Monday, June 3, 2019

On gun control

Gun ownership is much more tightly restricted in Japan and Brazil than here in the US.

Gun violence is much less common in Japan, and much more common in Brazil, than in the US.

Japan's population numbers about 126 million and is ethnically homogeneous. Brazil's population numbers about 208 million and is, like that in the US, ethnically diverse.

Gun-control advocates in the US argue that further restrictions on gun ownership will bring our level of gun violence nearer Japan's; gun-control opponents argue that further restrictions will bring our level of gun violence nearer Brazil's.

Our demographics are much more similar to Brazil's than to Japan's. That fact suggests to me that gun-control opponents have the stronger case.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

When people say Trump voters are "venting," this is what they mean.

Take my friend Steve as an example. He runs a 15-person firm in New York City. It’s a business he started, and I assume he makes a lot of money. He’s very conservative politically. Last fall he told me he was supporting Trump. When I asked why, he explained he was tired of political correctness and sick of Wall Street bankers getting away with murder. And then he told me about the stresses of his business—specifically, that he works with people who sign contracts featuring non-compete clauses with major corporations. When their time is up and they’re ready to move on, their employers threaten them with legal action due to the non-compete clauses. These claims are without merit, Steve says, but litigating them would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. So his people stay where they are. It’s unfair, he says.

What on earth, I asked, does he think Trump would do to help him and his clients with a non-compete problem? What does this have to do with anything? It’s the big guys, Steve said. The big guys are lording it over the little guys.

Now, in no way is Steve a little guy—except by comparison with major corporations. But he feels like the little guy.

This illuminated my understanding of the Trump phenomenon. His candidacy is an emotional outlet for his supporters. They have taken his message about “winning” and the “losers” who are running things and doing it badly—and they have applied it to their own circumstances.

Monday, March 14, 2016

From a short review by Stephen Dobyns of Patricia Goedicke's poetry collection The Tongues We Speak. (Emphasis added.)

Often she uses words not exclusively for their meaning but as intensifiers. For example, she sometimes likes to establish a rhythm with a number of double stresses. In the first eight lines of "In the Aquarium" one finds "front door," "back garden," "guests stream," "straight line," "then stop," "dark fish," "night sky," "moon like," "just short," "calm pool" and "blind friend." One has the sense of certain words being used primarily for stress. Does it really matter if the fish in the poem is a light or dark one? The reader comes partly to distrust her language, feeling that word choices may be made for reasons other than sense. This, coupled with the lack of proportion, tends to weaken the credibility of an entire poem.

My disappointment in the lyrics to "Alexander Hamilton," and in nearly all other lyrics I hear, arises from a similar loss of trust. There are songs I love, but most of them require a lot of forgiving.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A lovely, generous comment from James Taylor regarding his 1968 song "Something in the Way She Moves."

When I heard George Harrison used the title for the opening words of "Something," I was thrilled. I didn't feel like I was being poached at all — besides, "Something in the Way She Moves" quotes the Beatles' "I Feel Fine": "She's around me almost all the time/And I feel fine."

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Good excerpt at Delanceyplace today, from the book Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything.

Most of what humans experience as perception is actually furnished by the memory. This is because the conscious brain can only process a trickle of data. Psychologists agree that only one to four 'items,' either thoughts or sensations, can be held in mind, immediately available to consciousness, at the same time. Some have tried to quantify these constraints. According to the work of Manfred Zimmerman of Germany's Heidelberg University, only a woeful fifty bits of information per second make their way into the conscious brain, while an estimated eleven million bits of data flow from the senses every second. Many psychologists object to these attempts to measure thoughts and perceptions as digital bits. But however they're measured, the stark limits of the mind are clear.

(That's a small excerpt of the excerpt.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Rest in peace, George Martin. We were lucky to have you.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Yukiya Amano, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, which is responsible for ensuring Iran complies with the [nuclear] agreement, told reporters that his agency is no longer permitted to release details about Iran’s nuclear program and compliance with the deal.

This could persuade me to vote Trump if he's the GOP nominee. He'd make a horrendous president, but there's a small chance we'd see effective action regarding Iran. With Hillary there's none.