Monthly Archives: April 2014
In his debut on HBO, John Oliver covered the Indian elections better than his real news cable TV counterparts. Speaking of Oliver’s segment, I too liked Rahul Gandhi’s vest; khadi or L. L. Bean? Nice subtle take-down of Narendra Modi. The hologram is ridiculous, as are the face mask wearing supporters he did not show. I had not seen Indian TV in years, yikes they seem to have devolved from the time when the boring and sedate Doordarshan was the only game in town for political coverage. The televised shouting match was worse than a school yard fight. Both the interviewer and the interviewee kept repeating, how dare you, umpteenth times, new word now, please, kthx. Also, loved the fact that Oliver completely ignored Arvind Kejriwal whose entire political persona and campaign reeks of performance art. A brief primer on the personalities and parties in this election here.
BTW, I had no idea that McLaughlin Group was still on. Have the changed their set and guests since the Cretaceous era? In all seriousness though, the Newshour and BBC World News on PBS have had fairly decent coverage of the Indian elections.
The New York Times has added another Brooks to its opinion pages. Arthur Brooks, the President of the American Enterprise Institute is not really David Brooks’ brother, although their shtick is remarkably similar. Along with a last name they share an ideology that comforts the comfortable, while appearing reasonable on the surface. Now you can gather pearls of wisdom from both men on the op-ed pages of the New York Times on the same day. What a deal, two Brooks for the price of one.
Arthur Brooks is the President of the American Enterprise Institute. In an earlier column he wanted the 99% to be happy with their lot, because envy is bad for you. Pointing out how the policies of the last thirty odd years have resulted in astronomical growth in the incomes of 0.01% and stagnation for everyone else is inciting envy. Wage slave be happy with your lot, and be thankful that you are not a real slave. Show some magnanimity for the crumbs thrown your way, worship the rich, if you know what is good for you.
In his latest column Brooks is using Dalai Lama as a spokesperson to advance his agenda. Dalai Lama was recently a guest at the American Enterprise Institute. According to Brooks this is what Dalai Lama had to say,
He insisted that while free enterprise could be a blessing, it was not guaranteed to be so. Markets are instrumental, not intrinsic, for human flourishing. As with any tool, wielding capitalism for good requires deep moral awareness. Only activities motivated by a concern for others’ well-being, he declared, could be truly “constructive.”
Brooks then proceeds to sing praises of free enterprise before grudgingly admitting the obvious;
But while free enterprise keeps expanding globally, its success may be faltering in the United States.
He is vague about what exactly he means by free enterprise. However, anyone with even a minimal background in economics knows that when the playing field is not level, markets don’t produce optimal outcomes for all participants. Look to the labor market if you don’t believe me.
After paying lip service to the problem of economic inequality brought about by the policies of the last few decades, promoted by his think tank, Arthur Brooks puts forth suggestions to make capitalism constructive,
The solution does not lie in the dubious “fair share” class-baiting of politicians. We need to combine an effective, reliable safety net for the poor with a hard look at modern barriers to upward mobility. That means attacking cronyism that protects the well-connected. It means lifting poor children out of ineffective schools that leave them unable to compete. It entails pruning back outmoded licensing laws that restrain low-income entrepreneurs. And it means creating real solutions — not just proposing market distortions — for people who cannot find jobs that pay enough to support their families.
Translation: Deregulate everything. Privatize schools, gut all regulations. Doing away with the New Deal era financial market regulations turned out well for Wall Street not so much for the rest of us. Thanks but no thanks for your self serving advice, Mr. Brooks. Modern barriers to upward mobility are same as that of the last gilded age, concentration of wealth and with it the concentration of power. Efficiency of the workers has gone up but their wages have remained stagnant, even when corporate profits have soared. Policy preferences skewed towards the interests of a few (top 0.001%) are responsible for the current situation. A step in the right direction would be paying workers a living wage. Brooks’ American Enterprise Institute is not only against raising the minimum wage but wants the minimum wage to be $4. I wonder what real solutions he has in mind, slavery or indentured servitude?
By two_kittehs (Picture by: ME!)
A brief recap of the properties of light that we have encountered so far in Cosmos.
- The speed of light through vacuum is nature’s speed limit.
- Light travels in straight lines.
- The speed of light depends on the medium.
- Visible light is composed of seven primary colors.
- Energy of light waves depends on their wavelength.
- Our eyes are sensitive to a small band of electromagnetic radiation.
These properties were hiding in plain sight but it took centuries and the work of many individuals to unravel these properties. Lots of imagination and hard work went into getting nature to reveal its code to us. You may ask, how does this concern me? Why should I care? It does because the entire edifice of modern life, from your hand held device to your camera phone uses this knowledge. To paraphrase Newton, each of us can see farther because we are standing on the shoulders of giant. Technological progress is possible because of research in the pure sciences. Unfortunately funding for science is getting shortchanged these days in the name of fiscal prudence, see for example, sequestration.
Still to come:
- Light can demonstrate both wave-like and particle like phenomena.
- Light waves are transverse electromagnetic waves.
- Light can travel through vacuum
The last property has been taken for granted but never been elaborated upon by Neil De Grasse Tyson while narrating Cosmos. There is a great story lurking behind that fact, I hope he tells it in one the upcoming episodes.
Was Nicholas Kristof always a bard of false equivalence or did he become one recently? St. Nick thinks that the Republicans should get some credit for bringing to light the causes of poverty, even if they get the solutions wrong. He may be damning them with faint praise but I think he is giving the Republicans far too much credit.
According to St. Nick they get the rhetoric right, never mind their actual policies. May be that was true in some bygone era, these days, even their rhetoric drips contempt. Has St. Nick forgotten the 47% moochers of the last election season?
So what are the conservatives/Republicans right about according to Kristof?
Strong Families: Conservatives highlight the primacy of family and argue that family breakdown exacerbates poverty, and they’re right.
Way to confuse cause and effect. Poverty makes it hard on a family or to even have a family. Being married is no guarantee to economic prosperity. Also what is this strange obsession conservatives have about people’s marriages? At best, this is a peripheral issue to the macroeconomics of income inequality and poverty. You are already entitled to bigger tax deductions if you have a family. What more besides arranging marriages can the government do on this front?
JOB CREATION President Reagan was right when he said that the best social program is a job.
It is sad that Kristof has the exhume Reagan to come up with a sensible Republican voice. The actual policies of the Republican are much more favorable to people with investment income, than they are to wage earners. Despite productivity gains, trickle down economic policies have not made the average American wealthier. The gains have gone to a tiny sliver of the population, the so called 1%.
SCHOOL REFORM Republicans were right to blow the whistle on broken school systems, for education in inner-city schools is the civil rights issue of the 21st century.
How is demonizing teachers and their unions going to make problem schools perform better?
Kristof may not accept the Republican solutions, but he adopts their framing which only serves to obfuscate the issue of income inequality and blames the poor. Doesn’t NYT already have David Brooks to do that?
Why should the party of the Ryan Budget get credit for shedding crocodile tears over the problems that they helped create and are doing nothing to solve. In fact they have thrown every conceivable road block in President Obama’s effort to jump start the economy right from early 2009. The refusal of Republican governors to expand Medicaid in their states is a recent case in point. Via Paul Krugman,
this is what the health economist Jonathan Gruber, one of the principal architects of health reform — and normally a very mild-mannered guy — recently summed it up: The Medicaid-rejection states “are willing to sacrifice billions of dollars of injections into their economy in order to punish poor people. It really is just almost awesome in its evilness.” Indeed.
It is high time that supposedly liberal columnists stopped giving Republicans a fig leaf to hide their sheer callousness and ineptitude.
I would like to share my friend Carolyn Walker’s Kickstarter project with you. Carolyn Walker is a singer and songwriter based in Western Massachusetts. It will the fund the recording her second album, Incarnadine. In her own words:
It seems like everyone is doing a crowd funding project now a days. Kickstarter alone has reached the 1 billion mark for monies raised since its inception in 2009. I self-funded my first album, Resolution, which was a big challenge. Since then I have come to the conclusion that I will not be able to record another album unless I turn to crowd funding.
When I was in school I had the honor of playing in the UMass orchestra under a wonderful and inspiring conductor. He had many motivational stories and funny anecdotes he’d share with the orchestra. During one rehearsal he told us we should not be professional musicians; instead we should be doctors and lawyers. With a laugh he added we would then have enough money to give to the arts. After the orchestra members had a good chuckle, the conductor continued: music is not a profession you do for money. Music is what you do because it is your passion, because you cannot see your life being any other way.
Unfortunately you cannot make and record music without money: buying and maintaining instruments, studying for years to learn your craft, hiring recording engineers and other musicians, and manufacturing CDs are all just the tip of the iceberg. And yet our world has such immediate and easy access to free music! In light of this it has given me great heart to have seen how fellow songwriters have launched their own vibrant and successful projects and received incredible amounts of support. Not just from doctors and lawyers, but from students, friends, family, strangers, graphic designers, yoga instructors, fellow musicians, retired folk, and all those who make up the greater community. It reminds me that this isn’t about the passion of one musician, but a shared passion of all those who experience the music. From the patron who faithfully buys tickets to all the shows, to the stranger who walks into a coffee shop for a quick pick me up and lingers a little longer to hear the lonely girl in a corner singing her heart out, all of these people make a difference.
I have the CD of Carolyn’s first album and I have also heard her play live. She is as talented as she is beautiful.
At start, no has lyte. An Ceiling Cat sayz, i can haz lite? An lite wuz —Lolcat Bible
Note :1nm = 10-9m
It is as if Neil De Grasse Tyson read my last review, and decided to give us the physics behind the light show of last week. He covered a lot of ground, this week. This episode began its exploration of light with geometric optics and pinhole cameras and ended with speculation about dark matter. This week’s history lesson told us about the contributions of the ancient Chinese experimentalist and philosopher, Mozi, and the Arab philosopher-scientist Alhazen, of the ancient Indian mathematical concept of zero. An excellent counterpoint to those who insist that Christianity was an essential aspect of the scientific revolution. Unfortunately Mozi’s teachings did not survive the Chinese thought police. Like the Inquisition era Catholic Church they too were afraid of the open exchange of ideas. No one has a monopoly on either the smart or the stupid but the cultures that allow an open exchange of ideas flourish, while those who stifle them, don’t in the long run.
Continuing our exploration of light, Tyson revisited Isaac Newton and his discovery of the spectrum of visible light. Newton figured out that sunlight or white light is a composite of the seven primary colors, VIBGYOR (Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red). Newton was not the main star of Sunday’s Cosmos, instead it was Joseph Fraunhofer, for his contributions to spectroscopy. He was the first to observe the solar spectrum with a telescope and analyze it. De Grasse Tyson then described the atomic structure of hydrogen, and quantum mechanical explanation of its spectrum. He then generalized it to atoms of elements more complicated than hydrogen. Thus looking at the spectrum of a heavenly body we can figure out what it is made of.
In a brilliant graphic Tyson demonstrated how the New York skyline changed when we focused on the different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. The different parts coinciding with different wavelengths. To explain the concept of a wavelength, Tyson compared light waves and sound waves. Missing however was any mention of Thomas Young, who experimentally proved the existence of the wave nature of light. Also, there was no mention of Newton’s corpuscular theory of light which had to be eventually discarded since it could not explain interference and diffraction.
What I love about physics in particular and science in general, that it does not matter whether you are Newton or Einstein, if what you say does not agree with experiment your theories have to go. Put up or shut up. Physics does not bow to the rules of the thought police.
Tyson still has to discuss the wave-particle duality. Though, he briefly touched on quantum mechanics while discussing the hydrogen atom he has yet to talk about the Uncertainty Principle. I am sure that the quantum revolution of the early part of the last century will be the subject of a future episode. The changes it brought about, in how we perceive both matter and light were radical. As is always the case, that revolution too had its own thought police.