aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
The sunk costs fallacy
When one makes a hopeless investment, one sometimes reasons: I canÃ‚’t stop now, otherwise what IÃ‚’ve invested so far will be lost. This is true, of course, but irrelevant to whether one should continue to invest in the project. Everything one has invested is lost regardless. If there is no hope for success in the future from the investment, then the fact that one has already lost a bundle should lead one to the conclusion that the rational thing to do is to withdraw from the project.
To continue to invest in a hopeless project is irrational. Such behavior may be a pathetic attempt to delay having to face the consequences of one’s poor judgment… For example, it is now known that Lyndon Johnson kept committing thousands and thousands of U.S. soldiers to Vietnam after he had determined that the cause was hopeless and that the U.S. would not win the war (McMaster 1998: 309). George W. Bush continues to argue that thousands more soldiers and billions more dollars be committed to the war on Iraq, despite the fact that the majority of his generals, his senators and congressmen, and the American public do not think the U.S. should invest any more in that war.
Michael Pollan in the Times Magazine this weekend: “Eat Food”
I’ve been slowly savoring Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I have it in print and audio versions. I will be quoting it here from time to time I have no doubt; I’d have quoted more already save for the difficulty of transcription. It’s so good it’s worth it (and he’ll lose no sales through my quoting of it). Yesterday I finished a podcast of his talk at Princeton’s Food, Ethics and the Environment conference from last November.
Foods a popular topic. Friends here have been on a trans-fats kick lately (and may dispute specifics from the Wikipedia entry I just linked to, twice). They’re imagining that eating healthy is more difficult here. I’m thinking it’s difficult everywhere; that we, here, are a microcosm of America: our small group includes a vegetarian and organic gardener and homemade bread baker and gourmet chef and aspiring biodeisel producer and me, an unabashed omnivore.
The general tenor of all that I’m reading is optimistic. As my small group here in rural Georgia illustrates, we are growing more aware of our food, where it comes from and how it gets to us; we want better food, more sustainably and ecologically farmed. Most of those I’m reading and hearing know far better than I just how bad it is, and they say it’s going to take work (and government intervention) but that for the first time in decades it is getting better. It will get better still.
So I came home from the Chinese restaurant - where in the midst of a trans fat discussion we called the owner over and asked what oil he used - and found in my TimesSelect Preview that Michael Pollan has an essay in Sunday’s Magazine. I’ve yet to read it, but I’ll share the opening paragraph:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. I hate to give away the game right here at the beginning of a long essay, and I confess that I’m tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a few thousand more words. I’ll try to resist but will go ahead and add a couple more details to flesh out the advice. Like: A little meat won’t kill you, though it’s better approached as a side dish than as a main. And you’re much better off eating whole fresh foods than processed food products. That’s what I mean by the recommendation to eat “food.” Once, food was all you could eat, but today there are lots of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science often come in packages festooned with health claims, which brings me to a related rule of thumb: if you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.
I’ll quote again, and link, when the article’s out from behind the Times Select wall.
Schaller on Colbert
RELATED: Nicholas Lemann doesn’t change my opinion either.
Stereotyping a Fulton split
Yahoo headlines an AP story, White Atlanta suburbs push for secession:
ATLANTA - A potentially explosive dispute in the City Too Busy to Hate is taking shape over a proposal to break Fulton County in two and split off Atlanta’s predominantly white, affluent suburbs to the north from some of the metropolitan area’s poorest, black neighborhoods.
Legislation that would allow the suburbs to form their own county, to be called Milton County, was introduced by members of the Georgia Legislature’s Republican majority earlier this month.
Supporters say it is a quest for more responsive government in a county with a population greater than that of six states. Opponents say the measure is racially motivated and will pit white against black, rich against poor.
It’s inevitable that race will come into these discussions, as it’s inextricably linked to urban-suburban fissures. Still, the headline takes a side, implying that race is the central motivating factor when that almost certainly is not the case.
Surely, one can explain the desire of wealthy suburbanites to keep their money within their local community independent of the racial make-up of said communities. Pouring that money into a larger pool means that they have to share. That means that their kids will go to inferior schools, their local police and fire departments will be underfunded, and that social services that go to the poor will be overfunded relative to the desires of the suburban constituency.
There are terrific arguments to be made by the downtown community as to why the suburbanites, most of whom derive their affluence owing to the city, should be compelled to pay into a common tax pool. That’s a legitimate public policy debate. Prejudging them as racist, however, poisons the well.
If the same story was Westchester County, NY splitting off Yonkers, you would not see that headline. I have no idea where it was written, but it comes from a stereotype that is insidious and unhelpful even if rooted in some history and experience.
UPDATE: The roundtable discussion on News & Notes tackles the proposed Fulton split. No consensus, plenty of suspicion; and parallels to Baltimore and LA.
For the record, I flat out oppose the split and don’t expect it will succeed.
Microsoft & the Wikipedia doghouse
Microsoft has landed in the Wikipedia doghouse today after it offered to pay an Australian blogger to change technical articles on the community-produced web encyclopedia site.
While Wikipedia is known as the encyclopedia that anyone can tweak, founder Jimmy Wales and his cadre of volunteer editors, writers and moderators have blocked public relations firms, campaign workers and anyone else perceived as having a conflict of interest from posting fluff or slanting entries.
So paying for Wikipedia copy is considered a definite no-no.
“We were very disappointed to hear that Microsoft was taking that approach,’’ Wales said.
Yes, paying is a definite no-no. Still, I’m not fond of the Wikipedia policy that disallows interested parties from correcting inaccuracies. I understand the issue, but couldn’t Wikipedia at least allow those with a conflict of interest a “statement page” to post their corrections?
Many bloggers believe disclosure gives readers the information they need to assess the legitimacy of a post. Similarly, a statement known to be from an interested party would give Wikipedia readers what we need to assess the legitimacy of the information.
The sincerest form of flattery: a Daily Show rip-off from Fox
Fox News Channel might air two episodes of a “Daily Show"-like program with a decidedly nonliberal bent on Saturday nights in late January, with the possibility that it could become a weekly show for the channel.
Oh. My. This could get interesting… It’s also rumored that Laura Ingraham would be hosting, who’s idea of humor in college was to attend a gay students’ club meeting in order to publish the names of the attendees.
Yeah, I’m having a hard time seeing this, considering what Ingraham’s class of pundit considers humor. (Then again, I suppose the show will be delightful to those who find “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.” or “Club Gitmo” t-shirts hil-larious.)
OTOH, I suppose it’ll make for Daily Show fodder.
Speaking of fodder for The Daily Show, here Rush Limbaugh gushes about the hilarity we can only anticipate:
“There’s a new show that probably will air soon, I’m not sure when, but it’s called The Half Hour NewsHour. That’s the working title of it now. I guess that’s subject to change. Well, actually it’s not, because if it changes I gotta go back out there, but nevertheless it’s a parody newscast, takeoff on liberal media newscasts, and I play the president of the United States in the opening segments of this program.
I went out and shot three takes. Ann Coulter is the vice president. (laughing) It’s hilarious. The whole thing is hilarious...”
I think Jossip called it correctly: “less truthiness, more falsihoods.”