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Happy People

7 Things Remarkably Happy People Do Often by Jeff Haden.

Happiness: everyone wants it, yet relatively few seem to get enough of it, especially those in their early forties. (I’m no psychologist, but that’s probably about when many of us start thinking, “Wait; is this all there is?”)

Good news and bad news: unfortunately, approximately 50 percent of your happiness, your “happiness set-point,” is determined by personality traits that are largely hereditary. Half of how happy you feel is basically outside your control.

Bummer.

But, that means 50 percent of your level of happiness is totally within your control: relationships, health, career, etc. So even if you’re genetically disposed to be somewhat gloomy, you can still do things to make yourself a lot happier.

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Shaft

Detroit Retirees Get a Bailout; Detroit Residents the Shaft by Shikha Dalmia.

In Detroit’s unfolding saga, the only innocent victims are city residents. So if there is any case for a Motown bailout, it is to make the city more livable for them.

However, that seems to be the main goal of neither the Democratic White House nor the state’s Republican governor—both of whom have come up with nifty new schemes to shovel taxpayer largesse to city retirees.

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Open Letter

Charles Murray: An Open Letter to the Students of Azusa Pacific University

I was scheduled to speak to you tomorrow. I was going to talk about my new book, “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead,” and was looking forward to it. But it has been “postponed.” Why? An email from your president, Jon Wallace, to my employer, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), said “Given the lateness of the semester and the full record of Dr. Murray’s scholarship, I realized we needed more time to prepare for a visit and postponed Wednesday’s conversation.” This, about an appearance that has been planned for months. I also understand from another faculty member that he and the provost were afraid of “hurting our faculty and students of color.”

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Piketty II & III

Diana Furchtgott-Roth reviews Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty.

Related: On Tour With Rock-Star Economist Thomas Piketty by Boris Kachka. See here.

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Piketty

The WSJ reviews Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty.

Thomas Piketty likes capitalism because it efficiently allocates resources. But he does not like how it allocates income. There is, he thinks, a moral illegitimacy to virtually any accumulation of wealth, and it is a matter of justice that such inequality be eradicated in our economy. The way to do this is to eliminate high incomes and to reduce existing wealth through taxation.

“Capital in the Twenty-First Century” is Mr. Piketty’s dense exploration of the history of wages and wealth over the past three centuries. He presents a blizzard of data about income distribution in many countries, claiming to show that inequality has widened dramatically in recent decades and will soon get dangerously worse. Whether or not one is convinced by Mr. Piketty’s data—and there are reasons for skepticism, given the author’s own caveats and the fact that many early statistics are based on extremely limited samples of estate tax records and dubious extrapolation—is ultimately of little consequence. For this book is less a work of economic analysis than a bizarre ideological screed.

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Upside-Down

Global Warming’s Upside-Down Narrative by Bjørn Lomborg.

When politicians around the world tell the story of global warming, they cast it as humanity’s greatest challenge. But they also promise that it is a challenge that they can meet at low cost, while improving the world in countless other ways. We now know that is nonsense.

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Egypt

The Sources of Egyptian Anti-Semitism by Samuel Tadros.

From liberals to Islamists, one of the only ideas that binds Egyptians is anti-Semitism. Where did it come from? Why is Egyptian culture so drenched in this toxic ideology? And what does it mean for the world and for Egypt’s future?

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Charter Schools

Stop Attacking Charter Schools by A. Barton Hinkle.

Try a little thought experiment. Suppose somebody invented a new kind of hospital. At first, nobody—not even the inventors—knew whether these new hospitals would work. But gradually the evidence came in—and it showed the new hospitals working better than the old ones. Not all of them, and not all the time. But most of them and more often than not.

In the new hospitals, the patients got better faster. Not only that: The new hospitals worked special wonders with the sickest patients—the poor and minority cohorts traditional hospitals often wrote off as hopeless. And just to put a cherry on top of the sundae, the new hospitals usually charged less. Sometimes much less.

Naturally, word got around. More and more of the new-format hospitals began opening. Yet demand for space in them grew even faster. People joined lotteries and waiting lists, hoping they could get in. They held rallies demanding new-format hospitals and wrote to politicians, asking for help in getting a new-format hospital in their neighborhood.

Well, you could imagine what would happen next. The old-fashioned hospitals would start raising heck. They would complain that the new hospitals were cherry-picking patients. That they were kicking out patients who didn’t heal fast enough. That they were in the hospital business to make money, not to help cure the sick.

And when those claims turned out to be false, the old-fashioned hospitals would accuse the new ones of stealing patients and dollars from them in order to destroy the traditional-hospital system. The new hospitals, they would argue, had to be stopped in order to protect the traditional ones.

Confronted with an argument like that, most people would scratch their heads. Just whom is a hospital supposed to be for, anyway—the patients or the employees? If the old hospitals don’t want to lose business, then why don’t they do what the new hospitals are doing?

This, essentially, is the story of the charter-school movement. In the past decade the number of charter schools in America has more than doubled, and the number of students enrolled in them has more than tripled. That growth has been driven by one simple factor: success. Although charter schools are not working miracles, they frequently are leaving traditional public schools in the dust.

More at Reason.

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Fix

How to Fix Baseball’s Replay Mess by John Culhane.

Steal tennis’s replay system: Make the players challenge and keep managers off the field.

Read more here.

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Everest

Who Dies on Everest—and Where, and Why by Svati Kirsten Narula.

The mountain just witnessed its deadliest day, underscoring an uncomfortable reality: The risks of Himalayan expeditions aren’t shared equally among climbers.

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Closing

The Closing of the Academic Mind by M.G. Oprea.

Harvard student Sandra Y.L. Korn recently proposed in The Harvard Crimson that academics should be stopped if their research is deemed oppressive. Arguing that “academic justice” should replace “academic freedom,” she writes: “If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of ‘academic freedom’?”

In other words, Korn would have the university cease to be a forum for open debate and free inquiry in the name of justice, as defined by mainstream liberal academia.

Unfortunately, this is already a reality in most universities across America, where academics and university administrators alike are trying, often successfully, to discredit and prohibit certain ideas and ways of thinking. Particularly in the humanities, many ideas are no longer considered legitimate, and debate over them is de facto non-existent. In order to delegitimize researchers who are out of line, academics brand them with one of several terms that have emerged from social science theory.

More here.

Related: Three Points You Must Not Overlook in Discussing the Brandeis/Hirsi Ali Controversy by Greg Lukianoff.

Ever since Brandeis University decided last week to revoke an honorary degree it was poised to grant to controversial women’s rights activist and atheist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Internet has blown up with discussion, with some people condemning the decision, others defending it, and still others playing the culture war role of saying, “Double standard! I bet you wouldn’t feel this way if Hirsi Ali was criticizing a religion other than Islam.” So, in other words, it’s a typical culture war fight on the Internet.

There are a few points, however, that I believe any serious and informed discussion of the Brandeis/Hirsi Ali honorary degree revocation need to address:

More here.

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Troubling

10 Troubling Facts About Antidepressants by Jonathan Rottenberg.

The depression epidemic rages around us. Some 38 million American adults –our teachers, our lawyers, our cousins, our friends–struggle with depression. The World Health Organization projects that by 2030, the amount of disability and life lost due to depression will be greater than that from war, accidents, cancer, stroke, or any other health condition besides heart disease.

How have we responded to this challenge? Our primary response has been biomedical, departing from the premise that depression is a chemical imbalance to be corrected with antidepressant drugs. Such an intuitive notion sounds reassuring, yet depression’s toll has only risen with the ascendance of antidepressants. Perhaps it is time to rethink our approach.

More at PT.

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Responsibility

In San Francisco and in Palestine, It’s Time To Grow Up and Take Responsibility by Liel Leibovitz.

From smashing Google Glasses to rejecting peace talks, failing to understand natural rights is leading to some very dark places.

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Procrastinating

Why We Can’t Stop Procrastinating, According to Scienceby Michelle Castillo.

If you are constantly running late or finding yourself behind on deadline, admit it: You’re a procrastinator.

And you’re not alone. A study in Psychological Bulletin by University of Calgary professor Piers Steel showed that the percentage of chronic procrastinators has grown from about 5 percent in 1978 to 26 percent in 2007. (Other researchers have put more recent numbers at around 20 percent, but it’s clear the problem is on the rise.)

So what’s going on?

More here.

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Crisis

The Return of God: Atheism’s Crisis of Faith by Theo Hobson.

Like any movement or religion, atheism has ambitions. Over the years it has grown and developed until it has become about far more than just not believing in God: today atheism aspires to a moral system too. It comes with an idea of how to behave that’s really very close to traditional secular humanism, and offers a sense of community and values. Atheism has crept so close to religion these days that it’s de rigueur for political atheists like Ed Miliband to boast about a dual identity: a secular allegiance to a religions tradition, in his case Judaism. They don’t of course believe any of the mumbo jumbo about God, prophets and angels.

But as pleasant and rational as this all sounds, the new atheists are now hitting the intellectual buffers. The problem that confronts them is as stark as it is simple: our morality has religious roots. Put another way: when God is rejected, the stakes are gulpingly high; the entire moral tradition of the West is put in question.

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Pluralism

Can One Teach The Whole Gospel While Standing On One Leg? by Peter Berger.

Pluralism, the co-existence of different world-views and value systems in the same society, weakens the certainty with which people had previously held their religious and moral convictions. Minimally, one becomes aware of the fact that other people, who do not seem obviously demented, do not share these convictions—and nevertheless manage to get along in their lives. This awareness makes it difficult to take one’s convictions for granted; now, one must stop and reflect about them. Pluralism has become a global reality. All those “others” keep obtruding.

Inevitably the thought occurs: Could it be that they are right? Perhaps, they are right about some things but not about the ones I care most about. In religious communities this has led to a quest for the core of the tradition, which is non-negotiable, as against more peripheral aspects which, if really pressed, I might modify or give up. I have used the term “cognitive bargaining” to describe this process. As Peter van der Veer has brilliantly shown in his new book The Modern Spirit of Asia, it was Western modernity that has exerted enormous pressure on the cultures of India and China to define a core of their traditions that (however redefined) must be preserved, while different (more supposedly backward or superstitious) ones may be left behind. Thus Chinese intellectuals and political leaders have sought to retain a supposedly central Confucian worldview, while stripping off its links with traditional social and political institutions—no more binding women’s feet, no more imperial ritual. And Hindu reformers have defined a “spiritual” core of Hinduism while renouncing features deemed unacceptable to modern sensibilities, such as untouchability or widow-burning. Even Christianity (actually not that much earlier) engaged with modernity, with similar “bargaining” has been taking place—for example, the resurrection of Jesus (even if redefined) has generally been deemed to be non-negotiable, but not all the other miracles of the New Testament.

Pluralism or not, I think that such a process of reflection is very useful. It has been broadly repudiated as “essentialism” by postmodern theorists. I disagree. Of course some alleged “essences” are poorly chosen, or are devices to avoid the immense complexities of reality. But reflection about core convictions is a healthy, and in some situations an inevitable exercise. Emile Durkheim proposed that the survival of a society depends on the willingness of its members, if necessary, to die for it. This implies that the core of what the society is, that for which one may be prepared to die, can be distinguished from more peripheral or even immoral items (the ideals of liberty and equality, as against the excesses of French colonialism). Every curious child will ask about this or that newly encountered phenomenon: What is this really all about?

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Troubling

Andy Stanley’s Troubling New Sermon by Alexander Griswold.

The last place you might expect to hear a call to put “religion in its place” is a church. And certainly the last church you might expect to hear it at is an Evangelical megachurch . But that was indeed the message of Atlanta megachurch pastor Andy Stanley’s message on Sunday, April 6, entitled “Putting Religion in its Place.” Stanley, the pastor of Atlanta’s North Point Community Church, addressed the topic as part of a sermon series addressing why God became human. One of those reasons, Stanley preached, was “to put religion in its place.”

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Free?

The Slow Death of Free Speech by Mark Steyn.

How the Left, here and abroad, is trying to shut down debate — from Islam and Israel to global warming and gay marriage.

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Wrong

You’re Wrong, Bart Ehrman by Robert Barron.

Well, it’s Easter time, and that means that the mainstream media and publishing houses can be counted upon to issue de-bunking attacks on orthodox Christianity.

The best-publicized of these is Bart Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God. Many by now know at least the outlines of Ehrman’s biography: once a devout Bible-believing evangelical Christian, trained at Wheaton College, the alma mater of Billy Graham, he saw the light and became an agnostic scholar and is now on a mission to undermine the fundamental assumptions of Christianity.

In this most recent tome, Ehrman lays out what is actually a very old thesis, going back at least to the 18th century and repeated ad nauseam in skeptical circles ever since, namely, that Jesus was a simple itinerant preacher who never claimed to be divine and whose “resurrection” was in fact an invention of his disciples who experienced hallucinations of their master after his death. Of course Ehrman, like so many of his skeptical colleagues across the centuries, breathlessly presents this thesis as though he has made a brilliant discovery.

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Wrong

What the Show Cosmos Gets Wrong about Religion—and Science by Elizabeth Yale. See here.