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March 2, 2009

Palin and the Rape Kits of Wasilla
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 03:04 PM *

Last September, in the midst of the presidential campaign, a certain Sarah Palin hit the news. And along with her, came the story of how the citizens of Wasilla, Alaska, were charged for rape kits under her administration.

This was reported and discussed over at McClatchy newspapers (whose web comments I have the honor to moderate), including these stories/threads: Critics: Under Palin, Wasilla charged rape victims for exam and Anne Kilkenny’s e-mail about Sarah Palin.

Anyway, in the comment threads on the latter story, we come to this exchange from last September 11/12. I post it here because McClatchy is about to change its software and the archives may (will) be lost:

Wow. One word comes to mind
Submitted by TexDoc on September 11, 2008 - 7:18pm.

Wow. One word comes to mind as I read this letter…Lame. Sounds like Palin took Anne’s boyfriend away at the senior prom. Seriously, this wreaks of petty jealousy. I for one would be ecstatic if my government refunded a surplus to me, instead of spending it on some misguided program just to get some politicians name on it. Remember, we the people own and run the government..theoretically..so the money is ours if their is a surplus and should be returned to the people. Some politicians like to think it is their’s but they are wrong…they are called liberals. A good example is the charge for the rape exam..nothing wrong with it at all. Someone has to pay for the services…and if I or you is rammed in a wreck,no fault of ours,but go to the ER, we have to pay for the medical care. Yes, the rape is horrific, but so is cancer, so is diabetes, Lupus, etc,etc….when will you people stop thinking that the government has to pay for everything and take of us? Get out there and do a little work. There once was a liberal young daughter who hounded her old conservative father. He calmly later asked his daughter about her college classes. She responded how tough they were and how she was having to bust her butt to make an A. That she had no free time. He asked how her friend Sally was doing and she responded having a great college life but making terrible grades. Her Dad said well that’s horrible…I think you should go to your teachers and ask if you could give some of your good grades to Sally,maybe even average your grades to help her out. His daughter was outraged…stated are you crazy, I’ve worked hard for those grades,no way am I giving her anything - she’s goofing off and having fun and I’m busting my tail every day….her father smiled and said…. well,well, my dear..welcome to the Republican Party!

A good example is the charge
Submitted by James_Macdonald on September 11, 2008 - 7:33pm.

A good example is the charge for the rape exam..nothing wrong with it at all. Someone has to pay for the services…and if I or you is rammed in a wreck,no fault of ours,but go to the ER, we have to pay for the medical care. Yes, the rape is horrific, but so is cancer, so is diabetes, Lupus, etc,etc….when will you people stop thinking that the government has to pay for everything and take of us?

This has already been comprehensively answered in another thread, but I’ll answer it again here.

“Nothing wrong with it at all”? There’s a great deal wrong with it. A rape exam isn’t a health-care procedure. It’s a police investigative technique. When you get rammed in a wreck the police don’t send you a bill for the time they spent measuring tire marks on the pavement, or for the lab costs of the drug-and-alcohol screens they did on you, nor for the photographs they took of the scene.

Law enforcement and justice are public; and law enforcement and justice must be paid for from public funds.

Forcing the victims to pay for the police investigation is not only immoral, it is also (very likely) illegal. When someone is burglarized do the police say, “Sorry, not going to investigate this if you can’t pay for the fingerprint powder.” (And good luck getting your homeowners’ insurance to pay for the policework.)

Apparently Mr McDonald is
Submitted by TexDoc on September 11, 2008 - 7:46pm.

Apparently Mr McDonald is some expert on rape exams…according to him. I’ll grant him that one aspect is legal or procedural…but an equally important aspect is the medical exam for injury or psychologic damage. How do I know this..I’ve done it..it’s called a Rape kit in many ER’s ..I’m a gynecologist and I’ve done them. Please refrain from addressing topics that you know little about..that’s what’s wrong with internet blogs…people speak as authorities and usually have an extremely limited fund of knowledge…its a typical left wing tactic also..

Please refrain from
Submitted by James_Macdonald on September 11, 2008 - 8:00pm.

Please refrain from addressing topics that you know little about..

Indeed, Doctor. Good advice for everyone.

Tomorrow when I go back to work shall I pull a rape kit off the shelf and embarrass you by going through it step by step and asking you if each step is more related to patient care or to police investigation?

people speak as authorities
Submitted by James_Macdonald on September 12, 2008 - 5:32pm.

people speak as authorities and usually have an extremely limited fund of knowledge…its a typical left wing tactic also..

Well, I’m going to beg the indulgence of the good people here to go a bit off-topic and tell you, at some length, about rape kits.

I have a rape kit right here. Let’s look at it…

The first thing I notice is that its official name, printed right on the cover of the box, is “Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit.” Hmmm… nothing there about patient care or treatment. “Evidence Collection” sounds more like a police function. Let’s open it up and see what’s inside.

Hmmm. A number of paper bags and some instruction sheets. No bandages, no sutures, no antibiotics….

Step one is the authorization for collection and release/transfer of evidence and protected health information form. That’s a paperwork drill. It gets the patient’s name, date of birth, the date of the exam, and permission to collect the evidence. It says “Evidence” right on the form. This resembles healthcare only in that healthcare requires similar information and permissions.

Step two. Sexual assault evidence collection kit inventory. A list of what’s in the kit, with checkmarks for “Collected” and “Not Collected.” What’s interesting here is line 11, “Additional evidence (Please list).” Evidence. Still no health care.

Step three. Sexual assault medical/forensic report form. Patient identifying information, then check boxes: “Indicate by checking the appropriate box what the patient has done since the assault (if unsure, please state the reason why) Douched; Yes, no, unsure. Bathed/showered; Yes, no, unsure. Urinated; Yes, no, unsure.” And so on. Then: “At the time of assault was: A condom used by the assailant? Yes, no, unsure. Patient menstruating? Yes, no, unsure. … Weapon used/threatened by assailant? Yes, no, unsure.” And so on. “Within the past five days has the patient engaged in consensual sexual activity? Yes, no.” And so on. Then: “Details of the assault (check all that apply): Penile/oral, penile/genital, penile/anal, digital/genital…. ” And so on. “Describe any pertinent details of the assault.” Fill in the blank.

Step four. Liquid blood sample. An envelope with a foam-padded insert for blood tubes. Additional blood and urine samples are required if a suspected drug-facilitated sexual assault occurred. The tubes are sealed in the provided envelope. Not too useful for patient care, sealed like that, is it? “Note: In order to minimize patient discomfort, blood needed for other tests, including pregnancy, should be drawn at this time. THESE TEST RESULTS SHOULD NOT BE INCLUDED IN KIT, BUT SHOULD REMAIN AT THE HOSPITAL.” In other words, the Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit is separate from health care requirements.

Step five: Paper bags for collecting the victim’s outer clothing. “If patient changed clothing after assault, inform officer in charge so that the clothing worn at the time of the assault may be collected by the police.” How’s that related to patient care, Doctor?

Step six: A paper bag labeled “Underpants.” “Collect in all instances. If patient not wearing underpants, collect item of clothing that had contact with the patient’s genitalia.” How’s that related to patient care?

Step seven: Oral swabs and smear. The smear is allowed to air dry and sealed in the provided envelope. Not too useful for patient care, eh, Doctor?

Step eight: Foreign material collection. Remove folded sheet from Foreign Material Collection envelope. Unfold and place on flat surface. Collect any foreign material such as dirt, leaves, fiber, hair, etc. (found on body) and place in center of paper. Then refold paper in manner to retain material…. Note location from which sample(s) was taken on anatomical drawings on envelope. Seal and fill out all information requested on envelope.” How’s that related to patient care, Doctor?

Step nine: Rectal swabs and smear. “Return smear and swabs to Rectal Swabs and Smear envelope. Seal and fill out all information requested on envelope.” How’s that related to patient care, Doctor?

Step ten: Pubic hair combings. “…remove paper towel and comb provided in Pubic Hair Combings envelope. Place towel under patient’s buttocks. Using comb provided, comb pubic hair in downward strokes so that any loose hairs and/or debris will fall onto paper towel. Refold paper towel in manner to retain both comb and any evidence present….” Evidence. What part does this step play in health care, Doctor?

Step eleven: External genital swabs. “If cunnilingus or fellatio was performed on the patient within five days of the exam, and the patient has not bathed/showered, or the patient is pre-pubertal….” Again, the swabs and smears are sealed and not otherwise used at the hospital. How is that related to patient care, Doctor? Is there a step in healthcare that you wouldn’t perform if the patient had bathed recently?

Step twelve: This is the one you’d actually be involved in as a gynecologist, Doctor. Vaginal swabs and smear. “Note: Any other examination of and testing of the ano-genital and pelvic area should occur simultaneously with this step.” I think you’re the “any other examination.”

Step thirteen: Medical/forensic examination form. “Physical examination: Was patient bleeding from wounds sustained during the assault? Yes, no. Were photographs taken by examiner? Yes, no, how many? Digital, Instant, Colposcope, Film, Other. Was Medical Examiner consulted? Yes, no.” And so on. Paperwork. This resembles documentation that would be produced in a health care setting.

Step fourteen: Patient information form. “With your consent, the following tests were completed (check all that apply): Blood test for syphilis, pregnancy test, blood test for Hepatitis B, …” Finally, something related to health care! “At the time of your evaluation, specimens were obtained in order to look for suspected drug-facilitated sexual assault. The specimens are not evaluated by the hospital laboratory, but forwarded to the State Police Forensic Laboratory. Information regarding the results should be obtained through the investigating law enforcement agency….”

Okay… here’s the part that tells me why Palin didn’t want the town of Wasilla to pay for rape kits:

Step fifteen: Emergency Pregnancy Prevention. “Fill out all information requested on form. Give one copy to patient. Retain one copy for hospital records.” Yes, part of the rape kit is offering the so-called “morning after pill.” That’s contraception! We can’t have taxpayers paying for contraception! Contraception is wrong!

Step sixteen: Photographs. “If photographs are indicated follow the guidelines outlined in the Protocol.”

Last step!

Step seventeen: Postcard. A stamped, addressed postcard to tell the state crime lab that that kit is coming: “Please complete the information on the enclosed stamped postcard and put it in the mail.”

“Final instructions:”

After telling the examiner to place all materials (except bags containing outer clothing and underpants) back into the original box, “Hand sealed kit, sealed bags and appropriate forms to investigating officer, and obtain your signature as well as that of law enforcement to ensure chain of custody requirements have been met.”

Law enforcement officer. Chain of custody. Tell me, Doctor, what’s that have to do with health care? Isn’t that an evidence gathering procedure? “I’ll grant him that one aspect is legal or procedural…” How about “all but one or two aspects are legal or procedural”?

“Note: The kit needs to be picked up by Law Enforcement in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred, unless otherwise arranged by the law enforcement agency. If officer is not present at this time, place sealed kit and bags in secure and refrigerated area, and hold for pick up by law enforcement.”

That’s what a rape kit is, Doctor.

Please refrain from addressing topics that you know little about..that’s what’s wrong with internet blogs…people speak as authorities and usually have an extremely limited fund of knowledge…its a typical left wing tactic also..

TexDoc never replied.

Comments on Palin and the Rape Kits of Wasilla:
#1 ::: Eunoia ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 03:19 PM:

Thanks James, for the detailed explanation of the rape kit. You certainly made your point AND put the texdoc down :-)

#2 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 03:42 PM:

That's so bizarre; how do people not know they're lying about this sort of thing? Unless that Texas Doctor is totally fake to begin with, of course, which is not at all inconceivable (or he may be a dog :-)).

Maybe rape kits are different in Texas? I'm not holding my breath.

#3 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 04:02 PM:

Probably he was brought in only to do they ob-gyn part and never saw all the evidence-collection bits.

Or he's just a liar. Or both.

#4 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 04:08 PM:

A Rape Kit is normally performed by a SANE nurse (that's Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner). An RN with additional specialized training.

You wouldn't expect an OB/GYN to be involved except during one small part of the entire procedure.

#5 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 04:12 PM:

What I was saying was, maybe he was brought in only for that part, and being a (right wing) doctor assumed that nurses are idiots and can't possibly know anything that he doesn't, or at least that he's always the most important person in the room, including the patient. So OF COURSE the rape kit isn't about evidence collection! If it were he'd know about it, because he's (drum roll) a DOCTOR!!! *crash*

No, I know not all doctors are like that, and that it's less common than it used to be. But he sounds like the kind of jerk doctor nurses of my mother's generation complain about.

If he's a doctor at all, that is.

#6 ::: Krinn DNZ ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 04:28 PM:

It does my heart good to see evil misinformation so comprehensively rebuked.

#7 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 04:44 PM:

Note to self, underlined, bolded: Never cross swords with one James MacDonald unless you really know what you're talking about and can offer overwhelming supporting evidence.

Although I will admit that as a smackdown this one goes into my instant classic collection.

#8 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 04:46 PM:

Well done, sir. Bravo.

Nice takedown (and frankly, quite interesting in and of itself)

#9 ::: Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 04:52 PM:

God, I'm really glad you set things straight...but that thread was just so *evil*, it hurts.

"no way I am giving her anything" sure does sum up my current perception of the Republican party...which is why i am baffled its considered compatible with Christianity.

How could you say 'I would rather have money than care for an assault victim' and feel you are meeting the WWJD test?

#10 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 05:01 PM:

Xopher @ 5... he's (drum roll) a DOCTOR!!!

Did I ever tell you of the time I took my wife to the Emergency Clinic, where she was treated by... drumroll... Doctor Faust. Maybe Doctor Strange was doing the other shift.

#11 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 05:25 PM:

David @2 That's so bizarre; how do people not know they're lying about this sort of thing?

Of course they know. What really burns me up is that this cretin assumed that Jim was lying, and another lie would counter it. Not only did s/he feel free to lie out of both sides of their own mouth, they just took it for granted that everyone else did too. I hope their cheeks burn to this day.

#12 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 05:28 PM:

Now that was a comprehensive takedown, indeed, that ought to be the textbook example of a takedown.

#13 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 05:29 PM:

Serge #10: There wasn't a nurse Helen or Marguerite around, was there?

#14 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 05:37 PM:

That was a well-done takedown; a model for study, especially by anyone who thinks they can get away with BSing their way in a debate on the internet.

vian @ 11

I don't think texdoc even cared whether Jim was telling the truth or not; he just figured if he huffed and puffed and called himself a doctor everyone would bow down to him (good odds its a male). Good thing for him he didn't show up here at ML; after Jim served him up extra crispy, one or more doctors, nurses, or others familiar with medical treatment and mindful that doctors are not gods would have gone over him again.

#15 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 05:38 PM:

Fragano @ 13... Not that I know of. Meanwhile, Doctor Strange was last seen hanging out with the Night Nurse, whose crimefighting job is to patch up superheroes after a fight when they don't want to explain to their daytime HMO how they got that weird wound.

#16 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 05:44 PM:

Eeewww, that's one gynecologist I don't want anywhere near me for any reason whatsoever. If he's that bad about rape victims, I have to wonder how he treats his patients. I guess as long as they're good little girls, he pats them on the head and tells them not to worry.

#17 ::: Tony Rowlett ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 05:47 PM:

Wait a minute, here, folks. I'm afraid you haven't proved anything against TexDoc. Mr. Macdonald pulled out a rape kit that centered around evidence gathering, but so what? Did anyone ever stop to think that it was possible that "rape kits" could be of more than one type and have different areas of focus? Is there only one kind of rape kit in this country, or could there be, maybe, a couple different types used in the legal and medical fields? Is it that unlikely that another rape kit could possibly center more around health care and disease prevention than the apparently legal one Mr. Macdonald had to describe in such a detailed way? And... I really found Mr. Macdonald's response to TexDoc to be rude, hollier-than-though, snarky, and over the top (e.g., "What does that have to do with health care, Doctor?" continuously.)

The argument should go a tad deeper than whether or not Palin is simply charging victims for evidence collection.

#18 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 05:50 PM:

Jim:

*Ouch*. It would be interesting to find out whether that was a real doctor who just didn't know what she was talking about, or if she just played one on the internet.

Out of curiosity, are there other places where, as a crime victim, you're expected to cover part of the expenses of gathering evidence/finding the bad guys? I can't think of any, but I don't know much about that stuff.

#19 ::: shallot ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 05:53 PM:

@Bruce Cohen: I'm not sure he was actively lying, he just thought he knew the whole story when in fact he only knew a very small fraction of it. And then he couldn't bring himself to publicly admit he was wrong. He behaved like a monumental dickwad throughout, but I don't think there was much real malice behind it.

Nice to see someone get taken down so comprehensively, though. Bwahahahaa...

#20 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 05:54 PM:

Tony Rowlett #17: Given that the discussion about rape kits during the election campaign centred on precisely the issues raised by Mr Macdonald, your argument seems a bit strained.

I'm a bit suspicious of someone whose very first posting includes a gratuitous 'folks'. It makes me think that the reader is being folked.

#21 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 05:55 PM:

Serge #15: Much is now explained.

#22 ::: melissa ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 05:56 PM:

Jim: you are offically one of my heroes. I wanna be like you when I grow up :-)

#23 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 05:58 PM:

Tony Rowlett @17:
Excellent concern trolling, there.

Now find some reliable evidence that the rape kits in question were materially different. I have been through the Frontiersman article that first broke the story (here), and throughout the article, the exam is described as either "forensic" or "evidence collection".

To win a ticket back into the discussion, please find evidence from a reliable source (newspapers are good, but check to make sure you're not on the editorial pages) that says otherwise.

#24 ::: shallot ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 06:10 PM:

Also:
"Some politicians like to think it is their’s but they are wrong…they are called liberals"
"Apparently Mr McDonald is some expert on rape exams..."
"its a typical left wing tactic also.."

...I will seriously never understand why people think sniping and gratuitous personal attacks help their case when trying to debate something with another person. Sure, it feels good, but it's just brainless. It only makes the other guy hate you, and who's going to make an effort to get on the wavelength of someone they hate? :(

#25 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 06:20 PM:

Once again we see that being a Doctor doesn't require the ability to coherently form and convey an idea.

#26 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 06:26 PM:

I like how TexDoc brought up the "welcome to the Republican Party" story right at a time when the Republican Party was putting even more effort than usually into telling the world that people like Sally from the story are Salt of the Earth Real Americans while people like the daughter are horrible arrogant America-hating elitists.
vian @ 11, I think Xopher's theory is the more likely explanation. Or TexDoc simply didn't think things through.

#27 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 06:37 PM:

shallot, they're not trying to engage with anyone or get anyone on their wavelength. They're trying to get the other readers to dismiss someone's opinion, in this case Jim's. And that lack of good faith in engaging is why tearing this jackass a new one was absolutely and entirely justified.

#28 ::: Darth Paradox ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 06:37 PM:

shallot @24:

I think you've confused the type of debate Jim was having, where one tries to convince another of one's point of view by presenting evidence and reasoned arguments, with the type of debate TexDoc was having, where one tries to defeat and preferably humiliate one's opponent by presenting apocryphal anecdotes and flat-out lies, strung together with flimsy reasoning and peppered with ad-hominem attacks against the opponent, his or her family members, and any group with which the opponent chooses to identify[1].

I understand your confusion; debates on the Internet are roughly 95% type 2 by volume.

---
[1] Subject to the No True Scotsman rule. Association of one's opponent to unfavorable groups (e.g. Nazis, NAMBLA) also permitted. See store for details, etc.

#29 ::: Tracey C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 06:49 PM:

As someone who's intimately familiar with rape kits from two different states (NC and IL), I can attest that they are almost identical in contents and language to the one described herein (notification aspects differ, as does counseling about contraception and STD prophylaxes - NC's doesn't do that, nor are hospitals required to offer or cover it).

So, that's the midwest, south/east coast, and north/east coast covered...

(Oh, and I'm familiar with them because in both states I'm a sexual assault survivor advocate, and familiarizing ourselves with the kits is standard training procedure. Plus, I've sat in through a few now.)

#30 ::: Ron Sullivan ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 06:55 PM:

... a SANE nurse...

Oxymoron? Some days I've thought so.

Xopher in #5: But he sounds like the kind of jerk doctor nurses of my mother's generation complain about.

I'm wondering whether I'm old enough to be your mother. If not—well, even if I am, this isn't exactly a problem confined to the dim distant past. Alas.

I'm wondering if Tony Rowlett in #17 has done any informed speculation about what might be in a "rape kit" for care, as opposed to evidence-gathering, that would be in any way different from regular old GYN supplies.

Reflexes are good to have, but by the time one's old enough to, say, drive a car, one ought to have schooled one's reactions just a bit. Duck-and-cover is normally fine when something's coming at you fast; not so much when you're at the wheel on the freeway. Similarly when posting in public, especially to chide someone. (Daring, am I not?)

OK, I'll state my bias here: I for one am ready to join the First Church of Jim Macdonald.

#31 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 07:13 PM:

Spherical Time: "Once again we see that being a Doctor doesn't require the ability to coherently form and convey an idea."

Or the use of correct spelling and grammar.

p.s. Sigh. Yes, this is a spelling a grammar flame. Kill me.

#32 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 07:26 PM:

Ron Sullivan @ 30

this isn't exactly a problem confined to the dim distant past. Alas.

Regrettably true. Although it may be that the proportions are different than they used to be. My experience in the '70s was that the dick to doc ratio was about 3:1 against the good guys, based on working in a med school and going to doctors whose halos really seemed to be pinching. In the recent past I've found the ratio to be perhaps one in three the other way.*

* Not necessarily limited to male doctors, although the ratio seems to be more tilted towards dicks for them than for female doctors (and while that might be anatomically correct, there's no reason it should be psychologically correct). My present Primary Care Physician is pure gold, and I'm scared to death of what happens when she retires, but the woman I had before her got quite high on her horse when asked to help out with a problem that wasn't within her training or experience but did tickle her prejudices.

#33 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 07:44 PM:

Tony Rowlett@#17: How strange, that we have not seen you here before this.

(First-time posting in a topic situated at the conjunction of two controversial subjects is not prima facie evidence of trollery, but it is certainly . . . suggestive.)

#34 ::: Kelley Wegeng ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 08:01 PM:

I wonder if step 15 is different at some hospitals. I ask this because some hospitals like one of our two local ones are at least loosely affiliated with the Catholic Church, and thus ones I've heard you should not go to for emergency rape care for this very reason. I don't have any evidence of this firsthand, in fact I can't really remember where I heard it but I do distinctly recall hearing it.

#35 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 08:10 PM:

And... I really found Mr. Macdonald's response to TexDoc to be rude, hollier-than-though, snarky, and over the top (e.g., "What does that have to do with health care, Doctor?" continuously.)

Whereas TexDoc's assertion that Jim didn't know what he was talking about, throwing his/her weight around with "well, I AM a doc-tor," and all that related snark, was presumably perfectly fine by you?

TexDoc went >

Whereas TexDoc's assertion that Jim didn't know what he was talking about, throwing his/her weight around with "well, I AM a doc-tor," and all that related snark, was presumably perfectly fine by you?

TexDoc went perilous close to calling Jim a liar on a public forum. Jim decided to use a rhetorical tactic in his counter argument (to repeat a question he had already warned the good doctor he'd be asking) but other than that, Jim presented a coherent barrage of facts. No ad-hominem attacks, no jibes about being left/right-wing, just a bunch of verifiable stuff which made TexDoc look like an ass.

And when Jim called him/her on the dubious claims, TexDoc disappeared into the ether. They didn't, say, counter-list the contents of the rape kits they use. They didn't try and back their unfounded assertion that rape kits were medical in nature rather than forensic. They didn't (but who would have expected it?) apologise for implying Jim didn't know what he was talking about when it's patently obvious that he does.

Don't come around here and imply that the poor doctor wilted under the snark - they chickened out when someone logically called them on their posing nonsense, and as I said, I hope their cheeks still burn.

#36 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 08:32 PM:

Rowlett @ 17... rude

"I beg pardon..."
"'I beg pardon?' What are you so polite about?"
"For the same reason you are not: it's the way I was brought up."

#37 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 08:34 PM:

I hate that college story.

Rebuttal to it, because I think of it every time I read it:
A daughter called home to her father. "School is okay. I'm having trouble in my early class because my job keeps me late, but I finally figured out when I can eat lunch Tuesdays and Thursdays before my library work-study. I think, if I can get through finals week, I should get Bs in everything except calc."
"What about your roommate?"
"Please don't ask about her. She's up all the time, she comes in late, she's noisy, she eats my food which would be fine really if she ever asked, I just can't stand her. I really wish she wouldn't yell at me when I leave for class in the morning. She usually skips her ten o'clock."
"At least she'll be gone soon, if she's treating her classes that way."
"Oh, no, Dad-- she's getting As and Bs. Her mom's a trustee and her dad's company paid for the new rec center."

Just as straw-man, just as bad, but it always pops into my head. Apologies for fanning flames of anger.

#38 ::: Anticorium ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 08:46 PM:

I really found Mr. Macdonald's response to TexDoc to be rude, hollier-than-though, snarky, and over the top

Actually, I'd say it was pretty much delivered at the level required, and was much kinder than was deserved.

#39 ::: Anonymous Coward ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 08:56 PM:

(Regular poster, choosing anonymity)

Just checked a source from the largest medical supply distributor in the US. They have three base assemblies for collection kits that are then customized at the distribution centers into customer specific SKU's.

I'm sure there are kits available elsewhere, but it aligns pretty closely with Jim's point.

#40 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 09:10 PM:

The obvious political compromise is to give the evidence collection-kit contract to Halliburton. They'll even throw in the superglue to reseal them and repeat-offender punchcards for a bonus cup of coffee for free.

#41 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 09:46 PM:

Diatryma @37: "Oh, no, Dad-- she's getting As and Bs. Her mom's a trustee and her dad's company paid for the new rec center."

Or there's the noxious variant I kept encountering back in my undergrad days, where people sitting near me in the Big Cavernous Lecture Hall would keep gaily yacking at each other to the extent that I literally couldn't hear what the instructor was saying; they didn't care and didn't have to care, because their fraternity or sorority had already accumulated a big folder of material for the class in question, including answer-keyed copies of past quizzes/tests and in some cases prefab essays/papers. Usually one of them would have the folder in his/her lap and would glance at it a few times just to make sure everything was going according to schedule, and that would be the apparent extent of their involvement while sitting there.

(Presumably at that time, years ago, the departments didn't have comprehensive databases of past essays/papers to check for plagiarism. I was still turning in handwritten drafts and manually-typewritten final copies, though almost everyone else was using a word processor by then.)

#42 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 09:52 PM:

j h woodyatt @ 31: "p.s. Sigh. Yes, this is a spelling a grammar flame."

...and therefore subject to the Rule of Spelling and Grammar Flames, which is that any post criticizing anyone else's spelling and grammar will invariably also include a spelling and/or grammar mistake. Nobodies imune.

Kelley Wegeng @ 34: "I ask this because some hospitals like one of our two local ones are at least loosely affiliated with the Catholic Church, and thus ones I've heard you should not go to for emergency rape care for this very reason. I don't have any evidence of this firsthand, in fact I can't really remember where I heard it but I do distinctly recall hearing it."

I heard a first-hand (second-hand to you) story of a woman who had a condom break, and went to three different religiously-affiliated hospitals before finding anyone who would give her emergency contraception. At that hospital, the receptionist was in the midst of explaining how they didn't do that, not here, when a nurse walking past overheard the conversation and said, "No, actually we do. Come with me."

So anecdotally at least, there's some danger that even if it's not policy to deny contraception some employee will make an attempt to insert their own beliefs.

#43 ::: J. Random Scribbler ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 09:54 PM:

Wow. I do believe the original post is a fine example of what kids these days call "major pwnage".[1] Did TexDoc or anyone else even try to respond? It looks like the software change must have happened already because the original story now says 0 comments.

That letter is an interesting read; I hadn't seen it before. It's also interesting how TexDoc can dismiss every factual claim in that letter with nothing more than a "wow, she sounds jealous." That sort of thing seems just as much a feature of political discourse these days as is the sort of casual lie that James struck down so thoroughly.

Diatryma @ 37: Thanks for the rebuttal to that strawman college story! I work at a university, so this isn't the first time I've heard that particular eye-roller. It's nice to have something to bounce back with; the fact that it's equally strawmannish (strawmanoid?) only helps highlight how much so the first one is as well.

[1] And get off my lawn, you young rapscallions!

#44 ::: Tony Rowlett ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 09:56 PM:

@20, 23, 33, I am no troll and I take exception to the claim or any hint otherwise. I've been reading the blog for a few years now and I felt strongly about something and I reacted, uninvited and without any "ticket," though. My apologies.

In the minority I am, but the whole thing struck me as not nice (sure, from TexDoc's rudeness, too, and the best reason, of course, to dish it right back in earnest!), Jim's "coherent barrage of facts" using a "rhetorical tactic." Ouch.

#45 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 10:20 PM:

J. @ #43: Strawmanish is an Eastern god of virtual agendas.

#46 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 10:22 PM:

43, 45

Isn't it an island off Ireland? Or maybe Scotland?

#47 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 10:32 PM:

You're talking about Strawmaness, which is when you encourage your kid to eat his sheep intestines by telling him its his favorite.

#48 ::: whump ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 10:36 PM:

I'm wondering if TexDoc was under the impression that a Rape Kit was only step 15, the emergency contraception. Which could be anything from a misunderstanding to the result of the oft-mention industrial process of decieving voters.

#49 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 10:42 PM:

abi at #23 writes:

> Excellent concern trolling, there.

I think you've just expanded my vocabulary. Nice.

#50 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 11:03 PM:

I've seen Tony Rowlett's photography pages and I believe that they can be considered as meeting the requirements of ML's "capable of committing poetry" culture check.

#51 ::: Nathan Montgomery ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 11:10 PM:

Summer Glau would be proud: http://xkcd.com/406/

#52 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 11:24 PM:

Whump @ 48: I'm wondering if TexDoc was under the impression that a Rape Kit was only step 15, the emergency contraception.

"TexDoc" claimed to have been a gynecologist and to have used a "Rape Kit" for medical examinations, so your suggestion could be true only if he were simply lying about that.

#53 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 11:36 PM:

heresiarch... thanks, but you've merely identified a typographical error. to be sure, there were also plenty of typographicals in TexDoc's original comment, but i wasn't flaming those. there were some obvious cases of failure to grasp correct spelling and usage, and those were what made me twitch.

i realize this is just me being an annoying git, but I WANT FOR DOCTORS TO HAVE AT LEAST READ ENOUGH TEXT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE TO UNDERSTAND THE THEIR/THERE DISTINCTION. is that so much to demand?

sorry for the yelling, too. i'm a little punchy tonight.

#54 ::: J. Random Scribbler ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2009, 11:52 PM:

Oops, and I missed the note at the end of the main post that already answered my question: TexDoc did indeed go gently into that good night after having his ass handed to him, so thoroughly dissected into the half-ass it really was all along.

#55 ::: Tae Kim ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 12:25 AM:

Living in New York, and working in an ED, I've seen the contents of a rape kit. As Jim says, there are these wonderful SANE nurses who are worth their weight in gold. They come in on their days off to perform the forensic exam and evidence gathering.

As a physician, my role is to perform a brief medical exam, offer medical treatment, then step back and let the SANE nurse do their thing. Life and limb take precedence, of course, but I do my best not to disturb potential evidence.

I've never had to use the rape kit. When I leave New York, I will sorely miss the SANE nurses.

I can prove I'm a physician. Don't let my calm tone fool you guys.

#56 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 01:05 AM:

The Talking Points bathos story rang alerts in my head--I won't say in a public forum where I saw that piece of smugness posted some months back, but the fact that I saw it months ago, posted anonymously, says a lot.... the demonization and usually completely gratuitous demonization of non-Republicans, when political affiliation and bringing it onstage is a distraction and often an attempt to sideline the original dicussion, is usually a sign of old-fashioned Soviet-style ideologically-driven bullying!

#57 ::: Deire ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 01:56 AM:

Reply to 29 and 55

Michigan has the same kits and at least in Grand Rapids has SANE nurses. I remember sitting in on meetings when those were starting to become a practice outside Ann Arbor. So you may find them in more states than you expect. I love Michigan, but it is not a bastion of progressiveness.

#58 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 03:25 AM:

Tony Rowlett @44:
So you're not a drive-by. That's good.

Thing is, the comment you posted basically came out to "I can't be bothered to look up the facts, but I'm going to ask an earnest question and waste everyone's time on a wild goose chase". In short, concern trolling.

Before you come proposing some pointless content fork, particularly in a political discussion, it is strongly recommended that you go look through the background facts. Because other people will (me, for instance), and will think poorly of you for not wanting to put that minimal effort in.

Alternatively, if you don't like Jim's tone, discuss that; make your stand there.

If you've read here enough, you know that the way you approached this thread was going to get—at the very least—the seat of your pants handed to you. Particularly, as I say, in a political discussion.

Want to try again?

#59 ::: Peter Darby ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 04:12 AM:

Serge @10: my first child was delivered by Dr Mortiarty... Who said "Can we make this quick, I've just ordered a kebab?"

My son was born after a 45 minute labour (which means no time for painkillers, for those playing at home).

#60 ::: Peter Darby ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 04:35 AM:

The reply to the strawman college story is "Now George Jnr, you say you're flunking school because you're on booze and coke every night? Well, I'll just make a few calls and get you into an ivy league college anyway. Heck, I'll throw in a cushy national guard post that you don't even need to turn up for too."

Or; "Ah, honey, you say you're flunking school? Well, I inherited some good grades from my pop, so I can just pass them down to you, because grades are just like money, which only goes to people who deserve it. Welcome to the republican party."

#61 ::: ingvar ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 04:43 AM:

heresiarch @ #42:
Nobodies imune.

I thought it was antibodies, not nobodies?

#62 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 05:59 AM:

#15 ::: Serge:

Meanwhile, Doctor Strange was last seen hanging out with the Night Nurse, whose crimefighting job is to patch up superheroes after a fight when they don't want to explain to their daytime HMO how they got that weird wound.

I would love to read those comics.

#63 ::: WereBear ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 07:28 AM:

Well played, sir!

It would be a different sort of story if the headline was "Wasilla Burglary Victims Forced to Pay for Evidence Gathering."

Though, I would imagine, still right-wing in nature. They think we should have a "pay as you go" society. I can just imagine them frantically punching in their credit card numbers when they call 911.

#64 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 08:39 AM:

Julie @41: because their fraternity or sorority had already accumulated a big folder of material for the class in question, including answer-keyed copies of past quizzes/tests

When I went to uni, every class was expected to do this, and a class that didn't manage was considered too stupid and disorganized to pass their tests anyway. (These folders made the difference between 70 and 30 per cent fail rate.)

#65 ::: Naomi Libicki ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 08:44 AM:

My reactions to the college grades story, in order:

1) Ew, yuck, I've got stupid all over me.

2) How are those things even remotely comparable? Money is a medium of exchange; a grade in a course is an evaluation of one's performance made by a (hopefully impartial and competent) authority figure.

3) Actually, people who like to tell this story probably do see money as an evaluation of one's -- performance is probably too strong a word, but let's say worthiness -- conferred by some sort of infallible authority figure.

4) That's crazy.

#66 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 08:48 AM:

Tony - your post boiled down to "You could be wrong because maybe there are facts somewhere that prove you're wrong, although I don't know what they are."

If that's not trolling it speaks very poorly of your ability to present a logical argument.

#67 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 08:51 AM:

"capable of committing poetry" culture check

Whoops.

#68 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 09:24 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 62...

Alas, Doctor Strange, even though he is Earth's Sorcerer Supreme, seems unable to have a series that lasts long. The one I referred to should be easily available at comics stores though.

#69 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 09:27 AM:

Peter Darby @ 59... Are you sure that you and your wife had not wandered onto the set of Sherlock Holmes's Smarter Younger Brother? Did the doctor look like Leo McKern?

#70 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 10:45 AM:

Jim Macdonald might not know as much about practical Medicine as a good MD, or even the averag eone, but he's a heck of a lot better at explaining Medical Stuff understandably than about 90% of the MDs with whom I've had experience. Just sayin'....

(I'm also a bit troubled by Mrs. Palin's explication that they only billed the patients'/victims' Insurance Companies. If the latter paid, surely the costs will be spread among everyone who has health insurance -- for something that seems to me to be clearly more of a Social Problem than a Health Problem.)

#71 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 11:03 AM:

Werebear #63:

I'm scratching my head at the idea that the last eight years might support the notion of the Republicans as the party of "pay as you go" or "pay for your own costs." I know that's their rhetoric, but it's about as accurate as the old Soviet Union's rhetoric about being a humanitarian system.

I'll admit I haven't tried to dig into this stuff (and if God is kind, I will never again need to know anything about Sarah Palin to understand national politics), but I suspect the "make them pay for the rape kits" policy was an attempt to save a bit of money in a particularly heartless and stupid way, rather than a reflection of a deep philosophical commitment to making everyone pay for all services they get from the government.

#72 ::: shallot ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 11:19 AM:

Xopher @27,
Darth Paradox @28: Yeah, that makes more sense, I guess. It can sometimes be hard to keep one from degenerating into the other, though.

#73 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 11:54 AM:

The fact remains that charging for rape kits was something that only Wasilla was doing, and it became so notorious (and was so flagrantly wrong) that Alaska's legislature needed to pass a law banning the practice in 2000. Ms. Palin was mayor of Wasilla from 1995 to 2002; the practice of charging for rape kits started on her watch. It defies belief that she was unaware of the practice in her town if the legislature 800 miles away in Juneau had heard of it.

#74 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 12:20 PM:

Exactly what are you a Dr. of, Dr. Hackenbush?!?

#75 ::: Chryss ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 12:38 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 32:

the dick to doc ratio

Upon reading this, I sang: "Too many dicks in the OR!"

#76 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 12:39 PM:

Jim, that's a relatively charitable interpretation (the heartless-money-saving one). What I heard was that they were trying to cut down on the incidence of rape in Wasilla by discouraging reporting by the victims, because if they reported it as a rape there had to be a rape kit, which they'd be charged for.

Besides, any woman who's raped was probably a "slut" who was "asking for it." What was she doing out after dark anyway, and without a veil?

None of which has any basis in evidence. I think your interpretation is probably correct, but I wouldn't put mine past Sarah Palin either.

#77 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 01:15 PM:

Xopher, #76: Take it one step further: if rape victims are discouraged from reporting it by knowing they'll be charged for the gathering of evidence, then the apparent rape rate in Wasilla goes way down. This can then be used as a campaign and publicity point: "Since I've been mayor, we've reduced violent crime by X%!" Anyone who tried to blow the whistle would be doubly-damned, first by being a rape victim at all and second by not having reported it at the time. Now that's a motivation I'd readily believe from someone with Palin's ideology.

#78 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 01:25 PM:

#63

Calling 911 to report identity fraud, having to pay by credit card, on a credit card with the usage frozen....

Saturday morning I was in a local bank branch, and there was mention of the compromise of several thousand credit cards at the bank, due to a large processor of transactions having had bad security... I went to a nearby store and tried to use the debit/credit card as a credit card, and it got rejected. Went back to the back and found out that my card was one of those compromised... the security breach happened bach when most-evil-administration-in-US-history was in office (Aaron Burr looks angelic in comparison, and Teapot Dome was minor corruption and greed....) and didn't get announced until President Obama was making a speech, and announced last week during the speech.

Slime.
Scum.
Amoeboid scunge.

It's much more extensive than the TJ Max security breach, and handled even less responsively and honestly and decently.... and in the -wake- of the criticism of the TJ Max affair.

#79 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 01:42 PM:

Factoid learned during the campaign: Alaska has an extremely high incidence of rape.

#80 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 03:08 PM:

Apparently Mr McDonald is some expert on rape exams

Apparently he is, yes.

Jim, may I use this text basically[1] unedited and with credit? I teach the Well Woman Gynecological Exam to medical students, Nurse Practitioners, and Community Health nurses with the Women's Health Educator's Collective in Ottawa Ontario, plus I'm a sort of ad hoc sex educator, and I sometimes get to talk to university classes and such.

Because we haven't been able to get the funding or the training, we do not teach the Sexual Assault Kit, but we get asked about it a LOT, because we get asked about reproductive/urinary health care issues for treating sexual assault survivors a lot.

I sort of knew the steps, from talking to a couple of great cops from the Sex Crimes[2] Unit, and I knew they were often done simultaneously with providing emergency care, but I did not know the contents of the kits or the exact process, and this is incredibly useful to me.

So thank you, whether you are okay with me borrowing the text or not. (I can always just link people here, but you know, they're busy people, I don't know that they do the extra reading all the time.)

(Very - um, on rereading, maybe fairly is better - short version of what we tell them about the rape kit, because a lot of our NP students are going for Northern Medicine and WILL be doing these kits, and the community health nurses seem to be where the local SANE nurses are pulled from: We tell them that the whole process is either going to be, for the victim, the last part of her (I know the kits are used for me, but we do hands-on teaching, which means that we do not teach about care for men, not having prostates, etc, to produce as learning tools) assault, or the first part of her recovery, and then we tell them these things: 1) Find somewhere to put your anger -- friend, colleague, priest, shrink, whatever you need -- , because if you bring it to the exam table the patient will feel it, and she will feel it as being directed at HER, and 2) The proceedure which seems to work best with survivors in general is to a) explain what will be done at each step, and what it is for, b) ask the woman to tell you when she is ready for you to do the step, c) make sure she knows that you will stop at any time and wait to be given her consent to start again, 3) Some parts of the kit hurt, depending on the woman's injuries. Don't lie about this. The SC cop's comment was: "Sure, it takes longer that way. This is what I do for a living, I get paid by the hour, and you get better evidence and ultimately better testimony if you work slowly and respectfully with victims. I'd rather get my evidence some other way than put a victim through more trauma.")

[1] By "basically unedited" I mean I may need to add some Canadian content/references, not that I plan to expurgate, reword, etc.

[2] I know. Seriously, that's what it's called. I made that face too.

#81 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 03:15 PM:

Naomi Libicki @65

2) How are those things even remotely comparable? Money is a medium of exchange; a grade in a course is an evaluation of one's performance made by a (hopefully impartial and competent) authority figure.

No, you've got it all wrong. Don't you know that both money and grades are simply ways of keeping score in life?

#82 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 03:19 PM:

Marna, go ahead (with the usual provisions that I'm not a physician, I can neither diagnose nor prescribe, and that this is not meant to be advice for your particular circumstances or condition).

#83 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 06:01 PM:

rm, #79: This surprises me not at all. Alaska has a severe gender-imbalance problem on the one hand, and a lot of people with the Wild West self-image on the other. Combine a shortage of available women with the attitude that "a Real Man goes after what he wants," add the cultural meme that men NEED sex the way they do food or water in order to live, and a high rape incidence is exactly what you'd expect.

#84 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 06:10 PM:

Lee @ 83... "a Real Man goes after what he wants"

He does?
:-)

#85 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 06:11 PM:

I'm still not used to waking up in the morning and going to bed at night not believing the POTUS and his 'administration' are out to do me harm in every way they can devise.

And that it was going to be even worse if Obama had been defeated.

The Wassila stories about sp made that so very clear.

Love, C.

#86 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 06:13 PM:

Constance @ 85... Another reminder that Democratic politicians aren't necessarily the same as Republican ones.

#87 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 06:14 PM:

Jim: Thanks very much, and I will add that disclaimer.

#88 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 06:50 PM:

A better disclaimer might be than I am not a police officer; I can neither investigate nor detain....

#89 ::: John VP ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 08:13 PM:

Typical left-wing tactics, presenting all the documented facts and evidence so one can't wriggle out with ad hominem attacks and innuendo.

Also.

#90 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 12:56 AM:

#24: ...I will seriously never understand why people think sniping and gratuitous personal attacks help their case when trying to debate something with another person. Sure, it feels good, but it's just brainless. It only makes the other guy hate you, and who's going to make an effort to get on the wavelength of someone they hate? :(

I've seen this on all sides of pretty much all topics. I've heard it classified as deciding to feel good, rather than to be effective. What it does, as far as I can tell, is rally those who already agree with one's position. It earns no points with anyone else.

Fr'ex, when I was teaching, one student decided to protest an essay grade. She came, with three of her friends, to find me, not in my office, during office hours, even though I'd told her when I'd be there, but rather to the room where I was helping the department with some task -- either recording grades or marking departmental exams, I forget which.

She was interested in grandstanding and informing me, in front of her friends, that I didn't know how to teach. And, her friends were mightily impressed and agreed with every word.

There was only one problem. None of them were the person who had the power to change her grade. None of them were the person she had to convince. That was me.

Net result: I was angry enough to raise my voice. The deputy chair, who wanted this dealt with quickly so he'd have an extra body for the work we were doing, was angry enough to raise his voice at the student as well. This was the first time I'd ever heard him raise his voice. The student and her friends marched away in righteous indignation. The grade remained unchanged.

This meant that the student got a D, which was worse than an F, because it meant that she couldn't even take the class again, to get it off her record. Fortunately for the student, this college allowed retroactive withdrawals. A semester later, she came to me with the appropriate form, which I signed.

The sad thing is that if the student had simply handed me the paper in question and not said anything, I would have looked at my comment, realized there was no way she could have figured out how to revise the paper from that, and bumped the grade up enough that her overall grade would have been a low C, which was what she seemed to be angling for, never mind that I had been telling students to visit me during office hours to talk about revising their papers and she had never done that. It was my first semester teaching, and I was all too aware of my shortcomings.

But, the student chose a tactic that involved rallying the troops, insulting the person she wanted to do something for her, and convincing the people whose opinions she valued that she was right. When she got that out of her system and decided to focus on being effective, she got -- well, probably not what she wanted, but at least something that meant she wasn't burned as badly as she might have been.

#91 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 01:30 AM:

I will seriously never understand why people think sniping and gratuitous personal attacks help their case when trying to debate something with another person. Sure, it feels good, but it's just brainless. It only makes the other guy hate you, and who's going to make an effort to get on the wavelength of someone they hate?

One thing about personal insults in argument is that they sound very different to the speaker than to the listener.

When someone on the left calls Bush a liar and a war criminal, they are thinking of specific lies and specific actions that, according to the speaker, constitute war crimes. The comment is meant to sting, yes, but the speaker feels that there is an element of truth to it.

To a Bush supporter, it is much more outrageous, because they see him as a good man who tried to do a difficult job in a corrupt world. So they make a distinction between necessary lies and necessary "hard deeds" and being a liar and a war criminal.

(This is an example, not an invitation to debate whether Bush was a war criminal.)

The speaker doesn't feel the full sting of the insult, especially when there's an element of factual truth behind it ("The truth hurts."). The listener hears something that may be much more dreadful than the speaker intends ("You're twisting the facts.").

One main's painful truth is another man's outrageous insult.

#92 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 05:27 AM:

Lee @ 83, rm @ 79

Learned from a report on NPR last year, corroborated by this article from the Wash Post: a large percentage of those rapes in Alaska are committed against Native American women.

#93 ::: Peter Darby ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 05:55 AM:

Serge @69: no, but after 20 minutes he was relieved of duty by a senior colleague who found he was performing a ventuse delivery because he couldn't find a pulse with the wire he'd attached to my sons cranium... as it turned out, because the wire was broken inside the sheath.

I fear he was more likely related to the Goon Show character than the Holmes villain.

The ventuse made my boy a conehead for the first few days of his life, leading to my mother-in-law making the now immortal comment a week later, "He looks a lot less like his father now the swelling's gone down."

#94 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 06:28 AM:

Peter Darby @ 93... "He looks a lot less like his father now the swelling's gone down."

Hopefully your mother-in-law meant to be humorous.

#95 ::: Peter Darby ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 07:31 AM:

Serge: She wasn't trying to be funny, but I think I laughed first and hardest while she had a "what?" expression on her face.

I think I had trouble breathing while she tried to back-peddle too.

#96 ::: flynn ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 09:09 AM:

Wow. That was embarrassingly thorough.

Thanks for walking through it out here, on the internet, by the way. I hope I never need to know how a rape kit works because I, myself, have been raped, but I'm oddly comforted anyway. If I ever have to go through that process myself, I'll know what's coming and how it all works. It's nice to know I'd be less afraid of the post-traumatic bureaucracy.

What an unexpected gift, and all because of Sarah Palin.

#97 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 10:02 AM:

I don't want anyone to be raped, but if they are, I want the perpetrator to be caught, tried, and convicted. The rape kit is designed to help with that by providing useful (for catching) and legal (for convicting) evidence.

That's state business, and should be done with state funds.

#98 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 07:11 PM:

Serge at 10

Dr. Stan Lee is one of my doctors, and my plumber is Chuck Jones.

Sometimes life is just surreal.

#99 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 08:09 PM:

<totally offtopic>And now people realize why I have my nickname.</totally offtopic>

Well, not actually. The person who gave it to me was thinking Heinlein, not Conan Doyle. But still.

On topic, there really are those who believe that if you work hard and do things right, you will be rich, and that the money you earn by that is equivalent to the labour. They truly believe that anybody could do the same if they worked as hard as he did (but of course, he's much above average, and most others can't work that hard). Yeah, tell that to the Chinese-a-mile who died building the Canadian Pacific Railway.

A lot of people are blind to their privilege and their luck. I'm not - I *know* that my skills led to university being much easier (but not easy) for me than many others, and that the average computer job pays much better than the average mechanic job (which I would be deeply skill-hindered attempting); I know that 95 years ago, my heavy physical/mental imbalance would have been a massive detriment, compared to all my farmer colleagues.

#100 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 08:11 PM:

Argh, even when I don't hit Post too soon, I hit Post too soon...

addendum: I am pretty certain that I am luckier and less raised by my own bootstraps than even I know - self-centredness being what it is.

#101 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 09:06 PM:

Lee @ 77: I fear you're neglecting the most obvious motivator, given Palin's known positions and biases. If there's a charge for rape kits, poor and uninsured women won't have access to the emergency contraception they often contain.

#102 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 09:25 PM:

Mycroft W @100: One bit of doggerel I read (in May This House Be Safe From Tigers) described the 'self-made man', who knew all of the statistical facts; except for how many people it actually took to make one self-made man.

#103 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 09:45 PM:

part 1) My household is currently reading/recently read Outliers which discusses in detail the myth of self-made men, which boils down in large part to taking advantage of being in the right place at the right time with the right background. It is well worth the read. It refutes that label that many politicians try to claim and discusses the advantages that many of our wealthier members in society start out with, from schools to birth date (70?% of hockey players were born in the three months after their school's cutoff date. They were the biggest kids with the most motor skills at 6-7 when they stared sports, so were given more attention and more opportunities to acquire and practice the necessary skills). Since this seems to be a favorite of republicans...

part 2) No matter what, rape kits suck. They are worse with the type of doctor that started this post.

part 3) I am not the doctor, nor am I directly attacked in this post, but I found myself skimming because the longer I read, the more the tone felt nasty and venomous. I understand the fury behind it. I understand (better than many) why paying for a rape kit is an abomination. it is certainly a thorough smack down of an idiot. But Jim, it did start to feel petty and mean there towards the end. Tone being the element that is frequently lost in text communications, after all, I figured I was hearing something that wasn't there. But if others heard it too? Just something to review more closely.

#105 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 12:49 AM:

I've been thinking over the "Welcome to the Republican party" thing, which is of course ubiquitous on the net. Here's one attempt at an equivalent, if equivalence matters.

A man's house is struck by lightning, and is quickly engulfed in flames. He gets out and calls 911. Half an hour passes, and no one comes. Then, as the walls collapse into a smouldering wreck, a single firefighter comes running up on foot. "Sorry I'm late," he says, "but the fire truck went over a pothole and broke an axle on the way here. The tax-cutting mayor slashed the vehicle repair budget, and the community voted against the road repair bond." "My house!" shouts the man in anguish. "Everything I own! I worked for that!" "Yeah," says the fireman, "And keeping it all for yourself worked out great, didn't it?"

#106 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 12:55 AM:

Oh, I like that, Abi.

#107 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 12:59 AM:

Abi @ 105... Even the so-called mavericks need the society within which they operate. Total self-sufficiency is a myth today, and probably was as BS-filled when pioneers were trekking across the country.

#108 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 01:18 AM:

Serge @ 107

probably was as BS-filled when pioneers were trekking across the country.

Assuredly. How many of those pioneers do you think mined, smelted, and forged the heads of the hammers they carried, or mixed and milled the gunpowder? It goes back further, of course. Pizzaro conquered the Incas with 400 men, right? No, he used 400 men with guns, powder, steel armor, and horses, none of which he or his men created.

#109 ::: Inquisitive Raven ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 01:53 AM:

Pizzaro conquered the Incas with 400 men, right? No, he used 400 men with guns, powder, steel armor, and horses, none of which he or his men created.

And, tying this into the immunization thread, a few exotic germs.

#110 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 02:08 AM:

Bruce, #108:
When the missiles stopped flyin' and the mean rain slacked,
The cities stopped their fryin' and the plagues pulled back,
The fighting isn't over for the ones who survived;
We're not tryin' to save a country, we're just tryin' to stay alive.

You've got to grow your own food, mix your own powder,
Cook your own whisky, brew your own beer;
You've got to be your own blacksmith, doctor, and police force --
The only help you'll get is what you get right here.

- "The Only Help You'll Get", words and music © Michael Longcor

He says he wrote it to try to underscore the fallacies behind the Libertarian self-sufficiency myth, and that Leslie Fish "liked it for all the wrong reasons".

#111 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 08:00 AM:

When I was in the emergency room after my auto crash, remembering all the descriptions of emergency medicine was a reassurance. I knew some of what was routine. rather than an automatic sign of harm. Right from the start, it may have meant I did the right things. And, while my left ankle is still in plaster, my fractured spine is well on the way to healing.

I can see how the knowledge here can help victims.

But the purpose for which it was written may have tainted the text.

#112 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 08:19 AM:

Dave Bell @ 111... my fractured spine is well on the way to healing

Glad to hear that.

#113 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:04 AM:

Jim #104: (Referencing Lee's link)

The funny thing is, other than Romney, I don't think the rest of those candidates were actually born to any kind of great privilege. I believe Guiliani and Huckabee in particular came pretty modest background. I mean, they're white guys born in the 20th century in the US, so they're statistically much luckier than the average human in history (who's probably a subsistence farmer somewhere in Asia), but I don't think their successes were based on starting on third base.

McCain and Romney benefitted from their family background almost as much as Bush did. Of course, anyone who is one-in-a-million level successful had some good luck, and in particular all of them (as with all of us here in this discussion) won the genetic lottery (and presumably the environment lottery, too) for intelligence. But in some sense, we ought to expect that people who reach that level of success starting from nothing should be much more extraordinary than people who had a boost from the start. Charlie Rangel is probably a much more extraordinary person than Ted Kennedy, frex.

#114 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:16 AM:

Lee #77:

I just don't see how that could work. I mean, if the police do the routine of "if we decide this is a false accusation, we'll put you in jail," it's easy to see how that might convince a woman not to formally claim rape. It's easy to imagine that the fear of being treated badly by the police/judges/rapist's defense attorney might convince a woman not to formally claim rape. But here, I think we're talking about a standard thing done when you, a recent victim of a horrible crime, show up at the emergency room, for which you will later receive a bill. It's hard for me to imagine many victims deciding not to press charges for fear of getting this bill. (They're likely going to get a big bill for the rest of their care, if they're not covered by insurance or medicaid or medicare. Or is that different in Alaska?)

It's stupid and mean-spirited, but I don't think it's some deep, well-thought-out plan to decrease the reported rate of rapes in Wasilla. I could certainly be wrong, but neither the scale of the incentive nor the way it seems likely to work seem like they would have this effect.

#115 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:46 AM:

albatross #114:

I don't think it's some deep, well-thought-out plan to decrease the reported rate of rapes in Wasilla

What government of a town Wasilla's size (or for that matter 100x larger) is known for "deep, well-thought-out" plans?

#116 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:55 AM:

Honestly, the Republican party, at least with its recent leadership, appears capable of organizing few plans more complex than forming a circular firing squad. Sarah Palin, in particular, makes a damned unlikely mastermind for any plot more complicated than petty revenge against an ex-brother-in-law.

#117 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:59 AM:

Lee @83: it's probably less to do with a frontier mentality and more to do with isolation and poverty. The latter breeds crime and the former encourages it; if the nearest police officer is 25 miles away over ice, who's going to stop you?

As for Palin, either she was unaware of the practice and she was an incompetent mayor, or was aware of it and was an evil one. I'm guessing Jim is right that it was an issue regarding emergency contraception.

#118 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:59 AM:

Well, that image is the key element of the cunning plan.

#119 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 12:33 PM:

mythago @ 117... if the nearest police officer is 25 miles away over ice, who's going to stop you?

Metal studs on the tires?

(Sorry. I couldn't help myself.)

#120 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 01:10 PM:

#77:

Take it one step further: if rape victims are discouraged from reporting it by knowing they'll be charged for the gathering of evidence, then the apparent rape rate in Wasilla goes way down. This can then be used as a campaign and publicity point: "Since I've been mayor, we've reduced violent crime by X%!" Anyone who tried to blow the whistle would be doubly-damned, first by being a rape victim at all and second by not having reported it at the time. Now that's a motivation I'd readily believe from someone with Palin's ideology.

#114:

I just don't see how that could work. I mean, if the police do the routine of "if we decide this is a false accusation, we'll put you in jail," it's easy to see how that might convince a woman not to formally claim rape. It's easy to imagine that the fear of being treated badly by the police/judges/rapist's defense attorney might convince a woman not to formally claim rape. But here, I think we're talking about a standard thing done when you, a recent victim of a horrible crime, show up at the emergency room, for which you will later receive a bill. It's hard for me to imagine many victims deciding not to press charges for fear of getting this bill. (They're likely going to get a big bill for the rest of their care, if they're not covered by insurance or medicaid or medicare. Or is that different in Alaska?)

It's stupid and mean-spirited, but I don't think it's some deep, well-thought-out plan to decrease the reported rate of rapes in Wasilla. I could certainly be wrong, but neither the scale of the incentive nor the way it seems likely to work seem like they would have this effect.

...sort of the evolution of mediocrity vs its intelligent design. Natural selection shelters mediocrity because its overhead is simpler.

Conversely, the overhead to attribute intent to mediocre outcome -- apparently to portray the urgency to divest ourselves of mediocrity -- is also simpler. Which natural selection also favors, but for keeping itself alive, not for divesting ourselves of mediocrity. So the natural selection that shelters a thing can also shelter its virtual opposition. (ie. implicit in the 80/20% rule is the notion that from a suite of options, the best option is at least 4 or 5 times more beneficial than the next best option. But if we could think our way to best options, we'd be able to teach genius in our schools. This paradox of natural selection seems to explain why this is.)

So how then do you keep the urgency, yet keep the simplicity?

#121 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 01:35 PM:

Dave Bell @ 118... that image is the key element of the cunning plan

...if you are a Klingon, or if you are Baldric.

Baldrick, you wouldn't see a subtle plan if it painted itself purple and danced naked on top of a harpsichord, singing "Subtle plans are here again!"
#122 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 01:42 PM:

You know ... my reaction when I heard about the charge for the rape kits was not that it had anything to do with contraception. I mean, it's possible, but my first reaction was that it probably had to do with the mentality of, "The woman did something wrong to get raped," or, "She got raped because she was a bad girl," or, "She should have known better and not gone on a date unchaperoned ..." or, "What was she doing working in that neighborhood after dark? She was asking for trouble."

And because the woman did something wrong, that thinking goes, she should pay for the rape kit. Why should the taxpayers be responsible for the cost of the investigation when the woman brought the trouble down on her own head?

I assume most people here know that's neanderthal thinking, but there are still way to many folks (male and female) out there who seem to think women should be punished for being raped.

#123 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 02:11 PM:

Dave @118 ?
Touch of explication here?

Mike @120 Either I'm way overdue for sleep, or your par starting “Conversely…” also lacks clarity.


#124 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 02:13 PM:

albatross, #114: You're making the same error that TexDoc did. This isn't "emergency treatment at the hospital, for which you will later receive a bill"; it's evidence-gathering by the police, which is a legitimate expense of tax dollars. If someone broke into your house and robbed you, would you expect to be billed for the police taking your statement and dusting for fingerprints?

#125 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 02:21 PM:

#121: That's it. I'm not having the Plum Duff for dessert.

#126 ::: Chris Johnson ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 02:21 PM:

Leva at #122:

I agree with you on this, although the result of this kind of "reasoning" quickly leads to denying raped women emergency contraceptives, so I think opposition to that plays a role, too.

I also think, to the unknowing, the term "rape kit" conjures up images of some kind of gift basket or something. The notion of saving money in this way is totally absurd anyway, since the cost of a rape investigation is the personnel time (SANE nurse, police investigators) and not the supplies used.

Echoing others, I deal with child abuse on all too frequent occasions, and good SANE nurses make an outstanding contribution to heathcare, one largely unappreciated because most don't know about them.

#127 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 04:19 PM:

Lee #124:

No, I get the purpose of the rape kit. I'm trying to imagine how charging for it would lead a rape victim not to report her crime. From her perspective, she goes to the hospital, and this is one more thing done to her in the aftermath of her being the victim of a horrible crime. I just don't see that process leading to a large fall in the number of women reporting rape. I could certainly be wrong, but this doesn't ring true to me, especially as the cost seems certain to be swamped by the cost of the emergency room visit and the non-monetary costs of having just been raped, and getting to look forward to a grinding horror of police statements and prosecutors and defense attorneys and jurors deciding whether that short skirt proves that she was "askin' for it."

This is not a defense of the policy, which seems both stupid and mean-spirited[1]. It's me doubting that this stupid, mean-spirited policy was some kind of subtle technique to decrease the number of reported rapes in Wasilla.

[1] It's striking how often stupid and mean-sprited go together.

#128 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 05:16 PM:

It is often worth remembering, in discussions of motivation, that no one does anything for one and only one reason*. Groups, even less so, though they may share a pool of related reasons.

-----
* I can think of three reasons that I've written this comment. No, wait, four.

#129 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 06:11 PM:

Epacris/#123: Lacking clarity could mean what I've said 1. supports alternate interpretations 2. is nonsense because it mismatches verbs to nouns, 3. includes fabricated words or meanings of words, or 4. uses valid words or meanings of words with which you aren't acquainted. It seems worth mentioning because what you said doesn't specify which qualification for vagueness or ambiguity I've met, and you therefore are also unclear.

If it's 1, I have no reservation against rephrasing, but I only have my intended meaning, and therefore your observation isn't actionable.

#130 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 07:50 PM:

Mike @129:

Epacris isn't the only one who's having trouble with that paragraph. I've gone over it several times, and I still can't figure out what, if anything, the first two sentences mean.

#131 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 08:24 PM:

Albatross @ 127:

I can totally see it reducing reporting. I can't be certain of people's motives or intentions, but... you walk into the emergency room for aftercare, you say you've been assaulted, and they say "Well, if you want to report it, you totally can, I mean, obviously, but if you want a rape kit done so that there's evidence, we have to *charge* you. We'll be sending the bill to your house. You might want to ... think about whether or not it's worth it to *go through all that*, with the conviction rate being what it is... how well did you know this guy, honey?"

Just, you know. Giving women a chance to think things through. Avoid rash decisions and stuff. It's for everybody's good, really.

#132 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 09:09 PM:

abi @ 128... No, wait, four.

Time to bring out the soft cushion?

#133 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 10:11 PM:

The stupidity of charging for a rape kit doesn't have to reduce the incidence of reporting rape, it merely needs to sound like it would to a mendacious person. And Abi's right, there are probably more than one reason why it was done. It fits very nicely in with the assumption that the woman must have done something to get raped. To make a rule like this doesn't have to be a part of some subtle plan, it could be part of a failed subtle plan. Coupled with pig ignorance.

#134 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:17 PM:
Chris @ #130: Epacris isn't the only one who's having trouble with that paragraph. I've gone over it several times, and I still can't figure out what, if anything, the first two sentences mean.

Those first 2 sentences are my guess how natural selection nurtures strawmen. Even a strawman established in opposition to something else natural selection seems to nurture, which is mediocrity.

I probably shouldn't be using "conversely" as a synonym for "paradoxically":

[#77, #114]:

...sort of the evolution of mediocrity vs its intelligent design. Natural selection shelters mediocrity because its overhead is simpler.

[Paradoxically], the overhead to attribute intent to mediocre outcome -- apparently to portray the urgency to divest ourselves of mediocrity -- is also simpler [than accepting that wanting to avoid an outcome does nothing to prevent it. This seems to be a circumstance in which] natural selection also favors [something as arbitrary as a strawman], but for [the sole virtue of] keeping [the strawman] alive, not for [preventing the outcome for which the fabricated agenda was presented as crucial in establishing]. [...]

#135 ::: Tae Kim ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:25 PM:

Had to call in a SANE nurse today to do one. Had to convince the patient that it was in her best interest have the exam. Is not going to report it, but if she changes her mind, she's got 30 days to do so. Thank god for SANE nurses.

#136 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:27 PM:

Chris #130: Epacris isn't the only one who's having trouble with that paragraph. I've gone over it several times, and I still can't figure out what, if anything, the first two sentences mean.

All it means is that Mike merely played an "Obfuscated Code" Flamer Bingo card. Please note that repeated use of that card diminishes its effectiveness over time.

#137 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 12:25 AM:

Why isn't what I've said sincere? If you can't imagine it or understand it, no one else can?

#138 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 01:34 AM:

I'm not convinced that it would be worth the effort to parse what you've attempted to say, Mike. Sorry. Other, hardier souls may make the attempt, though. It's too bad we don't have Bruce Sterling here as a regular; I figure that he'd sort things out fairly quickly.

#139 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 08:45 AM:

Earl, if you simply hated someone for being smarter than you, do you know how what you would say to that person would be different from what you actually said to me? I'm sincerely curious.

#140 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 09:53 AM:

Mike @129, 137: I don't doubt the sincerity of your original comment at all, but I do have trouble understanding it because of the structure (not the 4 reasons you gave for lack of clarity). Since several other commenters have said they had the same problem, perhaps rewording would help.

Leva Cygnet @122: That that thinking is pervasive is borne out by the fact that I catch myself at it sometimes, despite my pretensions to enlightenment. It's sad to think that as recently as ten years ago, an Italian court ruled that women in jeans couldn't be raped. It's sadder still that the ruling was overturned only last year.

#141 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 09:58 AM:

Mike:

Just as a side comment, if one person doesn't understand what you're saying, the fault may be in them. If large numbers of people in your intended audience don't understand what you're saying, it's probably time to try to do a better job explaining yourself. Sometimes, that is very hard--imagine trying to explain Taleb Nassim's ideas w.r.t. finance and risk management to someone who hasn't got the concept of a probability distribution in his head somewhere, or balancing selection to someone whose concept of evolution stops at "survival of the fittest."

But when people don't understand you, attributing their lack of understanding and expressions of same to some kind of malice just isn't going to lead you anywhere good. In particular, if someone says "what you just wrote is incomprehensible to me, and I can't even tell if it's got any content or is just babbling," they're probably not just jealous of your intellect. Probably, they really can't make head or tail of what you've just said.

#142 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 10:12 AM:

Mike:

I think I understood what you were getting at, FWIW, though you didn't nail stuff down enough that I was 100% sure. My reading was that:

a. In this case, unthinking processes (not evolution in the biological sense, but some analogous process in political decisionmaking) was not optimizing for evil, but instead was ending up there because whatever forces were driving policy decisions weren't trying to actively avoid this kind of evil. It's an evil outcome from indifference, rather than malice.

A common real-world version of this is in failing schools. Almost certainly, nobody in the DC school system is exactly *trying* to screw lots of poor DC residents out of a decent education. It's just that other priorities (patronage jobs, many participants taking a cut of the money for themselves, internal political battles in which student outcomes are not interesting, etc.) have taken over.

b. By contrast, our natural (probably evolved-in and fundamental to the hardware) tendency is to see agency everywhere, even in places where it doesn't really exist. Thus, when we see some kids being screwed out of an education, we naturally want to find actors who are doing it intentionally--whites trying to keep blacks down, evil teachers' unions, whatever.

c. The interaction between these two unthinking processes (the forces that wreck the DC schools, and our natural tendency to see wrecked schools and infer an intentional wrecker of schools[1]) likely keep us from addressing the real problems wrecking those schools. We end up stuck in a suboptimal solution. (I'm not clear why the 80/20 rule would apply here, though--I don't see a reason to claim any knowledge at all about what the distribution of payoffs of alternative solutions to problems would be.)

Am I broadly understanding your point?

[1] We see a broken watch, and infer a Watchbreaker.

#143 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 11:48 AM:

Mike, I don't hate people more intelligent than I am; there are certainly plenty enough of those in the world. I reserve my sharpest level of disdain for gur vqyr evpu naq cvg ohyy ncbybtvfgf. I guess I'm just a bit disappointed that you didn't communicate as clearly now as you did on ML back in 2005. My "flamer bingo" jibe was written before I realized who you were.

#144 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 12:26 PM:

Mike, #139: I seriously doubt that you're smarter than I am, but that entire paragraph (which I have just gone back and re-read several times) is well into "Yes, that's a sentence" territory. Which is to say, it appears to be grammatically correct, but does not convey any useful information. Your rephrasing in #134, frankly, isn't helpful either; you appear to lose track of your antecedent about halfway thru, and the rest of it just meanders aimlessly. I suggest starting over and using a more straightforward sentence structure.


#145 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 01:24 PM:

Mike:
The consensus, with which I agree, is that you still have not produced a paragraph which does what paragraphs are supposed to do: convey meaning to the audience.

If I were you, I would start again from scratch. I would use short, declarative sentences with clear antecedents for all pronouns.

Everyone, including Mike:
Enough with the assumptions of stupidity and deliberate obfuscation or misreading.

Write simply, read subtly. Write carefully, read generously. Or I'm off to Scalzi's place to borrow the Loving Mallet of Correction.

#146 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 01:43 PM:

Although the Mallet is certainly compelling, I prefer the more traditional Salmon (from the days of the GEnie SFRT).

#147 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 01:46 PM:

Yes! Bring back the Salmon! <thwack> Sorry; I needed that.

#148 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 02:47 PM:

Oooo! Are we going to do the fish-slapping dance?

#149 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 04:20 PM:

I really should reread King Salmon's Minnow again.

#150 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 05:27 PM:

Damn I'm old. I still have fond memories of el KABONG from the FidoNet SF Echo....

#151 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 06:42 PM:

I think that el Kabong was from the FidoNet Filk echo: the sound of a violent correction by guitar.

#152 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 06:47 PM:

What WAS in those biscuits that Quickdraw McDraw fed his hound dog?

#153 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 08:54 PM:

The Salmon of Correction may also have its origins (or at least, some of its earliest usage) in filk. I'm not sure, though. There are a number of GEnie SFRT refugees here on ML; I wonder if anyone kept an archive?

#154 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 09:16 PM:

The advantage of my brevity was the absence of distracting tangents. And if what I'm saying is b.s., I'd just as soon someone pick out the obviously untrue thing from the shorter post, like my saying something that depends on there being such a thing as pink elephants. But if you're going to challenge me to clarify, I'm inclined to see it as a good challenge.

re: #114:

[approved statement] ...sort of the evolution of mediocrity vs its intelligent design. Natural selection shelters mediocrity because its overhead is simpler.[/approved statement]

As observed by others in this thread, attributing an intent to an unwanted outcome is common. But consider why mediocrity is not bad enough in itself without attributing such a strawman for it. Who is providing the answer why anyone should feel the need to provide this kind of strawman?

My guess why anyone feels the need to attribute an intent for bad outcomes is that it's done to encourage others to make divesting ourselves of the observed mediocrity a higher priority than a more neutral observation may leave the audience feel the need to do. Sort of like fabricated evidence made invading Iraq urgent. Even among people who wanted to allow weapons inspections to continue, the belief Saddam Hussein was guilty of things he ultimately wasn't guilty of was reportedly common.

My referring to albatross's observation as the evolution of mediocrity seems no less true for the evolution of attributing intents for unwanted outcomes, because of 1. their existence, and 2. they are very simple.

So it's funny how the theory of evolution through natural selection doesn't seem to require any reconciliation of the following observations:

  1. Natural selection can be used to explain the casual development of a thing, in this case mediocrity,
  2. Natural selection can be used to explain the casual development of an adversary for #1, in this case attributing a motive to the unwanted mediocrity, and
  3. #2, the strawman, can be encouraged by natural selection, yet still have no apparent value in preventing the thing it exists to obstruct, again, the mediocrity.
So where does this leave theories for progress against such a general unwanted outcome as mediocrity? Every such theory I can think of seems as attractive to consider as the Charles Atlas program. Except for the 80/20% rule.

The crucial implication of the 80/20% rule is that from the suite of options that pop-up in your head to achieve an outcome, the best option is at least 4 or 5 times better than the next best option. But if we could think our way to best options, we'd be able to teach genius in our schools.

And, hey, after I'd refused to even take a guess why a creator would create a universe that encouraged mediocrity and its phantom menace (which is the attributing of intent to create mediocrity) I've found a motive after all.

What is our basic monad for motive or urgency to do anything? In education, in the sciences and the arts and athletics, training takes place to master outcomes. This training is the training of our intuition, our common sense. It isn't the training to think through things, except to manage thinking itself. Otherwise, medical training would make doctors more fair, and disinterested in privilege.

So the basic monad for urgency is isolating optimal behavior to achieve the desired outcome. The basic monad for urgency is right action. The basic monad for urgency is Wisdom and genius.

But, like Neil Gaiman's observation that where there is no hope, there can be no despair (and vice-versa), the worthless attribution of motive to an unwanted outcome is some kind of negative space for the kind of true wisdom that may allow us to divest ourselves of mediocrity.

So my casual observation of reality seems to support a theory-based universe. Because where there's an absence of a thing, it's existence still seems to be implied. There may be no intelligent design, but I'm certainly prone to seeing it everywhere. (But not seeing the kind that makes keeping science out of school anything resembling a good solution).

All of this seems so common-sensical, so I'm the worst person to determine if I'm even asking anyone to take my word for anything. And what I'm saying is built on stuff I'm guessing we all already know. So it still seems kind of a wonder to me anyone would challenge me to clarify. I mean, reviewing this post, I can see lots of leaps to conclusions to what I've written, but I only put them there in the first place to close other leaps to conclusions. If I can keep going, and no one can spot anything I've said that depends of something untrue, like those pink elephants, what then is my viable alternative to trusting my own common sense? It seems simpler and humbler for me to have posted in the manner I did in the first place that seemed to confuse so many here, and let open debate make corrections there.

#155 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 09:34 PM:

And the only reason I asked #139 is because Earl left me no plausible explanation why he started venting disgust on me.

I've never seen a good or attractive outcome from caring about maintaining such a pretense, yet I've seen others devote time to maintaining the pretense. Instead, I try to avoid insisting anyone take my word for anything, and try to refer to stuff the people I talk to already know. There is no brain-damage that a messenger can experience that will make that which is true untrue.

In contrast to this, Earl vented disgust on me without referring to anything I said. It was completely arbitrary.

#156 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 09:54 PM:

Joel, I believe you're right about el Kabong, but it migrated to the SF echo as well. Not surprising, considering how many Scribblies were on both.

#157 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 11:26 PM:

Mike, I'm going to have to be very cautious about how I state this, because I do not wish to disappoint abi. I reacted to what you wrote the way I did because, at the time, I mistakenly thought you were a drive-by poster making a game of practicing upon our patience. You can write effectively, as you did, for example, back in 2005 in the Gitmo Sutra ML thread.

#158 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 02:24 AM:

Mike @154:
Hey! Interesting analogy. I'd never heard it before, but the example of the WMD in Iraq really helped lead me through it.

I think I'm going to have to walk around with it for a while. It's not a way I've sliced reality before.

All of this seems so common-sensical, so I'm the worst person to determine if I'm even asking anyone to take my word for anything.

That's just a sign that you've incorporated it into your way of dealing with the world. It doesn't say anything about its complexity. I have frequently fallen into the trap of discounting my professional skills (software testing) because I've done long it long enough that it all seems obvious.

It seems simpler and humbler for me to have posted in the manner I did in the first place that seemed to confuse so many here, and let open debate make corrections there.

I quite simply could not parse your statement. There were too many unexplained references for me to find a thread of meaning through it. I copied it out by hand* at one point to try to make sense of it within the context that I understood, and could not. I was not alone in this.

Open debate works as a clarifying method when we can make a start on parsing what is written. That was not the case here.

-----
* A great way to slow down and improve your penmanship in one go

#159 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 02:50 AM:

Earl @157:

Do remember this incident in the future, please, and maybe play it a little more gently? It hurts no one, and it means that I won't be getting that salmon* out.

-----
* Remember that a fish that's been in use since GEnie is going to be...biodegraded. The Hammer was the merciful option.

#160 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 08:36 AM:

(Reaction: Tea --> tl;dr)

Mr Macdonald, your response was not relevant to the original: TexDoc clearly knew what was true, so why would he need any facts? Any man as convicted as he evidently is will never lack for a comfortable prison....

#65 ::: Naomi Libicki [...] [...] 3) Actually, people who like to tell this story probably do see money as an evaluation of one's -- performance is probably too strong a word, but let's say worthiness -- conferred by some sort of infallible authority figure.

And just when I was going to go into my Dumbed-Down Calvinism rant---and one of the reasons it's 'Dumbed-Down' is that its adherents believe that their Elect and Damned (the Rich and the Losers, Good Guys and Bad Guys,Productive Members of Society and Parasite Welfare Queens) at least in real Calvinism, you're specifically not supposed to believe you deserved Election.

It's also a funny semi-ghost of the Labour Theory of Value, which propertarians deride when used by the Left, 'funny' because of the derision and 'semi-' because, to be fair, they are also willing to factor in the quality of the labour being expended...but still, the basic assumption is that you worked for everything you got...clever of me to have invented or fully-funded the keyboard, CPU, and Web that allow me to do this post, not to mention English, the alef-beis, and the Universe (or are you saying that the Universe is some kind of Free Lunch, you Commie who does not have 'TANSTaaFL' on her flag, and might even criticise its grammar, you snob?).

My reaction to the 'college' story: as others have said, grades are not properly rewards or goods, they are assessments, supposedly accurate within the limits of error of the graders, and not working properly if any individual doesn't get the assessment proper to him. All but the most lunatic proponents of the Market* will admit that it is a very imperfect instrument of valuation in many specific cases, but rather the best instrument of valuation at equilibrium and en masse.

(It is a strange really-existing, not-at-all-a reification, entity, this Free Market*---so incredibly strong and robust and efficient and equilibrating, yet capable of being utterly destroyed by the slightest touch of Evil Gummint, leading me to believe that 'Free Market', like the Vulcan 'Logical' is actually a synonym for 'kosher', that is, 'ritually pure'.)

*please assume I have embedded an object that will play the sound of an heavenly choir just as your eye[s] scan the word or words '[Free ]Market'.

#161 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 09:35 AM:

Michael Turyn @ 160...

I always found Calvin less appealing than Hobbes, his pet tiger.
What?
Oh.

As for playing the sound of a heavenly choir just as your eye[s] scan the word or words '[Free ]Market'... I find myself thinking of a Monty Python skit where this'd happen, which would then segue into a Terry Gilliam cartoon about a nearly invisible giant hand roaming across the countryside and crushing everything in its wake.

#162 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 09:37 AM:

Abi @ 159... I won't be getting that salmon* out

...to play a tuna with?

#163 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 10:46 AM:

Serge @ 162 ...
Maybe you should clam up before somebody gets crabby ;)

#164 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 11:15 AM:

xeger @ 163... I'd better or else we might get nuclear fishin' and reach critical bass.

#165 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 12:12 PM:

I'm sorry that the nasty tone of my original post has slopped over in to the comment threads here.

I was, as some might have suspected, incandescently angry when I wrote the reply to "TexDoc."

#166 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 12:45 PM:

Michael Turyn:
You pack a surprising volume of highly amusing thoughts and correlations into six short paragraphs (and a footnote.)

I'm sure for a while I will be thinking "Kosher" whenever I hear "Free Market". I am also very interested to see how well "Oh, then you're a Marxist?" works to derail the stock rants about "What right does anyone have to take taxes on what a man has worked for?"

#167 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 05:27 PM:

Serge #162: I much prefer the Trout Quintet.

#168 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 05:41 PM:

Fragano @ 167... Which can be found only by deep C divas?

#169 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 05:58 PM:

Serge #168: No, no, trout are fresh-water fish. You can only find them at the top of the scale.

#170 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 06:43 PM:

This whole pun-fest is accidental, so no need to get sharp with anyone, nor bar anyone from the conversation. There's really nothing cleft to say, so let's give it a rest.

#171 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 06:55 PM:

And go back to bass?

#172 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 07:05 PM:

Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) #170: There's something odd in the tenor of your statement. You could have been a bit more euphonium, I suspect.

#173 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 08:53 PM:

Mike @ #154: There's still a lot I can't make out about what you're saying, but some points about evolution and purpose: Evolution confuses our usual ideas of "causation", because the agency of change is indirect -- there's nobody who "decided" that these animals would evolve for speed, or those others would go for armor, and yet we see changes that often look quite purposeful. The way to sort that out is to realize that evolution can "create" purpose -- or better, accumulate it over time, shaved off the bottom line as it were.

Thus, an initially random change, such as longer legs, provides advantages that cause the trait to be selected for. But if enough of the advantage can be summed up as "speed", then it won't just be "longer legs" that get selected for -- it'll be "speed" in general. So eventually, the animal gets bigger lungs, the right sort of feet, and so on... the details will vary, but examining the animal, it'll be pretty clear "it's this way so that the critter can run fast". The original change opened onto a general strategy, almost like a river delta in the evolutionary landscape.

#174 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 11:48 PM:

Mike: I think the evolution analogy fails on two levels, one of parallel, and the other of side-effect.

Evolution has no thinking agent. The interactions of people do. There is no end point, no direction to evolution.

In debate the strawman can survive because it takes an educated person (or at least a smart, and attentive, one) to see through it. That means some people will believe it, and others will exploit that. No need to assume it's surviving as a recessive trait would. It's being kept alive by active players.

The second is related. That analogy implies a teleological end to evolution. Because the people who hear it will make the parallel of "improvement", not survival. They will carry over the idea that intent is part of evolution.

Which would be something I could (with some grumbling) accept that, as a cross to bear, and an error to teach against, if I thought the first wasn't too much mistaken.

The comments about the salmon of retribution reminds me of someone who used to work the faire (RPFS) in the middle-'80s.

Fish-flopper was a monger. Her name came from her habit of whapping someone with the, whole, fish she'd had for three days in the heat of May. A SoCal May, in Agoura, avg. temp of 100F.

So Monday afternoon, Memorial Day, she'd smack someone's backside with it.

Ripe... that's the word, ripe.

#175 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 12:23 AM:

#173 David
"It's a long way from amphiocus*"

* or whatever the spelling is...

#169 Fragano
I think you went over a cliff that remark, and are a vector for bad information, having run rapidly down into the shoals and scraped yourself on a reef--salmon are trout, and spend much of their lives in the ocean (but I suspect that reefs are a bit warm for them... although eels, which go in the other direction than salmon for spawning and growing to full size and returning to their spawning grounds, go lose themselves in the Sargasso Sea, which is not the northern Atlantic!). And then there are "sea trout" which spend all their lives in the ocean.

Anyway, WHAP!

#176 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 12:48 AM:

160: erratum:
"Elect and Damned"-->"Elect and Damned each _deserve_ their status"

161: Serge: Ever read "The Bridge of Birds"? There's a monster there you might like.

166: Clifton Royston:
1.) Flattery will get you.
2.) 'Productive people' and 'parasites'...'fruits of your labour'...'you deserve...'...'undeserving élite...Free Marketeers and Communists have always sounded alike to me. Both are symptoms of the hilariously primitive technological level that allows for scarcity and the credulity (born of survival terror) that engenders (I'm certainly not above terror as, my coding job ends with July of this year, and my employer won't retain contractors over two years---the fruits of a decision against Microsoft of which I approved and still do...)

#177 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 03:51 AM:

I otter refrain from wading in, because I'll probably ended up battered and char-d, with nothing to show for my eggstravant, and caviar ways.

Better I should try to be the sole of discrestion, but my need to make sardinic comment will be the end of me, lest I make another gaff, I'll retire now.

#178 ::: myrthe ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 02:02 AM:

One thing Mike throws in as (almost) an aside, and which I think might be confusing his point, is a thing that has consistently blown me away since Stephen Jay Gould explained it to me in his first book:

Evolution Prefers Mediocrity. A Lot.

For any excellent adaptation, you need to explain why mediocrity wouldn't have been just as good. A speedy animal may have big lungs, long legs and the right sort of feet, all finely tuned and working in synergy. It will have a fast metabolism that demands regular feeding. It will trade weight, strength, longevity and sundry other benefits, and all these things cost serious resources to develop. The fastest cheetah will only be selected for if the slowest cheetah misses out on food, otherwise they'd all be 'just' lions.

Humans do the intelligence thing. We get big brains, strong necks, fine hands, but we trade looong gestation and helpless infancy, broad pelvic girdles, difficult childbirth and so on. That's a heck of a trade. Intelligence really needs to pay off to be worthwhile.

#179 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 11:49 AM:

myrthe @ 178
For any excellent adaptation, you need to explain why mediocrity wouldn't have been just as good.

Even before you do that you have to explain why a small change from mediocrity would be selected for. Even in the fastest part of punctuated equilibrium a major change in physiology requires many generations of incomplete changes; each generation has to have enough of a selection advantage to keep the process going.

#180 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:00 PM:

178, 179: I think it's the other way 'round: evolution does not punish mediocrity. There are many examples of things that do not make sense, or at least not at first, or that are just not bad enough to be selected against. A "good" change is obviously beneficial, and a "bad" change is obviously detrimental, but all the rest of the changes fall somewhere in between -- not good enough and not bad enough. Evolution just lets those go on until the environment changes to the point where "good" or "bad" can be assigned.

#181 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 07:18 PM:

Ginger @ 180

I think both myrthe and I were saying basically that any change you do see must have had significant advantage over mediocrity, and there ought to be a discoverable reason for that advantage.

Of course mediocrity can change over time too, just because of neutral drift. Selection is just as blind as the rest of nature.

#182 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 07:45 PM:

Ginger @180: the point where "good" or "bad" can be assigned
(And adaptation/evolution discussion generally.)

Remembering that in different places &/or different times "good", "bad" & "acceptable" can be quite interchangeable as conditions change (e.g. low sun/low melanin, high sun/high melanin). A major reason why keeping genetic diversity is so important.

#183 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 07:54 PM:

Er. Mediocrity being the place where diversity shelters "oh the bench", ready for use.

#184 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 09:03 PM:

Bruce @ 181: I know..and I'm saying it is the tendency of human nature to find patterns or meaning in everything. A lot of people like to think that Nature rewards the good things with survival (i.e., "survival of the fittest"), but that's only part of the deal.

Nature simply does not punish anything that isn't obviously bad, or immediately bad (i.e. muscular dystrophies which are dominant genes - this would be bad, yes, but they don't necessarily kill the unlucky person at once, thus the genome survives long enough to reproduce despite the fact that the person doesn't live a full life).

Nature is fairly indifferent to those middle-ranking genes/adaptations. As long as they don't cause fetal death or neonatal susceptibility, then you're likely to survive with a potentially less-than-ideal set of genes that won't be obvious until the right circumstances show up and voila!

Changes occur randomly, and only those that are clearly advantageous or clearly disadvantageous will affect the population. Random non-hazardous changes will simply float around in the population until something affects them or results in an effect within the population.

In other words, I hear you saying that population changes indicate a better-than-mediocre genome, whereas I'm saying population changes indicate only that the genome isn't immediately fatal.

#185 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 08:55 AM:

Ginger @ 184: I think that selection is a little more linear than a simple binary choice: fatal / nonfatal. Relative success is about differential reproduction, not survival of individuals. Of course if you don't survive to reproductive age your genes automatically lose*, but if you do survive and you don't have as many offspring that survive to reproduce as the other guy, your genes may lose in the long run. Reproduction is an exponential process, so a small difference in reproductive rate can take over an entire population in a surprisingly small number of generations.

* Except when they're also carried by other individuals whose reproductive success is increased by your death, as in kin selection, especially in eusocial species.

#186 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 09:16 AM:

#184 ::: Ginger:

I've seen claims that even a small reproductive advantage will have an overwhelming effect, given a non-huge number of generations.

Since most species have quite a bit of genetic variety, I think I can deduce that most genes don't give even a one per cent advantage. Circumstances and the effects of other genes mean that stable advantage is rare.

#187 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 10:40 AM:

merthe #178, et seq.: For any excellent adaptation, you need to explain why mediocrity wouldn't have been just as good.

A good point, but there's at least two or three common answers that push a lot of adaptation:

1) Competition for limited resources. (Ultimately inevitable due to Malthusian considerations.)

2) Arms race with a threat (predator, parasite, competitor, whatever) which is also evolving. (And the threat may be evolving faster!)

3) Environmental change -- that nice wide basin or delta in the fitness landscape, can rapidly become a ramp or canyon leading to parts unknown. ;-)

In general, any stable environment will lead most of the species present to a fitness basin, where everyone's "good enough" to forestall further changes. This stability encourages "specialists", finely tuned for the current regime.... (At least until that stability ends, which it eventually will because that's the way of the world.)

On the flip side, sometimes the threat profile stubbornly refuses to stay put -- even if the climate, and so forth are fine, perhaps there are too many arms races still going on.... Then you're liable to see a premium on "generalists" -- creatures that can use a variety of tactics for survival, and especially those that can actually respond appropriately to changes in the situation.

Of course, "stability" vs. "flux" can be a matter of perspective -- what a long-lived vertebrate considers "unstable" might look like a series of "stable" environments to a bacterial strain. For any given species, the relevant clock is their own generation time. The thing is, given enough "clock ticks", a species will adapt to the disruptions too. That "memory" of prior adaptations is much of why modern lifeforms are so complicated -- they've been accumulating changes and adaptations for a long time.

#188 ::: myrthe ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 05:44 PM:

David @ 187:
"3) Environmental change -- that nice wide basin or delta in the fitness landscape, can rapidly become a ramp or canyon leading to parts unknown."

That's a gorgeous image, I'm going to carry that around with me all day. Also "threat profile" in re: genes. Thanks for the image of my genes as a very stuffy Joint Chiefs meeting.

#189 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 07:35 PM:

myrthe @#188: Thanks for the compliments!

my genes as a very stuffy Joint Chiefs meeting.

... some meetings only feel like they last millions of years, but this one really does! (Maybe they mutate because they're bored?)

#190 ::: DM SHERWOOD ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2009, 10:44 AM:

Trying v hard to see the funny side of this but like Pollyanna screamed at the ceiling in the 2nd half of the book (read it its not that touchy-feelie a book)after she'd been paralysed below the waist. THERE IS NO GOOD SIDE TO THIS AT ALL!!
As a Man I've got no right to say it but if I was a woman i think I'd wish that sarah palin had a need to pay this Bill

#191 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2009, 01:15 PM:

DM, I think that last bit is over the top. I think wishing rape on any woman, no matter how evil (and Palin's general level of evil is perhaps 10% of Margaret Thatcher's, for example), is inappropriate.

That said, I DO wish Palin had to pay for all rape kits supplied to or used in Wasilla out of her personal funds for the rest of her life. They should be called Palin kits, in honor of their funding source. (Note that I stop short of proposing that the actual crime for which they are an evidence-gathering tool be named after her; that, too, would be over the top.)

I just had another idea, though: we should call being charged direct fees for the investigation of a crime of which you are a/the victim being "Palined."

#192 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2009, 07:14 PM:


Xopher: I like the "Being Palined".

I have to agree, as well, that Palin is not as evil as Thatcher, but that may be only because she has not had the equivalent time/place of power.

Give her the chance, and I'm sure she could rise to the occaision.

#193 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2009, 12:56 PM:

A very similar story to this has popped up in my own state of Texas, now.

The implication in the article that this might happen all the time and no-one be the wiser is very troubling...

#195 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2012, 09:19 PM:

Jim, #196: "He could not be prosecuted for his crime against me. The statute of limitations was only five years at the time of my assault."

It's tinfoil-hat time! Ya gotta wonder if somebody highly placed in the department considered rape a low-priority crime, something women lie about all the time, and so sidelined the kits with the idea in the back of his head that he could just age them out of the system.

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