Mason in the News

Posted: January 9, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Following are highlights of national news coverage Mason recently received.

Friday, Dec. 19, Chronicle of Higher Education

Teaching by Lying: Professor Unveils ‘Last Pirate’ Hoax

T. Mills Kelly, an associate professor of history at George Mason and an associate director of the university’s Center for History and New Media, thought up the course, ‘Lying About the Past,’ as a novel way to teach history, not to subvert it. He wanted to get undergraduates to tackle detailed historical research, using digital-history tools as well as old-school archival work. ‘History classes aren’t often as much fun as they could be,’ Mr. Kelly said. ‘An awful lot of history classes are the passive-learning model, where the professor dispenses and the students consume. It’s an efficient model. There’s no evidence that it actually results in learning.’”

Sunday, Dec. 21, Boston Globe

Paradigm Lost

“The field of so-called behavioral economics has risen to prominence. By borrowing the insights and methods of psychology, behavioral economics focuses on all the ways in which humans fail to act as the rational, self- interested beings that economic models call for — we aren’t good at thinking about the future, we’re susceptible to peer pressure, we overestimate our abilities and underrate the odds of bad things happening. It’s a set of traits that describes perfectly the behavior of many of the people who, in a cascade of self-defeating decisions, helped create the subprime crisis. ‘People used to think that these behavioral effects were small anomalies that turned up in experiments but washed out in the real world,’ says Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University not himself affiliated with behavioral economics. ‘But there’s a sense in which they get multiplied in the real world.’”

Sunday, Dec. 21, New York Times

Grabbing a Bite Between Flights

“No one likes to eat in airports, but eat in airports we must, since we’re spending more time there than ever. Around one in four air passengers experienced trip delays averaging an hour and 54 minutes in 2007, according to a report from the Center for Air Transportation Systems Research at George Mason University. And it only gets worse during the holidays, said Lance Sherry, the center’s executive director, since airlines are running at maximum capacity and therefore can’t easily recover from delays and cancellations. ‘Small delays will have a big impact,’ he said. At the same time, he added, the airports ‘perversely’ benefit from the delays. By offering cheap leases to airlines, he said, the airports have to make money somehow, and they do so through concessions. Which is why that ice-cold turkey sandwich costs $9, the bottle of water is $3, and the delays never seem to get any shorter. ‘They’re incentivized to keep passengers longer,’ Professor Sherry said.”

Sunday, Dec. 21, Washington Post

Prophets See Light Ahead, but Employment Figures May Drive Market

John McClain, deputy director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, delivers this headline: We’re about halfway through the recession. The patch we’re in right now is the toughest part. ‘The two worst quarters will likely be the quarter we’re in and the next quarter,’ he said during a year-end presentation by leaders of local real estate organizations. The next quarter, January through March, overlaps what is usually the time of year when people start to think about buying or selling a home, even if there’s still snow on the ground. McClain offered another straw of hope. Consumer confidence may be starting to recover. He cited the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. households, which shows that confidence in the economy rebounded moderately in November from the record low it hit in October.”

Wednesday, Dec. 24, Christian Science Monitor

Can America Spend Its Way to Economic Recovery?

“With the U.S. economy floundering, a massive new federal spending program to avert a deeper fall is gaining momentum, but critics are beginning to mount a resistance. They concede it will be tough slogging, in part because the ‘let the markets work’ strategy has failed so conspicuously and in part because people don’t want to hear that years of excess have their price. ‘The message that things have gone wrong [and] we have to take our lumps is not a popular message,’ says Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. ‘It’s counterintuitive to say for 15 years that Americans have spent too much and taken on too much debt and then to think the way out of the mess is to have the government borrow some more and spend for us.’”

Friday, Dec. 26, USA Today

The Signs of an Epic Year

“Almost everyone agrees 2008 was one for the history books, including those who write them. However, despite a collective hunch that 2008 was a turning point, it’s too early to be certain of the year’s exact place in history, or even if it will have much of one. ‘People always say at the end of a year, ‘My goodness, this was it! This year will be remembered for generations. And usually it’s not,’ says historian Peter Stearns, George Mason University’s provost. ‘Caution is warranted, because we’re so close to it now.’”

Monday, Dec. 29, MSNBC: “Hardball with Chris Matthews”

Examining the Bush Legacy in ‘The Decider’

“As George W. Bush prepares to leave the White House, Hardball takes a hard look at his legacy. Beginning with 9-11 and now ending with Chapter 11 for many Americans, the Bush presidency was marked by war and crisis, James Pfiffner, professor of public policy at George Mason University said. ‘It seemed that President Bush never brought together all of his top advisors to discuss the pros and cons of going into Iraq to make a final decision.’”

Sunday, Jan. 4, San Francisco Chronicle

Bold, Brash and Divisive

“Love him or hate him, George W. Bush leaves office among the most consequential presidents in modern history. Even some detractors say Bush may not be getting enough credit for thwarting terrorist attacks, because it’s hard to prove a negative and because the Iraq war overshadowed everything. If Bush had stopped with the invasion of Afghanistan, when his poll numbers were stratospheric, ‘I think he’d be seen as a hero and as one of our better presidents,’ said James Pfiffner, a professor of public policy at George Mason University and author of ‘Power Play: the Bush Administration and the Constitution.’ ‘But he didn’t stop there.’”

Monday, Jan. 5, Chicago Tribune

Bill Richardson Withdraws as Obama Cabinet Pick

“President-elect Barack Obama suffered the first blow to his Cabinet on Sunday as New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, commerce secretary-designate, withdrew from consideration amid a federal investigation into how one of his political donors won a lucrative state contract. James Pfiffner, a public policy professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and author of a book on presidential transitions, said the withdrawal suggests flaws in the vetting process. ‘It shows that they didn’t quite do enough vetting, and something came up that they didn’t quite foresee,’ Pfiffner said.”

Tuesday, Jan. 6, Time

Burris Denied His Seat as the Senate Drama Continues

“Roland Burris, a former state comptroller and attorney general, has done nothing wrong — his only crime was to be appointed by a governor, Illinois’ Rod Blagojevich, who’s under investigation for trying to sell the same seat, made vacant by the election of Barack Obama. After initially dismissing the appointment out of hand, Dems have been put on the defensive, and they are now quick to say that if Burris were to be appointed by Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, they would accept Burris with open arms. ‘This is a lose-lose situation for Reid and the Democrats,’ says Mark J. Rozell, a political science professor at George Mason University in Virginia. ‘They can either look like they are accepting the choice of a corrupt governor who tried to sell the seat or they can look like bullies denying the seat to a guy who has done nothing wrong.’”

Wednesday, Jan. 7,

Economists Warn Against Feeding ‘Trillion-Dollar Deficits’

“The federal budget deficit already is projected to reach an unheard of $1.2 trillion this fiscal year, and President-elect Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package, under review by lawmakers, would only add to the deficit. George Mason University economics professor Walter Williams said he has little faith the deficits will be contracting anytime soon. ‘Unless you believe in Santa Claus or the tooth fairy, you have to ask the question, ‘Where’s Congress going to get that money from?’’ he said of the stimulus. ‘It’s like you have a swimming pool, and you try to increase the height of the shallow end by taking buckets out of the deep end. It’s foolhardy.’”

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