Monday, December 28, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
"The silver lining for liberals, though, is that this rightward turn hasn’t touched younger voters yet. With 18- to 29-year-olds, Democratic identification remains high, and Obama’s approval ratings are still up over 60 percent."
Methinks that might have some implications for his thesis in this op-ed. And I think it is more than a "silver-lining."
Friday, November 20, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
How does this not show a party in disarray? What am I missing?
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
The Bell Curve and Betsy McCaughey, anyone?
I just wish I could follow my own advice more often.
I also want to point out that business school is a joke, and not where someone goes who wants to be serious about understanding an academic discipline.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Protecting freedom of speech means not just guarding against censorship; it also means responding vigorously to those who would seek to undermine freedom of speech by divorcing it from intellectual honesty and good reasoning.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Logic 101 is basically accepted by everyone. If you can show that an argument doesn't have a valid argument form (i.e. Modus Ponens, Modus Tollens, among other classics), then you don't have to take the argument seriously. Additionally, if you can reasonably object to the truth of one or more of the premises, you have additional reason to reject the argument. There does not seem to be much room to argue with the principles of Logic 101.
(2), the Criterion of Rationality, is additionally almost universally accepted. However, I think it is far more questionable. I should perhaps attenuate my statement that it is universally accepted. In Anglo-American Analytic philosophy, there is almost no controversy as to the truth of the Criterion of Rationality (Those in other disciplines and/or styles of philosophy might not be so willing to embrace this idea.). Let's think, first of all, about what a logically valid argument entails. For a argument to be logically valid, it must be the case that if the premises are true, it is not possible for the conclusion to be false. The truth of the premises guarantees the truth of the conclusion. Notice that nothing in here says anything about accepting the results of such an argument. Most philosophers take the implication of this fact about logically valid arguments to say that one must accept the results of a sound argument (a sound argument is an argument that has a valid argument form, and all true premises). But does this follow?
It certainly seems crazy to deny it, or at least irrational. Indeed, this is often how philosophers explain what is going on when someone is presented with an indefeasibly sound argument, yet they refuse to accept the consequences of said argument. The person in this situation is behaving irrationally.
But are they? While I don't have a fully developed response to this claim, it seems to me that there is a sense in which one must own an argument before it can reach that level of acceptance. One cannot be compelled purely by the formal majesty of logic, and it seems incorrect to accuse those not so compelled of "irrationality." There is something deeply rational, in its positive normative sense, in delaying judgment, even in the face of such apparently inescapable evidence. The type of acceptance the philosopher thinks logical argument imposes is supposed to be relatively simple, the acceptance of a proposition. Before you heard this argument, you believed that p; now you believe that not-p. Or maybe you had a void which p now fills. Sounds straightforward enough, right? This is a ludicrous symbolization of how beliefs work, however. Our beliefs are not atomistic in this sense, unattached to other beliefs (this is controversial in philosophy, but let's just go with it for now). To borrow a phrase from Quine, they exist in an interlocking web with all our other beliefs (I have some qualms about belief talk, but it's really not worth making this any more complicated than it already is, so let's just press onward.). A change in belief is a traumatic episode, especially if one's belief is central in one's web of beliefs. Is it really "rational" to rip apart one's web of beliefs in the face of such uncompelling evidence as a sound argument? Doesn't the conclusion have to seize one in a manner more meaningful that the inexorability of logical necessity? Philosophers need to think about this problem far more seriously than they have to date, and not just accuse those who fall prey to it of irrationality. It is far more pervasive and important as a phenomenon, I think, than has been heretofore acknowledged.
I will stop at this point, having taken this as far as I can at the moment. For those who care, I was inspired by an essay by James Conant in this collection entitled "Nietzsche's Perfectionism: A Reading of Schopenhauer as Educator." While not explicitly about this problem, I think Nietzsche's idea of "becoming what one is" as a centrally moral concept, a becoming that occurs only with extreme difficulty, and after much denial of what one is, is a useful place to begin illuminating the question of why it is that "logic" is not enough for rationality. Or maybe rationality isn't enough for being human?
UPDATE: I just wanted to include a quotation from Heinrich von Kleist, who Nietzsche approvingly cites in Schopenhauer as Educator: "Not long ago I became acquainted with the Kantian philosophy...I have no reason to fear it will shatter you so profoundly and painfully as it has me...If the point of this thought does not penetrate your heart, do not smile at one who feels wounded by it in the deepest and most sacred part of his being."
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
(h/t Glenn Greenwald)
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
I want to make myself feel better, so I will give you the DeLongian sign-off: That is all.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
(h/t Brad DeLong)
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
UPDATE: Also, welcome to any readers who reached us via Grasping Reality with Both Hands, which I've always thought of as a violent metaphor, bringing to mind the image of an enraged Brad DeLong grasping reality between his hands and throttling it, similarly to how he appeared when he debated this guy.
Monday, August 17, 2009
I've heard it said that it might have been a mistake to give seniors Medicare back in the 60s, because those of us in favor of universal healthcare robbed our cause of (1) the most consistent voting block in the country, and (2) a voting block that has the most to gain from healthcare coverage provided by the government. Whatever the truth of that is, it certainly does seem that there is an effective anti-reform strategy involved in scaring seniors, and Douthat is right to point that out.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
"If you travel long enough and far enough — like by jet to Johannesburg, by prop plane to northern Botswana and then by bush plane deep into the Okavango Delta — you can still find it. It is that special place that on medieval maps would have been shaded black and labeled: “Here there be Dragons!” But in the postmodern age, it is the place where my BlackBerry, my wireless laptop and even my satellite phone all gave me the same message: “No Service.”
Exotic byline? Check. Technological hat-tip? Check. Reference to "post-modern?" Check. Take her off to Ed, doll, I'm catchin' a steamer to Zanzibar. Where's my pith helmet?!
While I appreciate Brad DeLong linking to this piece, and I agree that it's a mistake to assume that Cronkite-era journalism was much better, the implication in the final paragraphs that the scummy David Broder was worse than Walter Lippmann dismays me. Read your Drift and Mastery, DeLong!
Saturday, August 15, 2009
To the Editor:
One phrase used by more than a few people in the debate on health care reform is that “our health care system is the envy of the world.” Which world is that?
A recent Harris/Decima Poll in Canada, the country that probably knows our system the best, found a 10-to-1 majority who believe their system is better than ours. And Harris Polls in France and Britain found that most people there believe that their systems are “the envy of the world.”Humphrey Taylor
Chairman, The Harris Poll
New York, Aug. 13, 2009
-from a New York Times Editorial
Friday, August 14, 2009
In my experience, it has never denounced the destruction of wild chinchilla populations in the Andes. It has never sought to combat the negative stereotypes about Slovakia perpetuated by the depiction of Bratislava in Eli Roth's "Hostel" films as a place of third-world savagery and sadotourism. My perusal of the archives has yielded no posts attacking or defending Jon Elster; relatedly, the links on the right side of the page are bereft of sociology blogs in favor of things like "Philosophy, et cetera," which smacks to me of a narcissistic disciplinary chauvinism that impedes the catholic wonderment that marks the best life has to offer.
But this blog, if you will permit me a cliche, is an oasis in the desert of our contemporary politics. It is a refuge where PKrug is rightly lauded for wielding his Nobel-burnished credibility like a Republican-smiting Mjöllnir, where Glenn Greenwald is forgiven for his bad Portuguese but hailed for his keen intellect, and where half the posts are short enough to be Tweets but I gobble them up anyway like Belgian candies made of unctuous marzipan wrapped around nougaty polemic. Frankly, it is a blog that cannot be ignored.
My plan is to abet the already high quality of the blog. Ultimately, the prestige of the PKLFM cenacle will make possible a guest appearance by PKrug himself on these digital pages.
It is to this end that I devote myself, as well as to the satiety of those readers extant and still to come.
"It's not just that the NHS outperforms the US on most health outcomes. What leaps out at one is the way in which class amplifies the differences. America's psychopathic healthcare system is sacrificing tens of thousands of lives, mainly working class and African American, for the sake of profit. Health advisors and boards of trustees routinely kill people, knowingly, to defend the bottom-line. Right now, those who are scaremongering about the NHS are lobbying vehemently to ensure that nothing about this vile state of affairs ever changes. They aren't stupid enough not to understand the consequences of what they are doing, but the current rate of death and misery is part of creating an optimal investment climate. This is social sadism. This is a humanitarian catastrophe. To remedy this intolerable state of affairs, I propose a lobby or solidarity group to 'Save America' (or 'Save America From Itself', or 'Stop Them Before They Kill Again' - you get the picture). There should be rock concerts in Hyde Park to raise money for the millions of Americans who have no healthcare. Bob Geldof and Bono - and here's the excellent thing - would be totally uninvolved in any of this. Funds should be available for those who have been told by their insurance companies that their life is less important than shareholder value, to pay for an airline ticket to any country where they can get treated properly. And all support should be given to those heroic freedom fighters taking on the inhuman monsters who have been getting away with killing their people for far too long. I bet negative PR like that would get some reforms going pretty fucking quickly."
Liberals have a touching attachment to the idea that the truth will win out, that a truth is so blindingly clear to people that they will accept it. As long as we get the truth out, we will win. Oh well, all ideologies have their blind-spots...
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
-"The Availability of Wittgenstein's Later Philosophy," Stanley Cavell
Friday, August 7, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
Btw, I spelled Ahmadinejad's name correctly on the first try. I must be a terrorist.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
-Must We Mean What We Say?
This passage in the Foreword to Must We Mean What We Say? struck me, and I mean provoked in me a cascade of connected thoughts. I have a strong affinity for it because of its similarity to a passage in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which I romantically want to believe inspired Cavell. At the end of Book I of Zarathustra, which, according to popular conception, Nietzsche wrote in a feverish state of inspiration in less than ten days, Zarathustra implores his followers to repudiate him. He says "One repays a teacher poorly by always remaining a student." For anyone inspired by Nietzsche to philosophy, this is a critical passage. Nietzsche expects those who would follow him to reject him.
This is a deeply disturbing prospect, and on the surface, paradoxical. How can one best show fidelity to a vision by rejecting it? But that is what Nietzsche urges. There is more to what he says than the sentimental pap of "find your own way." While there is certainly some truth to that statement, it obfuscates more than it reveals. It sounds clear enough, but what does it really mean?
I cannot claim to have a fully fleshed out answer to the question of how one philosophizes with a hammer, to use a particularly bombastic Nietzschean locution. I think the key might lie in the idea of an attitude towards philosophy, instead of particular philosophical positions. It is fashionable in contemporary Anglo-American philosophy to delineate philosophers by their substantive philosophical claims. People are divided into naturalists and theists, incompatibilists and compatibilists, externalists and internalists. One wonders what the point of all such categorization is. It certainly does not seem to be the main thrust of Nietzsche's philosophizing. Is the metaphysical status of the will to power an interesting question? What about Nietzsche's substantive ethical positions? Is that why we read Nietzsche?
I don't think it is. We read Nietzsche to watch him in action, to see what it is like for a sensitive person to come to grips with the pressure of existence. I don't have all the answers as to what Nietzsche is doing. All I know is what I want to do is more of whatever that is, and the first step is to figure out how to do that in a manner congruent with his Zarathustran maxim.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
That is just so practical of the magistrate. Ruled very much with justice in mind, if you ask me.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
h/t Mark Thoma
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
--The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
Monday, July 20, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
Anyway, I occasionally feel the need to vent while reading David Brooks's columns, because they are usually insipid. Usually I just complain to friends, but in the future, when I read a particularly vapid Brooks column, I'm going to provide a running diary of my thoughts as I read it, much like Bill Simmons does for various sporting events. My comment will be in italics. So here's my first attempt.
No Size Fits All
If you visit a four-year college, you can predict what sort of student you are going to bump into. If you visit a community college, you have no idea. You might see an immigrant kid hoping eventually to get a Ph.D., or another kid who messed up in high school and is looking for a second chance. You might meet a 35-year-old former meth addict trying to get some job training or a 50-year-old taking classes for fun.
Because Brooks knows so much about community colleges, University of Chicago grad that he is.
These students may not realize it, but they’re tackling some of the country’s biggest problems. Over the past 35 years, college completion rates have been flat. Income growth has stagnated. America has squandered its human capital advantage. Students at these places are on self-directed missions to reverse that, one person at a time.
So noble, these community college students! Seriously, I think getting a college degree is great and all that, but lets not get carried away. Sheesh. Also, Brooks seems to want to tie the stragnation of income growth to the stagnation of growth in those who complete college. This is a favorite idea of conservative economists, that its largely a matter of training that is responsible for income inequality. This idea has been thoroughly refuted by Krugman in his book, The Return of Depression Economics.
Community college enrollment has been increasing at more than three times the rate of four-year colleges. This year, in the middle of the recession, many schools are seeing enrollment surges of 10 percent to 15 percent. And the investment seems to pay off. According to one study, students who earn a certificate experience a 15 percent increase in earnings. Students earning an associate degree registered an 11 percent gain.
Compared to what? Ugh, this is the kind of shit that drives me mad. Also, how does it compare to those who earn college degrees?
And yet funding lags. Most people in government, think tanks and the news media didn’t go to community college, and they don’t send their children to them. It’s a blind spot in their consciousness. As a result, four-year colleges receive three times as much federal money per student as community colleges. According to a Brookings Institution report, federal spending for community colleges fell six percent between 2002 and 2005, while spending on four-year colleges increased.
Erm...pointing to the totals spent at the various institutions seems like the wrong way to approach this. We should be looking at the percentage of the total costs per student that the federal dollars are paying for. Community college is much, much cheaper than going to a four year university. I'm not saying I know for sure there isn't a problem here, but I am saying that David Brooks's evidence is misleading.
Which is why what President Obama announced this week is so important. He announced a $12 billion plan to produce 5 million more community college grads by 2020.
If the plan were just $12 billion for buildings and student aid, it wouldn’t be worth getting excited about. The money devoted to new construction amounts to about $2 million per campus. With new facilities costing in the tens of millions, that’s not a big deal.
Nor is increased student aid fundamentally important. I’ve had this discussion with my liberal friends a thousand times, and I have come to accept that they will never wrap their minds around the truth: lack of student aid is not the major reason students drop out of college. They drop out because they are academically unprepared or emotionally disengaged or because they lack self-discipline or because bad things are happening at home.
Evidence please? He said, she said, it's my column, so I am right. And if students are unprepared, isn't that a problem for high schools, not community colleges?
Affordability is way down the list. You can increase student aid a ton and you still won’t have a huge effect on college completion.
What’s important about the Obama initiative is that it doesn’t throw money at the problem. It ties money to reform and has the potential — the potential — to spur a wave of innovation.
People who work at community colleges deserve all the love we can give them, since they get so little prestige day to day. But the fact is many community colleges do a poor job of getting students through. About half drop out before getting a degree.
Most schools have poor accountability systems and inadequately track student outcomes. They have little information about what works. They have trouble engaging students on campus. Many remedial classes (60 percent of students need them) are a joke, often because expectations are too low.
Again, should it be the community college's job to deal with remedial students? Isn't this a problem that has earlier roots? I mean, 60% need remedial work? That's a systemic problem, but it's origin is not in the community college.
The Obama initiative is designed to go right at these deeper problems. It sets up a significant innovation fund, which, if administered properly, could set in motion a spiral of change. It has specific provisions for remedial education, outcome tracking and online education. It links public sector training with specific private sector employers.
YES! If you pay for innovation, you will get innovation! It's a can't fail!
Real reform takes advantage of community colleges’ most elemental feature. These colleges educate students with wildly divergent interests, goals and abilities. They host students with radically different learning styles, many of whom have floundered in traditional classrooms.
Therefore, successful reform has to blow up the standard model. You can’t measure progress by how many hours a student spends with her butt in a classroom chair. You have to incorporate online tutoring, as the military does. You have to experiment with programs like Digital Bridge Academy that are tailored to individual learning styles. You have to track student outcomes, as the Lumina Foundation is doing. You have to build in accountability measures for teachers and administrators.
Maybe this proposal, too, will be captured by the interest groups. But its key architects, Rahm Emanuel in the White House and Representative George Miller, have created a program that is intelligently designed and boldly presented.
Maybe it will be captured by interest groups? How is this not a throw away line? What the fuck interest groups is he talking about? This is just red meat. "Interest groups always ruin everything!" Reader nods in agreement. What the fuck?
I guess this is a shot or something at the Obama administration, but it's not clear what for. Health care? Who the hell knows. Whatever the deal is, I'm all for more focus on community colleges and higher education (seeing as I plan on working in higher education at some point), but I'm not sure the benefits of such an increased focus are those that Brooks points to.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
"Her father died when she was 9, leaving one such gap. (It is amazing how many people who suffer parental loss between the ages of 9 and 13 go on to become astounding high achievers.)."
The only reason he thinks this is amazing is his prejudiced belief that only persons from intact nuclear families can succeed. Also, this is another example of how books makes assertions without backing them up with any empirical evidence. We don't care what your individual experience tells you. There are facts to be had about this kind of thing!
Monday, July 13, 2009
I think it is this fact that explains why people hate their insurance companies. They know the insurance companies answer to two different masters. On the one hand, they are there to protect you. On the other hand, they exist to make their shareholders money, which they can only do by denying high risk persons insurance. The profit motive harmfully interferes with the insurance company doing its best by the customer. It would be one thing if the interests of the two sides were equally balanced, but there's no reason to think that they are. The people who run insurance companies, their CEOs, get their jobs because they are good at making money, not because they are good at offering great coverage for customers. They have to do that, in so far as they don't want to go out of business, but with the monopolistic stranglehold that most companies have in various regions, they can afford to pay more attention to their bottom lines. That's why the insurance companies are so terrified of a public option for health care. I won't pretend to know the numbers on comparative performance between government administered and private health insure, but the public option has at least two enormous conceptual benefits: no profit motive, and increased competition. The government is not trying to make money from providing health insurance. The government does not serve two masters, the insured, and their shareholders. While a public plan must make sure it stays solvent, it isn't concerned with making money for its shareholders. Its sole mission is to provide health insurance to those it insures.
I said that increased competition is a "conceptual" benefit, but really, it might as well be empirically confirmed. Vast swathes of the country are covered by one or two insurers, leading to a typically monopolistic situation. Providing a public plan, which can compete on cost because it isn't trying to make money, will force insurance companies to amend their practices. This will lead to more of the money paid into the companies being disbursed to those it insures.
One can see why the insurance companies are terrified. Their long reign of extracting profit due to their insecurities of their customers would be directly challenged. The moral of the story is that the government is the correct vehicle for social insurance. We can talk about what kinds of things people absolutely need to be protected from, but it seems prima facie clear to me that the ravages of disease is one of those things.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Saturday, July 11, 2009
--The Charterhouse of Parma
Friday, July 10, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
What does it mean to be a revolutionary today?
UPDATE: He actually froths a little at the mouth at the end.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
--The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Monday, July 6, 2009
"All of this had something to do with ordinary partisan politics. But it had everything to do with Palin’s gender and her social class.
Sarah Palin is beloved by millions because her rise suggested, however temporarily, that the old American aphorism about how anyone can grow up to be president might actually be true.But her unhappy sojourn on the national stage has had a different moral: Don’t even think about it."
Uh...what about our boy Barack Hussein Obama? You know, the guy who actually won? The guy with an immigrant father? And a working class mother? You know, just maybe?
I think Douthat's sympathy with Palin has something to do with the fact that his columns have been almost universally panned as inane and incoherent. Which of these characteristics do you think he and she share?
Suck it, Douthat.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
I am also dubious of the idea that a governing system based on the "banishment of reality" is somehow inherently more fragile than one based on "reality." We only have to look at our very recent history to see how effective the government can be at manipulating "reality." Reality doesn't speak for itself, and can serve the interests of repressive regimes just as well as those we would be inclined to prefer.
(Brooks also identifies the shouting from the rooftops as a new custom, springing organically from the "new situation," but that's an homage to similar actions taken by Ayatollah Khomeini's supporters during the 1979 Revolution.)
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The Times's resident conservatives continue to produce drivel. For all the snarling about postmodernism amongst conservatives, they sure like to emulate their writing style. If you can find a coherent line of argument in Douthut's article, you are a better person than I. And Brooks continues his grand tradition of sweeping generalizations unsupported by empirical fact. Good work guys. Keeping the grand tradition of Enlightenment reason alive! Brooks is just unsalvageable at this point, but you gotta wonder about Douthut. Maybe he's found adapting too difficult.
On a more positive note, Eric Rauchway and Matthew Yglesias have some interesting things to say about the Senate.
Monday, June 15, 2009
(Although, honestly, it is probably on a par with the typical drivel put out by Pinker and his ilk).
As the post I've linked to above shows, Ariza is that guy. When Kobe and Pau draw in double teams, Ariza is there to take the 3-point shot, slash to the basket, get garbage rebounds, or whatever. He literally does anything you need him to do. He defines utility player. He plays tenacious defense, gets sneaky steals, and comes up with huge blocks. His most important skill, though, is just showing up when it counts the most. While I don't have a scientific survey of the Lakers's games this season, I can remember any number of times when the Lakers were struggling, and Ariza would come up with a huge play to ignite the offense. Who can forget the huge steal he made at the end of Game 3 (assisted by Lamar, of course)? The dagger threes he has hit all season? His tenacious, fierce, physical defense against Hedo Turkoglu in these finals?
It seems more and more to me that the Lakers weren't missing Bynum so much last year as they were missing Ariza. Admittedly, we probably still would not have won the Finals, as the Celtics were still too physical and hungry. They wanted it, and we shrank before their desire. But their path would have been much less easy with our talented young swingman roaming the parquet floor.
Kristol dismisses out of hand the contention that the US should stay out of Iranian electoral politics. He seems to think tht because it is Barack Obama and his "liberal internationalist" foreign policy speaking, and not Bush, that the message will somehow be better received. Color me skeptical. Our foreign adventurism has caused enough problems, and I don't think a change in the face of the regime will erase a half century of American misadventures in the region. If the situation deteriorates, then perhaps some symbolic gesture should be made. But as of right now, the Iranian people are doing a great job of their defending their rights. We should stay out of their way.
(Btw, does it strike anyone else as ludicrous that the title of the Washington Post's opinion blog where Kristol is posting is labeled "Postpartisan?")
-Don DeLillo, White Noise
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
New York Times Runs Actual Story About People in Need, Instead of Trust Fund Babies Losing Their Williamsburg Lofts
Friday, June 12, 2009
Fittingly enough, the inaugural link will be to Dr. Krugman's recent Robbin's Lectures at the London School of Economics:
I find his criticisms of the dismal science in his final lecture particularly interesting.