful among us merely to stay alive and retain the most basic of the amenities of life. The ruling of UK by the coalition government, led by a cabal of Eton men who consider that their privileged status includes the right to rule, overshadows the claim of working people to a level of at least decency, and by a margin that makes us realize that their use of the term, like that of the word “elitism” is in a large part a move to disarm the word itself to prevent its being applied to them. For just as that can refer to a statement about whether the rich have a right to rule, it can merely note that Einstein was smarter than most people. And a similar comment applies to the word “entitlement”. Anyone who has any experience with seeing how the rich in college feel they are entitled to certification as superior thinkers for routine memorization without any meaningful degree of understanding must look with scorn on their complaints against those who are merely collecting belatedly on their share of the wealth that their generation has conferred on those who have profited from the fruits of their labors. The economy, which was one of distributing a meager weal, is now so fruitful that “hot money” is plentiful in the strata of those who have never worked for a living. The growing productivity of labor in each succeeding generation creates more wealth to supply all with a comfortable living and still have plenty left to act as a spur to creativity. Indeed, it is really only those who are at most merely comfortable who are genuinely moved to that accomplishment by the promise of prosperity.