What to wear when practicing medicine (or Political Science)

A very interesting article in the New York Times today about the often risque fashion choices of young doctors and how that affects their interactions with patients.  My favorite anecdote:

One colleague commented that a particularly statuesque student ?must
have thought all her male patients were having strokes? when she walked
in their exam room wearing a low-cut top and a miniskirt.

The central issue, though, is that patients just do not respond as well to doctors who are not dressed professionally…

In a study published last year in The American Journal of Medicine,
patients surveyed in one outpatient clinic overwhelmingly preferred
doctors photographed in formal attire with a white coat to photos of
doctors in scrubs, business suits and informal clothes ? jeans and a
T-shirt for men, an above-the-knee skirt for women. The patients also
said they were more likely to divulge their social, sexual and
psychological worries to the clinicians in the white coats than to the
other doctors.

Honestly, this is one of the reasons I always wear a nice shirt and tie when I teach.  As I tell my students, my teaching style and personality are already plenty informal, if I don't at least dress the part, I can forget about any professorial respect. 

Should Democrats forget the South?

Tom Schaller, a political scientist I truly admire for his ability to try and really affect politics, rather than just sit back writing obscure research articles (i.e., like me), had a nice article in Salon.com recently which basically summarizes his recent book, Whistling Past Dixie, and places it in the context of the 2006 elections.  His basic thesis: Democrats should stop investing so many resources in a doomed effort to win in the South and instead focus their efforts on much more favorable geographic terrain, e.g., the Southwest.  Like a good empirical political scientist, he backs this up not with anecdotes and empty theories, but good hard evidence from national political surveys.  The results from the 2006 elections would seem to further vindicate this basic hypothesis:

Democrats flipped
about 30 percent of the GOP-held House seats in the Northeast, about 15
percent in the Midwest, and 10 percent in the Far West. In the South,
their “flip rate” was just 6 percent. After last week, Connecticut's
Chris Shays is the only Republican among New England's 22 seats.

Here are the key nuggets from the article in Schaller's own words:

If you look at a map of the 2006 election, you'll notice that the blue wave actually has a huge red Southern hole in it.

Five of the six Senate seats the Democrats picked up were outside
the South. Five of the six new Democratic governors are from outside
the South. Of the 30 or so House seats that Democrats wrested from
Republicans, only five were Southern — and two of those were gifts.
Both Republican candidates were defending seats that had been held by
disgraced pariahs ?- Mark Foley and Tom DeLay ?- and both were forced
by the quirks of electoral law to run as write-ins. They still almost

The most telling races, however, were those in Tennessee and
Georgia. In Tennessee, the Democrats fielded a nearly perfect Senate
candidate, a smart, seasoned, well-financed congressman with strong
name identification. Harold Ford Jr. ran hard to the right, talking
incessantly about how powerful “my Jesus” was, filming a campaign ad in
a church, boasting that he was pro-life, denouncing the New Jersey
same-sex marriage ruling, and wearing a camouflage hunting cap on
Election Day. He lost. In Georgia, in a year when Democrats enjoyed an
advantage of more than 7 percent in the national vote for all House
races, the Democrats in Georgia's 8th and 12th districts were only a
few hundred votes away from becoming the only incumbents in their party
to lose their jobs on Election Day…

For the first time in 50 years, the party that controls both chambers
of Congress is a minority party in the South. And in the last four
presidential elections, the Democratic candidate has either garnered
270 electoral votes, the minimum needed to win, or has come within one
state of doing so before a single Southern vote was tallied. Outside
the old Confederacy, the nation is turning blue, and that portends a
new map for a future Democratic majority…

In perhaps the most provocative part of his explanation (and not too surprisingly given we are talking about the South), Schaller brings it all back to race:

As to why Democrats in general struggle, and how the state and region
became so Republican and conservative, there are five answers. First
and — sadly — foremost, as it may have been in Tennessee, is race.
Analyses of the National Election Study data from 2004 show that the
attitudes of white Southerners on national defense and even abortion
fail to explain their preference for Republican presidential
candidates, but attitudes on race do. Anyone who needs proof of the
power of racial polarization in the South need only look at the
blackest state in the union. Mississippi is 38 percent black, yet has a
Republican governor, two Republican senators, and delivered its
electoral votes to George Bush without a fuss twice. Southern whites
vote as a racial bloc for the GOP. Statistics seem to show that loyalty
to the Republican Party is at its highest among voters in Wyoming,
Idaho and Utah ?- until you start crunching the numbers for white
voters only, and realize just how solid and white the GOP's solid South

Apparently, Schaller's argument that the Democrats need to look past the South really drives some people crazy– especially Southern Democrats.   Over at the gadflyer, Schaller has some pointed rebuttals to those who have disputed his hypothesis. 

Dolphin Hunt

Really disturbing article in today's Washington Post about a traditional dolphin hunt in Japan in which bottlenose dolphins are rounded up by the thousands and killed with knives and clubs, turning the water around them completely red.  Apparently, this has been a long-time tradition in Japan, but know scientists are trying to fight back by emphasizing the intelligence of dolphins.  They are even making arguments based on dolphins' self-recognition in the mirror (a subject I clearly find quite interesting).  Alas, the fact that dolphins are complex, intelligent, social beings carries no weight when faced with “tradition.” 

Takumi Fukuda, the fisheries attache at the Japanese Embassy in
Washington, defended the event as a centuries-old national tradition.

“It is kind of our cultural activity,” he said. “We think it is important.”

Just another example of why arguments based on variations of “we've always done it that way” are intellectually weak and morally lazy.  Save the dolphins!  (Here's the site for the petition mentioned in the article). 

NC Baptists and Gays

It used to be that so long as a North Carolina Baptist church paid its annual dues it could be a member of the Baptist State Convention of NC.  No more.

In addition to contributing financially, churches in “friendly
cooperation” with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina must
reject unrepentant homosexual behavior, according to an amendment
passed Tuesday by a two-thirds majority of delegates to the annual
meeting of the state convention. The amendment would allow the
convention to investigate churches suspected of countenancing active

Basically, they are saying that the single most important belief for a Baptist church, the only one worth having a membership requirement on, is not being nice to gay people.  Amazing.  I wonder what Jesus would make of that.

I'm also a little curious about what this may mean for my adopted Baptist Church that my wife attended while growing up (who I wonder if need to not name to protect them).  They are not exactly performing commitment ceremonies for gay couples, but there is an open same-sex couple in the church choir.  I guess we'll have to see just where that falls.

On Murtha and Democratic divisions

It is really something the amount of coverage the fight over who will be the Democrats' new House Majority Leader there has been (Steny Hoyer ended up trouncing John Murtha yesterday).  All of a sudden, the unity the Democrats in Congress had shown in recent years was completely thrown out the window and didn't count for anything, as far as the media was concerned.  Newspapers and TV have been filled with stories about the “bitter divisions” among Democrats.  The Today show ran a story this morning with the phrase “Democrats in Disarray” on the screen the whole time.  Their evidence for the disarray?  Joe Lieberman a man who lost in the Democratic primary for being too out of step with his party (and was re-elected to his seat only due to massive Republican support) disagrees with the rest of the party on Iraq.

What about bitter divisions among Republicans, who split 25-24 in re-instating proven racist Trent Lott to the Senate leadership?  Not so interesting.  The simple explanation is that the media has a number of political narratives that they always fall back on.  Among the most prominent is the one that Democrats are divided and just cannot get along.  Whenever an event can be placed into this narrative, the media is more than happy to do so.  Another example would be how in 2000 when Bush and Gore would both say something clearly false, Gore was lying/exaggerating while Bush was too stupid to tell the truth.  The “Conventional Wisdom” is a very powerful shaper of how the media covers politics, and when it comes to the new majority party in Congress, expect continuing stories about how divided they are, regardless of reality.

I should also point out, on a substantive note, that Democrats are doubtless less divided than when they last had majorities in both houses prior to the 1994 elections.  At that time, the Democratic advantage still depended upon a number of Southern Democrats who really were conservative.  Most of them lost in 1994 and subsequent years.  The Democrats from the South now, yes, even Heath Shuler, are much more ideologically similar to the national party than Democrats of an earlier generation.  Democrats simply are a less divided group than in earlier eras.  Will the media realize this?  I doubt it.

Little boy blue– wrong on Iraq

NPR puts their most compelling segments into a podcast entitled “Driveway Moments.”  The idea being that you will sit in the car in your driveway to finish hearing the story.  This week featured a terrific story with the two top voice-over talents from political commercials.  They discussed just how they say things to make voters scared, concerned, etc.  At the end of the segment, they used their “scary” political voices to do nursery rhymes.  I was actually laughing out loud while jogging on campus and listening to this on my Ipod.   Not something I usually do while jogging.  It's only about six minutes, give it a listen

Kazakhstan, United States, China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia

No not a list of countries that execute the mentally retarded (though we did have some interesting company there until a recent SC decision), but a list of the bottom 5 countries in a survey of 56 countries and the actions they are taking to combat global climate change.  It is often quite telling to see the international company we keep with regards to various policies.  We've been bested by Borat's homeland. 

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