Links: Spy novels, nurses and doctors, freedom of speech and thought, Saudi menace, and more!

* “Secrets of a Secret Agent,” on spy novelist Jason Matthews, who sounds like he was a better spy than he is a novelist and who also sounds like he knows it: “In retrospect, [the publication of Red Sparrow] wasn’t because the book or my writing was so good [. . . .] It’s because I was a former spook.” I read Red Sparrow but the writing wasn’t good enough to review it. But it shows promise and almost no one’s first book is their best.

* “In a fight between nurses and doctors, the nurses are slowly winning: More states are allowing nurses to provide all the kinds of care they learned about in school.” See also my essay “Why you should become a nurse or physicians assistant instead of a doctor: the underrated perils of medical school.”

* “How ‘Safe Spaces’ Stifle Ideas.” Seems obvious, but…

* Self-driving cars may still be decades out. And light rail can happen now, if we want it to.

* We are witnessing the rise of global authoritarianism on a chilling scale. Perhaps related to the “safe spaces” link.

* “How Saudi Arabia captured Washington: America’s foreign policy establishment has aligned itself with an ultra-conservative dictatorship that often acts counter to US values and interests. Why?” It’s amazing that this story doesn’t get more press. Also: “How the Saudis Churn Out ‘Jihad Inc.:’ From mass executions to ISIS and the San Bernardino attack, the manifestations of Saudi Arabia’s Salafi extremism are everywhere—and it’s time for Muslims to fight back.” The 2016 battery-powered Chevy Volt is getting great reviews.

* “Nixon official: real reason for the drug war was to criminalize black people and hippies.” It worked. Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent ought to be mandatory reading for American citizens.

* “Russ Roberts and the Quest to Make Economics Interesting.” He often but not always succeeds and I listen to Econtalk.

* “A global experiment in co-living;” has anyone written a novel set in co-living spaces? I feel like there’s one there.

Links: Evil Social Justice Warriors (SJWs), electric cars, book reviewers, and more!

* “The Pecking Disorder: Social Justice Warriors Gone Wild: Culture wars over ‘social justice’ have been wreaking havoc in many communities, including universities and science fiction fandom.” Social Justice Warriors don’t matter outside of academia and government, but inside they can wreck a lot of havoc. Always be wary of zealots.

* Related to the above: “It’s worse than Jerry Seinfeld says: PC is undermining free speech, expression, liberties.” I’ve definitely felt these currents throughout my time as a professor. Only from a tiny minority of students, but that tiny minority is vicious, humorless, and vociferous.

* The Electric Car: “The electric car is going to take over the world. Soon. Let me explain.” Linear versus discontinuous effects are underappreciated. Everyone who has driven a Tesla says it’s the best car ever. The mass-market version is supposed to arrive in 2017. See also “How Tesla Will Change The World,” which is long but clever. Good news, too: Electric vehicle batteries are getting cheaper much faster than we expected. The spoils of technical innovation gets turned into the spoils that politicians fight over surprisingly fast.

* “Book Reviewing’s Grunt Squads,” interesting throughout and especially to me for its discussion of Kirkus, whose Indie division I hired to review Asking Anna. My guess is that they produce few truly negative reviews, and, based on the many indie books I’ve been sent, most books are as bad as literary mandarins imagine.

* Jeff on why I’m wrong about poetry and pop music.

* “The rush from judgment,” or, how being superficially non-judgmental can be barbaric and foolish.

* YC Fellowship: “Ten years ago, Paul Graham said there could be ten times as many startups if more people realized they could try.” And: “YC Fellows will receive $12,000 per team as a grant (though if this continues past this test run, we will probably do a more traditional investment with equity for future Fellows) and access to advice from the YC community.” YC is trying to solve the problems people who can’t get $10K together have.

* Uber: twice as fast, half as expensive for poor people.

* Sea levels will rise much more rapidly than anticipated.

* “The old suburban office park is the new American ghost town.” Too many parking lots and too few interconnections to rail.

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