How not to stop violence

A psychiatrist named Jeffrey Lieberman complained yesterday that the recently headlined incidents of violence are due to “our country’s failed mental health care system.” Here’s how he describes an example of how he failed, involving an 18 year old college athlete: Continue reading

How liars figure

Figures don’t lie, but liars will figure. Here’s an example from an editorial originally titled “Bernie Sanders’s Small-Beer Donors” in The New York Times. Continue reading

Greece: predatory lending and austerity

The euro was a mistake, we’re told. Look at Greece, where their economy would be in much better shape if only they could devalue their currency, but they can’t because they don’t have their own currency.

There’s a lot more to it. To begin with, the Greek government was spending money they didn’t have and borrowing to cover the difference. Enabling that, banks outside Greece were lending to a borrower they knew would be unable to pay it back, at ever increasing interest rates. In our country, lending to people who can’t pay it back is called “predatory lending.” It leads, both here and in Greece, to making poor borrowers poorer.

The theory behind “austerity,” requiring borrowers to spend less, is that if the borrower (the Greek government, in this case) spends less, there will be more left to pay back the lender. In fact, it doesn’t work that way. Continue reading

Difference between Liberals and Conservatives

I read this article several times to try to figure out what it says. The author clearly says conservatives and liberals don’t look at society the same way.

Conservatives, he says, see society as a system of concentric rings, beginning with “loving family attachments,” then “personal commitments and relationships,” state and regional affinities, and finally a national identity. “Explaining the persistence of entrenched, intergenerational poverty,” he says, “requires taking into account the interconnectedness of the generations and the institutions that make up communities.”

To liberals, he says, society “consists of individuals and the government. All common action, therefore, is ultimately government action…. The persistence of entrenched poverty, family breakdown, social dysfunction, and poor mobility in many communities in America looks like a function of a failure to allocate resources properly.” Continue reading

Minimum wage mystery

Does raising the minimum wage cause loss of jobs? David Brooks, writing in The New York Times this morning under the headline “Minimum Wage Muddle,” predicted that “economists will never be able to give us a dispositive answer about who is hurt or helped.” I don’t know why he thinks it’s all that difficult. Continue reading

The end of the economy

I knew that the New York World’s Fair of 1939 envisioned a future in which mechanization would have increased productivity so that the average person would work shorter hours and yet have more real income. I also know that increased productivity did not have that effect. What I just found out was that there was already, at that time, a warning of how that might happen and how it could be prevented. Continue reading

Injustice Scalia

A recent article in The New York Times reported on two U.S. Supreme Court decisions in which Justice Antonin Scalia illogically dissented.

In the first, the Court invalidated a Los Angeles ordinance allowing police officers to inspect hotel and motel registries without a warrant. I don’t know whether the U.S. Constitution protects the privacy of guest registries, but Justice Scalia’s argument against such protection is plainly wrong. Continue reading

KISS not the enemy

Keep It Simple, Stupid. The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Think about the recent derailment of a northbound AMTRAK train on a curve in the Frankford Junction rail yard just out of Philadelphia. The train was going 106 mph, the speed limit on the curve was 50 mph, and positive train control — if it had been installed — could have prevented the accident by automatically slowing or stopping the train.

But wait! The train was equipped with positive train control. The transponders were in place on the tracks. Why wasn’t the system operating? Continue reading

Fixing “the E.R. problem”

An Op-Ed in The New York Times claims that emergency rooms are overused, and that one organization, serving mainly poor, sickly, non-English-speaking minority working women, has a fix for it. Continue reading

The stolen sacred mountaintop

Astronomers want to build the world’s most powerful telescope on the very top of Mauna Kea, on the big island of Hawaii. But Native Hawaiians revere that mountaintop as the sacred center of the island. All is described in an editorial in The New York Times. I don’t know how the dispute should be resolved, but I do know that some of the reasoning in the editorial won’t work: Continue reading