Tuesday, November 29, 2011

ELECTRICITY - December 1, 2011

We are now embarking again on the famous WI winter. This year, there has been an especially large outbreak of rains, floods and snows that have had the effect of felling trees, many falling across power lines and depriving whole areas of electricity, often for an extended period. Whenever this happens, it reminds me of my effort to interest MG&E in the enormous benefits that could accrue to places like the City of Madison if it were possible to be less dependent on long-distance power lines. Such a condition could be obtained by Madison and many other towns and cities, many in WI, through the advantages that could accrue to us if we had widespread mini-combined heat and power, abbreviated mini-CHP. This technology, which has been proven in use in Europe, especially Scandinavia, would provide electricity each user as a nearly free by-product of home heating. The yearly cost of natural gas and electric power for each such user would be about the cost of gas alone, with savings of about 50%. Into the bargain, the supply of electricity would be a nearly perfect guarantee to the user of continuity of that service, while saving about half the cost of the two utilities billed separately. MG&E advertises that they are eager to help us cut our total energy use, thus saving both money and nearly half of the natural gas and its attendant electricity. I was never successful in winning over the gas company to this proven technology and the side benefits of almost total freedom from power outages due to felled grid lines. There may be some unknown reasons why this company, which could profit handsomely from the benefits that could flow from mini-CHP, refuses to undertake a test in a few dozen homes that would demonstrate the benefits that would flow to the whole city, including the gas and electric company itself.

Monday, November 14, 2011

GEOMETRY - November 24, 2011

As we struggle to save the State of Wisconsin from the disaster that is sure to befall it if the Kochs and their hand puppet governor have their way, it is time to consider the likely outcome of the proletarianizing of the teaching profession. In case you have not had occasion to measure, I can vouch for the fact that very few Wisconsin High School graduates have been equipped in the matter of understanding what is going on in mathematics, with a similar notation for physics. Indeed, there are very few teachers in our High Schools who have had any acquaintance with either subject beyond the memorization of a few rules that would enable them to make routine calculations in it, thus qualifying themselves as inferior competitors in carrying out mechanical tasks to the machines widely available. Most egregious is the deficiency in experiencing the process of knowing when a given proposition has been proven. Often fairly talented students in our colleges are prevented from appreciating even the simplest subtleties of formal logic. And as the management of our schools falls increasingly into the hands of administrators and parents who already are handicapped in this way, the ability to hire any of the few available teachers who understand that triumph of human understanding vanishes, and that rules our graduates out of keeping pace with the intellectual accomplishments of the past centuries, and certainly of those now happening. The judgment of who can even teach the material at the High School level falls increasingly to people who do not know it themselves. Almost any teacher might be chosen for that task. And as the profession is made increasingly unattractive by bosses who are themselves ignorant of its subtleties, it will be increasingly difficult to hire the replacements for those who have quit it or been forced out. Governors and Principals who are ignorant of the intellectual achievements that brought us to this time will offer the students increasingly barren educations.

DEMOCRACY - November 17, 2011

At this moment in mid-November, WI stands at the crossroads for the State, and likely for USA. In a sort of poetic way, we will be following the shade of Bob Lafollette, or that of Joe McCarthy, and will likely set the course for whether we will reignite the Progressive spirit or sink into what sociologists have called the Peasant Mentality. The past 60 years have indicated that the Age of Reason has been losing its battle with sluggish contentment out here on the prairie. The Billionaire’s Lobby has paid to set a hand puppet in charge of the State government and there is no Enlightenment on the horizon to take the place of the German immigrants of 1848. If there is not a flash of clarity to bring the working people of WI to act to rid ourselves of the laws enacted in a virtual flash of an eye as decided by the Kochs and their ilk, we will forfeit all claim to the Progressive tradition and the prosperity it has brought us in the XX Century. We are blessed at this time that Dave Obey has peeked out of retirement to lead the cause of removal of the puppet regime. And if we are lucky, Kathleen Falk will condescend to the office of Lieutenant Governor for a few years, she might well earn the right to succeed him in the statehouse. As for Jon Erpenbach, we will need him desperately in the Senate until our State has regained its intelligence and its Mission. If we lose this chance for the working people to vote for their Enlightenment, the Billionaires’ Lobby will most likely close off that chance for the remainder of this century at least. The move to vote their needs in democracy and prosperity is being negated as quickly as the Kochs are sending bills to negate what we used to think was our traditional recourse to sense and sensibility.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

IMMIGRANTS - November 10, 2011

In all the controversy over who has a “right” to move into a space where someone else has a claim of right, there is very little that addresses the Q in its extremes, though they often fail to exclude those extremes. These consist of the claim that the established people of an area have a right to say who will share that right and who has no such legitimacy. Still, I have not heard anyone claim that the right is universal, or even limited to the sane and legally innocent, while no I have not heard that there are those (e.g. those imported by their parents without their legal consent) who obtain that right without being subject to the laws and practices of the “legitimate” owners. Indeed, I am convinced that almost no one maintains the absoluteness of either of those claims. I do not know of anyone who claims that a child obtains citizenship by such an act of their parents, nor the right to obtain cheap labor in circumstances approaching serfdom. However, I do believe that the entitlement to immigration lies with the legitimate adults of a free land, by unanimous or overwhelming consensus. Until I hear such argument, I eschew all those who claim that their own preferences are the voice of divine law. However, I do believe that the most extreme actions are not necessary as alternatives to allowing the excesses claimed by either side. The most regulated options would, in the opinions of many, at least extend to the benefits of the social compact enacted by those with legitimate standing, especially the coverage of the welfare state, and the forbidding of employment to those without such recognition as a valid claim to citizenship can be policed in a mild way by fining employers who refuse to cooperate in determining who is a legal resident, and the use of substantial penalties against those with resources should be enough to prevent their profligate abuse. Laws like those in AZ and AL are not necessary to minimize those abuses.