The 2012 class of Guggenheim Fellows was announced this week by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, inciting some exuberant responses on the part of several winners (check out Terry Teachout’s Twitter feed). The Guggenheim has long been hailed as the “mid-career award,” honoring scholars, scientists, poets, artists, and writers, who have likely published a book or three, professed a fair amount of research, and are actively engaged in projects of significant scope. The fellowship possesses some tortured origins—(John) Simon Guggenheim, who served as president of the American Smelting and Refining Company and Republican senator from Colorado, seeded the award (1925) following the death of this son John (1922) from mastoiditis (Guggenheim’s second son George later committed suicide, and more infamously his older brother Benjamin went down with the Titanic).
Among this year’s crop (we dare say more forward-leaning than previous years?) is a roster of standout “professionals who have demonstrated exceptional ability by publishing a significant body of work in the fields of natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the creative arts,” affiliated with the University of Chicago Press:
Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry magazine and author of three poetry collections, coeditor of . . .
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Natalie Angier is a science journalist—and an outspoken athiest—with a thirst for. . . . fairness? At least that’s the case in her recent piece for the New York Times, in which she explores the wealth gap that’s helped spur our worst economic crisis since the Great Depression in light of research on human nature and the evolution of human social organization. Interesting to point out that another NYT study bills the average top executive’s salary at ten million dollars and rising twelve percent per year.
And just who’s fair?
Angier spells it out for us:
Darwinian-minded analysts argue that Homo sapiens have an innate distaste for hierarchical extremes, the legacy of our long nomadic prehistory as tightly knit bands living by veldt-ready team-building rules: the belief in fairness and reciprocity, a capacity for empathy and impulse control, and a willingness to work cooperatively in ways that even our smartest primate kin cannot match.
In The Fair Society: The Science of Human Nature and the Pursuit of Social Justice, Peter Corning draws on evidence similar to what Angier cites in her article: the evolutionary record, along with the latest findings from the behavioral and biological sciences. The result? A . . .
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“Our democracy is out of control in Wisconsin,” Mr. Barca said. “And you all know it—you can feel it.”
A quote from this morning’s New York Times, by State Representative and Wisconsin Democrat Peter Barca reveals the escalation of already tense emotions in Madison as the State Assembly prepares to vote on a bill curtailing bargaining rights for many government workers.* Wisconsin has been a site for national and international coverage in past weeks, as tens of thousands of protesters have take to the Wisconsin State Capitol in demonstrations against Republican Scott Walker’s proposed legislation—which would weaken collective bargaining for state employees, requiring those employees to contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries to cover pension costs, and 12.6 percent towards health care premiums.
Recent studies, including one published by the Wall Street Journal, emphasize that growth in state and local government jobs nearly doubles the rate of population growth, and public unions depend on tax revenues to generate pay and benefits. For Wisconsin, a state whose 2003 and 2011 tax cuts may help to generate up to an 800 million dollar reduction in tax revenues by 2013, the situation is dire; this, coupled with Governor Walker’s legislation, which is . . .
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Writing a pithy sentence about winning the Nobel Prize in literature is an exhaustive experience—what more can be said about this accolade of accolades whose booty (ten million Swedish kroner, or roughly 1.4 million dollars) could alter the life of even the most penniless penner of tales? The background story is well told: nineteenth-century arms manufacturer Alfred Nobel, for whom the prize is named, had the opportunity to read his own obituary, the unfortunately titled “The Merchant of Death is Dead,” eight years before his own death (the piece was meant for his deceased brother Ludvig). This transformative experience of embracing one’s own remembrance spurred Nobel to bequeath his assets via a series of prizes to those organizations and persons “who confer the greatest benefit on mankind.”
One hundred and ten years later, here we are. This morning, the Swedish Academy awarded the Nobel Prize in literature to Mario Vargas Llosa (odds embraced by L Magazine), Peruvian novelist, journalist, and statesman whose playful approach and political engagement helped him to become one of Latin America’s most acclaimed modernist-realist writers. In recent decades, Vargas Llosa was perhaps most noted for his staunch neoliberal views, including a run for the Peruvian . . .
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This summer’s unlikeliest hit book, F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, continues to attract notice. Glenn Beck, the Fox News host whose endorsement of the book in June catapulted it up the best-seller list, recently used the book’s success as evidence that his “audience is devouring books like never before.” Over the weekend, the New York Times concurred with Beck and included Road in an article on the emerging “Tea Party canon.” Taking stock of Hayek’s pervasive influence on the current political landscape, the Times reported:
Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, alluded to The Road to Serfdom in introducing his economic “Roadmap for America’s Future,” which many other Republicans have embraced. Ron Johnson, who entered politics through a Tea Party meeting and is now the Republican nominee for Senate in Wisconsin, asserted that the $20 billion escrow fund that the Obama administration forced BP to set up to pay damages from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill circumvented “the rule of law,” Hayek’s term for the unwritten code that prohibits the government from interfering with the pursuit of “personal ends and desires.”
Justin Amash, the 30-year-old Republican state legislator running for the House seat once held by . . .
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According to the Christian Science Monitor, a traffic jam on the Beijing-Tibet expressway in China has now reached its eleventh day, and the snarl currently spans over sixty miles. Seemingly the stuff of a commuter’s pessimistic daydreams, the jam in reality vividly testifies to the powerful forces at work in contemporary China.
Among those forces are a rapidly expanding economy and a bigger role on the world stage, topics examined in detail in China’s Growing Role in World Trade. Cars are part of that growing role according to Popular Science:
While Detroit declines, China is quickly becoming the world’s largest auto economy. China is selling passenger cars to its own citizens at a pace that seems unfathomable during an overall global economic decline (last year China automotive market moved 13.6 million cars, compared with 10.4 million in the U.S.). China is also on the brink of becoming a major automotive exporter, meaning Chinese manufacturers and designers will soon be deciding what commuters drive in other parts of the world.
A boom in both automobile use and manufacturing will only increase China’s importance to future discussions of global energy policy. Indeed, it turns out energy is the other force at work . . .
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With all the media attention to the environmental and human catastrophe, both actual and predicted, surrounding our dependence on oil and other non-renewable sources of energy, it can be easy to take a rather pessimistic view of our global energy landscape. As a recent story on NPR’s Marketplace asks, will we ever be able to rid ourselves of our addiction to oil?
Perhaps not, at least in the near future, but in his new book The Powers That Be: Global Energy for the Twenty-first Century and Beyond, consulting geologist and independent scholar Scott L. Montgomery offers readers a rare glimmer of hope—arguing that quitting cold turkey isn’t a necessary—or realistic—step towards securing our energy future anyway. What is crucial, Montgomery explains, is focusing on developing a more diverse, adaptable energy future, one that draws on a variety of sources—and is thus less vulnerable to disruption or failure.
An admirably evenhanded and always realistic guide, Montgomery enables readers to understand the implications of energy funding, research, and politics at a global scale. At the same time, he doesn’t neglect the ultimate connection between those decisions and the average citizen flipping a light switch or sliding behind the wheel of a . . .
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