Dec 102009

I’m not sure how there can be a “bio” ethics that’s different from ethics, period, just as I’m not sure how there can be a sexual morality that’s different from morality, period.

For some time I’ve assumed that the real purpose of bioethicists is to have someone to call on for cover when you need to do something really shoddy to other people.

Maybe it’s worse than that, though. Wesley J. Smith writes the following in The Weekly Standard, in an article titled, “The Long Awakening : A Belgian case revives the Schiavo decision.”

…[B]ack in the 1980s there was no question about whether a patient like Houben would receive life-sustaining care. Depriving catastrophically injured patients of food and water was not even considered–except among bioethicists, who were already quietly preparing the ground for the practice of withdrawing sustenance from such patients.

During the years that Houben was thought unconscious, society changed. Bioethicists nudged medicine away from the Hippocratic model and toward “quality of life” judgmentalism. Today, when a patient is diagnosed as persistently unconscious or minimally aware, doctors, social workers, and bioethicists often recommend that life-sustaining treatment–including sustenance delivered through a tube–be withdrawn, sometimes days or weeks after the injury.

Dec 102009

Headline in the Battle Creek Enquirer: “MI lawmakers continue squabble over schools money

My response (posted as a comment on the BCE site):

Squabble? Why do you use that word? It disrespects the democratic processes of disagreement, debate, and deliberation.

And if Andy Dillon says the Republican plan has provisions that would cost us federal matching funds, couldn’t some intrepid reporter have asked him just what provisions those are? They may or may not be something that speaks well of the federal funding. We need to know.

Dec 092009

In olden times, if you got too far in debt to pay back your loan, you would get thrown in prison and would not be let out until you paid the uttermost farthing. Of course, it was difficult to generate enough income to come up with those farthings while you were in prison.

To some people this system seemed counterproductive if not unjust. It motivated them to come up with a better method, such as bankruptcy court.

But now the Obama administration is taking us back to the older ways.

According to Monday’s WSJ, Citigroup and Wells Fargo would like to get out of the Trouble Asset Relief Program. They have money to pay back the taxpayer money that had been loaned to them. But the government likes having those companies in its debt. In this case the uttermost farthing consists of about $20 billion more than they even owed. The government won’t let them pay back the money unless they also raise $20 billion in common stock. Of course, it’s hard to raise that kind of money while you’re in prison. Who wants to invest in Citigroup and Wells Fargo when they’re operating under the government’s thumb? So, as the article says, “Disagreements over capital-raising mean Citigroup is unlikely to repay its TARP investment in the foreseeable future….”

Dec 062009

Jason Zweig has an article in the WSJ “Intelligent Investor” section in which he says that sixty percent isn’t much better than a coin flip. He needs to learn some probability and statistics. You can make good money with odds like that, especially if you get hundreds of coin flips.

The article is about whether it does any good to hire a top-notch CEO to turn a company around. It’s important to get these things right, because CEO compensation is under attack by the Obama administration these days. The article doesn’t say anything specifically about that. However, it does use as a context the new CEO that GM needs to bring in.

Here is the weird paragraph:

If you took the CEOs with the best track records and brought them in to run the businesses with the worst performance, how often would those companies become more profitable? According to economist Antoinette Schoar of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, who has studied the effects of hundreds of management changes, the answer is roughly 60%. That isn’t much better than the flip of a coin.

I’m actually surprised that it works 60 percent of the time. I would have guessed a much smaller number. If those odds are correct, all the more reason for the Obama administration to quit trying to control wages and prices.

[Late note:   The Zweig article seems to appear in more than one place on the WSJ web site.  And at this one,  a couple of people made the same point I did about 60 percent being a lot better than a coin flip.]