Category Archives: new media

Proposed: A Federal Department of Science, Statistics, and Public Information

In the wake of 9/11, when about 3,000 civilians were killed on U.S. soil despite $billions spent on defense, a series of failures was revealed.   Various agencies had the information to identify and stop the attack, but failed to cooperate. Despite a huge military posted all over the world, there were only two military airplanes defending the entire East Coast of the United States, only one of which was armed. And the non-military agencies tasked with defending the U.S., such as the Coast Guard, U.S. Customs Agency, and Immigration and Naturalization Service, were distributed among a variety of federal departments, with little emphasis on any of them and no coordination between them. To remedy this 22 agencies were removed from other Departments and integrated into a new Department of Homeland Security.

Today, we face the equivalent of 9/11 in every part of the country every year. Life expectancy is falling, due to the cumulative disadvantage foisted on later born generations by those who came before, an opioid epidemic, and rising suicide. Life expectancy is set to fall for the third consecutive year for the first time in 100 years.

https://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21733980-thats-not-really-meant-happen-developed-countries-life-expectancy-america-has

But this crisis has been building for two decades, its scope not understood until a couple of economists, with expertise not in vital statistics but rather in value added taxes, brought it to public attention.

https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2015/11/08/death-is-the-ultimate-statistic-ii-the-most-important-news-in-ten-years/

The belated realization of what is happening is a failure for this country’s policy wonks and journalists every bit as large as 9/11 was for our intelligence agencies and military. And a similar response is required.

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Schools Are Obsolete II

Not long ago, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, as part of a campaign to obtain the support of the United Federation of Teachers, released a report critical of the financial practices of the charter school network Success Academy. A page 21, the report noted:

https://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/FK15_092A.pdf

“Success Academy invoices to DOE bi-monthly for per pupil funding for general and special education services that it provides to students who reside in New York City. For Fiscal Year 2015, Success Academy was entitled to receive $13,777 per year for each of its students who reside in New York City. Further, Success Academy was entitled to receive an additional $10,390 per year for each student that was mandated to receive and was provided special education services for between 20 to 60 percent of the school instructional week, and an additional $19,049 per year for each student that was mandated to receive and was provided special education services for more than 60 percent of the school instructional week.”

My first impression is that’s a whole lotta money. For non-special education children, that is $275,540 per 20 students and $165,324 per 12 students. On the other hand, I know that this is less than the amount NYC district schools receive. Does that make me think that charter schools are a better deal? In part. But what it mostly does is further convinces me that education needs to be rethought and reorganized from the ground up. For that amount of money, or even less money, a new system, unencumbered by the deals, favors, practices and privileges of the past, could provide far better values for students, younger and future teachers and taxpayers alike. For the existing system, school reform has been defeated and its time to face it. Only by making a clean break will anything get better, or even avoid getting worse.

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Weights and Measures for the Digital Information Cloud

This Christmas, as has been the case for the better part of a decade, my children wanted the same thing in their stockings. I-Tunes gift cards so they could buy music, since in my family we tend not to steal it. They have also spent their own money on music, and by now, bit by bit, this has added up to a considerable amount of money. This Christmas it suddenly occurred to me: what exactly had I bought? What exactly do they now own, and for how long? When I was their age and purchased vinyl records, I owned whatever was on them for as long as the vinyl lasted. When I purchased music on compact discs, I was promised a “lifetime” of listening. What about now?

What about e-books? What about videos? What about electronic magazine and newspaper articles? What about family photos, if they exist only in the so-called cloud, off on a server somewhere? With the typical person lasting longer than the typical business firm, what guarantees are there? And from whom?

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