A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Noise of the Day

Jonathan Chait on Ayn Rand and her acolytes.
In reality, as a study earlier this year by the Brookings Institution and Pew Charitable Trusts reported, the United States ranks near the bottom of advanced countries in its economic mobility. The study found that family background exerts a stronger influence on a person’s income than even his education level. And its most striking finding revealed that you are more likely to make your way into the highest-earning one-fifth of the population if you were born into the top fifth and did not attain a college degree than if you were born into the bottom fifth and did. In other words, if you regard a college degree as a rough proxy for intelligence or hard work, then you are economically better off to be born rich, dumb, and lazy than poor, smart, and industrious.
James Surowiecki on financial reform.
The idea of learned helplessness, which was introduced in the late nineteen-sixties by the psychologist Martin Seligman as a result of experiments with dogs, is that when people are subjected to repeated negative events that they have no control over, it’s easy for them to become convinced that they’re permanently helpless, and that there’s no point in trying to change things, because all such efforts are doomed to failure. Certainly Wall Street has subjected the U.S. economy to repeated disasters over the past thirty years, and the fact that we haven’t done anything to change this meaningfully may make it seem that we can’t do anything to change this. But what was doesn’t have to be what will be.

E.J. Dionne on health care for illegal immigrants.
If you saw a woman struck by a car, would you call an ambulance right away? Or would you first ask for her papers to make sure she was not an illegal immigrant? If someone living down the street from you were suffering from the H1N1 flu, wouldn't you want him to get immediate medical help? Would you rather see him in pain and perhaps spread the disease to others in your neighborhood?