The Power of Money

The New York Times , showing a photograph of a very happy new Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, points out the risks that accompany the power of disbursing a $54 billion stabilization fund that is “intended to prevent public sector layoffs, mostly in schools.”

Mr. Duncan has said: “I want all of us to work hard enough and smart enough to take full advantage of this, because it’ll never happen again.” Those are very nice words. I wonder, however, what he really means by “take full advantage.” He has the option to use the money to accomplish short-term goals or long-term sustainable goals, and the two often are not compatible. I hope he knows that the difference between these goals often parallels the difference between “me” and “us.” Pres. Obama seems to know the difference; I hope Mr. Duncan knows; I’m pretty sure most of the congress does not.

The Power of Communication


If power is the ability to influence people, then power must include the ability to communicate with people, one way or another — with force, with your words, with your body language, or your hysterics, or your suffering. The most harmless and yet precise of these methods of communicating is with words. However, we can’t communicate anything with a word so long as you think it means one thing and I think it means a different thing. Did you know that the word “uma” means “horse?”

If we want to influence people toward a common goal, we must define our terms.

Almost nobody does this; almost everybody assumes that everyone else uses the same words the same way; almost always they don’t, even when they are speaking the same language.

I say the real definition of science is: “the study of measurable facts using the scientific method.” If someone tells you their particular brand of hogwash is “scientifically proven,” you should ask them to show you the measurable facts and/or the scientific method involved in the “proof.” Or, more bluntly, ask them to precisely explain what they mean by “scientifically proven.” Because if the proof does not involve measurable facts and the scientific method — then by definition it is not scientific and they are talking about something different from what you are thinking about.

If they want to change the definition of science, well that’s discussable, and you would both be on the same wavelength, but it’s quite a different subject.