Sunday, August 2, 2009

Racial Profiling

If you think that racial profiling by cops is one of the great evils of our time read this. Written by a retired cop it explains how New York's finest do it every day. What's more, it makes the argument that cops shouldn't profile seem pretty simple-minded.


The Third Replicator

Writer and psychologist Susan Blackmore has an interesting article at New Scientist on the emergence of what she thinks is a third type of "replicator." The first type is the gene, the parcels of DNA that code for the structure and function of biological organisms. The second type is Richard Dawkins' "meme," which is an idea, or cluster of ideas, that get selected by cultures for various reasons and spread throughout the human population (We might ignore for the moment the fact that the concept of the meme has come to be widely dismissed by scientists).

Blackmore thinks there is a third type of replicator that is spreading across the globe threatening to run out of control - computer technology. She makes an interesting case and her article is worth a read, but the most interesting part of it to me is this:

Memes are a new kind of information - behaviours rather than DNA - copied by a new kind of machinery - brains rather than chemicals inside cells. This is a new evolutionary process because all of the three critical stages - copying, varying and selection - are done by those brains. So does the same apply to new technology? There is a new kind of information: electronically processed binary information rather than memes. There is also a new kind of copying machinery: computers and servers rather than brains.

If all three replicators are analogous to each other, and all three are expressions of information, and if information is known to be a product of minds, as it is with memes and technology, then is it not reasonable to infer that the gene may likewise be a product of mind? If evolution at the level of the meme and technological information is mind-driven, why would it be unreasonable or even unscientific to assume that evolution at the level of the gene is mind-driven? Just asking.


What We're Likely to Get

The WaPo's Charles Krauthammer puts on his prophet's cap and tells us what the upshot of Obamacare is likely to be. Here's his lede:

Yesterday, Barack Obama was God. Today, he's fallen from grace, the magic gone, his health-care reform dead. If you believed the first idiocy -- and half the mainstream media did -- you'll believe the second. Don't believe either.

Conventional wisdom always makes straight-line projections. They are always wrong. Yes, Obama's aura has diminished, in part because of overweening overexposure. But by year's end he will emerge with something he can call health-care reform. The Democrats in Congress will pass it because they must. Otherwise, they'll have slain their own savior in his first year in office.

But that bill will look nothing like the massive reform Obama originally intended.

Krauthammer thinks that "reforming" the health care system is indeed no longer a viable possibility, for reasons he adumbrates in his column, but he thinks that what the Democrats will be able to give him is reform of health insurance:

To win back the vast constituency that has insurance, is happy with it, and is mightily resisting the fatal lures of Obamacare, the president will in the end simply impose heavy regulations on the insurance companies that will make what you already have secure, portable and imperishable: no policy cancellations, no preexisting condition requirements, perhaps even a cap on out-of-pocket expenses.

Nirvana. But wouldn't this bankrupt the insurance companies? Of course it would. There will be only one way to make this work: Impose an individual mandate. Force the 18 million Americans between 18 and 34 who (often quite rationally) forgo health insurance to buy it. This will create a huge new pool of customers who rarely get sick but will be paying premiums every month. And those premiums will subsidize nirvana health insurance for older folks.

Net result? Another huge transfer of wealth from the young to the old, the now-routine specialty of the baby boomers; an end to the dream of imposing European-style health care on the United States; and a president who before Christmas will wave his pen, proclaim victory and watch as the newest conventional wisdom reaffirms his divinity.

In other words, insurance reform will come about by requiring that everyone have insurance. The liberal solution to the problem will be to take away more freedom. Wouldn't the better solution to insurance costs be to reform tort and get rid of onerous state and federal mandates that just multiply the cost of premiums for all policy-holders? Unfortunately, these measures would have the effect of impoverishing lawyers who are big donors to Democrat pols and reducing the control of government in the insurance industry. They're therefore as likely to survive congressional scrutiny as a fish is likely to survive being tossed onto the sands of the Sahara desert.