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“Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom”*…

Lynn Hunt on Alexis de Tocqueville, who left France to study the American prison system and returned with the material that would become Democracy in America

Alexis de Tocqueville was a study in contradictions: a French aristocrat of proud heritage who trumpeted the inevitable, salutary rise of democracy, using the United States as his exemplar; a cosmopolitan with an English wife and many friends in the Anglo-American world who brandished a fervent French nationalism; an antislavery advocate who felt no discomfort in supporting the French colonization of Algeria and hired as his main assistant Arthur de Gobineau, who later published one of the founding texts of white supremacy; and finally a man of delicate constitution who undertook an arduous trip on horseback into the wilderness of northern Michigan in order to see Native Americans and new settler communities for himself. Such inconsistencies make for a fascinating story, and in The Man Who Understood Democracy, Olivier Zunz, a French-educated historian who has taught US history for decades at the University of Virginia, shows that he is ideally suited to tell it.

Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, published in two volumes in 1835 and 1840, became an instant classic and has remained one to this day. On its hundredth anniversary in 1935, the French government presented a bust of the author to Franklin D. Roosevelt, and an article at the time referred to the book as “perhaps the greatest, most lucid, and most impartial commentary that free institutions in general, and American self-government in particular, had ever received.” Democracy in America served as a kind of textbook for US students for many generations, but it is now more often cited than read. That dutiful disregard may be the fate of all such masterworks, especially one that runs about eight hundred pages, but Zunz has succeeded in restoring its appeal, first by vividly retracing its origins and then by skillfully evoking the enduring excitement and relevance of its analysis…

Alexis de Tocqueville, the Frenchman who unpacked the tension between freedom and equality in the United States: “‘A Great Democratic Revolution’.”

* Alexis de Tocqueville– who went on to observe that “Americans are so enamored of equality, they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.”

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As we dedicate ourselves to democracy, we might note that today is Fibonacci Day, as today’s date is often rendered 11/23, and the Fibonacci sequence (also here and here) begins 1, 1, 2, 3…

Five Ways to Celebrate Fibonacci Day.

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“As long as we tell our urban ancestors’ stories, no city is ever lost. They live on, in our imaginations and on our public lands, as a promise that no matter how terrible things get, humans always try again.”*…

In the dusty plains of present-day Sindh in southern Pakistan lie the remains of one of the world’s most impressive ancient cities of which most people have never heard. Samantha Shea reports…

A slight breeze cut through the balmy heat as I surveyed the ancient city around me. Millions of red bricks formed walkways and wells, with entire neighbourhoods sprawled out in a grid-like fashion. An ancient Buddhist stupa towered over the time-worn streets, with a large communal pool complete with a wide staircase below. Somehow, only a handful of other people were here – I practically had the place all to myself.

I was about an hour outside of the dusty town of Larkana in southern Pakistan at the historical site of Mohenjo-daro. While today only ruins remain, 4,500 years ago this was not only one of the world’s earliest cities, but a thriving metropolis featuring highly advanced infrastructures.

Mohenjo-daro – which means “mound of the dead men” in Sindhi – was the largest city of the once-flourishing Indus Valley (also known as Harappan) Civilisation that ruled from north-east Afghanistan to north-west India during the Bronze Age. Believed to have been inhabited by at least 40,000 people, Mohenjo-daro prospered from 2500 to 1700 BCE.

“It was an urban centre that had social, cultural, economic and religious linkages with Mesopotamia and Egypt,” explained Irshad Ali Solangi, a local guide who is the third generation of his family to work at Mohenjo-daro.

But compared to the cities of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, which thrived around the same time, few have heard of Mohenjo-daro. By 1700 BCE, it was abandoned, and to this day, no-one is sure exactly why the inhabitants left or where they went…

The fascinating tale: “Pakistan’s lost city of 40,000 people,” from @IDtravelblog in @BBC_Travel.

* Annalee Newitz, Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age

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As we muse on mutability, we might send (semi-)adventurous birthday greetings to Thomas Cook; he was born on this date in 1808. An English businessman, he is best known for founding the travel agency Thomas Cook & Son— through which he pioneered the “package tour” and helped build tourism systems (vouchers, company agents/guides, purpose-built hotels, et al.) that fueled the growth of leisure travel first in Italy, then around the world.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 22, 2022 at 1:00 am

“If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things”*…

What’s in a name?…

The goal of this article is to promote clear thinking and clear writing among students and teachers of psychological science by curbing terminological misinformation and confusion. To this end, we present a provisional list of 50 commonly used terms in psychology, psychiatry, and allied fields that should be avoided, or at most used sparingly and with explicit caveats. We provide corrective information for students, instructors, and researchers regarding these terms, which we organize for expository purposes into five categories: inaccurate or misleading terms, frequently misused terms, ambiguous terms, oxymorons, and pleonasms. For each term, we (a) explain why it is problematic, (b) delineate one or more examples of its misuse, and (c) when pertinent, offer recommendations for preferable terms. By being more judicious in their use of terminology, psychologists and psychiatrists can foster clearer thinking in their students and the field at large regarding mental phenomena…

From “a gene for” through “multiple personality disorder” and “scientific proof” to “underlying biological dysfunction”: “Fifty psychological and psychiatric terms to avoid: a list of inaccurate, misleading, misused, ambiguous, and logically confused words and phrases.”

[TotH to @BoingBoing, whence the photo above]

* Confucius, The Analects

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As we speak clearly, we might send carefully-worded birthday greetings to Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire; he was born on this date in 1694.  The Father of the Age of Reason, he produced works in almost every literary form: plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works– more than 2,000 books and pamphlets (and more than 20,000 letters).  He popularized Isaac Newton’s work in France by arranging a translation of Principia Mathematica to which he added his own commentary.

A social reformer, Voltaire used satire to criticize the intolerance, religious dogma, and oligopolistic privilege of his day, perhaps nowhere more sardonically than in Candide.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 21, 2022 at 1:00 am

“America’s health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system”*…

Care is deteriorating even as prices rise. There are a number of reasons; Fred Shulte explores a new and growing category of culprit…

Private equity is rapidly moving to reshape health care in America, coming off a banner year in 2021, when the deep-pocketed firms plowed $206 billion into more than 1,400 health care acquisitions, according to industry tracker PitchBook.

Seeking quick returns, these investors are buying into eye care clinics, dental management chains, physician practices, hospices, pet care providers, and thousands of other companies that render medical care nearly from cradle to grave. Private equity-backed groups have even set up special “obstetric emergency departments” at some hospitals, which can charge expectant mothers hundreds of dollars extra for routine perinatal care.

As private equity extends its reach into health care, evidence is mounting that the penetration has led to higher prices and diminished quality of care, a KHN investigation has found. KHN found that companies owned or managed by private equity firms have agreed to pay fines of more than $500 million since 2014 to settle at least 34 lawsuits filed under the False Claims Act, a federal law that punishes false billing submissions to the federal government with fines. Most of the time, the private equity owners have avoided liability…

The terrifying details: “Sick Profit: Investigating Private Equity’s Stealthy Takeover of Health Care Across Cities and Specialties,” from @FredSchulte at @KHNews.

See also: “Private equity, health care, and profits: It’s time to protect patients,” “Private equity health-care monopolies are on a profitable killing spree,” and “Private equity deals drive up healthcare use, costs among physician practices, JAMA study finds” (this last, source of the image above).

* Walter Cronkite

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As we muse on mercenary medicine, we might send healing birthday greetings to James Collip; he was born on this date in 1892. A biochemist, he partnered with Frederick Banting and Charles Best to discover insulin in 1921. The co-inventors sold the insulin patent to the University of Toronto for a mere $1. They wanted everyone who needed their medication to be able to afford it.

Today, Banting and his colleagues would be spinning in their graves: Their drug, on many of the 30 million Americans with diabetes rely, has become the poster child for pharmaceutical price gouging.

The cost of the four most popular types of insulin has tripled over the past decade, and the out-of-pocket prescription costs patients now face have doubled. By 2016, the average price per month rose to $450 — and costs continue to rise, so much so that as many as one in four people with diabetes are now skimping on or skipping lifesaving doses

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 20, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Books have a unique way of stopping time in a particular moment”*…

From Johannes Enevoldsen (@JohsEnevoldsen), a clock based on excerpts from books: “Literature Clock” (inspired by Jaap MeijersE-reader clock).

* Dave Eggers

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As we tell time that’s been told, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that Jay Ward‘s animated series Rocky and Friends premiered on ABC; it ran on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, following American Bandstand at 5:30 p.m. ET, where it was the highest-rated daytime network program.

Featuring the adventure of the titular flying squirrel and his companion, Bullwinkle the Moose (in an on-going struggle against Russian-like spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, both working for the Nazi-like dictator Fearless Leader), the show also contained supporting segments include “Dudley Do-Right” (a parody of old-time melodrama), “Peabody’s Improbable History” (a dog named Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman traveling through time), and “Fractured Fairy Tales” (a modern retelling of fables and folk lore).

The show featured quality writing and wry humor, mixing puns, cultural and topical satire, and self-referential humor in a way that appealed to adults as well as children. Indeed, in 1961, the series, re-titled The Bullwinkle Show, moved to NBC as the lead-in to Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. Though it suffered from competition from Lassie, it ran through 1964… after which it moved into syndication, where it remains to this day.

The series was hugely influential on other animated series, from The Simpsons to Rocko’s Modern Life. In 2013, Rocky and His Friends/The Bullwinkle Show was ranked the sixth-greatest television cartoon of all time by TV Guide… in your correspondent’s view, an under-appreciation.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 19, 2022 at 1:00 am

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