Assorted Links (12/19/2011)

Here’s a list of articles that I have been reading lately:

The ‘God Particle’ and the Origins of the Universe

“Writing in The Wall Street Journal about the Higgs boson, Michio Kaku says that the search for a unifying theory is nowhere near over.”

Twelve Months of Reading

Crowdsourcing reading lists… “We asked 50 of our friends to tell us what they enjoyed reading in 2011—from Mike Allen’s taste for Tebow-ing to Adam Zagajewski’s love of Scottish poetry.”

Fir Real? Christmas Trees in Crisis

“The Christmas tree business faces tough times as more Americans buy fakes or opt for smaller, cheaper trees. To fight back, tree growers are using science to develop more enticing trees.”

Daron Acemoglu on Inequality

“If you’re even a little bit interested in income inequality and how it matters, this Browser interview with MIT economist Daron Acemoglu is a must-read. Acemoglu explains how economists generally think about inequality…”

What Obama Left Behind in Iraq

“In The Wall Street Journal, Fouad Ajami writes that there’s no need to fear the deference of Iraq’s Shiites toward Iran.”

And the Crisis Winner Is? Government

“In The Wall Street Journal, David Malpass writes that from Greece to Washington, D.C., to New York state, there’s no effective mechanism to control government spending.”

The Euro Zone’s Double Failure

“In The Wall Street Journal, Martin Feldstein writes that Europe needs country-by-country fiscal reforms, not a renewed push for political integration.”

The Sparring Partner

“In The Wall Street Journal’s Wonder Land column, Daniel Henninger writes that Mitt Romney needs a sparring partner to make him fit to compete with heavyweight champ Barack Obama—and that’s Newt Gingrich.”

Calling Obama’s Payroll Tax Bluff

“The sparring between Republicans and Democrats over how to pay for an extension of the payroll-tax break is one more sign of how rotten the tax code is and why the entire thing needs to be thrown out and replaced with a system that fosters economic growth instead of endless redistribution of income.”

Happy (Awkward) Holidays

“How come the holidays can bring out the grumps in us? We look at some common sticky situations and offer tips on how to handle them with grace and poise.”

Bain Over Newt Any Day

“This week, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney called on newly minted front-runner and noted historian Newt Gingrich to return the estimated $1.6 million he made providing “strategic advice” to Freddie Mac, the quasi-governmental agency that has done the hard work of making “toxic home mortgages” a forever feature of our national portfolio.”

To Ask or Not to Ask: Experiments in Charitable Giving

“Our recent podcast “What Makes a Donor Donate?” features economist John List, who has concentrated his research on the science of philanthropy. In short, when it comes to convincing people to give, some ways are better than others. But what about just directly asking them?”

Gridlock to the Rescue

“Washington gridlock may turn out to be the salvation of the Obama administration.”

Rare 1787 Gold Coin Sells for $7.4 Million

“A rare 1787 gold Brasher doubloon has been sold for $7.4 million, one of the highest prices ever paid for a gold coin… The Brasher doubloon is considered the first American-made gold coin denominated in dollars; the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia didn’t begin striking coins until the 1790s.”

God’s Quarterback

“He has led the Denver Broncos to one improbable victory after another, defying his critics and revealing the deep-seated anxieties in American society about the intertwining of religion and sports.”

The Free Market versus Crony “Capitalism”

“…perhaps the government must break up the large financial institutions so that they can fail without dragging us all … down with them.”

Financial Regulation: Worse Than a Crime

More on how financial regulation (particularly, Basel risk based capital standards) had the unintended consequence of focusing and exacerbating financial risk, rather than dispersing and mitigating it

America’s New Energy Security

“In The Wall Street Journal, Daniel Yergin writes that thanks to new technology, the U.S. has become less dependent on petroleum imports from unstable countries.”

Global Warming and Adaptability

“In The Wall Street Journal, Bjørn Lomborg writes that any carbon deal to replace Kyoto would have a negligible impact on climate in coming decades…we need to focus first on how we can build more resilient, adaptable communities.”

Employers Say College Graduates Lack Job Skills

“Many employers believe colleges aren’t adequately preparing students for jobs, according to findings of a study presented here on Monday by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.”

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