Ron Paul & Clicktivism

The point raised by yesterday’s Times article on Ron Paul was that while Paul attracts big crowds, these crowds do not translate into voter turnout.
Perhaps the problem is that Paul has appeal within his fervent base, but that base is unable to influence people outside the circle. If Paul can attract thousands to a rally, many more should actually vote for him. Paul himself discusses the problem in the article:

“I don’t have a full answer for that,” says Mr. Paul, who says he believes ballot irregularities have chipped into his numbers in some places. He adds, “I think there’s some problem with always making sure this energy is translated into getting to the polls.”

Perhaps the answer is clicktivism. Paul’s fervent base is all over the internets, commenting on this blog for instance, but clicks and comments do not create voter turnout. Nor are they part of anything resembling a dialogue. Libertarian movements are something akin to PR firms, all transmit and no receive. Able to create the appearance of broad appeal, but with a actual following that is quite shallow.
And that honestmistake video is not very compelling. So news organizations, particularly television, omits Paul from a bunch of infographics. If that is your beef, you are not ready for the national stage, where many unfair things happen. You cannot blame the media for not taking Paul more seriously. He’s not even a serious member of Congress–introducing dozens of bills on crackpot topics that are all languishing in subcommittee land. He appears to have accomplished next to nothing in his many years there.

Homeschooling needs either tighter regulation or to be banned

At Alternet there is a great article by Kristin Rawls on homeschooling and educational neglect. I think it makes an excellent argument that homeschooling needs either tighter regulation and oversight, or needs to be outright outlawed:

In recent weeks, homeschooling has received nationwide attention because of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s homeschooling family. Though Santorum paints a rosy picture of homeschooling in the United States, and calls attention to the “responsibility” all parents have to take their children’s education into their own hands, he fails to acknowledge the very real potential for educational neglect among some homeschooling families – neglect that has been taking place for decades, and continues to this day.

Take Vyckie Garrison, an ex-Quiverfull mother of seven who, in 2008, enrolled her six school-age children in public school after 18 years of teaching them at home. Garrison, who started the No Longer Quivering blog, says her near-constant pregnancies – which tended to result either in miscarriages or life-threatening deliveries – took a toll on her body and depleted her energy. She wasn’t able to devote enough time and energy to homeschooling to ensure a quality education for each child. And she says the lack of regulation in Nebraska, where the family lived, “allowed us to get away with some really shoddy homeschooling for a lot of years.”
“I’ll admit it,” she confesses. “Because I was so overwhelmed with my life… It was a real struggle to do the basics, so it didn’t take long for my kids to fall far behind. One of my daughters could not read at 11 years old.”

As concerning as the stories of overall educational incompetence of children being raised in the quiverfull movement are, the more serious aspect seems to be the routine discrimination between education of boys and girls:

Like Garrison, Diegel Martin recounts notable educational gaps in her own family, where there was little academic encouragement. One of her brothers decided to quit school at 16 and faced no parental opposition. The youngest, Diegel Martin says, ceased his formal education at the age of 12, when she left home and was no longer available to teach him herself. And though she was fortunate enough to receive sex education before leaving public school, her siblings were not so lucky. Their parents never taught the three other children about sex, and Diegel Martin remembers giving her 21-year-old sister “the talk” the week before she got married. She also had to intervene to ensure that her younger brothers learned about sex.
As for herself, when she completed her schooling, she says her parents did not allow her to obtain her GED as proof of high school graduation. Their reason? “The girls weren’t allowed to get a GED because we were told we wouldn’t need it. It would open up opportunities that were forbidden to us. We would work in the family business until we got married, and then become homemakers.
“When I talked about wanting to go to college, my parents said, ‘Well, you’re a girl. You don’t go to college.'”

I know I have homeschoolers (and unschoolers) that read this blog and have gotten angry with me being critical of the movement in the past, but there has to be some oversight of homeschooling. Universal primary and secondary education is part of why our country has been so successful, and necessary for the ultimate success of individuals in our society. Children have a right to a decent education that will teach them math, to read, to write, and provide them with basic skills for life. If there is evidence of failure to provide this to children, whether in a public school, private school, or home then for the sake of the children government should intervene. Worse, to educate male children one way and then purposefully provide the girls a poorer education because their destiny is basically to be chattel is horrifying. It strikes me as a violation of their civil rights. For parents to say it’s a matter of religious freedom to deny their children education, or a future outside their home, can not be justified. You don’t have a parental right to deny children a future, or to enslave them.
Unless a regulatory framework can be designed to incorporate some basic standards into homeschooling, this practice should be outlawed for the sake of these children’s basic civil rights. Surely the homeschoolers who actually believe in educating their children can accept that stories like this are unacceptable, and without data about the performance of homeschoolers, or oversight of homeschooling, this abuse of children’s rights can not be prevented or even detected.
Via Love Joy Feminism

Pennsylvania next in line to require transvaginal U/S prior to abortion

Pennsylvania is poised to enact a ultrasound bill even more stringent than Virginia’s failed bill.

Even as the transvaginal ultrasound bill in Virginia was causing national outrage, Pennsylvania conservatives were quietly pushing a even more restrictive abortion bill. The legislation is designed with so many difficult and differing restrictions that long-time abortion policy analyst Elizabeth Nash at the Guttmacher Institute told Raw Story, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
In addition to mandating the much-maligned transvaginal ultrasound requirements since rejected by the state of Virginia, Pennsylvania legislators proposed strongly encouraging women to view and listen to the ultrasounds, forcing technicians to give the women personalized copies of the results and mandating how long before any abortion the ultrasound much be preformed — and that’s just for starters.
That last requirement has already been passed and struck down in Louisiana, partially over concerns of patients’ privacy and potential risks for women in abusive relationships, Nash said.
“This bill definitely suffers the legislators-playing-doctor problem. … There are a number of requirements in this bill that are medically unnecessary,” Nash said, pointing out that so many requirements packed into the 22-page bill could make it logistically difficult for abortion providers to comply with them. “This bill is something that would be unacceptable to most women seeking an abortion.”

You know how I feel about this. Legislating unnecessary medical procedures is unethical and unlawful, and real Republicans don’t believe government should legislate medical decisions. Hopefully this bill will suffer a similar fate.

Elsevier Blinks, Will No Longer Support Research Works Act

In a victory for science, and those who favor open access for the easy dissemination of scientific results to the public and scientists around the world, Elsevier has withdrawn support for the Research Works Act.
I think credit has to go to Tim Gowers calling for and Michael Eisen spreading the word on the boycott and getting Elsevier’s attention. Eisen initially brought our attention to the bill which would have allowed Elsevier to break with the growing tendency towards putting science payed for with tax dollars into open access databases. The Research Works Act would allow them to erect pay walls on publicly-funded research and it was out of line with where science publishing has been going for the last decade. By calling attention to it and pushing back against Elsevier, the publisher that seemed to be largely behind the new legislation, Gowers and Eisen appear to have effectively killed support for this bill. If congress gets the message hopefully it will sink into oblivion.
We have to be vigilant for future efforts to restrict open access such as this bill. After the public spends millions on individual research projects, scientists spend years making discoveries, and peer reviewers donate their time to critique and improve the presentation of the data in the manuscripts, it’s exceedingly arrogant that publishers feel they own those results for decades just because they came in at the end as the publisher. While publishing is a capitalist enterprise and they should make money, their compensation should be proportionate to the effort and investment they put into the manuscript. The reality is, their contribution is vanishingly small compared to the efforts of scientists and costs to taxpayers. With the expansion of online databases, the decreasing costs of distribution of information, and the role of the internet in science communication, they can no longer justify their strangle hold on scientific results for decades after initial publication.

Planned Parenthood: Trying to Addict Your Kids to Sex

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How’s this for a tinfoil hat conspiracy, brought to you by the American Life League–
Planned Parenthood’s strategy in this great world is to:
Phase one: Get kids addicted to sex.
Phase two: profit! Through selling birth control, STD testing, and abortion.
Continue reading “Planned Parenthood: Trying to Addict Your Kids to Sex”

Should doctors fire patients who won't vaccinate?

WSJ has an article about the increasing number of pediatricians who fire their patients who refuse to vaccinate:

Pediatricians fed up with parents who refuse to vaccinate their children out of concern it can cause autism or other problems increasingly are “firing” such families from their practices, raising questions about a doctor’s responsibility to these patients.
Medical associations don’t recommend such patient bans, but the practice appears to be growing, according to vaccine researchers.
In a study of Connecticut pediatricians published last year, some 30% of 133 doctors said they had asked a family to leave their practice for vaccine refusal, and a recent survey of 909 Midwestern pediatricians found that 21% reported discharging families for the same reason.
By comparison, in 2001 and 2006 about 6% of physicians said they “routinely” stopped working with families due to parents’ continued vaccine refusal and 16% “sometimes” dismissed them, according to surveys conducted then by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“There’s more noise among pediatricians, more people willing to argue that it’s OK to do this versus 10 years ago,” said Douglas Diekema, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle. Dr. Diekema wrote the AAP’s policy on working with vaccine refusers, which recommends providers address the issue at repeated visits, but respect parents’ wishes unless it puts a child at risk of significant harm.

This is an interesting ethical question as there are several issues at play. Since the pediatrician is the child’s doctor, is it wrong to fire the family from the practice just because the parent is misinformed? Or is it a worse practice to tolerate parental medical foolishness and expose other patients in the practice to vaccine-preventable disease? Since vaccination is one of the most important roles of the pediatrician during well-child visits, is there any point at all in having regular pediatrician visits if you refuse vaccination?
Continue reading “Should doctors fire patients who won't vaccinate?”

"Incentives" for 5 Star Reviews on Ecommerce Sites

In case you missed it, here’s a pointer to a recent Times story concerning baked reviews on Amazon and the like. In it, David Streitfeld describes how one company gave rebates to customers in exchange for five star reviews. They even seem to have a claque to address detractors–

Even a few grouches could not spoil the party. “This is an egregious violation of the ratings and review system used by Amazon,” a customer named Robert S. Pollock wrote in a review he titled “scam.”
He was promptly chastised by another customer. This fellow, himself a seller on Amazon, argued that he had both given and gotten free items in exchange for reviews. “It is not a scam but an incentive,” he wrote.

You might recall the hysteria surrounding recent Federal Trade Commission rules on sponsored endorsements by bloggers. The agency had this type of situation in mind–average consumers, without any understanding of the rules or “ethics” of advertising are pimping products to others. It’s unfair to competitors and other consumers. And it totally messes up my default shopping strategy of just buying the highest rated [insert product here] on Amazon!

Should Search Engines Warn of Denialism?

Evgeny Morozov argued in Slate last week that search engines could do more to warn readers about kooks online. Among other things, he cites to a recent article in Vaccine that details the tactics of anti-vaccine denialists. Morozov points to Google’s special treatment of certain searches, such as “ways to die.” Perhaps an alert can appear when one searches, “should I vaccinate…”

How Do you Want to Die?

Via Zite I found the article How Doctors Die by Ken Murray and was surprised to find it one of the best I’ve read on the issue of end-of-life care. The context is that of how Doctors typically forgo extreme measures in the face of terminal diagnoses, and often reject the type of care we routinely provide to our patients as “not for us”. While the article lacks hard data on the prevalence of these attitudes or behaviors, I have to say this viewpoint is consistent my experience of learning my colleague’s beliefs and how I now personally feel about ICU care . And I’m someone who is interested in trauma and critical care as a career…

Years ago, Charlie, a highly respected orthopedist and a mentor of mine, found a lump in his stomach. He had a surgeon explore the area, and the diagnosis was pancreatic cancer. This surgeon was one of the best in the country. He had even invented a new procedure for this exact cancer that could triple a patient’s five-year-survival odds–from 5 percent to 15 percent–albeit with a poor quality of life. Charlie was uninterested. He went home the next day, closed his practice, and never set foot in a hospital again. He focused on spending time with family and feeling as good as possible. Several months later, he died at home. He got no chemotherapy, radiation, or surgical treatment. Medicare didn’t spend much on him.
It’s not a frequent topic of discussion, but doctors die, too. And they don’t die like the rest of us. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, but how little. For all the time they spend fending off the deaths of others, they tend to be fairly serene when faced with death themselves. They know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care they could want. But they go gently.

Significantly, Murray discusses what “doing everything” can mean. Sadly, most people equate caring for their family member with asking for maximum care when they are sick or dying, but doctors know, and poorly communicate, that maximal care is often painful, expensive, and too often futile.

Almost all medical professionals have seen what we call “futile care” being performed on people. That’s when doctors bring the cutting edge of technology to bear on a grievously ill person near the end of life. The patient will get cut open, perforated with tubes, hooked up to machines, and assaulted with drugs. All of this occurs in the Intensive Care Unit at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars a day. What it buys is misery we would not inflict on a terrorist. I cannot count the number of times fellow physicians have told me, in words that vary only slightly, “Promise me if you find me like this that you’ll kill me.” They mean it. Some medical personnel wear medallions stamped “NO CODE” to tell physicians not to perform CPR on them. I have even seen it as a tattoo.
To administer medical care that makes people suffer is anguishing. Physicians are trained to gather information without revealing any of their own feelings, but in private, among fellow doctors, they’ll vent. “How can anyone do that to their family members?” they’ll ask. I suspect it’s one reason physicians have higher rates of alcohol abuse and depression than professionals in most other fields. I know it’s one reason I stopped participating in hospital care for the last 10 years of my practice.

This situation of futile care is sometimes referenced with some some gallows humor as the chee chee. Why are we unable to communicate to patients that often the treatments that we can provide aren’t something we’d chose for ourselves or for those we love?
Continue reading “How Do you Want to Die?”