Thursday, November 30, 2006

I'd like to know what Bill Sali thinks of this

Mifepristone (aka RU496 or the abortion pill) prevents the formation of tumors of the breast in mice with the breast cancer-predicting BRCA1 mutation.

Lousy men

There, I've said it. It's hard not to when you read this kind of thing in response to an upcoming male birth control pill that prevents ejaculation:
"I don't think a lot of men are going to take this," Dr. Harry Fisch, a urologist at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia in Washington Heights, says bluntly. "I wouldn't do anything with it. Nice try."

"I just don't think it's going to happen," says an equally skeptical Dr. Lawrence McGuire, associate director of urology at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn.

At first glance, such a male Pill sounds appealing. Men could take it a couple of hours before intercourse, experience a sperm-free orgasm during sex, and then have the effects wear off a few hours later.

The male Pill would also be hormone-free and, in theory, would allow women concerned about their own Pill's side effects to stop taking the female version. Side effects of the male Pill aren't yet known. (Planned Parenthood of New York City declined to comment for this article.)

"Whatever medication this is going to be, it's not going to influence the sperm," notes McGuire, citing the reported lack of hormones. "It's going to influence the ability of the sperm to get into the prostate to be released during ejaculation - and dry ejaculate is not preferable."

"Not a great idea," agrees Fisch. "The ejaculate coming forward is a significant part of a man's sexuality.
Um, getting pregnant is a significant part of a woman's sexuality, but we somehow have been able to get over that effect of the use of birth control. Besides the ignorance of the fact that ejaculation and orgasm aren't the same thing, I'm just amazed at how many of the "problems" with this drug listed in the article are things no one got too upset about when it came to women taking birth control. Drugs aren't magic. Birth control works by changing some of the normal things that happen during sex. Try telling that to these prima donnas, though.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Immature and evil all at the same time

In Katy, Texas:
There's an awful lot of exciting news when you round the corner on Baker Road. One of two big yellow signs announces a new neighbor is coming soon.

K.I.A., that's the Katy Islamic Association, plan to build a mosque here.

"It's not an appropriate place to have a mosque or church," said resident Barbara Simpson.

It isn't going over real well.

"As a house of worship, they shouldn't be disturbing the peace and tranquility of 15 homes," said resident John Wetmore.

Neighbors tell us they're concerned about traffic and drainage and a little fear of the unknown.

Some of the homeowners even offered to buy the land back for more than a million dollars.
Muslims? Not in their backyards, by God. And what mature tactics are they using to harass the newcomers?
But this fight has gone much farther than many between two neighbors. You see in these fights, sometimes neighbors throw mud at one another, in this instance they're wallowing in it.

Craig Baker owns pigs.

He's the guy behind the second big yellow sign on Baker Road. That's the one announcing Friday night pig races.

"What does it matter, I can do whatever I want with my land right," asked landowner Craig Baker.

Sure can.

But aren't pigs on the property line racing on a Friday night a little offensive to a Muslim neighbor?

"The meat of a pig is prohibited in the religion of Islam," said Katy Islamic Association member Youssof Allam. "It's looked upon as a dirty creature."

Yeah there's that and also that Friday night is a Muslim holy day.

"That is definitely a slap in the face," said Allam..

Now before you go thinking Craig Baker is unfair, or full of hate, or somehow racist, hear him out.

Baker has long roots here, his family named the road and when the new neighbors moved in, he tells us, they asked him to move out.

"Basically that I should package up my family and my business and find a place elsewhere," said Baker. "That's ridiculous, they just bought the place one week prior and he's telling me I should think about leaving."
That new owners deny they ever said anything like that, but Baker isn't budging.
Wait a minute, are things more complicated than they seem?
Baker admits the pigs are a message he is not leaving.
Okay then. Predictably, the Freepers are loving this one. Me, I'm once again embarassed to have to call these people my fellow countrymen.

Before the eleventh month is over

Watch this video of Jason Webley's Eleven Saints. (Yes, you have to follow the link - I just spent ten minutes cursing uncontrollably at my computer that wouldn't properly copy the embed code. YARGH!) Webley comes through Moscow every few months and it's a show I make sure never to miss.

UPDATE: Here we go.

I never knew that men suffered the vapors

Okay, so it's from Men's News Daily, so it's going to be nutty. I'm not going to bother with most of the ridiculous assertions in here - I just thought this one was too colorful to pass up. On the decline of marriage in America, Carey Roberts says one contributing factor is:
Second, we need to consider the effects of the 1992 Supreme Court’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision that banned fathers from participating in decisions to keep the unborn baby, thus leaving them biologically disenfranchised.
That's definitely a new one: "biologically disenfranchised." It's like straight men don't have a right to make any decisions for their lovers at all! See the rest of the article for whinging about women stealing children from abusive fathers and dooming boys by mandating that girls be allowed to play sports too. I think someone needs a fainting couch...

Alcohol and Pregnancy

Today's NYT has an article about pregnancy and drinking, and the conflicted feelings it brings up in pregnant women. They do a good job of showing that there's really no information about the effects of moderate or light drinking on a developing fetus, but I'm surprised at the hard numbers that they didn't include. There are many who would suggest that ingesting any alcohol during pregnancy is unacceptably risky, but given that even amongst alcoholic mothers only 6% of births show signs of* display full-blown fetal alcohol syndrome, I have a hard time believing that the occasional glass of wine - especially later in pregnancy - is going to do a developing fetus much harm.

*UPDATE: The way I wrote this implied that only 6% of births result in children that have some form of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). There is a whole spectrum of problems in children of women who consumer alcohol while pregnant that while not meeting the definition of fetal alcohol syndrome, are still best avoided. These effects still don't show up in 100% of the children of alcoholic mothers (as I recall it's something like a third, but can't find a good link), but they have been known to show up in children of women who are not alcoholics.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A good one

I really liked this bit belledame wrote today about how puzzling, boring and maddening (all at once) it is for her to see so feminists unthinkingly straightify the terms on which the world works. That is all.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Downside: polygamy. Upside: polygamist divorce.

Places like Pandagon, Feministe, and Dr. Science Knows have been talking about the possibility of decriminalizing polygamy, and after reading all the comment threads, I am not convinced that the reasons for keeping polygamy illegal outweigh the reasons for decriminalization.

First, there are the nonreasons being brought up for the criminalization of polygamy - namely those involving the crimes of one Warren Jeffs. Jeffs is the famous Utah polygamist whose community enforces things like child marriage, incest, statutory rape, and all sorts of other bad things that are either out and out illegal or a good reason to change the law so that they are illegal. (That is, a 14-year-old age of consent for marriage is really indefensible.) I am not making excuses for Jeffs and his ilk here - they're misogynistic backwards yokels, and deserve the legal punishment that's coming to them. What I am saying is that these are not reasons for polygamy to be illegal. Polygamy as practiced in this country often goes along with these abuses, but incest and statutory rape are already illegal, after all.

We see a lot of domestic violence and rape and absusive control in traditional monogamist marriage, but as I am going to argue is the case with polygamist marriage, that's all the more reason for the legal institution of marriage to survive. I've touched on this before, but it bears repeating that marriage introduces regulation and arbitration into the inherent issues of property rights and asset distribution in a two-person relationship. If one partner wishes to leave a ten-year relationship where ten years' accumulated property and monetary assets have been shared, the divorce process can help ensure that they get out with something that approximates their contribution (monetary or no) to the household in the last ten years. Those who are not married and face opposition to their leaving the union have no such legal protections, and could well find themselves leaving with absolutely nothing.

The same is true for a wife of a polygamist who is not legally married to her husband. If she wants to leave, or if he dies, she has no legal claim to the assets that were part of the extralegal union. In other words, if polygamist marriage were legal, so too would polygamist divorce be. Otherwise, we're leaving these women - who are already likely to be in abusive or controlling relationships - to twist in the wind of their spouses and "sister-wives."

The objection to the legal complications that polygamous marriage would create has a lot more merit, but I have a hard time believing that they're insurmountable. See here for some suggestions as to how to tease out the legal complications of polygamist/polyamorous marriage.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hey, back off!

Okay, so I think that severely-low-calorie diets for a longer life sound like a pretty bad bargain too, but Rebecca Traister started off on the wrong foot with me in this article:
There's a good chance that tomorrow your table will be groaning under the weight of soporific game birds and green-bean casserole (with cream of mushroom soup and Funyuns) and sweet potatoes with marshmallow crust. That is, of course, unless it's laden with Quorn. Quorn is the meat-free, soy-free, protein-rich fermented fungus recently featured in a New York magazine article about the growing popularity of calorie-restricted diets, in which practitioners subsist on a daily calorie intake that puts them just outside the grasp of starvation. In the story, writer Julian Dibbell sampled Quorn (which serves as a meat substitute and can be purchased as Chik'n and Turk'y) along with 24 carefully measured grams of arugula and a couple of scallops, as part of a purported "dinner party" thrown by a group of devoted CR dieters. The product's slogan is "Quorn: It just might surprise you."

Actually, I strongly doubt that it would.
I happen to like Quorn, thank you very much. The same part of me that wishes that the FDA would require genetically-modified foods to be labeled because I think they're cool and would buy them preferrentially also thinks that Quorn is totally badass. It's a mycoprotein that's grown in industrial laboratories, low in fat and high in protein, and much more like chicken than anything Morningstar Farms has ever put out. And, on top of all of that, it's got a silly name. I'm not a vegetarian, but when I'm craving something heavily-processed, I'd rather eat a vegetarian corn dog than one made with meat. They taste basically the same and the vegetarian ones aren't nearly as frightening.

False reporting

A few days after this month's election where Idaho overwhelmingly passed a gay marriage and domestic partnership ban, it was reported that a young gay man was attacked in Boise, the attackers motivated by homophobia. It's since been discovered that the attack never took place and that the "victim" filed a false police report. Sounds like justice was done to me, but now the blustering begins about the major setback that's been dealt to the cause of human rights in Idaho due to this dumbass.

The thing is that there is false reporting when it comes to every kind of crime. Another crime where much noise is made about false reporting is rape, though there's no evidence to suggest that rape is falsely reported any more often than any other crime.

What I find to be so disturbing about the noisemaking is that it seems rooted in the idea that victims should feel lucky that the state will prosecute gay bashing or rape, and it comes with the implicit threat that if victims don't watch themselves, they'll stop being so lucky. This even in the face of evidence that victims are overwhelmingly honest. Unless we're going to see editorials like this one (which I found to be disturbing for the first half but maybe striking the right notes by the end - is this a problem with the headline?) about falsely reported robberies, I just don't want to hear it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

You mean we're not hormonally-controlled robots?

A study shows that male chimpanzees preferrentially mate with older females. I just want to know one thing: if John Derbyshire can't blame the chimps, who can he blame?

It's official

I am now a crackpot. The WSU Daily Evergreen recently ran an article about unreported rape on campus, and when a third of the article was devoted to describing date rape drugs, I had to write in and mention that date rape drugs are rarely involved in sexual assault. I wrote:
While I applaud the Daily Evergreen's effort to shed light on the problem of unreported rape on campus, I was disappointed to see yet another article lean so heavily on the spectre of date rape drugs. Only a tiny minority of sexual assaults involve their use, but under the heading "The prevalence of date rape drugs," no such information was provided. This paints a deceptive picture of sexual assault, which is facilitated mostly by a culture that won't respect a woman's absolute right to make decisions about her body. A rapist armed with GHB is dangerous, but one without it is a rapist all the same.
Don't get me wrong: I stand by my statement. You just get a little worried that you've gone of the deep end if you're writing a letter to the editor.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Talking about prostitution


Via Fleshbot (NSFW!), check out the winners (vaguely NSFW) of an Italian design contest for an awareness campaign about prostitution. The text is mostly in Italian, but you'll get the idea. The "QUANTO Project" concept description:
The awareness that women and minors are now-a-days subjected to exploitation and slavery is particularly dramatic if compared to the social progress so far achieved in the human rights field.

Acknowledging such conditions has resulted,in the last fifteen years, in reflections, dibates, political and social interventions,especially as a consequence of the increased phenomenon:"the sex market". Women (often immigrated) are more and more the object of exchanges in the human trafficking, for the purpose of sexual exploitation by criminal organizations.

Unfortunately it is necessary to remember that a world estimate, puts at two million the number of boys and girls involved in this market,managed by criminal organizations;and Italy is one of the landing and dispatching place to other europian regions. The exploitation is not limited to the sex market,but also to the working world, housework included.

Lack of freedom is not intrinsic with prostitution,but is a function of abuse,poverty,bad working conditions,inexperience,and/or desperation. It is therfore indispensable to consider first of all, women and minors as human beings,and as such,individuals with rights (aside from their conditions,legal status,and more or less coerced prostitution activity).

QUANTOproject wants to arouse new reflections to bring forward a topic that tends more and more to hide and become unconspicuous.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Oh please

The Spokesman-Review, the paper that hired someone to pose as a randy 18-year-old in a chat room looking to hook up with a hot mayoral type and subsequently outing former Spokane Mayor Jim West, feels that Frontline decieved them.

Frontline producers explained to us -- and apparently to others in the community -- that their original intent to use Spokane and West as a jumping off point to discuss gay issues in America was derailed at the last minute by PBS honchos who wanted to focus only on the West scandal and recall.

This is, at least, disingenuous. It was clear to us from the outset that their show was focusing exclusively on West. Outside of a conversation at the very beginning of their work, they never sought from us any information or insight on gay issues in Spokane. It always was West.

Gimme a break, S-R.

You know, there is an old Chinese belief that the moon is God's nipple.

I loved Borat, and am astonished at how many ways there seem to be of not getting the joke, so I was glad to see Christopher Hitchens' newest at Slate. It's been a while since I've been able to say this, but Christopher Hitchens has gotten this one right.
But it's that attitude of painfully maintained open-mindedness and multiculturalism that is really being unmasked and satirized by our man from the 'stan. In what other country could such a character talk his way into being invited to sing the national anthem at a rodeo—where the horse urine is not so highly prized, and where horse excrement, and indeed all excrement, is still a term of abuse?
As John Derbyshire said, Borat is an excellent prank on "American niceness." You can see his marks struggle with how to react to his alarming behavior. They have to take a second to make sure they understood what he said through his broken English and his accent. Then they have to decide whether they're going to give his utterly horrifying home culture the benefit of the doubt or whether they'll bother to chew him out. All of this happens while they're on camera, trying to make a good impression of Americans to "Kazakhstan."

What I like most about Cohen, though, is his ability to keep people in the same room with him while he pushes the line of credibility. Check out this video of Borat at an STD clinic:



The thing I love here is how he has to struggle to keep the doctor from just walking out. He has had relations with his sister, but only at the feast of [foriegn-sounding word]. He throws in just enough things that a stranger won't know how to react to or judge - the camera, the friendly and difficult-to-understand foreignness - and mixes in as much of the truly absurd and terrible that he can without getting smacked across the face.

I probably have an unusual affinity for the way this sort of humor is crafted because my husband works at it dilligently and constantly. In casual conversation, a good rule of thumb is that you shouldn't believe the first thing he tells you because it's probably a lie - and if his brother's around, you should probably not believe a word that's said at the table. The joke works best when you have absolutely no reason to be lying. Andy's favorite gotcha of me was when we had been dating only a few months, and were out on a night walk looking at the full moon, and he told me that the Chinese used to believe that the Moon is God's nipple. I didn't think twice about it - just said "Hmm, that's interesting," and he made it a good 60 seconds without cracking up since I'd actutally believed him. The more quietly Andy can insert something completely absurd and untrue into conversation, the more he's amused. It's an interesting and hilarious and maddening pursuit, and I've learned to fish out his "lie face" and he gets a lot of "Goddammit Andy!" The other stealth-comedy performers in this vein I think of are the Yes Men, whose horrifying big business plans don't raise an eyebrow on MSNBC, but won't get past a community college class.

The "social commentary" aspect of the humor of Borat comes out when the things that people should be alarmed at and should find absurd are matched by the marks who take them completely in stride. The frat guys showed no indication that they needed Borat around to display their racism and misogyny, and I'm sure that old cowboy giggles about hanging homersexurals on his own time. The beauty of the Borat joke is that it's funny whether it backfires because your mark is more absurd or disgusting than you could have imagined, or whether the mark can't get over their social training to freak out like they should.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Good idea to file away for next time...

From Neil the Ethical Werewolf:

Another interesting thing that our Deputy Campaign manager, Lisa Sherman, had volunteers do was to hand-write letters to undecided voters. The thinking is that while people might just throw away commercially produced flyers, regarding them as junk mail, a handwritten letter would have a much larger chance of being read and considered. While a form was available for anyone who wanted to copy down a generic message, volunteers were encouraged to personalize and improvise as they pleased. While some volunteers just want to carry whatever message you give them, others want to be able to do their little part to shape the campaign's message, and the letters gave them an opportunity to do so. They took a little while to write, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were a reasonably effective use of that time.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Blech

I've caught a really nasty (and antibiotic resistant!) cold and am also dealing with a computer that's going insane, so expect blogging to be light over the next few days. It won't be a surprise to hear that I'm disappointed with Idaho's election results, even if I am proud of Latah County's turnout and strongly left-leaning vote. For now, all I've got the energy to do is watch Office Space over and over. Does that movie ever stop being funny?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Latah County voting

Clear sailing. No long lines, nothing wacky. I worked all day and got to the polls around 5:45, and was out of there in 15 minutes.

Idaho, if you elect Bill Sali, you have no one to blame but yourself.

How do I know?

In 2000, the first year I ever voted, election day was also the first snow of winter in Moscow. I took it to be a bad omen while votes were counted and re-counted, and sure enough, we were stuck with Bush.

Today, it was windy and rainy and sometimes sunny. But, I saw a rainbow.

There's no way the Democrats can lose!

Monday, November 06, 2006

All done!

I just got home from a few hours of GOTV calling, and am happy to say that I am finished with my volunteering for this election cycle. No more canvassing, no more phone calls, no more trolling for volunteers, no more hours spent staffing the HQ - not for a while, anyway. It's been fun connecting with the Democrats in my community and sharing the excitement of the great races we've got this year. I'm looking forward to keeping things cohesive in the "off season" with Drinking Liberally, but I think it's fair to say that I need a little break.

The only thing left to do is sit back and wait for the victory party.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Tomatoes and Smoke

Tonight I sat down to one of the best dinners I've ever made. While on vacation, my husband and I picked up some smoked blue cheese and it's been sitting in our refrigerator ever since (What? Like it's going to go bad? It's already gone about as bad as it can go.) while we've been trying to think of how best to treat it. Tonight Andy remembered this dish, and it was an absolutely perfect way to showcase the strong flavors in the cheese.

Penne with Fennel, Tomato and Blue Cheese
(From Vegetarian: The best-ever recipe collection edited by Linda Fraser)

1 fennel bulb
8 ounces penne or other dried pasta shapes (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups passata or tomato sauce
pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
4 ounces blue cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1. Cut the fennel bulb in half. Cut away the hard core and root. Slice the fennel thinly, then cut the slices into strips.

2. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 10-12 minutes, until just tender.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the fennel and shallot and cook for 2-3 minutes over high heat, stirring occasionally.

4. Add the passata, sugar and oregano. Cover the pan and simmer gently for 10-12 minutes, until the fennel is tender. Season with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta and return it to the pan. Toss with the saucde. Serve with blue cheese crumbled over the top.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Grant and Brady leading in today's polls

Yes, that's what I said. More thoughts later. All I'm thinking now is "Woo!"

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Giant Money Drop Watch

The Club for [a couple of rich guys' bank accounts'] Growth today, working with Red Sea, LLC (headed by Tom DeLay's former communications director), dropped nearly $260,000 on ads opposing Larry Grant.

That's a lot of money to spend in one day to oppose a Democrat in Idaho.

He said, she said

On the heels of my last post, this about accuracy in political ads at Eye on Boise got my attention:
Idaho Superintendent of Schools Marilyn Howard said a radio attack ad accusing her chief deputy, Jana Jones, of spending $500,000 on “frivolous overseas junkets” is “deceitful and unjustified.” Jones is running to succeed Howard as superintendent; the ad was placed by former state Sen. Darrel Deide’s Idahoans for Excellence in Education. No state money was spent on the disputed international teacher education missions that were sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of State, Howard said.

GOP congressional candidate Bill Sali accused Democratic opponent Larry Grant of taking the campaign to a “new low” with an ad citing Sali’s support in a National Taxpayers Union survey for a national sales tax, but not saying he wants to eliminate the IRS as part of the trade-off. “Grant has misrepresented my record and positions in a way that is plainly deceptive,” Sali said.

...and it goes on from there. It's not a problem to show us the claims an counter-claims that the candidates and campaigns are making about each other, but what would also be nice is some information that comes from the public record, or at least not directly from a campaign.

PS - Also, the Eye on Boise post was registered at 11:11 on 11/1. Neat, huh?

Everyone with an opinion is crazy!

tristero at Hullabaloo has a fantastic example of the way lazy news reporters add "balance" to their articles. Sometimes, one side is right and another is wrong. The way everyone is rushing to expose the "extremists" on both sides, it just implies that having feelings one way or the other means that you're a nutter too.