Does soccer need better review?
For the first time since 1776, Americans can finally enjoy widespread agreement that they are on the short end of the stick. In two consecutive matches during the opening round of the 2010 FIFA World Cup soccer final, the United States had goals disallowed on dubious calls.
The first, which would have given the U.S. a win against Slovenia, was disallowed with no apparent indication from the referee as to why. The second, in the final group-stage game against Algeria, was ruled off-sides, despite television replays which suggest otherwise.
Fortunately for the U.S. squad and for their fans, the U.S. managed to score during injury time against Algeria, securing a win and a berth in the round of 16.
But the two officiating gaffes, combined with others around the tournament (including a what many consider an unjust exclusion of Brazilian star Kaka during a match against the Ivory Coast) has many urging FIFA to review how it manages matches. Read more
You can always count on David Brooks to bring the values. Amid some data that should be disturbing for Democrats and exciting for Republicans, this tidbit on why progressives are failing:
Bitterly and too late, Dr. Faustus saw that liberals can’t have their way and still win elections in places like North Carolina, Ohio and Missouri. Bitterly and too late, Dr. Faustus recognized that economic policies are about values. If your policies undermine personal responsibility by separating the link between effort and reward, voters will punish you for it.
While I find the point intriguing, I can’t really believe it. Voters are upset because perceived big government efforts to jump-start the economy and create jobs don’t seem to be working (at least from the perspective of the unemployed).
If the Obama administration had curtailed benefits or pursued some other economic program that more strongly linked benefits to work, it’s hard to see that voters would be any more forgiving (assuming the economy would wind up in the same place).
Economic policies are about values. No question there. But the public success of those policies is about results.
Richard Cohen on Obama’s inscrutability
In the Washington Post Richard Cohen laments the obscurity of Obama’s politics and person, as if there were no distinction between the two, arguing that Obama’s guardedness derives from his father’s desertion and his separation from his mother when she twice moved to Indonesia. Surely there’s a necessary connection between one’s personal experience and their politics, but this seems to be taking it too far. Cohen writes:
Pragmatism is fine — as long as it is complicated by regret. But that indispensable wince is precisely what Obama doesn’t show. It is not essential that he get angry or cry. It is essential, though, that he show us who he is. As of now, we haven’t a clue.
There’s clearly something here, but it’s unclear what Cohen means by “show us who he is.” At its core, I think Cohen and others simply want to know Obama’s value priorities. But for a politician, that question is an interpretative one based on reading the tea leaves of his decisions, not on the way he does or does not ”wince” at the sight of an oil-covered bird or destroyed local economy.
Cohen wants “a sign that this [oil] catastrophe meant something to Obama, that it was not merely another problem that had crossed his desk;” and then connects this seeming lack of concern to an argument that Obama’s pragmatic foreign policy is similarly amoral. If there’s no coherent theme to Obama’s policies, as Cohen argues, which probably is not true, then the there’s no coherent them to Obama’s policies. It’s doesn’t mean he’s obscure; it means he doesn’t have a clear, systematic, rigid political theory.
That is the nature of pragmatism, especially one that deals with problems as they come. It provides useful ideological flexibility, but seemingly sacrifices any undying commit to any (cherished) principle. To throw some arm-chair psychoanalysis back at Cohen, he is projecting onto Obama, wanting the President to be something he’s not, asking him to have a holistic set of principles, when that’s not, I think, who he really is.
Foreign Policy in Focus has an emotional article on how we value Iraqi and Afghan lives as compared to those of Americans. The article begins:”When a U.S. civilian is murdered in a foreign land or in the United States, we rightfully feel angry, sad, and some of us demand vengeance. These are normal, primordial, and instinctive feelings of group loyalty and herd mentality that have bound communities and countries for thousands of years.” And yet, they are in some sense completely irrational. Why should I feel any more for a stranger I have never met who is American versus one who is Afghan or Chinese? And yet most of us do and most of us find no problem acting on this emotion. I’ve written before on this priority thesis, but take a read of the article for a argument on how we might have taken this idea too far in our current wars.
Photo by Flickr user DVIDSHUB used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.
The Obama administration’s new Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative
Beginning with a speech on Father’s Day Sunday, Obama launched a new initiative on responsible fatherhood. This was a campaign issue for then-candidate Obama, and remains one of the social issues with which he shares common ground with conservatives, who frequently emphasize the role of responsible parenting and accountable fatherhood in helping to create the conditions for future economic success of low-income children.
In an email from the White House:
My own father left my family when I was two years old. I was raised by a heroic mother and wonderful grandparents who provided the support, discipline and love that helped me get to where I am today, but I still felt the weight of that absence throughout my childhood. It’s something that leaves a hole no government can fill. Studies show that children who grow up without their fathers around are more likely to drop out of high school, go to jail, or become teen fathers themselves.
On Tuesday, Marc directed us to an interesting debate on health incentive programs
On Wednesday, Sam argued for the importance of determining how liability is appointed for the Deepwater Horizon spill in the long run
On Thursday, Sam pointed out the state of New York’s decision to allow no-fault divorce, TPP intern Han suggested that foreign interference in Iran might be permissible in the name of the life and liberty of the Iranian people, and Jake offered a look at a New York Times article on NASA’s ownership of its research
On Friday, Luke showed that the issue of “sin taxes” on products like cigarettes and fatty foods forces us to deal with a number of other difficult questions and decisions
In Others’ Words
Professor Leiter notes some stinging criticisms of the New York Times‘ new philosophy blog, The Stone
Mr. Zero from The Philosophy Smoker compares introductory ethics courses to general introductory philosophy courses, and the performance of students in them
A number of posters at Philosophy Forums try to distinguish the difference between ‘ethics’ and ‘morality’
If you are a fan of the vampire-laden Twilight series, and you like philosophy, then check out the review of this book on both topics: True Blood and Philosophy: We Wanna Think Bad Things About You
Diana Hsieh of Modern Paleo wonders about the definitions of philosophy and its various branches
Steven Levingston reviews a new book on how Americans confront cultural and moral dilemmas
The ethics of “sin taxes”
The other day Marc linked to a New York Times Room for Debate discussion on whether people should be paid to stay healthy. While that post focused on rewarding healthy behavior, much of the current debate and policy centers on restricting and discouraging unhealthy behavior. A common method for doing this is by imposing “sin taxes” on “certain objectionable products.” For instance, taxing cigarettes at a high rate in part to discourage people from purchasing them. These sorts of taxes are often popular with voters, but are they justifiable? Read more
The NYT discusses the debate over NASA scientists keeping their data to themselves.
Does American Responsibility and Permissibility Change With It?
In a recent piece published in The New Republic, Senator John McCain writes that now is the time for America to support regime change in Iran. One of the central tenets of his article is that a domestic pro-democracy movement has sprung up over the past year, and it is now obvious that Iranians want American help:
Of course, the United States should never provide its support where it is unrequested and unwanted—but when young Iranian demonstrators choose to write their banners of protest in English, when they chant “Obama, Obama, are you with us, or are you with them?” it is a pretty good indication that we can do more, and should do more, to support their incontrovertibly just cause.
There are two ways to interpret Sen. McCain’s use of “should” here. Perhaps the Americans should help now because the chances of success are much higher when there is domestic support for foreign intervention. This would be a strategic, prudential argument. Alternatively, perhaps the “should” here is a moral “should,” and that only when help is wanted does America have a moral responsibility (or even permission) to interfere with Iranian affairs. I suspect that McCain means to express both these sentiments. This moral position is a common one, with much intuitive appeal – but can it stand up to much scrutiny? Read more
Few institutions are as characterized by blame as marriage. Now New York State will become the final state of the union to provide no-fault divorce. A nice description of the stakes:
Social changes always involve trade-offs. Unilateral divorce increases the risk that a partner who invests in her (or more rarely, his) marriage rather than in her own earning power, and does not engage in “bad behavior,” may suffer financially as well as emotionally if the other partner unilaterally ends the marriage. When courts have not taken this sacrifice into account in dividing property, homemakers have been especially disadvantaged.