Monthly Archives: January 2017

Middle School Punishment Culture

Syracuse schools are trying to diffuse behavior issues rather than just punish the students.  They are doing it in response to racial disparity of punishment, but the solution will help all the students.  Story from ThinkProgress.

In middle school, as my oldest kindly phrased it “they want to keep us safe from everything, so we can’t do anything.”  My younger son was less generous in his characterization of middle school administration as “fascist Nazis.”  In reality, they described the same culture of forced acquiescence.

In Syracuse, they are trying to teach the kids to resolve their issues in socially acceptable ways without punishment being the first action.  They are also doing this in elementary school:

…a student, Josh, burst into the room. After the principal told him to close the door and knock, he came back in and said another student, Nathan, “was talking about my mom.”

“Nathan doesn’t know your mom and I will follow up with up him,” Reeve-Larham said.

“I’m going to punch him in the face!” Josh yelled, on the verge of crying.

“You’re not going to punch him in the face,” she said calmly before Josh slammed the door.

Although it may seem worrisome that one student said he wanted to hit another, the student only went to the principal’s office because she built a relationship with him and he trusts her. Josh anticipated that he would be angry and went to an adult for help.

My son did this in 8th grade.  The response from the vice principal was, “Well, now we know you have a problem with him so if there is any issue between the two of you we will know it’s your fault.”  That’s the difference between punishment culture and what Syracuse is calling “restorative practices.”

Not surprisingly, the middle school teachers are not at all happy with this new system, as they can no longer just send a kid away based on any infraction and not have to see them until (at least) the next day.  They report feeling less safe, and feeling that the students no longer face consequences for misbehavior.  That’s understandable, because it’s true, at least somewhat.

There’s a lot more to this, click the link.


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Capitalism in Medicine

What Happens When Doctors Only Take Cash

the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, whose business model is different from that of most hospitals. There, the all-inclusive price for every operation is listed on the website.

In arriving at their price list, Smith and Lantier did an end run around the whole system. They asked their fellow doctors how much compensation was expected per procedure, factored in necessary expenses like surgical equipment and medical implants, then tacked on a 10% to 15% profit margin. Since their surgery center does not employ the army of administrators that is often required to haggle with insurers and follow up on Medicare reimbursements, their overhead is smaller. The whole operation is 41 people. “Finding an average price doesn’t require complicated math,” Smith says. “It’s arithmetic.” Since posting the price list eight years ago, they’ve adjusted it twice, both times to lower rates.

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Grounding / Earthing

Never heard of this before.  From NIH:


Multi-disciplinary research has revealed that electrically conductive contact of the human body with the surface of the Earth (grounding or earthing) produces intriguing effects on physiology and health. Such effects relate to inflammation, immune responses, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The purpose of this report is two-fold: to 1) inform researchers about what appears to be a new perspective to the study of inflammation, and 2) alert researchers that the length of time and degree (resistance to ground) of grounding of experimental animals is an important but usually overlooked factor that can influence outcomes of studies of inflammation, wound healing, and tumorigenesis.

Grounding or earthing refers to direct skin contact with the surface of the Earth, such as with bare feet or hands, or with various grounding systems. … Various grounding systems are available that enable frequent contact with the Earth, such as while sleeping, sitting at a computer, or walking outdoors. These are simple conductive systems in the form of sheets, mats, wrist or ankle bands, adhesive patches that can be used inside the home or office, and footwear. These applications are connected to the Earth via a cord inserted into a grounded wall outlet or attached to a ground rod placed in the soil outside below a window. For the footwear applications, a conductive plug is positioned in the shoe sole at the ball of the foot, under the metatarsals, at the acupuncture point known as Kidney 1. From a practical standpoint, these methods offer a convenient and routine, user-friendly approach to grounding or earthing.

Maybe this explains why I love beach vacations so much.

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War on Cash

Ken Rogoff’s new book “The War on Cash” details how wonderful it would be if cash was totally or nearly totally banned, with all transactions being made electronically.  He thinks it would eliminate crime.  I have stated this before, but you can’t eliminate crime by eliminating cash.  Other forms of currency will be substituted, and this will have unintended and unforeseen consequences.  Yes, it will drive up the price of crime, but it will certainly not stop it or probably even slow it down much.

Ron Rimkus, CFA, has a piece at Seeking Alpha that details the real motives behind this move, and the real harm it causes non-criminals, and he thinks about his mom as an example:

In short, … a cashless society would enable central banks to produce negative interest rates at any level.

If a -1% rate doesn’t do the trick, maybe -5% will. If -5% doesn’t cut it, perhaps -10% will. In fact, there would be no limit to how low negative rates could go.

In essence, a cashless society gives governments an extraordinary new power: the ability to tax wealth – including my mom’s, even though she is not “wealthy.”

In practice, if the world converted to a cashless society, Mom could still choose what she buys, how she invests, what she does with her money. But she would lose the freedom to withhold her money from the banking system.

What is best for savers is high interest rates. What is best for borrowers is low interest rates – or maybe the ability to default with little or no consequence. What is best for banks is having more transactions performed through the banking system via credit cards, debit cards, or other bank-sponsored payment methods. What is best for governments is for every transaction to be monitored and every possible tax dollar collected. What is best for central banks is to fully control the money supply so that they can create negative rates at will. What is best for politicians is to grow the economy regardless of how costly their policies are.

What is best for my mom is to be able to save her hard-earned money without it being unduly depleted by inflation, taxation, or bail-ins. And, maybe, to be able to opt into or out of the banking system by her choice.

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Yale Brain Research

So, there are specific and separate “hunt” and “kill” neurons?  Each of those behaviors is complex, not simple.    From FT:

Scientists turn mild-mannered mice into killers

The researchers at Yale University used “optogenetic” technology, which switches specific neurons on and off in genetically engineered animals with laser light, to tap into brain mechanisms that control predatory hunting.

By manipulating brain cells in this region through optogenetics, the Yale team found one distinct set of neurons controlled pursuit and another controlled the kill. If the hunting neurons were switched on and the biting set inactivated, the mice pursued prey but could not deliver the killer bite to finish it off.

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