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Archive for June, 2011

When parents discuss their choices about their children’s education and extracurricular activities they often mention that they want the best for their children:

I just want the best for my kids.

I want my daughter to have all possible advantages.

I want my son to have a head start.

This attitude is usually taken to be unproblematic and perhaps even praiseworthy. Government programs for poor children often echo these types of sentiments in their titles: for example, Head Start. So what could possibly be wrong with this view?

I want the best for my kids: I want them to stand out above yours

I want the best for my kids: I want them to stand out above yours

Well, things like “advantages,” “head starts,” and things that are “the best” are positional goods. This means that in order to have them, others need to be kept from having them. We cannot all be “the best” or have “the best,” otherwise it would stop being the best and would be average. We cannot all have “an advantage,” otherwise it would cease to be “an advantage” and become the average. You can only have a “head start” relative to some baseline that is somewhere behind. So whenever a parent says something like the quotes above, there is an implicit statement about other children:

I want your son to have disadvantages (relative to my daughter).

I want your daughter to start behind my son.

I want what is average for your kids.

I seriously doubt that when parents make statements about wanting “the best” “advantages” or “head starts” for their own children that they are also considering the flip-side of these statements. In fact, I think that if many parents were asked about the implicit statements about other children, they would probably deny them. Nevertheless, the first set of statements does correlate to the implicit second set of statements.

To the extent that we believe in meritocracy (that people should get what they deserve through their hard work and talent) and to the extent that we think people should have equal opportunities (or a level-playing field) then there is something troubling about these often-lauded parental sentiments.

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I often see these commercials for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, and I find them misleading and unethical. I can’t seem to embed the video, but it can be found at this link. Most of their commercials are all about giving the patient “hope” where there was no hope before. But each commercial also carries a disclaimer: “No case is typical. You should not expect these results.” So the CTCA are suggesting that you should have hope and that they will offer you hope when other MDs fail to do so, but that you should also no have hope that it will work for you (although here “hope” is replaced with “expect”).

You need more than a second opinion. You need a second chance.

You need more than a second opinion. You need a second chance.

1. Legal Reasons for Disclaimers in Medical Advertisements

The reason for the disclaimer results from a lawsuit in the 1990s:

Cancer Treatment Centers of America was the subject of a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint in 1993. The FTC alleged that CTCA made false claims regarding the success rates of certain cancer treatments in their promotional materials. This claim was settled in March 1996, requiring CTCA to discontinue use of any unsubstantiated claims in their advertising. CTCA is also required to have proven, scientific evidence for all statements regarding the safety, success rates, endorsements, and benefits of their cancer treatments. CTCA was also required to follow various steps in order to report compliance to the FTC per the settlement.

Cancer centers and hospitals in general (including Cancer Treatment Centers of America) have been the subjects of some controversy over their advertising. Many doctors and other observers have noted that many cancer organizations’ advertising are sparsely regulated and, therefore, often contain unsupported and misleading claims as to the efficacy of their cancer treatments.

In 2001, the FDA issued CTCA a Warning Letter concerning three clinical trials that were conducted in violation of FDA requirements. (From Wikipedia)

I understand that there are legal reasons for the disclaimer. Nevertheless, I find it creates an odd message overall. It also illustrates some of the problems with advertising in medicine.

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Update: SLee and Topher now have an entire case guide out in e-book form. Even better, it is FREE!

Update 2 (May 5th 2012): If you want some help answering the questions, but don’t want the spoilers of the actual answers, SLee and Topher now have a guide with tips on how to deduce the correct response.

I have been playing L.A. Noire [1] and I have really been trying to like it. It should be the kind of game I love. I have written before about why I love crime shows and I usually like crime games as well. The game was highly recommended to me by two friends whose opinions and taste I trust. So I want to like it, but L.A. Noire is just not doing it for me. In this post I give the uncharitable version of my reaction to L.A. Noire. In a future post I will give the more charitable interpretation of my reaction to the game. [Note: This post contains spoilers for L.A. Noire and Triggers for Racism, Sexism and Violence. I will note each in-text as they arise, and hide any spoilers that affect the cases]

Sections:

  1. Racism and Sexism
  2. Plot, Choice and the Uncanny Valley
  3. Gameplay and the Uncanny Valley
  4. Final Verdict (tl;dr)
  5. Link Round-Up of Interrogation and Investigation Tips

1. Racism and Sexism

[Trigger Warning for Discussion of Gender-Based Violence]

L.A. Noire is both racist and misogynist through and through.[2] You play as Cole Phelps assisted by several partners throughout the game. Phelps himself rarely says racist or sexist things, but his partners can be relied upon for a steady stream of racism and sexism. [Light Spoiler for L.A. Noire] One partner, Stefan Bekowsky Roy Earle [Thanks to Harold for the correction], becomes incensed when a black man makes a suggestion. He spits out, “don’t tell me what to do,” with a tone that indicates he thinks the black man “doesn’t know his place.” Later he says, “What an evening I’m having. First a negro puts his hands on me, and then this.” The game also features anti-Semitic conspiracies as part of the plot-line.[3] Later, Phelps’ partner, Finbarr “Rusty” Galloway, jokes about beating and murdering his girlfriends and wives. Galloway thinks a woman deserves to die if she keeps a messy house.[4] [/Spoiler] But I am not going to dwell on those points, since there is an in-game explanation (America is racist! It was especially racist in the ’40s! It adds realism!)[5] and I expect that anyone who is playing a Rockstar game will anticipate a lot of racist, homophobic and sexist shit and will have prepared themselves accordingly.

[/Trigger Warning]

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