The benefits of gentle police work

Inequality, poverty, corruption – Nicaragua has many of the characteristic problems that afflict Central American nations. Yet there is one way in which it stands out from its neighbours: its relative lack of violence. Its homicide rate, according to the latest regional report from InSight Crime, is a mere seven per 100,000. This compares with …

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The biggest threat to democracy that no one is talking about

That threat is a constitutional convention called by the states. The last time such a thing happened was in 1787. So messy was that affair that it hasn’t been carried out since. But a renewed effort is underway. Conservatives are pushing for an Article V convention to add a balanced-budget amendment and other ideas, to …

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A nation based on fear cannot be “great”.

It has not been a good year for gun makers. Remington filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after its sales fell 27.5% in the first nine months of Donald Trump’s presidency. (Its officials had expected a 2016 Hillary Clinton victory and a burst of gun purchases). Sales have been ragged across the industry. Gun company stocks …

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Letter to the Washington Post, 30 August 2018

“The answer for me to E. J. Dionne’s rhetorical question about why people stay Catholic is simple: I attend Mass to deepen my relationship with the Lord. It matters not who wears the miter and carries the crosier. I don’t care if my priest is gay. The hierarchy and politics of the church offends me …

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The sorry state of British education, part 2, A-levels

The second in a three-part series on the sorry state of British education. You can read the first part on GCSEs here. A-levels are the exams British students take at 18 years old to assess whether they can go to university, and how prestigious a university they can go to. They are also important when applying …

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A maximum wage?

Could capping top incomes tackle our rising inequality more effectively than conventional approaches to narrowing ghe vast economic divide? The Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies hss published “The Case for A Maximum Wage”, by Sam Pizzigati, an IPS associate fellow and the co-editor of Inequality.org.   Pizzigati docusses how egalitarians worldwide are …

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The sorry state of British education, part 1, GCSEs

The first in a three-part series on the sorry state of British education. Hope you enjoy these multi-part blogs.  I started secondary school in 2008. Then, British secondary education was in a terrible mess; the Labour Education Secretary Ed Balls was presiding over a period of serious grade inflation. GCSEs, the qualification achieved by British …

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Bereft of effective leadership!

“I am opposed to the UK government’s key policy (Brexit), but then so, until recently, was she (Theresa May). There’s a job that doesn’t need doing and, increasingly, it feels like she is just the person not to do it.” (David Mitchell, Guardian Weekly, April 13) Meanwhile, a friend pointed out that the ineffectiveness of …

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Immigration again: victims of domestic and gang violence

In recent months, there has been a surge in the number of immigrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Immigrant rights advocates say that is because they’re fleeing extreme violence in their home countries — violence that shows no signs of abating. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has broad powers over the nation’s immigration courts, …

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Are you being a “fascist” if you want to curb immigration?

“Here’s some advice to my fellow liberals: If you want to defend liberal democracy in this age of “noisy populist movements”, stop condemning people who disagree with you about immigration. In both America and Europe, liberal commentators tend to treat every call for immigration curbs as a xenophobic assault on democracy. “Yet the conflation of …

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Most Math teaching is functionally useless

What’s the point of learning maths? For some it reveals the beauty of underlying patterns in the world. But for most of us the point of maths is to help deal with real-life problems – something maths teaching today signally fails to do. You bone up on trigonometry yet seldom encounter it again once you’ve …

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What went wrong for the Left?

All across the developed world, mainstream centre-left parties are in decline. In France, the Netherlands and Greece, they have ceased to be even remotely relevant. In countries like Ireland and Italy, they have been replaced by left-wing populist movements- Sinn Fein and M5S respectively. In France and to a lesser extent Spain, they have been …

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Britain saves the EU from falling apart!

It may sound crazy, but “Brexit has saved the EU”. Think about it. After the 2016 referendum, many sensible people thought Britain’s departure would spark a “stampede” out of the bloc. Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders schemed to duplicate the result in France and the Netherlands. Donald Trump’s promises of a “glorious” UK-US trade …

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Truly sick

Grizzly bears today occupy only about three percent of their historic range in the lower 48 states. Yet last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took the Greater Yellowstone grizzly off the Endangered Species list, relinquishing management to the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, which border Yellowstone National Park. The result? The Wyoming …

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Trump’s economic delusions: Why the current boom won’t last

A few days ago, Trump gave a press conference regarding the state of America’s economy. He announced that American GDP had expanded by an annualised rate of 4.1%. This, along with a range of figures including a low unemployment rate and decent wage growth, seemed impressive. Trump predictably credited the economic buoyancy to his policies …

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Brexit and British agriculture (a bit long but a window into the Brexit muddle)

The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy provides a total of £3bn per year – more than half of all farm income – which on average supplies 50-80% of a British farmer’s income. The EU also protects its farmers with tariffs on agricultural imports from outside the bloc of 12.2%, rising to as much as 51% on …

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Keeping the cost of drugs high

The Trump administration has dramatically increased the number of legitimate shipments of prescriptions it seizes at the border. The Food and Drug Administration is seizing shipments of cheaper, legal medications from legitimate pharmacies around the world. High drug prices in the U.S. have long driven Americans to look internationally for cheaper medications. Historically, the federal …

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Hurry up – the human workers will soon be gone!

Robots modelled on the human hand could soon be deployed on British farms to pick cauliflowers and other vegetables. Harvesting cauliflowers is not straightforward: each head must be assessed, to ensure that it is suitably white and compact, and then carefully prised from its stem, with a few outer leaves still attached to protect the …

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