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All Those Things I Meant To Say

I haven't been blogging very much in the past few months. Nothing's wrong; my relative silence has been for all the right reasons — I've acquired a girlfriend and we've been consuming each others' free time, plus a little more.

Here's a quick rundown of a few things I wanted to say, even though this is no longer timely.

Back in April, a private citizen ticketed a cop for parking illegally. He won his case and the officer was fined $35. I was shocked to read this:

Judge Terry Hannon, however, said he didn't think Officer Chadd Stensgaard did anything wrong by using the no-parking zone on March 6. But Hannon said he had no choice to find him guilty because of the wording of the law.

So the judge doesn't think it was wrong to break the law. I guess he agreed with the defense's argument:

Myers said Stensgaard needed his car to be close in case he had to respond to an emergency call or someone tried to steal one of the rifles inside or kick in its lights.

I see. It looks like we should elucidate the principles guiding this argument. Would the judge be so lenient if it were an on-call surgeon parking illegally? What if it was just someone with a sprained ankle who doesn't want to walk from a legal parking spot? What if it were the mayor or a congressman? If we think the law is bad, we should move quickly to fix the law. I, and all citizens, need to be able to know in advance what circumstances make it acceptable to ignore the ordinary rules.

Naturally, the job of the police is to enforce the law … without breaking it. It is not acceptable for them to ignore the law because it doesn't contain a loophole they wish it did. I couldn't get away with that. Neither should they.

I have a couple other examples of police misconduct. In Florida, an officer was fired after trying to shake down a coffee shop for free stuff, both on and off duty:

Garvin is accused of saying, "If something happens, either we can respond really fast or we could respond really slow. I've been coming here for years and I've been getting whatever I want. I'm the difference between you getting a two-minute response time, if you needed a little help, or a 15 minutes response time."

Taking for granted that the accusation is true, this disgrace of an officer has been serving for 15 years. I cringe at the thought of what other evil he has done. There's no way extortion for free coffee is the only thing he's done wrong.

In Tennessee, a man was illegally arrested after refusing to delete pictures he took of an officer during a traffic stop. Some followup posts go into additional detail. I find this argument completely convincing:

If Officer McCloud honestly thought, due to legal ignorance or heat-of-the-moment misjudgment or what have you, that the photo was either contraband (i.e., illegal in itself) or evidence of a crime, then deleting it would constitute destruction of evidence. And if the photo was neither contraband nor evidence, then by definition, the police obviously had no right to seize it or otherwise make any demands about it. So, no matter how you frame the issue, McCloud can't win.

In counterintuitive health news, a research review has shown that breast self-exams are a bad idea. The researchers don't state it so bluntly, but I was gratified that they came close: "a rational choice would be not to do regular breast self-examination" and "We don't want to recommend against it but there's no evidence to recommend for it".

I'm still waiting patiently for politicians to admit mandating corn ethanol for gasoline was a bad idea. But that's politics, not science, so I'm not holding my breath.

Oh yeah, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac got nationalized. Of course I think this is terrible, that there is no such thing as "too big to fail", and that these institutions should have been allowed to fail.

If I had time for blogging, I'd say more about that. But I don't. :(

Comments: 7

1: Kim S (use to be K)
2008-09-09 03:27:31 UTC

Congrats on the girlfriend! Myself, I am settling into married life. Enjoy!

~Kim :)

2: Chris
2008-09-09 15:03:36 UTC

You really missed the mark on breast self exams. Countries that have socialized medicine don't want you going to the doctor.

Also you trust studies on medicine coming from China and Russia?

Prediction...You will see more and more studies showing that going to the doctor doesn't help. Of course if going saves your life all the studies in the world don't really matter.

3: Captain Arbyte
2008-09-09 20:24:51 UTC


The things measured in this study (biopsies and breast cancer survival rates) seem pretty objective, the participation was gigantic (almost 400,000 women), the results corroborate an earlier review, and WebMD has a good reputation.

For what specific scientific (not political) reason should I doubt this research?

4: Chris
2008-09-16 15:10:10 UTC

Reason, if you checked your breasts right now and felt a lump would you dismiss it because of the study?

5: Chris
2008-09-16 15:25:41 UTC

Another ridiculous aspect of the studies is it claims checking your own breasts somehow makes biopsies of benign tumors more likely. "Doing a breast self-exam doesn't improve breast cancer survival, and it makes biopsies of benign breast lumps more likely."

If there was a biopsy I have to assume there was a corresponding mamogram, and breast check by a doctor. The study could just as easily been reported as

"Mammogram's and/or Doctor performed breast checks don't improve cancer survival rates and make biopsies of benign tumors more likely."

6: Captain Arbyte
2008-09-18 04:42:05 UTC

I think it's intuitive that checking your breasts makes biopsies of benign tissue more likely. If you aren't looking for things, you won't find any, so you won't have a biopsy. It would be ridiculous if checking didn't make biopsies more likely.

The point of the study is, I think, that you aren't improving survival rates by having every lump seen by a doctor. Lots of lumps will be harmless or even reabsorbed if left by themselves. But what doctor is going to turn away business -- and risk a lawsuit! -- by telling you it's probably nothing to worry about and advise against a biopsy?

(If I read between the lines I get the idea that very early detection doesn't have much impact on survival rates.)

The incentives are strongly tilted in favor of a doctor doing an unnecessary biopsy. One that won't improve breast cancer survival, yet will cost the patient money, time, and surgical risk. That does sound like a reason not to do self-exams.

7: Anonymous
2008-09-22 02:56:33 UTC
I've acquired a girlfriend

How much did she cost?

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