Marriage Promotion, No; Science, Yes; Mars, Soon.
Since a few days have passed, I can assume that the New York Times has passed on its option to print my letter, in response to the President's marriage promotion proposal:
"I was mildly irritated by the Bush administration's silly marriage promotion program until I read that $1.5 billion was considered a"relatively inexpensive" program that would nonetheless score big political points. In my line of work, higher education, that's real money. Let's put that in perspective. That's about $150,000 for every 4-year college and university in the United States: a couple more teaching faculty, or full tuition waivers for five to twenty-five students, or hundreds of high quality computers, hundreds or thousands of high quality books and journals and research databases. The long term benefits from that kind of investment would be immense: higher earnings means more taxes paid, better education means more dynamic economic growth, smarter citizens and consumers. Oh. Maybe that's why the money isn't going into education after all."
It turns out that the political points it's supposed to score aren't that big after all, since conservatives are still pushing for a constitutional amendment in"defense" of marriage. However, on reflection, I'd rather they take money and apply it to saving the Hubble Telescope, a technological tour-de-force, a scientific gold mine, and a prime example of the benefits available from space exploration: we can't possibly really understand this universe if we stay in this one little corner of it. I like Paul Davies' proposal for a one-way colonizing mission; He makes a good case that it would be less suicidal than just risky and life-shortening, like colonizing missions have always been. Fantasy and Science Fiction recently published a disturbingly plausible story -- Alex Irvine's"Pictures from an Exhibition," September 2003 -- about the entertainment value of such an endeavor, including the first fictional blog-space I've encountered.
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Ophelia Benson - 1/20/2004
I've been grinding my teeth over the writing off of the Hubble for days. How maddening.
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