Oct 152013

as reason is the substance and origin of the mathematics, so by stating and squaring everything by reason, and by making the most rational judgment of things, every man may be, in time, master of every mechanic art.

–Daniel Defoe, Robinson Cruoe

 Defoe on Reason  October 15, 2013  Commonplace Book, Scratch File Tagged with:
Oct 152013

I am swinging around to thinking that the polarization comes from the fact that a great many Republican officeholders believe that their base thinks it elected them to demonstrate that not the Black Man but rather real Americans were still the boss–and that not a small number of Republican officeholders believe that that is their job: to demonstrate that not the Black Man but rather real Americans were still the boss, and thus that anything the press will not cover as a catastrophic defeat for Obama is, instead, a loss for them.

Given the rest of the post, I suppose it’s possible that he’s summarizing and endorsing Alice Rivlin’s comments. Not that that changes anything at all.

 October 15, 2013  Scratch File Comments Off on Brad DeLong Speaks a Brutally Truthful Truth.
Sep 272013

From The New York Times, a startling and frank description by a Republican of what he sees as the tactics his caucus have embraced:

The only time you shut down the government is when you shut it down and refuse to open it until you accomplish what you want. We’ll fold like hotcakes,” said Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma. “You do not take a hostage you are not going to for sure shoot, and we will not for sure shoot this hostage.

So the tactic is a terror tactic, hostage-taking, and this Republican criticizes it because he’s not convinced his colleagues are as committed as they need to be for it to work. How far do they need to commit? They need to be willing to shoot the economy in the head. If they are going to blink rather than shoot, they shouldn’t have taken the economy hostage in the first place. And Republicans he fears just might be chicken.

This comment is too long and too developed to be misunderstood, and it is livid proof that Republicans are unfit to govern.

 September 27, 2013  Scratch File Comments Off on Republican Terrorists: In their own words
Aug 062013

“Darwin’s achievement was in showing how evolution operated without reference to any direction or end state”

John Gray, “The Real Karl Marx” NYRB LX.8: 39

 August 6, 2013  Scratch File Comments Off on Darwin’s Achievement
Mar 192013

I hadn’t planned on starting my birthday reading economic history, but that’s what happened. And the exercise ended happily indeed. Here is John Maynard Keynes on thought, feelings and action from the final paragraph of his essay:

…We need by an effort of the mind to elucidate our own feelings. At present our sympathy and our judgement are liable to be on different sides, which is a painful and paralysing state of mind. … We need a new set of convictions which spring naturally from a candid examination of our own inner feelings in relation to the outside facts.

Keynes is talking about the conflicting fears and incentives that hamper economic reforms the United States and Europe, but the observation has a wider reach. And it hit a nerve. Earlier in the essay he quotes an equally insightful (and provocative) line from David Hume:

‘Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.’ ‘Tis not contrary to reason for me to choose my total ruin to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian, or person totally unknown to me … Reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.’

Both are from “The End of Laissez-faire” (1926).

 March 19, 2013  Scratch File Comments Off on “The End of Laissez-faire” (1926)
Mar 102013

An excellent critique of the TED talks and their approach to education. Along the way it points out the commercial interests that are never acknowledged in these talks and flags the hypocrisy of its elitist and authoritarian use of lectures and memes to free “learners” from schools.

In the TED world of techno-humanitarianism, … computer-enabled learning certainly makes for an incredibly compelling story.

But once something becomes a TED Talk, it becomes oddly unassailable. The video, the speech, the idea, the applause — there too often stops our critical faculties. We don’t interrupt. We don’t jeer. We don’t ask any follow-up questions.

They lecture. We listen.

You are not supposed to interrogate a TED Talk. You’re supposed to share the talk on Facebook.

You don’t get to ask questions of a TED Talk. Even the $10,000 ticket to watch it live only gives you the privilege of a seat in the theater.


 March 10, 2013  Scratch File Comments Off on Taking Down TED