Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Who cares what they think?

Left in the West points to a survey broken down by state that shows how many people think Bush was breaking the law with the domestic warrantless wiretapping business.

But really, who cares what people think? We don't ask Zogby to find out whether or not a defendant is guilty. This is what we have judges, juries, laws and lawyers for - to look at the best presentation of the facts and decide what actually happened and what the consequences should be. I don't care how many Idahoans think Bush broke the law, I care whether or not he has broken the law. The truth is not the average of all the opinions held in the world, after all.

Are you listening, CNN?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

And they say Democrats have no ideas

In an email sent to fellow legislators, and obtained by Knight Ridder Newspapers, Hagan says he's looking for co-sponsors to "introduce legislation in the near future that would ban households with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents."

In Hagan's email to fellow lawmaker's he skewers Hood's assertions, offering his own "credible research" shows that adopted children raised in Republican households are more at risk for developing "emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities."
Won't someone consider the sanctity of the American family?

There is a difference between a doctor and a pharmacist, you know.

In Slate, Dahlia Lithwick takes on the distinction between doctors who refuse to participate in executions and pharmacists who refuse to prescribe emergency contraception.
Physicians and pharmacists who refuse to participate in what they deem killing have more in common than many of us might like to admit. But the most important distinction between them has to do with their differing relationship with patients. The law recognizes that doctors' special relationships with their patients warrant a legal privilege: Their discussions are kept secret. You may like and trust your pharmacist. You may even trust him with intimate details about your yeast infection. But your pharmacist has neither the tools nor the right to probe details about rape and abuse, incest and health risks. Which is why pharmacists who interpose themselves between decisions made by a doctor and her patient are overstepping moral and ethical boundaries—and undermining another professional relationship that is fundamentally different from their own. You needn't believe that one relationship is more important than the other to recognize that neither relationship should be allowed to intrude upon the other.
Ex-actly. The pharmacist is not privy to all the information that the doctor is, and that's why the pharmacist isn't the one prescribing drugs. It's unethical for a pharmacist to make an assumption about someone else's health and stand betweeen a patient and their medication. If they wanted to be the ones choosing what medication a patient should seek in a certain situation, they should go to med school, so they can start prescribing prenatal vitamins instead of emergency contraception (and probably losing a lot of business in the meantime).

South Dakota's abortion legislation insanity

I've been refraining from commenting on the situation in South Dakota, because I am a little too dumbstruck to add anything to the conversation. I'm glad we have Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money to illustrate exactly how insane this law is and what the possibilities are for the future. Check it out.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Two words

Mark Murford, you may hate fat people for no good reason, but I have two words that disprove your thesis: Michael Moore.

(This link came from Fiat Lux, whose opinion of the article differs sharply from mine.)

Drink to your healthy democracy!

Vander of Thoughts from Idaho has gotten things going for a Moscow chapter of Drinking Liberally. Drinking Liberally is exactly what it sounds like: a group where progressives can share their love for beer and politics. Meetings will be held from 8-10 pm at the Coeur d'Alene Brewery Alehouse every Wednesday night. Come to vent your thoughts about the government, and stay for the beer. The mood is casual-to-tipsy, so don't be afraid to let down your guard and make some like-minded progressive friends.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

My houskeeping philosophy

There aren't any sticky situations when it comes to housework if neither spouse does any. Except spills.

It's not human, it's Fark.com

If you weren't creeped out enough by reading the "Wifely Expectations" contract, check out what commenters on Fark.com thought of it.

Then just try not to vomit. I dare you.

I highly recommend Red State Feminist's post on the subject.
Frey was stupid enough to write it down, but the fact is, most batterers make similar unwritten, complex and impossible requirements and reward/punishment systems for their victims to endure.

Want to read a rant?

Shakespeare's Sister doesn't mince words today.
Pro-family my ass. If the allegedly pro-family crowd gave a shit about the kids who are in need of adoptive parents, they wouldn’t be trying to ban the people most likely to adopt the most unadoptable kids from doing so.
Click on the link above to and read it all.

Hold on tight: Congress is repealing the law of gravity

Fiat Lux isn't as critical of Austria's law against Holocaust denial as I am, and has this to say about those who consider it to be in tension with freedom of speech:
I don't see this so much as a free speech issue as an issue about lying. I don't think it is unreasonable to say that in countries such as Austria, if you're going to talk about the historical record of WW2, you have an obligation to do so accurately. Irving is entitled to whatever opinions he wants, but he's not entitled to his own set of facts, and I think it's acceptable to call him on that difference.

We send people to jail for perjury, after all. Why is this so different?
First of all, you can't perjur yourself outside of a courtroom. So I think that comparing this to perjury is really not appropriate.

As to whether he is entitled to his own set of facts, I think it's fair to say he is, and so are we all. Religion in general is a good example of this: people are free to say (and believe) that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to church, even though that's totally absurd and untrue.

I think a good analogy that demonstrates the problem with passing a law against Holocaust denial is the idea of Congress passing a law in the US that made promulgating ideas supporting climate change or evolution a criminal act. George W. Bush and not a few other legislators are not at all convinced that climate change is occurring, or that human beings are the cause of climate change. The entirety of the scientific community disagrees with them, but they're not the ones in charge. Ignoring signs of climate change may be just as or more dangerous than the Holocaust was, in terms of harm to human beings, but we're not locking energy executives up for denying the impact of humans on the Earth's climate.

Not only is it dangerous to go around passing laws about how to interpret the facts of the world around you (or which facts it's okay to ignore), it is beyond the scope of the law to legislate what is and is not reality. You cannot legislate something into being true, and you certainly can't legislate facts so that people will believe them. Congress cannot repeal the law of gravity, and it cannot enforce the reality of climate change or of the Holocaust. There are a lot of things that politicians say about science or history that are, in my estimation, complete bunk. I'm a trained scientist and know more about biology and chemistry than the guy in the White House, but I don't have the power here. Laws like Austria's have too big a risk of not being on the right side of history or reality.

I think Irving is a cretin, and on a purely gut-level, I am glad he's in jail: he deserves it. I'm also sympathetic to Austria's position - they can't be the birthplace of another Hitler, and neither can anywhere else in the world. The world can't afford it. Still, passing laws against ignorance simply can't work in the favor of a society that wishes to make intellectual progress. It's not just luck that dictates that Irving's claims don't hold up to scrutiny in any way, and he's not even so committed to his lies that he won't abandon them when the going gets tough. Having the real world on your side is very helpful when it comes to combatting a guy like this.

I am not willing to trust my government to enforce reality. We've already had enough trouble with an administration that scoffs at the "reality-based community," because they have enough power to effectively crush any kind of doubt about the neoconservative vision of the world. There are dangerous ideas out there, and Irving's are amongst the most dangerous, but there is greater danger in manufacturing a "reality" than there is in verbally and continually shooting down a moron who makes up insidious lies.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Free speech failures

A few eyebrows have been raised at the jailing of Holocaust denier David Irving in Austria. His crime: holocaust denial. Europeean contries, for their hand-waving about free speech lately, curb free speech much more than American law would ever allow for. From a yahoo news article:
When it comes to hate crime and defamation laws, there is no homogenous approach in Europe. Britain, for example, has long had a more tolerant approach to free speech than countries like Germany, France, and Austria, where Holocaust denial is a crime. "It's a mixed bag, a patchwork of practices and experiences in Europe," says Agnes Callamard, director of Article 19, a global freedom-of- expression campaign group. "It's very difficult to pretend there is a common position on hate speech."

But Europe is generally warier of free speech than is the US, with its First Amendment. Laws against inciting hatred and violence have sprung up in countries such as France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark, resulting in criminal cases, convictions, and, in the case of foreigners, expulsions.
Australia and Canada also have similar limits on speech. And where have we recently heard free speech mentioned?

While I personally don't have a problem with the publication of the controversial Danish cartoons, I am not a legislator in a European country. Somebody's double-standard is showing.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

It's for your own good

Feministing.com has a rightly outraged post about the ban on female ski jumping in the winter Olympics, ostensibly to protect women. Here are some choice passages Feministing pointed out:
"Ski jumping is just too dangerous for women. Don't forget, [the landing] it's like jumping down from, let's say, about two meters to the ground about a thousand times a year, which seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view."
"So far, we've been told every excuse in the book. That it's too 'dangerous' for girls. That there aren't enough of us. That we're not good enough. That it would damage our ovaries and uterus and we won't be able to have children, even though that's not true. It's so outdated, it's kind of funny in a way. And then it's not."
Astute commenter slim points out:
Pregnancy and childbirth, both the actual physical stresses of carrying and delivering a child and ligament-loosening effects progesterone, are the number one causes of uterine prolapse and bladder failure. But we ladies can handle that, right? Just not something really stressful like ski jumping. (Could the real concern by that the women would quickly dominate the sport?)
Oh right, now it makes sense. Women can risk their reproductive organs all they want, as long as it's in service of bearing children. Putting their bodies to the test for the sake of their own accomplishments, though, we can't allow that. It's like these ski jumpers think they have sole ownership of their reproductive organs, or something.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Pink-collar workers tired of being nickeled and dimed

2006 could be an exciting year in labor issues, thanks to UNITE-HERE, an umbrella labor group that represents hotel workers, textile workers, and restaurant workers. From their website:
UNITE HERE boasts a diverse membership, comprised largely of immigrants and including high percentages of African-American, Latino, and Asian-American workers. The majority of UNITE HERE members are women.
The LA Times reports on the coming renegotiation of labor contracts for these vulnerable workers:
The focus of the union campaign, which also includes stops by former senator and Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards and actor Danny Glover at rallies in San Francisco, Chicago and Boston this week, is to highlight the working and living conditions of hotel employees such as housekeepers, bell staff and restaurant workers. Union officials said they hoped to lift workers, who often make little more than minimum wage, into the middle class. According to Unite Here, the average hourly wage in nonunion hotels is $7 to $8 versus $15 where workers are unionized.
The reason that this is such a big fuss is that all of the groups under the UNITE-HERE banner have contracts that are set to expire this year, so a strike could absolutely cripple the tourism industry in this country, which is seeing recovery since 9/11.

After having read Nickeled and Dimed, and knowing the atrocious labor practices employed by Sodexho (the foodservice company that feeds the University of Idaho), I find this to be exciting news. And Democrats ought to be thanking their lucky stars that UNITE-HERE is organizing this effort in an election year. Republicans have already vowed to make national security the theme of this year's elections, but this is a golden opportunity to get domestic issues like labor, pay, and gender issues (on which Democrats stand to win big) back in the spotlight.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Grammar Nazis commit graphocide

Kacktus today at Super Babymama gets on the world's case about its poor grammar habits, egged on by Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves.
I have to constantly stop myself from correcting grammar at the various blogs I go to; many bloggers seem to almost pride themselves on mangling the language, as if they were re-inventing the wheel. This isn't the brave new world of language, folks--this is just laziness. Get thee a style manual! Take a night class! Read something and pay attention to how writers--good writers--use commas, apostrophes, and semi-colons. It will make your writing better and lessen my exasperation
Every second person I run into is a self-professed grammar Nazi, and I'm getting sick of it. (This high incidence of grammar Nazism may have to do with the fact that I am a nerd, and therefore hang out with a lot of nerds.)

I realize that we have standards of grammar, spelling and punctuation so that we can understand each other, and if we completely ignored them communication would break down. And, I appreciate that a good understanding of these concepts on the part of reader and writer can enhance even the most perfect choice of words.

Still, I am irked at the grammar Nazi. Your mastery of verb tenses does not give you the right to hijack any conversation that someone uses the wrong "there" in. I'm sure the little rush that comes with feeling superior is addictive, but I think that the grammar Nazi needs to realize that they have only mastered a small amount of the wide amount of knowledge in the world, and that their choice of specialization is no more interesting to me than protein crystallography is to them.

My mother is a terrible speller. She misspells words over and over and over again. She reads a lot, and she's a smart woman. She's just not a speller. I'm a speller, my husband is a speller, but I realize that I'm good at spelling things just because it comes naturally to me. My mother, to whom it does not come naturally, avoids writing anything someone else will see because everyone (I'm guilty too) gives her so much crap about her spelling. Grammar Nazis commit graphocide against people like my mother. In my experience, a person's ability to spell is no indication of their actual intelligence, not to mention the value of what they have to say.

Further, people just make mistakes. I do it, and it's okay. It's okay for you to tell me. But there's no reason to get mad or frustrated when people screw up their punctuation. I trust people to do their best, and I'm not going sweat it if they miss a typo, or never noticed that they were misspelling a word. And I certainly don't want to discourage people from expressing themselves because of something they can't necessarily help. So pipe down, grammar Nazis.

(And Kacktus, I can overlook this kind of thing as long as you keep up the high-caliber blogging.)

What's wrong at Gitmo? Everything.

Dahlia Lithwick ties together the recent news from Guantanamo for a picture that is so damning, one has to wonder why it's not given more attention in the media.
Guantanamo Bay currently holds over 400 prisoners. The Bush administration has repeatedly described these men as "the worst of the worst." Ten have been formally charged with crimes and will someday face military tribunals. The rest wait to learn what they have done wrong. Two major studies conclude that most of them have done very little wrong. A third says they are being tortured while they wait.
So what gives here? Why are we keeping these people locked up (at great monetary cost, not to mention the harm done to America's public image)? Lithwick again:
The only real justification for the continued disgrace that is Guantanamo is that the government refuses to admit it's made a mistake. Releasing hundreds of prisoners after holding them for four years without charges would be big news. Better, a Guantanamo at which nothing has happened in four years. Better to drain the camp slowly, releasing handfuls of prisoners at a time.
I'd be embarassed too, if I were the Bush administration. But if the government is completely ignoring human rights - instead of protecting them - what do we really need them for? Anarchy or overt tyranny would serve these guys just as well. When the Bush administration isn't screwing things up for the American people, it's useless to them. They may have been able to win friends amongst voters, but this is not the way to keep them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Gay marriage ban passes Idaho senate

I was so proud of Idaho for rejecting the gay marriage ban amendment last year, so this really disappoints me. The matter will now go up for a statewide vote, and needs only to be passed by a simple majority. I should point out that gay marriage is already illegal in Idaho, so this definitely is an "and the horse your rode in on" message toward proponents of gay marriage. I have to confess that I don't have high hopes for this being defeated, but like what Julie has to say:
Idahoans respect human rights, and we don't like the government telling us what to do. But what a sad, sorry diversion this issue continues to be.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The War on Valentine's Day

I don't get all you Valentine's Day haters. I'm not a church-goer, but I can get into the spirit of Christmas. People have all sorts of planned affection or goodwill dates - birthdays, anniversaries - why on Valentine's day does everyone complain that it's not spontaneous? You don't pass up jelly beans on Easter because it's all so contrived.

I think it's clear that what is going on here is that as part of the larger war on love in this country, you people are waging a war on Valentine's Day. Well, I'm not going to stand for it. My husband may be out of town tonight, but that won't stop me from drinking wine and eating chocolates and drunk-dialing him later, all lovey-dovey.

And don't you even try to tell me "Happy holidays."

UPDATE: The Daily Show stole my joke! Dammit.

Marriage as a Feminist Institution

Feministe's great new blogger piny has a post on marriage, its sexist baggage, and what it should mean to gay marriage advocates. He gives a summary of the argument against gay marriage that lies within a larger argument against marriage itself (also see this conversation at Alas, a blog).
That argument goes like this: Marriage is not an institution worth supporting. It has its roots in a deeply sexist tradition that made women property and men property-holders. Even if marriage has managed, or can manage, to supercede historical and current sexism, privileging marriage and even couplehood over other intimate human relationships is bigotry. When queers opt into marriage, they opt into all the poisonous baggage that goes with it.
I've always had problems with the idea that marriage is not a good institution. Before I go any further, though, I should mention that I am myself married, so I am significantly invested in my pro-marriage sentiments. Some of them are just warm and fuzzy - I like having public recognition of my relationship with my husband, and I like the way being married joins our families - but there are good, logical, and female-friendly reasons to get married, too.

What I am talking about here is the way that legal marriage protects spouses upon the dissolution of the relationship. I'll let Max Lewis explain the advantage to keeping legal tabs on a romantic relationship.
In a stereotypical, old-fashioned relationship where the man has gone to work and put all the money into the mortgage and the woman has looked after the home and the children, she will have no legally binding financial interest in the home and may, sadly, suffer if the relationship ends and she leaves to live elsewhere.
This sounds like a potential problem for any cohabiting couple that shares property, so imagine what the stakes are in a domestically abusive or controlling relationship. Imagine for instance that a woman is kept at home to care for children or the home, while her boyfriend is the only wage-earner in the home. If the relationship is an abusive one and she decides to make a break for it, she has no legal claim to any of the assets that were being shared by the couple. It's hard enough to get out of a controlling or abusive relationship as it is, but it becomes doubly so when you'd be leaving behind all your assets and possessions. Were the couple married, contributions to the household that aren't strictly monetary could be considered and the division of assets would be arbitrated.

Not only is this an argument for marriage, it's also a good argument for common law marriage. Common law marriage would extend these financial protections to a couple whether or not they married. This would be as useful a formality for straight couples as it would be for same-sex ones. And, far from being a tool used to oppress women, marriage is in this instance used to protect both parties.

Further on why it irks me to see people drag out the old "marriage is a tool of the patriarchy" argument is because it isn't, all the time. Marriage can be equitable, as long as the law doesn't consider the wife to be one of the assets possessed by the "union." I know that marriage has for most of history been an excuse to treat women like chattel, but marriage has changed quite a lot over time. There are so many modern, equitable marriages out there that it is absurd to accuse all married couples of perpetuating patriarchy. Marriage may have been a tool of the patriarchy (and may often still be), but it's the way that marriage is used by a patriarchal society that is the problem. The generic form of the institution - the joining of a couple legally and socially - does not require any oppression whatsoever. Patriarchs breathe air, drink water, and drive cars, but that doesn't mean we need to give those things up, either. We just need to stop allowing them to be used to perpetuate patriarchy.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I love you, Internet.

Bad Feminist's post about home economics classes reminded me of the coolest book I have ever laid eyes on, Food Chemistry and Cookery by Evelyn Gertrude Halliday. It's an old, college-level home economics textbook that uses chemistry experiments to demonstrate the principles of chemistry that are used in the kitchen - and at a fairly technical level, too. I had a very hard time returning the book to the library and not "losing" it. I googled it, and lo and behold, the entire thing is available online. Check it out, and you'll have a new appreciation for the chemist-chefs that are making strides in the culinary world.

Cross-posted on Orexia.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Pregnant Professionals

Bad Feminist vents some annoyance at being "viewed as circling in a hold pattern, waiting for my signal to reproduce," and all her talk about birth defects, pregnancy and the workplace reminded me of an experience I had in a class I recently took in a veterinary school.

Majoring in molecular biology and biochemistry, I didn't learn much biology in college that was on a scale larger than a cell or two. So, when I got my job at a veterinary diagnostic lab, I had never heard of a lot of the pathogens that I work with on a daily basis. Some can be dangerous to people, and some aren't, so I took a vetmed class on public health. I called it my "what not to eat in the lab" class, and now I have a much better idea of what can kill me and what can't. We talked about diseases people can get from animals (zoonoses) and the diseases animals can pass between each other.

What I thought was interesting was the fact that pregnancy-specific safety kept coming up. When you're talking about toxoplasmosis, it's a pretty obvious that the risk to pregnant women would come up, but there were several warnings about antibiotics to one pathogen interfering with birth control, or accidentally injecting yourself with a chemical causing an abortion, among other things. In other safety lectures I've had in chemistry or biology labs, the subject of pregnancy never came up. But about 70% of vet students are female (interesting, huh?), and here were the warnings. I appreciated that in a professional school, it was assumed that there would be a significant amount of people who were going to integrate their pregnancies into their professonal lives.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Monsters of the Palouse

Thought to be extinct, the giant Palouse earthworm has recently been rediscovered by a grad student at University of Idaho (my alma mater, donchaknow).
While she did not detect much lily fragrance from this specimen, she said prior reports made note of the pleasant smell, which hasn't yet been explained.

The worm's scientific name, Driloleirus americanus, means "lily-like worm."

Researcher Frank Smith first spotted the earthworm in 1897 and described it as living deep in the fertile Palouse soil. During the summer months, the giant Palouse burrows up to 15 feet deep to stay cool and moist. It conserves water through kidney-like organs called nephridia.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Carnival of the Carnivals

Two great blog carnivals opened up this week, the Big Fat Carnival and the 8th Carnival of the Feminists. I haven't had a chance to check it out much (I've actually been too sick to blog, which is pretty patehtic), but the Radical Women of Color Carnival looks really promising, too.

Fat is a subject far too near but not very dear to my heart, and I wanted to point out a few of my favorites from the Carnival.

Body impolitic writes about the new secular sin: eating.
The world we live in seems to treat food very much like the Puritans treated sex: an obsessively present temptation which is simultaneously sinful and irresistible. Eating high-calorie food is the only thing that contemporary secular Americans call sinful.
Ampersand hits the same note with the post "Fatness and Moral Panic."

And, you can stop worrying, because Wendy at Pound is really Tyra Banks in a fat suit. Phew, that was close. I almost had respect for a fat person!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Good news

The long-standing law that bars those who have been convicted of drug offenses from recieving Federal Student Aid is to undergo some tweaking with the passage of the latest budget bill.
Students convicted while receiving federal aid will still lose their eligibility -- for one year for a first possession offense, two years for a second and indefinitely for a third, with harsher penalties for selling.
start quote[I]t held me back for five years...five years when I could have been out doing more to help people with substance abuse problems.end quote
-- Clarkson Reed, lost aid eligibility because of two drug convictions

But under the new rules, which President Bush is expected to sign into law, offenders who weren't enrolled in school and getting taxpayer support at the time when they were convicted can apply for aid. The change is expected to benefit mostly older students like Reed who had finished school before they were convicted and now wish to go back.
This law has always struck me as completely backwards - without a degree, selling drugs is one of the best ways to make money, after all. I suspect that it was intended as punishment rather than social engineering, but that just goes to show that punishment doesn't necessarily solve crime problems, it just makes people feel better.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

UK doctors: no fatties!

Big Fat Blog points to a survey that reports nearly 40% of UK doctors saying that obese patients should be refused treatment for joint pain or joint surgery.
Almost 40 per cent of doctors believe obese patients, smokers and heavy drinkers should be excluded from treatments, a new survey reveals.

The poll of 225 doctors found 39 per cent agreed with recent action taken by primary care trusts in Suffolk to bar obese people from joint surgery to cut costs.

The same proportion said the policy should be widened to exclude smokers and heavy drinkers from certain treatments, according to the British Medical Association News survey.
Remember that this is in a country with a public medical care system, so they are trying to distribute the limited resources in the most cost-effective way possible. Still, if you need a new hip, you need a new hip. Medical care is equally necessary for every person's survival, regardless of whether or not they contributed to their problem. I am a supporter of public medical care - I'd rather health care be rationed by a more reasonable criterion than how much money you have in the bank or what company you work for - but this the worst of boh worlds.

UPDATE: Talk about adding insult to injury. Check out the ad I saw to the side of the article.

I am not into guns, but I would love to attend this

Much-needed background info

A diary at Dailykos by Soj gives some more information about the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversey. I didn't realize until I read this that the cartoons were originally published in November. Why all the hubbub now?

And while the deaths of these pilgrims was a mere blip on the traditional western media's radar, it was a huge story in the Muslim world. Most of the pilgrims who were killed came from poorer countries such as Pakistan, where the Hajj is a very big story. Even the most objective news stories were suddenly casting Saudi Arabia in a very bad light and they decided to do something about it.

Their plan was to go on a major offensive against the Danish cartoons. The 350 pilgrims were killed on January 12 and soon after, Saudi newspapers (which are all controlled by the state) began running up to 4 articles per day condemning the Danish cartoons. The Saudi government asked for a formal apology from Denmark. When that was not forthcoming, they began calling for world-wide protests. After two weeks of this, the Libyans decided to close their embassy in Denmark. Then there was an attack on the Danish embassy in Indonesia. And that was followed by attacks on the embassies in Syria and then Lebanon.

Many European papers, including the right-wing German Springer media group, fanned the flames by reprinting the cartoons. And now you have the situation we are in today, with lots of video footage of angry crowds and the storming of embassies and calls for boycotts of Danish and European products.

It's really comforting to know that there's more to this story than meets the eye. Read the whole thing (and with a grain of salt, given the lack of verification) for the whole picture Soj gives.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Protestant work ethic or screwing the poor?

SusanG has a diary at DailyKos about the Protestant Work Ethic and the way the Democratic party embraces it. It would make a great "elevator pitch," but only because it relies on dangerous Republican mythology.
Which brings me, at last, to why I'm a Democrat (with a big "D"): Our party has a long and proud history of striving to ensure the safety, efficiency and dignity of the individual worker - and by extension, honoring the value of work itself. We've led the fight in abolishing exploitive child labor, legislating safety protections, instituting the eight-hour workday (both a safety and efficiency issue) and challenging workplace discrimination. To Democrats, workers matter. Work itself is a value we believe should be encouraged by paying people enough money to live on in dignity, creating conditions for an accessible job market, and putting into place a job training network that helps Americans remain flexible in a shifting, challenging economy that continually requires updated skills and approaches.

As John Edwards so succinctly put it during the 2004 campaign: Democrats value work over wealth.
I, personally, don't value work over wealth. Making a lot of money is not something I've ever been very concerned with, but suffice it to say that I'm not going to show up to a boring job for the the knowledge that I did the job well. People work at McDonald's or a grocery store to survive, or hopefully survive comfortably. If you gain satisfaction from knowing that every customer has enjoyed their McFood, that's great, but in no way should it be considered one of the perks of a job.

The problem with a stratified society is not that wealth is valued over work, but that wealth and work are decoupled from each other. The Democratic vision of the world is one where everyone can survive, but that from that springboard they can rely on their ingenuity and hard work to make their lives into what they want them to be.

The problem is, as a commenter on Kos notes, people associate Republicans with hard work and discipline:
Here in Mississippi, many of the people I've spoken to vote Republican consistently, and for exactly the same reasons you have so eloquently delineated. Personal responsibility, work ethic, fortitude in the struggle for stability, an ability to care for one's self and family - these are the things that these southern rural republicans hold dear. They have worked hard to get where they are today, and they will fight hard to stay there.
Republicans have been smart to keep the concepts of work and wealth coupled, but they've also relied heavily on the questionable corollary to the coupling: if you're not wealthy, it's because you're not working hard enough. This idea is attractive to a lot of parties - if you have wealth, it's because you earned it, and if you don't, you just need to work harder to get it. Never mind the realities of employees being robbed of benefits or fair wages, or discrimination on the basis of race, gender or sexuality creating unfair barriers between people who work hard and the monetary compensation they deserve. Even without these problems, there's always bad luck.

Given historic Republican loyalty to discrimination of all types (racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia), and the number of wealthy people who are loyal to the Republican party, it's safe to say that pushing the protestant work ethic in a world where compensation is not just functions to maintain the power differential between the haves and have nots. Republicans asking those who cannot live on their wages to take satisfaction in a job well done is an egregious insult.

A few years ago, I read a story in a local paper about a woman whose daughter was receiving pro-bono dental work. The mother explained to the reporter that her child had not seen a dentist in years, but that on her income, it was not affordable. She also added that she usually refused charity, wanting to show that she could be self-sufficient. My thought was, "Lady, fuck your self-sufficiency and your pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mythology, and get your kid's teeth fixed. Your pride should not allow your kid's teeth to rot inside her head." Even given the resources to meet basic needs in her family, the protestant work ethic stood between this family and health. People of limited means do not need these head-trips in addition to poverty.

When people cannot support themselves, they are not able to make rational decisions about how to allocate their resources. One cannot rationally choose between paying for food or medicine. Desperation, not reason, governs these choices, and it does as much damage to the rationality of the free market as it does to the lives of those who are trying to live by its whims. Only with social survival programs like health care, welfare and social security can the free market - or, more accurately the people participating in the market - be expected to value commodities and services rationally.

The notion that people need survival as motivation to work is backwards in a capitalist economy. Contributing to the workforce and spending in the marketplace can only be done rationally by people who have the means to survive. From that level playing field, the free market can dictate what works and what doesn't, given a regulatory body to maintain the coupling of work and wealth. Democrats need to show that they value work by delivering fair compensation to workers, not by duping people with feel-good consolation prizes.

Cross-posted on 43rd State Blues

Welcome to 2006, Sara

The idea of a podcast seemed pretty dumb to me (girls are like that, you know) until I realized it could keep me distracted while I was sweating at the gym. There are a lot of cool science ones out there - here are some I recommend:

Periodic podcasts from the journal Science.

MicrobeWorld Radio, from the American Society for Mircobiology.

BioBits, from University of Utah.

I've gotta keep sharp if I'm going to go back to school someday.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Earning the right to your body

I've been reading the email debate Slate is hosting between Katha Politt and William Saletan with increasing frustration. I'm beginning to think Politt is too polite to tell Saletan that he's peddling paternalistic crap here - and that Saletan really has no idea that he's doing it. To summarize the argument so far, Saletan says that what the pro-choice movement really needs to get people on its side is to step up the shame factor for abortion, and concentrate on the things that prevent unwanted pregnancy in the first place. After Politt clarifies that the pro-choice camp has been as strident a promoter of contraception as it has been of access to abortion (duh, Will), she goes on to mention that there's enough shaming of women who have abortions as it is, yet it's still one of the most common surgeries performed on American women. Eventually, it becomes clear that Saletan and Politt agree on basically every point of action that needs to be taken to further the cause of reproductive rights, except one: the shame factor.

This is where the paternalistic crap comes in. Saletan is asking for pro-choicers to push a certain amount of grief or shame on a woman (and he weakly offers up the potential father here, too) in exchange for the right to an abortion. This demonstrates that Saletan does not trust women (or men, though they're not the ones having abortions here) to decide whether or not the life of their potential child is worth exchanging for not being pregnant. A woman has to earn this right by suffering some indignity - rape, incest, or at least castigation. I find it totally repugnant that he insist that a woman offer up a certain emotional sacrifice so that she may exercise what is rightfully hers - control over her body. Never mind the fact that these pregnancies that are aborted are unintended ones - women do their best to avoid being pregnant when they do not want to be. The old line about abortion being used as birth control (which, ultimately, it is) is really ridiculous - pregnancies that are aborted are unintended pregnancies, after all. It's entirely self-evident that abortion is never the ideal option when it comes to control of reproduction.

Whether Saletan truly shares this perspective, or if it's simply one he thinks would be useful to promote, either way it's a dangerous idea to push because it directly interferes with the liberties that all human beings are guaranteed. As I discussed in my Blog for Choice entry, what women need are the tools to control their reproductive lives, and they need to be trusted to be able to do so. Pushing shame is pushing the laughable idea that women aren't smart or sensitive enough to avoid abortion, given a chance.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A bunch of whiny babies...with guns

Seriously, could you shut up about the blasphemy and maybe quit threatening to shoot people? This is equally horrifying and pathetic.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Feminist Treason

I recently came across a great blog, Bad Feminist. The eponymous and anonymous author has an independent and interesting voice, and another one of my favorite qualities in a blogger: she's a frequent updater.

Still, I am not really sure how many feminists would describe her as "bad," and find myself a little irritated with the contrarian schtick. I disagree with other self-described feminists on occasion, but no one's taken away my feminist badge, and I'm not about to give it up. I agree that a lot of feminists repeat misguided dogma at the expense of the general reputation of feminism, or that there are a lot who erroneously try to tack feminist principles on their favorite issues, but I would be inclined to believe that they're the ones doing harm to feminism, not me. Pushing the contrarian line seems like a bad idea when you really agree with 90% of what any other given feminist believes.

I'm not about to apply for Canadian citizenship because Bush was elected and re-elected. First of all, I don't think this country is a lost cause. Secondly, there is no way that I'm going to subtract my vote for sanity (because we all know my opinions are objectively correct) and leave nukes in the hands of the people who have gotten us into this mess to begin with. Do I call myself (sarcastically or not) a Bad American? Certainly not.

I'm just not ready to give feminism up to the feminists who drive me nuts 10% of the time. The stake are too high, and I don't want that 10% to become 50% or 100%.

Of course, maybe like Susan Woods or Christine Tood Whitman, BF feels that her energy spent on the inside is wasted, and that any other approach than talking at people who won't listen would be less frustrating. There's also the possibility that I have no idea what I'm talking about - I realize my ESP powers are very limited. Regardless, I find myself agreeing with 90% of what a self-professed bad feminist says. Since the percentages of "good feminist" and "bad feminist" things I agree with add up to far more than 100%, I think there's a fair amount of overlap that's being too easily dismissed here. Little differences aside, check out how Bad Feminist puts her finger on why I never got very excited about Wonkette.

Earth to Will!

Is it Planned Parenthood or your local "crisis pregnancy center" that provides contraception to low-income women? Dumbass.