Position Papers and Short Pieces

Most of the following appear only here.

Storm Clouds: The “Warning Signs” Fallacy 
The notion that shocking events are preceded by legible warnings, and could therefore have been prevented if only the warnings were heeded, obscures the fact that it’s easier to predict events after they occur. 

School Massacres: Terror and Impunity 
If in the Columbine library Harris and Klebold were the free among the unfree, so too did the pair rise to the heights of fame where those around them remained in the mire of ordinary existence.

Dirty Hands: On Margarethe von Trotta’s “Die Andere Frau” 
Guided by the film’s leanings, we credit Vera with the superior truth–the authenticity–of one who has pierced the falsity of bourgeois existence. 

Pills That Talk: Therapy and the Marketplace
Advertised drugs yield psychological rewards without the bother of psychotherapy. 

Lies My Disorder Told Me: Stimulants as Study Aids 
That baseball players hit more home runs on steroids doesn’t mean they were suffering from a disorder remedied by steroids. 

View my unpublished letter to the New York Review of Books in support of Frederick Crews’s biography of Freud

Steve Jobs and Disclaimed Paternity 
That he viewed himself as an idealist and not a libertine may have made it easier for Jobs to act like a libertine. 

Marriage in Ruins: Broadchurch 
The deployment of adultery at certain critical points in Broadchurch represents an awkward attempt to give it plot importance now that its actual importance has evaporated.

Damned with Their Own Words: Fantastic Confessions and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion
Would the infamous tract have had such mesmeric power if, like ten thousand other leaflets, it consisted merely of preposterous ravings about the Jews rather than a preposterous diatribe by a Jew? 

Tweak, Fiddle, Nudge 
Tacit assumptions, loaded terms, ground rules, default settings, lax standards, and the progressive narrative itself work to produce preferred outcomes with a combined effect that is less a nudge than a shove. 

Montaigne, Medicine and the Common Lot

Montaigne would have relished the story of Edward Jenner testing the folk knowledge that milkmaids exposed to cowpox seemed to be protected against smallpox.

Unequal Cancer Treatments: Don’t Jump to Conclusions
Those who decry so bitterly disparities in treatment risk aggravating these disparities by the excess of their rhetoric.

Documented: Footnotes and Misreported Sources 
In all cases of misrepresented sources examined here, detection of the abuse requires nothing more or less than due diligence—the review of cited material with appropriate care.

Perils of the Placebo: Psychotherapy in Hard Times
The entire history of medicine attests that human beings can and do find reassurance, meaning and solace in treatments that are by no means harmless.

Beware the English Language (After Swift)

An academic ponders “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

Doctor as Firebrand: The Editor of The Lancet

In my view the author’s incendiary play with words clearly does not comport with the practice of medicine.

Your Secret Is Safe with Me (After Montaigne)

Because certain lies are unspeakable, one feels a strange obligation to uphold them.

My Father’s Purple Heart
In honor of what would have been my father’s 100th birthday.

Nothing short of saving a life could possibly have induced someone of Aunt Ruthie’s background to enter into a deceptive marriage.

A Hermit for Our Times

Rousseau’s renunciation of each of five infants, one after another, is the only instance of free-riding known to me more audacious than Christopher Knight’s 27-year-long practice of thieving from the society he forswore.