On the Road
On the Road's Journal
Name: Jack Neefus
Hometown: Newark, NJ
Home country: US
Current location: Baltimore, MD
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 20,485
Hometown: Newark, NJ
Home country: US
Current location: Baltimore, MD
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 20,485
is that like most groups involved in a contentious war of ideas, opinions that minimize or temper accepted wisdom tend to be frowned on. On the other hand, opinions that make more extreme projections or take accepted wisdom further tend to be welcomed, even when they are highly questionable.
It may appear that even if extreme opinions are incorrect, they may still help uninvolved members of the public "wake up," or create a sense of urgency that will help the larger goals be achieved. These inferences, while true in some cases, have to be balanced against repercussions such as:
1) Opinions that are not well supported by fact tend to be used by the opposing side in damaging ways. Look at the predictions from the 1970s about the state of the world over the coming decades. They are routinely used by global warming deniers to cast doubt on global warming as a whole.
2) Incorrect projections can lead to bad policy. If the optimal policy involves long-term measures, overly aggressive projections can lead to less effective crash programs on the theory that the horizon is too short. It can be argued that Jimmy Carter's $88B energy plan, which contained provisions for breeder reactors and coal gassification, was affected by alarmist views of the future of oil production.
3) It can lead to the rejection of proposals that are not considered "pure" or draw some measure of support from the opposition. In the case of global warming, this appears to be particularly true for solutions involving some type of geoengineering.
4) While the pattern is universal, it is fundamentally the same group dynamic that has led the GOP to become so extreme. This should be a warning.
Posted by On the Road | Wed Aug 22, 2012, 12:41 PM (0 replies)
and the reason there this distinction exists is that abortion is being argued separately from the question of when the developing fetus becomes a human being and should have legal standing. The current standard
(end of the second trimester) was chosen based on a different criterion -- survivability outside the womb (at least according to 1970s medicine).
Whether a one-day-old infant is the product of rape or incest has no bearing on whether that infant should survive. Nor should it be a factor in the ninth month, where abortion should be undertaken only in order to save the mother. Or the eight month. For that matter, should a premature baby born in the 32nd week be treated differently from a fetus of the same age if it's still in the womb? They both have developed equally.
The anti-abortion people are giving the wrong answer to the question "when does a human life begin?" Saying it is at conception, or before the brain is developed enough for basic electrical activity, is absurd. The way to counter it and maintain a consistent position is by giving a substantive answer to that question.
Posted by On the Road | Tue Aug 21, 2012, 04:56 PM (1 replies)
and bringing very different histories and tastes. Many bad reviews of good movies seem to be the result of one of the following:
1) People often have difficulty distinguishing a movie they just couldn't get into at the time, or a movie with themes and characters they can't relate to, from a bad movie. IMDB message boards are full of posts consisting of little more than "I fell asleep," "I walked out," or "this sucked."
I saw Blade Runner years after it came out on VHS, and simply couldn't get into it. Maybe the expectations were too high, or maybe its innovations had become commonplace by the 90's. But I would never call it a lousy movie.
2) Movies are often judged by what the viewer expects the film to do rather than what the director is trying to do, which may be quite different. Countless posts complain "what was the point of X" when X had a very clear point and was crucial to the storyline or understanding the characters.
This was responsible for a lot of the outrage over Drive, which was a wonderful example of breaking expectations and mixing genres and standard plots. Didn't follow the pattern of an action movie? No, it didn't, which made it more shocking and confusing when things went wrong and turned violent. Main character just stood there not saying anything? The director wanted the audience to be taken aback a little and to pay attention to other cues (plus it was consistent with the character). Why was that kiss in the elevator all gussied up with slow-mo and magical lighting? Because that was the culmination of the entire relationship -- the only moment that it could ever be consummated.
3) Much of the audience seems to miss character development unless it is spelled out or brought about by common devices like "facing your fears." Several IMDB posters on Moonrise Kingdom made comments to the effect that the plot went nowhere, whereas virtually every character underwent some sort of growth or transformation. It takes a special set of blinders to miss that in that large a cast.
That's one reason IMO why older reviewers are sometimes kinder than newbies. Someone like Roger Ebert is open-minded enough and has been around a sufficiently long time that he can see better what was being attempted and can give credit even when the result was flawed, and why his reviews of a film like Snow White and the Hunter was much more positive than a lot of younger critics and message board posters.
Having said that, a lot of relatively simple, formulaic movies often receive high praise if they fall into certain genres or deal with certain themes. Million Dollar Baby was well crafted, but it never violated expectations, brought out surprising elements of the characters, or made the audience look or think deeply. For that reason, I didn't find it memorable, affecting, or thought-provoking in the least.
On the other hand, a movie like It's a Wonderful Life has some vocal detractors. It certainly contains some corny elements, a bizarre frame about angels, unecessary exposition, and caters to an 1940's small-town, middle-class sensibility. At the same time, it is one of the more subtle character studies of its era, all the more so because George Bailey is not a saint in the usual sense. It deals with odd themes that are hard to bring to life -- choosing responsibility over dreams and the importance of financial saving, building networks of friends, and affordable housing financed by involved, forgiving creditors. It's unique and deserves to be considered an all-time classic.
Posted by On the Road | Fri Jul 6, 2012, 03:05 PM (0 replies)
but will be prevented from making the types of common in the last decade. They are not (as you originally indicated) guaranteed 20% profit margins.
Not that insurance providers haven't made excessive profits in some cases. In the mid 00s, my doctor dropped Optimum Choice because they routinely denied payment for treatment that was justified in his opinion while only spending 65% of premiums on care. That will no longer be possible.
The 2-3% Medicare overhead is not a comparable percentage, since it is skewed by the age of the people covered:
People of Medicare age have medical expenses at least three times the median age. An administrative cost of 2.5% for a 70-year-old would equate to 7.5% for a 40-year-old. By comparison, the justifiably criticized Optimum Choice had 8% administrative costs in this case (MD 2008):
If Medicare for all is ever instituted (as I hope it will be), that 2-3% is going to rise to be more in line with the rest of the industry.
As far as the reason for Roberts's vote, it is immaterial. But do you really think that Scalia, Thomas, and Alito resisted corporate pressure while Roberts succumbed to it?
Posted by On the Road | Thu Jun 28, 2012, 03:50 PM (1 replies)
I had only read the first page, which is very general. The rest of it is quite interesting and I'm going to look at some other sources. There seem to be three basic areas:
1) the NASDAQ glitch on opening day. The article does not relate this to any supposed new information that was being circulated, nor does any other source I looked at.
2) The reporting of current mobile vs. landline trends. This seems to be at the heart of the author's charges. If Facebook falsified their financials, then they are guilty of fraud. But no one seems to be coming out and actually claiming that, at least not in so many words. Here's what Facebook said in its initial prospectus:
5....As an example, we believe that the recent trend of our increasing more rapidly than the increase in the number of ads delivered has been due in part to certain pages having fewer ads per page as a result of these kinds of product decisions These decisions may not produce the long-term benefits that we expect, in which case our user growth and engagement, our relationships with developers and advertisers, and our business and results of operations could be harmed.
In the infamous May 9 disclosure, which was sent to all prospective buyers, "five new sentences were added to the prospectus as a result (including the sentence in point 5 above relating to the number of ads delivered)."
Unless current revenue or traffic statistics were falsified, it's clear clear where the fraud is.
3) That leaves the internal selling. The company did not have the traditional holding period for employees and insiders. Perhaps it should be a requirement, but it's not. It's not surprising that a lot of employees who had been working for stock instead of salary wanted to cash in, get out of debt, and secure their retirement.
It does look like Facebook fought their underwriters to maximize the IPO price. Insiders cashed in and retail investors lined up and said "take my money." The investment banks and institutional buyers took the major hit -- perhaps that is why the issue has some traction.
Something might be unearthed in the shareholder suits. But at this point I have to agree with the article linked above:
But what about those research analysts changing their estimates? It probably could not have worked any other way under our current regulatory scheme. Analysts who work for underwriters are prohibited from publishing their research prior to an IPO. They are permitted to talk to their clients and give their views. They are required to be independent from the investment bankers who run the IPO. If the May 9 disclosures caused them to think a change in their estimates was appropriate (and how could they not when a new “recent trend” was disclosed?), their independence requirement presumably forced them to make such changes. But the law still prohibited them from publishing any of their research.
Posted by On the Road | Wed May 30, 2012, 11:40 AM (0 replies)
at the risk of bringing down the condemnation of the whole board, here is what I believe is the most cogent argument against gay marriage:
Pretty much all societies have had an institution of heterosexual marriage. Some societies have practiced and condoned, or at least not condemned, gay sex. Even in those societies, however, marriage was still an exclusively heterosexual institution.
Using a definition that's been relatively unified across cultures and throughout history, gay people have always had the right to marry. But because they're gay, they may not want to avail themselves of that heterosexual institution.
Introducing same-sex marriage is therefore not a matter of removing discrimination against a particular group. It requires changing the concept and definition of marriage in the law.
As the gay community has pointed out, there are hundreds of ways gay people are disadvantaged by not having their long-term relationships recognized as a marriage, including employer health coverage, survivor benefits, hospital visitation, and inheritance. Those are important issues of equal treatment that really need to be addressed.
The problem with doing this by simply changing the definition of marriage is that marriage is not merely a legal institution. While there is no direct parallel, it is more more like a joint status agreed on by both the law and by organized religion.
A legal marriage is created not only by getting a marriage license, but by a wedding ceremony performed by any recognized religion or denomination, or by the state. Couples cannot simply freelance and claim a legal marriage. With very few exceptions, marriages are recognized by all faiths regardless of whether they were performed by a judge or a priest in another faith. Not even fundamentalists or cultural xenophobes think of a couple as 'living in sin' if their wedding was performed in a courthouse, a mosque, or a Buddhist temple. The legal and religious elements are inextricably intertwined. Changing one can easily be seen as changing the other.
There are various ways of modifying the law to eliminate the inequalities resulting from hetero-only marriage. One is by creating a separate institution of civil unions. While originally hailed by the gay community, a decade later it was being condemned as grossly inadequate, if not a matter of outright bigotry. There is also the option of creating a civil institution of life partnerships that applies to both gay and hetero people and disengages the legal and religious components from each other. It would mean making all marriages civil unions in the eyes of the law and leaving religious ceremonies and the matter of defining marriage to the individual faiths. That would appear to meet most objections of both sides of the issue, but has not really been championed by anyone so far.
The simplest way of addressing the equality and civil rights issues involved is simply expanding the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex unions. However, because the legal and religious elements of the institution are so closely aligned, it is seen by many of its opponents as taking one of the holiest ceremonies of their faith and applying it to something that is condemned both in both the religious sources and the history of the various faiths.
Gay sex has pretty clearly been proscribed throughout the history of Judasim, Christianity, and Islam, not to mention other traditions. Recently modernist portions` of some faiths have begun to drop prohibitions against gay sex, but it comes at the cost of turning on its head the history as well as the founders and the documents of their own traditions.
There are efforts recently to harmonize gay relationships with the various faiths. They are interesting, but none of them come close to showing what they claim to show. Using the analogy that Leviticus prohibits shellfish ignores the entire distinction between ritual and moral law, and between Jewish ceremonial regulations and universal moral principles. Deducing approval from Jesus' silence on same-sex relationships ignores his proscription of adultery, his promotion of celibacy, his brother's extreme asceticism, and the entire culture in which he operated. We don't know if David and Jonathan were gay or whether they had sex, but the story written about their relationship is not presented as sexual in nature and has never been understood that way. We don't know exaclty how the medieval same-sex ceremonies were regarded by the priests who performed them, but if they were condoning a sexual partership, they were departing very significantly from their own faith -- there is a reason these ceremonies were so obscure that the records were only recently brought to light.
A lot of opposition to same-sex marriage has been driven been religious teaching, but it is not only religious -- mainland Chinese people routinely object to gay marriage with no reference to the Judeo-Christian tradition. Indeed, a lot of opposition to gay marriage certainly appears to come from personal bigotry. That is shown by propositions such the NC amendment which written to prevent any means of addressing the legitimate concerns of people in a same-sex partnership. On the other hand, there is (believe it or not) a certain segment of the religious population that is amenable to addressing the civil rights issue on a legal basis. For example, an educated and devout but very conservative man said to me that just because gay people may not have equal rights in the next life doesn't mean they shouldn't have equal rights in this one.
If all opposition to gay marriage is attributed to implacable bigotry, the game is lost in much of the US. In practice, support varies quite a bit by the specific legal proposal and how it is communicated and promoted. The current campaign seems to me to be an unnecessarily in-your-face way of promoting equality, and IMO, it is much less successful than it would have been to pursue a strategy of keeping the whole issue on a civil, secular basis. It is too complex an issue for broad brushes, too delicate to ignore tact, the prospects too uncertain to simply run roughshod over countervailing concerns, and too important to acquiesce in a patchwork of bad state laws. But unless the federal government can overrule the state, it appears that may be the status quo for the next few decades.
Posted by On the Road | Sun May 13, 2012, 05:15 PM (4 replies)
Anything as powerful as religious belief has got to have a major impact on depression, but it may be more complex than simply helping or hurting.
Sometimes feelings of inadequacy, shame, or guilt can be magnified by religion. Religious and cultural history is full of tortured souls. John Bunyan, Isaac Newton, Martin Luther, Meister Eckhart, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Soren Kierkegaard -- all had some symptoms of depression but framed those issues in religious ways, such as Eckhart's "dark night of the soul" and the type of despair described in Bunyan's "slough of despond." Kierkegaard was emphatic that despair is not a symptom of a disease but an existential condition that should be wrestled with rather than cured. I suspect that how depression is understood affects the sufferer's prospects a lot. Bunyan wrote "Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners" after going through a very severe time of despair.
On the hand, religion can be one of the most powerful antidotes to despair known to man. Conversions and religious experiences tend to be belittled nowadays, but they create a barrier against depression as effective as being in love. The fellowship of likeminded believers can be one of the purest experiences of acceptance, love, and hope.
The subject of the study is a good one, but the methodology is simpleminded compared to the richness and variety of the subject matter.
Posted by On the Road | Tue Feb 28, 2012, 07:55 PM (1 replies)