Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I'm almost out of here!!

It's time for... spring break!

Today I edited papers, handed them in, and then went out for a celebratory dinner at Three Seasons w/ Brianne & a very cool admit. Then I came home, and the packing frenzy began. Hours later, I'm tired and heading to bed... Looks like I'll be sleeping on the plane!!

Wisconsin, here I come!

Monday, March 20, 2006

New Favorite Blog

I just found my new favorite blog (and yes I should be outlining my Shakespeare paper. But after coming up with a semi-viable thesis paragraph, I was done). So here's one of my favorite bits on the ridiculousness of pharmacists "opting out" of dispensing Plan B (by the by, didn't anyone get the memo about those two studies I mentioned in a previous post, that concluded Plan B doesn't even interfere with implantation? So what the f*#$ is the excuse now??) from Radical Russ:

Why does your religion give you any special exemptions from doing your job? Muslims don't get to be bartenders who don't serve alcohol. Quakers don't get to be cops who don't shoot people. Vegans don't get to be waitresses at Hooters who won't serve chicken wings. Jews don't get to be waiters at the rib shack who won't serve pork. Mormons don't get to be baristas at Starbucks who won't serve caffeinated coffee.


I'm getting mighty sick and tired of "it's my religion" being the trump card against common sense and civil rights. If you think Plan B pills are immoral, then by all means, don't use them. If you think dispensing Plan B pills is immoral, then by all means, don't become a pharmacist.

Seriously, there is no end to how these "conscience clauses" could be interpreted. Could a pharmacist who finds homosexuality "an abomination" refuse to dispense anti-AIDS retrovirals? How about a Catholic pharmacist who refuses to fill any birth control prescription? Sheesh, why not just let the Christian Scientists be the pharmacists who refuse to fill ANY prescription?

This is nothing more than misogynistic anti-sex prudes masquerading as pious victims. They just won't be happy until everyone else feels as much guilt about sex as they do. They don't even care whether the woman seeking the prescription is a rape victim; as far as they're concerned she's as damnable as what they'd consider the libertine nymphomaniac slut (you know, women who enjoy sex without procreation) who slipped up with her birth control (and just wait; they're coming after that, too.) In their caveman minds, sex bad, babies good! Any woman who opens her legs must accept the consequences of government-enforced procreation, nevermind the advances in science and chemistry that make that ancient history.

Ahh. I love it. Russ is my new hero.

If this ridiculousness is implemented in WA, I think I'll move to Seattle and become a butcher -- that is, a butcher that doesn't sell meat on moral grounds.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Quotes of the Day, and the 4th Amendment

From the NYT on the Senate approval of the budget:

The budget decision at the end of a marathon day of voting followed a separate 52-to-48 Senate vote to increase the federal debt limit by $781 billion, bringing the debt ceiling to nearly $9 trillion. The move left Democrats attacking President Bush and Congressional Republicans for piling up record debt in their years in power.


"It is very disturbing, and it gives me a whole lot of heartburn," said Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, who attributed the additional spending to political anxiety. "They want to go and say they are helping people, but we are not helping people when we are selling out their future."

In the House, lawmakers easily approved almost $92 billion in emergency spending, with about $68 billion going for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and $19 billion for hurricane recovery, slightly less than the White House sought.

The Senate budget bill would clear the way to opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, but the outlook for that provision is uncertain given strong resistance by Republican moderates in the House and a long legislative route before final approval.


But Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who led the push for $7 billion in extra money for health and education programs, said those areas had been starved for money in recent years and could not afford to be overlooked again.


The increase in the debt limit brought the total increase during the Bush administration to $3 trillion. Democrats said the rising debt was the consequence of what they described as a reckless Republican fiscal policy centered on tax cuts for the affluent.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said Thursday that given Mr. Bush's record, "I really do believe this man will go down as the worst president this country has ever had."

Great. 68 BILLION for the war, 19 billion for botched hurricane recovery efforts, and a measly 7 billion for education spending. Priorities?

And somebody please get Bush & Co. a copy of the Constitution:

White House lawyers argued for warrantless searches after 9/11

Published: Friday March 17, 2006

According to a news magazine, White House lawyers argued for the right to conduct warrantless searches of terrorism suspects on U.S. soil after the 9/11 attacks based on the "same legal authority" as President Bush's controversial wiretapping program, RAW STORY has learned.

The U.S. News & World Report article reveals that FBI Director Robert Mueller bitterly opposed warrantless physical searches "not only because of the blowback issue but also because of the legal and constitutional questions raised."

Via Tennessee Guerilla Women.

Another Mad Cow

Another good reason to avoid eating beef, and in particular non-organic, non-grassfed cows. Eek. How the US has actually INCREASED beef consumption is beyond me. Bad for the environment, bad for human health. Do people want to be the test subjects for understanding how mad cow jumps species?

As a sidenote: Since drastically cutting back meat consumption in general, and only occasionally eating seafood, I have not had any health problems. No colds, no flu, no out of the ordinary stomach upsets. Knock on wood.

Last week when I overheard a conversation about a recipe involving pork, I lost my appetite.


It's 2 am and I'm still sooo awake. Not sure if it's the wakefulness that will lead me to work, though, as I think I'm heading down from the caffeine high. The espresso machine is awesome. I'm still learning to use it without like, spilling coffee water all over, but I did manage to make a mocha-like concoction that kept me working for about 2.5 hours. And I saved a bit to drink tomorrow morning so that I actually get my ass to work at a decent hour. Thanks, Mum! Perfect timing, too.

Now it's time for some Nighty Night tea.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Logic Baffles Us

Via Feministe and NewDonkey, here's the quote, straight from AJC:

Labored logic

Democrats have been buzzing about comments made by state Sen. Nancy Schaefer (R-Turnerville) at a recent eggs-and-issues breakfast in Hart County. We quote from the Hartwell Sun newspaper: "Commenting on illegal immigration, Schaefer said 50 million abortions have been performed in this country, causing a shortage of cheap American labor. 'We could have used those people,' she said."

I've long been convinced that it's not all about "the innocent unborn" for many (if not most) right-wingers. So yesterday's post exposes the belief that sex should always be for procreation, meaning that, in real-life policies, the government should have no interest in helping women prevent unplanned pregnancies (when the gov. is simultaneously providing other basic health care services). I'd call this stance: pregnancy is the punishment for having sex, and we think sex is bad, so we're not going to even try to prevent unwanted pregnancies (despite realizing that this means abortion rates will rise).

And now today, the logic is even more baffling. So, women should have unwanted pregnancies and give birth to unwanted children, so that they can supply the American workforce with cheap labor, meaning that the country can enact even strict immigration policies? Riiiiight. Somehow, I'm holding myself back from having 10 kids that will grow up to flip burgers and bag groceries, while the top 1% continues to build ridiculous fortunes. I'd call this stance: We're not interested in keeping women healthy and ensuring that every child is a planned child. No, we're hoping that the poor will continue to pump out cheap labor forces. (Wait, somehow, these two stances are beginning to seem related. MO is banning funding to help poor people access birth control at affordable prices... what do they think the result will be?... working class children that will provide cheap labor?)

Conclusion: I don't want people like this in charge of making decisions about what I choose to do with my body.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Finals & Birth Control News

I'm coming out of hiding -- but only for a few minutes! I'm about 4 pages into my first final paper, two more coming after this. Will have updates on progress. Must leave next Weds morning, which seems to approach much too quickly.

But I had to post this, from Shakespeare's Sister: Poor People Shouldn't Have Sex. Apparently, Missouri is all for unplanned pregnancies, which someone ought to tell them is only going to increase abortion rates:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - An attempt to resume state spending on birth control got shot down Wednesday by House members who argued it would have amounted to an endorsement of promiscuous lifestyles.

Missouri stopped providing money for family planning and certain women's health services when Republicans gained control of both chambers of the Legislature in 2003.

But a Democratic lawmaker, in a little-noticed committee amendment, had successfully inserted language into the proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 that would have allowed part of the $9.2 million intended for "core public health functions" to go to contraception provided through public health clinics.


"If you hand out contraception to single women, we're saying promiscuity is OK as a state, and I am not in support of that," Phillips, R-Kansas City, said in an interview.

Others, including some lawmakers who described themselves as "pro-life," said it was illogical for anti-abortion lawmakers to deny money for contraception to low-income people who use public health clinics.

"It's going to have the opposite effect of what the intention is, which will be more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions," said Rep. Kate Meiners, D-Kansas City.

The other alternative is for low-income women to give birth to more children, which is only likely to drive up the state's costs to provide services to them, said Democratic Rep. Melba Curls, also of Kansas City.

That's great. Contraception = promiscuity. And what's with the insertion of "single women"? As if there aren't any "single men" involved in needing contraception? And do these people realistically think that poor people will simply stop having sex (which despite much of the religious rights' efforts, is still a "natural" part of life, beneath all the culturally laden "sex is bad" baggage)? I can imagine it now: a woman goes to one of these clinics, is denied contraception that she can actually afford, and goes home to her partner. Are said partner and said woman going to simply sleep in separate beds for evermore? Is there some magic point at which the MO republican lawmakers will allow poor married people to have contraception, because it offends their sensibilities less? This bill pretty much sums up the endpoint for many Republican lawmakers: not just outlawing abortion, but turning the clock back to the days when women couldn't access simple birth control devices.

Missouri Right to Life said it was concerned with the contraception language because it was loosely written and could have included emergency contraception - often referred to as the morning-after pill.

The Missouri Catholic Conference also opposed the birth control funding.

"State taxpayers should not be required to subsidize activities they believe are immoral or unethical, relating to contraceptives or abortions," said Larry Weber, executive director of the state Catholic Conference.

And does the MO Right to Life bother to consult scientific studies on the morning after pill? Because two independent studies just came out which again confirm that Plan B works much like normal birth control pills. When taken in these higher doses over such a short period of time, Plan B prevents ovulation, but does not have the effect of creating a "hostile uterus." So now, even those who believe that when sperm meets egg, a complete human is formed, must concede that Plan B is not an "abortion." In other words, that worry is completely unfounded.

I especially love that the Missouri Catholic Conference thinks they should be able to opt out of the state providing basic family planning services (we're talking condoms and birth control pills here, people). Last I checked, I can't opt out of paying taxes that support a war I'm morally and politically opposed to. So let's break this down. I can't decide I'm not paying taxes because I don't want to financially support taking real human lives. And if I even suggested opting out, lawmakers might refer me to the IRS, and accuse me of being "unpatriotic." But the Missouri Catholic Conference, it's totally acceptable and laudable for them to influence lawmakers into taking away basic medical services for the poor, suggesting that poor people should simply never have sex unless they want a pregnancy. It's completely ethical for them to lobby to basically cause many unplanned pregnancies, many of which will be aborted. Right, it makes perfect sense.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Summers Redux

So tonight I went to dinner with James, Jill, & Stephen (who's going to be attending next fall -- yes!). We had a great debate going over who else we think will be accepting Stanford's offer, and some running bets -- either way we're going out drinking. Awesome time, and I'm so excited for next year's cohort!!

At some point James's roommate Tom joined us. There was one moment that I had to blog about (hence the title). I can't remember word for word, but I'll try to recreate the conversation and its sense. So after the topic of Lawrence H. Summers came up:

Me: Yeah, he was trying to use the example of his daughter playing with dolls and his son playing with toy trucks to stand in for biological truths, as if the kids weren't raised in America, with the TV commercials and the culture. [If you look at the transcript, he finds it significant that his daughters called trucks "baby trucks," just because he hadn't given them dolls to play with, so clearly they had no socialization that could possibly have influenced them to treat toys like dolls. Right?]

T: I don't think that was what he was saying.

Me: Well to look around society and then ascribe it to biology... it's kind of tautological...

T: Did you read the article?

Me: Yes.

T: I just read it a week ago, and my professor was saying that most of America wouldn't even understand the math.

Gradual dropping of the subject, especially as I don't want to get into an argument right as we're sitting down to eat.

OK. So first of all, Summers was just plain wrong. I don't care what math he was using, he basically says that more women aren't in the sciences because:

1. They have children/ want to have children

2. They don't have the same "high end" "aptitude"

3. Discrimination

And in that order. Yes, so basically, the biological function of childbearing, and the biological determinism of having XX chromosomes means that women are less able to compete in the sciences. Discrimination is added as if it's only an afterthought, as if we aren't coming out of thousands of years of women being barred from becoming intellectuals, or just ignored or discredited. So why exactly does pregnancy mean that women can't have high powered jobs? Last I checked, most women work through most if not all of their pregnancies (and keep in mind all the women that do massive amounts of house work and physical labor throughout). And there's no reason why society can't structure jobs to allow more leeway for parents (of BOTH sexes) to take care of their children. Further, no one's found a "science gene" that's only found on the Y chromosome. For the second premise, Summers cites one study, and his own calculations on standard deviation (which he admits are flawed), to estimate that the ratio is 1:5 in favor of men doing "high end" work. He doesn't seem interested in thinking about why such studies might be flawed, or explaining what exact biological factor could possibly determine scientific/mathematical ability. No mention of these fields of math and science being developed largely in male traditions, or the possiblity of IQ tests being geared toward favoring men's abilities (abilities that are either culturally or as he suggests, biologically created). So whatever math you pull out of our culturally bound societies, how on earth is that going to justify the following comments:

"So I think in terms of positive understanding, the first very important reality is just what I would call the, who wants to do high-powered intense work?"

"So my best guess, to provoke you, of what's behind all of this is that the largest phenomenon, by far, is the general clash between people's legitimate family desires and employers' current desire for high power and high intensity, that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination."

You can read the whole thing here.

And here are some more enlightening and encouraging remarks from people who I think have done more thinking on the subject that Summers:

DAVID TARGAN: Well, I have a lot of thoughts. I know that in his apology, he, from what I gather, he said that we need to do more research on this, clearly. And the odd thing about it is that, if he had talked to members of his own faculty, if he had talked to people right next to him at M.I.T., there's so much research that has been done on – that can be acted upon right now on – if we need to do more research on gender differences, on – that's fine, but we know that so much of the variance in between – in terms of the difference between the numbers of men and women at the faculty levels can easily be accounted for by social factors, that – that he and other people have tended to minimize that if we just take some simple measures that are well-known and easy to do, relatively, we can make great strides. And the fact that he didn't seem to know this is rather striking.

AMY GOODMAN: This weekend it was – the whole controversy was discussion on the Sunday talk shows, and I was quite astounded to see "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," on ABC in discussion at the end of the conversation with George Will, Claire Shipman, others; and they were in agreement that this is about being p.c. on campus, that you’re not allowed to raise truths, basically, that we all know that there are differences between women and men. Professor Hopkins, your response?

NANCY HOPKINS: Yes, I think this is deeply concerning, and I hope we can correct this, because this is terribly important. This is not about academic freedom and this is not about political correctness at all. This is, as the dean just said, this is about flying in face of all the evidence (of which there’s massive evidence) and just giving your own personal opinion in spite of that evidence, when your opinion is actually very damaging, and you're a leader the education world. That's what this is about, and if Summers would release the tape of his talk, I think this could help a lot to make it clear that what he said was not appropriate.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what is the percentage of women at M.I.T., also professors of color at M.I.T.?

NANCY HOPKINS: Well, the percent of women faculty, you have to always look at particular fields, of course. So, you have to look at science versus engineering. You have – you know, and so forth. And these numbers vary a lot depending on the field you’re talking about. So, overall, at M.I.T. the percent of women on the science faculty, that's six departments of science, is about 14%, and the same percent in engineering.

AMY GOODMAN: And do you know the figures of professors of color in these fields?

NANCY HOPKINS: The percent of minority faculty is about 4%. So, it's very small. And what you see is, if you look the data, with women, you see that you train a lot of women and they gradually leak from the pipeline. With the minorities, you see that there's a drop after college, so that they’re not enough getting PhD’s.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Whoa, 23!

So I'm now 23 years old.

Last night, although it wasn't yet my birthday, I realized my age. Or more accurately, I realized the age I am no longer. I was waiting at the bus stop after taking a shopping trip before my admit arrives (it's admit weekend, and we've got 17 prospective students coming), watching down the road for the bus, trying to imagine when I was going to get all my work done. And then I started listening to the three Stanford undergrads sitting on the bench a few feet away. Their conversation went something like this, excerpted for interest:

"Oh my God I loooooove sushi! I even had sushi for lunch today, and I want more!"

"I loooove pink!"

"Oh my Gaaaaawwwdd I looooooove Harry Potter!!!"

"I know! We should go out this weekend for sushi, and then go to Coldstone!"

Brilliant young minds, right? And then it hit me, that I was no longer an undergrad, and that there were many aspects of that experience that I wouldn't want to go back to (namely: dorm food (EXCEPT for grilled salmon caesar salad at Prospect) and shared bathrooms).

Ahh I'm growing up!

More later, but thanks to Mum for the espresso machine!!

"It's been a long year, it's been a long day."

Monday, March 06, 2006

Belated Women's Day

So I missed International Women's Day & coinciding Blogging Against Sexism Day, so I've just got a couple of links to pass on. I missed yesterday because I was crazy busy with the kick off to our admit weekend (which is going tolerably well thus far).

Twisty's reporting on this story of a man who just won a court battle over whether or not his now infertile-due-to-cancer ex-partner can use their previously fertilized and frozen eggs in order to have a child. Man's decision: throw the embryos away. Court: Yes, Sir! Makes you wonder, as Twisy points out: what would anti-choicers say? (specifically those men in South Dakota who are ooh-ing and ahh-ing over how brutal a rape has to be in order for a woman to be allowed an abortion.) Because if those people sided with the man in this case, I think we can see the blatant sexism. Twisty pulls out this quote, remind us of anything?: “The key thing for me was just to be able to decide when and if I start a family.”

Personally, I think it's just cruel to take your ex-fiance to court and deny her the chance to have her child, just because you've changed your mind. I can sympathize with not wanting one's biological child running about, but this guy doesn't have to carry the embryo or go through labor, and his comment of "starting a family" completely misrepresented the situation. He's not being expected to start a family, or have any emotional ties to the resulting children. The word "family" implies a relationship much beyond and distinct from a biological relationship. It's interesting because he's using the pro-choice rhetoric of "deciding" when to start a family, and yet he doesn't have the same physical relationship to producing a child.

And also:

Pandagon has highlighted another story defending the D&X procedure that seems to have been termed "partial birth abortion" by anti-choicers... Eek:

Nothing more “pro-life” than making a woman walk around with a corpse banging around inside her body, apparently.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Cervical Cancer Vaccine & Misogyny

I'm calling it what it is. Protesting a life-saving vaccine doesn't look very pro-life to me. Here's the quote, from Sojourners & via Preemtive Karma:

A little-known debate is smoldering at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that may burst soon into a major fire. Two pharmaceutical companies - Merck and GlaxoSmithKline - have designed a cervical cancer vaccine. In clinical trials the Merck drug, Gardasil, is proving to be up to 100% effective in fighting the dominant strain of the virus causing cervical cancer. The pharmaceutical companies and a growing movement of public health advocates want all girls to be inoculated with the vaccine as they presently are for other high-risk viruses.

The Family Research Council is leading a charge of Religious Right groups to halt any such national inoculation program. Their resistance is driven by fear more than common sense. The human papilloma virus (HPV) that generates cervical cancer is most typically passed along through genital contact with others. So as long as an individual does not engage in sexual intercourse, he or she should be shielded from the virus. The Religious Right bloc concludes that offering a vaccine for HPV would undercut their promotion of sexual abstinence for adolescents.

In that spirit, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Fortune magazine that he would not allow his 13-year-old daughter to be inoculated. "It sends the wrong message," Perkins said. "Our concern is that this vaccine will be marketed to a segment of the population that should be getting a message about abstinence."

Globally, cervical cancer kills more than 270,000 women each year - roughly 80% of them in developing countries. The Centers for Disease Control reports that as many as 3,700 women in the U.S. died of cervical cancer last year, and tens of thousands more had their lives completely transformed by a radical treatment regimen for the disease. The majority of those women are African-American or Hispanic, and poor.

Last I checked, teens weren't abstaining from sex purely because they had the fear of God in them over HPV. Most teens probably don't even know what that stands for, or that it can lead to cervical cancer in women. Furthermore, as everyone has been saying from the get-go, you don't see people rolling around in rusty nails post-tetanus shots.

I've got to call Tony Perkins out on this: deciding that his daughter shouldn't have this vaccine is not only completely morally corrupt, but downright scary. What sort of a parent decides that he'd rather his daughter died of a preventable disease than have a vaccine? A vaccine, I might add, that in the future one needn't explain to a young child who is being routinely innoculated against all matter of diseases. Women don't get HPV because they are "bad people" -- and even if you DID want believe that women get HPV only because they've been "immoral," that is NO REASON to deny anyone healthcare. A woman could contract HPV from a partner (even the most trusted), a husband, an unfaithful husband, a rapist, etc. There is no reason on God's green earth to prevent the HPV vaccine from becoming a standard innoculation, especially as many of the sufferers of cervical cancer are women from minority groups or the working class, which could mean that they would have less access to this vaccine if it is not made routine.

Deciding that women should be punished with cancer and/or death because they had sex or were raped by someone carrying a disease is not only ass backwards, it's thinly veiled misogyny.

Keeping it Wild

Shakespeare's Sister reminded me that we need to voice our disapproval of a US Forest Service proposal to sell off $1 billion worth of public lands (including 85,000 acres from National Forest property, and 730 from the National Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area). We've got about a month to do it! Here's the contact information:


Fax: (202) 205–1604

Snail mail: USDA Forest Service, SRS Comments, Lands 4S, 1400 Independence Ave., SW., Mailstop 1124, Washington, DC 20250–0003

Here's my email:

Dear Sir or Madame,

I am writing in response to the recent proposal to sell off one billion dollars worth of public lands, including 85,000 from National Forest property. I am adamantly and passionately opposed to this proposition. Having grown up in Hood River County, Oregon, I have a very personal reason for desiring that these publicly owned lands remain so. Seven hundred and thirty acres of this supposedly "expendable" land would come from the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, a beloved area for those in my hometown, and for all of those who come to visit our area to ski on Mt. Hood, windsurf on the Columbia River, hike in the unspoiled wilderness, and generally enjoy the outdoors. I believe that preserving land for public use and environmental conservation is essential. Over the course of my life, growing up in the Hood River Valley, I've seen a tremendous amount of development. Land has been parceled off and divided, while more and more houses have cropped up across the previously unspoiled hills. As people move in, trees are chopped down and ecosystems are disturbed. My stepfather works in nuisance animal control, and my family has therefore seen many of the displaced animals that result from these moves toward developing the land. My parents remember how the valley used to be -- it's nearly unrecognizable to them today.

Clearly, not all development is detrimental to communities or even the environment. But as we make decisions about nationally and publicly owned lands, we are ethically bound to consider what the consequences will be in ten years, fifty years, a hundred years. Our country's land is increasingly urbanized, suburbanized, and privately owned. When I take walks along the irrigation canal behind my parents' home in Oregon, I see "No Trespassing" signs and fences. And yet people in this country deeply believe in publicly owned lands that our communities can both enjoy and preserve for future generations. Whether I'm hiking around Devil's Lake in Wisconsin, or reaching the summit of Mt. Holyoke in Massachusetts, or venturing with my mother along the same trails on Mt. Hood that she hiked as a young girl, I see other people enjoying these public resources, away from all the "No Trespassing" signs.

Selling public lands means that our wealthiest citizens will increasingly own the resources that our communities have a shared right to both protect and preserve. In fifty years, I hope that I can still recognize the Hood River Valley. I hope that we won't be living in a world where we can't see the forests for the "No Trespassing" signs.

I urge you to put a stop to this proposition.

Rebecca Richardson