19 March 2011

Opium addiction and cultural imperialism ch. II

This time the nonsense comes from The New Republic. As a refresher, CNN ran a piece back in January about how opium addiction was an un(der)reported scourge affecting destitute Afghanis. I wrote about the flaws of that piece. Unsurprisingly, many of the same flaws are evident in the New Republic dispatch from Anna Badkhen. Badkhen does CNN writer Arwa Damon one better and opens her story with an infant who has an overdose of opium, rather than just an infant being fed it.

I don't mean to diminish the tragedy or heartbreak attendant to infant deaths and near misses. Any death, particularly a child's is dreadful. However, consider the words of Dr. Mohammad Akbar whom Badkhen interviewed:
Every month we receive two or three babies like this, not breathing, overdosed,” he said. “It is very common for people in this area to give opium to children when they cry. If he had gotten here twenty minutes later, he wouldn’t have lived. Last year, we had three children who were brought here dead.
This terrible epidemic is killing… three children per year. Wait, what? Here's the worst part, Badkhen's description of just who Dr. Mohammad Akbar is, "Dr. Mohammad Akbar, the sole pediatrician here, told me the hospital receives approximately 1,000 child patients each year." To recap, the sole pediatrician at the sole hospital north of Balkh sees three deaths from opium overdose per year.

10 March 2011

Hospitals are not like airports; patients are not like airplanes

In writing blog posts that are critical of other writing one of my goals is not to point to the specific flaws of any particular article. No one has time to discredit all of the specious and nonsensical things that get posted, even by reputable outlets, to the internet each day. One of the things I try, and you can let me know if I'm failing, is to point out some of the tricks used to manipulate and/or mislead readers.

Which brings me to the false dichotomies. For an excellent example there's this piece in the Washington Monthly. You don't even have to read past the subhead to find the comparison:
Last year there wasn’t a single fatal airline accident in the developed world. So why is the U.S. health care system still accidentally killing hundreds of thousands? The answer is a lack of transparency.
I've added emphasis on a particularly important part here, and I'll get back to it in a bit.