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The Opinion Shop

Welcome to The Opinion Shop, where members of The N&O’s editorial board offer an eclectic array of their individual opinion products and give you an opportunity to offer your own.

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Consumers vs. connoisseurs: The rise of the $5 coffee and $8 pickle

For those who miss the columns of former N&O book page editor J. Peder Zane among our pages, he has a fun and interesting story in The New York Times today about the difference between being a consumer and a connoisseur.

Here's are excerpts:

AMERICANS didn’t always ask so many questions or expect so much in their quest for enjoyment. It was enough for them simply to savor a good cigar, a nice bottle of wine or a tasty morsel of cheese.

Not anymore. Driven by a relentless quest for “the best,” we increasingly see every item we place in our grocery basket or Internet shopping cart as a reflection of our discrimination and taste. We are not consumers. We have a higher calling. We are connoisseurs. ...

... If connoisseurship is a way of thinking, its rising popularity reflects the fact that people have so many more things to think about. ` Robert H. Frank, a professor of economics at Cornell whose books include “Luxury Fever: Why Money Fails to Satisfy in an Era of Excess,” noted that the British economist John Maynard Keynes worried during the 1920s and ’30s that rising productivity would lead people to work less as it became easier to satisfy their basic needs.

“It’s funny,” Dr. Frank said, “that someone as smart as he was didn’t realize that we would invent a million new things to spend our money on and create higher and higher standards of quality for those products that would cost more and more.”

Hence the $5 cup of coffee and the $8 pickle.

Read the rest: In Pursuit of Taste, en Masse

Joe Bryan on the Wake County school board's hiring a lobbyist: If we’re going to keep score, we’re going to win

Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Joe Bryan and county manager David Cooke met with the editorial board and some newsroom folks today to chat about things. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the county’s relationship with the school board was the subject that took up most of our time.

Here are my notes of the meeting. They are NOT verbatim.

1360250404 Joe Bryan on the Wake County school board's hiring a lobbyist: If we’re going to keep score, we’re going to win The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

President Obama and the ill-advised gun photo lampooned

A couple of McClatchy editorial cartoonists wasted no time in taking the president to task after his office released a picture of him shooting skeet. The Super Bowl cartoon is here for good measure.







100 percent sure he raped her. 100 percent wrong. The story of Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton

In 1984, Jennifer Thompson was raped in her apartment near Elon University. During the ordeal, she memorized everything she could about her rapist. At the police station later, she helped a sketch artist come up with a likeness. Faced with a picture lineup, she picked out a photo of Ronald Cotton. The police officer told her she had done well. During a physical lineup, she again picked out Ronald Cotton.

She was 100 percent sure Ronald Cotton was her rapist. She had not one doubt.

Only she was wrong.

Eleven years after being convicted of raping Thompson, Cotton walked out of prison when DNA proved another man had done the crime. Thompson feared he’d find her and kill her for her mistake, but all Ronald Cotton wanted was an apology.

The two met at a church so that Thompson could offer what she could. They’ve been friends ever since. Together with a writer, they produced the book “Picking Cotton” (http://www.pickingcottonbook.com/). They travel the country, often together, and talk about their experience and the need for judicial reform. They want police to change how they do lineups. They want people to realize why eyewitnesses can be wrong. They want an end to the death penalty.

And Thompson wants people to know how Ronald Cotton taught her about the power of forgiveness.

Thompson recently spoke to an honors law and justice class at Broughton High School. It was one of the most gripping presentations I have ever seen.

Here are my notes about her talk. They are NOT verbatim.

1360275443 100 percent sure he raped her. 100 percent wrong. The story of Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

North Carolina's new DENR secretary on fracking, jobs and global warming

Editorial page editor Ned Barnett interviewed new DENR Secretary John E. Skvarla III this week. Here's a look at what they talked about:

Gov. Pat McCrory's official response to the debate over his higher education comments

Gov. Pat McCrory's office has sent the following letter to newspapers across the state in response to the controversy over the comments he made questioning the value of certain liberal arts degrees in today's economy.

Questioning breastfeeding benefits brings a detailed response

On Jan. 21, we ran a story on our Life, etc., front asking whether the benefits of breastfeeding had been oversold. Part of the story was this:

"No one is saying that breast-feeding isn’t perhaps, by some measures, a little bit better for your baby’s health, but the argument coming from critics such as Joan Wolf, an associate professor of women’s studies at Texas A&M University, is that the actual scientific research doesn’t say much beyond that.

"In her 2011 book, “Is Breast Best?” Wolf cites studies with conflicting outcomes, important methodological problems, and (in the case of positive breast-feeding outcomes) results far less dramatic than we’ve been led to believe.

"'My biggest concern is that we have blown infant feeding completely out proportion to its actual importance in babies’ lives,' Wolf says."

Read the rest here:
Breastfeeding story

In response, we have this letter to the editor, which is just too long to print:

Letters to the editor: More reaction to Pat McCrory's college comments

And the letters keep coming on Gov. Pat McCrory's statements assailing the value of a liberal arts education. Here's a slightly edited batch of more than 20:

Letters to the editor: And the outrage pours in over McCrory's higher education comments

Lots of letter-writers take the governor to task for assailing the value of a liberal arts education.

Tuesday 'Toons: Speedo-wearing senators!

What a great batch of cartoons from McClatchy artists this week. In addition to the Speedos, get your Hillary fix – and see how poignant you find the one on women in combat positions.

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