Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | February 27, 2013

A List of Links That Does Not Even Presume to Aspire to be a Listicle

Arctic Wolf Pups Playing

Arctic Wolf pups at play, northern Canada

No connection whatsoever:

1. Niamh at Crooked Timber on the recent elections in Italy. Short version: the incumbents lost, badly, and it may be difficult forming a governing coalition in the Italian Parliament.

2. Charles Pierce defends the “Pub Voice” and Russell Crowe’s singing in Les Miserables. (IMHO and fwiw, I thought that Crowe as Javert was good or better than good in the songs where he’s singing a duet or a duel of words with Jackman’s Valjean, and I liked Crowe’s delivery of Javert’s short bit in the song “One Day More,” but the Javert solo songs were mostly forgettable.)

3. Noah Pinion reviews Django Unchained.

4. Clarissa on taxes, the Internet, and shortsighted liberals who do not see slippery slopes and the dangers of censorship: “it is curious how the slogan of ‘just tax the bastards’ is so attractive to certain folks as a way to solve any and all problems that they don’t even stop to consider where encouraging greater governmental regulations of the Internet would leave us all. While some people are bravely fighting off all attempts at Internet censorship, some pseudo-Liberals are so enthralled by the word ‘taxes’ that they don’t stop to evaluate the consequences of the measures they support. Once the government begins to punish certain completely legal online behaviors, censorship will be one step away. And the entities that will suffer as a result will not be Google, Amazon and Facebook. It will be me and you.”

5. Stephen Walt on writing well. He addresses the question of why so much academic writing is “frequently abysmal.” He offers a number of hypotheses and explanations. His most interesting point is this one (emphasis in original):

A second reason is the failure of many scholars to appreciate the difference between the logic of discovery and the logic of presentation. Specifically, the process by which a scholar figures out the answer to a particular question is rarely if ever the best way to explain that answer to a reader. But all too often articles and manuscripts read a bit like a research narrative: “First we read the literature, then we derived the following hypotheses, then we collected this data or researched these cases, then we analyzed them and got these results, and the next day we performed our robustness checks, and here’s what we’re going to do next.”

The problem is that this narrative form is rarely the best way to make a convincing case. Once you know what your argument is, really effective writing involves sitting down and thinking hard about the best way to present that argument to the reader. The most important part of that process is figuring out the overall structure of the argument — what points need to be developed first, and then what follows naturally or logically from them, and so on. An ideal piece of social science writing should have a built-in sense of logical or structural inevitability so that the reader moves along the argument and supporting evidence as effortlessly as possible.

Achieving this quality requires empathy. You have to be able to step outside your own understanding of the problem at hand and ask how your words are going to affect the thinking of someone who doesn’t already know what you know and may even be inclined to disagree with you at first. Indeed, persuasive writing doesn’t just convince the already-converted, a really well-crafted and well-supported argument will overcome a skeptic’s initial resistance.

6. Steve Saideman has a post pointing to this neat collection of maps.

7. PM’s Question Time on Sadistic Grading.

(Image Credit: Photo by Andrew F. Johnson, Nunavut, Canada, August 16, 2010. Used under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license. Via Flickr.)

Update (Wed., Feb. 27, 2013, 11:50 AM): Megan McArdle also has a post about the Italian elections: “everyone in Europe is fed up with austerity, except the people who are still lending money. And since moneylenders are not a majority of the Italian electorate, the result is what we saw a couple of days ago: an Italian election that delivered gridlock. Italy now has a divided government whose only mandate is to make the pain stop. Naturally, markets freaked out, because unlike Greece, Italy is actually in a position to do so. …”

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