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Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 05:45 PM PDT

The Right To Offend

by RealityBias

All Americans owe much to Thomas Jefferson for championing the cause of separation of church and state.  He coined the now-famous phrase in his 1802 letter to Danbury Baptist Association:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.
As we decry violence purportedly in response to a stupid movie perceived as an intolerable insult to their Prophet, let's not overlook that in Greece, "blashphemy" against the church is punishable under the law:
Three articles of the Greek Penal Code punishes whoever “by any means blasphemes God.” Article 199 states that “who publicly and maliciously and by any means blasphemes the Greek Orthodox Church” shall be punished “by imprisonment for not more than two years.” In 2003, an Austrian writer, Gerhard Haderer, was prosecuted for his book The Life of Jesus, which reportedly portrayed Jesus as a hippie. He was acquitted in 2005. The Greek Orthodox Church is the official state church for Greece.
A 12-year old man has now been arrested for "blaspheming" a dead monk.  Hopefully his self-evident right to express himself will prevail.

The belief by some religious people, and of some religious institutions, that they are entitled to an absence of having their beliefs offended is the cause of much human misery and maltreatment.

Religious beliefs are protected, but imposing them, or respect for them on others must not be.


Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 08:34 PM PDT

Mitt Romney Tough On China

by RealityBias

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is tough on China.  He will ensure that America out-competes China (at exploiting Chinese workers).


Diane Carman at Denver Post reports breaking news:

Colorado will end coverage for routine circumcisions under Medicaid next month, saving thousands of dollars and nudging the state closer to a debate that has been growing in intensity across the country.

Can a painful surgery which is not needed but alters the genitals be performed on a child?  Should medical insurance pay for it?

Halting Medicaid coverage for circumcision is increasingly common across the country and is a relatively easy choice because there is virtually no medical justification for the procedure.

It defies reason that medical insurance, in any form, would cover surgery on a patient who has no medical condition prompting treatment.

But some states are going further and proposing bans on the procedure, arguing it is comparable to laws outlawing female genital mutilation.

When the patient is a child it goes beyond the notion that purely elective procedures are outside the scope of medical insurance.  Are normal, healthy body parts the right of individuals to keep, or parents to dispose?

For some families, however, the procedure is a cherished tradition. ... "This is really about the free exercise of religion, something that is guaranteed to everyone in the United States under the First Amendment," Levin said.

Complicating matters, some parents are motivated by religious belief to modify the form of their child's genitals.  Can the child's rights be abridged so that parents may practice what they consider a religious rite?

The answer has little to do with doctors, hospitals, and insurance plans.  That some people have strong religious views is beyond question, but their power to influence the practice of medicine is not.

The No. 1 risk is pain. "We try to minimize it," said Dr. Sarah Pilarowski, pediatrician at Cherry Creek Pediatrics, but penile nerve blocks don't always work and numbing creams "are not 100 percent."

The risk of pain, however, does rest at 100 percent.  Not only during the surgery when local anesthesia is sometimes applied to somewhat reduce pain (at significantly increased cost), but also during a healing period without it.

Pilarowski speculates that the changes in Medicaid policies will spark changes in private insurance coverage.

Insurance plan provisions, private or public, cannot answer the question: Whose body, whose rights?  But they do influence the rate at which genital integrity rights are preserved.  Cost makes an unnecessary surgery even less attractive.

"This is a normal body part," said Gillian Longley, a registered nurse in Louisville and member of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers. "We are doing our sons a favor to support them to stay whole."

That favor, when done, preserves this choice for the rightful arbiter.  Circumcision should be freely available to anyone who wants it, and everyone should be free to keep their whole sex organ.

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Thu May 12, 2011 at 08:38 PM PDT

Botox Beauty Pageantry at 8 Years

by RealityBias

Botox injections to achieve an aesthetic effect.  No particular medical condition indicates it.  I think that's wrong when the patient does not give informed consent.  So the question is, can an 8 year-old girl give what is legitimately informed consent?  Can she be qualified to balance beauty pageantry aspirations with lifelong consequences of partial facial paralysis?

"A child is not an adult, a child cannot make that decision on their own. So I just feel like that is not an appropriate thing for a mother to do for a small child," said Renita Revill, executive director of the Miss Utah Scholarship Pageant, a program that places girls with older contestants and together they perform service projects. (Desert News)

Yet any general way of separating an adult from a child is somewhat arbitrary.  We don't all instantly become adults when we reach a certain age.


Tue May 10, 2011 at 05:53 PM PDT

Fines for Gun Speech in Florida

by RealityBias

Florida Bill Could Muzzle Doctors On Gun Safety

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign a bill that will make the state the first in the nation to prohibit doctors from asking patients if they own guns. The bill is aimed particularly at pediatricians, who routinely ask new parents if they have guns at home and if they're stored safely.

So much for free speech.

There are relatively few cases in which one can be fined for just asking a question.  I suppose supporters of this law would liken it to laws against hiring discrimination which lead employers to avoid asking questions which could lead to such charges.  That comparison might make some sense if the concern was pediatricians refusing to serve patients whose families had guns.

Is it really so "invasive" for a pediatrician to ask a safety oriented question like this?  There is no obligation to answer. Responding with a simple "thanks for your concern, but don't worry about it" should be well within the capabilities of any gun owner.  Further remedies are available, like seeking someone else's services instead.  I don't think we should be legislating fines on pediatricians for asking questions potentially relevant to child safety.


Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 05:58 PM PDT

Data Mining Your Drug Prescription

by RealityBias

Court Hears Arguments In Data Mining Case

The U.S. Supreme Court appeared split on Tuesday as it considered a case testing state limits on data mining. At issue is whether states can bar the buying, selling and profiling of a doctor's prescription records without the physician's consent.

Since the state requires pharmacies to keep this information, why can't it require it not be sold? The law already prohibits selling the information about who received the prescription.

Chief Justice John Roberts began by asking whether the "purpose" of the law isn't really "to prevent sales representatives from contacting particular physicians."

No, the purpose is to protect the privacy of doctors.  Drug companies don't have a right to know what a doctor prescribes.

Asay said no, that "the purpose of the statute is to let doctors decide whether sales representatives will have access to this inside information" about physicians' prescribing habits.

To that, Justice Antonin Scalia replied, "Let's not quibble." The purpose of the law is to make the drug companies' marketing efforts "less effective."

Nor did Scalia buy the argument that the law is aimed at protecting doctor privacy. All the doctor has to do is refuse to talk to the drug representatives when they come calling, he said.

The privacy breach is that doctors shouldn't need to divulge their prescription practices to  just anyone willing to pay for it.  It's not that they're forced to talk to sales representatives.

[Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler] noted that pharmacies only have doctors' prescription information because the federal and state governments require them to have it. The patient's privacy is protected by federal law, he observed, and this law merely puts the doctor "on an equal footing" with the pharmacy in determining how the doctor's information is used in marketing.

How our information is collected and used is a huge issue.  People aren't required to give out much of the information that they do.  But people are required to have a doctor's prescription to buy certain drugs, and the law rightly prevents the pharmacies who know what you buy from selling that information to the highest bidder.

Could the Supreme Court really find it unconstitutional for the state to protect both names on a drug prescription from being put up for sale?


FDA issues warnings to four hand sanitizer manufacturers after they make unsupported claims about E.coli and MRSA

This is good to see.  Advertisements are often misleading enough when they are legal, but these clearly violate the already lax law.

The loophole most of the unproven claims slip through is that a manufacturer can claim that any product supports any bodily function.

Whenever you hear an advertiser claim that their product supports your body's ability to do this, or fight that, you should translate that to "there is no evidence that this product can do that".  If there was actual evidence, they would state the claim directly instead of using weasel words which are applicable to absolutely anything and mean nothing.


Thu Apr 14, 2011 at 05:42 PM PDT

Climate Change: Consider the Source

by RealityBias

A common right-wing talking point against regulation of carbon dioxide is that it is equivalent to government control of your breathing.  The argument is that since we exhale it, regulating its release is absurd.  Even those who are concerned about climate changed caused by human activities sometimes cite greenhouse gases emitted from livestock.

But comparing those to fossil fuels is a false equivalence (and not because of magnitude).

Consider this analogy: Your child has playroom with 100 toys...

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Sat Apr 09, 2011 at 11:25 AM PDT

Circumcision: Parental Regret

by RealityBias

With this edition of Circumcision: Parental Regret, I introduce the new Daily Kos group Parents Regretting Circumcision:

A place for parents to reflect on their past decision to circumcise their son(s), and why they would not make that choice again.

As the genital integrity rate of newborns has risen in recent decades, more parents are realizing that they would not have made the decision they did with the information they have now.

Below, two parents share their stories.

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Sun Apr 03, 2011 at 02:11 PM PDT

Hot Pepper Habit

by RealityBias

It started innocently enough.  A generous quantity of somewhat spicy salsa eaten regularly with hummus, bread, and whatever crunchy vegetable I can find.  And a glass of red wine, of course.

With several moving parts, it's a meal template which can serve one well on a regular basis.

Then, one day, a friend had an over-abundance of Jalapeño peppers from the garden.

I hardly knew what to do with them.  I tried one with this type of meal, and while it seemed quite spicy, I soon discovered they make a great addition.

This went on for months.  Until one day, Serrano peppers were on sale at a local market.

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Take a tour of what people are saying about male circumcision in this month's edition of the Circumcision Blog Crawl.

This special edition recognizes the 18th annual Genital Integrity Awareness Week march and demonstration in the U.S. Capital, March 28th - April 3rd.

Find out why the Genital Integrity rate of American boys is rising as more parents protect their sons' right to choose.

The first featured blog post is entitled "Why I'€™m Against Circumcision"...

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Do you believe that whether to remain intact or choose circumcision is a choice best made by each person for themselves?

If so, please join the group: Kossacks for the Choice to be Genitally Intact
(Click "follow" on the left side after following the link.)

Let's build a sub-community of those of us who care about this issue.

If you share this view, please read on.

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