My Faults My Own

One's ponens is another's tollens.

IN WHICH Ross Rheingans-Yoo, a sometimes-poet and erstwhile student of Computer Science and Math, oc­cas­ion­al­ly writes on things of int­erest.

Reading Feed (last update: September 17)

A collection of things that I was happy I read. Views expressed by linked authors are chosen because I think they're interesting, not because I think they're correct, unless indicated otherwise.


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Short: The Washington Post’s robot reporter has published 850 articles in the past year — h/t Tyler Cowen


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Blog: Marginal Revolution | Why do Swedes support their far-right parties? — "Using Swedish election data, I show that shocks to unemployment risk among unskilled native-born workers account for 5 to 7 percent of the increased vote share for the Swedish far-right party Sweden Democrats. In areas with an influx of unskilled immigrants equal to a one standard deviation larger than the average influx, the effect of the unemployment risk shock to unskilled native-born workers is exacerbated by almost 140 percent."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | I find it remarkable

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Chelsea Manning / HKS IOP / "Visiting Fellowship"

Here are some Harvard Crimson headlines from this week:

So here we go...


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One of the more annoying things about this affair has been the way the discussion has chased a dramatized, misleading version of the facts. To borrow a phrase, the commentators (in my social bubble) seem content with -- if not actively interested in -- framing the matter to produce heat, instead of light.

The easiest antidote for this is actually to read Dean Elmendorf's statement announcing and explaining the withdrawal of the IOP's Visiting Fellow appointment. I say this not because I agree with the decision or Elmendorf's justification, but because it at least explains what the decision was:

Some visitors to the Kennedy School are invited for just

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The dark joke that was Shkreli's voir dire

Two things. First, these selected quotations from the voir dire of Martin Shkreli's trial for securities fraud are widely understood to be hilarious:

The Court: The purpose of jury selection is to ensure fairness and impartiality in this case. If you think that you could not be fair and impartial, it is your duty to tell me. All right. Juror Number 1.

Juror no. 1: I’m aware of the defendant and I hate him.

[Defense attorney] Benjamin Brafman: I’m sorry.

Juror no. 1: I think he’s a greedy little man.

...

The Court: Juror Number 1 is excused. Juror Number 18.

Juror no. 18: Both of my parents are on prescriptions that have gone up over the past few months, so much that they can’t afford their drugs. I have several friends who have H.I.V. or AIDS who, again, can’t afford the prescription drugs

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Mass Ave, Mt Auburn, and a Tale of Two Schools

Still, this report shows that Harvard could learn a lot from MIT about how to run a university.

Harry Lewis, "The Report Harvard Should Have Asked For", 2013


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Around the time I came to Harvard, both Mass Ave schools were dealing with the fallout of embarrassing, messy institutional mistakes. Both started with relatively small incidents, compounded by administrative decisions that were incredibly contentious during and after the fact.

Harvard's began with the Gov 1310 cheating scandal -- and it escalated when scandal erupted over the administration's search of faculty emails to find which sub-dean had spoken to the press, raising both privacy concerns and unease about the relationship between the faculty and the administration.

MIT's began with the arrest of Aaron Swartz for downloading academic articles from JSTOR -- and escalated over the Institute's complicity with the US Attorney's Office, which many members of the community felt betrayed

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Thoughts on "Be Reasonable" as a collaboration policy

I drafted this one back in May when the controversy described was live, but never quite got around to pushing it out the door. There haven't been any real developments in the news since then, and I still believe in the points I made, so I'm publishing it now before it gets any more stale.

A course I used to teach -- cs50 -- has seen some on-campus news (and editorial) coverage recently in the wake of a leak that 60 students in the course were reported to the Administrative Board on suspicions of academic dishonesty. I don't have much to say, not having any relationship with the course since 2016 and not having any particularly relevant inside information as a former Teaching Fellow. (As a relatively junior member of the course staff, I wasn't asked to work on any cases of academic dishonesty, and the revelations that

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Is Patriotism A Virtue?

Alasdair MacIntyre, The 1984 Lindley Lecture at the University of Kansas. excerpted to 1787 words.

One of the central tasks of the moral philosopher is to articulate the convictions of the society in which he or she lives so that these convictions may become available for rational scrutiny. This task is all the more urgent when a variety of conflicting and incompatible beliefs are held within one and the same community, either by rival groups who differ on key moral questions or by one and the same set of individuals who find within themselves competing moral allegiances. In either of these types of case the first task of the moral philosopher is to render explicit what is at issue in the various disagreements and it is a task of this kind that I have set myself in this lecture.

For it is quite clear that there are large disagreements about

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On “’till the stock of the Puritans die”

attention-conservation notice: Taking poetry seriously. Wholehearted, uncynical, unapologetic Harvardiana.

Today's the first time that many of Harvard's graduands will hear the little-known final verse of "Fair Harvard". So it seems as good a time as any to muse on the administration's decision to change that verse's final lyric.

It would be pretty natural to be outraged at the prospect, but after trying to start that blog post and failing for a while, I realized that I'm actually in favor of the change.


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"Fair Harvard", as far as almae matres go, is actually quite good. Here are a few others for comparison:

Notre Dame, our Mother  
tender, strong, and true,  
proudly in the heavens,  
gleams thy gold and blue.  
Glory’s mantle cloaks thee;  
golden is thy fame  
and our hearts forever  
praise thee Notre Dame.
MSU, we love thy shadows  
When twilight silence falls,  
glushing deep and softly
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Three Gifts from Penny Rheingans

My mother's given me an awful lot over these 23-odd years, but here are three gifts from her I'm particularly thankful for:

1) An instinct to not assign to malice that which is explained by ignorance -- to seek first to teach, rather than fight. It's easy to assume that the person causing you harm thinks the same way you do, and so is doing it on purpose -- but surprisingly often, that's not the case. And when the culprit really is malice or active apathy, I learned from Mom just how strong relentless politeness can be at clearing problems.

2) A thorough appreciation for the power of good visual design. Mom's a computer scientist with research interests in visualizing data, and to this day, I'll call her when a problem at work seems to call for some special technique. Some of the best tricks I know (and regularly use!

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