Monday, April 30, 2007

What the hell does a vegan eat anyway?

I guess I hadn't really thought about it.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Speaking of Sali

A letter from Jesus' General is always a sign that people are taking you seriously.

I'm a lazy, lazy blogger

...so I'm glad that Julie has taken it upon herself to keep a running list of Bill Sali's votes in Congress.

And I swear I've got some good Idaho stuff in the works. Jim Hansen visited Drinking Liberally a few weeks ago and schooled us all in the nuts and bolts of progressive community building in blood-red states like Idaho, for example. (I also hope I didn't give him my cold, which was what kept me from writing the post soon after the meeting.)

But in case you don't feel like holding your breath, check out the Regional blogroll I've recently re-compiled. Not every Idaho liberal is a lazy blogger.

The Mormons

On April 30, PBS's American Experience and Frontline are teaming up to present a four-hour documentary on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The program will be available online, and I plan on watching it when I get a chance. I'm always baffled by the Mormon-phobia that pops up so often; as an atheist, I don't think it's any weirder a religion than the rest of them. Hopefully this documentary will be able to clear up a lot of misconceptions about this very American religion.

Just creepy

At the grocery store this morning, I happened to have my camera with me when I saw this:
Do they have genitals in there or what? Why do we need to know what the gender of the headless child-plant hybrid is? And why - why why why - would you buy this and put it in your garden?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Not-fun with Google Image Search

Ugh. I GIS "meat," and this is the first return.

Blogroll updates

You can see in the bar at right that I've updated and expanded my blogroll. There are a lot more Idaho and regional blogs included, so check them out.

I'm sure I've missed a few I'd like to add, so keep on the lookout for changes.

Ladies don't have opinions


I've been seeing a lot of this kind of thing ever since the PBA ban was upheld, and it drives me nuts. Having an opinion about female bodily autonomy, female sexuality, and the nature of life, death and humanity isn't crazy or nit-picking. It would be fantastic to believe that we were all getting upset over nothing, but it turns out we're not. It turns out that these are important issues, even if they primarily affect women, and the dismissive image of the foaming-at-the-mouth pro-life or pro-choice activist is not only sexist, but it takes the work that people actually do and hides it behind a charicature.

Dave Olveria at Huckleberries online pointed to this article as "the best column on abortion you'll read from either side." But the article wasn't about abortion - it sidestepped the issue entirely and focused on the utility of preventing unplanned pregnancies. And that's a useful thing to do - it's something that pro-choice advocates work for as it goes hand-in-hand with making decisions about one's reproductive health. But Pia Hansen, the author, talks about as though she's the first one to ever consider it (and she's not alone in making this mistake). As though Plannned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-choice America hadn't been working to provide contraception to women for years.

Characterizing Planned Parenthood and NARAL as a bunch of abortion nuts who care about nothing but that single issue (kos, I'm looking in your direction) marginalizes the real and useful work that these organizations do.

I'm happy if people want to discuss the common ground between pro-life and pro-choice activists - there's a lot of it. In fact, I don't even care if someone other than PP gets "credit" for the idea of preventing unwanted pregnancies, if the end result is that we realize greater control over our reproductive health. But I can't see that happening when people's opinions about "women's issues" are belittled and ignored.

UPDATE: I'd like to add that I find this phenomenon to be just as annoying when applied to people on the other side of the issue as me. I don't think that pro-life activists are crazy; I appreciate that people have reasons for their opinions, even if I often think their reasons are based in lies or false premises or are otherwise shaky. It's not crazy to believe that abortion is wrong, just like it's not crazy to believe that the Sun revolves around the Earth - it's still wrong, though, and I'm happy to explain why I think it is.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Morels

I did exactly the same thing last year: fresh morels from the co-op cooked in Irish butter and white wine with sliced whites of scallions and thyme, served over fresh, homemade pasta.

And some people say that godless liberals don't have good morels.

"Some feminists"

Andrew Sullivan says, defending his assertion that we live in a "male-loathing" culture:
The point I was trying to make is that some feminists have tried to problematize maleness as such, without making the significant distinctions my reader rightly highlights.
So, uh, which feminists are those? I can think of a few that he might be thinking of, but they certainly haven't influenced my thinking much. Indeed, I seem to hear a lot of talk about the enforcement of masculinity and femininity being generally oppressive and anti-feminist. Are there really enough - and influential enough - feminists who dismiss "maleness as such" that they have created a whole male-loathing culture?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Rape victims a low priority at Pullman Regional Hospital

I don't have time to comment this yet, but I thought I'd put up the link for now to this Daily Evergreen article about complaints by rape victims seeking treatment at Pullman Regional Hospital of hours-long delays of rape kit examinations.

More later.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bodies

I've been sitting around reading the wonderful Shape of a Mother, and thinking a lot about women and their bodies. I was especially moved by this, from a woman at SOAM, after the death of her second infant:
Going home with no carseat, in pre-pregnancy jeans felt unfair: I wanted something, anything, some evidence that he existed. Something other than a c-section scar that I felt ashamed of because I was forced into it. I am still coming to terms with these feelings as I await the birth of my third child. I've considered having a tattoo done of the only partial handprint the hospital offered me, so I could leave his mark on my body in a place no one but me would see unless I chose to show them.

Mamas: cherish your battle wounds, your stretch marks and bellies. They are beautiful; they are the footprints that your children have left behind as were created and nourished, and while you may have days where you want to hide them, others might be looking on at the majesty that is a mother's body and appreciating them for the art they are.
Some other good body links:

Normal Breasts Gallery (Not exactly work-safe)
JANE Guide to Breast Health (Also not exactly work-safe)
Conversation at Pandagon mostly about the JANE Guide.

Maybe I need a break from blogging

I dreamt last night that I was visiting Ezra Klein, who was my long-distance boyfriend, and we attended a hearing at a state legislature where there was a public forum on the subject of abortion, and we stood in line to make public comments, but I woke up before I got to the microphone.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Best comment of the day

In response to the 1900-era postcards at the wonderful Paleo-Future blog depicting what life would be like in the year 2000:
It really sucked when I tried to fly my personal flying machine to the city and got stopped by the city roof. You'd think they would have gotten rid of the roof what with the weather control device. I was going to take the moving walkway to get there, but the train/boat had derailed and blocked it. Plus, these guys stole all my money and all the cop did was watch them through the X-Ray machine.

2000 was a bad year.

Vote for my sister!

My sister, Kayleigh, has applied to go to the Change It '07 conference in Washington, DC this year. Vote for her to be a delegate to the conference and the eco-friendly company Seventh Generation will pay her way to learn about environmental activism. Do it!

Mango-Avocado Salsa

I made black bean and rice burritos last night for dinner, and this salsa to go inside them. For lunch, I got the bright idea to also spead a little cream cheese inside the tortilla - that was pretty smart! It was de-lish, and good training for what might be a pescetarian summer for me.

1 mango, peeled and diced
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1/3 cup diced red onion
2 jalapenos, seeded and finely diced
1/4 cup roughly-chopped cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for at least a half hour to let the onion and cilantro mellow. Great in burritos, on chicken or fish, or just tortilla chips.

PS - If youre unsure of how best to deal with a mango, slashfood just happened to link to this great illustrated guide today.

Monday, April 23, 2007

This is what I want to be when I grow up

Who would have guessed I was a proficient swing dancer in my salad days?

The irony pains me so

It really does.
Thomas said he and his wife came up with the unprecedented idea to present the president with the Purple Heart over breakfast one morning a few months ago as they discussed the verbal attacks, both foreign and domestic, the commander in chief has withstood during his time in office.

"We feel like emotional wounds and scars are as hard to carry as physical wounds," Thomas said.

The medal was awarded to Thomas on Dec. 18, 1965, following injuries he sustained while serving in heavy combat with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam.
Thanks, xiamin.

Please consider the following

I always thought I was the biggest Bill Nye fangirl of all time. But somehow I missed out on the mystifying phenomenon of Bill Nye the Science Guy theme song dance videos.

But. I do have a video camera. I think it's only a matter of time and blood alcohol level before I do something inadvisable.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Building families around fear

I can't add much to the legal, medical, and policy analysis that I've seen regarding today's Supreme Courth decision upholding the "partial-birth" abortion ban.

What I can say is this: it makes me, personally, a little more afraid of bearing children. The law prohibits a procedure that exists to reduce danger to a pregnant woman, a procedure that only comes into consideration when something has gone horribly wrong with a pregnancy that a mother wished to carry to term.

Do I want children? I don't know. Maybe. Probably?

What would I do were I to unexpectedly become pregnant? I don't know.

I do know that I would rather make my decision about what kind of family I'd like based on the life I want to live and what kind of love I want in it. Now when I consider having children, I'll have to wrestle with new fears of dying after suffering a perforated uterus, or giving birth to a child whose life can only be blessed by brevity in the face of the physical suffering it will endure.

I deeply resent this cruel and painful intrusion on my decisions about the most beautiful and loving relationships I will ever have.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

I'd just like to add my voice to the chorus of sympathy going out to the students and faculty and staff at Virginia Tech and their loved ones. For some really moving insight into the kind of madness that leads to an event like this, read hilzoy's piece, "Shooters." An excerpt:

I once knew someone who was thinking of doing this sort of thing. (Note: he didn't, and he's OK now. Moreover, while I normally don't predict people's future psychological states, for various reasons I think that he is unlikely to go down this road again. So this is a story with a reasonably happy ending.) I didn't know whether he was serious in one sense: knowing whether, when push came to shove, he would turn out to be one of those people who actually do it, or one of the people who get altogether too close and then, for whatever reason, draw back. I also don't think he knew that. The only being I could think of who could possibly know that was God, and I didn't believe that He existed.

But my friend was quite serious in two other senses. First, he really meant it. And second, the way it happened in his case was that he started saying things like: maybe I'll just become an axe-murderer. He was, at first, mostly kidding, but not entirely. That in itself was quite disturbing. But over time, the way he said it changed from "mostly kidding" to "not really kidding" to "not kidding at all", and, over the same stretch of time, this thought sort of metastasized and spread all over his mind, until it was just about all he thought of.


It should, I think, go without saying that there was something badly wrong with this person, above and beyond the fact that he wanted to go out and kill people. It manifested itself in ways that are similar, in some respects, to major depression. If you've ever talked to someone who is very, very depressed, you know that their thoughts tend increasingly to go round and round the same topics, as though they are trapped in some sort of horrible rut, which moreover tends to constrict with time. And it's very hard to get them out of this: I often have the feeling, when talking to very depressed people, that they are trapped within some entirely smooth sphere, which I am turning over and over in my hands, thinking: there must be some way to open this -- some point which, when I press it, will cause it to unlock, or some way of twisting it that will make its halves swing open. And I try and try, pushing now on one point, now on another, and nothing works; and all the while I can see the person I'm talking to, trapped inside, and I feel helpless.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Uhhhhh

NYT, please note that rape is not an form of affection.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

MyDD: Why are so many progressive candidates male?

If you don't have one already, get a MyDD account and see what you can add to the conversation about the lack of diversity amongst netroots-endorsed candidates. Given the recent Big Blogs vs. Feminist Blogs conflicts, I'm sure many of you can give them an earful. Get crackin'!

Friday, April 13, 2007

When is news not news?

When we re-learn that abstinence-only education does not prevent teen sex.

The kitchen isn't even hot! You're crazy!

In my post about engineering blogging culture, I didn't even touch on the most annoying aspect of the way the conversation has developed: people who won't believe harassment of women online differs from harassment of men online (in both quantity and quality). Luckily, Chris Clarke has got it covered in his post "How not to be an ashole: a guide for men." But I wouldn't restrict the audience like he does - he's got good advice for anyone who's tempted to dismiss others' experience. As a sometimes insensitive jerk, I can attest that Chris' advice doesn't only apply to men.

UPDATE: Let's also keep in mind that gender isn't the only axis on which these differences of experience turn.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Back in my day, the kitchen was hot because it caught fire - and we liked it that way!

It's kind of ironic that the fight over a proposed code of conduct for bloggers has gotten so nasty. I'm a little bewildered by it; the suggestion that civil discourse be promoted seemed pretty unexciting to me, and the arguments for and against it all pretty obvious. Screaming matches and bullying aren't a part of productive discussion, and there's no possible, ethical or legal way to restrict the Constitutionally-protected speech of bloggers and commenters (even the assholes). Okay - both of these things are true, but I don't think either of these things are roadblocks to having a vibrant, expressive and safe blogosphere.

First, there's the issue of the restriction of speech. Trolling or name-calling are not illegal by any means, but they do a lot to hamper discussion and create a hostile community for the very people the blogosphere seeks to amplify the voices of. Maintaining a safe and civil online community requires lots of judgement calls on the part of a moderator, and if you don't like the judgement calls of the moderators at Alas, A Blog or Washington Monthly, then go somewhere else or start your own damn blog.

There's no shortage of internet space for people who want to make their unpopular or unwise opinions known. Blogging's ability to give every man woman and child a soapbox is not what makes it a useful tool for political and cultural change, though. The real gift that the blogosphere has to give is the creation of a community where we can all put our heads together and come up with better and deeper ideas in service of making the world a better place. Blogging has helped me think better and write better and know more because of the interactions I've had with commenters and bloggers - not just because I've been able to say my piece.

We can't enforce an Internet-wide code of conduct with an iron fist - there's no reason to even try. We can, however, work to create a culture that disincentivises abusive and hateful speech, and values accountability.

I've seen it play out in a few different ways.

There's a community-wide discussion email list in Moscow called Vision2020 that regularly is the host of knock-down, drag-out flamewars, with swagger and occasional namecalling and strongly differing opinions. It also maintains an emphasis on accountability, where the strong opinions are most likely to be respected when they come from identifiable community members whose worplaces and family members you are not unlikely to know. I wouldn't call Vision2020 polite, couth, or even necessarily civil. But I do think it's a good forum for debate that's maintained its value with its ethos of accountability. It's actually not even my cup of tea - I don't usually like flamewars and find the conversations to edge into silliness a little too often.

But then again, I don't have to post there.

I do spend a lot of time posting at Huckleberries Online. It's a blog connected with a newspaper from Spokane, WA, and is host to its own tussles as well. There are plenty of anonymous and semi-anonymous commenters, and people show up looking for trouble from time to time. Anonymous input into local politics can be really valuable, and my understanding is that the blog's caretaker, Dave Olveria, values its presence at HBO quite a bit. He keeps a pretty close eye on the discussions there, and isn't shy about deleting comments he feels go over the line, or banning people outright. I haven't always agreed with his judgement calls, and am endlessly annoyed at the "language" filter, but the interactive content that HBO delivers at the end of the day is still interesting and educational.

Ultimately, dialog will always require some kind of compromise for all parties involved; people are different. Kos seems to think that the internet removes the consequences from speech, but I know that I don't spend much time hanging around there. Maybe he doesn't want us hysterical feminist types stinking up his forums with our ideas, but that's a consequence of the the way he's crafted the community at DailyKos, too. Any community has a culture, and doing nothing shapes it as much as moderation does. That's the reality, and facing it is the first step toward turning this meta-flamewar into something we can sit around and toast marshmallows over.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

It's me who's the man-hater here?

Yesterday's NYT article about sexual desire and arousal in humans made for some interesting reading. It suffered from a heavy bias toward nature while basically ignoring nurture in its explanations of various findings (I liked when they implied that women are hard-wired to find 70's hairstyles unattractive. If that were the case, how do they explain 70's hairstyles?), but I figured that was for the sake of staying on-subject.

It did stray into downright alarming territory on occasion, though. See Shakesville's Brynn for more, but the thing I was most appalled by was this:
The results suggest that having a good set of sexual brakes not only dampens the willingness to commit rape or sexual abuse, but the desire as well, giving the lie to notions that “all men are the same” and would be likely to rape their way through the local maiden population if they thought they could get away with it.
Ack! Who thinks this? Usually this anti-male idea takes the form of saying all men are sex-driven robots, but I'd never heard someone say that they're actually rape-driven robots.

Who comes up with this stuff? And why do they get the impression it's feminist champions of sexual autonomy who hate men?

Ha ha

Loser.

Forget baby steps - we need Big Moves


If bigger print is easier to read, one might imagine that bigger people would be easier to see. Oddly enough, that doesn't seem to be the case in the performing arts - look around and you don't see fat people anywhere. One great response to this perplexing oversight can be found with dance company Big Moves, which you might guess is made up of big women. Via the always entertaining feministing flickr stream, check out this great series of pictures from Big Moves.

Idaho Democrats Gearing up for 2008

The 2006 elections in Idaho were really rough on Democrats, and it was a real disappointment after all the momentum that was built up in the Grant and Brady didn't end up taking us very far. Happily, it appears that the Idaho Democratic Party isn't going to spend the next two years downing whiskey at a pity party. Rand Lewis has filed for candidacy in the ID-01 house race against incumbent Republican Bill Sali, and former Idaho congressman Larry LaRocco has just announced today that he'll be running for the Senate seat that it's rumored that Larry Craig will be vacating this time around.

It's a good sign that Idaho Democrats aren't about to let the October 2006 electricity fizzle out.

A good question

brownfemipower and Jill Nelson ask a good question: why haven't media been consulting black, female commentators on the subject of Don Imus' latest shamelessness?

Monday, April 09, 2007

"...The sad awful truth."

Via Gawker:
It was after midnight last Saturday, and Bungalow 8 was filling up. I wanted to ask the famously exclusive nightclub’s regular patrons their thoughts about Iraq.

John Flanagan, a 40-year-old nightlife impresario, was sitting with a large group drinking $350 bottles of vodka.

“I’m upset for the American lives that are lost, and the Iraqi lives,” he said. “It makes me feel confused about the direction we’ve taken and whether it was for the right cause.”

He referred to the war as an “unpleasantry of life.”

“I’d rather not be talking about this,” he added. “I’d rather talk about helping out Darfur, helping victims of Katrina.”
Go ahead and read it - you'll feel much better about yourself.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Why not to turn to gay men with questions on straight female sexuality

I've long since given up on Dan Savage for any substantive sex/relationship advice. I imagine that he has a dart board in his office that has two regions: cheat and dump. He throws a dart, and he has a column.

But I still read his column from time to time. Today, I really wasn't glad I did. First there was this gem:

Women's rape fantasies come up pretty frequently in the column, but men's rape fantasies don't come up so much. I am a mid-20s straight woman who dates a lot. Even though I occasionally fantasize about being raped and I make it perfectly clear to the men I date that this is just a fantasy, I am creeped out by the fact that some of the men I've dated have fantasies of raping women. Do you think that's unfair?

Double Standard

Yes I do, DS. Women who open up about rape fantasies—with their partners or in letters to skeezy sex-advice columnists—are always quick to include a qualifier along the lines of "this is just a fantasy," making it clear to all that they are not interested in actually being raped. Well, just as a woman can have rape fantasies without wanting to be the victim of an actual rape, a man can have rapist fantasies without wanting to commit an actual rape. And really, DS, where would ladies with rape-victim fantasies be without men with rape-perp fantasies?

There's actually quite a bit of difference between fantasizing about raping and being raped - and that's the fact that you really can't hurt anyone by being raped. Taking a fantasy of raping too far means actually raping, even if the fantasizer didn't want to "commit an actual rape."

And then, then there was this:

I am in my 20s. I was raped two years ago. In the two years since, I have dealt with the experience and have finally put it behind me. I know what I want now sexually and am ready, yet I can't seem to get any. I have plenty of attractive, flirtatious, and available friends, but I don't know how to get them into the desired situation. I am not looking for a monogamous relationship, just a casual, friendly, mutually respectful fling. Any tips for a recovering rape victim?

Too Young For No Sex Life

Find some new friends?

I'm not suggesting that you drop your current friends, TYFNSL, but you might need to look outside your present social circle for sex partners. If those attractive, flirtatious, and available pals of yours were aware of the rape after it happened, and were your support system during your two-year recovery, it may be difficult for them to see you as something other than a victim. Look elsewhere for sex partners and you'll have more luck.


It's hard to even know where to begin with this one. If my friends couldn't see me as anything other than a victim after being raped, I'd sure as hell want to drop them. Why would anyone else who learned of TYFNSL's experience - say, a long-term boyfriend or husband - be able to think of her as a whole human being, but her friends not? Maybe I shouldn't underestimate the general public's ability to drag out the misery of a rape victim as long as possible, but I should hope that her friends won't let the rapist steal her entire sexuality from her.

Yargh!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Northwest Progressive Conference 2007


After the fantastic Borah symposium this week in Moscow, Palouse residents can look forward to the upcoming 2007 Northwest Progressive Conference in Pullman, Washington over the weekend of April 19-21. See the tentative schedule for details on the workshops and films and presentations that will be happening, but be sure to keep your schedule open on Saturday afternoon for the workshop I'll be presenting on the subject of blogging.
I'll keep posting as I learn more, but at the very least, this will be an excellent opportunity for area progressives to connect and brainstorm.

PS: Volunteers are needed - write info@wsuprogressive.com if you're interested.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Maker of 'A Girl Like Me' could win $10K scholarship

If you remember the amazing film "A Girl Like Me" by teen filmmaker Kiri Davis that made the rounds of the blogosphere when it came out, consider going to vote for it in a scholarship contest being offered by Cosmo girl. I haven't seen the other two films yet, but was really impressed and moved by "Girl" when it came out. If you haven't had the chance, check it out:



Via Racialicious.

UPDATE: I've seen all of the films, and totally liked Davis' best. Vote for it!

Random act of kindness

I was standing at a bus stop across town, calculating how much of my lunch break was going to be eaten up by waiting for the bus, when someone stopped and offered me a ride back to campus.

You rock, Heidi.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Joe Francis headed back to jail

Okay, okay, so I read perezhilton.com. I have to admit it. But it's not all bad - see here:

U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak found Francis in contempt of court last week after lawyers for seven women complained he shouted obscenities and threatened them during civil suit settlement negotiations. The women were filmed on Panama City Beach during spring break in 2003 for a Francis video. His videos generally show young women baring their breasts and acting out other sexual situations.

Smoak had ordered Francis arrested Saturday if he did not reach a settlement in the case but suspended the order after learning that Francis had made an offer the plaintiffs later agreed to.

Plaintiffs' attorney D. Ross McCloy told the judge during an emergency hearing Wednesday that he thought the case was resolved but later learned Francis had altered the conditions of the offer, making it unacceptable to his clients.

Emphasis mine. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Jr. high kids marked with a scarlet P

Via The Mountain Goat Report, we learn that Idaho Falls schools are engaging in humiliation tactics to get Junior High kids to pay off lunch bills:

TWIN FALLS - Students who fell behind on school lunch payments were stunned Monday afternoon when their lunch trays were taken from them and dumped in the garbage.

Cafeteria workers then gave them a sack lunch and two words of advice - pay up.

The Twin Falls School District refused to serve hot lunch to more than 150 students at Vera C. O'Leary Junior High School on Monday because they were not paying for their school lunches. Cafeteria workers threw out the students' hot meals and replaced them with sack lunches while charging them full-price for a hot lunch.

District officials say the purpose of the brown-bag lunch was to encourage students to pay their delinquent lunch accounts, but others say the district was coercing students into paying off their debt by humiliating them.

These school officials might as well tell the kids that if they don't fork over their lunch money that they'll be stuffed into their lockers after school. That's pretty harsh treatment of a child for something that's the responsibility of their parents.

Finally - the secret to weight loss!

Bob Sassone is all over it.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Cranberry-Pistachio Oatmeal Cookies

It's kind of a pain to shell all of the pistachios (and a huge challenge to keep your family from stealing them) but it's totally worth it. This is also a great cookie for Christmas with the green pistachios and the red cranberries. I like to replace some (half, usually, unless I'm running out of butter) of the butter with applesauce so that the cookie has a cakey texture. Otherwise, replacing the raisins in your standard oatmeal-raisin cookie recipe, and throwing in an equal amount of crushed pistachios will get you to this delicious cookie.

Disappearing the sick

You may have heard about the increasingly-common practice of jailing people carrying highly-contagious, drug-resistant tuberculosis. I've seen more than one news article on the subject over the past year, but was really surprised when I heard this report on NPR yesterday, where the reporter was unable to get ahold of the patient, Robert Daniels, and had to resort to slipping her number to him through a messenger so he could call her collect, only to be cut off after ten minutes. He's been totally isolated in a criminal facility because he happened to catch the wrong bug.

While I recognize the real danger someone unknowingly or recklessly spreading dangerous diseases, I just can't believe that this is the best approach. A few years ago, Moscow had a with similar attributes, where a local man was convicted on felony charges of "knowing he was HIV-positive and transferring or attempting to transfer body fluid to women in Moscow without informing them he was infected." The problem with this when it comes to actually stopping the spread of disease is that if the man in the HIV case, Kanay Mubita, had never been tested for HIV, he would never have gotten in trouble. It creates a perverse incentive against being tested.

On the other hand, I do recognize that knowingly exposing others to deadly disease is not behavior that should go unpunished. If we're going to make what Mubita did a crime, we also need to make HIV testing mandatory. And if we're going to jail people like Daniels, we need legislation that defines his behavior as criminal, and to try them in court. I would accept some distinction between diseases that manifest themselves obviously (like TB) and those that one might not know they were carrying. But as it is, there are plenty of idiots out there who don't wash their hands before leaving the bathroom or undercook hamburgers, and they're not facing jail time. Mubita and Daniels have both put people around them at risk, but unlike the guy who didn't wash his hands, they're carrying sensationalistic diseases that people get excited about. Legislation can be a useful tool for preventing public health problems, but it needs to be tailored towards actual risk reduction, and not just making people feel less scared or more vindicated in the face of the latest scary disease.

Disappearing the sick

You may have heard about the increasingly-common practice of jailing people carrying highly-contagious, drug-resistant tuberculosis. I've seen more than one news article on the subject over the past year, but was really surprised when I heard this report on NPR yesterday, where the reporter was unable to get ahold of the patient, Robert Daniels, and had to resort to slipping her number to him through a messenger so he could call her collect, only to be cut off after ten minutes. He's been totally isolated in a criminal facility because he happened to catch the wrong bug.

While I recognize the real danger someone unknowingly or recklessly spreading dangerous diseases, I just can't believe that this is the best approach. A few years ago, Moscow had a with similar attributes, where a local man was convicted on felony charges of "knowing he was HIV-positive and transferring or attempting to transfer body fluid to women in Moscow without informing them he was infected." The problem with this when it comes to actually stopping the spread of disease is that if the man in the HIV case, Kanay Mubita, had never been tested for HIV, he would never have gotten in trouble. It creates a perverse incentive against being tested.

On the other hand, I do recognize that knowingly exposing others to deadly disease is not behavior that should go unpunished. If we're going to make what Mubita did a crime, we also need to make HIV testing mandatory. And if we're going to jail people like Daniels, we need legislation that defines his behavior as criminal, and to try them in court. I would accept some distinction between diseases that manifest themselves obviously (like TB) and those that one might not know they were carrying. But as it is, there are plenty of idiots out there who don't wash their hands before leaving the bathroom or undercook hamburgers, and they're not facing jail time. Mubita and Daniels have both put people around them at risk, but unlike the guy who didn't wash his hands, they're carrying sensationalistic diseases that people get excited about. Legislation can be a useful tool for preventing public health problems, but it needs to be tailored towards actual risk reduction, and not just making people feel less scared or more vindicated in the face of the latest scary disease.

Sad news from the Northwest

Yesterday, a University of Washington employee was murdered by her ex boyfriend while at work, as part of a murder-suicide. It's a horiffying reminder of the fact that homicide is the second-leading cause of death of women in the workplace. The victim, Rebecca Griego, had obtained a restraining order against her stalker, and had warned people in her workplace that he'd been threatening her, but even doing everything right wasn't enough.

There was also upsetting news from Moscow this weekend - a UI senior was found shot dead in his apartment on Saturday night, and his death is being investigated as a homicide.

It's been difficult to read the newspapers around here lately, and my sympathy is with these victims' loved ones.

The hilarious demise of John McCain

For my part, I don't beleive I've seen nearly enough ridicule of John McCain's heavily-guarded (including 100 soldiers and two helicopters!) shopping outing in Baghdad this weekend. "Signs of progress" my foot.
You'd think he'd at least have the foresight to keep his bulletproof vest underneath his clothes. I can't even imagine what he was thinking.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Today's blog hero

...appears to be Alanis Morissette. Be sure to watch the video, but I'm also going to take this as an excuse to link to one of the best essays I've ever read, from a few years back at Salon.
But then her video for "Thank U" came out, and there she was, standing naked in the street, singing, "How 'bout getting off of these antibiotics?" She was making it so easy for us to hate her, for everyone to hate her. The bestselling female artist in years, looking pasty. Heavy in the hips. Awkward. Why didn't she wear more make-up, or change her hair or use a body double? How could she do this to herself, expose herself like this, set herself up to be ripped apart ruthlessly?
Read it.

Poverty sure is funny

This isn't funny. I'm looking at you, Andrew Sullivan. An uncomfortable plane ride (something I generally can't afford anyway) is not a good analogy to dying of complications from diabetes because your minimum wage job doesn't offer health insurance and you can't afford your insulin, while rich jackasses make light of your demise over an afternoon drink or two.

They're here, they don't drink beer, get used to it.

Today's NYT has a great story about British Muslims' fight for religious freedom in England, with the distressingly and increasingly common theme of neighborhoods resisting the establishment of mosques. Watching the way Europe and Canada have handled their growing Muslim populations encroaching on their nominally Christian culture has been interesting, but mostly depressing. On the one hand, we have seen Canada flirting with enforcing Sharia in its courts, and on the other, France banning headscarves in public schools. It seems like no matter what these countries do, they take the wrong approach. Me, I'd look to places like - say - the Constitution for direction in situations like these. Freedom of expression - religious or otherwise - is a closely-guarded right in this country. Keep the headscarves. The Constitution lays out rights for all Americans, and doesn't make exceptions for religious traditions. Screw Sharia. Am I missing something, or shouldn't it be that simple?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Shape of Water


Tonight I had the chance to see The Shape of Water, a film about female activists in the third world. The director, an academic who studies development in the third world, set out to make a film that showed how women around the world are standing up for their dignity and survival, in their own ways and within their own cultures. (She was also at the screening, which was pretty neat.) There's much that inspires in this movie and much that breaks your heart - five groups of women living in poverty have their work cut out for them to simply survive, let alone fight forces like multinational corporations and thousand-year-old traditions.

I was very struck by the sensitivity expressed in these groups' approaches to their problems. A Senegalese activist group speaking out against female genital cutting not only hosted movie viewings and public discussions about the issue, but reached out to those who actually relied on performing the procedure as a livelihood by finding alternative sources of income. And they were not afraid to go head-to-head with the people who disagree with them; one of the most interesting moments in the film involved a young man toting a cell phone and wearing a Nike t-shirt arguing to the women that they needed to remain loyal to their African customs and not be so quick to embrace white Western culture.

It takes someone with an understanding of where the custom comes from and why it persists to begin to approach ending it. News stories about FGM and honor killings and other practices that Western readers can't begin to understand portray them as arising out of a vacuum - being an expression of pure evil. But there's no such thing as pure evil; there's a reason for everything people do, even if the reasons are based on misunderstandings or lies or wishful thinking. The Shape of Water gracefully shows that making culture-wide change is more complicated than just asking people to stop.

Liberal Wine-ing


8 liberals + 8 bottles of wine = a fun Saturday night.

Catholic Hospitals: there when you need them the least

Via Feministe, there's an excellent (read: horrifying) confluence of disinformation, religious meddling, and sexual moralizing that's making life harder for rape victims in Connecticut.
Last year, Mansell directed Connecticut's Catholic hospitals not to prescribe Plan B if a rape victim is ovulating or an egg has been fertilized. Roman Catholics believe life begins at conception.
Also:
Laura Cordes, policy and advocacy director for Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, said her organization has offered a compromise this year that would require a pregnancy test before Plan B is administered. The drug would not be given to anyone with a positive test. She said Catholic officials in New Jersey and New York agreed to such a provision.
So, let's review how emergency contraception works: it has been shown to a) prevent ovulation, and b) prevent fertilization of an egg. There is the possibility that it will prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus, thus preventing pregnancy (and causing an event that occurs with 5 out of 6 fertilized eggs in the first place) but this has not been shown to be true. It cannot affect an ongoing pregnancy.

So if a rape victim mistakenly darkens the emergency room door of a Catholic hospital in Connecticut, she may be tested for pregnancy, and unless she was pregnant before the rape occurred, be assured of a negative result (given the inability of a pregnancy test to detect pregnancy at such an early stage). So far so good, I guess, but certainly a waste of time.

She may also be tested for ovulation. If the test returns as positive, the EC may still have a chance to prevent fertilization of a released egg, but will be denied EC because of the unproven and even if possible, statistically unlikely, risk that implantation will be prevented (and thus pregnancy). If it is negative, EC will still be administered.

This is exactly why it's important to continue to disseminate information about how emergency contraception actually works and why all women - even women who choose to have sex - need access to it. Whether through rape or forced pregnancy, women are being punished for animating bodies that others wish to control. Our bodies are losing out to disinformation spread by social conservatives with an anti-woman agenda. If feminists won't stand up for them, who will?