Letters to the Editor

Picower Money Tainted

Jeffry Picower is emerging as the #2 man in the Madoff scandal. The suit filed by a Madoff trustee against Picower says the huge phony gains and huge fraudulent tax loss statements delivered to Picower at his request were nothing more than payoffs for “perpetuating the Ponzi scheme.” Picower ended up with more cash from Madoff Ponzi in his pocket than anyone (blackmail?): $5.1 billion cash, not phony paper gains, but cash. The roughly 1 percent of that $5.1 billion that MIT accepted from Picower for the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory is clearly tainted.

The trustee’s filing (http://www.scribd.com/doc/15282761/Madoff-Trustees-Suit-Against-Picower) makes interesting reading, I suggest everyone at the Picower Institute read it, and then reconsider whether Picower’s portrait should hang in the lobby.

Don’t Risk It

Gary Shu tells us that because a neuroscience simulation in his childhood displayed cheesy graphics, we should bet civilization on our science of Earth’s climate being wrong.

The interested reader will go to the source, the eminently readable IPCC synthesis reports that combine hundreds of peer-reviewed studies and are themselves extensively reviewed, to see the actual state of this science and the weight of evidence on the sobering essentials: the earth is warming, our actions are the main cause, the consequences are grave, and mitigating changes are still possible.

In any case, Shu has the logic of risk backward. To the extent that we don’t know just what will happen as we drive carbon dioxide levels far outside the range our species has ever experienced, there is all the more reason to turn away from that course. One must hope that Congress this month, and the world in Copenhagen this December, will find the political will to do just that.

On Maheshwari’s “2022 AD: India and Pakistan”

I read Anurag Maheshwari’s opinion piece titled “2022 AD: India and Pakistan” with great interest. The historical account was well-written and unbiased. However, there were some speculative statements that I disagree with. First, I do not think Pakistan is as close to collapse as the author supposes. Pakistan has a substantial middle class, a strong military, and a political establishment that, for all its flaws, is committed to Pakistan’s continued existence as a single nation. The insurgencies are worrying, but not an existential threat.

Also, all major players understand the consequences of Pakistan’s disintegration — its collapse would cascade through Central Asia and the Middle East, and result in a redrawing of borders on a scale not witnessed since the Second World War. For precisely this reason, all major players in the region will work to ensure Pakistan’s survival, and those opposed to it (Al Qaeda, the Taliban) do not have nearly enough popular support or firepower to force such dramatic changes.

Second, even if Pakistan were to collapse, I doubt if there is any support for a “United States of India” among the people of the region. Having grown up in India, I can state confidently that the vast majority of Indians are content with the current borders of their nation (with the exception of Pakistan-held Kashmir) and would be reluctant to support such a scheme. To put it very plainly, Indians do not want an additional 300 million people, many of them raised for generations to be hostile towards India, in their country.