Monday, February 27, 2006

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:

1. Outlawing abortion is not the way to go about preventing abortions.


2. This country is woefully lacking in reality-based sexual education and accessible birth control/ family planning resources.

This seems to have gotten increasingly worse under the Bush administration, which simultaneously claims to be "pro-life." Pro-life would involve ensuring that we do everything possible as a society to stop unwanted pregnancies before they start.

So how are we doing? Not so hot. With high school teenagers actually stepping up to the plate and demanding better sex ed, and women having trouble getting birth control pills even from f-ing Planned Parenthood (via Feministe), one wonders if the current administration is actually seeking to INCREASE the number of unwanted pregnancies.

Bush has been steadily funding abstinence-only sex ed programs, while turning a blind eye and underfunding organizations such as Planned Parenthood, which provides birth control at affordable rates. And as we all know, actual birth control is a whole helluva lot more effective than telling kids not to have sex. Louise Melling of the ACLU writes:

Yet when President Bush proposed a $39 million increase in federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education in his 2006 budget, he asked Congress to do just that. If the president gets what he asked for, the federal government will throw nearly $206 million in the next fiscal year into programs that a growing body of evidence shows are ineffective at best, and dangerous at worst.

So what's going wrong with abstinence-till-marriage programs? Oh yeah, right, most people aren't getting married at 18 anymore, and actually *gasp* have sex before the age of 30!

reports only 7% of Americans don't believe sex ed should be taught in schools. So why are teachers trying to scare students by giving them blatant misinformation, of the abortion-causes-breast-cancer variety? Here's a prime example from the above article:

Alesha Jones, 18, of Waterloo said she caught a teacher in a falsehood about the facts of life.

The teacher told her class that 99 percent of all high school girls who have sex become pregnant, Jones said. "That's not true," she said. "(It) made me feel good to tell her the truth. I just said, 'I know for a fact that's not true.' "

Great, right? And here's the kicker: abstinence-till-marriage programs seem to delay sexual intercourse for 18 months, but in the meanwhile might just steer teens towards other (often even riskier) sexual acts:

These programs, it should be acknowledged, do lead teens to abstain from intercourse for, on average, 18 months longer than teens not in similar programs. And that's impressive. In the teen years, 18 months is a big chunk of time. Yet, it's worth noting, those 18 intercourse-free months are a special time and not exactly what the pro-life sponsors had in mind. A major study of some 2,500 "virgin pledgers" showed that the kids who pledge to abstain from having intercourse don't abstain from sex. They just have other kinds of sex. Virginity pledgers have porn-star sex (though porn stars appear more likely to use protection). These "virgins" are six times more likely to have oral sex than nonpledgers, and male "virgins" are four times more likely to have anal sex than those who do not take the pledge.

So... to cater to the minority of parents who would rather that their children be fed lies and half-truths, we're funding a program that doesn't work, while turning our backs on organizations that could actually hand out effective birth control to those women who seek it out (ie, Planned Parenthood). Great. I'd be all for funding programs that don't work, except for that little detail... oh yes. We have like, no money, as it's all being dumped into the disaster-that-is-the-war-in-Iraq.

Break into personal rant:

You know, that war that was going to be simple and short and effective... that war that was going to cost $1.7 billion? That war now costs $200 billion, with another $60 billion proposed. With that money, we could have made changes in the health care system, addressing the millions of adults and children with inadequate or nonexistent health care. We could have used it in our schools, and in catching Pell Grants up with inflation. Hell, we could have bought every Katrina victim a new f-ing house.

End rant.

Conclusions: Reality-based sex education & better funded contraceptive programs would do the most to prevent abortions. And we'd have the added bonus of actually taking women's rights to reproductive control seriously.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

I now have yet another reason to suspect that the South Dakota bill banning all abortions is completely unethical. Jill of Feministe blogged about this article, which basically states that, since the legal costs of fighting this bill in court are likely to be around $1 million, the state government is now looking toward private funders. That's right -- the state doesn't even have the money, and I'm betting that taxpayers wouldn't accept the burden -- so a few rich people are going to try to determine public policy. I'd be really curious right now to see what South Dakota's population thinks about this ban.

"Clearly the state can use taxpayer dollars," Sarah Stoesz of Planned Parenthood said. "I wouldn't be surprised if they could devise a scheme to use these donated funds. What it does underscore, there is a belief that the taxpayers don't want to pay for this, and consequently the only way to get something done that the taxpayers don't want to pay for and that the politicians don't want to pay for, the only way to do this is to find a private, anonymous person who will effectively purchase public policy that is not taxpayer or voter supported."

Is South Dakota pleased that one rich man (rumored to be Steve Kirby) is going to foot the bill (literally) to ban a procedure that many people are on the fence about? Hell, I'm willing to bet that this bill as it's written right now wouldn't pass a statewide vote. No allowances for trimester, health, rape, incest -- that's more strict than most attempted bans have been. 12 year old rape victims, women carrying terminal fetuses with no brain tissue, women at risk for paralysis or kidney failure -- all will be expected to serve as incubators for the duration. Even if you think life begins at conception (which is quite debatable, I see more life in my cat than in a clump of human cells), you have to believe that the woman's rights are outweighed by those of the "potential life" or fetus's. And this, of course, is where feminist groups come in. I don't see a law demanding that healthy people give up a kidney to save all those needing organ transplants -- are their lives less valuable somehow? Parents aren't required by law to donate a kidney even in the case of their own children -- how is this any different from expecting a woman to donate her body and her bodily tissue to a zygote? The only difference, in my eyes, is that a zygote is not a "person" in the same sense as a child with kidney problems.

What also strikes me as problematic about the SD ban, is that even in cases of the woman's life being in immediate danger, no one in SD will be able to perform the abortion. As it is, they're flying doctors in, what happens when no doctors who know how to abort a pregnancy are in the state? Women in immediate jeopardy will likely have to go to another state (and probably will want to, too -- would you really feel safe with a doctor that's never done a procedure operating on you?).

Getting back to the point of this article: is it morally troubling to anyone else that this SD bill sets a precedent for the rich backing whatever government action they approve? Haven't we seen how easily this can go wrong with the lobbying scandals?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Ahh, the Olympics. I couldn't care less about most sports, but I do have a soft spot for ice skating in the winter games, and gymnastics in the summer. Partly, because the commentary is ridiculous, and partly because I can't do either, at all. When I'm on the ice I hold onto the railing and tremble. And I can't even turn a cartwheel. There's something incredibly gratifying about watching sports that seem in complete defiance of my body's physics, while eating.

So last night Jill came over, and we made pizza and watched the ice skating finals, which I had taped. After dinner, we ate ice cream while critiquing jumps and disagreeing with the commentators. I'm convinced that we could have stepped in with commentary, and no one would have noticed.

You might be wondering, how could one simply step into Olympic ice skating commentators' shoes? Quite simply, I'd argue. One needs only construct a guidebook of truisms, cliches, and the occasional mystical comments, which need not make any sense. I thought you still might be in doubt, so I took the liberty of writing down some of the choicer statements by our exhalted commentators, including Scott & Sandra.

These are all, I kid you not, from the actual commentary during the women's finals:

"She just went out gangbusters... nuh-uh, I'm not giving up on this bad boy." - One of the men on Emily Hughes.

"She's such a talented jumper... it's like she just hasn't thought through her technique she often just jumps and hopes."

Sandra (I assumed): "You can't just pull a rabbit out of the hat at the Olympics."
One of the men: "More like a rhinoceros out of a hat."

Sandra on Sarah Meier: "She skates on top of the ice, not in the ice." One of the deepest moments, right?

"It's like the rest of her body just can't keep up with her feet."

Sandra, in another particularly deep moment: "The difference between Sasha and everyone else is, everyone else skates to Romeo and Juliet, she is Juliet."

I'll spare you the rampant comments on the skaters' physical appearances, which seem inappropriate at some point. I don't know if this also holds true for the men's ice skating commentary, but it seems like people feel free to comment on these girls' and women's bodies in a way that you just wouldn't ever hear when watching, oh, say, the luge. Most sports aren't dependent on having attractive legs or long arms -- it's all about how fast you get through the 100 meters, or how far you can throw something. But in ice skating, it seems inextricably linked with appearances. So here's one comment that particularly got me (and not only due to the grammatical incongruity):

"She has long arms that any ballerina would give their eye teeth for." - Commentator on Kimmie Messinger. [By the way, Mer, if you ever read this, remember that for next time you complain about your arms.]

Of course, this is like the least remarkable of the body-comments, but it was one of the few that I wrote down... Guess I'll have to watch the men's skating next time around, and see if the trend holds.

Oh, and just in time for sitting on my ass and watching the Olympics, Ben and Jerry's is coming out with new flavors. Here are three that look particularly promising:

Neapolitan Dynamite™ Original Ice Cream - "Cherry Garcia® and Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice creams, side by side." YES. Two of my favorites, in one container. So I don't even have to get my lazy ass up off the couch to try another flavor.

Turtle Soup™ Original Ice Cream - "Vanilla ice cream with fudge & caramel cashews & a caramel swirl." I'm intrigued by the caramel cashews.

Vermonty Python™ Original Ice Cream - "Coffee liqueur ice cream with a chocolate cookie crumb swirl & fudge cows." Ahh this one is going to be good -- cookie crumbs in a swirl AND fudge cows AND coffee liqueur (are they going for kahlua?). Jesus. I want that.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I hadn't been getting involved in the partial-birth abortion ban debate, until I read this:

If the ban were in place in 1995, Tammy Watts would likely be dead, she says.

In March of that year, Watts was in the eighth month of a much-wanted pregnancy and was eagerly anticipating the birth of her first child. During a routine ultrasound (the only way to detect abnormalities that require late-term abortion), she discovered her baby had Trisomy 13, a chromosomal abnormality that causes severe deformities and carries no hope of survival.

Because her baby was already dying and because this put her own life at stake, Watts had an intact dilation and extraction (D and X), the procedure that Bush condemns as "brutal."

"Losing my baby at the end of my pregnancy was agonizing," says Watts. "But the way the right deals with this issue makes it even worse. When I heard Bush mention 'partial birth abortion' during the debates, I thought 'How dare you stand there and tell flat-out lies?' There is no such thing as this procedure! Why won't the politicians listen to us?"


When Congress first considered the ban in 1995, Watts testified on Capitol Hill. So did Viki Wilson of Fresno, Calif., who had a late-term abortion because the brain of the fetus she was carrying had developed outside the skull. So did Vikki Stella of Naperville, Ill., whose fetus had dwarfism, no brain tissue and seven other major abnormalities.

All three women told legislators they owed their health to late-term abortions and that a continuation of their doomed pregnancies posed grave health risks such as stroke, paralysis, infertility or even death.

As they campaign to save access to these procedures, Watts, Stella and Wilson point out that in virtually all cases, late-term abortions are the only way to respond to unanticipated complications: the death of the fetus inside the womb, problems that mean the fetus can't live outside the womb, or serious threats to the mother's health.

"No women has these procedures for frivolous reasons," says Stella. "They have them because it's their only choice."


Watts, Stella and Wilson note that late-term abortions are sanctioned by many medical professional groups. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Washington, D.C., calls intact D and X--a commonly used late-term procedure--"the most appropriate and safest" option in some cases. The American Nurses Association, Silver Spring, Md., and the American Medical Women's Association, Alexandria, Va., also approve the practice.

Pro-choice advocates also note that despite all the political hoopla, intact D and X procedures are very rare, accounting for only 2,200 of the 1 million U.S. abortions performed each year.

Sorry to quote such a huge portion, but after reading about this case now up before the Supreme Court, I'm really interested in how the term "partial birth abortion" has been invented (it's not a medical term). Shakespeare's Sister had a write up of this, too. I just don't see why politicians feel the need to get involved in a rare procedure, that women are obviously choosing in extreme circumstances. Why is anyone trying to protect the "life" of a fetus that won't survive outside the womb? Or that's already dying/dead in the womb?
Because I'm way proud of my Mum's post!:

"I applaud the Onward Oregon site. I’m a newbie (1 month) I’m a native Hood Riverite (53 years) and have seen many changes here, needless to say. Measure 37 will impact this valley with multi-acre fertile farmlands divided into subdivisions for housing. And adding insult to injury, now President Bush wants to sell public lands for yet even more private ownership.

I grew up hiking with my mother and her friends. We hiked all seasons in all types of weather. It is in my blood, and it is in our wild lands that many other people such as myself connect and renew ourselves in this hectic world.

I have not read the book but saw a discussion group on OPB on Robert Kennedy Jr.’s book “Crimes Against Nature”. It was very disturbing the list of atrocities Bush is committing against OUR lands.

I have sent personalized letters to my 4 representatives and congressmen, and the regional forester with the Columbia Gorge to voice my dissatisfaction with the proposed land sales.

I urge all readers to do the same.

Selling our public lands is a shortsighted quick fix to help Bush gain back war money that should’ve stayed stateside to begin with." - Ricki Duckwall
And before I eat my leftover mango fried rice (which I think turned out well, except for the fact that my skillet apparently cannot hold 2 cups of rice, a mango, an onion, a bar of tofu, and a tomato at the same time), I must post this now thrice mediated warning for the frequent flyers:

AIM IM with Andrew:
9:53 PM
this women's figure skater is on, and the nbc guy was like 'you know how the flight attendant says to be careful opening the overhead compartment? well got a concussion back in 2002 when luggage fell on her head'

Ha! So now we all kind of know someone that this has happened to. Slippery old overhead compartments. Contents really do shift during flight.
It's official. If I were in South Dakota, I'd be packing my bags.

"The bill passed by a vote of 23 to 12 after opponents tried unsuccessfully to attach amendments that would have created exceptions for cases of rape and incest and that would have blocked spending of state money to defend against the court challenge that is sure to come."

As Bitch PhD points out, it seems incredibly problematic to have the taxpayers paying for the legal fees in this concocted bill/ anticipated court case. South Dakota, wouldn't you rather that the money were being put toward preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place? Or helping support low-income women who would continue their pregnancies, if they had the money to support another child?
Save the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area!!!

730 acres of our beautiful, undeveloped, public lands are being offered up to the highest bidder if the US Forest Service has its way (read: the Bush administration). Let's save these public lands for public enjoyment (hiking!), environmental preservation, & wildlife. We all know what the alternative is -- more sprawling suburbia, houses defacing the hills, "no trespassing" signs, and the chipping away of what makes the Gorge a sought after destination.

Thanks to Mum for the link.
It's a bad time to be in South Dakota (if you're a woman who claims control over her uterus, that is).

Jill of Feministe wrote a great piece on the South Dakota bill that's going through right now, attempting to make abortion in *all* cases except where the woman's life is in immediate danger. Yep, that means no exceptions for other serious health risks, rape, incest, extreme birth defects that mean the infant will likely die during/immediately after pregnancy, etc.

I'm just gonna say: If you're a woman in South Dakota, and you don't want to have a child, you might want to think about moving. Because even refusing to have sex doesn't matter -- if someone rapes you, the possible contents of your uterus are under state protection for the next 9 months.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

This article just made my night. Thanks to Andrew for keeping up with his alma mater! Amherst College's new president is tackling the very real problem of elitism in our top colleges. And I love that his name is Tony Marx.

" As it turned out, Marx's radical message was just what Amherst trustees wanted to hear. Over the past two decades the college had committed to increasing minorities to a third of the 1,650-student campus, up from 13% in 1985. But while this brought in more low-income students, Amherst remains an incubator of the elite. More than half its students come from families prosperous enough to pay the full $42,000 annual tab out of their own pockets. Many shell out thousands more for cars, meals out, and other extras. (One student showed up recently with two BMWs -- one a convertible for sunny days.) "We were blown away" by Marx's passion and commitment, recalls Jide Zeitlin, a partner at Goldman, Sachs & Co. (GS ) who has since become chair of Amherst's board. [...]

Boosting socioeconomic diversity is already a front-burner issue on the campuses of elite colleges. Everyone from Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers to William G. Bowen, ex-president of Princeton University, is grappling with a deeply troubling fact of American life: that 30 years of inequality have all but shut off top colleges to the poor.

Kids from the lowest socioeconomic quartile represent a mere 3% of students at the 146 most selective U.S. universities, vs. 74% from the top quartile, according to the Century Foundation, a New York think tank. It's not just a problem at elite schools, either. By age 24 only 8% of these bottom-quarter students have earned a BA from any U.S. college, vs. 46% of those from top-quarter families, according to Stephen Rose, co-author of the Century study. As educated baby boomers retire over the next 15 years, they will be followed in the workforce by more minority youth who are poor and less likely to have a degree. Says Harvard's Summers: "Social mobility is a central challenge for our country." "

From Business Week, no less!

I think this is such an interesting turn, especially as so many of these elite campuses are incredibly liberal, while maintaining this status quo. I love that class is being addressed, especially as it seemed like a complete non issue when I was applying to MHC. I remember calling the admissions office to ask if they had any assistance to fly low-income students out for their preview weekend, and was treated as if I were asking for the moon. Later, I found that it was standard procedure at MHC to offer to fly out ALANA students (African American, Latina American, Asian American, Native American). Of course, this is a great program, and important for addressing ethnic & race inequity on campuses, but it completely ignores the fact that many white students are coming from low-income families, and might see choosing and going to college as a disorienting experience. Basically, it'll be wonderful to see at least some elite colleges addressing both race & class inequities.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Eek. Luckily, Twisy has already commented on this one, but I just have to reproduce the news blurb, it's just that good:

ITALY: NONVIRGINITY LESSENS SEX ABUSE CHARGE, COURT SAYS Sexually abusing a teenager is a less serious crime if the girl is not a virgin, Italy's highest court said in a ruling. The court ruled in favor of a man who forced his 14-year-old stepdaughter to have oral sex with him and appealed a prison sentence of 40 months, arguing that the fact that the girl had had sex with other men should have been taken into consideration at his trial as a mitigating factor. The court agreed, saying that because of the victim's previous sexual experiences, her "personality, from a sexual point of view," was more developed and that therefore the damage to her was less than if she had been a virgin. The decision, which drew a barrage of criticism, opened the way for the stepfather to get a lighter sentence.

Wow. I just, can't even formulate a comment on this one. Blaming the victim has taken on a whole new meaning. I'm trying to figure out how anyone with even a half-developed sense of logic, and a rudimentary form of empathy, could ever hand down this ruling.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Not quite in time for Valentine's Day.

Have you seen this story, of a man in Iowa, Travis Frey? He's under arrest for trying to kidnap his wife (and as The Smoking Gun points out in the article above, he's also been in trouble for child porn). But it gets even better! He wrote out a 4 page marriage contract. And this is a contract like no other I've ever seen. He's outlined for his wife exactly when, and how much, she must shave; the length her skirts should be; the definition of "sex acts" that he expects, including duration; and what's expected of her during his "my time" hours. What's the equivalent "her time," and the definition of sex acts she's comfortable with performing (let alone what she actually WANTS -- that's completely fallen out of the equation)? Glad you asked! They don't seem to exist, curiously enough.

Because there's nothing more romantic for a woman in a heterosexual relationship than receiving a contract from her husband/boyfriend/whatever to outline just how closely her "role" matches up with that of a sex slave in a brothel. I'm sure my heart was all aflutter reading the oh-so-thoughtful dictates on what his wife must buy for herself for her birthday (a sex toy, which she should consider a gift from him) and for their anniversary (lingerie).

Please, please tell me he's going to a maximum security prison. And please tell me they'll release the marriage contract to all the other inmates, prior.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The answer to why people are making a big deal of the Cheney hunting accident? This blog post title pretty much sums it up: "What Happens in Texas Hunting Accidents If You're Hispanic?"

"Juan Garza Mendoza, 34, an employee of the ranch, was charged Monday with manslaughter, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison....

Mendoza had apparently hit Barrera Vasquez while shooting at a feral hog, and immediately contacted authorities after the shooting, Hurd said.

"They mistakenly shot a human being," he said. "It's reckless. It's inexcusable." "

Great blog post with comments.
Big surprise, bottled water isn't doing the planet any favors. There are a bazillion reasons why not to buy bottled water. Here a few reasons off the top of my head:

1. It's WATER. As in, you can get it out of your tap for pennies.

2. Most bottled water comes from the tap. (So why the hell are you paying $1 or $2 for it? Get a real water bottle, and refill it at your own tap, where it probably won't come already tasting of plastic.)

3. Those plastic bottles end up in landfills.

4. Again, it's water, people.

"Clean, healthy and pure? Hardly. Bottled water is killing the planet
And our thirst grows, with 154 billion litres drunk in one year."

By Jon Neale and Jonathan Thompson
Published: 12 February 2006

Here's a snippet of what we can read without subscribing:
"A major new study has concluded that [bottled water's] production is seriously damaging the environment.

It costs 10,000 times more to create the bottled version than it does to produce tap water, say scientists. Huge resources are needed to draw it from the ground, add largely irrelevant minerals, and package and distribute it - sometimes half-way around the world."

So, again, why not just buy a Nalgene? (Although I'd recommend stainless steel -- Nalgene's new bottles are made out of #7 plastic (polycarbonate), which can leech bisphenol A, a chemical that interferes with hormones such as estrogen. Although it doesn't seem to pose a huge health risk, you definitely don't want to put your Nalgene in the dishwasher!)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Apologies for all my posts that are actually links to other posts. Just can't help it -- my life isn't very interesting lately. Basically, I get up, I eat my Wheatabix with whatever fruit I have on hand, I read, I eat whatever I can find for lunch, I read, then I either go to class, or I read some more. Then I have dinner, and I listen to music. And then I read. Sometimes I watch a tv show. More likely I end up checking on all my favorite blogs. Then I shower. And then I read some more, till around 2 am. Then I get up in the morning and do it all over again.

Luckily, however, the weather has been damnably gorgeous lately. The past couple of days I've spent my afternoons on a beach blanket out on the grass (definitely not working on the tan, though -- I'm beginning to face the truth, that being this white, I need to use sunless tanners if I want a tan without the cancer). It's been about 70 degrees, sunny, and blooming. Supposedly it's going to cool down again, but I just have to bask in the fact that it's freaking FEBRUARY and I've been reading, outside, in the sun, without a parka on. This hasn't happened since... Ok this has never happened. I remember Feb. 14 two years ago, Andrew & I drove out to Quabbin Reservoir and took pictures of the snow and ice... and then we went to dinner... ahh.

But yeah, the weather makes me happy.

Anyway, the only notable things today:

1. I did my presentation in Alex's class. I think it went OK, I was actually glad to go in the last few minutes, so I could naturalize the fact that I talk too fast. But I was way less nervous than usual!! I had gotten some tips: breathing deeply, and using happy dots. Yes, red happy dots. It's supposed to act like a "stop, why the hell are you nervous?" sign. And I love it when people interject comments while I'm speaking. I realize that this has the potential to sound sarcastic, but I'm being completely serious. It makes me feel like it's a discussion rather than a test, and that there's some commraderie between everyone. Needless to say, I love the people in that class. And I love that we're reading these theories and these novels, but I just wish it weren't quite so much at a time. 500 pages a week is pretty hefty. According to my calculations, if each prof assigned that much (3 classes), then I'd have 1500 pages a week. And as I read at, optimally, a page every 2 minutes, that means 50 hours of reading each week. And I've decided, that that is simply unhealthy.

2. I got a card from Mum & Tim -- adorable!

3. This didn't happen today, but it's still exciting. Andrew sent a card that I wanted to carry around everywhere, and a part birthday part Valentine's gift: a lovely leather bag that fits my laptop! I have some guilt about the leather (and I can't write it off to Andrew's choice, as I did point out this bag)... but my rationalization runs thus: Since I've basically sworn off red meat and pork, and have very much limited my intake of poultry, I'm still in some sense "sparing" animals' lives and not supporting the agribusiness that treats animals inhumanely and all too often feels no responsibility for the environment. Hmm. I still feel kind of guilty.

OK, now for my shameless link posting. And yes, it's to yet another of my favorite feminist blogs. Are you ready for Twisty?:

"So, if a fully-realized human can’t compel another fully-realized human to give out kidneys, how can a microscopic bit of tissue compel a fully-realized human to cede over her uterus? Even if one defines the zygote as a fully-realized human (which it isn’t, but that’s another sordid tale), how in the name of Cool Whip are its rights to be construed as greater than the rights of the woman whose body must be appropriated as its incubator? I say again, even if the clot of undeveloped cell tissue is human, it cannot be more human than an adult woman, nor can it have the right to force any woman to acquiesce to an invasive parasitization against her will."

Ahh, Twisty, how I love thee... A must read if you're interested in the organ donor analogy (kidney: kidney patient:: uterus: embryo).

Monday, February 13, 2006

Eek. Selling off over 300,000 acres of public land? Including 85,000 acres of California'a National Forest property? Does anyone else find this completely ridiculous, short-sighted, and politically suspect? Can we please NOT diminish public lands any further, giving way inevitably to yet more strip malls, more housing developments, and more land cordoned off with "no trespassing" signs? Why are public lands important? Because we all don't have millions of dollars to buy ourselves ranches with enough land to never see a neighbor. Some of us, believe it or not, actually enjoy seeing and experiencing unspoiled and undeveloped land (rather than seeing dollar signs for every tree).
Ahh, an article for all of us who combine OCD with a healthy aversion to germs:

"For this project, Jasmine visited five fast food restaurants near the University of South Florida. She collected ice samples from self-service dispensers inside the restaurants, as well as ice from drinks served through drive-through windows. She also collected samples of toilet water from those restaurants.

She placed the samples into sterile containers and tested them at a lab at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, where she volunteers with a USF professor.

Jasmine found that in four of the five restaurants, the ice that came from the self-serve machines had more bacteria than the toilet water. Three of the five cups of ice from the drive-through windows had more bacteria than the toilet water.

Of the bacteria found in the ice, three out of the five restaurants tested positive for fecal coliform or E. coli, organisms that come from the feces of warm-blooded animals."

Whoa, how the hell are the "feces of warm-blooded animals" getting into restaurant ice?! Ick.

So this would be... Reason #4309 why NOT to support the fast food business. Or, at least, to avoid the ice machines.

(Thanks to Andrew for the link)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

OK, so I was taking a shower, and this quote kept going through my head, and I just had to post it while we're still thinking of Doug Anglin. Here's Anglin at the height of his eloquency:

"But he said: 'I'm not here to try to lower the rights of women or interfere with the rights of minorities. We just want to fix this one problem that we think is a big deal.' "

OK. I just have to say: We'll get to your "big deal" after we fix the following much more pressing learning inequities in this country (what would Doug call them? "Really big deals"?):

1. The fact that African American, Latino, and Native American children face performance gaps in school (check out this link:

2. The rising costs of college for those of us who DON'T come from solidly middle class families (and the budget cuts in federal aid programs). Oh, and while we're at it, the lost ground that many children of lower class families have to make up for once they reach school (because not everyone has parents who can help them with every school assignment).

3. The fact that female students, around the age of puberty, mysteriously start falling behind in math.

4. The consistent societal barriers that women face in getting equal treatment at work (promotions, salaries). The fact that women seem to be the new

5. The challenges faced by those with physical disabilities and actual learning disabilities.

I could go on. But suffice to say, I'd rather see these problems addressed, before dealing with Doug's desire to get grades for his ability to play sports.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Some really interesting blog posts highlighting the new "victimization sweepstakes."

And, if you want to see the article that sparked the blogging, here you go:

Ironically enough, white men are claiming that schools have become so "feminized" as to devalue "male characteristics." Suddenly, sitting at a desk is a "female" task. Funny, I wonder if those complaining have looked into the history of schooling, because, call me crazy, but I believe our modern day education system springs directly out of what was designed by, and for, well-off Western white men.

Somehow, the idea of discrimination against middle class white men doesn't hold much water with me. Maybe because I had a high school teacher joke to my face that I was "getting my MRS degree" at MHC because of a major and minor in English/ Spanish. Yeah, Bob Level didn't QUITE catch on to the fact that I attended a freaking WOMEN'S COLLEGE. Not exactly going to college looking to capture a husband. [Mr. Level also overlooked the fact that I had worked my ass off to get into a good college, and that I planned on going to graduate school. Mr. Level seemed to be behind the times, not remembering that in my graduation year, there were 8 valedictorians -- all of us women. We weren't particularly "favored" by the system. We all did the work to get to that point, taking risks with our GPAs to take the AP courses.]

Anyway, back to the news story that's linked above.

Basically, a white, middle-class male high school student is claiming he's been discriminated against in school. What's the solution? As you might have guessed, it doesn't involve Mr. Doug Anglin putting in more hours at studying a foreign language or calculus. No, Anglin astutely proposes that standards be lowered. And luckily, coming from a fairly privileged family, he can run to daddy:

"Anglin -- whose complaint was written by his father, who is a lawyer in Boston -- is looking for broader changes. He says that teachers must change their attitudes toward boys and look past boys' poor work habits or rule-breaking to find ways to encourage them academically."

OK, so we should get over "poor work habits." Yes, they must be "intrinsically male qualities," which males simply can't help. I'm confused -- we should ignore bad behavior (that often bullies other students)? Do we really want to propose that there are unalterable, essential qualities that break down by sex? With all the attention and theorizing on how gender is constructed, essentializing (and stereotyping) male/female traits is dangerous and unscientific (not to mention anachronistic).

As appalling as all this might sound, Anglin's father goes a step further:

"Gerry Anglin, Doug Anglin's father, said the school system should compensate boys for the discrimination by boosting their grades retroactively.

''If you are a victim of discrimination in the workplace, what do they do? They give you more money or they give you a promotion," Gerry Anglin said. ''Most of these kids want to go to college, so these records are important to them." "

Does anyone else find this downright offensive? Boosting grades retroactively?? I'm sorry, but if you want the grades, then work for them. As the other bloggers point out, when female students underperform in math and science, the solution is never "let's think about how we're favoring male students," it's always "let's get females up to the standard we've set." But here, somehow, we should lower the standards? Anglin the younger even proposes dropping community service requirements that are currently in place to graduate, simply because "it's another burden that will just set off resistance from boys, who may skip it and fail to graduate as a result." WHAT? Are you KIDDING me? Get off your ass and do something for the community you're a part of, and then go home and do your G*# d*#%ed homework!

Why should society lower its standards (sure, don't worry about being a productive member of your community; and actually, who cares about study habits?) because the most privileged people in it are falling behind when the playing field is more level? This high school student sees, everyday, that the people in the most powerful positions in society are white men (government -- hell, look at our freaking Supreme Court, CEOs, etc.). And the well documented "glass ceiling" means that many women don't rise up in the ranks of businesses as men do. Oh, AND women STILL earn 70% of what men earn. So please, spare me the victimization crap. Instead of filing a lawsuit, why don't you find some studying skills that work for you?

File under: Another blatant attempt to avoid taking responsibility for one's own actions.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Ok, so, I was taking yet another break in reading The Tempest, and I found in the Feministe archives the most hilarious thing: The BEAST 50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2005.


Here's my favorite:

"1. Pat Robertson

Charges: If Pat Robertson’s local Starbucks caught fire, he would claim that God was punishing them for giving him a caramel latte when he ordered vanilla. Robertson has always been a demonic charlatan with the credibility of Miss Cleo and a lust for Armageddon in his vile, rat-toad heart, but this was really his year to shine. In 2005, Robertson called on God to vacate seats in the Supreme Court (the almighty obliged, killing Rehnquist), advocated assassinating Hugo Chavez, said ‘judicial activists’ were a more serious threat to America than terrorists, called criticism of the war treason, said John Roberts should be thankful for Hurricane Katrina, which he implied was “connected” to Roe v. Wade, attributed Ariel Sharon’s stroke to divine retribution for the Gaza pullout, said “the Antichrist is probably a Jew alive in Israel today,” and implied that God would wipe the residents of Dover, PA off the map for rejecting Creationism. Not to mention raising huge sums of cash from his zombie army, much of which is diverted from his charity operations to his business interests, including African diamond mines. Has long advocated that America simply ignore the Supreme Court. Robertson’s God is an insecure, misogynistic, homicidal fanatic—just like Pat.

Exhibit A: Vehemently opposed to voluntary abortion in America, but okay with forced abortion in China, where his cable investments depend on the good graces of the government.

Sentence: Repeatedly struck by lightning."

Thursday, February 09, 2006

So I'm reading The Pickwick Papers in Prof. Woloch's class (Realisms & Anti-Realisms), and I keep coming upon these magnificent moments. These two have some strangely similar elements...

The Pickwickians visit a town during a spirited election campaign:

"'Who is Slumkey?' whispered Mr Tupman.

'I don't know,' replied Mr Pickwick in the same tone. 'Hush. Don't ask any questions. It's always best on these occasions to do what the mob do.'

'But suppose there are two mobs?' suggested Mr Snodgrass.

'Shout with the largest,' replied Mr Pickwick." (167)

The Pickwickians go bird shooting:

"'What's the matter with the dogs' legs?' whispered Mr Winkle. 'How queer they're standing.'

'Hush, can't you? replied Wardle, softly. 'Don't you see, they're making a point?'

'Making a point!' said Mr Winkle, staring about him, as if he expected to discover some particular beauty in the landscape, which the sagacious animals were calling special attention to. 'Making a point! What are they pointing at?'" (248)

Ahh I love it.

(The page numbers are to the Penguin edition. Note to Penguin: It would be wise to print in larger than 9 point font.)
There's a great op-ed piece in the NYT today, "Jurassic Pork." I just had to paste an excerpt because it's written by a fellow at the Hoover Institution (yes, as in, Stanford's right-wing think tank), Kori Schake (a prof. at West Point). Her bio. also credits her as the director of "defense strategy and requirements at the National Security Council" 2002-5.

"THE military budget for the 2007 fiscal year clocks in at $439.3 billion. And that doesn't include the $120 billion that reflects the real cost of the war. We have a behemoth defense budget that inadequately addresses the top national security threats."

Schake goes on to say that she's convinced increasing the military budget so drastically was a mistake. As suggested by the title, she finds the priorities not in line with reality (not a huge surprise):

"Mr. Rumsfeld disparages his opponents as industrial age dinosaurs. Yet this is precisely the approach of this latest defense budget: it continues programs and practices that have been made obsolete by technology, innovation and field experience."

Basically, the administration that runs on fear (remember all the claims of "protecting Americans"?) is actually not even doing a very good job of addressing the threats to the US. This fits right in line with the Center for American Progress's giving the Bush administration a failing grade (D+) in homeland security.

So as billions of dollars go toward a defense budget that experts call "pork," everyday Americans are going without healthcare and seeing slashes in education spending. I think it's time to reprioritize, both in how the military spends its money, and in how we allocate funds.

[Thanks to Ken for the gender correction -- I'm afraid that after having a male roommate named Kory, I'm doomed to always picture a very, very tall blonde man when I hear that name.)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

An interesting look at the tragedies caused by Poland's strict abortion laws, which have become even more strict in practice than in the books. Women are being forced to carry on pregnancies despite prenatal testing that reveals severe disabilities, or risks to the woman's health. There's also a sad story about a woman who died during an illegal abortion, because her doctor was afraid of the legal ramifications for bringing his patient to the nearby emergency room. Luckily, more women seem to be speaking up about this problem. Also, with the recent case of a woman who is now basically blind from a pregnancy that she was forced to carry out, despite her eye doctor's recommendation for an abortion, it seems that the rest of Europe is starting to take notice. Very sobering considering our now mostly white male Catholic Supreme court.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

So I just got back from Jing Jing's (followed by gelato!) w/ a group from the studio, and Andrew, who seems now to be pursuing a career in special effects, sent me a lovely picture of his culinary creation:

Andrew: i made fresh spring rolls!!
Me: wow
Me: beautiful
Andrew: hehe, well i staged that a little to hide the fact that one sorta burst and another was losing some of its innards
Andrew: i wonder if romero used rice vermicelli for intestines...
Andrew: but i made the sauce and even sprinkled chopped peanuts on top
Me: hahaha

Friday, February 03, 2006

Email the president about the budget bill that includes a $12 billion cut to student loans, and which just squeaked through a House vote:
It's that horrible in-between time in my room -- the sun is just setting outside, but it's too dark to read without turning on a light indoors. I've been doing laundry, and keep getting these bouts of mhc(home)-sickness. I think it was a combination of seeing a silver car parked out in front of the building (reminded me of Monday mornings in front of the Delles, watching Andrew drive off to work) and then noticing the slanting sunlight coming into the hallway from the entryway (ahh, so much like the golden color in my old dorm room facing west). And then it didn't help that I had a mix CD on from Jaime, which reminded me of junior year... ahh!

Anyway, I have been pretty horrible about writing things down here. I never updated on the last week of adventures while Andrew was here (lots of eating out -- Darbar, Pizza My Heart, Coldstone (dear LORD the cake batter is SO GOOD)), or on weekend activities (like last week's trip to a pizza place in Menlo Park for Megan's birthday). Hmm.

The big ventures off campus seem to correspond with activities planned by our CA's. About a week and a half ago, I went to the SF symphony and met some interesting chemistry folks (we listened to Michael Bolton on the way back in the car -- ironically, of course). I decided that I have no ear for music. Which might explain why I didn't have the self discipline to continue taking piano lessons back in the day. We caught performances of Stravinsky's Petrushka (apparently there's a storyline; might have helped to have known that prior, because I had no idea what to picture) and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 in F minor (for those of you who know what this is). Anyway, it did almost nothing for me. I was more interested in the architecture of the space. I kept expecting images to pop into my head, but I had nothing. I was thinking of Fantasia, but the little dancing mushrooms really only belong in that context. Oh well.

Anyway, the more appropriate-to-Becky excursion was this last Sunday. I went to Ano Nuevo w/ Jessica's event, which is this hang out on the coast for lots and lots of elephant seals. They're huge. They don't exactly excel at getting around on land -- they basically throw their bulk forward and then pull. Luckily for them, it seems they don't need to move much in the first place. Most of them were dozing in the sand, periodically flipping little flipperfuls of sand over their backs. Bizarre noises -- the males seem capable of only one noise: gutteral burp-like expressions. Crazy. Anyway, on the way back our group stopped off at a lighthouse for lunch, sat on the porch overlooking the ocean.

This weekend is going to be ridiculous. About 600 pages of reading (which is actually less than last week). Argh.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Interesting article... You'd think that a vaccine against HPV, which can lead to certical cancer in women and can be transmitted even with the use of a condom, would be a VERY GOOD THING. So why are some conservatives reluctant about the vaccines being used? Because, naturally, once you're vaccinated against something, you of course just can't wait to expose yourself to it! As pointed out on the Feministe blog (Zuzu points out that children don't exactly go rolling in rusty nails just because they've had a tetanus shot), the logic doesn't really hold.,10117,17950773-36398,00.html