the important and the not-so-important, horribly conflated.

Archive for the ‘human behavior’ Category


In human behavior on January 11, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Some thoughts:

1) Gun rights advocates should probably stop arguing that more handguns would have a preventative effect. The data are not on their side. The American Journal for Public Health released a UPENN study in a late 2009—unique in that it explored a gun-holder’s safety and/or risk at the time of a shooting—that found “people with a gun were 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not possessing a gun.”

2) Representative Giffords was shot while engaging in an event that gets close to the ideal of democracy—the hyper-local, issue-based community meeting. A suggestion: for one week, representatives of both federal chambers, with a member of the opposite political party present and engaged, should hold policy discussions with their constituents. The President and our new speaker, John Boehner, should set the tone by answering questions about health care, the budget, Afghanistan, etc. in front of  citizens of Ms. Giffords’ district. Don’t televise it. Don’t beem it over the radio. Don’t tweet about it. Just talk. Rationally. Together.

3) I don’t want to try to glean the motive of a young man who unloaded multiple rounds into that crowd on Saturday. Nor do I want to suggest that his underlying mental health condition (I was one DSM subcategory away from diagnosing him with Schizoaffective disorder simply from anecdotes—tendency to wear bright clothing, persecutorial delusions, etc—about him in a NYT article) can or should wholly explain this crime. But any constituent of a Republican house member should realize what repealing the Affordable Care Act would do to Mental Health support in America. Linked here is a list of provisions that the ACA includes to help reduce the stigma and improve the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Tell your congressperson that we need to not just keep these reforms on track, but continue to explore new ways to improve this specialized care modality.

4) Diagnosis and monitoring remains the toughest aspect to treating psychiatric disorders, so my last suggestion is directed at Google and Facebook: Use all that private profile information, partner with national mental health professionals to establish algorithms that could flag accounts that have profile-updating or search patterns consistent with the behavior of those effected by specific mental illness, and design some sort of outreach to these individuals.



In human behavior on December 13, 2010 at 8:58 pm

“You have to test your hypothesis against other theories,” Holbrooke said. “Certainty in the face of complex situations is very dangerous.”

– from “The Last Mission,” George Packer’s meticulous profile of the late US special representative for the Af-Pak region. As the article attests, Holbrooke faithfully tried to follow his own advice in his dealings with Hamid Karzai, David Petraeus, and the President—but, with a wisdom that will hopefully be carried forward by our leaders, he also never lost track of the irrevocable human costs of military/political hypotheses.

Turning the middle east into a laboratory for the testing of neocon theories or humanitarian ideals doesn’t just dehumanize the people of Afganistan; it doesn’t just trivialize the struggles of a rebuilding Iraqi populace. In the grand tallying of fatalities and enemies caught and civilian “collateral,” these experiments also strip from the stories of sacrifices made by our soldiers or Afghani citizens any sense of what unique perspectives and ideals war has forced its individual participants and observers to reexamine.

The Death Penalty

In human behavior on November 30, 2010 at 8:08 pm

I presented my wholly inadequate views here. Law demigod and former SCOTUS justice John Paul Stevens makes similar, but infinitely more intelligent, points here.

Weekend Reading: B*!$%-slapped by the invisible hand

In human behavior on November 19, 2010 at 10:29 pm

Adam Smith knew that free market economics cannot be an end in and of itself; that it is the willed restraint of the “invisible hand” (mediated through government) that blunts economies’ sometimes cruel motives. Government makes us redeemably self-aware that the market’s self-preservation is sometimes (but doesn’t have to be) to our collective detriment:

“Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.” For Smith, the market moves toward monopoly; it is the job of the philosopher to define, and of the sovereign state to restore, free play.

– Adam Gopnik, “market man,” The New Yorker

Male, 23, Seeking…

In human behavior on November 15, 2010 at 10:26 pm

…a good podcast about Religious issues. Preferably the aural equivalent of reading The Guardian’s excellent “Comment is Free: Belief” blog. Suggestions?

(above: a scene this month’s Hajj.)

Weekend Reading

In human behavior on November 13, 2010 at 8:28 pm

I love Zadie Smith.

Vote, if you feel like it

In human behavior on November 10, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Weekend Reading

In human behavior on November 5, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Read this now-ish (via The New Yorker)—I’ll comment on it soon-ish: alms dealers

“What are You for Halloween? A NERD?”

In human behavior on November 1, 2010 at 12:44 pm

— Random masked punk kid in the subway questioning me yesterday.

Subway Gospels

In human behavior on October 25, 2010 at 9:01 pm

The Times published a fun special feature on the NY Subway over the weekend. Included are several audio recordings of subway preachers—new yorkers, all men, speaking to everyone and no one at the same time. A few quotes to mull over:

“This life is not really life for you and I […] this is going to pass”

I have always struggled with this idea—that the joys and sufferings of the living somehow  don’t need explaining because of scale, because of their smallness compared to salvation. I don’t want to go as far as saying that religion ignores or delegitimizes extra-religious human connection and relationships, but I will posit that that “other world,” be it heaven, hell, etc., becomes an almost idolatrous concept when it’s painted as the more-perfect or more-profound twin to the very real and meaningful events that shape this life.

People want to believe in their own—like—science, evolution, whatever makes them comfortable with how they want to live

I don’t believe in evolution because it’s comforting. I am attracted to the ideas of scientists precisely because they force me to constantly challenge my own world-view. An institution that still does not allow women to serve as priests after 2 millennia is my definition of stasis.

“May 21st 2011, there will be a huge earthquake—those who are saved will be raptured”

This made me want to read Revelations again. The second story in this episode of This American Life is excellent on the subject.

“This is our job in life—God chose us”

Being called to serve—by God, by the military, by court order—is something universal, I think. It’s why the evangelical movement is so popular in America: the call feels familiar; you don’t need scripture or a beautiful cathedral over your head to understand a sudden injection of purpose into your life. But this call becomes perverted when it’s mistaken for a license to be an unthinking follower of a larger movement. It’s the opposite: it’s an invitation to say and do what you think will bring you closer to other people, even if that means shouting above the clangor of squealing subway car brakes.