Bioethics, healthcare policy, and related issues.
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless sister
So my beloved sister has apparently been stalking me online. The other day she told me that she had been showing my blogs to her girlfriends, “and we laugh a little”.
So it’s come to this . . .
So apparently there’s a new trend in spamming: paying wage-slaves who, apparently, couldn’t find a job gold farming in WoW to cruise blogs and hand-type vaguely relevant but meaningless comments with embedded links to spam client sites. The comments are coherent enough that they evade spam filters like Akismet, and the workers are cheap enough that this, apparently, is a profitable form of parasitism.
I’ve just deleted a couple of dozen comment spams of this type, and presumably the problem will only get worse. At some point I may have to implement Captcha or another form of verification. Sorry for the inconvenience, but sleaze rises to the top, and never slows down.
Your data suggest a slight automatic preference for Older People compared to Younger People.
I hate taking the Implicit Association Test, but it’s a good thing to do.
Having mentioned it in my previous post (below), I was prompted to go do it again. The test that came up is on age groups; they have a wide range of others. I’ve taken the famous one on race, and it also showed a slight bias; almost everyone does.
It’s important not to read to much into things like this, but it’s important not to dismiss it, too.
Relative frequency of terms appearing on this blog over the last roughly 18 months (from the lovely Wordle online application).
Nothing surprising here (although it does appear to be weighted somewhat for more recent posts – “Hinckley” appears in only one post, and it seems much too prominent above).
A couple of observations: abortion looms about as large as it has to, but too large to be comfortable. That is, so much of practical bioethics is taken up by trying to stave off the continual, desperate assault on abortion rights that other issues – ones that actually have a significant ethical (rather than purely religious or political) issue at their core – get short shrift. Likewise, women’s issues predominate in bioethics because, as with abortion, so much of practical politics on bioethical issues is driven by misogyny. One longs for the luxury of moving on to other things.
“Fact” is prominent, which pleases me; at the core of rational bioethics is the fact/value distinction, in which regard it is almost always the facts that are under-represented, and I hope my writing balances the two. For the same reason, though, I am not sorry to note that “feelings” gets almost as much weight. “Right” and “law” are fairly prominent, which may be a source of chagrin for a consequentialist ethicist, but you can’t deny their importance in practical policymaking. I don’t understand how “treatment” is so large and “patient” is so small, or how certain other terms that I think are common do not seem emphasized here, but as I said, it appears that the terms are not equally weighted over time, so there may be a distortion resulting from mere differences in time of appearance.
I notice that LGBTQ and disability issues are not very obvious in the above, which bothers me. And though the emphasis on women’s issues evidences a feminist perspective that I hope is clear in the blog, the word “feminism” doesn’t appear above, which is a suggestive oversight. (In a way, a tag cloud is kind of like the Implicit Association Test – you reveal your own mental processes through behavioral patterns you weren’t consciously aware of.)
Still, interesting, no? Is anyone surprised by any of this? What terms are missing? What dark psychoses do you detect from the pattern above?
Though pleased with the sophisticatedly muted palette the blog has sported ever since birth, I finally bit the bullet and took a huge leap into a future of crazed decadence and unbridled sensual indulgence: I added colored hyperlinks. The grey links among the black text were hard to pick out – as others have mentioned before – so I’ve changed them to dark blue. Hope that helps, though frankly I think it’s declassé. I mean, once you’ve added one color, it’s just a short step to, you know . . . more than one.
But wait . . . there’s more . . . !
Watch this space for new and exciting developments, coming soon to the right-hand sidebar! (What could it be? . . .)
I have achieved immortality, courtesy of a commenter at Lean Left, the general-issues and politics blog I contribute to. Shoothouse Barbie, struggling to comprehend the posting style and focus that is my contribution to a better world, finally gets it:
You’re like the mean proctologist with a fetish.
My work is done.
QOTD from Scott Berkun:
Somewhere in your town there is a row of graves at the cemetery, called smartypants lane, filled with people who were buried at poorly attended funerals, whose headstones say “Well, at least I was right.”
The post is actually a useful discussion of the phenomenon of rationalization of bad thinking – something that is most perniciously prevalent in bioethics, it seems. But it really caught my attention just because I now know what my headstone is going to say.
[For some reason I can’t stop writing that as “Ass teh Ethicist”, which may be appropriate.]
I’ve decided to create a mechanism for reader input to the blog. I note the popularity of “open threads” on other blogs, but wanted something a little different here. I’ve also been worrying about the consistent lack of feedback or commentary on blog posts.
I know this blog is fairly low-traffic, but I also know that a good percentage of visitors are people who are knowledgeable about these issues and really interested in them. I don’t know why y’all don’t comment more. I’ve been telling myself that it’s because my posts are so thorough and comprehensive that there is just nothing more to say on any of the issues, but, I suppose, it’s possible that might not really be the answer. Another thought is that my posts may be generally interesting to readers, but not quite on-target enough to make them want to respond.
So, fine. Be that way. From now on you can do the work yourselves.
If there’s a topic you wish had been addressed here but hasn’t, or a question you’d like input on, or if you just have an opinion you want to get off your chest about something related to bioethics, you can now create your own posts and discussion topics on this blog.
Go to the top of the right-hand sidebar, in the section labeled “Ask the Ethicist!”. (See it up there? To the right – all the way near the side of your screen. Up at the top – below the words “Sufficient Scruples” but above all those lists of features and links. Got it?) Click anywhere in that box and it will take you to a permanent page with an open comments section. Use the comments section to post anything you like – a question, a proposed discussion topic, an argument on which you’d like feedback, or just an opinion. I will move that comment to the main page as a blog post, credited to you. In essence, you can be a blogger at “Sufficient Scruples”! Your comment will appear as a new post at the top of this page (so be sure it’s worded the way you want). Give your name or handle, and your e-mail or Web address if you like, so you get credit. I will give my response to your post, and other readers can then join in in the comments section. You can be sure, then, that this blog will always have something of interest to you on it – if it doesn’t, you have only yourself to blame!
So, welcome, to all my fellow bloggers! Let a thousand blog posts bloom!
NB: Your post will not appear immediately. I will have to create the new blog post from your text; it should usually take less than 24 hours. I reserve the right to delete posts that are offensive or trolls.
[This post will be back-dated for one month to keep the announcement at the top of the page. See below for other recent posts. 4/15/2008]
About a year and a half ago, I posted that I was cutting back on blogging to devote more time to other work, especially to finishing my graduate degree. That continues, with some progress made, I’m glad to say, but I was shocked to find I hadn’t posted anything at all in about 6 months. So herewith a couple of quick hits. I’m still far from swamped with time for blogging, but I wanted to at least keep my hand in.
More when possible.
I hate to do this.
I’ve been struggling to build this blog up for a year and a half; just recently – and not without much begging – I’ve had some good fortune with links from other bloggers and seen my traffic climb from a handful of much-treasured regulars to about 100 hits a day. As pathetic as that is, it was progress, and I was getting more excited about trying to reach out further.
In the meantime, the rest of my life has been circling the drain for a decade or more, and is starting to pick up speed. For those who don’t know, I have been “on leave” (i.e., they haven’t seen me in years) from a doctoral program where I specialize in bioethics. But I need to finish that program to have any real place in this profession – blogging isn’t it. And I desperately need to do something about my negative cashflow situation. Spending all day reading blogs and working up one lengthy post has become another way to avoid doing the things I really need to be doing but don’t really like. Several of my friends have made pointed comments to that effect, and some have threatened to take over my blog if I don’t get my shit more in order.
Most importantly, I’m up against a deadline for making some important, possibly very valuable, moves in my career – predicated on my doing something serious about the PhD I’ve been bogged down on for years now. And as much as I don’t like to see it, this blog is essentially an end in itself, but is blocking my way to other things that serve more important ends. So, some serious prioritizing is in order.
I’ve decided to put Sufficient Scruples on the back burner, for a while at least. Already, I’m only making an average of 4-6 posts per week, but simply thinking that I should be posting every day is enough to eat up my time. So I’m going to cut back to 1-2 posts per week, maybe mostly on weekends.
It hurts to let this go, and to think about what I know this will do to my traffic volume. In particular, I feel like I’m letting down the few regulars who have been coming by. I want to thank you for all the interest and support you’ve shown. Be aware that this is in service of something that means a lot more to me personally, and will also let me play a bigger role in the issues we both care about. But I’m sorry to be running out on you.
Do come by every week or so, please! I will still post content here, but it will be much lower in volume. I’ll try to make it up in quality. And feel free to e-mail me. I rarely hear from readers, but I’d like to. As for you lurkers out there (yes, you at the American Physical Society with your two-hour browsing times – and you at the megachurch down in Dallas who’s been coming by every day for weeks – and the many others), say hello! I don’t know who you are (Sitemeter gives me your IP address but can’t know your username, so don’t worry), but I’m very glad to see you on the blog; feel free to drop me a line at the “Contact” link above.
Thanks to everyone who does or has read this blog; thanks to all those who have commented or e-mailed or linked; thanks especially to those who cared enough about me personally to offer feedback on the larger context it sits in. I hope you won’t disappear, as I won’t, but I’ll be sorry to see less of you from now on.
After barely a month, I’ve decided to retire the “Stegosaurus of the Week” award. I’ve begun feeling uncomfortable about it, and decided it wasn’t the right thing to be doing.
Since I only average about a post per day on weekdays, and often don’t blog at all on weekends, devoting up to 20% of my posts to a recurrent, insulting joke probably sets the wrong tone for the blog. For one thing, I just got done chastizing the most recent StegoWeek winner for her lack of collegiality (among many more serious faults); I don’t think pointing out bad thinking by others falls to the same level as using your supposed credentials to justify picking a personal fight with a critic that spills over two Web sites, but it’s not the height of professionalism either. And singling people out for their personal lack of perspecuity, instead of focusing only on the deficiencies of their actual writings, is harsh. (Not, perhaps, unnecessarily so – there are a remarkable number of idiots who just have no clue about themselves, and I think it’s helpful to tell them the truth – but I’ll leave it to others.) After one early award resulted in an avalanche of abuse that caused the (richly deserving) recipient to shut down his blog, it started to seem as if this was detracting from debate, not fostering it. There may be more high-minded (though less satisfying) ways of conducting this discourse, and I think I should probably pursue them.
So I won’t be making new awards. That’s not to say that I won’t be turning my critical eye where it is needed – and boy, is it needed! And, too, that’s not to say that the winners to date have not entirely deserved their awards. A final hats-off to the few, and from now on the only, Stegosaurus of the Week Awardees:
[No] Thanks to all, for making health-ethics blogging what it is!
. . . we’ve been Feministing-dotted!
[UPDATE: And now Pandagon-dotted! Welcome, Pandas!]
[UPUPDATE: And Feministe-dotted! And Alternet-dotted! Thanks, all!]
This blog has been up for a year, and now averages about 30 hits a day. You can imagine how thrilled I am. But just now I noticed I had received
close to well over 200 hits in less than 3 hours, and the rocket shows no signs of decelerating. WTF? Quick inspection (love that Sitemeter!) demonstrated that it’s all coming by way of a link from Jessica at Feministing, to my post about the dumbass who posted screens and screens of rant about a wholly fictional article on abortion from The Onion, of all places.
For this, I can only say: Thank you, Jessica! – and Feministing! – and the Feminist Blogs aggregator! (all linked to the right)
And now let me say this about that . . .
First, welcome, all Feministingers! Delighted to have you here, and very flattered to be linked by a great blog I read each and every day. [UPDATE: Special shoutout to my homies in Hayward, and Castro Valley, California! I grew up in Castro Valley, graduated from CV High, and never looked back. I was shocked to see you in the visitor stats – but welcome!] You’re exactly the audience I want to be in touch with.
And that’s what prompts these comments. Not to sound like a completely shameless blogwhore, but, now that you’re here, stick around! Read a few posts! Post a few comments (believe me, there’s room)! More than anything, tell me what you think, how this blog tickles your bioethics fancy, and what you’d like to see here.
I know this sounds pathetic, but I’ve been trying to build readership for a year, and can’t seem to find the formula. As both my regular readers know, my penchant is for longer-form essays on more theoretical issues in healthcare policy and ethics. This is not to say I don’t frequently take time out to rip some right-wing dipshit a much-deserved new one, but many of my posts are more discursive than brief commentary. And I don’t do “Friday Random Ten”. That’s just me. (See the FAQ for some light on why.) Maybe it’s not what blog-readers want. But I can’t help thinking there’s some sort of an audience for me out there. And if there is, that audience will be one with progressive values, strong feminist leanings, science-literate, with an eye for detail and a respect for argumentation. And I suspect much of that audience is already at the blogs I read and respect, such as the ones in my (very selectively chosen) blogroll. I think I’m posting things they (you) would find worthwhile, and I wish I could get the out to that wider audience.
I don’t know if I just have too low a profile, or if I’ve been tried and found wanting. But for those of you here the first time, consider coming back. Those of you who blog, please consider linking when you think there’s something here worth reading. You are the people I want to be in community with. Send me some feedback, drop me a line, let me know if what I’m offering fits a need you have.
And thanks again, for linking and for coming by. Hope to see you again.
Amazingly, I forgot to note the official one-year anniversary of Sufficient Scruples, less than two weeks ago. Sufficient Scruples officially went “live” June 1, 2005. Hard to believe it was that recently, or that long ago, both!
Since then, there’ve been thousands of visitors (the Sitemeter counter in the left column was initiated only a few months ago, so it does not reflect the entire total for the past year), and easily dozens of commenters. My one ongoing worry with this blog – as both regular readers already know – is lack of traffic. To those of you who have been coming by, thanks so much! To our newest visitors, welcome, and stick around! Better, bring a friend!
I’m pleased with what the blog’s become, and am inclined to continue in the same vein. But as I have said before, I want it to be responsive to the needs and interests of the vast untapped public that I am sure awaits – which would be easier if I knew who they were and what their needs and interests are. Feel free to drop me a line. In particular: Sufficient Scruples podcasts – an idea whose time has come, or a much needed void waiting to be filled? You decide.
Thanks again for a great year, and the enthusiasm for a better one to come!
This blog has been inundated with a huge traffic increase for the past two days – certainly a very welcome phenomenon, but an unusual one. Virtually all the new traffic comes from “StumbleUpon” – a Web service that feeds random Web pages matching selection criteria that you choose (it lets you “stumble upon” pages that refer to things you’re interested in). Somehow, this page is coming up a whole lot for StumbleUpon users, though, if anything, even less than usual for all the other readers.
So, first of all, of course – Welcome, Stumblers! Thanks for dropping by! (Though I see you share the universal aversion to leaving comments.) Please come back often.
However, I’m a little puzzled. Does anybody know why this page is getting so much StumbleUpon traffic suddenly? Is it a fluke, or are there a lot of users who are interested in bioethics? Am I doing something right that I should keep doing?
As always, feedback, comments, and visits are much welcomed.
God, I love looking at Sitemeter’s visitor stats, especially including the world-wide map with IP locations superimposed as colored dots.
Shoutout to my homies in Andalucia, yo! Not to mention 4 different Australian states (hey, Viv!), New Zealand, and a plucky contingent from Eastern Europe. (I may not know you, but I love you!) I’m strangely thrilled by visitors from England and Western European countries I’ve visited, though I don’t know why. And the search-phrase visitors are cool: “find a date” (? – whatever, man; I feel your pain). The nation-wide response from the good ‘ol US of A is very heartwarming.
Welcome, one and all!
A few special notes:
To you visitors from Raving Atheist – no, I don’t know what he’s talking about either, but welcome aboard and please take a look around. One of us is crazy, and I think you can tell who.
Other click-throughs from other blogs are also most welcome; I’m grateful for your interest and the support of the referring bloggers, in every case. Thanks, welcome, and please stick around.
New York bloggers and visitors: say hello! I’d like to get more hooked into the New York blogging scene, and especially with some of the really great New York ethics/policy bloggers (we all know who they are). Drop me a line! I’m down for meetups or events in Brooklyn or Manhattan especially.
Ethics bloggers: you too! I also want to connect with the professional ethicists/bioethicists online, and would really appreciate input and feedback from that community on what I’m doing (wrong) here and what you think about it. And, of course, substantive comments on the issues in the posts are highly desirable. I’d like to hear from you.
And a plea:
I’ve said it before, but have long since gotten past the point of “too proud to beg”, so I’ll say it again: use the comments section! It’s there for a reason! Now that I’ve got some stats tracking going, I know you’re out there, so say something! (A little link-love wouldn’t hurt neither, though it does hurt to say so out loud.)
I simply don’t know if I’m making a contribution people value. A while back I meta-posted on my plans for focusing and continuing the blog, explaining also why I tend to pursue long-form theoretical discussions rather than breaking-news links and commentary. That’s still largely my conception of this blog. But maybe, like Spinal Tap, I’m filling a much-needed void. Let me know what you think, and if there’s something here you find useful.
Thanks a lot! – especially for visiting and sharing your time and interest here. It’s very gratifying, and I hope we’ll have more opportunities.
UPDATE: Oy! I just discovered that I had my blog e-mail messed up for the last six months, and haven’t seen or responded to any e-mails sent me since about November 2005. Not only that, but the pileup of unseen mail (virtually all of it spam) hit my Inbox quota in January, so I don’t even have any e-mails for the last three months or more. If you’ve written to me directly (using the e-mail link on the sidebar) and I haven’t responded, that’s probably the reason. If you’ve written to me since the middle of January, I never got your e-mail and can’t respond at all. I’m sorry for this.
Certainly no offense was intended – I’m delighted to get e-mail through the blog, and wondered why it had stopped. (The reason is that I let somebody stupid handle the mail function – but when you’re a one-person operation, and the one person is me, that’s the only available option.) Again, I’m sorry – but the problem is now solved. Please keep writing, I’ll be glad to get back to you this time!
Some more meta-bloggin':
Taking my friend Angus’s suggestions, I’ve started putting jump tags on blog entries to de-clutter the front page and give casual browsers more to choose from. Read the whole things, though.
I’ve also started SiteMeter monitoring, revealing a slow trickle of visitors I wasn’t aware of. Thanks! Do come back again!
SiteMeter reveals that a good number of people are hitting older blog posts, presumably after searching for specific topics. That’s great. Note that comments are closed on old posts after a certain period of time; I’m sorry for this policy but had to adopt it to try to keep comment spam manageable. (Unfortunately, keyword spam-blocking doesn’t work very well on this blog, because so much spam uses medically-related terms – “viagra”, “cialis”, “erection” . . . – that could conceivably be the subject of a legitimate comment!) So if you see an older post you’re interested in commenting on, drop me an e-mail – we can start a new thread.
As for comments in general, please feel free to leave them. I suspect this (still small) community of readers harbors a lot of intelligent and informed people, and I’d like to get a dialog going. It also helps a lot to know there are people out there reading the material; until I started SiteMeter I honestly though nobody at all was coming by. I tend to offer “the final word” on things in my posts, but that’s just me. Feel free to disagree, criticize, or suggest a new perspective; I’d like to hear from you.
Thanks for dropping by!
I hesitate to mention it, but . . . Sufficient Scruples has been nominated for Koufax Awards in the following categories:
(Seriously, thanks to whoever did the nominating. I’m very flattered that one [or more] of you thinks that highly of the blog, and honored to be in the company of some really great blogs among the nominees. You read me! You really, really read me!)
Wampum, who run the awards, are doing their usual great job, and at considerable expense. (Apparently they’ve had to pay for computer repairs, at least one of them has taken a whole week off to coordinate the awards this year, and last year bandwidth alone during the awards season ran them over 4 figures.) Please consider dropping them a dime through the PayPal link on their awards page. And please peruse the categories and the nominees, and vote for the most deserving. Polls open soon, and there are a lot of great candidates to choose from. Recognition really makes a blogger’s day.
My recent vow to make posting here more regular almost instantly ran aground – moving to a new apartment, financial hassles, computer hassles, the usual works got in the way. I am also mindful of an early blogger’s advice not to apologize for light blogging, on grounds that nobody cares and nobody’s keeping track. But still, I want this to work and am still trying to find the way to make it possible.
So, late for Western New Year but just in time for Chinese New Year, here’s another kick at the can and another heartfelt resolution. Keep those cards and letters coming.
After much complaining, and no action on my part, I’m tweaking the blog a bit. I know my clever half-gray font color was hard on the eyes; I’ve finally reverted to plain black (hyperlinks are still in a subtle gray, because, hell, using a color or something would be way too wild). My blog theme is a heavily-edited thing I pulled off some guy’s Web site, and, while I like it, it’s not that well organized, so further tweaking will be slow and subtle. Things keep going invisible because I can’t tell what the various codes do until I change them, and there’s a decided polygenetic feedback situation that makes changing some of them a dicey proposition. But I’ll try to slowly polish it until it’s got just that perfect featureless lack of color I always dreamed of.
This is just to let you know that your eyes aren’t deceiving you – you can actually read the text now. Suggestions for further improvements are welcome, though the overall basic layout is going to stay as it is. Keep those cards and letters coming!
This begins the first full calendar year of Sufficient Scruples. The last 6 months or so have been interesting and fun, but I’m still struggling to build readership, and trying to figure out how to make the blog as unique and as useful as possible. Sufficient Scruples is not quite a “new blog” anymore, but I think of the last half of 2005 (since the birth of the blog) as a shakedown period. Beginning with the New Year, I want Sufficient Scruples to play a distinct and particular role in ethics blogging, and to perform a service for readers with a certain perspective on these issues.
As many past posts should make clear, my penchant is for longer, discursive entries, and not so much commentary on every “breaking news” item that pops up. My temperament and the amount of time I have to put in make this work better for me. And there are lots of bloggers keeping abreast of the headlines – most of them are better than me.
So one thing I will try to do is find more issues of real significance in conceptual or ethical terms – rather than those that happen to be relevant as of the moment – and focus on teasing out what they have to tell us about ethical health care in general. Sufficient Scruples will be a place where particular incidents and news events will serve to illustrate larger ethical themes, and perhaps point up conflicts or difficulties attending the principles that relate to those issues.
I will also try to post more regularly, though it’s hard doing it alone, especially if you make a habit of longer posts. But this at least frees me from feeling guilty that I’m not discussing every latest event or hot topic. Look to the right and you’ll find a blogroll full of up-to-the-minute bloggers who are really hot on current issues, and have great things to say.
Another thing I will do is get podcasts going as soon as possible. (I’m jonesing for the Blue Snowball, the best USB microphone available, and at $139 just exactly $139 more than I can afford.) That was part of the original plan, but it fell by the wayside during a somewhat trying second half of 2005.
Also, I will try to expand the library of “White Papers”. (I hope to god someone’s reading those.) Any feedback on whether those essays are useful, or suggestions as to issues on which you would like to see a broad, expository discussion, are welcome.
In these ways and others I hope to supercharge Sufficient Scruples in 2006 and move onward and upward. I hope there is a niche for considered, long-form (by blogging standards), deliberative discussion of ethical principle in the healthcare setting. That’s what I will try to provide; we’ll see how well it works.
One problem, though, is readership. I don’t seem to have any. It’s still early days, but things are definitely lagging in that department, which is very frustrating. Posting and linking more will help, but I don’t know what else to do. One plea I would make to readers: say something! I know I get more readers than comments – go ahead and give some feedback, respond to each other, let me know y’all are out there. I can talk to myself at home. Seriously, it would help me feel this was worth doing if I knew that anyone was listening.
But for those who are, thanks so much, and stick around. 2006 is a new beginning and a new opportunity! Help me make the most of it!
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