Sunday, July 09, 2006

JULY 9, 2006-DO YOU KNOW WHAT WAS IN YOUR PAPER?

I do. If it was today's New York Times. Otherwise I really don't. Anyway, without further ado, first irritants first.

In my judgment Randy Cohen went 0 for 2 in today's Ethicist column. In the first set up a couple (man and woman) was held up at gun point and ordered to their automobile. As one of the thugs got in the rear driver's-side seat the man ran away with the keys, found an emergency call box, and called the authorities. He left the woman there. Cohen says of the man's jetting "I believe he made the wrong decision. Its happy outcome was the unpredictable result not of his being prudent but of the carjackers being jittery."

Let me start by saying that the outcome as it relates to her is completely irrelevant in judging his behavior. In the event she was unharmed, but that is not the point. The analysis should not start with whether the girlfriend was momentarily better or worse off the moment the man jetted. The analysis has to be whether the alternative to jetting was likely to produce a better net result. If the thugs had guns and the couple did not, the couple stood to be completely and utterly at the mercy of criminals. That is a very, very negative net result. There is zero indication that without jetting this outcome would have been avoided. Thus, jetting may have put the girlfriend in a worse position in that moment, but did not raise the likelihood of a worse net result. In other words, if the thugs had the drop on the couple and the thugs were planning to hurt the couple, not jetting would have lead to the exact same result as the worst-possible outcome from jetting. Hence, jetting was ethical.

Cohen then addresses a woman's concern with regard to a bicycle she has applied a self-help remedy to. The short version is that the bike was locked up for a year on a post and she reasonably ensured that nobody was unlocking it perodically without her knowledge. She then snipped the lock and took the bike. Cohen says that she acted ethically because in similar situations the police will often put a notice on the bike of the intention to take the bike, and after a sufficient period of time, take the bike. He equates the two acts. However, if she's worried about the "ethics" of the act, as opposed to the reality, why didn't *she* post notice of her intent? Isn't that a necessary part of the analysis for the city? Don't we all deserve notice before our property is seized? How did he miss this? That guy pisses me off.

Second, there was an article about modern RVs. I won't go into vivid detail, but in 400 square feet (apparently the legal maximum size) they now pack in up to four flat-screen TVs, a fireplace, a garage for four wheelers etc., and up to two bathrooms. All that and eight miles to the gallon. Wow.

Third, the Business Section had an article about the Golden Baseball League. The league is an independent baseball league based in the west. The founders were in business school at Stanford and apparently decided that an independent baseball league would be the way to get rich. Their economic model starts with the league owning all of the teams. That keeps salaries down. Of course, that management structure has not made MLS rich. Similarly, I see no indication that the Northern League, Can-Am League, or Atlantic League have made anyone wealthy. Meanwhile these guys are planning to expand to 80 teams. More power to them.

Fourth, the book review (of all sections) talked about a part of Katrina that I had not heard about. As part of a review the author says

While the government dithered, others filled the breach. Some of Brinkley's best writing describes the heroics of groups like the "Cajun Navy," composed of rural whites who strapped their boats to their pickups and traveled in caravans to New Orleans. Sweeping through black neighborhoods by day, sleeping in their trucks at night, the Cajuns saved close to 4,000 lives.

I had never heard this. I googled it to get more information. There does not seem to be much out there. A few passing references. Did the Cajuns really save 4,000 people? How can this not have been reported? This is a fantastic American story. If it happened, it should have been the counterpoint to the barbarity we saw at the Superdome.

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