Quick hits (part II)

1) Loved this from Tim Wu on the non-economic costs to passengers from the fee-based system airlines rely on now.  Here’s the key insight:

But the fee model comes with systematic costs that are not immediately obvious. Here’s the thing: in order for fees to work, there needs be something worth paying to avoid. That necessitates, at some level, a strategy that can be described as “calculated misery.” Basic service, without fees, must be sufficiently degraded in order to make people want to pay to escape it. And that’s where the suffering begins.  [emphasis mine]

2) Stephen Pinker applies the thesis (the world is actually getting substantially less violent) to the chaotic and violent world of today and says, yes, we’ve still got it pretty good.

3) Nice piece on the partisan politics of education policy and how they have dramatically changed.

4) How to actually debunk false beliefs (it’s not easy).

5) Everything is awesome!  Sort of.  Or at least the economy is doing a lot better than people realize says Michael Grunwald.   Some nice analysis of why people are so negative.  The media.  And:

The other problem in acknowledging good news, not just for the press but for the public, is that it has come to feel partisan, like an endorsement of whoever occupies the White House. Republican leaders have exacerbated this problem by describing everything Obama has done — his 2009 stimulus package, his 2010 Wall Street reforms, his 2013 tax hikes on high earners, his various anti-pollution regulations aimed at coal-fired power plants, and most of all Obamacare — as “job-killing” catastrophes that would obliterate the economy. It’s hard to point out that the economy is humming along nicely without making those doom-and-gloom predictions sound ill-advised and over-the-top. Because they were.

6) Speaking of which, Matt O’Brien reminds of us a not atypical WSJ Op-Ed predicting doom– especially for the stock market– under Obama’s economic policies.

7) Loved this David Frum book review looking at the world wars and how America became an economic superpower.  I thought I knew my 20th century history in this regard pretty well, but I learned a lot.

8) Thought this was a great analysis of the Sony hack and understanding North Korea’s actions.

9) I’m certainly interested in the  sociology of e-cigarettes versus cigarettes, but was really fascinated to learn how the biology and physics interact to affect all this:

Along with replicating important sensory aspects of smoking, like taste, the biggest hurdle for the new devices, experts say, is delivering nicotine with the efficiency of a cigarette. Within seconds of taking a drag, a smoker feels the nicotine’s soothing effects because compounds that are produced when tobacco burns are perfectly sized to carry nicotine deep into the lungs allowing the drug to quickly reach the brain. Those same compounds, which are collectively known as tars, also cause cancer and other diseases.

By comparison, the type of vapor generated by e-cigarettes, experts say, is a less efficient carrier of nicotine than smoke. “There is more deposition in the mouth,” with vapor, said Jeffrey S. Gentry, the chief scientific officer of R.J. Reynolds, a division of Reynolds American.

10) I ended up reading several lists of best video games of the year.  I haven’t played much but the occasional Ipad game in a while.  Since I love first-person shooters and I’m on vacation, I decided I’d investigate a little more to find something older (since I don’t have a high quality graphics card) and cheaper.  Apparently, Half Life 2 is the best fps ever.  I downloaded it for $5 and have had a lot of fun when I should have been blogging.

11) I’ve also enjoyed Monument Valley for Ipad which is easily the most visually engaging game I’ve ever played.  It’s spatial puzzles also seem custom-made to appeal to my 8-year old son, Evan, who has had to help me through several levels after conquering the whole game in an hour or so.

12) Nice piece in the Atlantic about the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law in recent controversies (personally, I prefer the spirit).

13)  Vox interviews the anti Dr. Oz.

14) I took a number of really good classes on Christianity and the New Testament back at Duke, so I cannot say that all that much in this exhaustive (in a good way) essay in Newsweek about how amazingly misunderstood the bible is was a surprise to me.  But it’s a great summary of modern academic scholarship on the bible and how so much of modern Christianity gets it wrong.

14b) Also led me to discover this study I had never seen on how most Christians are actually far more like pharisees than what Jesus preached (not that this result surprised me).

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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