Sunday, April 30, 2006

Wallerstein has caused harm

A reader agrees that Judith Wallerstein's research is unscientific, but thinks that I have been unfairly harsh by comparing her to an astrologer.

Wallerstein's father died when she was young, and she has spent most of her live collecting stories that supposedly prove that fathers are extraneous to child-rearing. Her typical approach is to find some example of a divorced father who was forced out of his child's life, and then complain that the father did not pay for the child's college education.

She has done a lot of harm, especially here in California. She testifies as an expert witness in child custody disputes, and argues that divorced mothers should just move the child away from the father so that the mother and the child won't have to be bothered with visitation schedules. She even has the nerve to argue that such move-aways are in the best interest of the child.

Somehow the California courts have accepted her as one of the nation's leading authorities on divorce. Comparing her to an astrologer is too kind. She is a kook, and she has caused a lot of harm.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Dirt pills may help to ease kids' asthma

Australia news:
Children are to be given a "dirt pill" to provide the germs they missed out on as toddlers as part of a revolutionary treatment for asthma.

Researcher Susan Prescott said asthmatic children would receive daily medication that would include a mixture of different strains of probiotic bacteria and antioxidants.

The bacteria will replicate the germs to which, it is thought, the children did not receive enough exposure at an early age.

As a result, they failed to develop immunity and went on to suffer allergic reactions, including asthma.
Some people think that babies today are raised in an environment that is too clean. Some dirty pets might help.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Unscientific divorce studies

John responds to my last post:
It is not true that "Wallerstein's research has been widely discredited as unscientific." Roger only damages his own position by making such a statement.

After all, Roger himself relies on Wallerstein's research to support his own position, namely that "this Wallerstein research actually tends to favor shared custody laws." That conclusion would be worthless if you really believed that her research was "discredited."

Wallerstein's research was never meant to test the issue of shared vs. sole custody, and her opinion about that subject is merely a distracting side issue.

The purpose of her research was to test the effect of divorce on children, not to compare different custody arrangements. Her research does support the conclusion that "divorce is more harmful that most people think" and that conclusion has not been discredited.

Specifically, her research was designed to test the conventional wisdom that if divorce is desirable for the parents, it is therefore also desirable (or at worst neutral) for the children, because it saves the children from the harm of being exposed to parental conflict.

Her studies showed that children of divorce suffer lifelong damage, even in the best of cases where divorce was strongly indicated for the parents' benefit. IOW, fulfillment for the parents does not translate into fulfillment for the children.

It's true that her subjects were not a random sample; she never claimed they were. That does not mean her research was "unscientific." Far from being "widely discredited," her work is widely accepted as having exposed the myth of the "good divorce."
I say that Wallerstein's research is unscientific because there is nothing scientific about it. It is not just that there is no random sample, but also that there is no control group, no objective measures, no accounting for demographics, and no way to tell whether her conclusions are valid or not. All she has are some anecdotal accounts of some personal interviews which she says reinforce her prejudices back in 1970.

Even if you agree with some of her conclusions, her work is still unreliable and unscientific. An astrologer who predicts the weather is sometimes correct, but the predictions are still meaningless.

Yes, I think that Wallerstein's conclusions are worthless. That is why I said that "I wouldn't rely on her opinion for anything." I am not relying on her research to support shared custody laws. I am only showing that the Focus On The Family arguments are fallacious.

If Wallerstein really had scientific studies showing "that children of divorce suffer lifelong damage", then she would have quantified that damage in a way that could be replicated by other studies. She has not.

John responds:
Roger, you still miss the point. Wallerstein's research was meant to debunk and discredit the conventional wisdom, then widely held among many professionals as well as the general public, and still echoed by the popular media and Hollywood, that children are often not hurt and may even benefit when their parents separate.

Of course, there was never anything remotely scientific about that assumption; yet it was widely believed anyway. After Wallerstein, no one can legitimately believe that anymore. Although her research does not meet laboratory standards for random sample and control group (which are nearly impossible to obtain for this kind of subject anyway), it nevertheless was more than sufficient to accomplish the limited purpose she set out to do.

I interpret your statement that "Wallerstein's research has been widely discredited as unscientific" as saying that her research was completely worthless and her conclusions are wrong. IOW, you are implying that truly scientific research indicates that children are usually not damaged in the "normal" amicable divorce (if there is such a thing).

That is wrong; there is no such scientific research that contradicts Wallerstein. You are shooting yourself in the foot to make such a blanket, broadside attack on Wallerstein, because you thereby eliminate any possibility of sympathy or support for your position from pro-family groups.
No, John, you miss the point. If I say that an astrologer is unscientific, it doesn't necessarily mean that all of the astrologer's predictions will be wrong. I am not expressing any opinion on what scientific research might say about the damage in an amicable divorce.

Judith Wallerstein is just someone with a bunch of anecdotal evidence and opinions about divorce. You may or may not agree with some of her opinions. My objection is to Focus On The Family citing her as an authority on the subject as if she has done scientific studies. She has not, and her opinions have no more worth than anyone else's.

I don't expect this posting to get support from Focus On The Family. That group calls itself pro-family, but it is supporting laws that promote divorce, promote family court litigation, promote conflict between parents, and promote alienating fathers from their children.

Regardless of what you think about the conclusions, Judith Wallerstein's work is unscientific. Here is a typical discussion of the limitations of her approach.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Dobson and shared parenting

James Dobson's Focus On The Family has a position paper against shared parenting. It is very strange because it is undated, unsigned, not on the web site, and contrary to what one would expect from a pro-family conservative organization. I ran across a recent letter affirming that the paper is indeed current policy, and an addendum that responds to some criticisms of it. I previously criticized the position paper.

The Addendum and letter continue to exhibit four logical flaws as they argue against shared custody laws. Here they are, as I see them:

1. Wallerstein's research shows that divorce is more harmful that most people think, and she opposes shared custody laws.

If divorce is more harmful than people expect, as Wallerstein says, then a shared custody law might be harmful if it increases the divorce rate. However nobody believes that such a law would increase the divorce rate, and it is very unlikely to be true. Most divorce is initiated by women who intend to take the kids with them. If they knew that they would have to share the kids equally, then they'd be less likely to file for divorce. So this Wallerstein research actually tends to favor shared custody laws.

Wallerstein's research has been widely discredited as unscientific, and some of it is contrary to the findings of others. I wouldn't rely on her opinion for anything.

2. Shared custody requires the kids to move back and forth frequently, and frequent switching is harmful in a high-conflict family.

The common child custody alternatives are:
(A) Mom has sole custody;
(B) Mom has primary custody, and dad gets 2 weekends a month visitation, and maybe some Wednesday dinners;
(C) Mom and dad split joint custody.

Nobody advocates sole custody if there are two fit parents available. If custody is contested in court, the court will usually choose between options (B) and (C). It turns out that these options have about the same amount of switching. Some parents with shared custody switch on school days and don't even have to see each other. So whatever one thinks about frequent switching, it does not help distinguish between the common court alternatives.

3. Shared custody requires parental cooperation, and should never be ordered by the court. If the parents could cooperate, they might still be married.

The problem with this reasoning is that it gives the custodial parent (usually the mom) some very strong incentives to be uncooperative. It gives her veto power over shared custody.
Any mom who is not a criminal or a drug addict is not likely to lose primary custody to the dad. If the law says that shared custody will not be ordered, then she can create conflict and get primary custody. Such a law just exacerbates conflict and courtroom custody fights.

The reasoning is backwards. It is like saying that a bank can make car loans, but cannot use the courts or repossession to enforce payment, because car loans require cooperation. If cooperation is the goal, then the law should have incentives to cooperate, not incentives to fight.

4. A custody fight is hard on the kids, and court orders should only be used as a last resort.

The Addendum says:
We feel, though, that legal intervention should be attempted only after other avenues of maintaining contact have been pursued and careful consideration given to how such proceedings may affect the children involved. And we do not believe that a court forcing a child to split their time between two homes is the answer.
Yes, custody fights are harmful. Disagreeing parents will take their cases to court, and the court will have to order something. The way to reduce the chance of a custody fight in court is to increase the predictability of the outcome. A statutory presumption of shared custody does exactly that. So would presumptions of mother custody or father custody, but no one is advocating either of those possibilities. Giving family courts maximum discretion for making custody orders is a recipe for promoting court fights, not for making amicable agreements.

None of these Focus On The Family arguments really address what is better for the kids, parents, or society. They just make meaningless conclusory statements like, "legislation supportive of shared parenting could place children in emotionally damaging situations and, as such, is often not a beneficial option."

Sure, any policy has the possibility of not being beneficial in some cases. The existing laws are certainly not beneficial in a great many cases. I suspect that Dr. Dobson does not have the position paper on his web site because he knows that the arguments are embarrassingly lame, and because he has some other political or ideological reason for being against divorced fathers.

If these are the strongest arguments against shared parenting laws, then I predict that we will see more and more states considering a statutory presumption of shared custody. The evidence is overwhelming that it is best for the kids, more equitable for the parents, reduces conflict and litigation, and is even better according to the criteria used by its critics.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

What is feminism

I am trying to get a definition for feminism. Usually it is defined as some sort of doctrine or movement advocating social equality between men and women. But this cannot be correct because there are fathers who advocate equally shared child custody among divorced parents, and no one calls them feminists.

There are also feminists who promote privileges for women because of natural inequalities. Equality is not what they want. They want to advance women's rights and interests regardless of any comparison to men. These feminists often contradict the feminists who claim to want equality.

It is also hard to pin down the scope of feminism. It doesn't seem to be limited to economics, politics, literature, or moral philosophy. It could related to almost anything.

The only common thread that I see among feminists is that they all seem to have belief that society is somehow disadvantageous to women. Therefore, here is my definition:

Feminism -- An incoherent collection of ideas characterized by women griping about how the world works.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

New DSM written by drug pushers

Wash. Post reports:
very psychiatric expert involved in writing the standard diagnostic criteria for disorders such as depression and schizophrenia has had financial ties to drug companies that sell medications for those illnesses, a new analysis has found.

Of the 170 experts in all who contributed to the manual that defines disorders from personality problems to drug addiction, more than half had such ties, including 100 percent of the experts who served on work groups on mood disorders and psychotic disorders. The analysis did not reveal the extent of their relationships with industry or whether those ties preceded or followed their work on the manual.

"I don't think the public is aware of how egregious the financial ties are in the field of psychiatry," said Lisa Cosgrove, a clinical psychologist at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, who is publishing her analysis today in the peer-reviewed journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.

The analysis comes at a time of growing debate over the rising use of medication as the primary or sole treatment for many psychiatric disorders, a trend driven in part by definitions of mental disorders in the psychiatric manual.

Cosgrove said she began her research after discovering that five of six panel members studying whether certain premenstrual problems are a psychiatric disorder had ties to Eli Lilly & Co., which was seeking to market its drug Prozac to treat those symptoms. The process of defining such disorders is far from scientific, Cosgrove added: "You would be dismayed at how political the process can be."

The American Psychiatric Association, which publishes the guidelines in its bible of disorders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), said it is planning to require disclosure of the financial ties of experts who write the next edition of the manual -- due around 2011. The manual carries vast influence over the practice of psychiatry in the United States and around the world.
You should just assume that DSM-IV diagnoses are based on what drug companies want to sell drugs to treat.

Apple v Bloggers

Apple Computer is at war with bloggers:
A California court in San Jose on Thursday is scheduled to hear a case brought by Apple Computer that eventually could answer an unsettled legal question: Should online journalists receive the same rights as traditional reporters?

Apple claims they should not. Its lawyers say in court documents that Web scribes are not "legitimate members of the press" when they reveal details about forthcoming products that the company would prefer to keep confidential. ...

"Unlike the whistleblower who discloses a health, safety or welfare hazard affecting all, or the government employee who reveals mismanagement or worse by our public officials, (the Macintosh news sites) are doing nothing more than feeding the public's insatiable desire for information," Kleinberg wrote at the time.
Apple's case is lame. This case is not even about any real trade secrets, but just some minor marketing plans.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Stone Age Values

The Si Valley paper editorializes:
An apology would help get Los Altos out of the Stone Age ...

The council majority of Kurt Colehower, David Casas and Mayor Ron Packard embarrassed the community in February with its rejection of the students. The three didn't just refuse the kids' request to proclaim a Gay Pride Day. They went further and passed a rule banning any future consideration of proclamations having to do with sexual orientation -- a topic Packard described as divisive and inappropriate. ... These kids weren't just told no, they were told to go away and shut up.

But the rule is even more insidious: It's an affirmation that gays remain far from full acceptance even in the Bay Area. The council majority paradoxically has proved the need for the type of public education that the gay and straight high school students hoped to promote.
No, what this proves is that the San Jose paper wants to brainwash schoolkids and politicians into thinking that they have to apologize for not endorsing pro-homosexual propaganda efforts.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Guilty even if proven innocent

Monika Johnson-Hostler, a sexual assault advocate, just said this on Fox News O'Reilly Factor:
We are very clear in this country that just because someone is acquitted in court has never, in the history of this country, meant that they were actually innocent.
She was arguing that rape accusers never lie, and that the Duke lacrosse boys should be considered guilty of rape even if the court acquits them.

She is wrong. This country has always said that people are innocent until proven guilty. And I think that the accuser is lying in this case.

This blog claims to have a picture of the accuser.

Why Title IX means quotas

Andy writes:
It has remained a continuing mystery why the quota part of the three-part test has become so important under Title IX. Why can't colleges just satisfy one of the other prongs of the test?

The three parts of the test are:

(1) The quota test: proportionality in sports must substantially equal the proportionality enrolled.
(2) The school shows a history of continually upgrading the women's programs.
(3) The school shows that it meets the interests and abilities of female students.

In debates, feminists will frequently say that schools are free to meet prongs (2) or (3) without satisfying the quota.

The answer to this mystery was just provided in the case of Missouri State University this week. Like most colleges, it is losing money and needs to cut back programs to survive. It has no choice: it must cut some sports teams.

But by cutting just one women's sports team, the college has arguably disqualified itself from satisfying prongs (2) and (3) above. The college cut the women's sports team, leaving 7 women who wanted to play tennis without a team. (2) and (3) above are not in compliance.

So the college has to try to meet (1). The college therefore cut FOUR men's teams (tennis, indoor track, outdoor track and cross country), stranding 65 male athletes! That brought its percentage of female-to-male athletes to 51:49.

Too bad anyway. It's female:male enrollment percentage is 55:45. The feminists just sued under Title IX, and will probably force the struggling college to pay its astronomical attorneys fees. Full Post-Dispatch article below.

The bottom line is this: the quota part of the Title IX test is the only one available to schools that need to cut programs for financial reasons, which is a huge percentage of schools.
Here is the story.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

What to call illegal aliens

Geoffrey Nunberg writes:
Back in 1920, the New Republic reported on an exercise in which students at a New England college were asked to provide definitions of the word "alien". Their answers were uniformly negative: "a person who is hostile to this country", "a person on the opposite side", "an enemy from a foreign land". ...

But "alien" still suggests strangeness and difference and people who are "not of our sort", a connotation that was strengthened when science-fiction writers picked the word up in the 1930s to refer to extraterrestrial beings. ...

And those who take a hard line on immigration almost never use "aliens" to describe foreigners who are in the country legally -- on news broadcasts, "illegal aliens" outnumbers "legal aliens" by about 100 to 1. Legally speaking, "alien" refers to any non-citizen, but in political debates it often suggests "brown people who snuck in", a way of denying undocumented arrivals the label "immigrant" that most Americans associate with their forebears.
This is a bit like complaining that the term "drug dealer" has negative connotations. A news broadcast would not ordinarily say that someone is "legal" because people are ordinarily assumed to be legal. A news story about "immigrants" would imply legal immigrants.

As the article mentions, the term "undocumented" is incorrect for those who overstay a visa. The term "immigrant" is also incorrect for guest workers and others who do not intend to move to the USA permanently. The term "resident alien" is fairly common for foreigners with (legal) green card. I have yet to hear a better term than "illegal alien" for foreigners who come to the USA temporarily and contrary to law.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Simply Google

People rave about Google's uncluttered home page, as if Google had invented the perfect portal interface. But I think that Google's page is maddeningly difficult because it obscures many of its useful feature. For a more complete list of Google interfaces, see Simply Google. Even that omits Google Blogger and Google Mobile. The Google Guide has an alternate interface, and actually explains some of Google's search syntax.

Teddy Roosevelt on being an American

Theodore Roosevelt's ideas on Immigrants and being an AMERICAN in 1907:
In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American ... There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag ... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language ... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.
He also promoted the idea that our school should only teach in English.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Banning bukkake

Connecticut news:
Outraged by an incident in a University of Connecticut dormitory, the state Senate voted unanimously Tuesday to change the definition of sexual assault to include cases without direct physical contact. ...

The new law would help restore "the pride, self-worth, and safety of myself and other women victimized by thoughtless individuals such as the three men who sexually violated me and will only be convicted of a misdemeanor at best," she said.
Weird. Apparently they want to ban bukkake. I had never heard of it. The next time you hear of someone accused of sexual assault, remember that he might not have touched anyone.

Top ten worst words

The BBC lists the top ten worst words:
1. Retard
2. Spastic
3. Window-licker
4. Mong
5. Special
6. Brave
7. Cripple
8. Psycho
9. Handicapped
10. Wheelchair-bound
The article says that, "Golfer Tiger Woods has been criticised for saying he played like 'a spaz'."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Domestic violence and men's rights

Harry Crouch writes, in the San Diego paper:
Phyllis Schlafly's "Weak women and the Bill of Rights" (Opinion, March 30) is right on the money. I was in court again watching the daily herding of men charged with domestic violence. The judge, public defenders and prosecutors all taught the "anti-male and anti-marriage notions" Schlafly describes.
You can find her other columns on this subject here.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Duke Lacrosse story

The Duke Lacrosse story is blowing up. All 46 DNA tests came back negative.

There were holes in the stripper-accuser's story from the start. Since she was only accusing 3 players, she should have had to pick them out of a police lineup.

The main piece of evidence is now her broken fake fingernails that were found at the scene. That is not enough for a rape conviction.

I think that the press should have waited for the DNA tests, since the police said that they would be dispositive. Now they have branded all the boys as being guilty, and the accuser hasn't even been named. At this point, either the charges should be dropped or the accuser should be named. I'll post her name here if I find out.

NH revising payment guidelines

AP reports:
CONCORD, N.H. (New Hampshire) Attorney General Kelly Ayotte says the state should seek new bids for a child support contract that nearly went to an economist who was jailed in Georgia for failing to make payments to his children.

R-Mark Rogers of Peachtree City, Georgia, had been the low bidder for a contract to retool New Hampshire's child support guidelines. At the time, the governor, health commissioner and a panel examining the bids didn't know Rogers served time in the 1990s over more than 72-hundred dollars in owed child support.

Ayotte says this time around, bidders should be asked to disclose any pertinent legal history so officials can fully evaluate whether potential conflicts or biases exist.
This story is fishy, because no one is ever order to make payments to his children. But more to the point, no one should ever trust a closed-door process of developing guidelines anyway. They should be verifily based on demonstrable data using an accepted methodology.

PC children's books

Foxnews reports:
The globalization of the market for children's books has brought Australian authors face-to-face with American standards of political correctness, according to a report in The Age, and the authors are none to happy about it.

Among the things deemed verbotten in illustrations for the books, the authors say, are udders on cows, large lips on dark-skinned children and so-called "Asian-looking" eyes.

"It's not only gone mad, I think it's completely irrational ... to start to think that portraying a race in a true and honest way is somehow derogatory or demeaning," says illustrator Roland Harvey.

Among the other guidelines handed down by U.S. publishers:

--Avoid stereotypes such as females as peripheral/helpers to active/leading males, or senior citizens as infirm, with canes, doddering.

--Elderly people should be shown as active members of society; unless relevant to text they should not be shown in wheelchairs.

--Show mothers involved in outside employment (not in aprons in kitchens).

--Show African-Americans in positions of power, not just in service industries.

--Show African-Americans and other people of colour with a range of skin tones. Hair texture should vary from straight to curly.

--Do not stereotype Asian people with glasses, bowl-shaped haircuts, or as intellectuals.

--No large groups of people without an appropriate ethnic mix and male/female ratio.

--No "help the disabled" pictures ? show disabled people doing for themselves and others.

--Show many types of family grouping. Take care not to imply that one-parent homes are broken.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Friday, April 07, 2006

Sunshine helps prevent cancer

Health news:
WOMEN with high exposure to the sun as teenagers may be protected against breast cancer in later life, doctors have found.

Boosting levels of vitamin D could be beneficial at a time when breast cells are developing. New evidence of the ability of the "sunshine vitamin" to reduce the risk of cancer comes from two studies presented in the US. ...

"But they don't need to expose their breasts to gain protection, just put on a swimsuit or bikini, because vitamin D is made in the skin."
Millions of Americans avoid sunlight and use excessive amounts of sunscreen because they think that they are reducing their cancer risk.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Forced gay ed

California news:
Sacramento, Calif. - The California state Senate will consider a bill that would require schools to teach students about the contributions gays and lesbians have made to society - an effort that supporters say is an attempt to battle discrimination and opponents say is designed to use the classroom to get children to embrace homosexuality.

The bill, which was passed by a Senate committee Tuesday, would require schools to buy textbooks "accurately" portraying "the sexual diversity of our society." More controversially, it could require students hear history lessons on "the contributions of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America."
If they were really interested in accuracy and diversity, then they would also teach the precise reasons that some people find homosexuality unacceptable.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Sex differences in the brain

Brain news:
Larry Cahill, an associate professor of neurobiology and behavior, and Lisa Kilpatrick, a former postdoctoral fellow in his laboratory, have found that the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure found on both sides of the brain, behaves very differently in males and females while the subjects are at rest. In men, the right amygdala is more active and shows more connections with other regions of the brain, even when there is no outside stimulus. Conversely, in women, the left amygdala is more connected with other regions of the brain. In addition, the regions of the brain with which the amygdala communicates while a subject is at rest are different in men and women.

The finding could be key to determining why gender-related differences exist in certain psychiatric disorders and how to treat a variety of illnesses.

The study appears in this week's issue of NeuroImage. ...

Cahill believes this study could be the basis for a fuller understanding and treatment of a number of disorders that affect one gender or the other. For example, in the study, one of the brain areas communicating with the amygdala in women is implicated in disorders such as depression and irritable bowel syndrome, which predominantly affect women.
This might explain more than irritable bowels.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Penn and Teller

I happened to see a couple of Penn and Teller TV shows titled "On Bulls***". They seem to be a profanity-laden rants against people or organizations that they don't like. This time, Penn was unhappy about the lessons he learned as a Boy Scout, and now he doesn't like the fact that the Boy Scouts have a policy against homosexuals and atheists. As proof of the foolishness of the Boy Scout policy, he did an experiment to show that gay kids can fold an American flag as well as straights.

Usually the profanity doesn't bother me, but I thought that Penn said the word "a**hole" a few times too many when ranting about homosexuals.

George writes:
Penn wasn't calling the gays a**holes. He was using the epithet for straight guys who didn't want to associate with gays. They were boy scouts who even defended having the phrase "morally straight" in their traditional Scout Oath.
Whatever. I can see why the Boy Scouts might not want Penn to be a Scoutmaster.

Donkeys better than wives

India news:
A textbook used at schools in the Indian state of Rajasthan compares housewives to donkeys, and suggests the animals make better companions as they complain less and are more loyal to their "masters", The Times of India reported today.

"A donkey is like a housewife ... In fact, the donkey is a shade better, for while the housewife may sometimes complain and walk off to her parents' home, you'll never catch the donkey being disloyal to his master," the newspaper reported, quoting a Hindi-language primer meant for 14-year-olds. ...

"The comparison was made in good humour," state education official AR Khan was quoted as saying.
Political correctness will require removing the reference, not correcting it.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Clarity in the law

Someone recommended this PBS news show for the full story on FCC indecency fines. It had this exchange:
JEFFREY BROWN: Mr. Peters, what do you think? Do you -- do you see a clear line, a clear definition, from what the FCC did, that will help broadcasters and -- and the audience understand what constitutes indecency?

ROBERT PETERS: Well, I will tell you, I -- I think, admittedly, the line is not crystal clear.

And I suspect, if this were a criminal case, the -- the FCC would have a much harder time justifying what it has done, because, in criminal cases, the standards for clarity have to be higher.
Peters was supposed to be defending the FCC,

I don't think that the standards for clarity in a criminal case are any higher. Just ask Quattrone, M. Jackson, DeLay, etc. Look at this recent article in the Si Valley paper:
But leaving kids home alone is not necessarily against the law -- no matter how young they are or how long their parents are gone.

As a very general rule, children are ready for the latch-key life for short periods when they are 12 or 13, child-care experts say. The law, however, is deliberately vague to give prosecutors the flexibility to decide when a home-alone case becomes a crime.
A lot of criminal laws are deliberately vague. I think that it was the PBS news show that was deliberately vague about why the FCC issued indecency fines.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Fat patients

This CNN story details hospitals struggling with fat patients:
Last year, patient care director Colleen Becker decided to check the numbers. She looked at a daily hospital census -- about one-third of the 900 patients weighed 350 pounds or more.

Startled, Becker checked another date, then another. The numbers were consistent. On some days, half the patients were obese. Some weighed 500 pounds or more. ...

The hospital is replacing many of its beds -- built to handle people weighing up to 350 pounds -- with beds for 500-pound patients.

"Three-hundred-fifty pounds is nowhere near what we need for beds now," said Art Kidrow, a nurse manager at Barnes-Jewish. "We've had
some 650-pounders up here."
Wow. I had no idea that so many fat people were clogging up hospitals. (This story is not on the Wikipedia list of April Fools hoaxes, so I guess it is serious.)