Friday, 25 September 2009

Noble gesture?

A story about a kid who stops at the 2-yard line rather than score another touchdown against some down on their luck school is being widely advertised on Yahoo. The breathless writing makes it clear that we're supposed to regard this kid, and the team, as some modern day hero[es]. It was a "noble gesture" even, according to the title! Near the story was a pointer to a different, but similarly themed, story about a kid with Down Syndrome who is brought into a football game late, when the game is out of reach, and given the ball and allowed, by the opposing team, to run it in for a TD.

Whenever I hear about these alleged "noble" gestures, or teams catching hell for scoring too many pts in a game, I always think there are lots of things more disrespectful than running up the score against someone or not letting a kid with Down Syndrome inaccurately believe that he's able to score a touchdown. At least in those cases one respects his/her opponent to take them seriously. More disrespectful, IMO, is being the kind of patronizing person who holds his/her opponent in such low regard that he'd condescendingly stop at the two yard line rather than bother to score. Or another example, perhaps, being the kind of person who would make a fool out of someone by creating a farce in which he's led to believe he's scored a legitimate TD when in fact he hasn't and everyone around him knows it.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Market based health care dilemma

Here's a dilemma I've been thinking about after yet another health care discussion (YAHCD) and some recent commentary from David Frum

As is well known, the US doesn't match up well with other nations in comparisons regarding some fairly basic health indicators, e.g., life expectancy, infant mortality, etc. See the report linked in this post. When faced with this fact, defenders of the current US health care system have been known to argue along these lines: "There are a lot of contributors to these factors in addition to medical care. Things like diet, lifestyle, environment, etc. all play a factor." Many then go on to argue that Americans have worse diets and more sedentary lifestyles than much of the world. So, suppose we accept that. Doesn't this fact actually undermine an important arguments against socialized medicine, i.e., the moral hazard argument? If people aren't forced to pay the costs of their health care, they lose an incentive to be healthy and avoid the need to access expensive health care. But, in fact, nobody pays more for their health care than Americans do and yet this moral hazard has no positive effect on their willingness to remain healthy and avoid the need for health care.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Holder's investigation

Some people, the president and the 08 Republican nominee for president included, keep asserting that with respect to allegations of torture during the Bush administration, we should "look forward, not back". And Holder's announcement that he intended to investigate regardless generated concerns that such an investigation could hurt morale and effectiveness of the CIA.

It's hard for me to understand how these constitute effective arguments. The first suggestion is just utterly silly. First, it seems that it could be applied to any criminal investigation, all crimes have occurred in the past and yet we go back to investigate them. But it's much more dangerous in this particular case, the question of whether or not the US endorsed and/or participated in torture and whether or not the country is willing to take a stand and indicate whether or not that was permissible goes to the very heart of what the country's principles are. How can the country "move forward" while those questions remain unaddressed?

As to the CIA morale argument, well, of course, criminal investigations hurt morale at any organizations, but surely if this is a legitimate argument, then we've effectively given the CIA carte blanche. Prosecution for any criminal wrongdoing will require investigation. Any investigation will hurt morale at the CIA, so if the general principle is "Never hurt morale at the CIA", it follows that we can never prosecute any criminal wrongdoing at the CIA, so the CIA is free to do whatever they'd like.