Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Take Back Day

The DEA periodically (every six months or so) sponsors "Take Back Days" on which people can safely dispose of unwanted prescription drugs.  Last Saturday, October 27, was the most recent.  I had been unaware of previous days but this time had been alerted by some timely internet advertisements.  My local police department had a collection site so I collected up a bunch of my expired prescription drugs and took them in.  This seems like a good idea.  The DEA is primarily concerned about controlled substances (and I did have some unused painkillers) but expired drugs can also become dangerous.  I had not taken this possibility too seriously and have sometimes ignored expiration dates but in collecting my unused prescriptions I saw in one case the pills had undergone some chemical reaction that had cause them to split open and when I (foolishly) opened the pill bottle to take a closer look I was greeted with a pungent odor. Obviously no one in their right mind would take these pills but it seems likely that pills can become dangerous in less obvious ways.    

Saturday, October 13, 2018


I recently read "Crashed" a recent (2018) book by Adam Tooze about the great financial crisis (GFC) of 2008-2009 and its aftermath.  I had previously read Tooze's book "The Wages of Destruction" about the economy of Nazi Germany and found it interesting so when I saw this book on the new books shelf at my local library I thought it might be worth checking out.  This was a mistake.

The book is very long (over 700 pages including nearly 100 pages of index and notes) but displays little insight.  There is a old saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees which seems to apply.  We are now at some remove from the GFC and so (one would hope) are better placed to identify its important features and effects.  But this book doesn't really attempt to do this. Instead it largely consists of a chronological recounting of events with little real analysis. The failure to develop any sort of convincing theoretical framework means the book is of little help in understanding and evaluating policy alternatives going forward.

For example the book states in several places that the American response to the crisis (although flawed) was more effective than the European response.  However the book doesn't consider the obvious possibility that the American response just appeared more effective because the problems in America weren't as serious as in Europe.    

Again the book seems to vaguely disapprove of the way Europe dealt with Greece but with little consideration of concrete alternatives and their advantages and disadvantages.  When the Euro was introduced many American economists thought it was a mistake because the area involved was too diverse to be adequately served by a single uniform monetary policy.  The book does not really discuss this.

One general view of the GFC is that people want to save more money than the system can safely accommodate.  That is there are more people who want to lend money than credit worthy borrowers.  In such a situation there is a great temptation to pretend certain loans are safe when they are not.  If this imbalance is real than specific regulations aimed at preventing certain types of bad loans are likely to just cause the problem to reappear in different forms.  But this sort of bigger picture view is lacking in this book making it of little value in my view.

To sum up I didn't like this book at all.  It just recapitulates events at length without adding much in the way of understanding.  I would avoid it.        

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Press 1 for English

Back in July, Paul Campos (of the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog) posted a rant in which he derided the  ""press 1 for English" myth" declaring (among other things):

The claim that people are forced to “press 1 for English” is pure racist bullshit, peddled by liars ...

I was pretty sure I had encountered this in the past  but of course it was hard to cite specific examples.  But now I can.  This morning I had reason to call New York E-ZPass service center (1-800-333-8655) and one of the first things I heard was "press 1 for English" (or some close variant).  So more confirmation of my opinion that the left is increasingly living in a fantasy world.

I was calling the service center because yesterday I received an E-ZPass statement which showed a bogus charge for using the lower level of the George Washington Bridge.  This was easy to spot since it was the only charge on the statement and I haven't been in New York State for some time.  Once I got a live person on the line this proved fairly simple to resolve.  She determined by some unspecified means that the charge was in error and agreed to have it reversed.  It was not clear what happened.  She said something about the license plate number not matching so maybe she was able to pull up a photo.