Thoughts on the NYC Mayoral Debate

A few weeks ago the New York City Democratic Party had a debate with the two candidates running in the primary coming up in a few weeks. The two candidates are the incumbent mayor, Bill de Balsio, and Sal Albanase.

For the most part the debate was your typical modern day debate filled with zingers, gotchas, and sounds bites. I wasn’t too impressed with Albanase and I’ve not been impressed with the way de Blasio has run the city the past four years.

There was one part of the debate that was interesting that was the good folks over at Intelligence Squared US co-sponsored the debate. There was one question which the candidates debated for and against a motion. Like all debates put on by Intelligence Squared the idea is to use facts are reason, not sound bites, to win.[1]. I didn’t think either candidate did a good job with the facts. In fact, I don’t think they fully understood what they were supposed to do. This is a shame but on the other hand it isn’t much of a surprise because they are not used to debating in that way.

However I think this is a great idea and I hope that more local debates do this and eventually all of the debates can be done in this fashion.


  1. The debate for the general election (October 10) will also have a round of questions where the candidates will have to do the same.  ↩

UBI, Healthcare, and the states

A few weeks ago the news broke that Hawaii was starting to look at having a state wide Universal Basic Income (UBI). I became aware of the UBI last year when Charles Murray did several short Youtube videos about how UBI would help in the U.S.

I don’t know any more of they details for the Hawaii plan but I think this is going the right way and it’s why Federalism can work if we just give it a chance. Think of it this way, if Hawaii is successful another state can take the idea and modify it to what works for them. If Hawaii’s plan isn’t successful there will be lessons that other states can learn from and possibly go ahead with a different plan from the lessons learned. If a subset of states are successful it can me a model for a federal plan.

It’s the same idea for the single payer health care. I am not the biggest fan of the of the single payer system but I do think that if a state wants to try a single payer system they should be able give it a try if they would like. (Of course the fact three states have wanted to try but couldn’t figure out how to keep their budgets balanced says something)

That states can try these things is the great thing about our federalist system and the exact thing that the Founders wanted them to try. Now that both political parties understand the need to the states to be somewhat independent from the federal government let’s see what the states can come up with.

Mars Edit’s New Public Beta

I’ve been a user of Red Sweater Software’s Mars Edit for quite a while now (at least seven years). It was to much joy that I saw the announcement of the public beta for the new version of the blogging software. It looks good so far and one of the features I am really excited for is the ability to preview your post with the theme of your blog. I am sure this was one of the more requested features to add.

What to do about the high school admission problem?

I’m in the final days of the school year and I’m filling out the report cards for my eighth graders. Teaching the subjects that I teach (ELA and American History) to 8th graders is difficult one the first term is done. This is mainly because they have already applied and been accepted to high schools by the end of the term. Once the second trimester starts they don’t care about my classes because they know there will be no consequences for doing poorly. They have already been accepted into high school. Of course if they don’t care about the grades then you can imagine what their behavior is like. In fact, I asked one elementary school principal what he does with his eighth grade classes and he gave me the following reply:

“Well, we don’t ask them to do much”

This is not very inspiring and believe me I don’t ask my eighth grade students to do much either1. However, there needs to be a better way aside from just asking them not to do much. I think the beginning of the solution can be found in Lakewood, NJ2. At least one year they tried to make the registration later to solve this problem. I am not sure if this worked or not but at least it is a good start3.

I understand and respect the need for high schools to know how many students they have coming in for the next school year. They have budgets to make and they need to know how much of a short fall they will have in their budgets4. On the flip side of that is the need for the teachers to have some kind of knowledge that the students will behave and learn somewhat. Moving the application and acceptance dates would help solve this problem.


  1. Even though I don’t ask much from them it doesn’t make me happy. I would much rather be teaching them a regular instead of dumbing down the lessons starting at the middle of the school year. 
  2. This was told to me by a rebbe who lives in Lakewood. 
  3. Yes, I am actually giving credit to Lakewood for something. I am as shocked as you are. 
  4. Most schools are in the red on tuition alone. They need to find other funds to break even or get into the black. 

Hate crime stats and what they say about NYC

Today there was a tweet about some hate crime stats in NYC:

There are several things that jumped out at me about these numbers:

  • Why are they comparing this year’s numbers to the attacked from 2015? It seems to me that the only reason they are doing that is because they can then show the much larger differences1.
  • The sample size of these numbers is very small. I don’t think you can make any points based on these numbers.
  • In what may be a surprise to some people anti- semitic crime is seeing the biggest increase. Again, these are small samples so your milage may vary.
  • These are only crimes the police classified as “hate crimes”2. How many more crimes were there when it was a question if it was a “hate crime” or not? I’d be interested in seeing those numbers as well.
  • Finally the total number of hate crimes in NYC is shockingly low considering the population of the city. This is a good thing and shows most people are tolerant of others. Of course the fact it is increasing is not good at all.

  1. I assume the they in this case is the NYPD, but no context was given in the tweet. 
  2. Yes the term is in quotes because almost all crimes of violence are hate crimes. No, I don’t like violence against anyone and I’d like to think I respect everyone’s beliefs. 

And Yet, They Keep Winning

They are ranked 41st in the world1. They are undefeated and have beat the number 3, 4, 5 and 9 teams in the world. Of course I am talking about the baseball team representing Israel in the World Baseball Classic for 2017.

The story is nothing short of amazing. Baseball is at best the 4th most popular sport in the country, with soccer and basketball running neck and neck for the top spot. There is no professional baseball league2 in Israel so there is no development of players in the country. The team consists of a few former players who have played Major League Baseball (like Ike Davis) but the majority of players are still playing in the Minor League system mostly at the A or AA levels.

And yet, they keep winning.

In the second round they have already beaten Cuba (ranked 5th) and will play Japan (1st) and the Netherlands (9th – that will be a rematch). If by some miracle they are one of the top 2 teams in their pool they will make it to the semi-finals in Los Angeles.

People have compared this to the famed Jamaican Bobsleigh Team from 1988. I don’t think the comparison holds up because the the JBST didn’t officially finish in Calgary3. This is more akin to Hoosiers as other people have correctly IMO) pointed out.

There are plenty of things not to like about the WBC but watching a team like Israel come out of nowhere and continue to win is one of the things the WBC has gotten right for the 2017 edition.


  1. As ranked by the World Baseball Softball Confederation 
  2. There was one for one season in 2007 and then it folded 
  3. There is also the irony of a country like Jamaica competing in the Winter Olympics 

Good Bye Amazon Associate

You may have noticed that I no longer have a link on the left-hand side to Amazon. That is because I was informed yesterday that Amazon cancelled my Associate account because of being in violation of the Operating Agreement. The reason they gave was very vague and I’m sure exactly what happened. I asked for clarification and said what that gave me the first time was enough of an explanation. I also asked for an appeal and it was denied.

By the terms of the agreement they are in the letter of the law. They are also the 800 lb. gorilla and can do what they how. However I do feel this a bad-faith judgment on their part. I was an Associate for many years and I’ve not once tried to game the system in any way.

I used to praise Amazon for their customer service but I will do so no-more. I may even drop my Prime account when the time comes.

STEM Camp for Girls

This morning my daughter alerted me to something a friend of her’s sent her:

She was completely excited about attending the camp because it is right up her alley, the girl does love her science. I sent an email requesting information about the camp and I got a reply. It turns out that one of the people trying to get the camp off the ground is someone who has expressed interest in attending the seminary I am involved with.  It’s a small world.

I am very impressed that two high school seniors are trying to get this summer camp started. I don’t usually make appeals but I think visiting their Gofundme page and donating a little something is a good thing. If you can it would be great to help them get started.