Rand Paul– self certified

Damn, if Rand Paul isn’t just the gift that keeps on giving.  I love this latest (via Joe Conason):

Libertarian ideology rejects most of the modern regulatory systems that protect consumers, because everyone should be responsible for determining whether the hamburger contains E. coli on his own. But does that do-it-yourself dogma apply to the regulation of medicine, too? If you’re Dr. Rand Paul, practicing ophthalmologist, the answer is emphatically yes.

According to an amusing story in today’s Louisville Courier-Journal, the Kentucky Republican Senate candidate bills himself as a “board-certified” physician even though he is not actually certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology — the only recognized body that certifies doctors in his specialty.

Paul’s only certification was provided instead by something called the National Board of Ophthalmology, which is very convenient because he operates that organization himself. As the Courier-Journal explains drily, the American Board of Ophthalmology, which maintains a fully staffed headquarters in Philadelphia, has existed for roughly a century and currently lists about 16,000 doctors on its rolls…The National Board of Ophthalmology has existed since 1999, when Paul “founded” it, lists no more than seven doctors, and its address is a post-office box in Bowling Green, Ky.

Just what anybody wants, a physician who certifies himself by a self-run organization with a PO box.  In an article in the N&O today, I was a little chagrined to learn that he actually went to medical school at Duke.  As for me, I’ll stick with doctors actually certified by real boards.


Obama’s speech, DSLRs, and the Paradox of Choice

If you’re looking for my take on Obama’s speech tonight, you’re out of luck.  Firstly, almost all presidential speeches, even Obama’s, bore me to death.  Secondly, what I think doesn’t matter.  What matters is how the punditocracy, media elites, and Congressional elites respond.  I’ll get all that in the paper in the morning.

Thirdly, I actually had the speech on in the background, but was hopelessly engaged in my latest obsession, trying to choose a DSLR camera on-line.  The internet is actually too-good a resource on the matter.  There’s several web sites with amazingly thorough, amazingly high-quality reviews.   I’m leaning towards the Pentax K-X, for what it’s worth, but damn is hard deciding with all this information.

Reminds me of a really interesting book I read about a year ago, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz.  In short, when faced with lots of choices, we actually make worse decisions than when faced with a more reasonable number.  I’ve actually narrowed my choices down to just a few (not hard on a budget), but I’m still just swamped by the amount of information.

Here’s Schwartz’s TED talk on that matter (haven’t watched it yet myself, but it should be good):

If only he’d tell me which DSLR to buy.

SC Democratic primary– a case of ballot order?

John Sides at the Monkey Cage investigates a number of possibilities for the odd results in the South Carolina primary and suggests that Ballot Order effects are likely the explanation:

All I have to go on here is some guesswork, but it seems plausible to me that ballot order could be an important factor here. This was a very low information race, it would seem. Greene’s opponent, Vic Rawl, only raised $186,000 for his campaign, which isn’t much money for a statewide race. The low salience of the race is also evident in the roll-off: 169,542 voted in this race vs. 188,576 in the Democratic primary for governor.

And I’m not sure that the potential ballot order effect is implausibly large. Assume for the moment that voters were essentially choosing at random between the candidates. That would imply a 50-50 outcome. The actual outcome was 58-41, which only implies that 8-9% of voters were influenced by ballot margin

Tom Schaller suggests four possiblities, including the ballot order:

2. Somewhat overlapping with #1, especially for the people who knew nothing about either Greene or Rawl, there was such a low level of voter information that this race was essentially a throw-a-dart-at-the-dartboard race in which one candidate among two mostly unknown candidates, Greene, won for some set of unknown and perhaps inexplicable reasons. (Familiarity of his surname? His name’s location on the ballot alphabetically?)

Properly run states actually rotate ballot order, e.g., if you’re at the top in one precinct, your’e at the bottom in the next.  Given all the speculation, I’m guessing that SC is not actually competent enough to do this.

In writing this, I remembered way back in grad school when the recently-mentioned Jon Krosnick and then grad-student Joanne Miller, presented research on ballot order effects in Ohio.   A little googling, and I found a more recent study of ballot order in Vermont legislative elections.  They summarize a lot of studies, most of which find effects in the range of 2-3 points, far below the presumed 8-9 in SC.  Then again, in Vermont legislative elections in 2006, they estimate a near 8-point effect.  Hmmm.  I’d love to see one of them weigh in on the topic.  (I’ll let you know if they do).

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