NPR: Killing is acceptable, except when it's not

Dear All Things Considered,

Yesterday, you ran two stories back to back, one exposing the horrors of elephant poaching, and one glorifying the poaching of bass as a so-called sport. The elephants were discussed in terms of their emotional ties to one another and their family units, while the fish were discussed only in terms of mentioning the weight of their corpses.

I recognize that the abuse and killing of fish is legal where the event took place, while hunting elephants for ivory is banned worldwide. Nonetheless, to glorify the killing of fish and portray this as a sport is horrific and irresponsible on a program that typically advocates for nonviolence, particularly immediately following a piece on the exploitation of another species of animal.

Invisibility of people with disabilities in media accounts of medical advances

The articles just keep coming about the advances in medicine that make high-risk pregnancies successful and increase survival rate of babies born very prematurely and/or with complications. The latest one I've come across is this one from MSNBC.

A small but growing number of women are successfully having children despite life-threatening conditions that once made a safe pregnancy almost inconceivable.

The article goes on to describe a highly educated and affluent mother who gave birth after a kidney transplant to a "healthy" (which I presume is used inaccurately here to mean healthy and also free of major disabilities) daughter. Named Madelyn, of course, but I digress.

The only mention of how these miracle children often have severe disabilities is one half-sentence, "Not all of these stories have happy endings," which I assume refers to children who don't survive as well as children who end up with disabilities, since children born with disabilities aren't mentioned anywhere else in the article. Since I'm making an assumption, I won't follow it with any attacks about labeling it "not a happy ending" when a child has a disability.

Anyway, my intent is not to make any judgments about who should or shouldn't have children or under what conditions. I don't believe that anyone should make such judgments, except for the particular family choosing whether to have a child. What really stands out to me in these articles is that none of them even mention -- let alone have names and photo -- the large number of children with disabilities who've been the result of high-risk pregnancies and cutting-edge medical technologies. There doesn't need to be any "moral" presented along with their mention, and there really shouldn't be. There should just be a mention that high-risk pregnancies and medical miracles result in a lot more children with disabilities than typical situations do. It would be great to see a photo of a parent and a child with a disability in addition to just the photo of Madelyn.

"Don't almost give" campaign is a great idea, but a little patronizing

I love the premise behind the Ad Council's new campaign, "Don't Almost Give." The ads -- which are gorgeous, by the way -- can be viewed on the site. There are six ads, each of which shows an individual or family who is being let down by society or has been let down by society. The descriptions of the scenarios that failed the people are pleasantly nonpartisan, and really focus on how everyone depends on caring and responsible friends and neighbors, not just governmental intervention. I also like the list of organizations they provide. It's pleasantly balanced and really quite agenda-free. It ranges from organizations I do support to ones I would never support, but doesn't get radical enough (in any direction) to include any organization that I would protest.

The idea of not "almost giving" seems to be aimed at the White Liberal Guilt faction. The folks who mean well, and who have compassion, but don't put it into action. The folks who think they've done their part because they're familiar with the issues, on the mailing list, and displaying the sticker. But who haven't given any time or money. I'm one of those people on a number of issues, and am trying not to be, which is a large part of why I like the ads.

The scenario of the house burning down gives a particularly needed message, because most communities do have adequate fire departments, but they can only show up if someone notifies them. Calling the fire department and grabbing a fire extinguisher doesn't require any special skill or large sums of money, but could have kept a family from losing their home. Likewise with the family living in their car -- there are surely meal programs available in their community, but getting the family connected with these programs requires that neighbors inform the family that the programs exist or inform the programs that the family exists. This is the kind of work that any of us can do, even if we can't afford a $150-per-plate dinner to fight hunger.

The scenario with the man with a disability struck me as a bit patronizing, mostly due to language choice, as tends to be the case. The man is shown walking up a flight of stairs using crutches, quite skillfully, really. The voiceover says "this is a man who almost learned to walk" due to a lack of funding for rehab services. "How good is almost giving? About as good as almost walking."

Sure, the guy deserved to have better care, and presumably could have recovered more fully. But the inaccurate and pitying language needs to go. What's he doing right there in the film clip? He's walking. He's getting places. He's living his life. Even if the reason for his disability was something preventable that we should be fighting to change, the way to accomplish this isn't by describing the way he gets around as "almost walking." I suppose it might be different if he were a real individual who personally describes his disability in this way, but since he's an archetype, it comes across as describing people with disabilities as "almost" doing things. This kind of view can be dangerous, because when we're all sitting around a table, if we're stuck on the idea that one of the people "almost" walked to the meeting, we're going to unconciously feel that he has less to offer than people who fully got to the meeting, even though we're all there in the end.

Surgeons who play video games shown to have better surgery skills

A study has found a direct link between skill at video gaming and skill at keyhole, or laparoscopic, surgery. Young surgeons who spent at least three hours a week playing video games in the past made 37% fewer errors, were 27% faster, and scored 42% better overall than surgeons who had never played a video game at all.

Interesting. If you read the full text describing the methodology, it looks like there are more variables than just playing video games. The surgeons who play video games tend to be quite a bit younger than those who don't. The non-game group isn't actually a control group. To make more of a case for video games being the determining factor, they would need to select surgeons who all fit into a fairly narrow band of age and training background, and then split them into the game/non-game groups. Also, the sample size should be a lot larger.

I now have civil rights in two out of 50 states! Woohoo!

Rhode Island should recognize state employees' same-sex marriages that are performed in neighboring Massachusetts and extend benefits to their partners, the state's attorney general said in an opinion released Wednesday.

Community Standards of Practice for the Provision of Quality Health Care Services to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Clients

For anyone looking for a basic (and "officially" sanctioned) document outlining appropriate treatment of GLBT clients in various settings, Community Standards of Practice for the Provision of Quality Health Care Services to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Clients written by The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Health Access Project is a great resource.

The only problem is that if someone is thinking to look at such a thing, this in and of itself makes them considerably more skilled than most providers. The research and compilation of this resource is funded by the Department of Public Health, but I can't seem to find any information regarding how they're actually implementing it, aside from just having it available to the people who are already going looking for it. (Preaching to the choir, anyone?) I know that it hasn't shown up at my agency, and we receive DPH funding. It also clearly hasn't shown up at Mass General. Here's an excerpt of an e-mail I recently sent to MGH's Multicultural Affairs Office:

...found that every single provider I encountered assumed that my spouse is male, when my spouse is female. Every time I gave medical information, I would state that I was married, or state that my emergency contact person was my spouse. The providers would then ask for "his" name or ask about my "husband." Have your staff really not had a basic training regarding these types of assumptions? This has included every person I encountered, from front desk staff to physicians. I also encountered a registration staff member in the ER who insisted that I could not be legally married to a female, that my marital status must be registered as "single," and insisted on referring to my spouse, who was with me, as "your friend." This is extremely offensive and ignorant.

I also outlined some of the ignorance I encountered in the context of direct care (i.e., the "what type of birth control do you use?" heteronormative bullshit). I included a link to these Standards of Practice and also let them know that DPH provides training, and that I do as well. I'll wait and see if they get back to me, or if anything is any different the next time I'm there. But really, it just surprises me that a place that even goes so far as to have a Multicultural Affairs Office hasn't done a very very basic training in, well, letting their staff know that queer people exist. I'd imagine that making racist statements to patients is probably a fireable offense. Why are homophobic statements acceptable then?

Free burritos on Thursday

If you love burritos, this is for you.

And if by some freak accident you're some weirdo who doesn't love burritos, then who the hell let you in my blog anyway?

Disney Presents: Get Your Fucking Minivan Full Of Prostitots Out Of My City

[Disclaimer for certain commenters who take my blog entirely too seriously: No, I don't actually believe in the restriction of activities that aren't harming anyone, and yes, I realize I am extremely hypocritical for being a proponent of diversity while spending much of my time making fun of white upper-middle-class culture or lackthereof, and yes, I also realize that my hobby of making fun of certain demographics means that nothing I say is credible. Now move along.]

That being said, this morning I was looking forward to free parking at the meters outside my office, in honor of the birthdays of a couple of dead guys. A little background: I usually take the train to work, but on days that there's a good shot at free parking, and when I have to be somewhere north or west of the city after work, I try to drive in and park so I'll have a 10-minute drive in the morning and a 10-minute drive to my evening destination, rather than taking the train home and then sitting in traffic for 45 minutes and destroying the planet even more. When I have the money, it's even worth the $10 or $15 to park downtown when my schedule is such that doing so would save a lot of fuel and carbon emissions.

So this morning I got to work, expecting to see rows of empty meters, as there usually are on holidays. The meters were all full, with people double-parked all over the place. A little odd for a holiday. I drove around a bit and found the same all over the area, plus the orange-flag-waving parking guys at the businesses with lots; again, odd for any weekday morning, and particularly odd for a holiday. So I realized I wasn't going to get a meter spot, and I went into the North Station garage. When I got close to the garage, I found myself stuck in a pack of minivans driven by folks with a suburbanesque lack of ability to merge.

I finally parked, then rode the elevator up to North Station and found myself in a crowd of white people with their prostitots in tow. They were allowing their scantily clad brats to twirl around with their wands, not caring that there was also a (much smaller) contingent of people trying to get places. One hairdoed woman glared at a guy with a newspaper and briefcase for hurrying through the 983459th posed photograph she was taking of a 6-year-old with a tulle skirt, bikini top, too-big high heels, and a hairdo and makeup.

I did catch a glimpse of a sign on the way out indicating that they're showing Disney on Ice all day today. This didn't really make any of this better. Since when does going to a performance (at 9am on a weekday, especially) warrant dressing up your child as a whore? In fact, does any occasion, really? And really, how about if next time you bring your child here, you give them the authentic big-city experience, where you ride the train into town and pack against the walls of the train station like the rest of us so that people can walk by?

The MBTA's Charlie Crud continues to suck

This morning, as usual, I got to the train station at Roxbury Crossing and smacked my monthly pass (encased in one of those luggage ID holders attached to my messenger bag) against the allegedly smart reader on the Charlie Crud. Today, instead of letting me in, the gate flashed "PASS ALREADY USED." I tried a couple more times, same thing. So I held it up to the person in the Charlie Bubble (chubble?) and told her the reader said "PASS ALREADY USED." She asked what kind of pass it was, I said it was a monthly link pass. She said, "You can't use those more than once at the same station." I told her that I'd just gotten here, hadn't used my pass today, and was just trying to get on the train. She then told me, "Well, it's not working because you tried to do it without taking it out of that wallet. Here, go ahead on through the gate."

Except for how the thing works every other day without being taken out. Since, you know, this is the whole point of it. If they didn't want it to work through wallets and bags and things, why didn't they choose a chip that requires contact with the reader? And if the pass had in fact "not worked," why was the reader recognizing the thing as an MBTA pass at all? Maybe it's because my card holder is just fine, and your Charlie Crud is screwed up. Fuckers.

Need longassgermanword, stat

And maybe some day I'll actually get around to starting to use the post tags, so people can easily see all the times I've needed a longassgermanword.

Currently, I wish there were a longassgermanword for:

When you request a quote or information or something on the web, so you give them your spam e-mail address, since you have no idea whether it's a company that's going to start sending you ads every day, but then an actual person e-mails you to start discussing the matter, so now it's fine that the real person has your real e-mail address, but you aren't about to tell some insurance or finance or something person that they should e-mail you at the other address, because that would just be weird.

Great strategy for pissing Verizon off, but unfortunately requires having an account with them

This was sent to me via a very very forwarded e-mail. No idea whether it was actually sent to Verizon or what the rest of the story is, but let's just say that my Verizon-hating self is quite amused.

Because I have a sick mind

There's a sign at work over a recycling bin that says:


Every time I see it, I have Onionesque urges to alter it or add another sign. "Colored paper entrance around back" comes to mind, or just a simple penciling of "that's racist." Or maybe a more sophisticated approach, like taping up a photo of a sit-in. If I were feeling really ambitious (um, and if it weren't totally inappropriate to express potentially ambiguous messages about racism), I could Photoshop an image of Paper of Color marching on Washington.

Combatting stigma and ableism through, um, stigma and ableism

My agency is pushing people to get the CPRP credential. I love the psychiatric rehabilitation field, and I like that USPRA is offering a credential one can earn through field experience rather than requiring graduate degrees and internships. I do also think it's a bullshit credential for someone who already has a billable license and who has a board certification in a very rehab-oriented field. The credential really doesn't get me anything that I don't already have on the basis of my current credentials and my description of my treatment philosophy.

But hey, the agency is paying for the preparation course, the exam, the licensure and renewals, and the required continuing education. They're also giving a meager raise to anyone who completes the credential. So I figured, hey, it's free education and free letters after my name, and I decided I might as well go for it.

I was filling out the application, and I discovered that I have to authorize USPRA to conduct a credit check, background check, driving record review, court record review, personal interviews with all past employers and schools, and reviews of any public records.

My state license only required the usual let's-make-sure-you-don't-have-any-felonies background check. My state license authorizes me to take on responsibilities such as billing insurance companies, diagnosing people, reporting on people's fitness to parent, and involuntarily hospitalizing people.

What's particularly ironic is that the whole premise of psychiatric rehabilitation is the belief that people with mental illness can and do recover. The field of psychiatric rehabilitation particularly encourages individuals who are in recovery from mental illness to train and take on roles as practitioners.

"We believe that people can recover from mental illness. We believe that people can turn their lives around and find meaningful roles in society. However, we insist on intruding into people's pasts as part of assessing current skills and strengths. We highly professional and completely sane folks encourage you little crazy people to maximize your potential and apply for our credential. However, we wish to emphasize that this does not include any crazy people who have a history of making poor financial decisions, losing housing, driving unsafely, or burning bridges with employers or schools. We recognize that these actions often occur as a result of acute psychiatric illness and/or due to the discrimination that we actively seek to mend. However, we continue to maintain that, although we advocate for crazy people, we do not wish to actually deal with any of them in any sort of equal role. So, please, fill out this form authorizing us to verify that you are an us and not a them."