Saturday, May 27, 2006

But I thought I was Elinor...

Which Classic Female Literary Character Are You?

"You're Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen!"

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The End of the Day

What I did today:

- Woke up at 8 am for a doctor's appointment. I'm switching off of Alesse due to major concerns about my sudden increased propensity for acne... back to orthotricyclen, but this time LO... I want my d@#* skin back!! As the doctor told me, this isn't an exact science.

- Back home for a quick nap, then 2nd breakfast and off to Victorian class talking about In Memoriam.

- Home again, for lunch and a moment of rest before...

- TA section, in which we talked about The Birds

- Home once more for a touch up & readying myself for...

- Identities workshop, which was great! Prof. Sandahl is brilliant, and I got my questions out. Really great discussion! A wonderful high point to end the year with.

- Highlight of the day: Dinner with amazing people.

And now for my typical dinner entry:

We went to Bistro Elan... and I had:

Chilled cucumber soup as an appetizer

Halibut with pea puree, apple, and a pistachio vinagrette.

A Thai influenced layer of coconut wafers and coconut custard, with spiced blueberries and pineapple.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Almost Finals

As Karuna has noted, I haven't updated in a while. This is true. Last week, was bad times. We had Denny dying on Grey's Anatomy (STRANGELY parallel to a scene in Our Mutual Friend, which I was finishing that day), Marissa getting killed in a car crash on the OC, and then on Desperate Housewives, we had the fake-out death of Carl, and the real(?) death of Mike. And poor, poor Susan.

In real life, I was stressing about final papers. Oh yes, it IS that time again! Because with the quarter system, you have not 2, but THREE finals periods. Great. For the first time ever, I'm not sleeping through the night as well. Last week I got on a bizarre schedule of waking up at 7 am, going back to sleep till around 8:30, 9 am, and getting up around a quarter to 10 for class. Not good. All these disruptions mean that I'm remembering my dreams (since you usually remember them only if you're woken up during a REM cycle). And folks, they haven't been the most pleasant dreams ever. I think the combination of finals, anticipation for moving all my crap into a storage unit (I'm going to need help!), and worries about studying for quals this summer, have influenced the old subconscious. I often wake up angry at someone and then realize it was a dream, or in a sweat worrying about a presentation that I don't have to make.

OK, example time. So my most noteworthy dream came over the weekend. I dreamt that we were having department awards, and Jill got something for "holiday spirit" (like being at camp or something!). Anyway, for some reason a professor I had last quarter, who will remain nameless, was going to cut my hair. He got about halfway through when I realized it was a disaster. For some reason he had assumed I wanted really short hair, and chopped much of it off in a really messy, unfixable way (Freudian, right?) Anyway, so then we heard wolves or wild dogs, and we were out in my backyard and I was calling for Merrie to come see. Then everyone disappeared and went to some villa for a ritzy brunch, but I got left behind. So I was horribly upset at being left behind with a bad haircut, and even moreso when I arrived at the restaurant and no one seemed to get why I was upset. Which is really strange for a number of reasons, but perhaps most so in that I'm actually really happy with my shorter haircut post-Spring Break.

Anyway, the weekend redeemed the week. Friday EM, Lupe, Marissa, and Jennifer threw a pinata party. Nothing like a bunch of drunk people wildly swinging a bat while other drunk people keep the pinata safely out of harm's way. We had our first English dept. Shut Up and Dance Party. Then Saturday I had a beach trip through the Village (ie Escondido Village Housing). We had a BBQ (yay veggie burgers), and I walked on the beach and collected shells (including a full sand dollar, just with a hole in it!), and sat on the beach doing some grading. It was good times.

I've got one more hurdle before I start digging into my final papers: Tomorrow I'm a respondent for a speaker who's coming to our How Do Identities Matter Workshop. Excited to meet our speaker, who is also from Hood River! Everyone raves about her, and her essays are wonderful. And I'm looking forward to going out to dinner afterwards!

So I guess I should go get on that response!...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Review of: Grey's Anatomy Season Finale, Part 1


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Wal-Mart & 7-UP: Going au natural?

This should be filed under "You know it's big when..."

Wal-Mart has announced plans to stock organic food. When your head stops spinning, consider the sorts of products Wal-Mart is aiming to sell. From the NYT, May 12th, by Melanie Warner:

Most of the nation's major food producers are hard at work developing organic versions of their best-selling products, like Kellogg's Rice Krispies and Kraft's macaroni and cheese.

So I guess this is good? It's good for organic farmers, and its good for the land, but it seems unlikely to do a lot for human health. The problem with Rice Krispies isn't that they aren't organic, it's that they're Rice Krispies! And therefore loaded with empty calories and fat. But I will say that I am anxiously awaiting the natural/organic version of Mac & Cheese. I'm sorry, but the Trader Joe's and Annie's versions are just not the same. I can't wait for Mac & Cheese stripped of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives... to have you know, once in a blue moon to fulfill that craving.

Wal-Mart says it wants to democratize organic food, making products affordable for those who are reluctant to pay premiums of 20 percent to 30 percent. At a recent conference, its chief marketing officer, John Fleming, said the company intended to sell organic products for just 10 percent more than their conventional equivalents.

Admirable intention -- even though we all know the real reason Wal-Mart is getting into organics:

While organic food is still just 2.4 percent of the overall food industry, it has been growing at least 15 percent a year for the last 10 years. Currently valued at $14 billion, the organic food business is expected to increase to $23 billion over the next three years, though that figure could rise further with Wal-Mart's push.

I'm glad they're getting on the bandwagon & at least trying to respond to the emerging zeitgeist. But I sympathize with the critics:

But Wal-Mart's new push worries Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association, an advocacy group that lobbies for strict standards and the preservation of small organic farms. He said Wal-Mart did not care about the principles behind organic agriculture and would ultimately drive down prices and squeeze organic farmers.

So overall... this could be a good thing, but I hope "organic" doesn't just become a watered down version of what began as a radical new movement. It would be amazing if people actually began to care not only about their own health, but also about the health of our environment & our farmers.

In further "you know it's big when..." news, 7-UP is rigorously marketing their soda as "all natural." Yep, they took out the sodium benzoate (which when mixed with citric acid tends to form benzene, not good for you!) and the artificial flavors. Laudable move -- if I feel like drinking pure empty calories, I'll be sure to pick up a 7-up. Being less cynical for a moment, I would actually drink the new 7-up before I took so much as a second glance at a Pepsi or Coke.

I'm not the only one questioning the use of the word "natural" here -- turns out the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) is suing the soda company for false advertising.

Let's look at these "all natural" ingredients...

1. Water. OK, sure.

2. High fructose corn syrup. Eh -- not that natural. Turning corn into corn syrup is a highly industrialized process, and it yields a calorie-rich substance that recent studies suggest our bodies don't even recognize. Problematic because you've just drunk 200 calories of sugar, and you don't feel it.

3. Citric acid. Sure.

4. Natural flavors. I refer you to Fast Food Nation. Although my response to "natural" flavors is still more positive than toward artificial (as illogical as it may prove to be).

5. Potassium citrate. Sure, whatever.

So maybe it's not looking tons healthier, but it's a step in the right direction.

I love seeing the huge soda companies and Wal-Mart respond to consumer demand for natural and/or organic products. Makes me get the warm fuzzies all over.

Reasons to love CA

I just got back from the first Palo Alto Farmer's Market of the season. People asking one another if they had a good "off season," Democratic groups registering voters, an older man handing out petitions & US flags for revisions to workers' rights laws, a musician sharing the history of the market (apparently it used to be in the Wells Fargo parking lot, and has been in its current location for nearly 20 years), and, best of all, food straight from the farmers.

I think I spent about $14 on 3 squash, a basket of strawberries, organic spinach/dandelion mix, 2 bell peppers, 7 or 8 peaches, a few tangerines, and some sugar snap peas. I'm still not over the amazing growing season here. Next week I think I'm going to trek to Menlo Park though, as it seems like they have more vendors, and I know the people there better (as far as what's pesticide free, what's organic but not certified, etc.)

And I can't wait for Madison's farmer's market this summer!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Every time Bush opens his mouth...

Crooks & Liars has this great video up from the Daily Show. Apparently Bush is saying the same thing about his new CIA apointee as he did 2 years ago about Goss. Goss was "the right man to lead this important agency at this critical moment of our nation's history." So is Hayden in 2006. Should we start writing the headlines for 2008 now, or hold off a few months? This reminds me of the "Henny Penny the sky is falling" comments about both Iraq and Iran... Are the speech writers on vacation or what?

Thank God someone is watching Bush & Co. I love Jon Stewart.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Actually, I agree.

In an interview with a German paper, Bush said his best moment as president was catching a large fish. And, not surprisingly, Bush wasn't speaking metaphorically.

BERLIN (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush told a German newspaper his best moment in more than five years in office was catching a big perch in his own lake.

"You know, I've experienced many great moments and it's hard to name the best," Bush told weekly Bild am Sonntag when asked about his high point since becoming president in January 2001.

"I would say the best moment of all was when I caught a 7.5 pound (3.402 kilos) perch in my lake," he told the newspaper in an interview published on Sunday.

This pretty much sums up our president. So his best moment was one of the many, many vacation days he allots himself, fishing in his presumably stocked lake (very sportsmanlike, no?). OK. So if a professor asked me this about my time as a grad student, I would realize that he/she was expecting an answer related to my job/studies. Bush? Not so much.

Or maybe Bush was being a realist for once: I would actually agree that this is probably Bush at the pinnacle of his abilities as president. Let's evaluate this moment. Not causing destruction to human life? Check. Not misleading the American people into preemptive war on bad intelligence? Check. Taking a break from paying off big business with taxpayer dollars? Check. Refraining from destroying eco-systems? Check. Not weakening environmental protection measures? Check. All in all, I agree, this probably is his best moment.

Via Shakespeare's Sister.

The conservatives attack birth control

The right to choice... and not even the choice to have an abortion, but the choice to use birth control.

Since when was my choice to use birth control under attack? Ahh yes -- with Bush's religious regime.

So I was going to bed, when I saw my NYT email... and I just had to read this story. I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep till I did. And Russell Shorto does an INCREDIBLE job with this topic: "Contra-Contraception." The republican right is no longer content to attack a woman's right to choose abortions; they are now threatening our very right to choose to use birth control. This shouldn't even be an issue -- it seems pretty d#$@ clear to most of us that women have the right to choose to halt or impair their fertility. Not all women want to have a baby every year, right? But the conservative/religious right is trying to take the country back to pre-Griswold vs. CT days.

I'm going to quote massive portions of this article that y'all should read:

Many Christians who are active in the evolving anti-birth-control arena state frankly that what links their efforts is a religious commitment to altering the moral landscape of the country. In particular, and not to put too fine a point on it, they want to change the way Americans have sex.

Whoa there. 1st problem. If you want to change how YOU have sex, that's great, but leave me out of it.

It may be news to many people that contraception as a matter of right and public health is no longer a given, but politicians and those in the public health profession know it well. "The linking of abortion and contraception is indicative of a larger agenda, which is putting sex back into the box, as something that happens only within marriage," says William Smith, vice president for public policy for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. Siecus has been around since 1964, and as a group that supports abortion rights, it is natural enemies with many organizations on the right, but its mission has changed in recent years, from doing things like promoting condoms as a way to combat AIDS to, now, fighting to maintain the very idea of birth control as a social good. "Whether it's emergency contraception, sex education or abortion, anything that might be seen as facilitating sex outside a marital context is what they'd like to see obliterated," Smith says.

Sex outside of a marital-reproductive context, you mean. Since when is it the government's role to decide how its citizens have sex? I thought republicans/conservatives were into that whole limited government thing. And this is sounding eerily like both 1984 and The Handmaid's Tale.

The Guttmacher Institute, which like Siecus has been an advocate for birth control and sex education for decades, has also felt the shift. "Ten years ago the fight was all about abortion," says Cynthia Dailard, a senior public-policy associate at Guttmacher. "Increasingly, they have moved to attack and denigrate contraception. For those of us who work in the public health field, and respect longstanding public health principles — that condoms reduce S.T.D.'s, that contraception is the most effective way to help people avoid unintended pregnancy — it's extremely disheartening to think we may be set back decades."

It's also disheartening for those of us with uteruses, whether or not we work in the public health field.

The hope many people had for the drug [Plan B] was tied to an ugly number: 21. That is the number of abortions in the U.S. per year per 1,000 women of reproductive age, which puts the country at or near the top among developed nations. Put another way, according to a study released this past week by the Guttmacher Institute, there are 6.4 million pregnancies a year in the U.S., 3.1 million of which are unintended and 1.3 million of which end in abortion. In the seven years since the last such study, the overall unintended-pregnancy rate has remained unchanged; for women below the poverty level it increased 29 percent. If women had quick, easy access to a backup contraceptive, the thinking of Plan B proponents went, those rates — and thus the abortion rate — would drop. "I saw it as a win-win situation, something that everyone on both sides of the abortion issue could support," says Dr. Susan F. Wood, who was at the time director of the Office of Women's Health at the F.D.A. "I still don't get what happened."

Neither do I.

One thing that happened, which Dr. Wood and many others may have failed to notice, was the change in conservative circles on the subject of contraception. At a White House press briefing in May of last year, three months before the F.D.A.'s nonruling on Plan B, Press Secretary Scott McClellan was asked four times by a WorldNetDaily correspondent, Les Kinsolving, if the president supported contraception. "I think the president's views are very clear when it comes to building a culture of life," McClellan replied. Kinsolving said, "If they were clear, I wouldn't have asked." McClellan replied: "And if you want to ask those questions, that's fine. I'm just not going to dignify them with a response." This exchange caught the attention of bloggers and others. In July, a group of Democrats in Congress, led by Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York, sent the first of four letters to the president asking outright: "Mr. President, do you support the right to use contraception?" According to Representative Maloney's office, the White House has still not responded.

The president can't be clear about a couple's right to choose to control their fertility? WTF???

Dr. Hager said he feared that if Plan B were freely available, it would increase sexual promiscuity among teenagers. F.D.A. staff members presented research showing that these fears were ungrounded: large-scale studies showed no increase in sexual activity when Plan B was available to them, and both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Society for Adolescent Medicine endorsed the switch to over-the-counter status. Others argued that the concern was outside the agency's purview: that the F.D.A.'s mandate was specifically limited to safety and did not extend to matters like whether a product might lead to people having more sex. Meanwhile a government report later found that Dr. Janet Woodcock, deputy commissioner for operations at the F.D.A., had also expressed a fear that making the drug available over the counter could lead to "extreme promiscuous behaviors such as the medication taking on an 'urban legend' status that would lead adolescents to form sex-based cults centered around the use of Plan B." In May 2004, the F.D.A. rejected the finding of its scientific committees and denied the application, citing some of the reasons that Dr. Hager had expressed.

So... rather than listening to science, we listened to Dr.-my-wife-alleges-I-raped-and-sodomized-her-Hager and this nutjob Woodcock? (I'm still getting ironic laughter over that name, especially in this context). Does Woodcock make a habit of inventing cults? Because I think that little Plan-B-sex-cult idea says a whole hell of a lot more about HER state of mind than teenagers'.

The drug's manufacturer reapplied two months later, this time for permission to sell it over the counter to women ages 16 and up, seemingly dealing with the issue of youth. Then, last August, Crawford made his announcement that the F.D.A. would delay its decision, a delay that could be indefinite. The announcement made headlines across the country. Dr. Wood, the F.D.A.'s women's health official, resigned in protest. Democrats in Congress asked for an investigation into what they felt was politics — the anti-birth-control agenda of the politically powerful Christian right — trumping science. The Government Accountability Office conducted a study of the events and issued a report last November concluding that the decision to reject the findings of the scientific advisory panel "was not typical of the other 67 prescription-to-O.T.C. switch decisions made from 1994 to 2004." Currently, Senators Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray are holding up the nomination of Andrew von Eschenbach as F.D.A. commissioner until the F.D.A. issues a verdict on the drug.

Yet again: religious conservatives claiming they know better than science. Say what you will about Dems, at least they have their heads screwed on straight when it comes to supporting birth control. And they're doing more than Bush to lower our abortion rate.

What's more, Dr. Trussell added: "There is evidence that there is a contraceptive effect of breast feeding after fertilization. While a woman is breast feeding, the first ovulation is characterized by a short luteal phase, or second half of the cycle. It's thought that because of that, implantation does not occur." In other words, if the emergency contraception pill causes abortions by blocking implantation, then by the same definition breast feeding may as well. Besides that, the intrauterine device, or IUD, can alter the lining of the uterus and, in theory, prevent implantation.

Next conservative target: breastfeeding. I can see it now: "Come on, women, don't try to limit your fertility, feed your baby formula instead of breastfeeding! So what if it's not as healthy! It's all about having as many children as possible before you die in childbirth!!!" I can see that going over REAL well.

Zenarolla told me she converted to Catholicism two years ago: "I tell people I became Catholic because of the church's teaching on contraception. We are opposed to sex before marriage and contraception within marriage. We believe that the sexual act is meant to be a complete giving of self. Of course its purpose is procreation, but the church also affirms the unitive aspect: it brings a couple together. By using contraception, they are not allowing the fullness of their expression of love. To frustrate the procreative potential ends up harming the relationship."

Um, that's fine. But why the hell do you feel the need to push that mentality off on everyone else? I assert my right to have loving, fulfilling sexual relationships without having some mental block over the use of contraception. I guess some of us CAN conceive (get it?) of having loving "unitive" sex that allows for the "fullness of [our] expression of love" without worrying about constant pregnancies. And why the need to speak so condescendingly of others' sexual lives? How the hell does anyone else know what "harms" another's relationship? I think worrying about how to support 20 children is more harmful to a relationship than my taking a pill each day.

"I think the left missed something in the last couple of decades," says Sarah Brown, president of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which positions itself as a moderate voice in the heated world of reproductive politics. "With the advent of oral contraception, I think there was this great sense that we had a solution to the problem of unintended pregnancy. But that is a medical model. I think the thing that was missed was that sex and pregnancy and relationships aren't just a health issue. They are really about family and gender and religion and values. And what the right did was move in and say we're not just talking about body parts."

Yes, but Repubs error on the other side, refusing to see the science behind sex. They insist on redefining pregnancy as fertilization rather than implantation, for example, which makes little sense when you consider the fact that 50% of fertilized eggs fail to implant on the uterine wall. And I beg to differ even on the left's view of family and values. The left realizes that a woman's quality of life is bound up in her ability to control her fertility. This is something that the right seems to completely miss the boat on. Conservatives are clearly using birth control: are you really going to tell me that Bushie & Laura haven't had sex except for their two children? Come on. We all know they use it, so why are they trying to tell the population to do otherwise?

The abortion pill, which has been on the market since 2000, is under attack, with a group of Republicans in Congress calling for its suspension, in the wake of the deaths of five women who took it.

Um, FAR more men have died of Viagra than the abortion pill. And even these abortion pill deaths are often linked with Toxic Shock Syndrome, as the suppositories introduced bacteria. So... why isn't the right attacking the sale of Viagra, or the use of tampons? Because it's all about getting control over women's choices.

Democrats, meanwhile, have had their difficulty with the abortion issue, and their new hopes are pinned to a strategy that focuses on contraception as a way to reduce unintended pregnancy. Last month, Senators Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton — an anti-abortion Democrat and an abortion rights Democrat — introduced legislation that would require insurance companies to cover contraceptives. In part, the idea is to force Republicans to support contraception or be branded as reactionaries. The conservative counter was that giving even more government backing to emergency contraception and other escape hatches from unwanted pregnancy will lead to a new wave of sexual promiscuity. An editorial in the conservative magazine Human Events characterized the effect of such legislation as "enabling more low-income women to have consequence-free sex."

And now it all becomes clear. Why is Bush's administration & the right warning of the evils of contraception while clearly using it themselves? Because it's all about what Shakespeare's Sister calls the "sex for me, but not for thee" mentality. It's OK for THEM to control their fertility, but those lower-class women, it's not OK for THEM to do so. And we should do everything possible to limit lower-class women's access to family planning. Sorry to be a cynic, but is anyone else wondering if this is all part of a scheme for a cheap labor & army source? Or, possibly, to keep the poor dirt poor? Why else would we have a problem with helping lower-class women afford birth control? Why do we feel the need to saddle poor women with pregnancies they can't afford? Why is it OK for middle and upper class women to have access to these contraception devices, but not for the poor? Insurance SHOULD cover birth control, especially as it frequently covers Viagra.

Under President Bush, spending increased significantly: the 2007 budget calls for $204 million to support abstinence programs (up from $80 million in 2001).

The idea of promoting abstinence over comprehensive sex education (which includes information on various forms of contraception and how to use them) gets to the core of the expanded conservative approach to birth control issues. It really is all about sex. "There are two philosophies of sexuality," Rector told me. "One regards it as primarily physical and all about physical pleasure. Therefore, the idea is to have lots of physical pleasure without acquiring disease or getting pregnant. The other is primarily moral and psychological in nature, and stresses that this is the part of sex that's rewarding and important."

So what's the "this" that makes sex rewarding and important? Having lots of babies? Explain to me why lots of babies is better than lots of safe sex? With 6 billion and counting, I'm gonna have to go for the latter. And what is with the right constantly attacking the left for having a broader idea of what counts as loving and uniting sexuality? The left is often just trying to get the science out there, especially in an era when that seems to be the right's lowest priority. Trying to lower the abortion rate through better sex ed and access to birth control, for example, isn't saying that sex is all about pleasure -- it's just not legislating morality in the same way as the right. Maybe because we see sexual morality as being more appropriately taught in the private sphere, by parents or churches, rather than the government.

Abstinence education, meanwhile, gets withering criticism from the other side. "There is still not a single, sound peer-reviewed study that shows abstinence programs work," says William Smith of Siecus. Peter Bearman, director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at Columbia University, who has analyzed virginity pledge programs including Rector's, says: "The money being poured into these programs is out of control. And the thing is this is not about public health. It's a moral revolution. The goal is not stopping unwanted pregnancy but stopping sexual expression."

Anyone else have red lights flashing? Stopping sexual expression? Are we in the Victorian era or what?

A December 2004 report on federally financed abstinence-only programs conducted by the office of Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, charged that the major programs presented misleading information about health (one curriculum quoted in the report stated that "condoms fail to prevent H.I.V. approximately 31 percent of the time"), state beliefs as facts (the report cited a curriculum that refers to a 43-day-old fetus as a "thinking person") and give outmoded stereotypes of the sexes.

Maybe because the religious right is trying to take us back to a time when those outmoded stereotypes were a way of life?

All parents struggle with how to shield their children from the excesses of popular culture, and not surprisingly, surveys show that most want teenagers to delay first intercourse. But by wide margins they also say kids should be taught about contraceptives. A poll released in 2004 by National Public Radio, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government found, for example, that 95 percent of parents think that schools should encourage teenagers to wait until they are older to have sex, and also that 94 percent think that kids should learn about birth control in school.

Um, 94% is kinda a lot of people. That's... what, 3 times the number of people who approve of Bush currently, right? So why aren't we doing what 94% of people want? Why aren't we teaching our children the facts of life, that they're going to need to know sooner or later, even if they DO abstain till marriage?

The dark side of this, according to some commentators, is the declining birth rate in Europe. It takes an average of 2.1 children per woman to keep a population constant. Italy and Spain are tied for the lowest fertility rate in Western Europe, at 1.28. Even Ireland, the country with the highest birth rate, at 1.86, is suffering a population drain. (The U.S. rate is 2.09.) From 1994 to 2004, the average age at which European women became mothers rose by about 16 months, to 28.2. This, according to social conservatives, is the black hole into which the contraceptive mentality is drawn. As the Canadian priest Raymond J. de Souza wrote in National Review in 2004, "If children are a sign of hope in the future, Europe — and to a lesser extent Canada, Australia and the United States — is losing its will to live."

It sounds to me like our policies are therefore trying to force women to have more children than they want. If European women are choosing to have fewer children, might that be because they have the tools to control their fertility? So the right is afraid that, given those tools, women in the U.S. will also choose to have fewer children. Solution? Don't give women those tools. Right. Maybe more women in the world are awakening to the fact that the human species is doing just fine, and they don't need to have more than one or two children. Why is that so bad? Because it makes it harder to find a cheap labor source? Sorry, but that's NOT a good reason to limit family planning.

This would seem to be a bind, because the benefits of family planning are profound: couples can organize their lives, financially and otherwise, when they are able to choose when to have children and how many to have. And, around the world, countries in which abortion is legal and contraception is widely available tend to rank among the lowest in rate of abortion, while those that outlaw abortion — notably in Central and South America and Africa — have rates that are among the highest. According to Stanley K. Henshaw of the Guttmacher Institute, recent drops in abortion rates in Eastern Europe are due to improved access to contraceptives. The U.S. falls somewhere in the middle in rate of abortion: at 21 per 1,000 women of reproductive age, it is roughly on par with Nigeria (25), much better than Peru (56) but far worse than the Netherlands (9).

You know you're doing something right when your abortion rate is equal to Nigeria and Peru. Oops, maybe not. So... if we want to lower our abortion rate, we should concentrate on making them "safe, legal, and rare," and making sure women know how to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place. Funny how that works.

So here's my wrap-up rant:

In a nutshell: birth control has done amazing things for women. Rather than being forced to constantly worry about our fertility, we now have the choice to actually get our lives together before we have children. And we can even regulate our fertility within marriage. This is an extremely obvious social good: women can have careers AND healthy sexual lives (within or without marriage -- last I checked, the bedroom is NOT the government's domain). And let's face it: children are a blessing when they can be supported and cared for (financially and emotionally). When you're essentially forced to have more children than you want, your quality of life is probably not so great. And in a society that requires immense investment in its children for said children to succeed, it's frankly a wise evolutionary choice for women to invest more resources into fewer children. Unless you're a millionaire (and not many Americans are), it's pretty hard to give 5 to 15 children the educational and emotional support they need... try paying Harvard tuition for 15 kids. Further, in a time when our planet is already crippled under a burgeoning human population, I think it's irresponsible, and morally questionable, to have significantly more children than the replacement rate. We DO need to think about how our choices will affect the next 7 generations. I would want to do everything possible to leave my children a healthy world in which to live -- being pro-life means thinking about how human life will support itself in the future.


I just saw Burger King's commercial for their ridiculous artery clogging "Texas Double Whopper." It's basically in the style of a musical -- one man decides he can't eat "chick food" (apparently "chick food" includes everything healthy and not "meaty") and decides to head to Burger King. En route, he picks up a bunch more beefy guys and they all head to fill their stomachs with, literally, sh*t.* Guess they don't call them meatheads for nothing (play the bu-bum bum sound effect for corny jokes). What's with this trend of equating meat/fast food with "manly" eating habits? If "manly" = unhealthy, overweight, and sure to die early, then fine. But that's sure as hell not attractive or intelligent. The feminist blogosphere seems abuzz with such examples, I hear Friday's has got a similarly offensive commercial playing.

Conveniently for BK, their website doesn't yet list this new Whopper incarnation on its nutrtional info. page. But let's just assume it's AT LEAST as bad as the regular Double Whopper. OK. So that has a "whopping" 900 calories, OVER HALF of which come from fat (510). So you've got half your caloric intake in one sandwich, with a percentage of fat that is truly difficult to achieve. Oh, and some of that fat is trans fat -- good luck with that. And you're getting your recommended protein allotment for the day (Americans typically eat WAY more protein than is necessary, or, as some suspect, healthy). Why on earth would anyone eat this crap?

All I can say is, thank God for Andrew. (Happy birthday, honey!) Tonight I had Jill, Jess, & her beau over for dinner, and we followed Andrew's recipe for the yummy (and relatively healthy) mango fried rice.

*By the by, if you haven't read Fast Food Nation, do. You'll never look at meat the same again. The meat industry in this country depends upon agribusiness that treats its workers poorly, and its animals inhumanely. And, as Schlosser puts it, "there's sh*t in the meat." It's no accident that the country that eats so much of this meat is so unhealthy. Not surprising that vegetarians live longer. Oh, and beef production is one of the worst things we could be doing environmentally. Their -- ahem -- gas is incredibly polluting, not to mention their waste products. It takes a lot of water, grain, and energy to produce beef, and its nutritional "payoff" is a negative.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

McIntyre: Apology from a Bush voter

Highly, highly recommend the transcript from McIntyre in the Morning. I had a hard time pulling quotes -- the whole thing is very well done. Just to be clear: McIntyre is a conservative Republican talk show host, and he's here admitting that he was wrong to vote for Bush, and that in the name of realism, it's time to call Bush for what he is: the worst, and most dangerously incompetent president the US has ever seen. Good stuff. He also calls out the two party system as nearing a collapse: the Democrats need to either be the real opposition and offer a positive alternative vision to help lead America, or step aside and let a third party in to do the job. So here are some of my favorite bits, but do read the whole thing!:

But in the months and years since shock and awe I have been shocked repeatedly by a consistent litany of excuses, alibis, double-talk, inaccuracies, bogus predictions, and flat out lies. I have watched as the President and his administration changed the goals, redefined the reasons for going into Iraq, and fumbled the good will of the world and the focus necessary to catch the real killers of September 11th.


It was the wrong course. All of it was wrong. We are not on the road to victory. We’re about to slink home with our tail between our legs, leaving civil war in Iraq and a nuclear armed Iran in our wake. Bali was bombed. Madrid was bombed. London was bombed. And Bin Laden is still making tapes. It’s unspeakable. The liberal media didn’t create this reality, bad policy did.


After five years of carefully watching George W. Bush I’ve reached the conclusion he’s either grossly incompetent, or a hand puppet for a gaggle of detached theorists with their own private view of how the world works. Or both.


Presidential failures. James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, Jimmy Carter, Warren Harding-— the competition is fierce for the worst of the worst. Still, the damage this President has done is enormous. It will take decades to undo, and that’s assuming we do everything right from now on. His mistakes have global implications, while the other failed Presidents mostly authored domestic embarrassments.

And speaking of domestic embarrassments, let’s talk for a minute about President Bush’s domestic record. Yes, he cut taxes. But tax cuts combined with reckless spending and borrowing is criminal mismanagement of the public’s money. We’re drunk at the mall with our great grandchildren’s credit cards. Whatever happened to the party of fiscal responsibility?

Bush created a giant new entitlement, the prescription drug plan. He lied to his own party to get it passed. He lied to the country about its true cost. It was written by and for the pharmaceutical industry. It helps nobody except the multinationals that lobbied for it. So much for smaller government. In fact, virtually every tentacle of government has grown exponentially under Bush. Unless, of course, it was an agency to look after the public interest, or environmental protection, and/or worker’s rights.


Katrina, Harriet Myers, The Dubai Port Deal, skyrocketing gas prices, shrinking wages for working people, staggering debt, astronomical foreign debt, outsourcing, open borders, contempt for the opinion of the American people, the war on science, media manipulation, faith based initives, a cavalier attitude toward fundamental freedoms-- this President has run the most arrogant and out-of-touch administration in my lifetime, perhaps, in any American’s lifetime.

You can make a case that Abraham Lincoln did what he had to do, the public be damned. If you roll the dice on your gut and you’re right, history remembers you well. But, when your gut led you from one business failure to another, when your gut told you to trade Sammy Sosa to the Cubs, and you use the same gut to send our sons and daughters to fight and die in a distraction from the real war on terror, then history will and should be unapologetic in its condemnation.


So, accept my apology for allowing partisanship to blind me to an obvious truth; our President is incapable of the tasks he is charged with. I almost feel sorry for him. He is clearly in over his head. Yet, he doesn’t generate the sympathy Warren Harding earned. Harding, a spectacular mediocrity, had the self-knowledge to tell any and all he shouldn’t be President. George W. Bush continues to act the part, but at this point whose buying the act?


Does this make me a waffler? A flip-flopper? Maybe, although I prefer to call it realism. And, for those of you who never supported Bush, its also fair to accuse me of kicking Bush while he’s down. After all, you were kicking him while he was up.

You were right, I was wrong.

Via Crooks & Liars.

This just in: Blue states DO have values!

Pandagon's Pam has got this amazing write up of 1) the problems with "covenant marriages" which are being promoted in many conservative states, and 2) the fact that blue states actually have LOWER DIVORCE RATES!

1) These covenant marriages are f-ing scary. It basically just makes it harder to get a divorce -- judges won't hear your plea for a divorce until you've had two years of counseling, and it's VERY difficult for those in abusive relationships to get the hell out. Why? Because if one partner wants to stay married, you're stuck. And their idea of abuse seems to focus almost solely on extreme physical abuse, completely ignoring more subtle psychological abuse (and having HAD that, I can see how it would be almost impossible to get the necessary divorce). Here's a scary story from

The law is so ambigious that most courts will not even HEAR any cases concerning covenant marriages WITHOUT a two year separation AND counseling. Even though the law states you have 3 "outs" (abuse, adultery, and felony conviction resulting in JAIL TIME, it is NOT the case. If one member of the marriage does NOT want "out", the court does not even have to hear the case. That is how scary the covenant marriage is, especially when faced with what I was faced with. Abuse has to be proven, and it seems only physical abuse is acceptable AND only IF the spouse is beating you up in court. Adultery, the courts will just mandate counseling for two years, and even after the counseling, if one spouse doesn't want a divorce...guess what? You must stay married...

The guy I was married to informed me that as long as he doesn't hit me with a closed fist, it is NOT abuse. And it would not result in a felony arrest. And even if it DID, as long as HE didn't want to divorce, guess what? I would not get a divorce. And this is how the courts here are interpreting the law. It is scary and frightening...

I personally think the covenant law should be removed entirely as even a "choice". These are my thoughts on a covenant marriage, having recently just gotten out of a living nightmare. It is a BAD idea. "They" say there are loop holes, such as spousal abuse. Do you consider it a "loop hole" when a RESTRAINING ORDER has been filed (and not a temporary restraining order, but a PERMANENT ONE) and even THEN a judge says, "sorry, you still have to wait after a two year seperation"????????

2) This website (scroll down to Nov. 4th entry) has an awesome entry on blue vs. red state values. Not surprisingly, red states have higher percentages of teen pregnancies and divorces compared to blue states. Around 5 divorces per 1000 in red states, compared to 3.6 in blue states. In red states, up to an average of 14.2 teen pregnancies per 1000 as compared to 9.8 in the bluest states. Intriguing. So basically, blue states have a better track record with the very "moral values" that Bush's regime supposedly embodies... Kind of like how abortion rates have actually gone up under Bush.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

OMG The OC is falling apart.

Sandy's had a huge ethical conflict and only narrowly come out on the other side. Kirsten's had a relapse w/ her huge bottle of vodka. Seth is smoking pot for no apparent reason and accidentally set fire to his father's office. (I have a huge problem with how marijuana is being portrayed in this show, but that's another rant.) Summer got drunk off her ass and exposed Seth's lies. Marissa has now had how many bad break ups? Let's see -- Luke slept with her mother, Ryan started dating that Oregon chick and fell out of love with her, Johnny slipped off a freaking cliff and died, and Kevin decided it would be cool to smoke and make out with some other girl at prom. Ryan beat up Kevin, bad -- so bad I thought he was dead at the end of last week's episode. And now Ryan's indebted to him for not (yet) turning him in for assault... and was therefore involved in Kevin's attempt to steal a car. And now, they end the episode with: "In two weeks, the season finale... one of them may not survive." WTF??!!

If they follow through with that threat, I bet it's to reconcile the geographical difficulties involved with half the group going to New England for college, and the other half to Berkeley.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The weekend, & a NYT article

Weather has been gorgeous. Friday was our Tamalada, Sat. a BBQ, Ed's engagement celebration, & a TV Funhouse SNL. Sunday I read beneath a tree while waiting to go grocery shopping.

Just had to post a link to Jill's take on the NYT article (Feministe) on the need to provide contraception to women in the US.

So it should be a no-brainer that we increase access to contraception, and in particular make the “morning after” pill available over the counter. That would be the single simplest step to reduce the U.S. abortion rate, while also helping hundreds of thousands of women avert unwanted pregnancies.


President Bush’s Food and Drug Administration has blocked that, apparently fearing that better contraception will encourage promiscuity. But unless the libidophobes in the administration mandate chastity belts, their opposition to Plan B amounts to a pro-abortion policy.

One study, now a bit dated, found that if emergency contraceptives were widely available in the U.S., there would be 800,000 fewer abortions each year. And even though they are generally available only by prescription, emergency contraceptives averted 51,000 abortions in 2000, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

That’s one of the paradoxes in the abortion debate: The White House frequently backs precisely the policies that cause America to have one of the highest abortion rates in the West. Compared with other countries, the U.S. lags in sex education and in availability of contraception — financing for contraception under the Title X program has declined 59 percent in constant dollars since 1980 — so we have higher unintended pregnancy rates and abortion rates.

Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium have abortion rates only one-third of America’s, and France’s is half of America’s...

That broad availability is the global pattern. While American women cannot normally obtain emergency contraception without a prescription (by which time the optimal 24-hour window has often passed), it is available without a prescription in much of the rest of the world, from Albania to Tunisia, from Belgium to Britain.

One thought that paralyzes the Bush administration is that American teenage girls might get easy access to emergency contraception and turn into shameless hussies. But contraception generally doesn’t cause sex, any more than umbrellas cause rain.

The reality is that almost two-thirds of American girls have lost their virginity by the time they turn 18 — and one-quarter use no contraception their first time. Some 800,000 American teenagers become pregnant each year, 80 percent of the time unintentionally.

So we may wince at the thought of a 15-year-old girl obtaining Plan B after unprotected sex. But why does the White House prefer to imagine her pregnant?


The administration’s philosophy seems to be that the best way to discourage risky behavior is to take away the safety net. Hmmm. I suppose that if we replaced air bags with sharpened spikes on dashboards, people might drive more carefully — but it still doesn’t seem like a great idea.

So let’s give American women the same rights that they would have if they were Albanians or Tunisians, and make Plan B available over the counter. It’s time for President Bush to end his policies that encourage abortions.

The awesome-ness! Nick Kristof is my new hero.