American Crime Rate Declines

There may also be a medical reason for the decline in crime. For decades, doctors have known that children with lots of lead in their blood are much more likely to be aggressive, violent and delinquent. In 1974, the Environmental Protection Agency required oil companies to stop putting lead in gasoline. At the same time, lead in paint was banned for any new home (though old buildings still have lead paint, which children can absorb).

Tests have shown that the amount of lead in Americans’ blood fell by four-fifths between 1975 and 1991. A 2007 study by the economist Jessica Wolpaw Reyes contended that the reduction in gasoline lead produced more than half of the decline in violent crime during the 1990s in the U.S. and might bring about greater declines in the future. Another economist, Rick Nevin, has made the same argument for other nations.

Maybe the EPA might actually be doing some good!


Memorial Day Bike Tour (a lighter subject)

For around the last ten years nearly every Memorial Day Weekend, my son Niall, my brother-in-law Ken Cheeseman & I do a 3 day bike road trip. We usually do a loop out to the tip of the Cape, ferry to Boston, back to Rehoboth Ma, around 200 miles. This year Ken had an acting conflict on Saturday so we shifted the trip to Western Mass.

My son is a full time frame builder, NFG Cycles (Niall Francis Gengler), so was especially sweet for me to not only be guided by him (He choose the killer route we did from Northampton to Beckett of crazy back woods roads and killer hill after killer hill) but ride a touring frame he built for me last fall. This was the first serious extended time on the frame and it performed perfecto.

This is a short film about the weekend, a hair over home movies. Warning, there is some inappropriate language. Also, the woman in the cowboy boots and bath robe is my sister-in-law Paula, a full time actor/teacher and is totally off-the-charts fun to hang around with.

hope you enjoy ….

A Worst Case of Cultural Deterioration

The past few months I’ve made a decision to aid and collaborate with two organizations in South Providence, RI. One is the Southside Community Land Trust, a wonderful organization that owns and aids the development of urban gardens. The other is Amos House. Amos House has been around for 35 years, starting as a soup kitchen in a two family house in a very poverty stricken area of South Providence. It now offers an array of social services to folks, many of them in desperate need of aid, food, shelter. Amos House is also a wonderful organization. Both organizations appear to have great staff…..and both organizations fulfill a personal need I didn’t know existed.

Yesterday I was walking around the Amos House campus with Eileen Hayes, their CEO. Part of their operation is across the street from what both of us assume is a significant burial ground. It is perhaps a few acres of hundreds of graves, contains a number of magnificent historical gravestones, and is surrounded by a fancy black iron fence. It is owned by Grace Chruch, a historic church in the center of Providence’s downtown area.

The cemetery is a disaster. Gravestones are all over the place – damaged, falling, fallen. There is no lawn or tree maintenance (we visited right after a major storm so there was some recent tree damage to add to the already unkept property).

It was sad. I cannot imagine how it could happen. I know Providence and Rhode Island are in a terrible economic state, but how could this occur?

Opinion Poll on Politics and the Economy

I just noticed an opinion poll announcement at CNN on Barack Obama.  The following quote caught my eye:

Forty-eight percent say that another Great Depression is likely to occur in the next year – the highest that figure has ever reached. The survey also indicates that just under half live in a household where someone has lost a job or are worried that unemployment may hit them in the near future. The poll was conducted starting Friday, when the Labor Department reported that the nation’s jobless rate edged up to 9.1 percent.


From an Amazon comment on Tyler Cowen’s Create Your Own Economy:

Cowen envelops his economic points in a broader discussion of autism and its cognitive strengths, suggesting that these strengths are particularly important in this model of economy creation, and advocating for more use and acknowledgement of these strengths, particularly ordering and sequencing of specialized information, as well as a bias toward objectivity over emotionalism. Cowen also states the case that autism is not a separate condition out there from which a few suffer, but rather one point on the scale of what he calls neurodiversity, a scale on which all of us obviously must fall, some finding themselves closer to the autism point, others further.

The $147 Million per Year Story

On February 18, Republicans in the House of Representatives defeated an obscure amendment to the House Appropriations bill by a 2-to-1 margin. The Kind Amendment would have eliminated $147 million dollars that the federal government pays every year directly to Brazilian cotton farmers. In an era of nationwide belt tightening, with funding for things like education and the U.S. Farm Bill on the chopping block, defending payments to Brazilian farmers may seem curious.