Of Interest

1. Peter Singer comments on Michael Vick. (Previously) My sense is that symbolic punishment of a celebrity may have lasting effects, but I worry that this is more about race than it is about animals, and Singer picks up on that.

2. Southern Poverty Law Center reports on “The Return of the Militias.” Fascinating, though there aren’t many statistics here, just a general sense of “on the rise”-ness. It’s amazing how often these folks end up being fronts for tax evasion.

3. The Veterans Health Administration: An American Success Story?

over the last ten years… the VHA has quite possibly outperformed all other aspects of U.S. health care. […] How has it achieved this? As indicated earlier, there is no single explanation, as a multitude of factors have probably contributed in a variety of complex ways, including good national and local leadership with a clear vision and a compelling case for change, the transformation of the VHA from a hospital system to a broader health care system, the development of regionally financed and planned integrated health care networks, the introduction of performance management and its associated financial and nonfinancial incentives for competition, the gradual development and eventual implementation of a sophisticated electronic health record, and, preceding the reforms, two decades of VHA-funded health services research and technical and human capacity development.

4. Information is Beautiful: because visualising knowledge is half the battle. (The Classic Edward Tufte.)

5. Insatiable Creatures:

As it turns out, we eat too little for the same reasons that we eat too much. The child, the psychoanalyst DW Winnicott writes, can “use doubt about food to hide doubt about love”; doubt about love is doubt about resources. And it would make sense that the child who has some doubt about whether what he needs is available – which is, of course, every child to some extent – will try to wean himself off his needs, will try to make himself self-sufficient, independent of other people. Excesses of appetite are self-cures for feelings of helplessness. And if this is true, or at least sometimes true, it means that when we are punishing people for their excesses, we are punishing them for their helplessness. Perhaps it is our excessive helplessness, our relative powerlessness faced with the difficulties of living, that we are trying to abolish? Punishing people, after all, can make us feel excessively powerful.

6. The League of Ordinary Gentlman is a pleasantly readable group blog combining viewpoints across the political spectrum and seeking, if not harmony, then at least mutual understanding. Still struggling to find the right tone and focus, but I suspect it is destined for extraordinary things.

7. What does Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine have in common with the environmentalists’ Precautionary Principle? Cass Sunstein explains in a little-discussed book published in 2007 called Worst Case Scenarios. It seems that few read it, which is too bad: we could all use a lesson in discounting. Here’s a nice podcast with Sunstein on the book from before the financial meltdown.

Second Opinions