Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I'm leaving on a jet plane...

Andrew & I are off to the airport -- it's been a long time since I've updated though. I'll sum up:

- County fair: Lots o' bunnies, bengal tigers, stuffing myself with an "awesome blossom," snow cones, hypnosis show (I think it's all a sham), & a spin on the ferris wheel.

- Going to Andrew's office to read. Because I require supervision to stay on task.

- Annie's house for dinner & an amazing chocolate tart. Sitting around in the dark (but it was light when we came in...!)

- Mallards game. We won! But it went into two extra innings, and there were about 4 innings in which no runs were made. I was getting bored, and started to read my Samuel Johnson. The fireworks, however, were amazing -- put on by Thundercats. It was probably the best show I've seen (not counting Boston's).

- Devil's lake and frisbee. I covered this, I hope... If not: it was perfect.

- Reading. I'm done with the 18th century novel finally. Read Gulliver's Travels, Robinson Crusoe, A Sentimental Journey, & Pamela. Now after a bit more poetry, I'm onto Victorian novels. Familiar territory.

And I'll leave you with an Andrewism:
Yesterday morning Andrew said: “I had a weird dream about cows playing football.”

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

1st Veto: Anti-Existing Life

So. Bush vetoed a bill for the first time today. Guess what it was? A bill supported by Democrats, many Republicans, and most of America, which would go toward saving lives (you might even say, it was a pro-life bill). It would have allowed further stem cell research. But, as usual, political pandering to the far right won the day. Sorry scientists of America, it looks like we’ll be watching other countries surpass us by leaps and bounds in the pursuit of finding cures for fatal and debilitating diseases.

I’m beyond frustrated.

“But Democrats, citing opinion polls showing that most Americans support the research that could lead to new treatments for conditions ranging from diabetes to paralysis, said that Bush's stance may alienate centrist voters.

Iowa Democrat Sen. Tom Harkin called the veto a "shameful display of cruelty, hypocrisy, and ignorance" that crushed the hopes of millions of suffering people. He vowed to reintroduce the legislation next year.

Even conservative Republicans who generally oppose abortion are split. Some prominent anti-abortion Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah championed the legislation but most of Bush's fellow conservatives shared the president's view.”

Ignorance, yes. Pretending that fertilized eggs deserve personhood is ridiculous. Equating said egg in a Petri dish with a seven year old child is disingenuous at best, and disrespectful to women’s role in reproduction at worst. Said fertilized egg will NEVER develop into a person without a woman volunteering to develop it. And that’s the fate of most embryos frozen at fertility clinics. What, less than 130 such embryos have been “adopted” by couples for implantation, out of 400,000? So what do we do: learn from these abandoned embryos that no woman wants to implant, or do we let them get freezer burn and then throw them out? Let me be bold: If I were such a frozen embryo, and somehow magically could learn the cultural apparatuses (e.g., language) and social contexts to weigh in on the debate, I would far rather go toward helping someone in a wheelchair walk again, than languish in storage until I was beyond use.

My favorite Bush comment:

"It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect, so I vetoed it," Bush said of the research that involves tiny human embryos.

I can’t help but laugh at this. Bush is trying to instruct us on morals? Seriously? After Katrina, the Iraq war, all the blunders? After feeding into the hate and discrimination against gays? While trying to take a woman’s right to choose away, and pretending that he knows best what individual women should do with their bodies? And while it’s perfectly acceptable to sacrifice the innocent lives of many Iraqi women and children for the “greater good” of the war, it’s totally morally reprehensible to use unwanted and doomed embryos for medical breakthroughs. So, embryos = human life we must respect, but already living people (especially women) = expendable. The doublespeak is mind boggling.

Now I’m going to end with some points that I was thinking of while debating this recently…

1. I’m confused as to why conservatives point to the fertilized egg as the definitive make-or-break moment in a very long and complicated process. You can claim that life begins at conception, but you’re already treading theological ground. Why? Because the medical community and our government agree that pregnancy (ie, the beginning of the development of life) begins at implantation — not the meeting of sperm and egg. Next thing you know, the extreme right will say that life begins with the egg, which is simply a person without a complete genetic code yet. This would feed in wonderfully with the Washington Post’s coverage of the CDC’s “pre-pregnant” status for ALL women between puberty and menopause.

2. Some conservatives see the embryo-in-utero as equivalent to that in a Petri dish. This stance overlooks the fact that in order for a fertilized egg to mean something, to have the potential to gain personhood, it *requires* a woman’s womb. This isn’t just a simple change of place, this is asking a fully realized human being to use her physical, emotional, and financial resources to grow an develop a human being. Embryos don’t become people outside of the womb, period. Until they’re in a womb, I don’t see how we can possibly grant them anything that even resembles rights. And even once it’s implanted in the womb, I would argue that a woman still retains the right to her own body, and can act in self-defense against the fetus. (Believe it or not, there are people who want to outlaw abortion who are against even the health exception of the woman’s life.)

3. Another huge moral quandary: If you think it’s A-OK to keep intelligent, conscious, sentient beings in cages (i.e., primates), while giving them diseases and testing out experimental meds on them, for the human good, then you should really re-consider your stance on using frozen, destined-not-to-be-used embryos for scientific study.

4. Our technology is bringing us closer everyday to allowing even infertile couples to produce their biological offspring (in a few years, even same sex female couples may be able to use this technology). So why, exactly, would anyone think that these thousands of frozen embryos are going to be desired by, well, anyone? Right now, there’s not enough demand for said embryos, and that demand is only going to lessen over time with advances in technology. Most people who go to fertility clinics want their biological children (otherwise, why not adopt?). Given the much more compelling case of living, breathing, homeless children, I think that most couples who want to do something good will adopt those children, rather than implant someone else’s frozen embryo.

5. Back to that whole embryos-have-personhood thing. If no woman wants to develop that embryo (which is quite common right now, as fertility clinics struggle with an “acceptable” way to dispose of unwanted fertilized eggs), how exactly does that embryo have any rights? It doesn’t. We can’t confer rights to an embryo by taking away the rights of a woman. The idea of “right to life” doesn’t make sense to me: we owe a tremendous debt to our mothers (and the men who act as fathers). I’m lucky and thankful that my mother chose to have me (maybe you’re reading this, Mum!), but I don’t see how I could possibly fault her if she chose not to have children. I think it’s bizarre to act as though a fertilized egg has some compelling rights over the living. Most of these embryos exist because a couple was trying to give life to their children; these are unfortunately what is left after such processes. I think it’s better to use these embryos to help the living, than to pretend that they’re actually going to be adopted through an embryo adoption program. A few will, but we’ll still have many left over, so why not let scientists do what they can to advance our ability to save already existing lives? And while many want to adopt children, these embryos clearly need a woman to volunteer to carry them first (not a lot of women, understandably, want to do this). Further, last I checked, we aren’t exactly suffering for want of people on this planet. Overpopulation is one of our most pressing problems as a species. We’ve added what, 4 billion people to the world population since WW2? Imagine, 2 billion to 6 billion in about 50 years. And that growth isn’t expected to stop anytime soon. So logistically, no, not every would-be combination of DNA has a “right to life,” and I don’t see why we should be worrying about finding ways to develop unwanted embryos when we have people dying of disease that we hope to learn how to treat.

And that’s all I have to say.

Except, again:

Bush, THIS is what you veto? This is seriously the only thing you’ve vetoed since coming into office? (Well, not counting line-vetoes…)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Wait, and they say liberals have no sense of humor?

In case you've been hiding under a rock for the past couple of days, here's one of the funnier moments brought to us by the wonder of the internet: Pete, who thought the Onion article "I'm totally psyched about this abortion!" was for real. Yep, he thinks "Miss Weber" is a real person, who is indeed psyched about her abortion. He somehow took these passages literally, and then blogged about the article:

So, to all of you pro-lifers who are trying to rain on my parade, keep it to yourself, because I don't have the time for that kind of negativity. I've got an abortion to plan, and I just know it's going to be the best non-anesthetized invasive uterine surgery ever!

...I wouldn't be looking forward to induced dilation of my cervical opening and suctioning of my uterus, either. And I sure as heck wouldn't get the chance to have a doctor insert a metal instrument into my womb to dislodge tissue from my uterine wall!

...I seriously cannot wait for all the hemorrhaging and the uterine contractions. This abortion is going to be so amazing. I'm definitely taking lots of pictures so I can remember every last detail of the whole experience for years to come and share my great memories with all of my friends, family and co-workers. What an easy decision this was!

I realize there are people who will criticize me, calling me selfish and immature because I took "the easy way out." I realize there are those who will condemn me to hell for what I'm about to do. Well, I don't care what they say: It's worth it for all the fun and laughs I'm going to have at the clinic. So listen up, world: I'm pro-abortion... and I love it! See you at my post-abortion party, everybody!

Wow, right? The stupidity boggles the mind. How could you think this was real? Although it's hilarious, it also points to a real problem within such extreme pro-life groups as that which Pete apparently belongs to: they're totally out of touch with the real world. Not getting such obvious satire suggests one is working with an intellect a few steps below your average bear. And to think that any woman is this flippant about getting an abortion,http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif would seek out an unintended pregnancy (wait, that wouldn't be unintentional), and would then have a party... well, it speaks volumes about his stereotypes of women and particularly of women who choose abortions. He's all about saving babies, but doesn't seem to distinguish between a zygote and a 6 year old child, nor can he fathom that women might want to have a say over how they use their bodies and resources. And despite all the rhetoric about doing something, I don't see Petey pushing for better healthcare for impoverished women, or advocating for better access to birth control, or adopting the babies of these women that he's trying to convince to carry to term.

I checked out some of his other posts, including a particularly disturbing one on Plan B. I've got to quote, because :

This is what we are talking about. 100 million dollars and counting. Planned Parenthood is in it for the money & doesn't care about the health of women in America. The American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists said "the FDA is wrong, motivated by politics" & added a comment about "the despicable treatment of women at the hands of the FDA over this issue".

Um, so, Pete doesn't seem to understand this very simple news story that he saw on TV. See, first he goes after PP for wanting money (which is ridiculous here, as their aim is to offer family planning services, including making sure that poor women have access to birth control). But then he says they don't care about the health of American women, despite then quoting experts and doctors who say that the FDA's politically motivated decision was wrong. So... what?? PP is in it for the money, but they also are carrying through the wishes of those who care about women's health. By stringing these sentences together into a single paragraph, Pete seems to suggest that PP and the FDA are in league on this decision (they're not). Someone has missed the boat.

Accident? She was referring to "accidents" like broken condoms & forgotten birth control pills. The last time I checked, sex wasn't an "accident". I think it falls into the category of "on purpose".

In Pete's imaginary world, people only have sex when they want to reproduce. And he can't seem to empathize with a situation in which one might want to prevent pregnancy (a mistake of impaired judgment, a rape, a simple "equipment failure" with a condom, etc.). Nope, if you have sex, you're clearly a slut (because he's really talking to women here, right? Despite the fact that he can't get pregnant and clearly can't imagine being in that situation), and you should therefore be "punished" with an unwanted pregnancy.

The problem is that people just don't get what sex is for. Okay, so millions of people are calling me an old fuddy duddy right now! In my opinion, the contraceptive mentality is damaging & is what causes our inability to deal with sex and procreation. Everyone is constantly trying to figure out how to have sex without having babies...until they're "ready" for them.

Whoa, not a fuddy-duddy, an authoritarian lunatic. If contraception is messing up how you deal with sex, then fine, good luck finding a woman with similar views. But don't go trying to fix how I deal with it (don't fix what ain't broken).

My favorite part, is that Pete seems to be advocating that people not want till they're "ready" for babies. Either that, or he's suggesting that people should have sex like, twice in their lifetimes (when they want to have children. Oh, and never mind the LGBT community, or those who don't want children, ever). Great idea! I can't wait to see what happens when society cranks out children that belong to unready parents. (Oh, Pete, that's sarcasm.)

Some say it causes abortions, others say it doesn't.

Oh, Pete. The only people who say it causes abortions are those who don't agree with the medical community and the government that pregnancy begins at implantation. Do you mourn for the 50% of fertilized eggs that fail to implant? Are you against douches because who knows, maybe those interfere with implantation? Stop obsessing over women's uteruses and use a little common sense. Your personal ramblings are not what good FDA policy should look like.

Who's right? Simple point for us to consider. People say it will guarantee the reduction of pregnancies. Okay, so why doesn't it eliminate them? So they mean that some women will still become pregnant?

Uh, I think that they mean it will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies OVERALL. They're not saying it doesn't always work. When it's possible to prevent the pregnancy, Plan B works quite effectively, by suppressing ovulation.

Can they guarantee that Plan B will not cause an abortion like the birth control pill? I doubt it. They say "scientifically" but offer no scientific fact that no child will ever be killed by Plan B.

OK, Pete, if you're this obsessed with uteruses, shouldn't you know how difficult it would be to figure out if Plan B might ever, ever, in .0001% of cases, cause a fertilized egg not to implant? It's rather difficult to figure this out, since, um, uteruses are inside of women and all, and 50% of fertilized eggs fail to implant even under normal circumstances. Next thing you know, Petey will be advocating that women avoid walking after sex, because wait, that might prevent implantation, and then you're a baby killer!!


And let's not even try to equate Plan B with the abortion pill -- these are two COMPLETELY different medications, that do COMPLETELY different things.

But my favorite part, which is so good it bears repeating:

They say "scientifically" but offer no scientific fact that no child will ever be killed by Plan B.

Isn't this perfect? How unhinged is this guy? So he admits that scientists say "scientifically" that it won't disturb an existing pregnancy. And then he says they "offer no scientific fact." What the hell do you want, Pete? A stone tablet from God assuring you that "Plan B does not harm existing pregnancies. Thou shalt relax, Pete, and let women make their own decisions!"? Scientists also don't go around saying that never, ever, in a million years, will any fetus be harmed by eating such and such, or taking such and such a medication. We deduce what we can "scientifically," and for those of us who believe that medical science is pretty reliable, we'll let that guide our decision making process over a too-thick-to-recognize-satire-or-construct-a-logical-argument blogger's ramblings.

You'd think that for someone so worried about preventing abortions, Pete would be MORE in favor of Plan B (even if in .0001% of cases it interfered with implantation -- although the science right now points to it not interfering at all), rather than in sitting back and watching as far more women became pregnant unintentionally and resorted to abortions. Overall, however you cut it, Plan B means fewer abortions. And even if you think that life begins when sperm gets into egg, regardless of whether or not it's viable to implant onto the uterus, I'd imagine you'd still be more in favor of a woman ending a pregnancy before implantation, rather than two months into fetal development.

But, as Pete demonstrates, such pro-lifers are more interested in debating the rare "what-if's?" than in actually supporting policies that reduce the number of abortions.

Post July 4th

Where does the time go?

I've been immersed in books -- mostly British Renaissance, Restoration, and now 18th century. Was steeped in Shakespeare for quite a while -- I still have one more non-Shakes play to read at some point. I discovered a love for Milton's Paradise Lost: oh the drama! The horrid bristling spears of the fallen angels, the incestuous love child of Sin and Satan, and the hairy sides of the hills of Eden. I insist that Eve was onto something with her division of labor, and wanting to go her own way in the garden... leading her right to the snake. But it's so appropriate considering the Tree of Knowledge and humankind relying upon making their own discoveries, losing the supervised crib that was Eden. Then there was Pope -- particularly loved "Eloisa to Abelard." Congreve's The Way of the World is hilarious, and I love those happy endings (and wow, Millamant & Mirabell actually made a prenup together). Wycherley's The Counry Wife was the most enjoyable experience so far: will never assume that shopping for china is an innocent activity again. Now I'm well into Gulliver's Travels. And yes I get the fuss, but I'm looking forward to moving into the 19th century.

As to real life: today it rained. All day. But tonight promises some amusement: sushi making & a new Last Comic Standing. Josh Blue is my hero. I've never laughed so hard in my life, and at freaking advertisements for the show!

Not too much to report... this quals reading definitely gets in the way of my becoming completely lazy during the summer:

Did I mention having people over for dinner? Best idea ever. Makes me feel like I really am a 20-something. We had the group over for a sushi instruction night about a week and a half ago. Everyone was quite good at it, too -- yummy stuff. I also tried saki for the first time. Good saki is good, and bad saki is very bad. We ended the evening with watermelon up on the roof, watching the sunset.

Unfortunately, our 4th of July plans didn't go, well, as planned. Fate seems to be saying I'm never to watch Madison's Rhythm and Booms. Last year my flight plans meant missing both Hood River's fireworks (which were on July 4th, and I left earlier), and Madison's fireworks (which were early in order to be over the weekend). This year, the fireworks were supposed to be on Saturday. So everyone came over, bearing beer & snacks & desserts, and we went up to the roof to wait for the fireworks to start. It was a bit cloudy, and it seemed it might rain. But the city isn't supposed to cancel unless in the case of extreme storms, so we thought all would be well. Not so: Andrew heard that they were canceled due to some thunder, and then it sprinkled a bit so we had to cram into Andrew's apartment. Now Andrew's apartment is a fairly spacious and well laid out studio, but it was definitely not intended for 14 people to sit around there at once. It was interesting -- awkward silence as we suddenly had to make new plans for the evening, eventually dissolving into many conversations, spills, and DJ-plays. Naturally, it stopped raining within an hour and a half (Come on, Madison, get some courage! You totally could have done the fireworks as planned). So back out on the roof, where we ended up getting into a back-and-forth Liza Minelli trivia match with the (very flaboyent) neighbor on the roof across the street. Turns out, Annie has a secret store of knowledge of these things, and she kicked ass. The only stuff I knew had to do with Gone with the Wind, since I had that movie poster forever and daily saw the names of the actors/actresses. Eventually, the group across the way (including the flamboyent gentleman) came over to our roof. Complete with their wine glasses, advice on hair styling, and "darlings." I kid you not. Final jeopardy ensued. I think they were pretty much equally matched. And Annie's like 20 years younger, so just imagine.

Anyway, the next night we missed out on the actual Rhythm and Booms display, as we had tickets to see Dave Matthew's Band. Yes, I still love DMB. Not so much the new stuff, but after loving them devotedly throughout high school, and periodically rediscovering their early material ever since, and never having been to a concert, I wanted to see them before they get any further away from their best songs. So we drove to Alpine Valley, which is a beautiful place for concerts. The lawn is a huge hill that turns into a party scene. Unfortunately, the DMB fans are horrible, horrible people. Phish fans are much more chill, and actually care about listening to the music. DMB fans these days are mostly under the age of 16, and are at the concern strictly for the chance of getting the occasional beer or ("oh my God!") smirnoff. Basically, they go to concerts because their parents won't let them party at home. Every girl in attendance, by some unspoken rule, was wearing at least 3 layering shirts, or a halter top (the tighter the better). Even better, of course, were those who couldn't be bothered with tops, and only got so far as putting on a bikini. These pinnacles of teenage intelligence primarily wore skimpy shorts or skirts (preferably paired with a halter top long enough to cover said shorts, making the girl appear pregnant and/or only partially clothed). This strategy seemed to backfire, as the evening concert meant standing around in the chill evening air with half a million mosquitoes. But I guess insect bites are sexy these days. But by the time it got chilly, most of our teenagers were far, far beyond feeling any pain. No, many of them were lying on the ground passed out, or blindly stumbling (or falling) into others. Others were drunk enough off their one or two smirnoffs to scream loudly upon every encounter (or re-encounter) with their high school friends. It became clear, quickly, that no one was really there to listen to Dave. Except, of course, for sentimental me. I had one drunk girl run straight into my back, a guy crash into me (no pun intended) from behind as he ran drunkenly down the hill and I sat on a beach towel, and another zombie head straight toward us as his friend led him through the crowd. And, whether because I'm allergic, or simply have enough intact brain cells to know that smoking cigarettes (and esp. getting the smoke second-hand, filter-less) is not good for human health, I had a raging headache from all the smoke. Apparently, 80% of teenagers in WI are chainsmokers. DISGUSTING. Concert venues need to get a clue and do what restaurants were doing for decades: create a non-smoking section for those of us who don't want to breathe carcinogens simply because someone else got addicted and can't bear to stop smoking for two hours. Or better yet, do what most progressive cities have done, and ban it in these areas where people are forced into close spaces. It seems so damn obvious and SIMPLE.

The music, however --at least what I could hear of it -- was great. Lots of old stuff that I like: Satellite, Rapunzel, Don't Drink the Water (great opener for WI, since the water is so hard you get mineral deposits from just boiling water for tea), Proudest Monkey, The Song that Jane Likes, Everyday, etc. We missed the encore (they were off stage for nearly 10 minutes, and with my headache, I couldn't take it anymore), which included Stay.

We did get some fireworks on the Fourth of July though: We went out to Sherwood Hills for the fireworks at their country club, and they were wonderful. We were in basically the front row, right under them. The highlights were their contraptions for the kids (a low to the ground setup with spinning dolphins on fire over a lit "stream" of fireworks, and a flag with appropriately colored sparks), a bombardment of high white sparkly fireworks (it went on and on, catching us off guard), and a grand finale. So exciting to be right under the explosions. And better than Rhythm and Booms, in that we arrived twenty minutes before show time, and were free from the slow moving traffic in under 10 minutes. And fireflies at dusk after a bright pink sunset. Back home: Andrew's homemade applie pie w/ vanilla ice cream.

Lately, basically reading, going to parks to read, and buying books. Looking forward to the weather improving so we can go to Devil's lake!