Outtacontext?

Pointed to by Rebecca Blood, this entry in Jeff Gates’ Life Outtacontext responds to the recent New Scientist item about eccentricity growing with age (to which I blinked) with a list of his own eccentricities. Nice enough; he sounds like someone I’d love to meet. But scroll down to the end for a worthy discussion of his own random acts of kindness… and be inspired.

Funding Difficult Partners:

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Hilton L. Root: The Political Roots of Poverty:

“This essay has two purposes. The first is to lay out some empirical evidence about the relationship between economic aid and systems of governance. The second is to address the problem of how the U.S. government should deal with difficult partners. On the first task there is a wealth of data that suggests some surprising connections between the length of political tenure, the nature of governance, and the role of aid money. That data and those connections, in turn, can help us to think through the second task.”

Does Western-style development fueled by foreign aid defuse the potential for terrorism embodied in the rage of the dispossessed? “In a world where development is state-driven, what will happen to countries without minimally functioning states? What institutional alternatives should we be thinking about where an effectively functioning state is a distant reality?”The National Interest

True Confessions

“… (W)hat tends to do in the wrongly convicted is the kind of evidence that seems clinching, that often is clinching—namely, eyewitness identifications and confessions. But the human memory is not a video recorder; eyewitness testimony is notoriously flawed. And although most of those who confess are guilty, people can and do confess to crimes they did not commit… Two simple measures could go a long way toward ensuring that findings of criminal guilt are genuine“, says Margaret Talbot, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation

. She suggests that lineups of criminal suspects be conducted sequentially instead of en masse, under the direction of police personnel who do not themselves know which of those in the lineup is the suspect; and that all interrogations be videotaped so that later reexamination can detect how much coercion had been used. The Atlantic

Better Fewer, but Better

‘Some books are necessary, some are wonderful, few are both. In that select group belongs Joseph Epstein’s Snobbery: The American Version… With Snobbery, Epstein undertakes a book-length essay in a series of interconnected essays, each of two dozen chapters addressing a different type of snobbery. The amazingly alert and perceptive author pursues snobbishness from its spotlighted stages to its hidden breeding grounds and discovers striking varieties in crannies the rest of us would have overlooked.” LA Times Calendar

"Non scriverò piú."

Reading Cesare Pavese:

“Non scriverò piú.” With these solemn words, which mean “I will not write anymore,” the Italian novelist, short-story writer, and poet Cesare Pavese (1908-1950) concluded his diary, and killed himself nine days later by taking an overdose of sleeping pills.

Of what is a writer’s suicide emblematic? Of writing’s inability to save a life? Ardent lovers of literature may even find it hard to believe that a talent like Pavese’s could not somehow have kept on producing, plunging anew into the toils of composition as a way of resolving perfunctorily (or at least of putting off) the comparatively minor problems of unrequited love and daily living. But of course I am waxing ironic. It is arresting and, I daresay, grimly informative that Pavese’s extraordinarily lucid and pessimistic diary is entitled Il mestiere di vivere (1952), a book translated into English as This Business of Living and all too significantly emphasizing the “métier” or “trade” of living–as in, say, “Mastering the Trade of Living.” Context