Thursday, September 25, 2008

I decided recently to start writing to my US representative about things I care about, because he's kind of a tool, so I get a kick out of haranguing him over his asinine positions.  Also, though, I suppose some naive part of me hopes that my opinion might be heard and might sway the guy's vote.  

Anyway, I was annoyed by all the Republican fluffing going on for this proposed bank bailout, because they're supposed to be all about Lord of the Flies capitalism or something.  So I wrote:

Rep. Gallegly,

I am writing with regard to the recent proposed legislation that would give the Secretary of the Treasury authority to purchase mortgage-related assets.

The party of small government had six years from 2000-2006 in control of the White House and Congress to cut spending. Instead you've run up the largest federal budget ever, as well as the largest deficit ever, all in the name of destabilizing the middle east. Were you all salivating so excitedly at the idea of war - glorious, totally awesome WAR! - that your conservative principles were just tossed out the window like a Catholic schoolgirl's knickers from the backseat of a '63 Fairlane?

Now, Hank Paulson wants 700 billion to throw at the banks. Doesn't the conservative belief in the effectiveness of the free market mean business with poor judgement SHOULD fail? Is that not the foundation of the Republican party's principles? Isn't that the logic applied to us "regular folks" when cutting public services and fighting against universal health care and education? Some people work harder, make the right choices, don't run up their debts, and the reward for doing it right is wealth and prosperity. That's the Republican principle, right?

Surely, then, as a staunch conservative, you should be in opposition to such a thing as a near-trillion-dollar handout to those businesses which have, through a mixture of unbridled greed and forehead-smacking incompetence, managed to hoist themselves by their own petard? Alas, no - I was disappointed to read in the Ventura County Star that you think the proposal is "on the right track". Are you a crazy man?

With 700 billion dollars, the government could rebuild every single one of America's 26 thousand public high schools and have more than half left over. Or pay the salaries of a million teachers for twenty years. Or buy eight hundred space telescopes, nine Strategic Petroleum Reserves, five thousand F-22s, or fifty Superconducting Supercolliders (which was canceled, by the way, for lack of federal funding.)

I am not against federal intervention on principle, as I do not subscribe to the notion that government is inherently bad. But the sheer magnitude of this proposal is beyond the pale. I am a young man, and I and my children (and my children's children) will be paying the bill for this handout for years to come.

Republicans say government should keep its nose out of business. Apparently this is only true when business is profitable. Stop selling us one thing and then doing another. Just stop - we don't believe you anymore.


Nate Lipkowitz

The last one I wrote got an actual response (though the reponse basically said "sorry, but this is not my problem").  Sort of expecting this one to get tossed in the trash, though. 

Friday, August 29, 2008

Modesty and Grace

Today I was reminded of an old post I'd read somewhere online, where someone asked for examples of classy behavior.  

I was reading one of the books of Feynman's Lectures on Physics, a chapter about the principle of least action.  Unlike most of the chapters, which are based on Feynman's lectures at Caltech but edited into book form, this one is an almost-verbatim transcription of the lecture from that day. 

It begins with Feynman describing how he was first introduced to the subject one day after physics class in high school.  His teacher, a Mr. Bader, thought he looked bored, so he pulled him aside and told him about the variational principle for mechanics, which is really a cool thing if you get into it.  Feynman goes on to describe the motion of particles along their possible paths, and how a perturbation of a particle's path away from the "true" path increases the Lagrangian of the system, and how to derive physical statements from this fact, and so on.

It's a good lecture, focused mainly on mechanics and electromagnetism.  Towards the end, Feynman describes how it can be applied to calculate the behavior of quantum particles as well.

He writes:
"... So in the limiting case in which Planck's constant goes to zero, the correct quantum-mechanical laws can be summarized by simply saying  'Forget about all these probability amplitudes.  The particle does go on a special path, namely, that one for which S does not vary in the first approximation.'  That's the relation between the principle of least action and quantum mechanics.  The fact that quantum mechanics can be formulated in this way was discovered in 1942 by a student of that same teacher, Bader, I spoke of at the beginning of this lecture."

That student, of course, was Feynman himself, and the integral-over-paths description of quantum mechanical behavior is the heart of the body of work that Feynman would go on to receive the Nobel Prize for, two years later.  He was already a giant in this field.  And yet, despite the opportunity in front of a few hundred starry-eyed Caltech freshmen, with no idea that his words would go on to be reprinted for millions of eyes, he describes this great thing he'd done with so much modesty and grace that you might not even know he had anything to do with it.

That's class!

made a new blog for silly account-management reasons.

the old blog is still around, here.