What I’m Reading This Summer

 

I’ve always been an optimist when it comes to the ability of human beings to better their lives and their societies if only they are given the freedom to use their talents and abilities. That’s one reason News Corporation has always seen new technology as an asset (look at how the Wall Street Journal has embraced the iPad, for example) rather than a threat.

I have been reading two books that make a strong case that we ought to be even more optimistic today. Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist, which is out, offers a compelling argument that the increase in exchange and communications is accelerating improvements in the human condition because it is bringing together many more people – in other words, many more brains – to solve our problems. I don’t want to spoil the debut of Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation – which will be out in October – but he suggests the operative question is, How do we create the optimum environment for encouraging this innovation? I won’t give away his answers, but I can guarantee Ricochet members that you will find it a fascinating read.

There You Go!

 

There’s been much discussion here of late about happiness and the disconnect between contentment and imminent doom, the latter with particular reference to Claire’s and my neighborhood. Well, it turns out that either things really are swell in Israel or we are truly masters of denial. Gallup conducted a study of the happiness levels of 155 countries that surveyed thousands of respondents over four years. The results are in: Israel tied Canada, Switzerland and Australia as the eighth happiest country on earth.

The Real Mayberry: Just Passing Through

 

Mt. Airy, NC: The name of this place is Brintles Truck Stop. One of the few mom and pop truck stops that isn’t completely dilapidated, the staff is thoroughly friendly. Then again, what else could one expect in Andy Griffith’s home town? Mt. Airy was the inspiration for Andy’s town of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith show. Floyd’s Barber Shop really does exist here. In fact, a portion of the truck stop is reserved for Mayberry paraphernalia. Everything from Mayberry coffee cups, Aunt Bea’s Cookbook, Mayberry bibs, back scratchers, travel mugs, sheriff badges, thimbles, water bottles, dvds, and more can be found here. The restaurant has been remodeled, the rodents evicted, and flat screen televisions set to Fox News Channel adorn the walls. Supper last night was great. They don’t serve dinner here, only supper, and that suits us just fine.

Reluctantly, I have to leave this quaint little place in a few minutes. The good thing about being a long haul trucker is that I get to spend some time in wonderful towns like this. The bad thing is, I invariably have to move on. But its been that way most of my life, from being a minister’s kid and moving from church to church, to transferring from one base to another in the military, so that the nomadic existence of a trucker fits like a glove.

Volt Jolt

 

This? In the New York Times? Yes, I know. I’m behind the cycle here–I’m only just now getting to the morning newspapers. But jeepers. A column that subjects to the most withering ridicule the Obama administration, environmentalism, the stimulus package, and the overhyped Chevy Volt–all in the pages of the grey lady. Get a load of this:

…G.M.’s vision turned into a car that costs $41,000 before relevant tax breaks … but after billions of dollars of government loans and grants for the Volt’s development and production. And instead of the sleek coupe of 2007, it looks suspiciously similar to a Toyota Prius. It also requires premium gasoline, seats only four people (the battery runs down the center of the car, preventing a rear bench) and has less head and leg room than the $17,000 Chevrolet Cruze, which is more or less the non-electric version of the Volt.

Member Post

 

In an extremely rare move, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., has announced she’ll go to trial rather than accept the ethics charges against her from a House ethics subcommittee. From The Hill: Waters is accused of helping facilitate $12 million in Troubled Asset Relief Program funds for OneUnited Bank, of which her husband was a director […]

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A Supposedly Fun Thing Ricochet’s Never Going to Do

 

So I’m thinking into the future here about Ricochet’s answer to the National Review cruise. Why, you ask? Isn’t that a little premature? Well, yes, but I’ve got another deadline, which always inspires me to apply my mind to any problem but the one I’m supposed to be solving.

My train of thought went like this. I found this great link to the best magazine articles ever written, and if you’ve got a deadline, too, I suggest you not click on it, because there goes your weekend. So instead of working on what I’m supposed to be doing this morning, I ended up re-reading, among other things, David Foster Wallace’s essay Shipping Out, which is about his one-week trip on the cruise ship M.V. Zenith. It was later published as A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. That was the first piece I ever read by David Foster Wallace, and I remember reading it and feeling thrilled to see proof that America could, indeed, still produce that kind of incandescent talent, because for a time I wasn’t sure. Now, of course, it’s impossible to read his work without sadness.

When Men Who Have Never Done Anything Run the Show

 

I would have given this excellent, common-sense article by Warren Meyer a different headline. It’s called “Why Keynes Was Wrong,” but I think the real point, the interesting point, is the importance of economic policy being formed, or at least informed, by people who have actually had experience of running a business. I remember talking to Sir John Hoskyns, who headed the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit in Thatcher’s first term, about just this. “Something critical about the Thatcher revolution,” he said, was

the introduction into government, for the first time, of people who have an idea of what happens inside a business. Britain is, compared to the United States, extraordinary because there had been, until Thatcher, such a limited number of people with any exposure to the business world in government.

No Revolutions, Thanks, We’re a Democracy

 

Drudge is excitedly linking to this strange piece on Investors.com that asks rhetorically–but with more than a hint of enthusiasm–whether Americans might not be ready to overthrow their government by force. At least, that’s how it reads to me.

The Internet is a large-scale version of the “Committees of Correspondence” that led to the first American Revolution — and with Washington’s failings now so obvious and awful, it may lead to another.

The Odd Accomplishment of Sen. Lindsey Graham

 

Sen. Graham, the Republican of South Carolina, has proposed a constitutional amendment to deny citizenship to the children of illegal aliens. In the fractious, many-sided debate on immigration, Sen. Graham has achieved something rare: unanimity. As best I can tell, everybody agrees that his proposal is nuts. Over at Contentions, Jennifer Rubin, who is very much in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, quotes Mark Krikorian, who very much isn’t–and does so approvingly:

Although we agree on practically nothing concerning this issue, I fully concur with Mark Krikorian on this one….“I’m exactly against changing this,” [Krikorian] said. “I think it’s sort of a stupid thing. You would end up with lots of U.S.-born illegal immigrants. There’s something like 300,000 kids born here to illegal immigrants every year.”

Member Post

 

The word is that China is now the world’s second largest economy, overtaking Japan this year and on track to surpass the United States in another fifteen or so. China’s economy expanded 11.1 percent in the first half of 2010, from a year earlier, and is likely to log growth of more than 9 percent […]

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Member Post

 

I had the pleasure of watching Stephen Strasburg make his MLB pitching debut last month. It was one of the best games I’ve ever seen — 14 strikeouts, 7 of them in a row. Strasburg is still bringing in crowds and tens of thousands came to see him pitch on Tuesday. Except he didn’t make […]

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Democrats are from Harvard; Republicans are from DeVry

 

Everyone, it seems, hates for-profit education. The Democrats, led by Senator Tom Harkin, are trying to regulate it by tightening up the federal rules on student loans. Famous hedge fund investor Steve Eisman has schools like University of Phoenix and DeVry in his sights. He’s testified in Congress about shady loan practices at some of these places; about loose standards for job placement; about the practice of overburdening students with loans while preparing them for low-paying jobs.

(Eisman is also a major short-seller in the sector. So having him publicly run down the industry is not only good for Senator Harkin and the regulation-happy Democrats, it’s also going to make him rich. Richer, I mean.)

Naked Ladies

 

Back in the bad old days, publications such as Playboy exploited women by presenting erotic photos of them for the titillation and gratification of men. Now, thanks to the efforts of women’s groups, when famous females appear in magazines without their clothes, it’s a sign of their empowerment. They’re proud of their bodies, and they want to make their own decisions.

If that seems a bit confusing to you, let me explain. Well, actually, I can’t. It appears to be mostly a matter of what year you decided to strip for the cameras. Before the women’s movement, it was exploitation; afterwards, it was empowerment.Well, at least men are still gratified and titillated.

Obama’s Second Term: Triangulation’s Revenge?

 

Beware, writes David Brooks:

What would happen if Obama sidestepped the fruitless and short-term stimulus debate and instead focused on the long term? He could explain that we’re facing deep fundamental problems: an aging population, overleveraged consumers, exploding government debt, state and local bankruptcies, declining human capital, widening inequality, a pattern of jobless recoveries, deteriorating trade imbalances and so on.