Preferential Treatment in the ER?

Today’s New York Times has a well-written, informative, and potentially explosive article, “How NYU’s Emergency Room Favors the Rich.” Here’s a summary, but read the whole thing for the full scoop:

In New York University’s busy Manhattan emergency department, Room 20 is special.

Steps away from the hospital’s ambulance bay, the room is outfitted with equipment to perform critical procedures or isolate those with highly infectious diseases.

Doctors say Room 20 is usually reserved for two types of patients: Those whose lives are on the line. And those who are V.I.P.s.

NYU Langone denies putting V.I.P.s first, but 33 medical workers told The New York Times that they had seen such patients receive preferential treatment in Room 20, one of the largest private spaces in the department. One doctor was surprised to find an orthopedic specialist in the room awaiting a senior hospital executive’s mother with hip pain. Another described an older hospital trustee who was taken to Room 20 when he was short of breath after exercising.

The privileged treatment is part of a broader pattern, a Times investigation found. For years, NYU’s emergency room in Manhattan has secretly given priority to donors, trustees, politicians, celebrities, and their friends and family, according to 45 medical workers, internal hospital records and other confidential documents reviewed by The Times.

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“Life After Privacy”: Thoughts on Big Data (3)

This is the third part of my series on Big Data, focused on Firmin DeBrabander’s book,  Life After Privacy. In the first part, I laid out the argument of DeBrabander’s book as a whole. In the second part, I took issue with what I think of as his “victim-blaming” account of the rise of Big Data. In this part and the next few, I take issue with what I think of DeBrabander’s counsels of despair in dealing with Big Data.

Those counsels of despair might be captured in the following three claims: 

  1. Game Over: Because we’ve already surrendered our privacy to Big Data, there’s nothing to fight over.
  2. Out of Ammo: Because Big Data already controls the Internet, there’s nothing to fight with.
  3. Sour Grapes: Because we lack a good philosophical account of the nature and value of the privacy we’ve given up, we lack a defensible motivation to fight very hard to get it back.

Given this, DeBrabander regards the struggle for privacy as a red herring. The real prize we ought to be seeking is political freedom of a participatory, Arendtian sort, a value that not only bears little connection to privacy, but is in tension with it. Once we opt for an Arendt-style politics, privacy will become a secondary concern, if that. The relevant value will become collective participation in the common good, not privacy.  Continue reading

Baby, We Can’t Drive Your Car


December 18, 2022

Copart, Inc.
2704 Geryville Pike
Pennsburg, PA 18073

To whom it may concern:

Thank you for your recent communication regarding the Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas’s decision, finding against Dawid Malek as well as against the “further Defendants listed in the attached Exhibit A.” Needless to say, Exhibit A was neither attached nor received in any communication I’ve ever received from you, but I appreciate the empty gesture. Continue reading

Out of My Dreams, and Into My Car

An argument can be correct in nearly every particular claim it makes, be enormously perceptive as far as it goes, but err nearly to the point of failure either by omission or through one-sidedness. That’s my verdict on this recent condemnation of car culture in The New York Times. I mean that as a recommendation of the essay. Indeed, I hereby demand that you read the linked article before you read my post. Personally, I have every intention of getting and reading the authors’ book at first opportunity, and have every intention of agreeing with it. I agree with just about everything they say in the Times essay, including the general spirit of their arguments, and just about all of their policy recommendations. Continue reading

Kelley’s Kant

In his excellent book The Evidence of the Senses (ES), David Kelley included some remarks on Immanuel Kant’s mature theoretical philosophy by way of contrast with the realist theory of perception which Kelley had developed within the metaphysical and epistemological framework of Ayn Rand. I examine Kelley’s representation of Kant in ES in the link below. Prof. Randall R. Dipert (1951–2019) criticized Dr. Kelley’s representations of Kant in ES in a Review Essay in Reason Papers (1987). I shall be examining Dipert’s criticisms as well as the later criticisms of Kelley’s Kant by Prof. Fred Seddon.

“Dangerous Loyalties”

I wrote this back in mid-August, around the time when our reading group was reading Tessman’s Burdened Virtues. I was almost certain I’d posted it back then, but I can’t find it anywhere on the site, so at the risk of double-posting it, I figured I’d post it now.

Chapter 6 of Lisa Tessman’s Burdened Virtues, “Dangerous Loyalties,” discusses the dangers of the supposed virtue of loyalty. Loyalty as Tessman conceives of it is a qualified but unconditional attachment to a group, usually some species of “the oppressed,” along with a desire to promote that group’s ends and interests. The virtue’s demands are qualified in the sense that they apply within certain limits–to some groups rather than others, and permitting some degree of internal criticism rather than none. But they’re unconditional in the sense that within those limits, a loyal person’s allegiance to the group cannot be relinquished on pain of violating the demands of loyalty, and thereby inviting the charges of betrayal and treason. Continue reading

Reply to Touchstone

The issue of THE JOURNAL OF AYN RAND STUDIES recently issued (– December 2022) includes a paper by Dr. Kathleen Touchstone titled “Error, Free Will, and Freedom.” It engages importantly with earlier writings of mine, and because the next issue of JARS will be its final issue, and it is already at the printer, I’m making a reply to Touchstone’s paper simply in online posts.

Three Passings, Three Losses

Sometimes people you come to know in passing leave a more-than-passing memory. Three such people have recently passed away in quick succession, and I wanted to mark their passings. 

Many readers of this blog may know, or know of, Chris Sciabarra, The Famous Dialectical Libertarian of Brooklyn, but far fewer have had the privilege, as I have, of meeting his late sister Elizabeth (1952-2022). To the best of my memory, I met her only twice; it may in fact only have been once, but she was the kind of person who would have left a double impression from a single encounter. Continue reading

Love Afar, Spite at Home

Thy love afar is spite at home.

–Emerson, “Self-Reliance

The United States is currently sending billions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine, prolonging the war there, and increasing the probability of escalation or even nuclear war, for a country that has zero bearing on our own national security. Our security was not threatened when Ukraine was a part of either the Soviet Union or the Russian Federation, and was not appreciably enhanced by Ukraine’s exit from the latter. None of this seems to figure in the calculations of those in favor of US intervention: intervention is for them an imperative, however inscrutable the reasons for it. Continue reading

Christine McVie (1943-2022), RIP

I can’t react to the death of Christine McVie without at the same time re-living the death of my wife Alison Bowles, who lived and breathed the music of Fleetwood Mac. That’s something I’d rather not do, at least in public, so I’ll leave it at the thought that like just about everyone of my age and background, I grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac, and even at my most “metal,” couldn’t help liking them. It was through Alison that I came to love them, and through Alison’s death that their music has become a constant reminder of her, and a bittersweet fixture in my psyche. Here’s my favorite one of McVie’s songs, which manages, at least for me, to conjure up the ghosts of childhood wonder, and with it, the evanescence of adult happiness. That’s probably not what she intended when she wrote it, but eventually, the creations of a great artist take on a life of their own.