Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kathleen Parker Wrote Something Pro-Women? Gasp.

Kathleen Parker usually carries the anti-feminist bucket for the wingnut boyz but this time she has written a pretty critical piece about the misogyny of the Republican Party base. She gets hate-mail from woman-haters, too, I guess.

Still, at the end of her piece she tries to salvage her party:
But Republicans are waging war on women only if you believe that the morality of abortion should never be questioned or if you believe the federal government can order people to pay for something that violates their conscience. These issues are not so simple, nor are Republicans simpletons for trying to protect the unborn or challenging what they view as government overreach.
Duh and duh.

First, the government orders people All The Time to pay for something that violates their conscience! I pay taxes and taxes are used to finance wars and killings I do not support. I pay taxes and Rush Limbaugh gets paid to ship his crappy opinions to the US armed forces abroad. I have no say over that.

Second, the Republicans, wherever they dominate the states, are not just "questioning" the morality of abortion! They are inventing more and more humiliating ways to turn pregnant women into mere aquaria for egg-Americans.

The Republican pundits are not having erudite and thoughtful conversations about abortion, women in powerful positions and so on. They are all like Rush Limbaugh, albeit in somewhat diluted or disguised forms.

Indeed, being a sexist is a job requirement in the right-wing media. There are sexists on both sides of the aisle and I have criticized them in the past and will again in the future. And yes, Bill Maher is a major league level sexist.

But the liberal pundits are not required to be anti-feminist, for instance. The conservative pundits are, and the Republican Party itself is dedicated to making sure that women cannot gain equality. Thus, however bad the Democrats are when it comes to women's rights (and they are bad enough), they win these kinds of fights without even trying, simply because the alternative is Taliban American Style.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan. Men Are Fundamental, Women Secondary.

So Islamic religious scholars, all men, tell Afghan women:
The Afghan government was ‘too busy' for International Women's Day on March 8th, so it postponed official acknowledgement until the 11th. It was not a great moment to celebrate, anyway. A week earlier a council of religious scholars - the Ulema Council - published guidance that declared "men are fundamental and women are secondary."  It called for women to travel with mahrams (male escorts), and to avoid mixing with men in offices, markets and educational facilities. The statement also said that beating a woman is only permissible with a "Shariah-compliant reason."
The Council's edicts have no legal standing, and were not unprecedented from this conservative body. What was more troubling was that the Office of the President published the statement, and President Hamid Karzai appeared to endorse it, by telling reporters that it was "in accordance with a Sharia view of our country, which all Muslims and Afghans are committed to."  With women activists already anxious about the potential impact of deals with the Taliban, Karzai's words served as a sobering reminder of his poor track record on women's rights. 

That's all cleared up then.

The rest of the linked article has a few spots of light among all the horrors:
After the Ulema Council published their statement, I spoke with several women's rights activists in Kabul. They were dismayed, but immediately turned to strategizing about the most pragmatic means of responding. Afghanistan now has a generation of women activists who have earned a quiet confidence born of successive achievements.  But if a deal with the Taliban is to avoid dramatically shrinking their space, it will require leadership from a president with the courage to recognize them as his equals.
These events in Afghanistan show an extremely condensed and explicit form of a particular prejudice, the idea of women as the second sex, the helpmeet sex, the sex which should be silent, modest, chaste and biddable. But a kinder and gentler form of that same prejudice is well and alive among all religious fundamentalists.

Heh. I only just realized that they might be called religious fundamentalists because they believe men are the fundamental sex!

Friday, March 09, 2012

A Personhood Amendment for Women

Corporations now have personhood (though only when it's good for them) and many want egg-Americans to have personhood, too.

Melissa offers a personhood amendment for the aquaria of egg-Americans women.

Calling All Lawyers: Is Lying To Pregnant Women OK in Arizona?

I've started doing some research on the wrongful birth laws which are valid in several states, given that Kansas now seems to be trying to make it AOK for physicians to withhold health information from pregnant women if that information could lead them to choose to abort the embryo or fetus. "AOK" here refers to the fact that the proposal would rule out later malpractice suits in most cases.

Arizona has just passed an apparently similar law:
Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona:
Section 1.  Title 12, chapter 6, article 12, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended by adding section 12-718, to read:
12-718.  Civil liability; wrongful birth, life or conception claims; application
A.  A person is not liable for damages in any civil action for wrongful birth based on a claim that, but for an act or omission of the defendant, a child or children would not or should not have been born.
B.  A person is not liable for damages in any civil action for wrongful life based on a claim that, but for an act or omission of the defendant, the person bringing the action would not or should not have been born.
C.  This section applies to any claim regardless of whether the child is born healthy or with a birth defect or other adverse medical condition. 
D.  This section does not apply to any civil action for damages for an intentional or grossly negligent act or omission, including an act or omission that violates a criminal law.

The part I bolded is the one I don't understand. What is "an intentional omission" in this context? Could a physician refuse to tell crucial test results to a patient and get away with it? Or is this law just about unintentional omissions? If so, how is "unintentional" defined?

The appears to argue that the Arizona law would give physicians a pass if they enforce their own pro-life views on their patients and keep information from them:
Yesterday, the Arizona State Senate passed a bill that would ban something called “wrongful birth” lawsuits. 
“Wrongful birth” lawsuits arise when “physicians don’t inform pregnant women of prenatal problems that could lead to the decision to have an abortion.”  In other words, this bill would give doctors immunity for failing to give medical information about a patient’s health or the health of her fetus.

All this is confusing. If it's as bad as it might be, it's an outrage, something much worse than conscience clauses for pharmacists and so on. If it's not that bad, what are these laws and proposals really saying.

And where is the American Medical Association (AMA) in all this? Honest.

Steven Landsburg Defends Rush Limbaugh. Brothers Under The Skin.

This is good Friday fun. Students at the University of Rochester are actually protesting Steven Landsburg's commments! Landburg is a wingnut economics professor, best known perhaps for this 2003 piece where he disseminates the view that having daughters is bad news for staying married. But I first learned about him as the guy whose economic textbook argues that polygamy (sharing one husband) is good for women.

Landsburg supports Rush Limbaugh's treatment of Sandra Fluke:
He said that that Fluke “deserves only to be ridiculed, mocked and jeered,” and that “Rush stepped in to provide the requisite mockery” with a “spot-on analogy.”
Landsburg went on to write that Limbaugh wanted to brand Fluke a “slut,” but said he disagrees with that characterization and that a “far better word might have been ‘prostitute.’ ”
However, Landsburg added, that word also doesn’t fit.
“She will, as I understand it, be having sex whether she gets paid or not. The right word for that is something much closer to ‘extortionist.’ Or better yet, ‘extortionist with an overweening sense of entitlement,’ ” Landsburg wrote.
All that is a bit odd, given that Limbaugh did call Fluke a prostitute, too, and not just a slut. Almost as if professor Landsburg didn't do his homework there.

Landsburg later argued that the question is "when some of us should pick up the tab for others’ expenses." But that's what insurance does. If professor Landsburg goes skiing, just for fun, and breaks his leg, then all the other customers of his insurance plan are paying for his leg to be fixed.

The same applies to the use of, say, Viagra. Or the treatment of alcoholism or the consequences of reckless driving and so on and so on.

Sure, we could discuss all those cases and thousands of other similar cases. We could introduce moral considerations into all of them! But that's not what any of this is about.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

International Women's Day Thoughts

Today is the International Women's Day. I don't feel any strong pressure to write on women on this particular day, given that I do it, errr, quite a bit.

My feelings about the day itself are somewhat mixed though mostly positive. I've seen it criticized as a sexist day because there is no International Men's Day. Though the need for one might not be terribly urgent given that all the other days of the year are pretty close to just that and given that we don't have the equivalent of a gender-reversed Saudi Arabia on this planet. So that's not the reason for my mixed feelings.

The day is useful because it gives a small opening for both pointing out major problems women face in this world just because of being women and for celebrating individual women's achievements. The latter is needed to counteract the still-common global prejudice that women aren't capable of much except that children/housekeeping/sex thing or shouldn't seek any other roles.

And of course this can also be a time to celebrate the advances women have made, both in this country and all over the world. Many of those are due to the hard work of feminists, by the way.

But the usefulness of this day is also a problem. What should we squeeze into this one day each year? What most deserves to get an airing? Concerns about women in the US? What's happening to rape victims in Congo wars? What's happening to women's rights in the Arab Spring? To the women who protested all over the Middle East?

Setting this one day aside is almost an invitation to ignore those issues the rest of the year. We can all return to ignoring the serious problems of medical fistulas in Africa or the way legally enforced gender apartheid is somehow not the same problem as racial apartheid was in South Africa.

It's not this particular day of the year that bothers me, in short. It's all the other days of the year and the way women's issues are usually ghettoized, despite the fact that women are roughly half of all people. That makes all this even weirder though it's weird enough with concepts such as Black History Month in the US. What are all the other months in history, then? White History Months?

OK. Enough grumbling from me. Ideally we wouldn't need an International Women's Day, but in this reality it can be a useful thing to have.

Meanwhile, in Kansas, The War Against Women Continues

Kansas Republicans are drafting lots of fun legislation to keep those sluts embryo aquaria abortion seekers under control:
The sweeping anti-abortion bill working its way through the Kansas Legislature would levy a sales tax on women seeking abortions, including rape victims.
Buried in the 69-page bill being considered by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee are several provisions, in fact, that opponents say would increase taxes on those who seek abortions. The tax sections do not include any exemptions for women who want an abortion after a sexual assault, to end a dangerous ectopic pregnancy or to remove the remains of a fetus following a miscarriage -- the latter of which is defined as an abortion under Kansas law, according to Sarah Gillooly
But that's not the really fun bit. Turns out that physicians would be legally protected if they withhold health information from pregnant women. They would also be required to lie to their patients about the debunked link between breast cancer and abortion:
Among other provisions in the proposed legislation are measures allowing doctors to withhold from patients medical information that might encourage them to seek an abortion and prohibiting malpractice suits if the woman or the child suffers a health complication as a result of information being withheld. A wrongful death lawsuit could be filed if the mother dies. The bill also would require doctors to tell women that abortion causes breast cancer and would prohibit state employees from performing abortions on the job.
If all this is true (I have not checked the original proposal), it looks like the slut woman would lose her right to sue but at least those who really own her can get compensation if the withheld information causes her death!

Today's Funny Post

By Ann Friedman.

Today's "Women's Health" Study

This is an interesting story about a piece of research looking into the relationship between abortion and mental illness:
A leading psychiatry journal has distanced itself from a controversial study that it published in 2009 which suggested a link between abortion and mental illness, including such severe forms as post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, and drug addiction.
In an unusual commentary, one of the Journal of Psychiatric Research's editors-in-chief and a co-author warned that the 2009 paper, which has been widely cited by legislators and advocates to argue that abortion raises a woman's risk of mental illness and to push for laws requiring providers to tell women that, in fact "does not support assertions that abortions led to psychopathology."
The reason for this unusual step has to do with a fairly major methodological problem in the original study:
Steinberg said that the biggest problem in the original Coleman study was that "many of the incidents of mental illness she included came before the abortion." That cast doubt on whether abortion triggered mental illness. Instead, women with mental illness might have been more likely to have an unwanted pregnancy and terminate it.
In other words, if the observed correlation is about causation, the most likely direction of the cause-and-effect chain is from mental health problems to unwanted pregnancies.

All this makes me wonder why the Journal of Psychiatric Research didn't require the author(s) to fix the problem before being given the green light for publication. But better late than never, right?

The linked Reuters article is interesting in another sense. It begins by pointing out a potential bias in one of the two critics of the Coleman study:
In 2010 Julia Steinberg of the University of California, San Francisco, and Lawrence Finer of the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute published their own analysis of the same data from the comorbidity survey. They identified a number of errors in the Coleman paper, including statistical ones.
The Guttmacher Institute is a non-profit research and education group that advocates for reproductive rights, including access to abortion.
But if you read far enough into the article you find that Coleman may also be biased:
Another concern has been whether Coleman fully disclosed any possible conflicts of interest. In a presentation she gave in 2011 to the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, she said, "I have a plan to develop a new non-profit organization devoted to understanding and publicizing the real risks of abortion. I would like to bring together many credentialed scientists with a research program pertaining to the physical, psychological, and/or relational effects of abortion on women and their families."
Interesting, right? But note if the journal had initially used the old academic concept of peer review properly (by asking a skilled statistician to read the article, say), then the question of possible bias would have been irrelevant.

It's good to remember that even academic journals make mistakes, and, just like the rest of us, should learn from them. I applaud the Journal of Psychiatric Research for trying to fix its mistake.

I don't really applaud all these attempts to turn opposition to abortion into some sort of an empowering women's health issue. Giving birth can have serious health risks, including the risk of postnatal depression in women who are vulnerable to depression. But no state requires pregnant women to be counseled about that.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Peggy Lee's Fever

I love the voice of Peggy Lee. Here's Fever:


But the lyrics are odd. She sings "you give me fever"..."everybody's got the fever"...
And she puts these words into Pocahontas' mouth: "He gives me fever."

But then at the end of the song: "Now you've listened to my story, here's the point that I have made: Chicks were born to give you fever..."

That is very odd because it was not the point the song made. I'm trying to think why that part was included at all. The song says that everybody's got the fever.

A Frustrated Echidne Thought

Some days every post I work on suddenly comes alive on the table, develops horrible claws and slobbering fangs and attacks me back. Today it's posts 3, Echidne 0.

Those are the posts that demand to be written, too.

Other than that, the life of a blogger is all roses.

Very Funny

This piece on the question whether women are people.

Added later: This, however, is only funny for a certain type of mindset.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

But Rush Thought It Would Be All Right

That is the one point that has not been under the magnifying glass in this whole lets-bury-the-bugger campaign.

Limbaugh thought that his use of the terms "slut" and "prostitute" (about a woman whose crime was speaking out in public) would be acceptable, that they would fire up his misogynist listener base, raise his falling ratings and give him enough tiny pokes from the rest of the world to add to his millions. He thought it would be all just fine.

And the reason? Because he has been allowed to get away with this for decades. He's the man who coined the term "feminazi," he's the man you could always go to for the most woman-hating comments possible. The one-stop misogynists' media supermarket.

And he got away with it, year after year after year. The Republicans stood in awe of him. The Democrats complained, but just enough to get Limbaugh even more audience. Attempts to boycott his advertisers were not strong enough.

And time after time I was told not to spend my snake venom on Limbaugh. He was a freaky sideshow, to be ignored, not worth the effort to write about. Besides, if people on our side attacked him then people on their side would attack us! Can't do that. There must be honor among bloggers as among thieves, right?

But mostly Limbaugh (and other right-wing pundits such as Savage and Beck) turned into something seen as a force of nature. We can't fight those. Hence the pretense that he was isolated, safely tucked away in a sound-proofed room with the other misogynists and racists to whom he was preaching.

The fact that the Republican Party was afraid of him suggested that the sound-proofing had failed, that Limbaugh mattered, that he was slowly changing the air in the public debates, re-introducing racism and misogyny as socially acceptable. Nothing could be done about it, however.

So what is different now? It could be that Limbaugh's importance had been overestimated throughout the years, because of poor survey methods about radio listeners. Or it could be that Limbaugh's audience is beginning to die out, or both.

Those possibilities alone do not explain why at least 32 advertisers have deserted Rush after his most recent slut/prostitute tirades. No, what has changed is that enough women are finally paying attention*.

It began with the Susan G. Komen incident and continued with the contraceptives battle in the war over the uterus. It has spread to women noticing all those forced-birther schemes in states.

And because women are both voters and consumers the fact that they are paying attention affects the advertisers and affects the politicians. Pretty astonishing, eh?
*It's as if the Sleeping Beauty of the fairy tale finally woke up, and not because she was kissed by the prince. It was a thorn from one of the roses which grew to keep her imprisoned that pricked her finger. And she woke up furious.

Will she stay awake? That remains to be seen.

What's Good For The Goose Is Good For The Gander

I love this attitude, love it. It's high time to show how this crap feels to those whose genitals are threatened with legislation:
On Tuesday, Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) will introduce a bill aimed at cracking down on prescription drugs like Viagra that treat erectile dysfunction. Turner’s legislation would make men jump through certain hoops — such as psychological screenings — before they could obtain the meds. The bill follows FDA recommendations to determine the underlying causes of erectile dysfunction — but that’s certainly not the only reason Turner is putting the measure forward.
“All across the country, including in Ohio, I thought since men are certainly paying great attention to women’s health that we should definitely return the favor,” Turner told TPM. Her bill is one of several pieces of legislation offered over the past several weeks by women lawmakers eager to prove a point about the raging contraception debate.
Their bills seek to regulate men’s sexual health, from Viagra to vasectomies, just as Republican-led state governments and Congress have zeroed in on access to abortion and family planning care.
Turner’s bill mimics language found in Ohio’s so-called Heartbeat Bill, which passed the Ohio state House and is now pending in the Senate. The bill would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, sometimes as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Turner’s bill, she says, offers men a taste of their own medicine — it would require physicians to inform patients in writing of the risks involved in taking erectile dysfunction drugs and requires men to sign a document acknowledging the risks, just like the anti-abortion bill does.
“I care about the health of men as well, and I thought it only fair that we illustrate that and make sure that a man is fully informed of the risks involved in taking these drugs and also the alternatives such as natural remedies or also celibacy,” Turner said.

What Turner is ridiculing here is the argument that all the forced-birth stuff is just about giving women better information.

Monday, March 05, 2012

A Public Information Message About The Contraceptive Pill

First, I've found out, to my astonishment, that whether Limbaugh knows how the contraceptive pill works or not, many on the wide and varied Internets do not seem to have that knowledge. So it might be worth stating that the pill works mainly by preventing ovulation:
Birth control pills prevent pregnancy through several mechanisms, mainly by stopping ovulation. If no egg is released, there is nothing to be fertilized by sperm, and the woman cannot get pregnant. Most birth control pills contain synthetic forms of two female hormones: estrogen and progestin. These synthetic hormones stabilize a woman's natural hormone levels, and prevent estrogen from peaking mid-cycle. Without the estrogen bump, the pituitary gland does not release other hormones that normally cause the ovaries to release mature eggs.
Bolds are mine.

Second, some medications can interfere with the pill and its efficacy. It's best to check with your prescribing doctor to find a list of those based on the most recent information, but these are some medications which might affect the pill:
Medicines that can interact with the pill include:

some types of antibiotics..
some herbal remedies, such as St John's Wort
some anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) used to treat epilepsy, such as carbamazepine
some antiretrovirals (ARVs) used to treat HIV, such as ritonavir

And a bit unrelated, but here you can find the advertisers which have stopped advertising with Rush Limbaugh.

Look Who Supports Mitt Romney! From What-The-Cat-Dragged-In Files

Ted Nugent. He's like Limbaugh squared or cubed on how to talk about women. But never mind, that!

"[A]fter a long heart&soul conversation with MittRomney today I concluded this goodman will properly represent we the people & I endorsed him," Nugent tweeted.

Nugent has been a staunch advocate for conservative politics, appearing regularly on right-leaning television and radio programs.

An Economic Aside: What About The Workers?

Remember the conservative meme that people don't have enough "skin in the game" because so many earn too little to pay federal income taxes? The prescription to that is always to lower the taxes for the wealthy and for the corporations and to make the rest of us pay more.

Given that backstory, it is worth noting that the big societal income cake is now divided more unequally between capital and labor, to the detriment of labor, than it has since 1947:
The share of the gains going to everyone else in the form of wages and salaries has been shrinking. It’s now the smallest since the government began keeping track in 1947.
If the trend continues, inequality will become ever more extreme.
We’ll also face chronically insufficient demand for all the goods and services the productivity revolution can generate. That’s because the rich save more of their earnings than everyone else, while middle and lower-income families – with fewer jobs or lower wages – no longer have the purchasing power to keep the economy going at full tilt. (Before 2008 they kept up their buying by sinking deep into debt. This proved to be an unsustainable strategy.)
Robert Reich also points out something that should get much more attention, both here and in Europe, and that is the giant role insufficient demand has in this recession. People are not buying. If people are not buying, firms will not expand and hire more people.

It's a vicious cycle which is ignored because the economic arguments have become one-sided and biased.

I never thought I'd live to hear Serious People tell us that firms should face less uncertainty in general, before they do the business of risk-bearing! They are paid for that role, after all, while workers are not.