Bye Bayh

I don't really have a lot to say about Evan Bayh's announcement that he is not seeking re-election.  There is no doubt that the man is a dim bulb who has done his best to undermine the Democratic agenda on the simple-minded principle that half-way between what Democrats and Republicans want must be a good thing.  On the other hand, he votes Democratic most of the time, most importantly for majority leader– that's important and will be missed as Indiana will likely go Republican.  Nonetheless, Bayh is my least favorite type of Senator, a preening centrist, always drawing attention to how reasonable and moderate he is regardless of the actual incoherence of his positions.  Okay, enough on Bayh, but I'll end with a quote from Chait:

 This was just a completely unremarkable man who, had he not been the
hansome son of a famous politician, would never in a million years have
been a Senator.

[Okay, wait, I'll almost end there.  I really enjoyed this column blasting Bayh by Katrina vanden Heuvel]



Childhood bipolar disorder

Let's stick with the mental health theme… Really interesting story on NPR last week about how the diagnosis of "childhood bipolar" disorder is going to be eliminated from the new DSM-V.  I've been intrigued by this diagnosis since I read a really interesting New Yorker story a few years back about the raging over-diagnosis of this condition.  Anyway, this NPR story, which you can read or listen to, quite nicely explained what's fundamentally wrong with this diagnosis.  Short version: adult bipolar is episodic whereas childhood bipolar seems not to be.  Also, there seems to be very little relation to children diagnosed bipolar and adults diagnosed this way.  Thus, psychiatrists have created a new, and seemingly more appropriate diagnosis: temper dysregulation disorder.  Ultimately, it will be most interesting to see how the medical treatment (bipolar disorder is treated with powerful drugs that raises many concerns when used in children) may change with this new condition.


R word

Apparently, there's been a bit of a micro-scandal based on reports that Rahm Emmanuel referred to the the strategies of liberal activists on health care as "[expletive] retarded."  If he's talking about Jane Hamsher and friends, he's right, but that's beside the point, here, which is that it has brought about a debate on the use of the word "retarded."  I've always been particularly interested in this debate as when I was a kid, we referred to my older brother who has severe autism as "retarded."  There was no slur intended, that's simply what people like him were called back in the day when most people did not know the word autism.  Now, of course, I have a son who in addition to his autism truly is "retarded" or intellectually disabled as we like to say now.  He is seven, but generally functions on a cognitive level of a 2-3 year old.  Kim likes the term "developmental delays" but to me "delay" implies he'll catch up.  He won't.  I honestly don't have a problem with the word retarded, again, probably because of my experience with my brother, but given the world we live in, I generally use "intellectual disability" or "cognitive impairment"  (I like the clinical sound of that, for some reason).  Anyway, by way of that long preface, in the Post on Sunday, Christopher Fairman had an interesting column arguing against "banning" the "r" word.  This particular section really resonated given my experience with my brother:

The irony is that the use of "mental retardation" and its variants was
originally an attempt to convey greater dignity and respect than
previous labels had. While the verb "retard" — meaning to delay or
hinder — has roots in the 15th century, its use in reference to mental
development didn't occur until the late 19th and early 20th centuries,
when medical texts began to describe children with "retarded mental
development," "retarded children" and "mentally retarded patients." By
the 1960s, "mental retardation" became the preferred medical term,
gradually replacing previous diagnostic standards such as "idiot,"
"imbecile" and "moron" — terms that had come to carry pejorative

As I was growing up in the 1970s, my father worked for the Texas
Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, one of the
now-renamed state agencies. The term "retardation" was common in my
home and life, but it was sterile and clinical. It is only in the past
generation that the medical term turned into the slang "retard" and
gained power as an insult. 

The next day, the Post followed up with a column from  Timothy Shriver (the son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics).  I was not entirely persuaded by his argument, though:

And the word "retard," whatever its history, reflects a massive problem.

Mental Disability Rights International has found evidence around the
world of horrific conditions — starvation, abuse, isolation — in
institutions serving people with intellectual disabilities. It happens
in this country. In Texas, caregivers were recently found to be forcing
residents of an institution to awake in the middle of the night and
fight one another while staffers cheered and taunted. Here in
Washington, repeated investigations have revealed people with
intellectual disabilities as the victims of abuse, indifference and
negligent death.

Something tells me these things would still be true if the victims were labeled "intellectually disabled."  If people are going to use the word as a slur, obviously it largely loses it's legitimate medical meaning, but I think Shriver definitely overstates the case against the word.  Anyway, regardless, given my personal experiences, I find this a really interesting issue.

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