Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thought of the Day: Is it Wrong to Watch the NFL?

I mean 'wrong' in a moral way. This idea is actually my fiancées, and I find it interesting to consider. The idea is best illustrated by a simple analogy through spectrum.

We can all agree that it would be wrong to pay to watch two people fight to the death, even if they consented and were paid money for the fight. We can all agree that it is not wrong to pay to watch people play golf, even though a stray golf ball could potentially kill someone. So we can use these points as the end of a spectrum that represents the ethics of watching, and thereby contributing to, a sport.

'Mortal Combat'--------------------------------------------------------'Golf'

Most sports we watch are somewhere in the middle. But, almost all sport has some level of genuine risk. So if we agree that there is a risk level that is too high for consent (i.e. 'lose and you die' risk level) then where do we, as individuals draw the line?

Personally, this is a major reason why I don't enjoy boxing. It's just too brutal for the real live human beings who participate in it. It causes a lot of harm, and as a viewer I can't escape from the images of an addled George Foreman trying to remember a single sentence long enough to film a commercial for his grill. Boxing smashes brains, so I don't feel ok watching it.

As we gain more information about the dangers of football, and as the game seems to become more concussion prone, I think it is worthwhile to really consider where football falls on the spectrum.

Personally, it hasn't fallen below boxing yet, and I still watch football every weekend. But it was just a thought that I think is worth rolling around from time to time.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thought of the Day

Is the United States more litigious than Europe because we have traditionally lacked the same social safety net?

Conservatives complain about both our sue happy culture (until they want to bring a suit), and the idea of providing extensive social safety nets. When thinking about it today I realized that the two might be structurally related.

A lot of the ideas about liability in tort law lie in a philosophy similar to the idea of the 'lowest cost avoider.' This theory says, for example, that the producer of a dangerous product is in a better position to consider the costs and benefits of adding safety devices to the product, and that economic efficiency in this respect can be reached if the producer pays for all harm caused by the product.

In the general tort context I think of it as the 'someone has to pay' principle. When there is a harm, someone has to pay for it, that's a given. The tort system just decides *who* pays. If I slip and fall in the grocery store, and get $50,000 of harm (medical and lost working time), then that harm exists in and of itself. The tort system now decides who should pay.

On justification for the tort system in this case is that the grocery store is in the best position to know how many slip and falls happen, and how many resources to invest in avoiding them. If they bear all the costs, we should reach an efficient level of slip prevention. The counter point is that it removes my incentive to not slip.

A large part of the tort system is that sometimes it just feels unfair to make an individual bear certain burdens. We have all heard about huge jury awards in personal injury cases.

It seems possible that this sense of 'unfairness' is born from our lack of social safety net. A slip and fall in a grocery store could go from bad, to devastating if I don't have health insurance, a medical leave policy, unemployment pay, food for my family, etc. So in the United States our tort system might have developed more robustly than other developed countries in an attempt to spread the cost of risk among a larger pool of people.

Europe doesn't have the same high level of personal injury lawsuits. But, they already spread the risk by provided tax funded safety nets for individuals who are hit by difficult circumstances.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thought of the Day

A rant on ESPN radio made me think about this pattern today:

It seems to be the pattern of life for people to spend the first half of their lives working to make their lives better, citing the fact that they want their kids to have more than they had. Then spend the second half of their lives ranting about how the next generation has it so much easier than they did.

Go figure.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Obama Approval Higher than either Clinton or Reagan

I'm sure that will be the lead on Fox News for the next week. Of course his approval is lower than either Carter or Bush Sr. It seems the lesson is that a lot can change in the third year of a Presidency.

You can go to gallup's website to compare polling data for every President since Truman:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Twisted Desire to Date a Nazi

As I continue down the rabbit hole of misogyny on the web (the start of my journey is discussed here) there is one particular scenario that seems to make misogynists really really angry. The scenario is that of a hot girl being with a jerk. No other scenario angers a 'nice guy' quite like seeing a super hot babe with a guy he perceives as a bad person.

A post at the excellent blog Man Boobz outlines such a scenario here. In it, David Futrelle, does an excellent job of explaining how the original poster (someone who goes by 'Scarecrow') is anything but a nice guy. He is in fact a festering pile of hate and resentment. This is a standard response to the 'nice guy' complaining about the hot chick dating the 'jerk'. You don't have to peel back very many layers to often reveal the alleged nice guy as an entirely self centered individual, who lacks basic respect for other human beings, especially women.

However, Scarecrow's story reveals another simple response to the nice guy complaint, and even a potential answer to the question Scarecrow himself poses to the world he views as so cruel and unfair. From his original post:

When I went to the pre-trial, I saw two young men (say late teens or early twenties). One of them had a swastika on his left shoulder. The other had arms covered with various tattoos. They were both skin-heads - real winners (sarcasm). They were obviously into drugs (I KNOW that the "we stole this car" was merely a rouse for them to deny possession of drugs and illegal firearms).

The thing that pissed me off:

They had their girlfriends with them: Two super-mega-hot women, a brunette and a blond. Both were busty, thin, and extraordinarily pretty in the face. They had no tattoos or piercings. They both looked quite ordinary, except for their well-above-average aesthetic appearance.

I wondered: Why do such losers get totally hot women, and men who are better off and "square" do not get the time of day from such women?
Read it in it's entirety here, if you dare.

So I'm going to propose one possible answer for him: because they are jerks. You see, when men view women only as object, and not real people, they completely fail to prescribe any personality to individual women. A females social worth is based upon her physical appearance, as all woman have the same basic programming, in the mind of the 'nice guy' misogynist.

Astoundingly it never occurs to the poster that these women, who were dating Nazi, Skinhead, drug users, might themselves be Nazis, or drug users.

Of course, not all women who date bad guys are themselves bad. But it astounds me that the poster doesn't even begin to consider this possibility. At the exact same moment he is criticizing these women for being with their terrible boyfriend, the poster is desiring to be with these women. Women who likely meet the same criteria that cause the poster to describe a man as a 'loser,' not deserving of hotness.

When I see a really hot girl with a guy I know to be a bad person, my first thought is not that she should be dating me. Honestly, my first thought is to question her character. If I know the guy is selfish, dismissive and rude, then I'm going to think that maybe she has some of these characteristics as well, at least in large enough amounts to not care if they exist in a mate. If I see a hot girl who is dating a nazi meth user, my first thought is not "dang, she should be dating *me.*" I don't want to date a nazi meth user, and the odds that she is one just went up by a lot.

I think there's some projecting going on here. The poster obviously would happily date these girls he saw in court, in order to have sex with someone he thinks is hot. He apparently wouldn't need to undergo much investigation into her personality, drug use or potential hatred of racial minorities. Obviously, rather than deal with this character flaw, he has projected onto all women and assumed they are just as shallow as he is. This makes him burn with the anger and judgment that only extreme self delusion can allow.