Thursday, November 15, 2012

Obama's "gifts" to actual people undermines Republicans, corporate "people" lose election

The New York Times and Los Angeles Times were allowed to listen in on a conference call Romney had with his fund-raisers post-election:
In a conference call with fund-raisers and donors to his campaign, Mr. Romney said Wednesday afternoon that the president had followed the “old playbook” of using targeted initiatives to woo specific interest groups — “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”
“In each case, they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mr. Romney said, contrasting Mr. Obama’s strategy to his own of “talking about big issues for the whole country: military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth.”
Mr. Romney’s comments in the 20-minute conference call came after his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, told WISC-TV in Madison on Monday that their loss was a result of Mr. Obama’s strength in “urban areas,” an analysis that did not account for Mr. Obama’s victories in more rural states like Iowa and New Hampshire or the decrease in the number of votes for the president relative to 2008 in critical urban counties in Ohio.
“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift,” Mr. Romney said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”

The president’s health care plan, he said, was also a useful tool in mobilizing black and Hispanic voters. Though Mr. Romney won the white vote with 59 percent, according to exit polls, minorities coalesced around the president in overwhelming numbers: 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics.
“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity — I mean, this is huge,” Mr. Romney said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”
This dude is so friggin' clueless. All of these "gifts" are policies to help people enter and remain in the middle class. They are all designed to provide security to people so that they can become and remain productive members of our economy.

And wow it's great to hear him finally say that women are a specific interest group. We knew he thought so. Free contraceptives, woo! Here's a clue, Mitt: it's not only college-age sluts who are using contraceptives. Some women actually engage in this thing called family planning that allows them to optimally care for their families. Also, let me make a correction: the contraceptives are not free, they are covered 100% by the insurance that is either paid for or earned by an economically productive member of society.

And sure, let's just kick young people out of the health insurance market when their parents are willing and able to cover them until they are gainfully employed. It's not like college grads are having a hard time finding salaried positions with good benefits or anything. Let's just let them run around uninsured so that they wait until they are half-dead to drag their penniless asses to the ER to get super-expensive treatment for completely manageable health issues.

And why should all of those bums making only $35K a year get any help purchasing health insurance? Obviously they are lazy assholes who refuse to take responsibility for their own lives and are simply waiting for the gubment to take care of them. It's not like it's hard work to make $35K a year or anything. If they are so lame they can't even pay for unexpected  medical expenses then, well, I don't know I guess we should let them go bankrupt and lose their homes die in the gutters or something.

And those Dream Act kids? HA! Who cares that we spent 12 years and an untold amount of taxpayer money to educate them? Who cares that they are college-educated or have mastered a skilled trade or are willing to defend and serve this country that doesn't even want them? We shouldn't allow them to participate in our economy as productive, tax-paying individuals! We should make them constantly fear for their own livelihoods! They should fear deportation to a country that they may not even remember and that may not truly accept them because they are American!

Republicans have been so obsessed with lowering taxes and decreasing regulations on business because they say that uncertainty prevents growth. Not knowing what unexpected expenses or requirements may pop up causes businesses to proceed cautiously with plans to hire and expand. Well, Obama's so-called “gifts” to “special-interest groups” seek to create certainty in the economic lives of people. If you can educate yourself without fear of eternal debt, care for your health without fear of bankruptcy, take care of and earn a living for your family without pricing yourself out of daycare or even out of your own house, and fully contribute to our economy without fear of authorities, then you have a much greater degree of economic security. This could lead us into discussion on whether economy is driven by many individuals each contributing their talents and efforts, or whether it is driven by a few select individuals in some Ayn Rand-ian manner.

I suppose what it comes down to is the idea, espoused by Romney and others, that “corporations are people.” I personally disagree with this notion. But regardless of my own beliefs, even if corporations are indeed “people,” as proponents of corporate personhood would have us believe, corporate “people” should not take precedence over people “people.” Unfortunately, that’s what the Republican party has become. They are the party of corporate “people,” whereas the Democratic party is that of people “people.” This election has demonstrated that it doesn’t matter how strong corporate “people” are, how much money they pour into PACs, how they threaten the jobs of their employees, how much they fear-monger via preferred news outlets, or how many “poll” results they pull out of their asses. If the people “people” are sick and tired and riled up, they will go out there and they will vote and the will of the people “people” can indeed overpower that of corporate “people.” Now, if we can just motivate the people “people” more often, we will probably be even better off…

Monday, November 12, 2012

Post-Election Roundup

Okay, it's not really a roundup, it's just a place to dump interesting post-election stuff I happen to run into. It is by no means comprehensive. I will probably add to it as I come across more.

By Maureen Dowd in the New York Times:

Team Romney has every reason to be shellshocked. Its candidate, after all, resoundingly won the election of the country he was wooing.
Mitt Romney is the president of white male America.
Romney and Tea Party loonies dismissed half the country as chattel and moochers who did not belong in their “traditional” America. But the more they insulted the president with birther cracks, the more they tried to force chastity belts on women, and the more they made Hispanics, blacks and gays feel like the help, the more these groups burned to prove that, knitted together, they could give the dead-enders of white male domination the boot.
Romney was still running in an illusory country where husbands told wives how to vote, and the wives who worked had better get home in time to cook dinner. But in the real country, many wives were urging husbands not to vote for a Brylcreemed boss out of a ’50s boardroom whose party was helping to revive a 50-year-old debate over contraception.

By David Brooks in the New York Times:
During the 2012 campaign, Republicans kept circling back to the spot where government expansion threatens personal initiative: you didn’t build that; makers versus takers; the supposed dependency of the 47 percent. Again and again, Republicans argued that the vital essence of the country is threatened by overweening government.
These economic values played well in places with a lot of Protestant dissenters and their cultural heirs. They struck chords with people whose imaginations are inspired by the frontier experience.
But, each year, there are more Americans whose cultural roots lie elsewhere. Each year, there are more people from different cultures, with different attitudes toward authority, different attitudes about individualism, different ideas about what makes people enterprising.
More important, people in these groups are facing problems not captured by the fundamental Republican equation: more government = less vitality.
The Pew Research Center does excellent research on Asian-American and Hispanic values. Two findings jump out. First, people in these groups have an awesome commitment to work. By most measures, members of these groups value industriousness more than whites.
Second, they are also tremendously appreciative of government. In survey after survey, they embrace the idea that some government programs can incite hard work, not undermine it; enhance opportunity, not crush it.
Moreover, when they look at the things that undermine the work ethic and threaten their chances to succeed, it’s often not government. It’s a modern economy in which you can work more productively, but your wages still don’t rise. It’s a bloated financial sector that just sent the world into turmoil. It’s a university system that is indispensable but unaffordable. It’s chaotic neighborhoods that can’t be cured by withdrawing government programs.

The New Civil Rights Movement points tells of 22 states filing petitions to secede the U.S. Of course you know good ol' Texas is on the list. The Texas petition reads:
Peacefully grant the State of Texas to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government.
The US continues to suffer economic difficulties stemming from the federal government's neglect to reform domestic and foreign spending. The citizens of the US suffer from blatant abuses of their rights such as the NDAA, the TSA, etc. Given that the state of Texas maintains a balanced budget and is the 15th largest economy in the world, it is practically feasible for Texas to withdraw from the union, and to do so would protect it's citizens' standard of living and re-secure their rights and liberties in accordance with the original ideas and beliefs of our founding fathers which are no longer being reflected by the federal government.
As of Nov 12 at 1:54 pm, there are 23,401 signatures. If petition has 25,000 signatures within 30 days, a member of the executive branch must respond to it. Let me respond for them: "Good luck securing your border!"

blue milk links to a couple of articles worthy of contemplation.

Ken Rudin of Political Junkie has a good summary of the whole election.
Obama finished with 332 electoral votes — 62 more than the 270 needed to put him over the top. (Romney received 206.)
And what accounts for this result? According to leaders of the Tea Party and others on the right, the reason why the GOP suffered on Nov. 6 is because Romney was too moderate.
Hahahaha! Um, I think not. He goes on to illustrate all of the crappy teabaggers that lost in the Senate race, then points out (much like everyone else) the demographic shift that is underway:
Obama won women by 11 points. He took 71 percent of Latinos, 73 percent of Asians, 93 percent of blacks. Sixty percent of voters under 30. Once upon a time, winning the white vote by a 61-39 percentage — as Romney did — would be enough for victory. Those days may be gone.
And of course there's the fact that Romney was just an incredibly weak candidate:
In the eyes of many, there never was the sense of who the authentic Mitt Romney really was. It was a problem for him when he squared off against his fellow Republicans and it was a problem in the fall. It wasn't that he was too moderate, or too conservative. It was a question of which was the real Romney.

Romney's defeat and the amazingly dramatic response to it by his supporters has prompted the formation of White People Mourning Romney, where you can see pictures of Republicans looking sad, horrified, and utterly defeated when the election results were in. Awesome.

And here you can see the 20 best Obama Memes, and celebrate that we have four more years to inspire even more awesomeness.

This guy Eric Garland wrote a "Letter to a future Republican strategist regarding white people." Hilarious while also sadly true.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cranky Fat Feminist's Cranky Rant Summarizes My Thoughts Exactly

This cranky rant from Cranky Fat Feminist on UniteWomen handily summarizes my thoughts on the GOP's policy stances regarding my personal bodily autonomy. The whole thing is good, especially this part:
“Life begins at conception.” Did you learn in your health/sex ed class that its quite common for eggs to be fertilized but simply fail to implant in the lining of the woman’s uterus? So then is the woman a murderer for failing to have the perfect uterus for that particular egg to implant in?
I've had a similar thought myself: Should I have a funeral every time my period is a week late?

When I graduated college, I was no longer covered by my parents' health insurance. I turned to Planned Parenthood for birth control in the months between graduating and finding a salaried position with benefits. Under ObamaCare, I would not have been kicked off my parents' plan. I could have stayed on several more months until I had an employer-provided plan. Under a Ryan/Romney government, not only would I be kicked off my parents' plan upon graduation, but I also would no longer have Planned Parenthood available as an alternative. I would have been SOL. These assholes refuse to acknowledge that these programs allow people to fully realize their economic potential and become productive members of our economy. They prevent us from becoming dependent on government, not the other way around.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

To learn about the CPRIT scandal, start here

Here is a starting point for researching the CPRIT / UT funding scandal. It's in Nature newsblog item entitled Texas cancer institute to re-review controversial grant. It's kind of old (from May of this year) but is a good overview and has many links.
The Texas cancer world has been rocked by controversy since the 8 May resignation of Alfred Gilman, a Nobel laureate and chief scientific officer at the US$3-billion, taxpayer-funded Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) in Austin.
In leaving, Gilman cited his concerns about an $18-million “incubator” grant speedily awarded in March, without scientific review, to a team at the Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS) at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Gilman left UT Southwestern to go work for CPRIT.

UPDATE 11/28/12:
Houston Chronicle reports that Jerry Cobbs, the cheif commercialization officer at CPRIT, has resigned.
Cobbs also tried, in March, to slow down the fast-track approval process for the largest grant awarded by the cancer agency.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

KGOY: Kids Getting Older Younger

Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies' facebook page linked some things I'd like to think about. One was a link to the Media Education Foundation, which made a documentary called Consuming Kids: the Commercialization of Childhood. The documentary is an hour long. I'm not sure if this is available online, but I'd like to see if I can get it on Netflix. It was discussed in a blog post (eats shoots 'n leaves) that compares corporate grooming of chidren to be consumers to that of pedophiles. The blog points out that the U.S. is the only nation that has deregulated advertising to children (ah, yes we can thank our Republican golden boy Ronald Reagan for that one, too.) That post refers to previous post of the same blog discussing a loss of empathy among college students over the past 30 years. The latter post says that questions regarding the loss of empathy issue are basically answered in the documentary. The loss of empathy study is discussed in Scientific American, as well. Finally, PPBB links a news video about what marketers call "KGOY," or Kids Getting Older Younger. It is from 2004, in the height of the midriff-baring tank-top fashion phase. I'm really happy that long shirts and layers have come back into fashion.

In the past couple of weeks, my daughter has made the movie character/product marketing connection. We were in the store looking at Band-aids, and she saw some with Cars on them. But to her they weren't Cars, she didn't know about the movie, to her they were just cars. We got them because she liked them. Later that weekend, we decided to watch a movie, and we thought, hey, since we got the Band-aids we can watch the movie. Her brain instantly made the connection. She's big on both bandages and TV (meaning DVDs or Netflix, mind you) right now. Since then she has gotten a Woody drinking cup and become famililar with Toy Story. Yesterday in the grocery store, she stopped cold in front of a display of Disney-themed coloring books, enamored by the Cars book. I thought to myself, when she becomes familiar with all of the characters on display in that rack, we are going to be in trouble. The marketing machine is amazing and it catches you when you least expect it.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Science faculty's subtle gender biases favor male students": My synopsis of a study in PNAS

I came across a scATX blog post about an article in Inside Higher Ed discussing a new PNAS study that empirically demonstrates a bias against women among science faculty. The IHE article was a decent overview of the study. A blog post in Scientific American was actually a much better summary, and it addressed in clear terms what makes the study unique and why it is important.

Here is my summary of the PNAS paper "Science faculty's subtle gender biases favor male students."

The PNAS paper begins by noting the U.S. will be faced with a deficit of scientists and engineers in the next decade. The number of women pursuing higher science education has certainly increased over the years, but "there is a persistent disparity between the number of women receiving PhDs and those hired as junior faculty." Translation: women are getting their PhDs and jumping the academic ship. Why?

Biological differences in ability between the sexes have been disproven. So, study has focused on lifestyle choices and preference. Perhaps women have other things they'd prefer to focus on than pursuing an extremely demanding position. Perhaps they are more interested in non-science disciplines. Perhaps they take on more caregiving responsibilities than their male counterparts. How do you prove any of this? You can't prove it, you can only demonstrate a correlation. The fact that you can't prove or disprove what made a woman choose a particular career path has led some to conclude that there is no bias in science, the gender gap exists as a result of choice or preference. (snort)
"Past studies indicate that people's behavior is shaped by implicit or unintended biases, stemming from repeated exposure to pervasive cultural stereotypes that portray women as less competent but simultaneously emphasize their warmth and likeability compared with men."
Are academic researchers objective individuals that are above bias? Or are they, as some research demonstrates, "people who value their objectivity and fairness [who] are particularly likely to fall prey to biases, in part because they are not on guard against subtle bias?" The authors provide a long list of evidence favoring the argument for sexism in science, including "science is robustly male-stereotyped," inequitable resource distribution among sexes, perception of unequal treatment, and bias presence in other fields. They also point to studies demonstrating women are perceived as more likeable but less competent, but note that these studies utilized undergraduate students and not faculty members.

In this study, the subjects were faculty members chosen to lend "a high degree of ecological validity and generalizability" to the results, meaning they were chosen in a manner to make them representative of research academia at large. The subjects were each provided with an undergraduate student's application for a lab manager position and asked to evaluate the student. The "student" in fact did not exist, and faculty members each evaluated identical applications, with the exception that half had a male name and half had a female name. Let me clarify: research science faculty evaluated job candidates with identical GPAs, research experience, student statements, and faculty recommendations... the applications were COMPLETELY IDENTICAL in every way EXCEPT the sex of the applicant.

The authors sought not only to demonstrate the existence of sexual bias, but also to define its "mechanisms and consequences within academic science." They chose the lab manager position because it is typically the route by which undergraduates move into graduate studies. Faculty test subjects evaluated the applicant's perceived competence, their hireability (in terms of salary offerred), and whether they were deserving of faculty mentoring.

The rating for these three measures (competence, hireability, and mentoring) was scaled from 1 to 7. The authors also administered the Modern Sexism Scale, which "measures unintentional negativity towards women, as contrasted with the more blatant form of conscious hostility toward women." The authors did all kinds of statistical analyses on the responses.

The results?
"Our results revealed that both male and female faculty judged a female student to be less competent and less worthy of being hired than an identical male student, and also offered her a smaller starting salary and less career mentoring."
All of the author's hypotheses proved true. Women are viewed as less competent, but more likeable than men. They are also afforded less mentorship and offered less money. These results are true regardless of the gender of the faculty member. This tells us that female faculty members are biased and don't even know it. There is a distinct and measurable difference in opportunities awarded to aspiring scientists based solely on their sex, and those faculty providing those opportunities are not even aware of it.
"The fact that faculty members' bias was independent of their gender, scientific discipline, age, and tenure status suggests that it is unlikely intentional, generated from widespread cultural stereotypes rather than a conscious intention to harm women."
So, if a group of people who pride themselves on their objective thinking can be influenced by negative gender stereotypes, is there any doubt that folks who are decidedly NOT objective thinkers exhibit, at minimum, a subtle sexism? (I'm talking to you, politicians. yes, even the lady-politicians.)

So what's the good news? The good news is that we now have empirical evidence demonstrating a clear effect that gender bias has in the world of science. Many folks who poo-poo'd the anecdotal and correlational evidence in the past may realize hey, wow, this really is an issue. Many faculty members might be encouraged to re-evaluate how they perceive potential students and employees. From Ilana Yurkiewicz in Scientific American:
"Certainly, some gender bias in the workplace still takes the form of blatant misogyny. But a large portion of it does not. It’s subtle. It’s subconscious. And many people who perpetrate it, if only made aware of what they are doing, would want to change."
Awareness is the first step if we are to change the culture. This study is the first big step in the right direction. The authors note that the next logical step is to evaluate the effectiveness of education about gender bias in science, noting that similar educational programs have been effective in combating subtle, underlying racial biases.

All quotes are from the original paper cited below, except for the quote attributed to Yurkiewicz. Citation below copied from PubMed.

Science faculty's subtle gender biases favor male students.
Moss-Racusin CA, Dovidio JF, Brescoll VL, Graham MJ, Handelsman J.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Sep 17. [Epub ahead of print]

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sh*t Hits the Fan for Mittens

There are many things that I'd like to blog about (or at least call attention to so I can look back on things later), but usually I put it off until something pushes the buttons just right. This week the shit hit the fan, at least for Mitt Romney.

Yesterday, Mother Jones published several short video clips secretly filmed while Romney was hosting a fundraising dinner. They basically confirmed what we have suspected all along: Mittens is completely out of touch with American society, and sees the electorate not as a diverse group of individuals whom he would represent, but as basically haves and have-nots. Oversimplified take-home lessons from these clips:

  1. Half of the electorate is a bunch of shiftless deadbeats that will never vote for him because they are waiting for the government to send them their check
  2. The things that animate Democratic and Independent voters are completely different from those that animate Republican voters. They are this whole other species that must be demystified so they can be wooed into voting republican. Oh, and they plan to make up lies to do this wooing
  3. Members of his campaign team worked for Netanyahu (Isreali Prime Minister), and know "which ads work" (presumably the false ones).
  4. He doesn't think the electorate will engage with highly intellectual subject material, which is why his campaign is devoid of any real substance. Because we are too stupid to be interested or factor it into our voting decision.
  5. He predicts markets will pick up if he is elected, and if Obama is re-elected he predicts doom.
So, yeah, basically what we've suspected all along. He thinks we are all losers. Yesterday evening Romney gave a press conference and looked pretty darn disheveled. His eyes are all crazy and he didn't get his hair done quite right. Although I must give him credit, it was the first time I thought he was actually saying what he thought and believed (well, except for the video prompting the conference to begin with...). Basically he stuck with what he said, though acknowledged he did not put it elegantly, encouraged the anonymous source to release the full video, and peppered in a few "of course I want what's best for the American people"s.

The Obama camp responded via Twitter contrasting Romney's disdain for half the population with Obama's vow to be everybody's president. Their Tumblr posted a map of the U.S. and a pair of scissors, asking Romney to cut out the 47% of the country that doesn't matter. In and interview with David Letterman, Obama reiterated his vow to be everybody's president, not just to the folks that voted for him. And on and on.

Today Mother Jones posted the full version of the video. I listened to most of it but was otherwise occupied so didn't quite catch all of it. It didn't sound like the previously posted clips were cut to be taken out of context, they pretty much summed up the content. There was a considerable amount of foreign policy talk, including his thoughts on why there can never be an Israeli-Palestinian peace. He basically sounds like his take on foreign policy is to be a big bully. A lot of it was more on the subjects in the early clips. At one point, a guest asks why he isn't pressing the issues discussed at the dinner in his campaign. Also, he referred to the Hispanic voting block and black voting block, as if race/ethnicity is the one defining factor of your personal experience and political philosophy, and of course when referring to women he spoke of their kids, because hey if you are a woman without kids then you aren't even worth consideration. 

Romney did appear on Fox news today, but I haven't been able to watch the interview. Also, his campaign is pointing at a video of Obama discussing wealth redistribution, which they say contrasts their philosophy. The speech was made in 1998. As in, fourteen years ago. The most damning thing they could find on Obama is fourteen years old? Interestingly, New Civil Rights Movement points out that this video was "uploaded today to YouTube by someone who opened their YouTube account today, and has uploaded only that video. (Gee… Who could that be?)"

Many think it's the end of the road for Romney. I know I do. Josh Barro at Bloomburg proclaims that "Today, Mitt Romney Lost the Election." And David Brooks at NYT lists the many ways Mittens is out of touch and says that "he’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign." Pretty bad for a conservative to say.

PS Listen to the very beginning of the recording, where Mittens discusses how smooth Obama thinks he is, and how that is supposedly expected to win over our enemies, and how Obama carries a small stick but Romney will carry a big stick.... I swear this man has a small dick and is envious of Obama's presumably large black dick. A little insecure there, Mittens? LOL

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Two Tenets of Reproductive Autonomy

Due to recent efforts to roll back women's reproductive autonomy, I've pondered all of the involved issues on a level I never had before. I've distilled my thoughts down to two basic tenets:

  1. A woman should never be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy.
  2. Consent to sex is NOT consent to pregnancy.
End of story. Take any anti-choice argument and apply the above. Case dismissed. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Willke: Raped Women are Uptight, Spastic, and Emotional

In an earlier post, I inquired of Rep. Akin, "what are these mystical powers that a woman's body has to prevent impregnation in the event of rape? And what doctors told you this?" Well I've learned the answer to that.

NY Times states that one Dr. John C. Willke seems to be a major proponent of the absurd idea that rape will not result in pregnancy. Why? Because
“This is a traumatic thing — she’s, shall we say, she’s uptight,” Dr. Willke said of a woman being raped, adding, “She is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic.”
Ooooohhh I get it... she's uptight. Like, if she wasn't so damn uptight then maybe you wouldn't have to forcefully take it from her. Her tubes are spastic, like she's spastic right now because you have to take it from her because she is so damn uptight in the first place. 

An article written by this quack describes how the physical trauma of rape prevents pregnancy:
"To get and stay pregnant a woman's body must produce a very sophisticated mix of hormones. Hormone production is controlled by a part of the brain that is easily influenced by emotions. There's no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape. This can radically upset her possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing of a pregnancy."
You know how women are, they are so damn emotional. Any little thing will just send them over the top and mess up all their hormones, preventing pregnancy or, in the event of pregnancy, prevent them from nurturing that pregnancy. Whatever the hell that is supposed to mean.

This article was cited by one homophobic Bryan Fischer, supporter of Akin, who was the motivating force behind the resignation of Romney's openly gay national security spokeman, Richard Grenell (the Atlantic). So you KNOW he's a man of upstanding character. I recommend reading Willke's full article. It's simultaneously hilarious and maddening. 

One Dr. Fred Mecklenburg wrote an article in 1972 (yes, 40 years ago) called "The Indications for Induced Abortion: A Physician's Perspective" which was part of a collection of articles comprising the book "Abortion and Social Justice" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch). The article has apparently been the basis of biological knowledge for the anti-choice folks ever since. Interestingly enough, Mecklenburg cites as evidence studies of women subjected to trauma in Nazi death camps. Wow. Sounds like good science to me!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

You Should Read This: Reflections on the Twentieth Anniversary of ‘Planned Parenthood v. Casey.’

ACS law Blog has an essay called Reflections on the Twentieth Anniversary of ‘Planned Parenthood v. Casey.’ It is very informative and I learned a great deal from reading it and doing a little light research on some of the topics mentioned. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey,
"the Justices rooted protection of a woman’s right to reproductive choice, not in a generalized right of privacy as Roe had, but in a woman’s right to bodily integrity, to personal liberty, and to equal citizenship."
Yes! Thank you! This is a conclusion that I have come to, although without this level of eloquence, on my own. Two points in this essay are that
1) "the Constitution affirmatively protects substantive fundamental rights, including rights not explicitly enumerated elsewhere in the Constitution."
2) "our Constitution’s text and history also buttress Casey’s recognition that a woman’s right to reproductive freedom is essential to the Fourteenth Amendment’s promise of equality for all persons. "
I'd love to sit here and spill all of my thoughts into this keyboard, but it's late and I have obligations that require me to be well-rested. Let's just say that the SCOTUS's recent ruling on the ACA, which deferred to precedent, give me hope that this court will continue to defer to precedent. Now we just need to make sure that whomever has the power to appoint the next Justice(s) does so in an honest and non-partisan manner...

Texas Monthly article on the "Climax in Government Intrusion"

Texas monthly discusses what goes down when you use icky words and wave vaginal probes around:

The scene: Sid Miller, sponsor of the 24-hour ultrasound bill, described what is required of doctors by the law. After he spoke, Carol Alvarado took the podium:
“I do not believe that we fully understand the level of government intrusion this bill advocates,” she said tersely. The type of ultrasound necessary for women who are less than eight weeks pregnant is, she explained, “a transvaginal sonogram.” 
Abruptly, many of the mostly male legislators turned their attention to a fascinating squiggle pattern on the carpet, and for a rare moment, the few female legislators on the floor commanded the debate. Representative Ana Hernandez Luna approached the back mike and sweetly asked Alvarado to explain what would happen to a woman undergoing a transvaginal sonogram.
“Well,” Alvarado answered helpfully, “she would be asked by the sonographer to undress completely from the waist down and asked to lie on the exam table and cover herself with a light paper sheet. She would then put her feet in stirrups, so that her legs are spread at a very wide angle, and asked to scoot down the table so that the pelvis is just under the edge.” 
At this point, if there had been thought bubbles floating over the heads of the male legislators, they almost certainly would have been filled with expletives of embarrassment or further commentary on the carpet design.
“What does this vaginal sonogram look like?” Luna asked, ever curious.  
“Well, I’m glad you asked,” Alvarado answered, “because instead of just describing it, I can show you.”
And so the state representative from Houston’s District 145 put both elbows on the lecturn and held up in her clenched fist a long, narrow plastic probe with a tiny wheel at its tip. It looked like some futuristic instrument of torture. “This is the transvaginal probe,” Alvarado explained, pointing it at her colleagues as she spoke, her finger on what looked like a trigger. “Colleagues, this is what we’re talking about. . . . This is government intrusion at its best. We’ve reached a”—she searched for the word—“climax in government intrusion.”
Those who could still focus gaped at Alvarado. No one spoke. The silence seemed to confirm for Alvarado something she had long suspected: most of the men in the House chamber didn’t know the difference between a typical ultrasound—the kind where a technician presses a wand against a pregnant belly and sends the happy couple home with a photo for their fridge—and this. She locked Miller in her sights. “What would a woman undergo in your bill?” she asked. 
Miller seemed confused. “It could be an ultrasound, it could be a sonogram,” he began. “Actually, I have never had a sonogram done on me, so I’m not familiar with the exact procedure—on the medical procedure, how that proceeds.”
“There are two different kinds of sonograms,” Alvarado said, trying again to explain. “The abdominal, which most of our colleagues may think [of as] ‘jelly on the belly’—that is not what would be done here. A woman that is eight to ten weeks pregnant would have a transvaginal procedure.” Miller stammered a response, but Alvarado was not done with him. She continued the grilling for several more minutes, keeping Miller on the ropes with a sustained barrage of icky female anatomy talk. Ultimately, however, the room was stacked against her. 
On March 7 Miller’s bill passed 107–42. 
This is a fantastic article that discusses what went down when the ultrasound bill was in debate, the rise of women to political power in Texas, and the decline in support of public funding for family-planning services. I consider it a must-read.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Why I Don't Want the Law Between Me and my Doctor

Missouri congressman Todd Akin is a shining example of why we don't need lawmakers legislating our medical care. With all this new emphasis on contraception and personhood, politicians feel ever more comfortable opening their mouths and revealing just how little they actually know about reproductive biology and medicine.

Todd Akin, in a TV interview, on his stance against abortion even in the case of rape (from Huffington Post):
"From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," said Akin said of pregnancy caused by rape. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
What?!? Seriously? Do tell, Rep. Akin, what are these mystical powers that a woman's body has to prevent impregnation in the event of rape? And what doctors told you this? Probably the same doctors that qualify for funds in the "pregnancy crisis centers" touted by anti-abortionists in TX.

But wait, there's more (from TPM):
“Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something,” Akin said. “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
This is fantastic. He mentions the rapist and the resulting child, but NOT THE WOMAN WHO WAS RAPED. That's because to Todd Akin, and to the scores of other crusty old male lawmakers, WOMEN ARE INVISIBLE. They don't even factor into the equation. It obviously hasn't occurred to this oblivious asshole that being raped is absolutely horrific, but carrying to term and birthing an unwanted child conceived of the rape will punish the victim for the duration of the pregnancy and longer, possibly for life.

These ridiculously misguided statements come on the heels of a radio interview where he demonstrated his ignorance of the difference between emergency contraception and the abortion pill (from The Raw Story):
“As far as I’m concerned, the morning-after pill is a form of abortion,” he told KCMO’s Greg Knapp, “and I think we shouldn’t have abortion in this country.”
As  Planned Parenthood Missouri Advocates points out
"The fact is that emergency contraception prevents pregnancy. Abortion ends a pregnancy."
And also:
"Representative Todd Akin’s false statement illustrates exactly why politicians should not be meddling in women’s personal medical decisions" 
Why is this guy getting so much press anyway? Because he is the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri. Let's hope that Democrat and women's advocate Clare McCaskill wins that one. In the words of my friend in MO, "Fuck you, Akin!"

(Also, check out the slide show at the bottom of the Huffington Post story, "Lies GOP tells about women's bodies")

More on the Akin flap (8/21/12):

Compares the changing political stance regarding women to that of climate change:

An open letter to Akin from Renee Davis, the National Alliance Director for

Discusses Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) of Missouri and her support for Akin in the Republican primary. I generally disagree with these types of tactics, but wow the implications could be huge. This article makes it seem as though McCaskill ran ads in favor of Akin, whereas another source (I can't remember where I saw it) stated that she ran attack ads against all three Republican contenders, and that the ads against Akin were decidedly less negative. :\

Despite Paul Ryan's support of a personhood amendment, Romney's belief in a rape exception for abortion is the official Republican ticket stance:

However, apparently the GOP platform drawn up in preparation of the RNC includes no exceptions for rape or incest:

Is it terrible to hope tropical storm Isaac hits the RNC in Tampa? Yeah, probably so. 

Surly Thor has Words for Todd Akin LOLZ

Friday, August 10, 2012

Gender Matters in Science

Gender affects the way you are perceived in science. I can see it where I work, and my friend with a PhD in chemistry can attest to this fact firsthand.

The Wall Street Journal tells of Ben Barres, formerly Barbara Barres, and his experience as both a male and a female scientist. The biggest difference, according to Barres:

"People who do not know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect," he says. "I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man."

 Wow. On the flip side is biologist Joan Roughgarden, formerly known as Jonathan:

Jonathan Roughgarden's colleagues and rivals took his intelligence for granted, Joan says. But Joan has had "to establish competence to an extent that men never have to. They're assumed to be competent until proven otherwise, whereas a woman is assumed to be incompetent until she proves otherwise. I remember going on a drive with a man. He assumed I couldn't read a map."

Barres' Nature commentary can been read here. What Barres describes is the end result of "the drip, drip, drip of sexism that is the most harmful to our girls. It is everywhere, and too few people are questioning it." This phrasing was used by Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies when sharing the following photo on facebook:

"It can be easily made by girls students and low grade students"

It's also what Rebecca Hains is trying to avoid when she wants her dentist not to assign gender to her son's teeth and react negatively to any "girl teeth" that may be invading his mouth. Get a clue, dentist!

Thanks to Blue Milk for highlighting Barres' WSJ story, as well as The Mamafesto for the link to Rebecca Hains, and to Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies for sharing the photo. These folks keep the gears turning in my head.

"Stupid Single Women" for Democrats

Okay, I usually try not to pay attention to morons spewing their ignorant, ratings-grabbing drivel on TV, but I just have to vent about this one. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Ann Coulter, described as a “conservative columnist” (meaning I have no familiarity with her work), is promoting the idea that President Obama and the Democratic Party’s voting base is “stupid single women.”

Her words, as transcribed in The Raw Story (I didn’t have time to watch the footage):

“I think it’s probably a good sign that Obama is so desperate just to get the base Democratic voter — stupid single women — to vote for him,” Coulter told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday. “This is good news that he needs to lock up that part of the Democratic vote.”

“He’s trying to get the stupid single women voter, which is the Democratic Party base,” Coulter repeated. “And I would just say to stupid single women voters, your husband will not be able to pay you child support if Obamacare goes through and Obama is re-elected. You are talking about the total destruction of wealth. It is the end of America as we know it.”

“Great, you will get free contraception; you won’t have to pay a $10 co-pay, but it will be the end of America. Think about that!”

First of all, let’s just break this down. Apparently if you are a single woman, you are stupid! I mean come on, only a STUPID woman wouldn’t be MARRIED! Also, apparently ALL single women have kids because, y’know, women are made for birthin’ babies. Now that we’ve established that all single women are stupid and have kids, we progress to the fact that these stupid single women are just sitting around waiting for a child support check, owing to the fact that women aren’t capable of doing work equal to that of men. That must be why Republican Presidential Candidate Romney is reluctant to support the Lilly Ledbetter Act.

These ridiculous comments stem from Sandra Fluke’s introduction of President Obama on the campaign trail in Denver this week. As you may remember, Fluke was publicly attacked by conservative blabbermouth and ratings-grubber Rush Limbaugh for speaking to Congress in support of contraception coverage by health insurance. I hardly think that Fluke qualifies as a “stupid single woman” seeing how she’s a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center. I suppose when strong, well-educated women promote what is right for all Americans, the easiest way to disqualify their voice in the ears of the masses is to attack their character.

Delving deeper, how many women actually buy into this craziness? I think we all know that married women who actually want and love their children still need birth control. Anyone with half a brain in their head and an ounce of compassion realizes that in order to become educated, establish careers, space children so they can be optimally cared for, and limit family size, families (not just women! But whole families! Including men!) benefit from access to adequate means of birth control.

In addition to benefitting individual families, affordable and effective birth control benefits society as a whole. If every child is born into a loving family where they are wanted and cared for, then all children will have a better chance of growing into productive members of our economy. Children who are unwanted and abused, neglected, or living in extreme poverty have a much greater chance of becoming a burden on society as opposed to a productive member of it.

And on a “boy are you a dummy” note: last time I checked, if you are married, you are not single, so I don’t know how single women could be waiting for child support from their husbands.

My thought is that the old white men in charge are scared because at some point they looked up from counting their stacks of money and realized that traditionally oppressed groups are much closer to becoming equals in our society. Of course, it’s not politically correct to attack blacks, so they just attack the president specifically. (In fact, the entire republican platform is “defeat Obama,” with no actual policy having been outlined for once that is done.) It’s not really cool to attack Latinos, seeing how they are perceived as a huge monolithic voting bloc, so they just attack “illegal immigrants.” (Of course, there is no way to tell from looking, just ask Arizona, where you must carry your papers if you are brown.) It’s slightly more acceptable to attack women, mostly because so many women will stand there and back you up (um, Women for Mitt, anyone?). LGBT are still the easiest target, but women seem to be a bigger threat (plus LBGT are still super-oppressed, and a war is on against them to prevent them from gaining civil rights the aforementioned groups already enjoy). So, out of desperate fear stemming from observation of the status quo crumbling around them, older folks of means have tried to roll back gender-equality gains that my generation thought were settled before we were even born.

Two years ago, when my daughter was born, we had just elected our first black president, and a woman was a serious contender for the candidacy. Gays were making progress on the marriage front, and DODT was crumbling. The Dream Act was a brilliant idea that seemed to have potential for becoming law. My thoughts were joyous, I thought to myself, “We made it, I can tell her about how terrible this nation used to be to women, blacks, and many other minorities before she was born, and she will listen wide-eyed and be appalled.” Now it seems like she may have to fight the same battles, only the fight will be even harder because we younger generations don’t even comprehend what it’s like to live with the second-class citizenry being pushed onto women by folks who supposedly are all about “family values.”

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rick Perry Seems to Hate Poor Folks and Women (and especially poor women)

Rick Perry hates poor folks and women (and especially poor women, and extra-especially slutty poor women)

Health and reproductive news here in Texas always leaves me with a combination of "OMGWTF?!?" and "eh, what the heck else should I expect from the good ol' boys club?" Our governor, pride of Aggieland, Rick Perry, has of course declined to expand medicaid as outlined in the recently-approved-by-SCOTUS Affordable Care Act (ACA). That was an obvious one, since they ruled that states actually could not be coerced into the expansion. In the linked article on RH Reality Check, Grimes points out that we have the highest rate of uninsured folks of any state with 25% of our population lacking health insurance. Health policy expert Elena Marks told Grimes that leaving this population uninsured doesn't decrease the cost of their healthcare, it just shifts it to the privately insured population. Apparently, the Texas Medical Association (TMA) says "insured Texas families pay nearly 80 percent more than the national average in premiums to cover the cost of care for the uninsured." (Quote from RHRC piece, link is to TMA page with lots of good info that I haven't had time to check out.)

Wait....WHAT?!? So my ridiculously high-priced premiums, paid partly by me and partly by the UT system, amounts to robbery of my income to pay for uninsured folks' care?!? So we COULD be accepting federal money to try and set up insurance to get these folks preventative services, and instead we are taking money for emergency room visits out of my paycheck?!? Okay, less "meh" and more "OMGWTF" over here.

Let's not forget that this is just the "health" part of the news to which I refer, we haven't covered the "reproductive" part. We have already rejected federal money for the Women's Health Program, specifically so that we could make sure no funds will go to Planned Parenthood. More on that to be found here. Now the Texas Department of Health and Human Services has proposed new rules that not prevents physicians accepting Medicaid from affiliating with abortion providers, they cannot "promote" abortion. As in: they cannot even discuss it with their patients, or provide any information about abortion at all to their patients. So economically disadvantaged women, the ones least likely to have means of caring for an unplanned child, are disproportionately affected by these rules. Of course, they might not find themselves asking about abortion if they had just been able to get into Planned Parenthood for some affordable, effective contraceptives. 

Let's just hope we don't end up like Mississippi. Though the woman running the last clinic there is putting up a good fight. 

Just so we don't end on a sour note.... In happier news, "Melinda Gates Challenges Vatican by Vowing to Improve Contraception." Go on, girl!

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Day in the Life of a SAHM

I work. 40 hours a week, 2-2.5 hours total commute time each day. Work's typically not stressful, I have the flexibility to set my own hours as long as I'm getting things done. (The flexibility went out the window with the kid. My job may be flexible, but daycare is less so. Unless I want to wake up earlier, which I do not.)

Today I was a stay-at-home-mom. Kiddo, age 2, has a fever and diarrhea. Husband's job doesn't offer sick time, only PTO. My job offers sick time and allows me to use it for a sick kiddo. So I try and do sick-kid duty whenever I'm not really busy.

I have total respect for stay-at-home moms. It's not like you can just hang out at home all day, the kids need to see friends and go do different activities. It's not easy to just be present for a toddler all day long, every single day of your life. I love eating my lunch in peace at work. I can't do that at home.

But you know what I can't do at work? Drink a margarita. Yep, that's exactly what I did this afternoon while I was making pasta salad and whipping up a batch of my special hot dog relish for dinner. The other thing I can't do at work is make pasta salad and hot dog relish. During a normal work week, this activity would occur at 9:30 or 10:00 at night, when I'd much prefer to be winding down for bed. Also, when your work is in your home, you don't have to commute at the end of the day. So by about 5:00 this afternoon, I was like "I could totally do this! Much easier than working all day, bookended with commuting, followed by dinner preparation, etc."

Then Husband came home. I asked if he wanted pasta salad? "Yes." And some hot dogs? "I had hot dogs for breakfast." Are you kidding me? Aside from the obvious absurdity of eating hot dogs for breakfast, I spent a significant amount of time preparing this damn relish. On top of that, I waited for his late ass to get home before we ate dinner, so we could eat as a family.

Never mind this SAHM stuff, I'm going back to work.

Update: Poor kiddo was sick the next day, then even sicker the next. Spent the whole week out of daycare due to fever and barfing (luckily the diarrhea subsided for the most part.)

Science: A Girl Thing?

Wow. Gee I wonder why we can't get more women into STEM fields? The European Commission is trying to lure women into science with this horrible campaign. Brought to my attention by this article via PPBB facebook page. I'm assuming the gist of it is summed up in the video featured in the article, because I haven't had time to investigate the actual campaign page. But there you have it, it was such a turn-off that I haven't even looked at it. Way to go, Europe, good thing I already have a career in science, or I might not even consider one after seeing your video.  :-/

For the record, science is NOT a girl thing. There are plenty of women in science, but tenured positions have many less females than males (at least in our department). So, if any girl actually DOES fall for this drivel, she may be surprised when she gets to graduate school and finds she has less female faculty mentors than male.

Sheesh. SMH.

Update: Campaign website has Q&A about the video clip. Essentially, the EC hired external contractors to do focus studies to find out what attracts teenage girls' attention. You know, kind of like how Lego did focus studies to find out what type of Lego products to market to girls. Maybe today's teenage girls have a narrow focus on fashion and makeup due to all of the girly crap that's been shoved down their throats their whole lives.

U.S. Census Bureau asks "Who's Minding the Kids?"

Did you know that the U.S. Census Bureau automatically assigns the title of "Designated Parent" to the mother in two-parent households? Article about it here, study published here. (I've only skimmed the first page of the study as of now.) Furthermore, the way they report parenting among fathers and mothers is different.

If mom goes to work and dad stays home with the kids, mom is still the "designated parent," despite the fact that dad likely handles all of the day-to-day little stuff of parenting. This is insulting to dad, who likely is more in tune with who likes to eat what at a given time, what the newest favorite habits are, and what will trigger or diffuse a tantrum.

Furthermore, dad's care of the kids while mom is at work is considered a "childcare arrangement." You know, like daycare or school would be reported. Okay, fair enough. But when dad works and mom stays home? Is that a childcare arrangement? Nope. Apparently that's just what's expected to happen. Despite the fact that most women had a job or career before staying home with the kids, mom's care of children is not a "childcare arrangement." Insulting to mom, as her parenting isn't even reported, despite the fact that it is in reality a "childcare arrangement" (I doubt most women would be sitting at home not working if they didn't have kids to mind). Insulting to dad, as his parenting is considered unequal to that of mom's, and could be considered "babysitting" according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

From K J Dell'Antonia:
That bears repeating. If, every morning, I go off to work and my husband stays home with a child, that’s a “child care arrangement” in the eyes of this governmental institution. If the reverse is true, it’s not. I asked Ms. Laughlin if the Census Bureau collected data on the hours mothers spend offering “work support” to their husbands. “No,” she said. “We don’t report it in that direction.”
If we are to ever change the way that businesses and governments look at parents, families, and their relationship to the workplace, we need to at least collect statistics in a manner that reflects our modern reality. We need to purge these 1950's-era ideas about what a family is "supposed" to be.