Friday, July 6, 2012

Solving Urban Crises.

Cities with failing economies can be saved through regional cooperation with their nearby regional communities.

There is a basic point to regional success. The urban areas supply the region with much of the population arts, culture, athletics, etc.. and are often where many higher education, employment opportunities, health care facilities and other opportunities enjoyed by the regional population exist. (Young people tell me more cooler people hang out in cities than in suburbs, which may be an insult to suburban youth who seems quite knowledgable about malls and video games.) These urban areas generally lack the tax base to meet the critical social needs and operating costs. (This means the greater poverty found in cities means the people in poverty don’t pay as much taxes as they would like, especially since many would prefer to have higher paying jobs that would allow them to increase their contributions to city revenues.) The suburbs, which resulted from government investment in highway systems, allowed more affluent urban areas to flee  urban areas and create communities with fewer per capita social needs and operating costs. (Next time, let’s see how many leave cities if we build pedestrian underground tunnels instead of highways.)

Much of the urban tax base over the last half century shifted from cities to suburbs. Many of the social needs concentrated more in the cities (sadly some of those cool urban people have social needs), leaving less affluent city residents with higher taxes to pay for these social needs. This created a cycle of those who could afford the leave the city for the suburbs doing so while leaving a diminishing tax base to deal with increasing costs. While this is an over-simplification, and there are examples where these dynamics differed and there has been some movement back into some cities (in part to hang out with those cool urban people even if they have social needs), this is a basic general summary of the cause of regional problems.

Several cities have inbuilt regional cooperation, such as the five merged boroughs of New York, while others cities such as Indianapolis economically survived by annexing its suburbs. Such mergers allow a shared tax base to benefit the entire region. This also results in benefits from eliminating duplications of government operations that are consolidated and allows economies of scale where a larger public sector may purchase goods and contract services at lower overall costs.

New York City faces a similar problem several decades ago. Despite how many people remember a famous newspaper headline believing that President Ford told New York to “drop dead”, it actually was state and Federal government actions that bailed New York City out of its fiscal crisis and allowed it to rebound (maybe Ford only wanted New York to see how long it could hold its breath). Today, New York City is one of our nation’s strongest urban economies.

In sum, a city with a tax base insufficient to fund its basic services will need to find assistance from outside. It is to the benefit of the living near and around the city to see the city’s social needs are met. Otherwise the problems will create a regional crisis. Regional cooperation can prevent that regional crisis.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Solving the Question "Why?"

Or as I often see it, why not?

That mystery is easy to resolve. Philosophers and other misfits have long noted this answer. Some of the great questions that many have faced, such as why do we exist, why is there a universe, have reached the answer: Because.

The answers are because we exist and because the universe exists. That’s as good a conclusive answer we will get, at least at present. Further answers are based on speculation or faith in a belief. There is nothing wrong with faith or speculation. We do need to realize that faith and speculation are what they are. For many faith is the answer. That is fine for the individual, and is very helpful to many individuals. Each person with a faith should note that other people have faith in different answers than their answers. It does not make sense to impost one’s one faith that an answer is correct ,over another person’s faith that a different answer is correct, in a violent or abuse manner.

Sadly, the fact that people insist that their interpretation of “why” is indeed the only correct answer that anyone with a different interpretation of what the correct answer is should be ridiculed or perhaps even physically injured or killed. That can create conflict. If you doubt this, there are historical books and perhaps even today’s news accounts that will confirm this. I see some articles in my local newspaper. It seems there were bar fights between Baptists and Methodists (noting that they were only there for the food and not for the alcohol) over whose belief is the correct “why” occurring. Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims may have fewer bar fights (since there are fewer bars in their cultures), yet they have been known to have some disagreements over whether their “why” or the other’s “why” is correct. There are arguments between some people of the Jewish faith in Israel as to a different answer to “why” than some people of the Muslim faith in countries surrounding and near Israel. There are some suspicions this leads to some tensions. There are arguments over “why” between Hindus in India and Muslims in Pakistan. This pattern appears to be repeated throughout almost worldwide. This also seems to have existed through human history. Some killings have results. By some, I mean, millions. Despite all the disputes that resulted in a person who answered “why” killing someone who answered “why” differently, the question of whose faith in what “why” should be, has never been settled.

The answer is “because”. If we could all agree that “because” is the answer and allow everyone else the right to their beliefs as to what isn’t known may be the further answer, than we all will live in a better, safer world.

What is known, and what is not a matter of faith about “why” is also actually simple. There is mass and energy. Energy creates mass. I recall something about mass being constantly squared, which it does not seem to mind. Mass needs to consume more mass in order to grow. That may actually be a physical requirement by definition The mass that is used to grow can be mass that is dead or alive. This appears to be universally true, as best as we know.

I will admit that the “why” question has a corollary question that totally confuses me. That is the question “when”. When did time begin, and how could time begin, for if time began, what about the time before time began? Some belief that the beginning of time is infinity, which is an ungraspable concept, in my opinion (not that I insist my opinion is the correct one). Some claim that time is finite. Even if this is correct, what about the time before time began? Some argue time is circular. If this is correct, when did this circular time begin and what was happening before circular time began. Some argue that time is an illusion, which might be easier to grasp. If time slows as the speed of light increases, that light could speed until time is constant, and therefore perhaps we all live within a singular time period. Which sort of makes sense but still makes me go “huh?” Some of these claims violate the laws of physics, yet maybe one of these time theories has a good attorney who can argue in favor of violating that law of physics so that is what indeed happens.

See, I don’t have all the answers. I did not claim that (No refunds on this book are allowed on that basis. The publisher insists I include the previous sentence.) I do believe that when this question is answer, it will be most enlightening. Maybe time does not exist at all, but if that is true, then why should I waste non-existent time trying to understand that? All I know is, why the question “why” is answered, I wish to reserve the right to ask some follow-up questions.

Solving the Education Crisis

Do not let a student more to the next level of difficulty in a subject until the student is proficient at the current level.

Solving How to Obtain World Peace and Solving How to Save Your Relationships

.A possible path to world peace, or to creating a happier relationship, is to keep interactions, discussions, and negotiations focused on areas of mutual agreements and interests. It really can be that simple. Many wars resulted from escalated nastiness in discussions. Many relationships break-up from upsetting words.

Many rivals have become friends or at least friendly enough to avoid fighting. Negotiations representing warring countries to drunk Red Sox and Yankees fans meeting in a bar often get together as amigos. When their conversations center on mutually agreeable topics and on reaching mutually acceptable goals, matters overall tend to get better between these parties. Everyone has similarities and it is easy to find them. As the eminent philosopher Yoko Ono stated “we are all water from different rivers.”

War negotiators may find there is general agreement on ending casualties. Political and business negotiators may recognize they may gain more from allowing various sides to Iall gain rather than all reducing gains for all. A couple should want each to find happiness and respect for each other. Friends all want to experience joyful times Yankees and Red Sox fans both may have an appreciation for the game of baseball (although most scientists believe it may takes decades before they ever truly get along). Conversations focused on areas of mutual interests and goals should set the atmosphere for achieving better relations and arriving at peaceful solutions.

When conversations do not focus on mutual interests and goals, the discussions are more apt to be fail in reaching the mutual goals. If the conversations dwell on whose side is better than the other (i.e. observing the number of World Series won by the Yankees versus the Red Sox), an agreement on issues is less likely to result.

If a foreign negotiation leader is banging a shoe on the table and threatening to bury the other side, it is not likely that this will be followed by a treaty offer. If a couple tell each other negative attributes about each other and how they’d rather be with someone else, the relationships may be troubled.

The work of Muzafer Sharif, a Psychology Professor at Pennsylvania State University, demonstrated that these simple principles are designed to help achieve world peace. He conducted studies where he asked people in a dark room to look at a candlelight. He then asked people to state which direction the light moved. People would see the movement with their own eyes and they would oppose any mention that the light had moved in the opposite direction. How can one disagree with something that one had seen with one’s own eyes? Those who had seen the light move in another direction similarly insisted their position was the one correct viewpoint.

The different sides would discuss their beliefs in which direction the light moved. If discussions contained hurtful words or insults that one’s perception of reality had to be wrong, the harmed party would often take deep offense. This often solidified the position of those who believed their views were correct and made them feel as if the other side was both a denier of reality and harmful to their beliefs. This makes them angry. Their anger makes the other side angrier. If one side believes an attack is coming their way---either verbally in discussions or physically in wars or fights---a preemptive strike may be contemplated, verbally or physically. The disagreements can quickly escalate into wider differences.

The truth of the matter is the candlelight never moved, Having stated that I could declare myself all knowing and demand that all others accept me as their superior. That, though, is for a another discussion. Knowing that the candlelight does not move is not all I know. I also am aware that the human mind, when viewing something in a dark room with no perspective to judge the location of a light with another object often tends to have the mind register the incorrect perception that the candlelight moved. Yet different people will belief the candlelight moved in different directions.

If people are brought together in the same dark room and discussions are cordial, people will begin seeing the candlelight move in the same direction when others state they see such direction. If people argue about which direction the candlelight is moving, others will also have different perceptions of how the candlelight moves. This tends to enhance the disagreements. A movement towards mutual visualization of how the candlelight moves occurs when people verbally agree upon the movements.

Sharif saw this as a useful study not only of the mind’s psychology but also on the interactions of human behavior. He saw this as a means towards getting people to related better with each other. Sharif saw this as a means towards achieving world peace.

The Sharif studies are a useful analogy for world leaders. They often have their own perceptions and they may be intolerant of leaders whose perceptions differ from theirs. When they communicate and keep their discussions of matters upon which the parties involved agree, they can increase the amount of matters upon which they find mutual agreements. They hopefully will become friends rather than enemies, World peace can be achieved.