From The New York Times:OPINIONATOR: Is Alzheimer’s Type 3 Diabetes? Evidence suggests that Alzheimer’s might be another form of diabetes, and links both to the overconsumption of junk food. http://nyti.ms/OoSv3dPamela Shoemaker Sent from my iPad
From The New York Times:OP-ED COLUMNIST: The Psych Approach There are strong links between our childhood experiences and adult lives. The emotional basis of success should have a bigger role in education. http://nyti.ms/UPYQpFPamela Shoemaker Sent from my iPad
The United States, as you know, was founded as a republic, not simply as a democracy. The distinction has been lost over the past few decades, but it is an important one.
The believers in a democracy have unlimited faith in the character and judgment of the people and believe that political institutions should be responsive to their desires. The believers in a republic have large but limited faith in the character and judgment of the people and erect institutions and barriers to improve that character and guide that judgment.
America’s founders were republicans. This was not simply elitism, a matter of some rich men distrusting the masses. This was a belief that ran through society and derived from an understanding of history. As Irving Kristol put it in a brilliant 1974 essay called “Republican Virtue vs. Servile Institutions,” “The common man is not a fool, and the proof is that he has such modest faith in himself.”
The first citizens of this country erected institutions to protect themselves from their own shortcomings. We’re familiar with some of them: the system of checks and balances, the Senate, etc. More important, they believed, was public spiritedness — a system of habits and attitudes that would check egotism and self-indulgence.
As Kristol points out in the essay, the meaning of the phrase “public spiritedness” has flipped since the 18th century. Now we think a public-spirited person is somebody with passionate opinions about public matters, one who signs petitions and becomes an activist for a cause.
In its original sense, it meant the opposite. As Kristol wrote, it meant “curbing one’s passions and moderating one’s opinions in order to achieve a large consensus that will ensure domestic tranquility.” Instead of self-expression, it meant self-restraint. It was best exemplified in the person of George Washington.
Over the years, the democratic values have swamped the republican ones. We’re now impatient with any institution that stands in the way of the popular will, regarding it as undemocratic and illegitimate. Politicians see it as their duty to serve voters in the way a business serves its customers. The customer is always right.
A few things have been lost in this transition. Because we take it as a matter of faith that the people are good, we are no longer alert to arrangements that may corrode the character of the nation. For example, many generations had a moral aversion to debt. They believed that to go into debt was to indulge your basest urges and to surrender your future independence. That aversion has clearly been overcome.
We no longer have a leadership class — of the sort that existed as late as the Truman and Eisenhower administrations — that believes that governing means finding an equilibrium between different economic interests and a balance between political factions. Instead, we have the politics of solipsism. The political culture encourages politicians and activists to imagine that the country’s problems would be solved if other people’s interests and values magically disappeared.
The democratic triumph has created a nation that runs up huge debt and is increasingly incapable of finding a balance between competing interests. Today, the country faces three intertwined economic challenges. We have to make the welfare state fiscally sustainable. We have to do it in a way that preserves the economic dynamism in the country — that provides incentives for creative destruction. We also have to do it in a way that preserves social cohesion — that reduces the growing economic and lifestyle gaps between the educated and less educated.
These three goals are in tension with one another, but to prosper America has to address all three at the same time.
Voters will have to embrace institutional arrangements that restrain their desire to spend on themselves right now. Political leaders will have to find ways to moderate solipsistic tribalism and come up with tax and welfare state reforms that balance economic dynamism and social cohesion.
Over the past months, there has been some progress in getting Americans to accept the need for self-restraint. With their various budget approaches, the Simpson-Bowles commission, Paul Ryan and President Obama have sent the message that politics can no longer be about satisfying voters’ immediate needs. The public hasn’t bought it yet, but progress is being made.
There has been less progress in getting political leaders to come up with compromises that balance dynamism and cohesion. Republicans still mostly talk about incentives for growth, and Democrats still mostly talk about economic security. The breakthrough, if there is one, will come from the least directly democratic parts of the government, from the Senate or some commission of Establishment bigwigs. It will be enacted when voters realize we need to build arrangements to protect ourselves from our own weaknesses. It will all depend on reviving the republican virtues upon which the country was founded.
I offer this column not to convey a political message. Politics is so frustrating to me that I squeeze my eyes tight while reading the Times, hoping to limit my furor at the illogic and other flights of fancy that make up ninety percent of American rhetoric.
For once I am delighted to read a political columnist who writes not about Democrats and Republicans as we know them, but rather as those who believe that our form of government best resembles a democracy or a republic.
Our country’s founding documents are quite clear on this. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands . . . “, chant schoolchildren across the land. Yet the idea of DEMOCRACY is emblazoned in golden lights in our collective psyche: we take democracy with us around the world. The world will be safe and beautiful if only democracy flowers everywhere.
Yet my point here is not about our psychic misunderstanding about what our form of government really is. Even though this is one of my favorite rants.
Instead I point out that democracy and republicanism are two theoretical constructs that contribute toward our theory of politics. They are not opposites — cannot be measured as two ends of a bipolar scale. They are two different different, yet related, ideas about how best to establish decision making in a government. The first advocates complete and active participation of all people, whereas (as Brooks explains) the second establishes rules and institutions to intercede between people and decisions. Anyone who doubts this can recall the 2000 presidential election in which the Electoral College overrode the popular vote, putting George W Bush into office. The Electoral College exists because our founders did not trust the power of the public.
Democracy and republic are words that we assume we know all about. But we don’t. On which other unsupported assumptions do our country and our scholarship depend?
Absolutely. As far as I am concerned, my iPad (#1) is my reading platform, for fiction, textbooks, newspapers, magazines, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, email, and anything else i’m sent digitally. It’s been years since i read the New York Times on paper, but i read it two or three times a day on my iPad. My university has made email its official mode of communication within the bureaucracy. Whereas I once annually distributed several thousands of dollars worth of photocopies to my students, all class documents are on Blackboard or go to them via email. My students send their assignments to me via Blackboard or email, and I edit their work with multiple colors (each assigned a purpose). I give them more written feedback than ever — my editing of their work and commenting on their ideas is teaching, not grading. I occasionally make some of their words or sentences grey, only to replace them with my rewording in pink (almost always with far fewer words). I can grade on my iPad. I can write on my iPad. I can prepare slides on my iPad. If it involves text or images, I probably prefer to see it on my iPad. So it’s not just local news that’s gone iPad — I’ve gone iPad.
Journalists are coping with the rising information flood by borrowing data visualization techniques from computer scientists, researchers and artists. Some newsrooms are already beginning to retool their staffs and systems to prepare for a future in which data becomes a medium. But how do we communicate with data, how can traditional narratives be fused with sophisticated, interactive information displays?
Who knew that data could be so beautiful? Check out this great instructional video on visualizing data.
http://nyti.ms/fxioH4There is great article in the NYTimes this morning about a conference on thinking–or more appropriately, on patterns of thought that may obscure or illuminate our understanding of our world. The Einstellung Effect, for example, addresses how we try to solve today’s problems by using yesterday’s solutions “instead of looking at each situation on it’s own terms.”. Although I didn’t know it by name, this effect is one that I have been talking about for years.Here’s the problem: Everything around us is changing at a furious pace. Many local media have gone out of business, merged, or just set up a mini-versions of themselves on the Internet. Books and music stores are closing, because people now download books and music from the Internet. News is now carried by social media. Some of us are so attached to our iPads that we fall asleep with them balanced precariously on our stomachs. As communication scholars, we try to explain these and other changes as a way of predicting what is yet to come. But our reliance on The Literature Graveyard as a starting point for every study, for every article and book is getting in our way — the Einstellung Effect has struck. The mass communication literature graveyard is about as old as I am. Not so old when compared to anthropology or sociology. Young, when compared to psychology. About the same age as television. The media world is on the cusp of even a bigger change than we have yet seen. Can we hope to understand the importance of these changes –of continual change — by beginning with studies conducted when we had only 3 television channels in the US? in some cases yes, in many others no. Today, our literature is more graveyard than a bustling center of ideas. We’ve been teaching our students to do research in a way that guarantees we are unable to understand the change around us. If we don’t tell our students to rely more on their understanding of today’s world than on a graveyard of mouldering ideas, then we might as well go out of business.
the fine art of skimming is being tested by the New York Times online: http://www.nytimes.com/skimmer/ This makes the newspaper look a lot more like its iPad app or Times Reader, which is available by subscription online. although you can customize the newspaper’s appearance, i prefer this open layout .
i have been a Times Reader subscriber for years, much more preferring it than the nytimes.com web site, which looks pretty much like the newspaper (although it offers far more story headlines). when i got my iPad, i began reading the Times from my iPad app. my husband commented that i am now reading more news than ever, and he’s probably right. this new layout allows readers to quickly skim through many articles before making a decision to access more information, whether text or images. i like it a lot, and will be using this “trial” or beta version of the Times while they work out the kinks. i recommend it to you.
And it always snows more at home than in the city. And now that it is the end of March, a lot of white stuff gives me a quite different feeling than it did in December. No more “isn’t it beautiful!”. No more “winter wonderland” exclamations either. It’s not that we’re wimpy and afraid of snow. We’ve seen a challenging winter or two recently. We know how to drive in it, walk through it, and even play in it. And our snow removal folks are professionals. They plow often and simultaneously lay down thick layers of sand and salt. But it’s nearly April. And it’s snowing again.
This is a line from Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times in an article in the newspaper’s magazine this Sunday morning. He’s talking about those of us who study media, from the perspective of individuals, media routines, media organizations, social institutions, and social systems. The term is not a compliment: “Our fascination with capital-M Media is so disengaged from what really matters.” We have been lumped into a those-who-don’t-do-real-journalism category with Arianna Huffington, the Queen of aggregators. “Aggregation . . . Kind of describes what I do as an editor. But it too often amounts to taking words written by other people, packaging them on your own web site, and harvesting revenue that might otherwise be directed to the originators of the material. In Somalia this would be called piracy. In the mediasphere, this is called a respected business model.” What a relief — thought he was talking about me and my blog except that I have no revenue stream. I just blog so I can have the pleasure of doing not-journalism. Does that make me a queen, or princess, of meta media? Read the article, link below, it’s good. But the man protests too much about his celebrity and his repeatedly being asked to prognosticate on the “future of journalism.” He’s proud of doing real journalism and of being not just of the media elite, but of the in-general elite. The son of the head of Chevron, he might have become one of the un-elite . . .maybe. But he landed at The New York Times and his eliteness was ensured. He and I were in college at roughly the same time, but my dad was a traveling salesman. My dad had a high school degree, but my grandparents never made it past the eighth grade. My un-eliteness was ensured. But some people do know me, or about me. But only because of my talent for mediating the meta message. http://nyti.ms/fvlbXcSent from my iPad
our brains constantly amaze me. we used to think the external world had little influence on the brain, short of a catastrophe, and that news would definitely be bad. now we know that talk therapy changes the brain and that (another new book out there) we can train our brains to memorize whole books. people used to. as for intelligence, in the past we were told that our intelligence was fixed at birth and — sorry for those accidents of birth — that we were either smart or we weren’t. and then an intelligence test was adopted (and debated) that scored normal intelligence at 100 (based on central tendency of a normal curve) and that anything about 140 was genius. if we weren’t geniuses, then we were to be content with our fates and go find white collar jobs, hopefully. but now we can increase our intelligence! does this mean that we can all become geniuses? if everyone becomes a genius, won’t some statistician come along and re-normalize the distribution so that 100 is “average” again, demonstrating that measures of central tendency have no real meaning?