Sunday, December 30, 2012

Rare Events; Contrasting Statements

Just as it is rare to have multiple shootings, so too is it rare to have subway riders in New York City murdered by being pushed in front of an ongoing train. New York City has had two of these murders within the last month with the last one happening on Thursday. Both of these murders seem to have been committed by people with mental problems.

Given that multiple shootings as well as murders by being pushed on the tracks fall into the realm of "black swan events" - that is, very rare and very difficult to predict - it is interesting to compare the comments of Mayor Michael Bloomberg after the Newtown shooting with his comments on the latest subway pushing murder.

On the school shooting in Newtown, CT, Bloomberg said:
“With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it’s still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen. It has come to that. Not even kindergarteners learning their A,B,Cs are safe. We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns. Today, many of them were five-year olds. President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for ‘meaningful action’ is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership – not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response. My deepest sympathies are with the families of all those affected, and my determination to stop this madness is stronger than ever.”
Following the murder of Sunando Sen, an Indian immigrant who lived in Queens and had opened a printing business, Bloomberg had this to say:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said commuters should "exercise care" after Thursday's attack. He suggested little could be done, though, to prevent what he called a "rare occurrence."

"It's a very tragic thing," Mr. Bloomberg said.
On Friday, in his weekly radio appearance on WOR-Radio's John Gambling Show, Bloomberg discussed the subway murder among other things. You can listen to it here. It starts at about the 11:48 mark and ends at the 13:15 mark.

From my transcript of it:

Gambling: Unfortunately another push on the subway.

Bloomberg: It’s only two in, you know, a long period of time. (That) doesn’t help either person. I don’t know what happened here.

I was talking to somebody the other day. We used to incarcerate an awful lot of people who were mentally ill. The courts or the law was changed said, “No, you can't do that because unless they are a danger to society, our laws protect you. And that's fair enough. If you look at, you go out on Long Island there are a number of old psychiatric big and all of them now are empty and falling apart. They are derelict buildings and just the roofs are starting to cave-in. (They) can become dangerous.

Gambling: I read that the Governor is thinking of releasing even more people.

Bloomberg: I don’t know. I haven’t talked to him about it. But yeah, you know, it cost a lot and the trouble is you may incarcerate the handful of people who do something wrong but you’d also incarcerate an enormous number of people who will never do anything wrong. And the essence of America is unless you do something wrong, we don’t incarcerate you.
Right after this, Gambling asks him how he would integrate these thoughts with the Newtown shootings. The first thing out of his mouth is the comment that there will always be crazy people. He then goes into his usual harangue about guns, semi-auto firearms, standard capacity magazines, and how we need to ban them.

I find the contrasting statements interesting. On the one hand, Bloomberg demands immediate action for one rare event involving a mentally ill person while on the other hand he dismisses another event involving again a mentally ill person as a "rare occurrence" that not much could be done to prevent.

In both cases you have rare but deadly events involving mentally ill persons. Rationally, it is not the tool involved that is the causative factor of the event but rather the untreated mentally ill person. I think even Bloomberg understands this but for his own selfish and aggrandizing political aims chooses to ignore it.

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