Around the Web on 5-31-07

Thursday, May 31, 2007

No. My regular "Around the Web" feature didn't die with the new year. It simply became irregular!

Some time around my annual Christmas blogging hiatus, I decided that I'd let myself get into a rut with the feature and that I would take a vacation from it for awhile and then reevaluate. The year got very busy and stayed that way. And then I heard from Martin Lindeskog as he was gearing up for his own vacation from blogging.

He asked whether I would I like to guest-blog at Ego again. I told him I'd be glad to, despite my own hectic schedule and decided to go ahead with at least one of these while he is away since I'd always cross-posted these big roundups to his blog and he liked them.

How I feel after I write this will go into the "reevaluation" hopper, but it will be a moot point for the foreseeable future. Things at work seem like they might be getting interesting (scientifically, which is good, and scheduling-wise, which may be very bad, at least for blogging) and I am hoping to finally work on a couple of interesting non-blogging pieces soon.

That said, here goes....

Oops! Not so fast! First, allow me to wish a belated happy birthday to Martin!

Face of a Movement Disappears from View

Via Glenn Reynolds, I found that the following comment on Cindy Sheehan's recent decision to return to private life treated the subject with about the right degree of dignity and respect:

[I thought about posting a fictional c]onversation between Cindy Sheehan and Billy Jack. Punchline: something having to do with Sheehan's being the "face" of a movement, with a possible play on "movement." Or "face." or "Jack."
Myrhaf thinks that Sheehan will soon resurface. I agree. He also makes some good comments about how the whole story illustrates the left's feeling that reason is impotent. Dismuke also makes some interesting comments, the first from a psychological angle.

Market Forces and Organ Donors

"Captain" Ed Morrissey -- even as he argues for a more capitalistic method of organ transplantation -- unwittingly demonstrates why patients in desperate need for an organ donor are mercilessly subjected to long, terrifying, and potentially deadly waits by an inefficient system of rationing.
[W]hat do we do to save the lives of everyone else on the list? The simple fact is that we have a rationing system that does not work, as Dr. Satel explains. We have a demand that far exceeds the supply, and we have put in place regulations that artificially keeps the supply low -- for noble reasons, but those noble reasons are costing thousands of lives every year.


I'm not suggesting a kidney bazaar, where the highest bidder gets the organs and only the rich can find transplants. [How would this be the case if we increased supply? --ed] However, we have to find a system that generates a much larger supply for organs than the one we have now, and we have to move away from the old methods of rationing if we want to save lives. Satel's proposals put us on the right track. It's certainly less disturbing than grinding up embryos to find elusive treatments for diseases, and much less ethically objectionable. [bold added]
For what "noble reasons" do we artificially keep supplies low? Altruism, as Sally Satel explains:
We need to move beyond the idea that organs must be relinquished as gifts. The altruistic motive is deeply noble and loving. But relying upon it as the sole legitimate reason for giving an organ is causing too many unnecessary deaths.
Both Morrissey and Satel agree that altruism is impractical, but both make the fatal error of failing to ask whether it really is "noble" or "loving", or even moral for that matter. But to do that to any meaningful extent, each must become willing to apply reason not just to the logistical and legal aspects of organ donation, but to the moral issues concerning organ donation as well.

The reason we don't already have a market in live organs is because our culture, inheriting the morality of self-sacrifice from its religious past, damns the profit motive as evil. To the extent that someone honestly questions this morality, he will see that it has no basis in reason and he will reject it. To the extent that he fails to apply reason, he will continue to accept it.

We see this with Morrissey, who starts out by making a strong, this-worldly case for freer organ donation, but ends by proposing some restrictions of his own to the supply of organs for transplantation. What is so "ethically objectionable" about embryonic research -- or an organ market, for that matter? (Even with his arguments, Morrissey has qualms about using capitalism to save lives in the context of organ transfers between consenting adults.)

Until we ask deeper questions across the board, we will continue sacrificing human lives for ideals whose alleged nobility exists in the same realm as their justification: the imagination.

Bush vs. Capitalism (and Safe Beef)

[Update: Jim May indicates that this story is more complicated than the news report I blogged indicated. The company here intended to test cattle before they could develop the Mad Cow disease, meaning its testing would result in too many false negatives. Follow the link he provides for more detail.]

And speaking of ways we should be unleashing the power of the free market to save lives, Isaac Schrodinger points to the latest anti-capitalist outrage by the Bush administration:
The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.

The Agriculture Department tests fewer than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows.

Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.

The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry. [bold added]
That last paragraph is plainly an excuse. What company in the business of selling meat is going to scare off customers with a false positive? A moment's thought would show that one would take reasonable precautions and then perform some kind of follow-up testing if a sample popped positive.

Lives would be saved by any company that really did detect tainted beef and kept it away from the market, and such action would instill confidence in any company that made such a move. Instead of allowing the innovative portion of the beef industry to take this step, however, the Bush administration would apparently prefer to gamble with our lives in order to protect short-sighted companies which deserve to go out of business.

Furthermore, since customers will not have the recourse of buying meat from companies that do test all their meat, Bush is ensuring that should a confirmed case of mad cow arise, the entire beef industry will fall under suspicion. This will adversely affect our diets and potentially lay waste to huge swaths of that industry as the public, knowing that mad cow is out there, but that almost all meat goes untested, panics.

It is immoral to prevent someone from doing his job, which is exactly what Bush is doing by forbidding a company from taking a common-sense measure to ensure the safety of its customers. Not only that, it is impractical on every level, including the implicit goal of "protecting" an industry vital to the economy!

Chavez Closes Private Television Station

Cox and Forkum nail it, as usual. See their blog for the story.

This weekend, I was in a conversation with a leftist, who was making the standard complaint that Fox News "controls" "too much" of the news in America. She then proceeded, by way of enumeration (of just television outlets, naturally), to show how "few" sources for news we had. Sensing that she was about to make a point that this meant we "needed" government intervention, I pointed out that Chavez is busy making sure that there is only one source of news in Venezuela.

I didn't get to finish that conversation, but I suspect that my point would have still been a hard sell since, you see, the government isn't "polluted" by the profit motive and in any event Pragmatism is so ubiquitous in our culture that I would have probably been told that the lessons -- if any -- from Venezuela wouldn't apply to America anyway.

Still, at least the conversation has caused me to consider such objections, so it was worthwhile to me.

The Scoop on John Lewis

Fellow fans of John Lewis, who recently appeared on the Mike Rosen show to discuss his recent talk at George Mason University will be interested to know that he will be working to complete a new book, Nothing Less than Victory: Military Offense and the Lessons of History, over the next year. Diana Hsieh also blogs about some other major changes for him, and provides links to an audio of his GMU talk as well as to two posts about it at Rule of Reason.

And for more, stop by Michael Caution's blog to learn about a recent review of Lewis's Solon the Thinker.

Color Me "Heretical"!

Mike N. has retitled a series of posts on global warming hysteria....
My readers may have noticed that I changed the title of my series from "Why I'm Pro-Skeptic" in Pt.1 to "Why I Side With the Critics" in the rest. I don't like the words skeptic or denier or doubter. The proper name for those who disagree with the establishment notion of global warming is critic. That's what they are, critics.

I have no respect for anyone who uses those terms whether they are reporters, editors or even scientists. Those words are nothing but euphemisms for "heretic."
He's right. And he reminds me.... In another conversation with the same leftist I mentioned above, I was "corrected" when I used the term "global warming" and told to use "climate change" instead. So I countered that I would do so as long she called me a "heretic" rather than a "skeptic".

The Unjust Imprisonment of Jack Kevorkian

Thomas Bowden of the Ayn Rand Institute hits the nail on the head.
[E]ach individual has the right to decide the hour of his death and to implement that solemn decision as best he can. The choice is his because the life is his. And if a doctor is willing -- not forced -- to assist in the suicide, based on an objective assessment of his patient's mental and physical state, the law should not stand in his way."
Read it all.

Toiler's New Abode

Acid Free Paper has moved! Update your links. I just did.

Hugh Hewitt on "Bigotry"

Myrhaf makes some good comments on something I ran across the other day, but didn't have time to blog. One conservative pundit, Mike Gallagher has run afoul of another, Hugh Hewitt, for raising perfectly legitimate questions about Mitt Romney's religion.
Hewitt saw early on that Romney's Mormonism would produce questions such as Gallagher asks and decided the best strategy would be to label the questioners as bigots the way the New Left calls anyone who questions multiculturalism a racist. Hugh Hewitt is happy to ape the left and degrade the national conversation a little more if it helps to elect a Republican. [bold added]
I couldn't have said this better myself. Myrhaf also goes where Gallagher didn't go, pointing out that the same sorts of questions should be extended to all religions.

Galileo Defends "Price-Gouging"

Here is how he ends a very good post on the subject:
With the anti-gouging bill, the House of Representatives is grandstanding at our expense. In an effort to curry votes from ignorant voters, the House lays the groundwork for new gasoline shortages. Moreover, it diverts attention from the party responsible for high oil prices, themselves.
If you don't check in on his blog frequently, you're missing out.

A Few More...

1. Darren Cauthon on "How to gain support for net neutrality":
I wish that net neutrality advocates would openly explain their position, but they know better than that. It is probably easier to get someone to sign an online petition or state that they want "fairness" on the internet (leaving it to the net neutrality advocates to explain what that means later) than it is to convince them that the government should seize control of someone’s private property. And it is your "support" that they after, not your actual agreement with their entire position. They claim to have over a million and a half signatures and the support of their first GOP presidential candidate, so why would they change anything now?
2. The "One-Minute Case for Sweatshops"....

What? You want me to excerpt something you can read in one minute?

3. A blogger sees her column on "The Che Paradox" translated into Polish!

That's all folks!

-- CAV


: Corrected a typo. Sorry, Darren!
6-6-07: Added update to BSE section.


Anonymous said...

Regarding the BSE testing issue, there is more to it than meets the eye. Apparently the company that wanted to test its own beef was going to do so when the cattle were much too young to have developed any signs of the disease, even if they had it, resulting in false negative results.

While your points remain valid (and the blogger linked above notes that he wouldn't put it past the government to do something like that), this apparently isn't what it seems.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you for bringing that to my attention, Jim.