Cutting Edge: New ideas / Sharp opinions
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Missing the target?
Jacob Sullum in Reason is skeptical of efforts in the wake of the Newtown shootings to identify people with mental illnesses who might turn violent: "[M]ental health professionals are notoriously bad at predicting which of the world's many misfits, cranks and oddballs will become violent. 'Over 30 years of commentary, judicial opinion and scientific review argue that predictions of danger lack scientific rigor,' notes University of Georgia law professor Alexander Scherr in a 2003 Hastings Law Journal article. 'The sharpest critique finds that mental health professionals perform no better than chance at predicting violence, and perhaps perform even worse.'
"So even if the mental health criteria for rejecting gun buyers (or for commitment) were expanded, there is little reason to think they could distinguish between future [Adam] Lanzas and people who pose no threat. Survey data from the National Institute of Mental Health indicate that nearly half of all Americans qualify for a psychiatric diagnosis at some point in their lives. That's a pretty wide dragnet."
Bad aim II?
Maria at 2 Political Junkies: "Looking at our stat counter, it appears that quite a few people have arrived at this blog in the past few days by way of a two-year old post -- this one:
'Pat Toomey: "My idea of gun control is a steady aim." '
"Hmm, I wonder if he wants to revise that statement?"
Leonid Bershidsky laments Russian President Vladimir Putin's crackdown on political opposition at Bloomberg View: "In December 2011, a rigged parliamentary election led to mass protests in Moscow and other big Russian cities, now remembered as the Snow Revolution. For the first time since the demise of the Soviet Union, tens of thousands of people were marching along Moscow streets in peaceful protest ...
"[Now,] Putin [has] showed that, at 60, he still knows what cards to play with most Russians: traditional values, Orthodox Christianity, anti-Americanism. As a man deeply rooted in the Soviet past, he has fallen back on the old regime's tested recipes for suppressing dissent, and he has succeeded in annihilating the threat of peaceful revolution that seemed so real a year ago."
ThinkProgress begins its list of Craziest Republican Legislative Proposals of 2012 with these two:
"1. Outlawing the dollar. Washington state lawmakers introduced a bill that would have outlawed the paper dollar, because 'only gold and silver may be recognized as government legal tender.' This is just part and parcel of the extreme right's continuing fascination with goldbuggery, a fascination to which the Republican Party's presidential candidates gladly pandered.
"2. Striking the words 'sea level rise.' In Virginia, the Republican-led legislature commissioned a study to determine the impacts of manmade warming on the state's shores, only to ban terms like 'climate change' and 'sea level rise,' deeming them 'liberal code words.' And North Carolina Republicans voted to ignore studies that predict rapid sea level rise due to global warming."
From The New York Times: "SAN FRANCISCO -- Phil Libin, chief executive of Evernote, turned to his wife last year and asked if she had suggestions for how the software company might improve the lives of its employees and their families. His wife, who also works at Evernote, didn't miss a beat: housecleaning. Today, Evernote's 250 employees -- every full-time worker, from receptionist to top executive -- have their homes cleaned twice a month, free.
"It is the latest innovation from Silicon Valley: the employee perk is moving from the office to the home. Facebook gives new parents $4,000 in spending money. Stanford School of Medicine is piloting a project to provide doctors with housecleaning and in-home dinner delivery. Genentech offers take-home dinners and helps employees find last-minute baby sitters when a child is too sick to go to school. ...
"The goal is not just to reduce stress for employees, but for their families, too. If the companies succeed, the thinking goes, they will minimize distractions and sources of tension that can inhibit focus and creativity."
First Published December 30, 2012 12:00 am