Cory Doctorow on How Weblogging Made His Brain What It Is Today; & BRIEFLY NOTED: For 2021-05-16 Su

Things that went whizzing by that I want to remember...


An all-in commitment to weblogging has been extraordinarily successful for Cory Doctorow. But for most of us the connections between the current flow, the past stock, and the larger projects that he has managed to maintain have eluded us. We can either manage the flow, curate the stock, or ship large projects—only one at a time:

Cory DoctorowThe Memex Method. When Your Commonplace Book Is a Public Database: ‘The very act of recording your actions and impressions is itself powerfully mnemonic…. The genius of the blog was… in the publishing. The act of making your log-file public requires a rigor that keeping personal notes does not…. Repeated acts of public description adds each idea to a supersaturated, subconscious solution of fragmentary elements that have the potential to become something bigger. Every now and again, a few of these fragments will stick to each other and nucleate…. When one of those nucleation events occurs, the full-text search and tag-based retrieval tools built into Wordpress allow me to bring up everything I’ve ever written on the subject…. The availability of a deep, digital, searchable, published and public archive of my thoughts turns habits that would otherwise be time-wasters—or even harmful—into something valuable…. Systematically reviewing your older work to find the patterns in where you got it wrong (and right!) is hugely beneficial—it’s a useful process of introspection that makes it easier to spot and avoid your own pitfalls…. Two decades in, I can safely say that this community of peers, mentors, sounding boards, protégés, friends, combatants and interlocutors is more useful to me as a writer and a person than the even the prodigious instrumental benefits that blogging brings to my composition process… 

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One Video:

Two of my very favorite science-fiction authors:

Martha WellsIn Conversation with Kate Elliott <>:

Very Briefly Noted:

Share Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality


Theda Skocpol used to lecture about how party-based associations in Pre-World War I Germany were an important source of social connection in the rise of the SPD. He did not stress how they—and oppositional working class culture—limited its appeal as well. The chickens certainly came home to roost in the 1930s. Which team are chickens are now roosting right now in Europe, with what looks like the collapse of its social-democratic parties. And the chickens are circling here in the U.S.A. as well:

Sheri BermanRevisiting “Civil Society and the Collapse of the Weimar Republic”: ‘In this situation Germany’s vibrant civil society did not strengthen or promote democracy. Indeed, the opposite was the case; rather than reconciling the interests of different groups or bridging the cleavages in Germany society, civil society reinforced and deepened them. Socialists, Catholics, nationalists, and so on joined their own hiking groups, bird-watching clubs, and community organizations, contributing to the formation of what one scholar called “ferociously jealous ‘small republics’”[3]—or what we would today call social “bubbles” in German society. By helping to lock in social divisions and animosities, German civil society contributed to the weakening of the Weimar Republic, leaving it easier prey for the Nazis during the Great Depression…

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I confess I do not understand what Scott thinks is different about today. In the past there was an argument that one reason we should give more resources to the rich is that it would incentivize them to work harder, plus that one reason we should take away resources from the poor and the brown people was that it would incentivize them to work harder. Perhaps back in the 1950s they believed in this rationale. Certainly in the 1920s they did. But nobody after 1990 ever looked at the data and then went out and, with a straight face, claimed that Reagan-Volcker policies had raised the rate of economic growth vis-a-vis the 1970s:

Scott LincicomeWill the Culture War Dictate Republican Economic Policy?: ‘Both… seem not to recognize just how little policy—conservative, liberal, or some kind of “Trumpian” hybrid—matters in the Stefanik/Cheney saga…. Trump-supporting Stefanik actually voted with Trump much less often than Trump-critic Cheney…. The GOP’s current (momentary?) elevation of Trump—and the culture war that he (still) leads—above policy and principles extends beyond the Cheney-Stefanik situation and even made-for-TV dramas like Dr. Seuss. Instead, GOP “policy” this year has repeatedly been reverse-engineered—pick targets and then craft policy to effect them—to advance various Trump and culture war priorities…. Republican “economic policy is now seen mainly as a cudgel against cultural antagonists”—and often in ways diametrically opposed to the conservative positions Republicans claim to hold…. Either Republicans are keeping their policy priors—tax cuts are still good, current U.S. union policies are bad, etc.—and just excepting certain corporate villains from the general rules, or they just never believed in those policies in the first place. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, for his part, seems to have admitted the latter a few weeks ago in the Wall Street Journal… 

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Animal spirits!

John Maynard Keynes (1936): The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money: ‘It is safe to say that enterprise which depends on hopes stretching into the future benefits the community as a whole. But individual initiative will only be adequate when reasonable calculation is supplemented and supported by animal spirits, so that the thought of ultimate loss which often overtakes pioneers, as experience undoubtedly tells us and them, is put aside as a healthy man puts aside the expectation of death…. We should not conclude from this that everything depends on waves of irrational psychology. On the contrary, the state of long-term expectation is often steady, and, even when it is not, the other factors exert their compensating effects. We are merely reminding ourselves that human decisions affecting the future, whether personal or political or economic, cannot depend on strict mathematical expectation, since the basis for making such calculations does not exist; and that it is our innate urge to activity which makes the wheels go round, our rational selves choosing between the alternatives as best we are able, calculating where we can, but often falling back for our motive on whim or sentiment or chance…

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This is an argument that looked very good back in 2005. But how good does it look now?

Thomas P.M. Barnett (2007): An Overwrought, Ideologically Myopic Argument: ‘China is no “new” model or threat. It follows the model of Singapore, and before that South Korea, and before that Japan: a single-party state that bases almost all of its legitimacy on rising income and development through export-driven growth. It is a self-liquidating model: eventually the society wants more political freedom to go with that wealth. China’s just so fricking huge and so poor that this process isn’t going fast enough for Mann…. China’s path is but a stepping stone to outcomes we naturally seek. I mean, crawling might be described as an alternative to walking, but only until you’re able to walk…. China’s “model”… is about transforming a hugely rural, impoverished, disconnected society (one-sixth of humanity) into an urban, consumeristic, connected one. Once achieved… its model self-liquidates…. Confusing China’s influence-peddling with model propagation is a new academic fad in search of actual data…

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Poor naïve New Dealer Henry Wallace:

Henry A. Wallace (1952): Where I Was Wrong: ‘Before 1949 I thought Russia really wanted and needed peace. After 1949 I became more and more disgusted with the Soviet methods…. Fist were the shocking revelations of the activities of Russia’s atomic spies…. Next, I was deeply moved by reports of friends who had visited Czechoslovakia shortly after the Communist took control…. I labored under the illusion that the Communists had beaten us to the punch in popular appeal…. My analysis… failed utterly to take into account the ruthless nature of Russian-trained Communists whose sole objective was to make Czechoslovakia completely subservient to Moscow….. In 1948 I believed both Russia and the U.S. should take their troops out of Korea. Today… I am sure it was a serious mistake when we withdrew our troops…. Russia is still on the march, and the question now is whether she will be able to take over all of Asia, including India and the Near East… 

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