Saturday, January 30, 2010

Doctors Raping Patients

At ThePolitic, I have a brief comment on the story about non-consensual pelvic exams done on patients who are unconscious.  It is my contention that this is rape.  You don't get to stick things into a woman's vagina without her consent.  When you do, it's rape.  If I were to do "pelvic exams" on women who had passed out in bars, I'd (rightly) be called a rapist.  The same holds true for doctors in operating rooms.

Putting that aside, it's obvious that there are people in the medical profession who see nothing wrong with this form of rape.  As I note at ThePolitic, there's a lot to unpack here.  The mentality that justifies such egregious abuses of personal autonomy is somewhat disturbing.

The main justification for this practice seems to be that without this abuse there would be no women willing to submit to unnecessary pelvic exams - a useful teaching tool.  The data proves this wrong.  Further, there is always the option of paying women.  Nonetheless, even if we take this incorrect assertion as fact, it does absolutely nothing to justify the abuser's actions.

To assume that it does, we must assume that any one person - or any one group of people - is worth less than the collective.  To decide that the individual's wishes do not matter, in the context of the greater good, is to decide that each one of us is here as a resource for the group.  Our liberty and our autonomy matter not.  To approve the use and abuse of unconscious women is to degrade them, and to degrade the rest of us.  This is illiberal.  This strikes against everything that Western democracy is supposed to stand for (and be built upon).  This not only dehumanizes individual humans, it dehumanizes humanity.  The inherent dignity that liberty presupposes is considered non-existent when the personal wishes of an individual are deemed irrelevant in pursuit of the amelioration of the masses.

It's often joked that doctors have God complexes.  More than any other profession (well, maybe politicians), popular culture assigns self-reverence to doctors.  The actions described in the article would not, by definition, constitute playing God (God' not a criminal), however, by deciding that they, and they alone, will be the arbiters of what is moral, what is acceptable, what is legal and what value to place on human life, these doctors are not far off.  There's a certain level of narcissism required to assume that you should decide what goes in someone else's vagina.

Despite this abhorrent behaviour, I'm not willing to assume that all doctors are sociopaths (I would assume that the rate of sociopathy is no different than any other profession).  It seems to me that we are likely witnessing an instantiation of the Milgram Experiment.  Med students, naturally obedient and subservient to the doctors from whom they're learning, will be disinclined to refuse to abuse women when so directed by a superior.  I imagine this mentality is not the sole domain of med students, either.  From my experience (personally, and from what I've witnessed of friends and loved ones), patients are likely to defer to experts.  When a doctor tells us something needs to be done, we forgo the need to think critically.  Well, if a doctor said it, then it must be true.  Patients too often take insufficient command of their own treatment, acquiescing to whatever the man in the white coat suggests.

(This is not meant to be a polemic against doctors in general; just against those who would sexually abuse women.)

Since this mentality seems to be natural among humans, it is, perhaps, unfair to single out med students.  It is much fairer to pin the bulk of the blame on the doctors who ordered the abuse.  They were the ones most in control of the situation.  They are the ones who, ultimately, are responsible for the well being of their patients.  Though, I have to wonder, how long has this been going on?  Were the doctors who are ordering the exams expected to perform these same exams when they were med students?  If the med students who perpetrated these crimes in the past are now in a position to put a stop to them but don't (or worse, actively perpetuate this wretched practice), I have no sympathy for them.  Even if we could consider them victims when they were med students (big stretch), we do not absolve abusers because they were once abused.

Further, it is not the practice in North America to forgive someone of their crimes, even if we have a Milgram situation.  Just as the abusers in the strip search prank call spree are rightfully considered guilty (though with mitigating circumstances), so must the med students be considered guilty.  It has been a long time since Western democracy has accepted, 'I was just following orders,' as a basis for exoneration.

In the end, regardless of the circumstances, regardless of their "good" intentions, regardless of their willful ignorance, these doctors and med students committed rape.  They shouldn't be allowed to get away with it, but (I'm cynical enough to assume) they will.  Our only real hope is that enough people will realize the abhorrent nature of this practice and put a stop to it.  Until then, we have no way of knowing how many more women will be abused.

Hell, we have no way of knowing how many have already been abused.  Many women will go without justice, because they have no idea that they were raped.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

At the Risk of Charges of Treason...

I must ask, what the hell is going on at DND?  Now, they're all worried about reports of torture of detainees handed over to Afghan police forces.  The rest of us have been talking about this for months.  Richard Colvin has been talking about this for years.

Here's the story:
The Canadian military has ordered a formal investigation into how a critical report on the beating of an Afghan prisoner remained buried at National Defence headquarters.

In June 2006 soldiers captured a suspected Taliban fighter and handed him over to local police, who then beat him to the point where the Canadians had to intervene.

A report on the incident, which undermines Conservative government claims that no prisoners handed over to Afghans faced abuse, was apparently uncovered only in December.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk ordered an investigation, which is headed by Rear-Admiral Paul Maddison, commander of Joint Task Force Atlantic.

Natynczyk's deputy, Vice-Admiral Denis Rouleau, says the probe will look at the incident itself, why soldiers took the actions they did and how it was reported.

The report of the investigation is due March 1 and is to be made public shortly after.

Diplomat Richard Colvin testified before a special House of Commons committee in November that he repeatedly warned federal officials in 2006 and 2007 that prisoners faced the possibility of torture in Afghan jails.

You'll have to pardon me if I think it is a little late for the Chief of Defence to suddenly be concerned with the treatment of people we handed over to local authorities in Afghanistan. Don't get me wrong; I'm glad the bureacrats at DND will, I assume, be trying to discern what went wrong. They should have just been a little more concerned three or four years ago.

Further, can this little incident put to rest the notion that if you don't like government officials covering up torture, you obviously hate the troops on the ground?  It's my reading that the troops on the ground agree that certain Afghan officials were torturing people.  It's my reading that the troops on the ground agree that we shouldn't let this happen.  Granted, we shouldn't be that surprised.  This is not the first time soldiers in the theatre acted nobly, only to have their higher-ups not really care.

So Gen. Natynczyk, by all means, report on your error, but please let no one try to spin this to imply that no error was ever made - or that it was just a administrative error.  It's become clear that we, as a nation, knew - or chose to ignore - that people were being tortured, people whom we had a moral and legal obligation to protect.

And it should be remembered: it was government officials who failed our troops, not those of us who refuse to let our nation be complicit in torture.

The Second Derivative of Political Accountability

This morning before work, I was watching a bit of CTV Newsnet, and the ticker along the bottom noted that the Conservative government's support is continuing to drop (sorry, no link).  To a casual observer, it appears that this decline began with the prorogation (is that even a word?) of Parliament, and has just kept going for the past month.

If you're cynical like me, you're pretty sure that a big reason that the Conservatives prorogued Parliament was to shut down the Afghan detainee scandal.  By extension, it's my guess is that it was the cynicism of the move that has hurt the Conservative government.  Ironically, I hadn't noticed much evidence that the inquiry into the Afghan detainee abuse issue was actually hurting the public's opinion of the Conservative government (your humble writer notwithstanding).

Scott H. Payne wrote a post a little while ago (quoting a certain author of this blog) suggesting that if the Conservative government had just come clean at the beginning of the scandal, admitted mistakes were made and vowed to get to the bottom of things, they could have come out of the whole thing pretty much unscathed.  The implication being that, a la Nixon, it wasn't the crime; it was the cover up.

But since the government seemed to be doing fine throughout the fall, it appears that it's not even that.  The public may have tolerated the crime; they may have even tolerated the cover up of the crime, but they were simply not willing to tolerate the cover up of the cover up of the crime.

God bless second derivatives.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Greg Oden's Indiscretion

As some of you may have heard, Portland Trailblazer's center, Greg Oden, has been captured naked by... Greg Oden (safe for work, barely).  Apparently, Oden had taken pictures of himself for a special friend, who, in turn, seems to have decided to share the pictures with the world.  Oden has since apologized.  No word on if the special friend has apologized.

It'd be quite easy to grab this incident and parade it around for kids to teach them about the dangers of sexting.  We could easily say, 'see, when you take naked pictures of yourself, it comes back to haunt you.'  We could demonstrate our righteous indignation, and let kids know just exactly how wrong it is to participate in sexting.

We could teach them that the natural result of sexting is shame, that they will be shamed; that the world will look down on them in moral self-righteousness; that they will be judged and judged harshly.  We could teach them that sexting makes them nothing more than pornographers.  Unfortunately, we already are.

Who cares that we're teaching children to be ashamed of their bodies (lord knows that's never turned out badly).  Who cares if we're teaching them that sex is inherently dirty and sinful.  Who cares if we're driving them to suicide.  Modesty is a lesson that must be taught, regardless of the consequences.

So Greg Oden apologized, and we, no doubt, are the worse for it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Of Hey Lewis, Afghanistan and a Torch Now Extinguished

Dear John, Dear John.  By the time you read these lines, I'll be gone...

At ThePolitic I break up with Stephen Harper... and I reference Huey Lewis and The News, Suzanne Somers and Patrick Duffy (and now I've referenced Judd Hirsch... awesome).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I Fully Support Jim Watson's Candidacy for Mayor

At least until someone else declares.  Even then, there's no local politician I could think of who would be a better candidate.  Alex Munter?  Jan Harder?  Alex Cullen?  Ugh, please.  So, yeah, for now, I'm pleased that Mr. Watson has thrown his hat in the ring.

Anyway, Jim Watson would likely be the best mayor Ottawa has had since... well... Jim Watson.

Okay, not much more to say on that front, but I think I will take this opportunity to reflect on the tenure of our current mayor, Larry O'Brien.

First off, Mr. O'Brien was an embarrassment; not a Mel Lastman or Kwame Kilpatrick embarrassment, but an embarrasment nonetheless.  Insutling the homeless, standing trial for corruption - that's not what you want in a spokesman for your city.

Despite all that, I do not regret voting for Mr. O'Brien.  There are two main reasons for this: 1) Bob Chiarelli; 2) Alex Munter.  These were my choices.  Despite all the problems with Mayor O'Brien, I am still confident that extending the Chiarelli administration or created a Munter dynasty would have been far worse.  Further, it seems to me that there is little to chance of Mr. O'Brien winning another term.  So, as embarrassing as he was, it was just a stop gap measure.  We've gotten past the Chiarelli era, and Mr. O'Brien will hopefully be a bridge to a new, better era (whether that be under Mr. Watson or not).

Of course, if Mr. O'Brien does win another term, I may start regretting my decision.three years ago.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Swifter, Higher, Freer

In my most recent post at ThePolitic, I argue that proroguing parliament is a pretty wretched action by the current government.  I see no valid reason for it, and I focus on the idea that they're proroguing parliament to evade the Afghan detainee scandal.

But, I think I'll step back a moment and take a look at another possibility.  One reason I've read for the prorogue is to keep focus on the olympics.  This, from what I've read, comes in three forms:
  1. Canadians don't want to be distracted by politics while they focus on the Vancouver games;
  2. The government doesn't want to face tough (and potentially untrue) allegations during the games;
  3. Politicians want to be able to follow the games without getting distracted by politics.
I must say, I love the olympics.  I've followed each games for the last 24 years quite closely, cheering on Canadian athletes, following the developing storylines, and reveling in the spectacle of it all.  I remember Elizabeth Manley winning silver.  I remember Wayne Gretzky not winning gold.  I remember Kerry Strug blowing up her leg.  I remember Eddie the Eagle flying high (but not very far, relatively).  I remember Gaetan Boucher's Sarajevo gold.

But in the end, the games don't f-ing matter.

Commenting on my post, RD writes:
Also, if I had to choose between the Olympics and having a functioning and democratic elected government, I’d cancel this and every subsequent Olympic games.
RD is absolutely correct.  It is a sad joke that some people would temporarily trade their government for the olympic games.  Of course, I don't think anyone truly prefers the olympics over democracy - and, certainly, Stephen Harper is not actually suspending democracy - but the reason that we, as a society, are willing to make this trade is because we have become too complacent.  People take for granted their democratic rights.  They take for granted democracy.  It is this sort of complacency that we need to fight.  We need to grasp our freedoms tight and preserve them, fight for them, let no infringement creep upon them.

However, look around.  We don't do that - not in this country.  We accept transgressions against freedom of speech.  We accept limits on our religious freedom.  We don't fight back when the government, the courts, tribunals or the police trample our legal rights.

And, I predict, we won't punish a government who steps on our democratic rights.

(Sorry, couldn't decide which one to use, so you get both.)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Return of Hoffa?

I'm watching the last professional football game to be played at Giants Stadium (aka The Meadowlands).  The Jets are taking it to the Bengals (37 - 0 with four minutes remaining), and Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth are talking about the destruction the stadium.

So, does that mean we'll finally learn what happened to Jimmy Hoffa?  And will they be disturbing sacred union burial grounds?

Here's Bragg and Wilco doing Guthrie.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Broken Windshield Wiper Playlist

So, tonight, we were supposed to head out to a New Year's Eve party where we'd get to see a number of friends we haven't seen in a while.  Unfortunately, when Mrs. CG&A went to run a couple of errands in the afternoon, one of our windshield wipers broke off.  Being New Year's Eve, the neighbourhood hardware store was closed.  Consequently, I'm blogging fifteen minutes into 2010.

Relegated to this fate, I've decided to post a few videos related to New Year's Eve.




Here's to 2010. Hopefully, next year we'll actually make the party.