Tuesday, March 13, 2012

TV - March 15, 2012

The Supreme Court has not actually decreed that someone who has a billion dollars is entitled to a billion votes but when analyzing the fruitfulness of their campaigns, they concentrate as much on the money as on the voters. If the analysts are right then maybe that opening line is not as far off the mark as it should be. And since the same Court guarantees anonymity to the funders of campaign ads, how do you know who is telling you things that you might actually believe? If there isn’t a signature line on the ad, you should discount what you are told exactly. The art of lying in ads is something taught as PR in all the business schools, and the billionaires get what they pay for. So unless you Know well who is jerking your strings, you should lump them all with the “Swift boat veterans” and drop their stories into the round file. What can be bought can be shaped to the purchasers’ liking, especially if they get to rely on your natural credulousness. When the Court makes no room for knowing who is counting on the voters’ good nature, and giving the PR hirelings free rein to hide their motivations, you must know that money talks, and the big bucks talk the loudest, just as if every billionaire had all those billions of extra votes.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

ATOMIC - March 8, 2012

It is now 67 years since the Manhattan Project exploded the first atom bombs and put Us all into the atomic age, and about a year since an earthquake and tsunami threatened to reduce the main island of Japan to the condition around Chernobil, thus destroying the lives of millions of the most creative and productive people in the world. We still do not know how much human suffering it will cost in the ensuing century, but the fear of exactly such an accident has hung over all of us for all that time. In the meantime, the same fear has engendered a terror over the consequences of scientific research, especially that of Physics, in antagonism with the promise that the Atom could provide us with limitless power, both electrical and military, far into the future. This threat to progress has engendered a pooh-poohing of the threat by many of those whose lives are tied to the possibility of diminishing some of the ills of humankind through the gathering of the fruits of knowledge. Indeed, there seems to be an opinion to be found among scientists that concern with the dangers of the Atom exists mainly among cowards, who take too much caution from the less-than-perfect record that we have observed in the first 2/3 of a century of the Atomic Age, and this does not even count the total of those stumbles that have been successfully swept out of public knowledge by the public relations people of nations that would be deeply embarrassed if the less tolerable errors had been obvious. We are approaching the time when wind, wave and solar energy might free us of this atomic horror, but still tens of millions of people live under the threat of the Yankee power station in the immediate vicinity of New York City, and that has been labeled as the most dangerous one in the world.

PUBLIC HI ED - March 1, 2012

After finishing HS in 1947, I was awarded a tuition scholarship to Cornell. Since I had no source of money for room and board, I could have attended there only if I could obtain a job for about 20 – 30 hours a week at unskilled labor. My alternative was a New York City public college, much like 4 more years of HS, living at home and riding the subway to school. It killed the dream of Cornell, but I chose Brooklyn College , where I could expect 20 hours a week on the subway, but at least I could often read while commuting, and never paid a cent for tuition. It formed my picture of public Hi Ed and I was truly grateful to New York. When I was the Chair of Mathematics at the London School of Economics every English college student got not only free tuition but also a substantial subsidy for maintenance. That was public Hi Ed writ large, and was probably the high point of Hi Ed in that country. In the meantime, that form of education has deteriorated in that country and in this. The key to the university to this day for almost every prospective student has become family finances or crushing debt. The consequence has become a comedown in the
effectiveness in Hi Ed in both USA and UK compared with 1974 or 1947. Both countries , and many more, are suffering from lesser educational opportunity compared with earlier, more enlightened times. In a study I made in 1994, I compared the cost to USA of producing a 2d Lieutenant or Ensign at any of the service academies as contrasted to the earlier public educations supported by federal money and we must question whether the need for armed forces officers is that much greater than the unit costs in civilian and military training, and the national need for each.