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unrepentant progress

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Name: Wouldn\'t you love to know?
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Home country: USA
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Member since: Sun Mar 24, 2013, 02:10 PM
Number of posts: 611

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True, Keynes cared little about the long run. But that wasn’t because he was gay.


Keynes’s focus on the short run was grounded in the philosophical principle of “insufficient reason.” If individuals have no sufficient reason to believe that a good situation today will have adverse long-term consequences, it must always be rational for them to aim to maximize their short-term good. In an essay on the conservative philosopher Edmund Burke, Keynes translated this moral principle of individual behavior into the political principle of prudence:

“Burke ever held, and held rightly, that it can seldom be right . . . to sacrifice a present benefit for a doubtful advantage in the future. . . . It is therefore the happiness of our own contemporaries that is our main concern; we should be very chary of sacrificing large numbers of people for the sake of a contingent end, however advantageous that may appear. . . . We can never know enough to make the chance worth taking. . . . There is this further consideration . . . it is not sufficient that the state of affairs which we seek to promote should be better than the state of affairs which preceded it; it must be sufficiently better to make up for the evils of the transition.”

This is the bedrock of Keynesian economics. So Ferguson was quite right to say that Keynes discounted the future — but it was not because of homosexuality, it was because of uncertainty. Keynes would have rejected the claim of today’s austerity champions that short-term pain, in the form of budget cuts, is the price we need to pay for long-term economic growth. The pain is real, he would say, while the benefit is conjecture.

The principle of not sacrificing the present for the future can be seen in Keynes’s intolerance of persistent mass unemployment — sacrificing the current generation of workers to secure long-term improvements in the labor market. It emerges in his rejection of “debt bondage” — the imposition of crushing long-term obligations on borrowers, undermining their prosperity. “The absolutists of contract,” he wrote, “are the real parents of revolution.”
Posted by unrepentant progress | Fri May 17, 2013, 11:58 AM (3 replies)

Hard Hats, Hippies, and the Real Antiwar Movement

This looks like a fantastic book. It was highly recommended by Corey Robin, author of The Reactionary Mind.

The story we tell ourselves about social division over the war in Vietnam follows a particular, class-specific outline: The war "split the country" between "doves" and "hawks." The "doves," most often conflated with "the movement," were upper-middle-class in their composition and politics. The movement was the New Left, and a big part of what made the New Left "new" was its break from the working-class politics and roots of the Old Left. Think of Dr. Benjamin Spock, Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, Students for a Democratic Society, Weathermen: students, intellectuals, professionals, celebrities; liberal or radical privileged elites.


Most accounts of the working class depict them as largely supportive of the war and hostile to the numerous movements for social change. We need look no further than the most enduring image of the working class from that period, a certain cranky worker from Queens, N.Y. The TV character Archie Bunker, who brought the working class to prime time as white, bigoted, sexist, homophobic, and yearning for the good old days before the welfare state, when everybody pulled his weight, when girls were girls and men were men.


Working-class opposition to the war in Vietnam was far more widespread than is remembered.

But this memory of the Vietnam era contains only half-truths, and overall it is a falsehood. The notion that liberal elites dominated the antiwar movement has served to obfuscate a more complex story. Working-class opposition to the war was significantly more widespread than is remembered, and parts of the movement found roots in working-class communities and politics.

In fact, by and large, the greatest support for the war came from the privileged elite, despite the visible dissension of a minority of its leaders and youth. The country was divided over the war, alongside many other pressing social issues—but the class dynamics of those divisions were complex, contradictory, and indeterminate.

Many books briefly discuss the discrepancy between our historical impression of class-based sentiment and its reality. Yet no account systematically explains why such a misperception exists, its extent, or its impact.


If the Chronicle link above doesn't work for you, Robin has excerpted a good chunk of the article at his site: http://coreyrobin.com/2013/05/16/everything-you-know-about-the-movement-against-the-vietnam-war-is-wrong
Posted by unrepentant progress | Thu May 16, 2013, 09:17 PM (3 replies)

What’s a Library?: Written by a [rich] man who's never been to a library and Googles everything

Michael Rosenblum, one of the founders of Current TV (tell me again how these people are liberals!), recently wrote an opinion piece for HuffPo where he argues that libraries are useless. Here's a smart post by an actual librarian which shows just how deep his bullshit is.

There are several things you can count on in this world: Every now and then, the New York Times will write a 10 years too late article about hipsters and Brooklyn; someone will start an essay about graphic novels with the phrase “Comics! They’re not just for kids anymore!”; and a rich white dude will pen a wishy washy article about the how libraries are dead. Seriously, the library has died so many times, I’d like a preferred customer punch card for attending its countless fake funerals. And yet, despite the library being all dead and stuff, I still go to work every morning, seeing patrons queueing up for computers and storytimes and ESOL classes and the next bestseller. According to the Center for an Urban Future, libraries “are become an increasingly critical part of the city’s human capital system,” “are more essential than ever”, and are “far from being obsolete.”

But, enough about facts and realities. The article in question, written by Michael Rosenblum, is an anecdotal testament to how he’s never been to the library that was near his house (“I never went inside. I never sat in its reading room. I never checked out a book. I never explored its stacks to go through old volumes of bound periodicals in some research project.”). He’s never used it, so he doesn’t understand the need for it (I don’t have a pacemaker, but that doesn’t stop me from realizing that some people need them). Rosenblum adores Google and Dictionary.com for all his information needs. I mean, they’re free, right? Says Rosenblum, “the web is…free (at least so far), and instant and much much easier to reference and find stuff than in the stacks (though less romantic, in a literary sense).”

Let’s talk about internet access (or the “web” as he calls it) being free. I’m on my computer right now. This computer set me back about 1000 bucks and on top of that, I pay for a wireless connection. 1000 plus dollars doesn’t quite ring as free to me, but this is an article written by a man who lives on top of the MoMA, so our idea of “free” might be vastly different. Now, on the other hand, if I wanted to bust this blog post out at the library, all I’d need is a library card. Which is free. I’d sign up for a computer (I could even access a nice Mac or a laptop at certain locations), which is free. WiFi? Also free. In the comments on his blog, Rosenblum laments that libraries are ”now a place where the poor can get online.”

First, I resent the insinuation that an institution that only serves the poor is somehow without value. Second, many people who don’t qualify as “poor” cannot afford the hundreds of dollars needed to buy a computer and maintain WiFi access. The library is for the poor, absolutely, but not just for the poor.

More: http://magpielibrarian.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/whats-a-library-written-by-a-man-rich-enough-to-live-on-w-53rd-st-whos-never-been-to-the-library-and-googles-everything/
Posted by unrepentant progress | Wed May 15, 2013, 06:00 PM (10 replies)

Home Ownership May Actually Cause Unemployment

When the Peterson Institute releases a study saying that home ownership is bad because it causes people to stay where they are (i.e. as stable members of their communities), I begin to think maybe home ownership really is a good idea.

At the simplest level, the authors of the study, released by the Peterson Institute of International Economics, point to the fact that the five states with the largest increase in homeownership from 1950 to 2010 — Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and West Virginia — had a 2010 unemployment rate that was 6.3 percentage points higher than in 1950. The unemployment rates in the five states where homeownership went up the least — California, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin — rose 3.5 percentage points during the period.

Such statistics are not persuasive by themselves, and the professors know it. Many factors obviously influence unemployment rates in any given state. North Dakota’s current boom stems from energy deposits, which would have been there no matter who owned the land.

But they say that the statistics show those patterns no matter how much they control for other variables and that the same picture emerges if they look at employment growth rather than unemployment rates. They say that the pattern existed before the crash of the housing market that began in 2007 and that the statistics are not dependent on including the more recent period.


If the correlation is real, what could be the cause? The professors say they believe that high homeownership in an area leads to people staying put and commuting farther and farther to jobs, creating cost and congestion for companies and other workers. They speculate that the role of zoning may be important, as communities dominated by homeowners resort to “not in my backyard” efforts that block new businesses that could create jobs. Perhaps the energy sector would be less freewheeling in North Dakota if there were more homeowners.

Posted by unrepentant progress | Sat May 11, 2013, 06:42 PM (28 replies)

History Detected

This sounds like a fantastic program that helps teachers to train kids to think critically and more actively engage with materials.

"Colglazier builds his thought-provoking classes using an online tool called Reading Like a Historian. Designed by the Stanford History Education Group under Professor Sam Wineburg, the website offers 87 flexible lesson plans featuring documents from the Library of Congress. Teachers can download the lessons and adapt them for their own purposes, free of charge. Students learn how to examine documents critically, just as historians would, in order to answer intriguing questions: Did Pocahontas really rescue John Smith? Was Abraham Lincoln a racist? Who blinked first in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Russians or the Americans?


As Wineburg notes in the website's book counterpart, "the practices historians have developed can be used to make sense of the conflicting voices that confront us every time we turn on Fox News or MSNBC. Put simply, the skills cultivated by Reading Like a Historian provide essential tools for citizenship."


Wineburg realized that the art of historical thinking is not something that comes naturally to most people; it has to be cultivated. Students have to be taught to look at the source of a document before reading it, figure out the context in which it was written, and cross-check it with other sources before coming to a conclusion. The professor codified his thinking in an award-winning 2002 book, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past. Then he returned to Stanford, determined to spread his educational theories to an even wider audience.

Posted by unrepentant progress | Sat May 11, 2013, 04:49 PM (1 replies)

Why I Despise The Great Gatsby

What was Fitzgerald doing instead of figuring out such things about his characters? Precision-engineering his plot, chiefly, and putting in overtime at the symbol factory. ... Scott Fitzgerald was, in his own words, “a moralist at heart.” He wanted to “preach at people,” and what he preached about most was the degeneracy of the wealthy. His concern, however, did not lie with the antisocial behaviors to which the rich are prone: acquiring their wealth through immoral means, say (Gatsby manipulates the American financial system and dies a martyr), or ignoring all plights from which they have the means to protect themselves. Like many American moralists, Fitzgerald was more offended by pleasure than by vice, and he had a tendency to confound them. In The Great Gatsby, polo and golf are more morally suspect than murder. Fitzgerald despised the rich not for their iniquity per se but for the glamour of it—for, in H.L. Mencken’s words, “their glittering swinishness.” Yet Fitzgerald also longed to be a glittering swine himself, and acted like one anytime he could afford it. ... He is all but inventing a new narrative mode: the third-­person sanctimonious.

Posted by unrepentant progress | Fri May 10, 2013, 06:34 PM (3 replies)

Do we have something against red meat, or just complexity?

We’ve thought for decades that red meat is unhealthy. Earlier this month we found out why, a neat story involving a molecule called carnitine found in meat, metabolized by the bacteria that live in our gut. The resulting chemical, according to studies in mice, is linked to heart disease. Here is the paper. Open and shut case? That would be nice, but no.

There is a larger and more uncomfortable story here, and I don’t mean the fact that they got a vegan to eat a steak for science. (Although I would love to have heard that conversation.)

Here’s what I mean. The carnitine study was shouted from the rooftops, or the New York Times which is basically the same thing. But two more studies that came out in the following weeks resulted in less-than-triumphant coverage: one agreed with the first study, but opened up the complexity of the metabolic pathway involved. No longer just carnitine and TMAO, this one mentioned lecithin, choline, and betaine.

The other study claimed that carnitine, as a supplement, protects against heart disease. This meta-study looked at outcomes in patients who had already had one heart attack, and were assigned to take carnitine or placebo. The supplement was associated with lower risk of death, angina, and arrhythmia – but not heart attacks themselves, which is already a little weird.


If anyone wants to do a longitudinal study of the effects of eating red meat on heart disease, I'll gladly sign up as long as you pay for my steaks.
Posted by unrepentant progress | Sat May 4, 2013, 08:50 PM (5 replies)

Microsoft and Forbes deliver e-waste to your door

Sometimes I think humans are too stupid to live.

“I still like print magazines, but I wish that they functioned as a portable wifi hotspot,” said no one ever. This wish came true for some people last week when they received a special edition of Forbes magazine in the mail that serves as a disposable wifi hotspot as well as a disposable news delivery device.

The four-page ad promoting cloud-based Office 365 is an exciting innovation in both advertising and e-waste. It’s a fully-working T-Mobile hotspot. Naturally, people tore it open immediately to see what was really inside.


Posted by unrepentant progress | Mon Apr 29, 2013, 12:07 PM (0 replies)

Just in case you had any doubt -- Historians still despise George W. Bush

The History News Network conducted an informal poll on Thursday asking American historians from the nation’s top research universities and liberal arts colleges to grade the presidency of George W. Bush on an A-F scale, based on fourteen different metrics, ranging from foreign policy to the economy to transparency and accountability.

Sixty-four historians responded. Thirty-five -- over half -- rated his presidency an outright failure.

“Thank you, God, for this opportunity,” one professor, a faculty member at one of the service academies, wrote in a comment. “He was not qualified to be president and it showed for eight long years.”

President Bush received his lowest marks for his handling of the economy (his tax cuts were “absolutely irresponsible,” wrote one historian), foreign policy (“followed the neo-conservative utopian dream of enforcing democracy from above, which was a devastating failure for the United States”), and transparency (“the most opaque administration since [Richard] Nixon.”)

Posted by unrepentant progress | Sat Apr 27, 2013, 01:18 PM (16 replies)

Can you ever know your luck?

Few of us like to dwell on the role that luck plays in life. Think too much about luck in the context of your past accomplishments, and it's ego-bruising: it suggests that you might not be as talented as you believe. Looking into the future, meanwhile, it's a scary reminder of how much is outside your control. This must be why people come up with such nonsense as, "You make your own luck." A comforting thought. But the problem (to quote Alan Partridge's assessment of another saccharine phrase, "If you love someone, set them free" is that "its logic is plainly horseshit". Luck is that aspect of events you can't influence. If you can influence it, then, to that extent, it's not luck. "You make your own luck" just means that you can reduce the role of luck by developing certain skills. But here's the truly scary part: even that's not true. In all sorts of situations, it turns out, more skill leads to a greater dependence on luck. No, really.

More: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/apr/27/change-life-make-your-luck

Note: This is a very short post, so I'm just excerpting the first paragraph. There's only three more paragraphs at the link.
Posted by unrepentant progress | Sat Apr 27, 2013, 11:47 AM (2 replies)
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