Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Best Blog Post of the Week in the Whole World Wide Web

Anyone who sees the national government's takeover of Americans' health care as a mostly-positive thing, let alone a wonderful thing, should read this. Key point: We already have one industry controlled almost exclusively by the feddies, and that's the defense industry. And as McArdle writes, the defense industry "... does not have an encouraging record of cost-effective, innovative procurement." Proponents of government-controlled health care need to answer a) why the government's healthcare-procurement agency's weighing of innovation versus deployment versus cost would be any more efficient than the Pentagon's AND b) if not, then whether a Pentagon-like health-care agency is better than what we have today and will have tomorrow in lieu of radical changes. What do I propose in lieu of government medicine? I propose nothing, on the simple grounds that the burden of proof is on those who wish to overhaul 15-20% of our national economy and put it in the hands of an organization that has a decades-long and deserved reputation as one of the least-efficient large organizations in North America.

Do we really want the people who brought us the TSA to control how we take care of ourselves?

And Another Dream is Realized

Chris Tillman, a six-foot-five, 200-pound, 21-year-old right-hander for the Baltimore Orioles will make his major-league debut tonight at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore against Kansas City. First pitch is set for 6:05 PM CST ... I hope I get to see it. It's great fun watching a young kid appear in his first major-league game, regardless of what my rooting interest might be. Watching the culmination of a dream, a life's work, is always special. Millions of boys across the world play baseball in any given summer, but fewer than a thousand can be on one of the thirty major-league teams' rosters in a season. Congratulations and best wishes to young Mr. Tillman, beater of thousands-to-one odds.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Best Compliment You Can Give a Book

From Tyler Cowen: "This comes when, after you finish a book, you are still so wrapped up in it that you can't bring yourself to pick up another one and leave behind the mental and emotional world from the previous book."

Amen, Mr. Cowen. Amen. That's exactly how I felt after finishing Neal Stephenson's Anathem. Ditto Shane, Jaws, The Godfather, Lonesome Dove, and any number of Stephen King novels and short stories ("Grey Matter" from the Night Shift collection is my favorite of those). I have never, ever felt that way about a Dean Koontz book.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Porn Trumps God. Yay!

Stumbled across an old article from anti-libertarian conservative Jonah Goldberg in which he references a work (cannot find a cite) by Reason contributer Virginia Postrel in which Postrel apparently writes that Americans spend eight billion dollars a year on porn compared to three billion on Christian books.

Stuff like this bothers the Goldberg types no end, but it's one of the things that give me hope for America.

Best News I Will Hear Today!

Women are getting more beautiful. Michele is living proof of this.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

iPhone Irritations. Or, Why Apple is Llike the Soviet Union

InfoWorld has a great article on the irritations incurred by one developer who tried to get a simple program approved for Apple's iPhone.

This, in a nutshell, is the problem with the iPhone, and, as I've written before. It's not that the centralized review process doesn't have some advantages, but it comes at a big cost. In addition to developers' resistance to heavily investing in an app that has a high chance of being rejected for arbitrary reasons, there's also the reality that Apple will kill (and probably already does) some iPhone apps only because they compete with similar and possibly lesser programs Apple *might* release down the road. Apple's deliberate monopolization of what can and cannot be installed on an iPhone cannot help but limit competition among iPhone tools and utilities, which in turn inevitably stifles innovation within that platform. And as TFA notes, centralized governing/approval processes have a long history of scaling very poorly and sometimes disastrously. Windows would have very little market share if every ISV had to get MS's explicit permission before getting its programs to install on Windows.

It might take two or three years, but there's little doubt in my mind that the iPhone will lose any utility advantage it has to other, more open phones, and its market share will go with it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Break and Grow

William Saletan at Slate has an article up. It centers around a woman named Hajnal Ban, now 31, who eight years ago voluntarily underwent a "treatment" in which doctors deliberately broke bones in both her legs, then slowly stretched them out. Nine months later, Ban was three inches taller.

Saletan's main point is that traditional medicine has relied on restoring people to a healthy or at least less-unhealthy state, with "healthy state" determined by that person's own baseline. In Ban's case, however, doctors were treating her to correct not a flaw relative to her own baseline state, but a flaw relative to a social-standard baseline, which is, as Saletan puts it, "dictated by others." At first blush, this feels like more of the "therapy and restoration versus enhancement" discussions which will only grow stronger as the years (and medical advances) pass, but there is another bit here ... a number of people, usually but not always of self-described "spiritual" bent, often complain that too many people are too focused on living up to other people's expectations, at the expense of fulfilling their own desires and needs and missing out on what makes them special. While I don't wholeheartedly buy into this -- if nothing else, keeping up with the Joneses is an important driver of developing the richly-abundant society we enjoy today, but that is fodder for another post -- there is a lot to it. Do we really want to encourage people to undergo surgery, especially procedures which, as is true in Ban's case, "can cause nerve damage, joint damage, arthritis, and chronic pain", all to pursue some ideal of what they think other people want them to be? It's also worth noting that Ban herself now questions whether she would do it again: "I guess had I not had this operation I probably wouldn't be insecure about my height at this age because I would just accept who I am. As you get older as a woman I think you become more mellow and you become more comfortable in your own skin.
Saletan loses me, though, with his closing paragraph:
So here's the question: How far should we let cosmetic surgery go? If [Connie Culp, the woman who received the face transplant] is a compelling case against prohibition, isn't Ban a compelling case for regulation? How much trauma and risk should we let people endure for the sake of looking the way we want them to look, especially when they might otherwise learn to accept themselves as they are? I'm all for freedom. But cosmetic leg-breaking? Isn't that a stretch?
This is, of course, way too authoritarian for my taste. Property rights begin with one's own body, and while I agree with people who are reluctant to fund such procedures out of their tax dollars, the reasons to prohibit them are strongly outweighed by a people's right to adjust and modify their bodies as the can and see fit.