I’m sorry we do this

1 07 2014

I pretty much ignore all things Facebook (because I can!), but I do want to comment on the blatantly unethical study of newsfeed algorithms.

My ire is focused on both the researchers and on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for engaging subjects in research without their knowledge and consent (the former) and not flagging this lack of consent in their publication (the latter).

Since the promulgation of the Nuremburg Code following the trial of Nazi doctors, informed consent has been a cornerstone of research ethics. The World Medical Association followed with its own guidelines in the early 1960s (revised many times since), and in 1974, the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (now Health & Human Services) promulgated 45 CFR 46 (also updated numerous times); the US regs were later reinforced by the Belmont Report.

My point is, these rules are not new, and any social scientist trained or working in in the US (Adam Kramer received his PhD from the University of Oregon, and Jamie Guillory and Jeffrey Hancock work at UC San Francisco and Cornell University, respectively) should know the basics of them.

And the most basic of the basics about these rules is the necessity of obtaining informed consent from potential research subjects.

You don’t get to say, as Kramer did in a recent Facebook post,

Having written and designed this experiment myself, I can tell you that our goal was never to upset anyone. I can understand why some people have concerns about it, and my coauthors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused. In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety.

and expect that your emotional sorriness  makes up for your ethical sorriness.

Not that Kramer even gets the ethical problem: he’s sorry for the way the paper described the research and sorry that the results did not justify the anxiety, but nowhere is he sorry for violating the dignity of his subjects.

Which, by the way, is the whole point of the regs: the recognition and protection of the dignity of human beings.

And PNAS? Shame on them for publishing such egregiously unethical work.


h/t Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic, for Kramer’s Facebook link

Mayan campaign mashup 2012: It was sad, so sad

9 11 2012

I am so enjoying the wailing and gnashing of teeth among celebrity conservatives.

Oh no, we lost America! America died! The makers have taken over! Alas and alack, we are ruined! No marriage, no babies, just guns and ammo and hunkering down for the coming doom!

Et cetera.

TNC has a post up on the denialism of such reactions, and many, many others have corralled the increasing number of howls into lists of lamentations and these are all so. . . incredibly. . . amusing.

I have zero sympathy for the pundits and professional liars, so my joy in their sorrow is pure.

Regular folks, though, the people who make no money spinning bullshit into gold but who honestly believe that Republicans have the best ideas and that the country will now be worse off under Obama than it would have been under Romney, I do sympathize with them.

I’ve been there. It hurts. It hurt to care and believe and work and lose. It always hurts to lose.

There’s a tumblr called White People Mourning Romney that, yeah, I clicked through, but I felt bad for doing so (and am thus not linking to it). There are a few screenshots of the Fox-Cons, but most of the pictures were of ordinary Republicans looking sad.

I didn’t enjoy that. People shouldn’t be mocked for caring about their country or hooted at because they wanted to win and are crying because they lost.

Politics is about a lot of things, but at the center of it is love. Karl Rove might believe the crap he spews, but he’s also paid to spew; the volunteers and voters just believe, and they do the work because they love their country and believe that their ideas and politicians are the best for the country.

Yes, some of them hate—politics is also about hate—and motives regardless are almost always mixed. But let’s give the ordinary losers the dignity of their love and hope and dreams.

As for the rest of them—Krauthammer and O’Reilly and Coulter and Lopez and that whole lot—-do not let pity interfere with your enjoyment of their dismay.

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here

7 05 2011

Foster children would be allowed to get clothing only from second hand stores

By Todd A. Heywood | 04.22.11 | 11:40 am

Under a new budget proposal from State Sen. Bruce Casswell, children in the state’s foster care system would be allowed to purchase clothing only in used clothing stores.

Casswell, a Republican representing Branch, Hillsdale, Lenawee and St. Joseph counties, made the proposal this week, reportsMichigan Public Radio.

His explanation?

“I never had anything new,” Caswell says. “I got all the hand-me-downs. And my dad, he did a lot of shopping at the Salvation Army, and his comment was — and quite frankly it’s true — once you’re out of the store and you walk down the street, nobody knows where you bought your clothes.”

Under his plan, foster children would receive gift cards that could only be used at places like the Salvation Army, Goodwill and other second hand clothing stores.

The plan was knocked by the Michigan League for Human Services. Gilda Jacobs, executive director of the group, had this to say:

“Honestly, I was flabbergasted,” Jacobs says. “I really couldn’t believe this. Because I think, gosh, is this where we’ve gone in this state? I think that there’s the whole issue of dignity. You’re saying to somebody, you don’t deserve to go in and buy a new pair of gym shoes. You know, for a lot of foster kids, they already have so much stacked against them.”

Casswell says the plan will save the state money, though it isn’t clear how much the state spends on clothing for foster children or how much could be saved this way.

(If you’re wondering if we’re really at the abyss, read the comments.)

Credit: The Michigan Messenger; h/t Fred Clark at slactivist

Sandra at the beach

6 11 2008

My expectations are few:

Guantanamo: close. Torture: stop.

That’s it. More? Yeah, more would be nice, more would be more than nice, but if an Obama administration cannot accomplish these two very basic acts—no matter what else it does—it will have failed.

As for other happenings on Nov 4:

Prop 8 passed. Hey, gays and lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered: You/we don’t count! (Oh, feel free to keep being, y’know, gay and all that, but please keep it to yourselves. Do that, and you get domestic partnership laws! That’s good enough, doncha think?)

And all you/us straight folk out there who think anti-gay laws and referenda have nothing to do with you: check out the Arkansas ballot measure which prohibits any unmarried couple from fostering or adopting children. The measure—which passed, natch—was explicitly aimed at prohibiting gays and lesbians from taking care of children. To get around an Arkansas Supreme Court decision which prohibited Arkansas’s Child Welfare Agency Review Board from, mm, discriminating against gays and lesbians, ballot proponents widened the prohibition to include all unmarried couples (ie, ‘individuals cohabiting with a sexual partner outside of marriage’).

I tried to find out if Arkansas allows single people to foster or adopt children (although the statute states that ‘It is the public policy of the state to favor marriage. . . over unmarried cohabitation with regard to adoption and foster care’), but was unable to do so.

Why should unmarried straight folks care? Well, in addition to reasons of principle (equality, dignity, and all those other silly et ceteras), it’s clear that those transfixed by same sex attraction have no problem flattening singles on their way to buttress the married.

As the commenter on Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Con website put it:

November 5, 2008 8:36 PM

I’m not gay and I don’t have any particular dog in the race over gay marriage. I’m not particularly for it, but given the tax subsidies and other benefits given to “married” people, I can see why a seriously-committed gay couple would want to participate.

What is really starting to gripe me is the whole focus on “marriage” is the foundation of our civil society, yada yada yada.

Well, I’m a heterosexual single. I’d like to feel like I have some contributing role to play in the betterment of society even though I’m not married.

There’s a pretty huge demographic of unmarried, never-married heterosexual adults. We matter, too.

It’d be nice to think so, wouldn’t it?

I let loose of fair number of words disclaiming any kum-by-ya sentiments, and am not bothered by the combative aspect of politics.

But, underneath it all, I hold to the basic belief that there is no us-and-them, there is only us. To strip away the dignity of the despised among us to strip away our dignity.


Okay, how I square this with understanding of difference and pluralism and the Other, well, that’s going to have to wait for another post. For now, let’s just say that this ‘us’ is a mixed bag. . . .


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