a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Gary Farber - A Good Copy Editing job, And A Big Favor To Me
A very important to me friend of mine -- not me -- with solid copy editing experience is looking for immediate freelance or permanent or temporary copy editing or proofreading work of any sort, either by mail/shipping, or locally in the Bay Area. CV upon request.
Benedict Carey (NYT) - Expert on Mental Illness Reveals Her Own Fight
She's also available at present for any sort of office work in the Bay Area. . .
(via Gary Farber
“So many people have begged me to come forward, and I just thought — well, I have to do this. I owe it to them. I cannot die a coward,” said Marsha M. Linehan, a psychologist at the University of Washington. . .
Arthur Silber - And For Their Next Number...
. . .“My whole experience of these episodes was that someone else was doing it; it was like ‘I know this is coming, I’m out of control, somebody help me; where are you, God?’ ” she said. “I felt totally empty, like the Tin Man; I had no way to communicate what was going on, no way to understand it.” . . .
. . .Radical Acceptance
She sensed the power of another principle while praying in a small chapel in Chicago.
It was 1967, several years after she left the institute as a desperate 20-year-old whom doctors gave little chance of surviving outside the hospital. Survive she did, barely: there was at least one suicide attempt in Tulsa, when she first arrived home; and another episode after she moved to a Y.M.C.A. in Chicago to start over.
She was hospitalized again and emerged confused, lonely and more committed than ever to her Catholic faith. She moved into another Y, found a job as a clerk in an insurance company, started taking night classes at Loyola University — and prayed, often, at a chapel in the Cenacle Retreat Center.
“One night I was kneeling in there, looking up at the cross, and the whole place became gold — and suddenly I felt something coming toward me,” she said. “It was this shimmering experience, and I just ran back to my room and said, ‘I love myself.’ It was the first time I remember talking to myself in the first person. I felt transformed.”
The high lasted about a year, before the feelings of devastation returned in the wake of a romance that ended. But something was different. She could now weather her emotional storms without cutting or harming herself.
What had changed?. . .
Here's a treat for you: the Ride of the Valkyries, arranged for eight pianos. The pianists are Evgeny Kissin, Lang Lang, Emanuel Ax, Leif Ove Andsnes, Claude Frank, Mikhail Pletnev, Staffan Scheja and James Levine, performing at the Verbier Festival & Academy 10th Anniversary Piano Extravaganza. I was hooked and had to watch it because of a comment made on my opera email list: "I have never before seen so many world-class musicians counting furiously to themselves. . .
Jeffrey Goldberg - Thomas S. Vander Woude
Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Haunting of Rick Perry
Paul Krugman - Discussion of Sterling's "Holy Fire" (1997)
. . .the opera list occasionally offers rare gems of commentary, as mentioned in the second of those pieces -- and here as well, in an article about John McGlinn.
The McGlinn article excerpts a wonderful post from Albert Innaurato to the opera list. I'd forgotten most of the details from that piece, but I think my concluding words there are the best way to conclude this entry:
The world may barely note John McGlinn's passing, and it may place far too little value on the extraordinary work he did and what he accomplished against tremendous odds.
We should not be so unmindful, or so uncaring. We should do our utmost to follow McGlinn's own advice, and to be among those people who are "willing to dream" of a better world, just as he did. And in his life and work, McGlinn made that better world real.
That should be, that must be, our aspiration and our dedication, too.
. . .We have come to take it for granted that in advanced nations almost everyone can at least afford the essentials of life. Ordinary people may not dine in three-star restaurants, but they have enough to eat; they may not wear Bruno Maglis, but they do not go barefoot; they may not live in Malibu, but they have a roof over their head. . .
Economist's View - Paul Krugman: Capitalism's Mysterious Triumph
. . .the collapse of Communism and the triumph of capitalism need more of an explanation than the stories we usually hear. It is not enough to explain all the reasons why a market economy is more efficient than a centrally planned one. Those explanations are basically right - but the question is why a system that functioned well enough to compete with capitalism in the 1940s and 50s fell apart in the 1980s. . .
. . .The market does not require people to believe in it; but the centrally planned economies that live inside a market economy, known as corporations, do. Everybody knows that financial incentives alone are not enough to make a company succeed; it must also build morale, a sense of mission, which makes people work at least somewhat for the good of the company rather than think only of what is good for them. Luckily, under capitalism an individual company can fail without taking the whole society down with it - or it can be reformed without a bloody revolution. . .
. . .In the end, then, capitalism triumphed because it is a system that is robust to cynicism . . .
Being robust to cynicism is an important virtue, but I think there is a still a limit to how much cynicism any system can take.
Paul Krugman - Is Capitalism Too Productive? (1996)
The rise of the current doctrine of global glut can be tied to three main developments. First, mass unemployment has reemerged in Western Europe, though not in the United States. . .
Noahpinion - The Architect of Modern Macroeconomics speaks!
. . .Most readers of Foreign Affairs surely know people who have annual incomes of $300,000 or more. Indeed, a fair number of readers probably meet that description themselves. In reality, how hard is it to find ways to spend that money? A really nice home, a second home or nice vacations, private colleges for the children, two good cars ... Yet even if median family income in the United States grows at 2 percent per year, it will take a century before that median family has an income equivalent to $300,000 in today's prices. . .
. . .t is hard to imagine what a much more productive world economy will look like. The important thing to recognize is that the deficiency is in our imaginations, not in the real economy, which will have no trouble at all using that capacity. . .
. . .Suppose that you had approached an economist in, say, 1840 - a time when most Americans were farmers, and textiles dominated the still-small manufacturing sector - and informed him that 150 years later some 2 percent of the labor force could grow all of the food, and less than 1 percent produce all the cloth. And suppose you had demanded that he explain what everyone else would do for a living. He could not have given a very good answer; but he could with justice have argued that on general principles the economy would find something useful for them to do. . .
. . .None of the preceding should be taken as a declaration that all is right with the world economy. There are severe real problems: inequality in the United States. . .unemployment in Europe. . .a Japanese economy struggling to overcome the consequences of a burst financial bubble, a number of newly industrializing countries facing potential crises due to financial excesses and lax banking regulation, and so on. On the whole, the condition of humanity - as measured by such raw, crude, but crucial indicators as life expectancy and child malnutrition - is far better now than it was 20 years ago, largely because of economic growth in the Third World; but there are many shadows in the picture. One problem capitalism does not suffer from, however, is being too productive for its own good.
Imagining problems that do not really exist has real costs. To speak to European advocates of the global glut theory is to be struck by their fatalism: they really seem to have given up on the idea of actually making the European economy grow. . .
. . .It is a bit funny, but also quite sad: Those who preach the doctrine of global glut are tilting at windmills, when there are some real monsters out there that need slaying.
. . .just because a statement is grumpy and conservative doesn't necessarily mean it bears even the slightest resemblance to actual observable reality. . .
Orange Crate Art - Richard Feynman on honors
Geek Heads -The Education System
Lindsay Beyerstein - The Twisted Logic of the John Edwards Prosecution
While reading "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" by Richard P. Feynman, I came across a chapter on his experiences in Brazil education system. While you read this, you would realize that this is the ditto situation we have in India. He has presented it very well.
. . .After a lot of investigation, I finally figured out that the students had memorized everything, but they didn’t know what anything meant. When they heard “light that is reflected from a medium with an index,” they didn’t know that it meant a material such as water. They didn’t know that the “direction of the light” is the direction in which you see something when you’re looking at it, and so on. Everything was entirely memorized, yet nothing had been translated into meaningful words. So if I asked, “What is Brewster’s Angle?” I’m going into the computer with the right keywords. But if I say, “Look at the water,” nothing happens – they don’t have anything under “Look at the water”! . . .
. . .I taught a course at the engineering school on mathematical methods in physics, in which I tried to show how to solve problems by trial and error. It’s something that people don’t usually learn, so I began with some simple examples of arithmetic to illustrate the method. I was surprised that only about eight out of the eighty or so students turned in the first assignment. So I gave a strong lecture about having to actually try it, not just sit back and watch me do it.
After the lecture some students came up to me in a little delegation, and told me that I didn’t understand the backgrounds that they have, that they can study without doing the problems, that they have already learned arithmetic, and that this stuff was beneath them.
So I kept going with the class, and no matter how complicated or obviously advanced the work was becoming, they were never handing a damn thing in. Of course I realized what it was: They couldn’t do it!
One other thing I could never get them to do was to ask questions. Finally, a student explained it to me: “If I ask you a question during the lecture, afterwards everybody will be telling me, ‘What are you wasting our time for in the class? We’re trying to learn something. And you’re stopping him by asking a question’.” It was a kind of one-upmanship, where nobody knows what’s going on, and they’d put the other one down as if they did know. They all fake that they know, and if one student admits for a moment that something is confusing by asking a question, the others take a high-handed attitude, acting as if it’s not confusing at all, telling him that he’s wasting their time.
I explained how useful it was to work together, to discuss the questions, to talk it over, but they wouldn’t do that either, because they would be losing face if they had to ask someone else. It was pitiful! All the work they did, intelligent people, but they got themselves into this funny state of mind, this strange kind of self-propagating “education” which is meaningless, utterly meaningless!. . .
. . .He is not accused of spending campaign funds on her. Nor is he accused of accepting any money himself. According to the government, Edwards broke campaign finance laws because the payments to his mistress were really excess campaign contributions that were not reported to the FEC. If these payments were not campaign contributions, the government’s case falls apart. The government’s definition of campaign contributions is ridiculously broad, much broader than the FEC’s own definition. . .
Princess Bride - Mawwiage (1987)
. . .This decision to define campaign expenses relatively narrowly makes sense, given the FEC’s desire to prevent candidates from converting campaign funds for private use. . .
. . .If any spending intended to enhance or preserve a candidate’s image counted as campaign spending, virtually any personal expense could be construed as a campaign expense, and campaign coffers would degenerate into slush funds.
. . .The bizarre implication is that candidates cannot support their own families while they run for office. Either they’re breaking the law by spending out-of-pocket and not allowing the campaign to reimburse them, or they’re breaking the law by converting campaign funds for personal use. . .
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Arthur Silber - A Post I'm Crazy About: "Real, Full Members of the Human Race"
This one, from Violet Socks.
Susie Madrak - Fund Drive
Just like with public television and radio, you need to put your money where your interest is. If you can afford to help, please do so! If you can’t, don’t worry about it. . .
Andrew Sullivan - The Verdict On Romneycare? Ctd
. . .I’m in the ER of the Hennepin County medical center. . . and I just had to pay them $240. If you can spare a contribution, I would really appreciate it. . .
pragmatic realist: "Tell me that you didn’t come out on the losing end of a blogger fight."
Susie: "Nah, I’m okay now."
Despite [drawbacks], it's important to note that most Massachusetts residents wouldn't want to go back. . .
Brad Delong - Macroeconomics: Safety, Savings, and Sovereigns
. . .Why the lack of complaint? Let me give you one reason. In October 2008 my daughter, then 10, was hit by a bone infection in her hip. Despite surgery and a lengthy round of antibiotics her hip was damaged to the point where a total hip replacement became necessary. Her hip replacement will wear out in 25-30 years even if nothing goes wrong. If she lives a normal lifespan, that is, she will have to replace it twice - two very expensive operations. Under the status quo, she would not be able to get insurance for these procedures - she has a huge preexisting condition, right?
But we live in Massachusetts. Indeed, throughout my daughter's ordeal we were repeatedly told by physicians, nurses and friends that our daughter would, as a practical matter, have to live in Massachusetts for the rest of her life, because if she moved elsewhere in the country as an adult and her hip went out she would face potentially crippling costs. "But at least she can live here," they said. "It's not like the rest of the country, where you're simply fucked."
Stories like this are why people like Romneycare, even if they complain about it. As Obamacare becomes law and situations like this become known, it is difficult for me to imagine a groundswell for throwing children like my daughter into the fire.
. . .we have three options:
1) Tough it out, in the belief that austere virtue will in some way be good for us.
2) While most organizations cannot expand and produce at a profit, some can--notably the governments of France, Germany, Britain, the U.S., and Japan. Since they can borrow money extraordinarily cheaply and make things, they should do so--and thus restore full employment of factors of production.
3) The price of safety right now is at outlandish levels because financial markets do a lousy job of mobilizing the global risk-bearing capacity of the world. Central banks and the governments that back them can, however, mobilize that risk-bearing capacity. They should buy up risky assets, distribute the risks across the globe's taxpayers, and issue safe assets until supply and demand have once again pushed the price of safety down to a level at which ordinary companies can make a profit when they jointly produce commodities on the one hand and the quality of savings vehicles that they can issue on the other. This last is quantitative easing--what Raghu calls "easy money", and says the economy does not need. . .
I think there is one other option, which has dangers, but has the possible (questionable) virtue of not printing money or increasing public sector debt: What Ricardo Caballero calls "Trimming tail risk"
, i.e. having the government become the insurer or reinsurer of last resort for the first 20-40% of the principal of certain classes of risky, private-sector assets. This may be equivalent to quantitative easing, but I'm not sure that it is.
To clarify the point: Why are investors so overwhelmingly flocking to sovereign debt? Because sovereign debt does not have the same risk of complete principal wipe-out that risky private debt has. You may lose 5 or 10% of the principal, but you won't lose 100%. By the government being a reinsurer of last resort, guaranteeing the first 20-40% of the principal for certain classes of risky, private sector assets, government could make investors more willing to hold risky private assets, and therefore induce more private investment.
One idea for the U.S. Post Office to make some additional money: rent to other organizations the right to put fliers, DVDs, etc, in PO Boxes, instead of having to hang them on doorknobs, stick them under the door, or other second-best solutions.
Atul Gawande - A Townie Speaks
(via Ezra Klein
Nicholas Kristof - Military Health Care & Education
Dana Goldstein - Should All Kids Go to College?
C.S. Lewis - A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942)
VIII. Defence Of This Style
Jethro Tull - Cup of Wonder (1977)
By a Stock Response Dr. I.A. Richards means a deliberately organized attitude which is substituted for the `direct free play of experience.'. . .
. . .All that we describe as constancy in love or friendship, as loyalty in political life, or, in general, as perseverance - all solid virtue and stable pleasure - depends on organizing chosen attitudes and maintaining them against the eternal flux (or `direct free play') of mere immediate experience. This Dr. Richards would not perhaps deny. But his school puts the emphasis the other way. They talk as if improvement of our responses were always required in the direction of finer discrimination and greater particularity; never as if men needed responses more normal and more traditional than they now have. To me, on the other hand, it seems that most people's responses are not `stock' enough, and that the play of experience is too free and too direct in most of us for safety or happiness or human dignity. . .
. . .Normal sexuality, far from being a datum, is achieved by a long and delicate process of suggestion and adjustment, which proves too difficult for some individuals and, at times, for whole societies. The Stock response to Pride, which Milton reckoned on when he delineated his Satan, has been decaying ever since the Romantic Movement began - that is one of the reasons why I am composing these lectures. The Stock response to treachery has become uncertain; only the other day I heard a respectable working man defend Lord Haw-Haw by remarking coolly (and with no hint of anger or of irony), `You've got to remember that's how he earns his pay.' The Stock response to death has become uncertain. I have heard a man say that the only `amusing' thing that happened while he was in hospital was the death of a patient in the same ward. . .Even the Stock response to pleasure cannot be depended on; I have heard a man (and a young man, too) condemn Donne's more erotic poetry because `sex', as he called it, always `made him think of lysol and rubber goods'. . .
. . .poetry was formerly one of the chief means whereby each new generation learned, not to copy, but by copying to make*, the good Stock responses. . .(* -"We learn how to do things by doing the things we are learning how to do,' as Aristotle observes (Ethics, II, i)).
. . .Discipline, while the world is yet unfallen, exists for the sake of what seems its very opposite - for freedom, almost for extravagance. . .The heavenly frolic arises from an orchestra which is in tune; the rules of courtesy make perfect ease and freedom possible between those who obey them. . .The whole man is kindled by his vision of the `shape of virtue'. Unless we bear this in mind we shall not understand either Comus or Paradise Lost, either the Faerie Queene or the Arcadia, or the Divine Comedy itself. We shall be in constant danger of supposing that the poet was inculcating a rule when in fact he was enamoured of a perfection.
XII. The Theology of Paradise Lost
. . .The best of Milton is in his epic: why should we labour to drag back into that noble building all the rubble which the laws of its structure, the limitations of its purpose, and the perhaps half-conscious prudence of the author, have so happily excluded from it? Must Noah always figure in our minds drunk and naked, never building the Ark? . . .
. . .The blindness here displayed reminds one of Napoleon's utterances after his fall, `I wonder what Wellington will do now? - he will never be content to become a private citizen again.' Just as Napoleon was incapable of conceiving, I do not say the virtues, but even the temptations, of an ordinarily honest man in a tolerably stable commonwealth, so Satan in this speech shows complete inability to conceive any state of mind but the infernal. . .
. . .It remains, of course, true that Satan is the best drawn of Milton's characters. The reason is not hard to find. Of the major characters whom Milton attempted he is incomparably the easiest to draw. Set a hundred poets to tell the same story and in ninety of the resulting poems Satan will be the best character. In all but a few writers the `good' characters are the least successful, and every one who has ever tried to make the humblest story ought to know why. . .It is in their `good' characters that novelists make, unawares, the most shocking self-revelations. Heaven understands Hell and Hell does not understand Heaven, and all of us, in our measure, share the Satanic, or at least the Napoleonic, blindness. . .
. . .Yet even the `good' characters Paradise Lost are not so unsuccessful that a man who takes the poem seriously will doubt whether, in real life, Adam or Satan would be the better company. Observe their conversation. Adam talks about God, the Forbidden Tree, sleep, the difference between beast and man, his plans for the morrow, the stars, and the angels. He discusses dreams and clouds, the sun, the moon, and the planets, the winds, and the birds. He relates his own creation and celebrates the beauty and majesty of Eve. Now listen to Satan: in Book I at line 83 he starts to address Beelzebub; by line 94 he is stating his own position and telling Beelzebub about his `fixt mind' and `injured merit'. At line 241 he starts off again, this time to give his impressions of Hell: by line 252 he is stating his own position and assuring us (untruly) that he is `still the same.' At line 622 he begins to harangue his followers; by line 635 he is drawing attention to the excellence of his public conduct. Book II opens with his speech from the throne; before we have had eight lines he is lecturing the assembly on his right to leadership. He meets Sin - and states his position. He sees the Sun; it makes him think of his own position. He spies on the human lovers; and states his position. In Book IX he journeys round the whole earth; it reminds him of his own position. The point need not be laboured. Adam, though locally confined to a small park on a small planet, has interests that embrace `all the choir of heaven and all the furniture of earth.' Satan has been in the Heaven of Heavens and in the abyss of Hell, and surveyed all that lies between them, and in that whole immensity has found only one thing that interests Satan. It may be said that Adam's situation made it easier for him, than for Satan, to let his mind roam. But that is just the point. Satan's monomaniac concern with himself and his supposed rights and wrongs is a necessity of the Satanic predicament. Certainly, he has no choice. He has chosen to have no choice. He has wished to `be himself', and to be in himself and for himself, and his wish has been granted. The Hell he carries with him is, in one sense, a Hell of infinite boredom. Satan, like Miss Bates, is interesting to read about; but Milton makes plain the blank uninterestingness of being Satan.
. . .Yet the choice is possible. Hardly a day passes without some slight movement towards it in each one of us. That is what makes Paradise Lost so serious a poem. The thing is possible, and the exposure of it is resented. . .We have all skirted the Satanic island closely enough to have motives for wishing to evade the full impact of the poem. . .
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Arthur Silber - Wonderful Cats, and Awful, Awful Men
First, a report on what's up with me. I almost called this a "progress" report, but, eh. You be the judge.
Reihan Salam - Garett Jones and Lane Kenworthy on Taxes, Scandinavian Exceptionalism, and Much Else
I continue to be in pretty terrible shape. Since I can't access the traditional medical care my crappy heart and related problems require, I've begun exploring some "alternative" remedies, or what purport to be remedies. One of them is helping a little bit! I feel somewhat better, but, you say (as I might have said, too, especially in bygone days), that's all in my head. To which I suppose one might reply, with some justification: So what? If you feel better, you feel better. This is a problem? But more than that: a few of the symptoms I've had for years have almost gone away entirely. I'm talking about quantifiable shit, here. Hey, that looks like progress!
I still don't feel "good" precisely. But better than I did a month ago. So, "good," with an explanatory footnote.
The cats. With a multitude of thanks still another time for the extraordinary generosity of readers, the cats and I have shelled out close to $500 to our friendly vet. Something is still going on with Wendy, but she, too, seems to be getting better. . .
. . .But we'll almost certainly need to go back to the vet at least once more (for a followup at a minimum), and maybe more than that. So, with profuse apologies for using Wendy as a begging cup, if you have any spare change jangling noisily in your pocket, we could use it! I have very little money left for vet bills. . .
. . .I understand all the objections that might be made to my making a home for Sasha with Cyrano, Wendy and me. Given my health, it might seem terribly irresponsible. (And I myself have made the argument that it's very irresponsible for me even to keep Cyrano and Wendy given my own problems.) But since I'm feeling a bit better, I'm beginning to believe that I just might not die in the near future. And as I noted, Sasha can easily go back to the neighbor if circumstances change. But I think that Sasha joining our little group will be a lovely vote of confidence in the months, and hopefully years (a few of them, at least), to come. . .
. . .Does that mean you should despair and give up? It means that only if you think of what is most important in life -- in your particular life, that is -- as involving politics in a significant way. Why would you do that? See "Passing on the Sense of Wonder" and "Cultivate Your Sense of Wonder -- and Live Ecstatically" for more on this.
I'll explain more of what's been on my mind next time.
C.S. Lewis - The Problem of Pain (1940)
Anders Chan-Tidemann: ". . . I think one reason why Danes and Swedes are fairly productive, despite high taxes, is simply because they don't have to live in fear of having no health care, and in the know that their children can get a great education whether they are rich or poor. That somehow frees the mind a bit I would say. I bet it would work for Americans as well. . .not all social programs increase productivity, and Scandinavia have certainly not always had the right balance (sometimes erring on the side of too much Government control), and there are many things Scandinavia could learn from the US - not least when it comes to immigration. But those 2 great pillars - health care & education - really does seem to be 2 social programs that nearly every Western democracy seems to agree is necessary in a modern society. And that is not just true in the West - or in democracies. Look at Singapore. It's not a democracy, it's not Western, but they also have universal health care. . ."
. . .the only purpose of the book is to solve the intellectual problem raised by suffering; for the far higher task of teaching fortitude and patience I was never fool enough to suppose myself qualified, nor have I anything to offer my readers except my conviction that when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all. . .
. . .God may be more than moral goodness: He is not less. . .
. . .If the world is indeed a "vale of soul making" it seems on the whole to be doing its work. . .
An analogy which seems to me true, between "God" and "moral goodness" in the Lewis quote, and "entrepreneurship/innovation" and "line responsibility". i.e. "Entrepreneurship and innovation may involve more than line responsibility. They do not involve less."
Or putting it another way, I think "What am I able and willing to take line responsibility for?" is often a better question to ask yourself than "How can I be an entrepreneurial change-agent of innovation?".
Or putting it yet another way, based on this Lewis quote
"In the author's mind there bubbles up every now and then the material for a story. For me it invariably begins with mental pictures. This ferment leads to nothing unless it is accompanied with the longing for a Form: verse or prose, short story, novel, play or what not. When these two things click you have have the author's impulse complete. It is now a thing inside him pawing to get out. He longs to see that bubbling stuff pouring into that Form as the housewife longs to see the new jam pouring into the clean jam jar. This nags him all day long and gets in the way of his work and his sleep and his meals. It's like being in love."
The bubbling ferment of desires to do something can peter out unless the desires find the Form of a line responsibility.
C.S. Lewis - A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942)
Dedication To Charles Williams
To Williams. . .
. . .it is a reasonable hope that of those who heard you in Oxford many will understand henceforward that when the old poets made some virtue their theme they were not teaching but adoring, and that what we take for the didactic is often the enchanted. . .
I. Epic Poetry
. . .Every poem can be considered in two ways - as what the poet has to say, and as a thing which he makes. . .
. . .It is easy to forget that the man who writes a good love sonnet needs not only to be enamoured of a woman, but also to be enamoured of the Sonnet. . .
. . .The matter inside the poem wants the Form: in submitting to the Form it becomes really original, really the origin of great work. The attempt to be oneself often brings out only the more conscious and superficial parts of a man's mind; working to produce a given theme as justly, delightfully, and lucidly as possible, he is more likely to bring out all that was really in him, and much of what he himself had no suspicion. . .
II. Is Criticism Possible?
. . .As regards a skill, such as medicine or engineering, we must distinguish. Only the skilled can judge the skillfulness, but that is not the same as judging the value of the result. It is for cooks to say whether a given dish proves skill in the cook; but whether the product on which this skill has been lavished is worth eating or no is a question on which a cook's opinion is of no particular value. . .
III. Primary Epic
. . .in an age where when every one puts on his oldest clothes to be happy in, you must re-awake the simpler state of mind in which people put on gold and scarlet to be happy in. Above all, you must be rid of the hideous idea. . .that pomp, on the proper occasions, has`any connexion with vanity or self-conceit. . .The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender's inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for every one else the proper pleasure of ritual. . .
V. The Subject of Primary Epic
. . .[in Homer] No one event is really very much more important than another. No achievement can be permanent: today we kill and feast, tomorrow we are killed. . .We are in a different world here from Virgil's mens immota manet. There the suffering has a meaning, and is the price of a high resolve. Here there is just the suffering. . .Only the style - the unwearying, unmoved, angelic, speech of Homer - makes it endurable. Without that the Iliad would be a poem beside which the grimmest modern realism is child's play. . .
VI. Virgil and the Subject of Secondary Epic
. . .In Homer. . .You were unhappy, or you were happy, and that was all. Aeneas lives in a different world; he is compelled to see something more important than happiness. . .To follow the vocation does not mean happiness; but once it has been heard, there is no happiness for those who do not follow. . .
VIII. Defence of this Style
. . .I do not think (and no great civilization has ever thought) that the art of the rhetorician is necessarily vile. It is in itself noble, though of course, like most arts, it can be wickedly used. . .It is honestly practiced when the orator honestly believes that the thing which he calls the passions to support is reason, and usefully practised when this belief of his is in fact correct. It is mischievously practised when that which he summons the passions to aid is, in fact, unreason, and dishonestly practised when he himself knows that it is unreason. The proper use is lawful and necessary because, as Aristotle points out, intellect of itself 'moves nothing': the transition from thinking to doing, in nearly all men at nearly all moments, needs to be assisted by appropriate states of feeling. Because the end of rhetoric is in the world of action, the objects it deals with appear fore-shortened and much of their reality is omitted. Thus the ambitions of Philip are shown only in so far as they are wicked and dangerous, because indignation and moderate fear are emotional channels through which men pass from thinking to doing. . .
. . .By a Stock Response Dr. I.A. Richards means a deliberately organized attitude which is substituted for the `direct free play of experience.' In my opinion such deliberate organization is one of the first necessities of human life. . .A number of causes may be assigned for the opposite belief. . .3) A confusion (arising from the fact that both are voluntary) between the organization of a response and the pretence of a response. Von Hugel says somewhere, `I kiss my son not only because I love him, but in order that I may love him.' That is organization, and good. But you may also kiss children in order to make it appear that you love them. That is pretence, and bad. The distinction must not be overlooked. Sensitive critics are so tired of seeing good Stock responses aped by bad writers that when at last they meet the reality they mistake it for one more instance of posturing. They are rather like a man I knew who had seen so many bad pictures of moonlight on water that he criticized a real weir under a real moon as `conventional'. . .
Saturday, June 04, 2011
Remarks by the President at a Memorial Service in Joplin, Missouri
. . .There was a young man named Christopher Lucas who was 26 years old. Father of two daughters; third daughter on the way. Just like any other night, Christopher was doing his job as manager on duty at Pizza Hut. And then he heard the storm coming.
Andrew J. Bacevich - How America Screws Its Soldiers
It was then when this former sailor quickly ushered everybody into the walk-in freezer. The only problem was, the freezer door wouldn’t stay closed from the inside. So as the tornado bore down on this small storefront on Range Line Road, Christopher left the freezer to find a rope or a cord or anything to hold the door shut. He made it back just in time, tying a piece of bungee cord to the handle outside, wrapping the other end around his arm, holding the door closed with all his might.
And Christopher held it as long as he could, until he was pulled away by the incredible force of the storm. He died saving more than a dozen people in that freezer. (Applause.)
You see, there are heroes all around us, all the time. . .
. . .The relationship between American people and their military—we love you; do whatever you want—seems to work for everyone. Everyone, that is, except soldiers themselves. They face the prospect of war without foreseeable end.
Josh Marshall - Memorial Day
Americans once believed war to be a great evil. Whenever possible, war was to be avoided. When circumstances made war unavoidable, Americans wanted peace swiftly restored.
Present-day Americans, few of them directly affected by events in Iraq or Afghanistan, find war tolerable. They accept it. Since 9/11, war has become normalcy. Peace has become an entirely theoretical construct. A report of G.I.s getting shot at, maimed, or killed is no longer something the average American gets exercised about. . .we the people allow our leaders to evade this basic responsibility to articulate a plan for peace . . .
: "Really, the hard part is actually setting your mind to it. Actually accomplishing it usually is kind of secondary. I mean when you really think about it, it's just deciding you're going to spend your energy going in that direction. After that, it's not really that big of a deal."
Andrew Sullivan - The Evil In Damascus
Nicholas D. Kristof - She’s 10 and May Be Sold to a Brothel
. . .Now at age 10, M. is running out of time. Her parents have pulled her out of her school in Kolkata and are sending her back to their native village hundreds of miles to the west. . .
Paul Krugman - Against Learned Helplessness
Jared Bernstein - Interesting “Coulds” Coming In
Brad Delong - The Marx-Mellon-Schumpeter-Hoover-Hayek Axis Is Back!
. . .This leaves Basu and me with an extremely bad feeling, fearing that once she is back in the village and away from her protectors at the New Light shelter, her grandfather could sell her to a trafficker for transfer to a red-light district anywhere in India.
When we ask M. what she thinks, she looks down and says in a small voice that she worries as well. But she says she will never give up: “I will not stop my studies,” she told me firmly. . .
. . .I don’t know how this will end up. Ferrera said she will be writing letters to M. in hopes that this may make her family nervous about a sale. And Basu is counseling M. on what to do if she is sold to a trafficker. We just don’t know what else to do. . .
. . .Modeling 140 million workers, 10 million firms, and 20 million commodities is really complex--that's why we don't do it, and don't have a big computer centrally-planning our economy. That is why we use the market system.
Deirdre McCloskey - Economical Writing (1999)
But when it comes to business-cycles--to recessions and depressions and downturns--we don't need to model 140 million workers, 10 million firms, and 20 million commodities: we only need to model two: (OK, four): currently-produced goods and services on the one hand, and (perhaps three types of) financial assets on the other. . .
Good style is what good writers do. . .In matters of taste - and everything from the standard of proof in number theory to the standard of usage in split infinitives is a matter of taste - the only standard is the practice of recognizably excellent practitioners. . .The test of rules is excellent practice, and the test of practice is the sovereign reader. . .Now start writing. Here I must become less helpful, not because I have been instructed to hold back the secrets of the guild but because creativity is ineluctably scarce. Where exactly the next sentence comes from is not obvious. If it were obvious then novels and economics papers could be written by machine. If you cannot think of anything to say then perhaps your mind is poorly stocked with ideas, or perhaps you have been reading too much machine-made prose. The solution is straightforward: spend a lifetime reading the best our civilization has to offer, starting tonight with elementary Greek. . .Like any sort of thinking, writing sometimes flares and sometimes fizzles, like a fire. When on a burn, though, do not break off. . .Be selfish for a while about the little candle of creation you are tending, however poor it may seem beside the conflagrations of the giants. . .
Rich Karlgaard - interview of Vint Cerf
. . .Did the owners of proprietary networks see you as a friend or foe? "Oh, they hated us. I heard from a reliable authority that Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment Corp., once asked in a meeting: 'How do we kill TCP/IP?'". . .
I do think it's possible that if the Internet had taken off during a GOP administration, it would have wound up being owned and controlled to a much greater extent by the people who owned the pipes. And many people would have defended this as a just and appropriate outcome.
An analogy to clarify to myself why I found the Kanazawa post so annoying: Suppose someone had written an article, "I think Americans are warmongering imperialists". No one would care. Further suppose a piece "Lots of people consider Americans warmongering imperialists". Still, no one would care. Then consider a piece "Americans objectively proven to be warmongering imperialists. Scientifically!" I think a lot of people would be annoyed, and rightly so. i.e. It's using the word "objective" in a place it had no business being.
Charles Williams - The figure of Beatrice: a study in Dante (1943)
. . .Love besides proper direction needs proper speed . . .To avoid harm is not, in itself sufficient. . .Those err who think that all love is in itself worthy of praise, even though the object itself is good. The grand image of Beatrice does not by itself justify the kind of love offered her; the lover himself must see to that. This is his choice; it is `the faculty which holds the threshold of assent'. . .
. . .But if Sloth overtakes Love, Beatrice is lost in the Siren, the romantic Image in the pseudo-romantic mirage. She comes in mid-purgatory (but naturally only in a dream) as Geryon came in mid-hell. She has been called the image of Sensual Pleasure, but this (it would seem) need not be the whole significance. She is as much - let us say - Ideal Gratification; all the sighs that lament the imperfection of a man's actual mistress, the verses that sweetly moan over her failure to live up to his dreams (or the other way round), the self-condolences, the `disillusions' - all these are the Siren's song. She takes flesh and colour and music within the night-reveries of laziness; she is, then - what? what we want; and that is? we do not rightly know, but certainly a Siren and a song. . .
. . .Of the three sins that which remains the nearest in kind and in enjoyment to Sloth and the Siren is Avarice; it is most content with an inner satisfaction of dream. The two others, Intemperance and Lechery - and here we are following hell in reverse - need increasing attention to something objectively other. . .From the Siren to Beatrice the appearance of the real other becomes more defined. The Siren is wholly within; Avarice almost wholly - gold is inorganic; Gluttony and Drunkenness less - food and wine are, or were, organic; Lechery still less - a real externalness and a real distinction are necessary there; and then Beatrice is absolutely without. So that part of the purification is the real recovery of the exterior image. . .