Kevin Drum has done some excellent writing about the case for a causal relationship between the amount of lead in our environment and violent crime, bringing to greater public awareness research done by Rick Nevin and others. I wrote about his article for Mother Jones on this topic last year and he now has a follow-up article looking at more research by Nevin, a leading proponent of the lead-violent crime linkage, that extends that argument to rural areas, saying that rural crime skyrocketed in the late 1800s because lead paint wasn’t readily available before 1880.
I stumbled across Drum a long time ago in the early days of blogging when he started his own site called CalPundit in 2003 and I followed him because he was a sensible no-drama blogger who used evidence and data and charts (he loves charts) to make his points, and he had a nice writing style. He them moved to being the full-time Political Animal blogger at the Atlantic Monthly from 2004-2008 before arriving at his present spot at Mother Jones magazine, and I kept following him.
I don’t always agree with him. He is a somewhat traditional liberal which makes him a little too friendly to the political establishment for my taste. For example, he initially supported the invasion of Iraq, then changed to opposition on practical grounds, before later concluding that he “should have opposed it all along on philosophical grounds: namely that it was a fundamentally flawed concept and had no chance of working even if it had been competently executed”. As far as I know, he has not moved so far as to call it an illegal war and that its perpetrators should be charged with war crimes, which is my own view.
But unlike the odious Andrew Sullivan, another person who considers himself liberal and also initially supported the Iraq war, Drum did not harshly attack those who opposed it and call them fifth columnists, which was the tack taken by many liberal interventionists who seize on the chance to support a ‘good war’ to show that they are not reflexive peaceniks. People forget how much of that kind of viciousness existed at that time, like with Christopher Hitchens who called the Dixie Chicks ‘fucking fat slags’ for mildly criticizing president Bush (even though he later admitted that he did not even know what any of them looked like, not that it should have mattered anyway). Drum is invariably low-key and respectful of other opinions and always worth reading.
Hence I was sorry when Drum revealed late last year that he has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma. This has interrupted his blogging somewhat as he undergoes chemotherapy. He has been periodically giving updates on his health but as is his style, he is matter-of-fact and low-key about the whole thing, though life cannot be easy for him and he has had his high and low points.
I wish him all the best and hope for a full recovery.