I don’t usually use this forum for work-related stuff, but I put a thread up on Twitter this morning about education, especially PhD education, and it has the kind of geopolitical feel that made me want to echo it, and maybe expand it a little, here. The road to a PhD has always been hard. Mine was considered relatively short, at five years, but it wasn’t easy and it was full of stories of faculty members making me feel like shit, and just generally feeling like shit, but also full of stories of feeling incredibly fulfilled and accomplished. If you spend any time the side of Twitter where academics roam, especially graduate students, you might wonder why anybody would ever even try to get a PhD. How is this geopolitical? Because I think its roots are in classic America-good-and-others-bad propaganda.Continue reading “What do I want to do when I grow up?”
One of the places where I tend to disagree with other liberals is the defense budget. Attacking defense spending is a common hobby for many liberals. I get the appeal. I don’t like spending astronomical sums of money for the purpose of killing people. It doesn’t sit well with me. But what I’ve come to realize is that the defense budget is so much more than a killing budget. It’s a convenient way for Congress to allocate money to things we need, as a nation, but can’t convince many voters (or even Members of Congress) to support otherwise. How do some countries fight unemployment? They hire lots of people to work for the government. We do that too, through the military. Want to provide education and job training and healthcare for millions of Americans…put money for education and job training and healthcare into the Department of Defense budget and consider it done. Want to spend money on biomedical research, on materials research, on computing research, on all kinds of research…put money into the Department of Defense budget and consider it done.
Notre Dame burned yesterday. It’s a beautiful place, that I’ve only seen from the outside, but even if you’ve only seen pictures its beauty is impressive. The President of the United States responded with a tweet. A mind-numbingly dumb tweet.
In contrast, Pete Buttigieg (the democrat running for president) issued a statement in French (one of EIGHT languages he speaks: English, Norwegian, Spanish, Italian, Maltese, Arabic, Dari, and French).
The American spirit is about aspiration. We don’t talk as much about this as being uniquely American, but our society embraces the idea that we should encourage our youth to aim high. We can be anything we want to be. The problem is this, that idea has two parts to it: We can be anything we want to be, if we work hard to achieve our goals. It seems like the second part is too often overlooked. Donald Trump is a perfect symbol of this mistake.
I do not like politics of fear. I do not like making policies based on fear. I do not like using fear to play with people’s emotions. But, I am afraid. Genuinely afraid. I see a willful erosion of expertise in this country, and I fear the consequences will be worse than we can imagine. This is not a new feeling, but the removal of Brennan’s security clearance made it especially salient this morning. I recognize that this is a punitive act, and not directed at his expertise, but it’s all part of a bigger problem from my perspective.
People aren’t perfect. We’re relatively safe when we idolize fictional characters, because they’re less likely to let us down, but when we idolize real people, we run the risk of being let down by their inevitable imperfection. From Bill O’Reilly to Christopher Columbus to Thomas Jefferson, people do unforgivable things, and we’re stuck trying to balance the good with the bad. What interests me is how people react when it happens.
I’ve used a fair number of Facebook posts to vent my frustrations about the methods that FoxNews uses (intentionally or otherwise), to paint pictures of the world that aren’t true. The logical fallacies they throw around. This morning, while doing my usual flipping between news stations, I came across this lovely example of awfulness from FoxNews’s guest, Mark Levin. I couldn’t help but do a little fisking of the segment in a Facebook vent, and I’m cross-posting here.
Once again, I have to start with a disclosure: I am not an economist and these thoughts likely shouldn’t be taken seriously by anybody. Of course a lack of expertise hasn’t stopped me from bloviating about ways to fix the world, and not being an expert certainly hasn’t even stopped Donald Trump from becoming president. With that in mind, I have a dream about a program to help get people to work. It has two main ingredients, and I don’t know if it would work, but it’s fun to imagine anyway.
To think about how to fix the jobs problem in the United States, we have to first think about what the problem is, and who is affected. And then it leads me to the solution that’s been in my dreams lately. It’s a great dream, of a bold initiative, with a practical solution to a pressing problem. Something I could imagine being a crux of the Bartlet Democrat platform.