Saturday, February 06, 2010

Thank You! An Omelet Post. With Cardboard.

The discussion we had here about making omelets made all the difference in the world! My omelets are now famous everywhere! Moist, yet firm, soft, yet not yielding, full of high morals and fantastic taste. An omelet to be proud of!

And what caused that difference was the thread we had here. Of such small things comes the change in the world. I hope it also works with the political threads.

Here's what seemed to cause the change: I realized that my omelet pan was too small for the number of eggs I was using and that the butter or oil wasn't hot enough. Changing those two details and waiting a while before starting to move the egg mass is what did it.

Now for the next question: Pie crusts. Mine aren't terribly good, unless you have a fad for cardboard. So all advice is welcome. Make a difference between different types of crusts, if you will, because puff pastry is not the same as the other kind of pastry.

What are the crucial things to make the crust good?

This Is Sick And Must Be Stopped by Anthony McCarthy

Yesterday in a general discussion of the weeks news on Callie Crossley’s show on February 5, she and her guests mentioned that Miley Cyrus, who I wrote about here a while back, has a younger sister, Noah, who is apparently famous at age 9 for a line of sexy lingerie and for famously pole dancing at a “stripper pole party”. Age 9. Crossley and her guests were outraged, though apparently not everyone is.

Googling to find out what this was about, I went to the site of The Insider*, which is apparently associated with CBS (so much in the news for issues related to women’s rights this week), which features photos of the incident and some comments about it. Here are a few of those.

miley is the hottest prettiest girl in da game beside taylor swift so stop haten and get it right.PEACE bitchs

what a cute little girl

she look cute

also: who the HELL names their daughter Noah? last time I checked, it's kinda a GUY name.

GAAAH!! the ugliness of Noah is OVERWHELMING. She is NOT the LEAST bit lovely... and don't judge me for it. I'm thirteen and I can call a nine-year-old ugly.

how are you about to rip on miley cyrus and her little sister if you are spending your time looking at this site and these photos... woww

How could I not have predicted that we’d get to the dodge of blaming people who go to the bother of finding out if the outrageous is really true. Of course, if you didn’t look at the disgusting images to see if it was true, they’d blame you for not looking at them. And, I imagine, somewhere you could find a stalwart, principled, free speech-free press type who would advise you that if you are revolted and disgusted by the pimping of a 9 year old girl that you should just look the other way.

This is emblematic of how bad it gets when you elevate one, very potentially lucrative, very easily corrupted, right above all others. If her parents couldn’t use their kids this way, if the media couldn’t, then I am quite confident that people would be less likely to pretend that this isn’t exactly what it is, the extension of the porn industry well down into the ages when it has become child abuse.

This must be stopped, it must be made illegal, it shouldn’t be something that CBS corp. presents to its viewers as entertainment. All of the adults involved should be indicted, the children should be in custodial care and in treatment.

In related news, the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts, in a display of what an ass the law can truly be, has deemed that it isn’t illegal for adults to send sexually explicit text messages to 13-year-olds because it isn’t hand written.

This is what the Free Speech Industry has won for us, along with the “Citizens United” ruling. We’re all commodities now, the children too. But we’ll still be able to say whatever we want to, though, as we’ve also seen this week, only some of us will get on CBS. Without the distinction between corporations and human beings, adults and children, the First Amendment absolutists have produced anything but a great result.

* I will not give a link to child porn sites or to those that post child porn.

Haitian orphans, redux: Because I wish I had been wrong the first time (by Skylanda)

A week or so ago I wrote about the fetishization of Haitian orphans (everyone wants one! they’re so darling, with that sweet little vulnerability!). At the time, it was a theoretical thang – no one was publically evac’ing orphans out off the island that hadn’t already been assigned adopted families elsewhere – based on an age-old ick about what happens to poor minority children when well-meaning folks from dominant classes decide to think they’re a little too cute.

Then along came the Eastside Baptist Church of Twin Falls, Idaho, whose members took it upon themselves to transport thirty three Haitian children across the Dominican border, sans documentation of any right to do so (nor any evidence of the orphan-hood of the children, several of whom – oops – happened to have parents).

Now, I don’t really care about the fundamentalist aspect of this. These fine specimens of humanity could be evangelical atheists or die-hard pagans or jack Scientologists for all I care; I am not concerned beyond a passing wave of nausea about their spiritual motivations. Nor am I terribly taken with what pernicious promises were made about tennis courts and swimming pools when all those missionaries had was an abandoned hotel across the Dominican border.

But these people should have every ounce of legal bookage thrown at them, and they should spend some hefty sum of time in a Haitian prison, whatever teetering form a Haitian prison may take these days.


Because these people were trafficking children. And because right now, in a chaotic disaster like Haiti, it needs to be made 100% absolutely clear, without a trace of a doubt, in a resoundingly public forum, that any and all forms of trafficking will not be tolerated.

Human trafficking is up there in the top three most lucrative illicit trades in the world, right after guns and drugs. Even the US State Department has issued statements on how it will monitor and prevent trafficking during the disaster transition period – a time when disconnected children are particularly vulnerable to predators looking for everything from domestics to sex slaves.

Americans trafficking children need to go to jail to establish the notion that the authorities of all nations are absolutely and unequivocably serious about preventing the movement of children out of Haiti without proper paperwork, the separation of children from parents under false pretenses, the offering of children with living parents up for adoption abroad, and anything else that even remotely smacks of unethical use of children. This routine post-disaster travesty needs to be curtailed, viciously, now. And throwing a ridiculously harsh sentence at the most entitled of travelers – wealthy white Americans – will send a message that anyone further down the privilege foodchain best think twice before considering the small profit to be made of this odious industry.

And the religious nuttery that drove these folks in the first place? Eh, that’s all getting enough of a crucifixion in the popular press; I need not say anything more on that topic.

Cross-posted from my infrequently-updated blog, Loose Chicks Sink Ships.

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Raging Grannies on CBS

To the tune of "Three Blind Mice."

Bye-bye bladder (by Suzie)

I'll be taking a break from blogging as I relax in the hospital with my PCA. I've scheduled some Friday critter photos, but I doubt I can write anything substantive for a few Fridays. I had hoped to have weeks to plan my absence. But the day after I returned from San Francisco, my surgery was scheduled for the next week, and I ran around, signing up helpers and laying in enough provisions for my own militia.

If all went well, I had my bladder removed yesterday morning, and a piece of intestine fashioned into a new piece of plumbing that exits my abdomen. When everything heals, I can attach an appliance to it. Not just any toaster or juicer, of course. But an appliance that holds a bag for urine.

Here are still more details of the surgery. I've included a diagram of an impish-looking bladder for those of you who missed the 1970s, when we all sat in circles, looking up our urethras with mirrors. OK, that's a joke, but I wish everyone would take a moment to praise your bladder and urethra. Don't it always seem to go/That you don't know what you've got/Till it's gone.

There's no evidence that my metastatic leiomyosarcoma has returned. Surgery and radiation damaged my bladder in 2002. My treatment wasn't botched; my bladder was sacrificed in an effort to save my life. It has struggled, lo these many years. After its removal, I'm hoping I won't need to take so many antibiotics and narcotics, nor will my life be lived between restroom visits.

As a cancer veteran, I knew not to bring any reading material that didn't have large pictures on every page. After my first surgery, I tried to read a Ms. article on politics in one of the Scandinavian countries. All week, I read the same paragraph because that's as far as I could get.

Before surgery, I had a cystoscopy, and I felt like I was watching the Fantastic Voyage. I had failed to bring my female, self-lubricating catheters, which my favorite Uromed customer service rep described as "lubricious." (I love that word.) Instead, I was given one of those long, red rubber caths. Using one to fill a specimen cup is like snake-charming.

I had the daylong bowel prep, in which neighbors a block away had to light scented candles.

Speaking of stink, I hope I no longer have to smell adult diapers. Not used ones. I'm talking about the chemical scent of unused ones. I've developed a Pavlovian response to it. Why can't diapers come in different scents like everything else? Maybe lavender or pomegranate. My nether region might have benefited from aromatherapy.

Diapers did make my life easier -- they're not just for astronauts anymore. Booster pads also were great, although they made me think of booster seats for kids.

Well, I guess this is enough TMI for one day. Please don't feel sorry for me. I'm on morphine, and chances are, you're not.

Friday flower blogging (by Suzie)

From the Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania ... to remind you of spring. (by Julie Savell-McCandless)

Some Good News

The Department of Defense will make the Plan B pill available at all its hospitals and clinics. Still, I find this funny:

While most medical experts consider the drug to be a form of emergency contraception, some abortion opponents consider it equivalent to a surgical abortion.

While most of us consider the earth to be a roundish ball, some consider it to be a flat pancake with maple syrup in the oceans. Or something of the sort.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

On Honor Killings

What is very hard about blogging is trying to cover too many topics too fast. I should specialize more and write less but then the topic of the day will have fallen down the Memory Hole. Still, sometimes my brain needs a few days to percolate the intellectual coffee, so to speak, to make sure that it's strong, aromatic and clear. If I write too soon I offer you but a mess. But if I wait, the coffee will be cold.

This is the case with the recent article in the Nation magazine on honor killings. The author seems to chase several different ideas at the same time and I have difficulty deciding which of those I should follow to its logical conclusion. I'm not even quite sure what her main point is. Examples:

When Sanaa Dafani, a young woman living in the small town of Pordenone, Italy, was murdered this past fall, local media were quick to label the crime a case of "honor killing."

Eighteen-year-old Dafani, who was born in Italy to Moroccan parents, was killed by her conservative Muslim father, who had been angered by her Western lifestyle. In Dafani's case, this meant wearing jeans and dating a man.

Dafani's death shocked the country, and many blamed Muslim traditions for the murder: "Here's another case demonstrating that the Islamic culture cannot be integrated into our society," said Enzo Bortolotti, a representative of the Northern League, an influential right-wing party.


But evidence suggests honor killings are still relatively common in the West as well, not only among Muslim immigrants, although such crimes may take a different name.


Some women's rights advocates have argued that this practice cuts across culture and religions, although it may take different names at different times. They argue that associating it with Muslim immigrants alone is both dangerous and incorrect.

"Until thirty years ago, it was common to hear about honor killings among Italians. But now when a man kills his wife, they call it a crime of passion," argues Cinzia Tani, an Italian writer and journalist who specializes in women's issues. "It's the same concept taking different names: a man kills a woman of his family in order to assert his control over her body. The only difference is that back then the homicide of a woman was 100 percent acceptable. Now at least it is considered a crime, as the term itself suggests, even if it is still considered more acceptable than other kinds of homicides."

"Violence against women is widespread in almost any country, regardless of ethnicity or religion," says Farian Sabahi, an Iranian-Italian academic who teaches Islamic history at the University of Turin.


Sabahi believes "racist prejudice will not help" stop violence; she believes education is the key. "Institutions should focus on protecting women, rather than bashing culture," Sabahi says. "A good way to make women safer is to make them more educated and more independent economically." According to the World Health Organization, "there is evidence that women with less education are generally more likely to experience violence than those with higher levels of education."

Nevertheless, the WHO acknowledges that the relationship between education and intimate-partner violence is rather complex: "In some cases, women who are becoming more educated and empowered face a greater risk of violence as their male partners try to regain control."

To consider honor killings within Muslim communities a crime unto itself overlooks the patriarchal roots of much of the intimate partner violence against women in the Western world. Moreover, associating it with a particular minority can offer authorities an alibi for turning a blind eye toward the broader issue of violence against women.

These are my thoughts on the topic:

The author is completely correct when she argues that violence against women is not just a problem of immigrant Muslim communities in Europe, say. She is also quite correct in arguing that honor killings have much wider roots in general. I once read that the concept has been common in the past in countries around the Mediterranean, although taking slightly different forms in different cultures.

But honor killings are not the traditional excuse for violence against women in most other places, and to subsume them into that general concept is not helpful. Neither is the idea that all violence against women is of the same magnitude as long as we can prove cases from all sides. Numbers do matter, and whether the violence is considered justified by a particular culture also matters.

I also agree with the argument in the article that demonizing a culture or a religion is not at all helpful, though I'd like to add that letting a culture or a religion rule over its women as it wishes is also not at all helpful. The extreme type of multiculturalism does appear to allow the latter to take place. I guess the former could be the case in an extreme type of monoculturalism?

It's the comment about culture-bashing in the above quote that I had most difficulty with. In some sense all I do on this blog is "culture-bashing". I keep talking about the societal expectations for women and men, about the sub-cultures of Christian fundamentalists and so on. If I can't criticize those cultures, what CAN I write about? And how do we help the victims of violence if the culture approves of that violence?

The above quote suggests that empowering women alone may not suffice, and in any case there are cultures which disapprove of the idea of educating women, say. How does one cope with that paradox without criticizing the culture?

Go Read Katha On Tebow

She says it all, even things I didn't dare, such as that last bit about the woman in the dirndl.

The Christian Family

I'm reading Jeff Sharlet's The Family. The Secret Fundamentalism At The Heart Of American Power.. It links nicely with the news about the National Prayer Breakfast:

Barack Obama has drawn stinging criticism for addressing an annual National Prayer Breakfast today organised by a Christian evangelical group whose members include the Ugandan politician behind legislation to execute gay people.

Obama spurned calls from ethics and gay rights groups to boycott the event run by the Fellowship, an organisation characterised by critics as a secretive, elitist group that wields influence through religious gatherings sometimes funded by defence contractors and foreign powers.

The organisation is headed by Doug Coe, who critics say has praised the organising abilities of Hitler and Osama bin Laden.

Among the Fellowship's members is David Bahati, a Ugandan MP who introduced legislation that would impose the death penalty on gay men who have sex with a partner under the age of 18. The Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, is also associated with the group, as are more than a dozen members of Congress and senior military officers.

Obama did condemn the Ugandan anti-gay legislation.

Here is Sharlet on the role of women in the Family. The place is at Cedars, the headquarters of the Family and the time is yet another prayer breakfast. Ivanwald is where young men are trained for leadership, Potomac Point is where young women do whatever they do:

The morning I was invited, Charlene, the cook, scrambled up eggs with blue tortillas, Italian sausage, peppers and papaya. Three women from Potomac Point, an "Ivanwald for young women" across the road from Cedars came to serve. They wore red lipstick and long skirts (makeup and "feminine" attire were required on duty) and had, after several months of cleaning and serving in the Cedars while the brothers worked outside, grown unimpressed by the high-powered clientele. "Girls don't sit in on the breakfasts," one of them told me, though she said that none of them minded because it was "just politics," and the Bible generally reserves such doings for men.

These are the people behind the National Prayer Breakfast.

Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose

Gertrude Stein's birthday was yesterday. She was an interesting writer, no doubt about that. Her experiments with language are well worth the effort to study, and her life in Paris as the center of a group of famous and talented people sounds like something from a fairy tale.

I liked the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, but I wonder if I would have liked Gertrude herself. Not that liking an author is at all necessary for liking her work. Still, some things I've read about Stein suggest to me that her solution to the "feminist" dilemma was to adopt the role of the traditional man, while Alice, her lesbian lifelong partner, adopted the role of the traditional wife, cooking and caring for Gertrude and entertaining the "wives" when Gertrude hobnobbed with the other geniuses. This may be a misinterpretation and if so, I'm sure I will be corrected.

Still, one of the reasons I wanted to write about Stein is the chance that her life is an example of Living As An Honorary Man, one common traditional solution for women who disliked the patriarchal plans laid out for them, but also one which does not translate to women in general.

The reason I bring this up is that I find her mentioned as a feminist in some Internet sources. That made me think about what it means to be a feminist, in different times, different places and different social classes.

Some scenarios don't lend themselves very much to the kind of feminism I espouse (and spout), though they might serve as role models, in particular after some time has passed. Even Margaret Thatcher can be argued to have helped British women in politics, despite her desire to be the only woman in her cabinet.
The middle rose is Charlie Rose.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Go Read Jaclyn Friedman

I wrote a stump post on the general topic of women's roles within the Super Bowl framing but Jaclyn takes it much further and gives many examples.

Brinksmanship? Really?

This is funny (in the sense of weird/peculiar):

Slapping Republicans with one hand, extending olive branches with the other, President Barack Obama is playing a dangerous political game.

It's not a new one.

And it just might work.


As Obama seeks to right his presidency and his agenda amid falling poll numbers and ballot box losses, he and his advisers have concluded that the gloves must come off more often. He intends more tough talk for Republicans in the coming weeks, a senior administration official said.

The idea is to stop allowing Republicans to define the White House through their nearly unanimous opposition to Obama's proposals and to start using them as a foil to better define Democrats, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to more freely describe private White House planning.


Obama won't be the first president to engage in this political brinksmanship, portraying himself as a reasonable type who is willing to give while painting the other side as obstructionist and petty.

And, much as voters tell pollsters they're not fooled by the contradiction and love Mr. Nice Guy the best, Election Day results often don't bear that out.

Bolds are mine. Now the question: Why does this article talk about Obama painting the other side as obstructionist when it indeed is exactly that? Just compare the two bits I bolded in the quote.

Today's Optimistic Post

It did not start too optimistic, because I read about the three American troops killed in Pakistan:

The troops were traveling to attend the opening of another girls school in Maidan in the same district that had been built by the Corps with American funding.

At least 100 people, most of them school girls, were injured and 10 of them are in serious condition, reports quoting medicos said.

The bomb flattened much of the Koto Girls High School.

The reference to a girls' school in that story is no accident. Such schools are a major target for the Islamic militant groups operating in the area, though this particular attack may have had other reasons, too.

But here's the bit I have decided to take as an optimistic sign, from a Huffington Post article about tribal police in Afghanistan. This is a tribal elder speaking:

"For 30 years everything has been going wrong." says Mr Qazi, an elder. "We like peace. Our place is the nearest place to Pakistan, when the Taliban came they destroyed our schools, our roads, we have no work and the economic situation is terrible, we are very poor. The Taliban are terrorizing our lives because there is a gap between the people and the government. Because the government is corrupt and inefficient many local tribes are assisting the the Taliban. The main reason we are united is that we want a viable alternative to the present worsening situation and we need to bring peace and stability to our homeland. We want reconstruction. We want libraries, hospitals, universities. The reason we are so poor is that our girls don't go to school. That is why our community is backwards."

He continues, "We want education for our mothers and our daughters, we want education for older women too, we want women to be able to work, to make things that they can sell in the bazaar. But we also want medical aid. We need maternity wards, and first aid. None of that exists."

"We had 14 girls graduate from middle school," he boasts. "Unfortunately there is no school building, so they did their studies in the shadow of the sun, but even under the Taliban we had a secret place to teach them. I have good ideas for girls," he continues, "we just are not able to develop them. Why can't women be doctors, ministers or engineers?" he asks. "Or even journalists? The most difficult issues are solved by people taking positive and practical steps. We too can solve our own problems this way. I believe aid should reach the poor and needy but the mafia of the present Afghan regime doesn't allow this to happen."

Meanwhile, in Canada

The National Post, a conservative newspaper, posted a most hilarious editorial a few days ago. It's about the death of Women's Studies programs in Canada and sounds exactly like the worst MRA site. An example:

The radical feminism behind these courses has done untold damage to families, our court systems, labour laws, constitutional freedoms and even the ordinary relations between men and women.

Women's Studies courses have taught that all women--or nearlyall-- are victims and nearly all men are victimizers. Their professors have argued, with some success, that rights should be granted not to individuals alone, but to whole classes of people, too. This has led to employment equity -- hiring quotas based on one's gender or race rather than on an objective assessment of individual talents.

Executives, judges and university students must now sit through mandatory diversity training. Divorcing men find they lose their homes and access to their children, and must pay much of their income to their former spouses (then pay tax on the income they no longer have) largely because Women's Studies activists convinced politicians that family law was too forgiving of men. So now a man entering court against a woman finds the deck stacked against him, thanks mostly to the radical feminist jurisprudence that found it roots and nurture in Women's Studies.

It gets even funnier, and the people commenting on it at the paper agree.

I'm shocked by this humongous power Canadian Women's Studies programs have had and the weirdest principles they have taught. But then of course I'm also rather shocked by the idea that there was no reason whatsoever to ever start such programs: The world was an absolutely fair place for women and had always been so, never mind laws which used to ban women from certain jobs and places of education and so on.

In any case, I got interested in this National Post thingy and went rummaging in its archives for more fun stuff. As I suspected, they have their own little female misogynist penning away stuff about how the world is all run by feminists. Those jobs are the plum ones for women who are of course not hardwired to actually write anything but must be used because the same message from a man's pen would look...contemptuous towards women.

Here is an example of that well-known genre. It is a piece which argues that we value women's suffering more than men's suffering and that this must change. The steps to take for that are these:

-We will see the return of the traditional family unit as a phenomenon worthy of concern and respect. The needs of children will come first;

-Equal parenting will become the default custody arrangement as the optimal situation for children; the resultant decline in adversarial legal battles will diminish false allegations of abuse by women and punitive support-withholding by men, both of which punish children more than parents;

-The specific needs of boys and men will be accorded the same pedagogical, social and legal rights and respect as girls: We will see funding for shelters for abused men and children, or ungendered family shelters for whoever needs it;

-Domestic violence will be acknowledged as a serious but bilateral problem that is unacceptable, whether perpetrated by men or women. But we will also acknowledge that systemic misogyny of the kind made manifest in honour crimes against women is a culturally-derived phenomenon that is alien to Canadian values, and that it is wrong to assign collective guilt for such crimes to Canadian men.

If the pendulum in the gender wars really is swinging back to the middle, it should become received wisdom that men and women are genetically hard-wired for different strengths, weaknesses and psychological needs.

So, having agreed that intact families are by far the greatest predictors of success for children than anything else, we will jettison the power struggle paradigm feminism has been pushing for decades. We will move toward a collaborative model in which men and women are equal in value but, guided by nature and common sense, separate in their parental roles and influence. The result will be a happier, more productive generation of Canadian children.

How very odd that men and women should be treated exactly the same with respect to violence but that otherwise we must respect "hardwired" sex differences. And how very odd to argue that men and women must have separate parenting roles while at the same time insisting on equal parenting as the default custody arrangement. It makes no logical sense at all. But it certainly sounds a lot like something you can read on some MRA sites, including the emphasis on the idea that women always lie when they allege abuse or rape.
I was listening to the news while writing this post. This is what I just heard.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Ohmygod! My Eggs, My Eggs!

This is another bit of the kind of popularization we wimminz are exposed to:

A new study from the Universities of St. Andrews and of Edinburgh is offering a more accurate understanding of fertility and its decline with age, which researchers say is steeper than previously thought.

The study, which involved about 325 women of different ages from the United States and Europe, investigated the number of eggs that remain in the ovaries over time. This number, said the researchers, peaks at about 20 weeks after conception and subsequently drops until no eggs are left at menopause.

At the age of 30 years, only 12% of the maximum ovarian reserve - the number of eggs with which women are born - is typically present; by 40, only 3% remains.

The average egg quality also decreases with age, which increases the difficulty of conception and the chances of an unhealthy baby.

"Women lose eggs a lot faster than we thought," said Good Morning America medical contributor Dr. Marie Savard.

She pointed out that women need to hear that the biological clock runs fairly quickly, and that the chances of having children are jeopardized the longer one waits.

Note that the link is to a forced-birth site.

Let's apply some logic to that story. If the number of eggs peaks 20 weeks after conception, shouldn't that be when women get cracking on getting pregnant, based on the logic of this story? And how many eggs is 12% of, say, 300,000? Probably enough to get pregnant from, given that only one ovulating egg is actually needed. Even 3% of 300,000 would do it, you know. How many eggs remain when a woman is twenty, by the way? If women somehow "misplace" 90% of their eggs before the age 30, how many do they misplace before the age 20? Age 10? These things matter for proper understanding of the study, you know.

I think the "maximal reserve" concept is meaningless, because women never use any but a small fraction of all the eggs they are born with. Now, the question of egg quality may be more meaningful, but this study doesn't address that.

The conclusion the U.K. Telegraph draws from all this is the expected one:

The research is the latest to warn women that they must not leave it too late to conceive.

Women's fertility declines substantially after her mid-thirties but the speed of the drop differs for each individual and many face heartache when they find they have left it too late.

Some doctors have called for regular fertility screening in the same way women are screened for cervical cancer.

There ya go!

Just to put things into perspective, I dug around a little to find information on age and sperm quality. Those studies do exist:

With each passing year, semen quality in adult men declines, suggesting that age plays a greater role in male fertility rates than previously thought, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.


The new report looked at 97 men aged 22 to 80 and found increased fragmentation of the DNA in sperm as men age.

"This study shows that men who wait until they're older to have children are not only risking difficulties conceiving, they could also be increasing the risk of having children with genetic problems," said Wyrobek.

Yet somehow I don't hear the same urgency from the media about the age-related fertility decline in men. Or do they advocate fertility screening for men, too?

A Spelling Mistake Open Thread

I got a kind e-mail pointing out my spelling error about "grizzly" photos of women bleeding to death from coat-hanger abortions. I appreciate my readers very much because you are intelligent and educate me. Keep the information coming (written on a hundred-dollar bill, preferably).

What's funniest of all is that some of those spelling errors I make are like planting a flag on top of Mount Annapurna for me, because they mean that I have arrived! I make the same mistakes a native speaker does! Yeah, me.

When you learn a language from books you don't spell "recieve." You just don't. The mistakes you make are rather different, and writing the language in general is like trying to masturbate an ant with mittens on. If you get my meaning.

In any case, this is an open thread where you can put whatever is on your mind as Echo commenting system tells us so stupidly. Also any good links or topics of conversation and so on. Do use this resource.

And happy birthday, Eva Cassidy!

Abstinence Education Might Work?

I once wrote that abstinence is a wonderful principle. All wingnuts should follow it life-long. That way we'd get a functioning country in just one generation.

But I have never really believed that abstinence-only would be an adequate sexual education for teenagers, and the reason is simple: That's what teenagers have been told all through the history. (Well, teenage girls, at least. Teenage boys were often told something rather different, having to do with which women you could schtupp without risk.)

All this opinionating of mine was about teenagers. What to tell younger children or pre-teens is a totally different matter, especially when it is done at home by parents. There abstinence education might well work (in the sense of making children delay sex) as long as the peer pressure is not yet operating. Now a new study suggests that this might work at school, too:

The study released Monday involved 662 African American students from four public middle schools in a city in the Northeastern United States. They were randomly assigned to go through one of the following: an eight-hour curriculum that encouraged them to delay having sex; an eight-hour program focused on teaching safe sex; an eight- or 12-hour program that did both; or an eight-hour program focused on teaching them other ways to be healthy, such as eating well and exercising.

The study involved a series of sessions in which instructors talked to them in small groups about their views about abstinence and their knowledge of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

They also conducted role-playing exercises and brainstorming sessions designed to correct misconceptions about sex and sexually transmitted diseases, encourage abstinence and offer ways to resist pressure to have sex.

Over the next two years, about 33 percent of the students who went through the abstinence program started having sex, compared with about 52 percent who were taught only safe sex. About 42 percent of the students who went through the comprehensive program started having sex, and about 47 percent of those who learned about other ways to be healthy did.

The abstinence program had no negative effects on condom use, which has been a major criticism of the abstinence approach.

Here's the one critical question I have about the findings of this study: How was the information about starting sex obtained?

It must have been based on self-reporting. I'm not sure about you, but if I had gone through a program which strongly advocates delaying sex, and only that, I might lie about having started it any way. I'm sneaky that way, and want approval and stuff. Maybe the children in this study were not sneaky at all and maybe this aspect had no effect. But I would be happier if the results were based on something more than self-reporting.

That something could be a longer term follow-up, I guess, including data on sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies.

Monday, February 01, 2010

One Of Those Days. Or Other Stuff To Read.

This happens in blogging a lot: Some days I have nothing to write about, other days there's far too much material. Today has been one of the latter type. Here are some of the interesting pieces I'm now too tired to write about:

First, Paul Krugman talks about the beauty that is boredom in life. I have always felt that boredom is undersold. I want to live between major wars, for example, and Krugman would like to live in Canada. Ah, boredom, how do I love thee.

Second, E.J. Dionne goes on a nice tirade about Sam Alito. Well worth reading.

Third, several newspapers called the Grammy Awards "the ladies' night." Did they do the reverse those times when gentlemen walked away with most of the awards? Of course not, because we don't notice the ordinary or the commonplace, and by not noticing it we keep all that in the subconsciousness, only to let our concerns crop up when it's a ladies' night.

Finally, Ross Douthat is being silly as usual. He wants us to believe that knowing about the existence of condoms would have no effect on someone's likelihood of using one.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, USA

A funny thing happened:

More than 500 people stormed the state Capitol this morning in support of a bill they say will protect young girls forced into prostitution.

The bill introduced by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), would steer girls under the age of 16 into diversionary programs instead of arresting them as prostitutes.

"This bill makes sure people are aware that young girls are victims," Unterman said. "A 12-year-old laying on her back don't know what sex is."


But there are several critics of the plan who feel that Unterman's bill will decriminalize prostitution.

At 2 p.m. Monday, several activists and conservative groups met on the steps of the Capitol to denounce the bill as promoting the decriminalization of prostitution.

"Never in our state's history has prostitution been legalized," said Sue Ella Deadwyler, publisher of Georgia Insight. "Arrest is a valuable life-saving tool that must be used. We need to hire more cops to arrest the prostitutes."

Georgia Insight appears to be a Christian conservative newsletter. I wasn't able to figure out how general the Christian right's disapproval of the bills is, but the above quote sure does suggest Ms. Deadwyler wants to see young prostitutes punished.

How about if she worked to cut back on the demand for those prostitutes' bodies?

On The Pro-Choice Movement. A Nasty Post.

The Kissling-Michelman article made me think more seriously about what is called the pro-choice movement in this country, or at least its official face, and those thoughts quickly turned into the nasty post territory. I haven't done one of those for some time, eh? Let's set the stage, shall we? And then I will go off on a rant.

The roots of what I want to say are a bit further back in time than with the Super Bowl ad. They start with a post on Daily Kos, by Angry Mouse, who writes about the awful ineptness of the official pro-choice organizations:

I'm talking about FeminismTM, as in the largest feminist advocacy organizations in the country raising millions of dollars to fight on behalf of women.

And I'm wondering if FeminismTM is really such a good investment.

You know those emails? The ones from NOW and NARAL and Emily's List that declare, with great urgency and lots of ALL CAPS and exclamation marks, that you must give money right now? Stop this bill! Block this nominee! Protect Roe! Save the Supreme Court! And give, give, give!!!

And since you often agree -- why yes, I do want to stop this bill; why no, I do not want that nominee confirmed -- you click and give. It won't stop this bill or block that nominee, but you will get another email at the next crisis.

And it's always a crisis. Even under a Democratic president, with a Democratic supermajority in Congress, the nation's biggest feminist organizations are in crisis mode, raising money but unable to deliver results. They're just as effective as they were under Bush. Which is to say, Not. At. All.


In the last decade, we've seen more restrictions on women's reproductive health, more government-funded sex (mis)education, and budget cuts everywhere -- for after school and early education programs, for employment and training programs, for programs to fight domestic violence -- all of which directly and disproportionately impact women.

And at every step backwards, the major feminist organizations have been powerless to stop it. Or just plain absent.

The proposed solution is to stop giving money to these organizations. It's Consumer Power! That will show them.

(If you have time you can read the attached comments thread (it's very long) to find out astonishing stuff, including the idea that feminism should not be about women at all. For example, Emily's List discriminates against men because it spends money on trying to get more women into politics, and it should stop doing that and just give equally to men and women. Yeah.)

Now, I can understand Angry Mouse's anger. What I can't understand is where she has been these last decades of conservative power. The nineties was many things, including the Decade of Anti-Feminism in the media (remember the evil welfare queens?), and the decade after that was Bush Reich. To fight those single-handedly would be real easy for a Superwoman or two, of course.

The Democratic Party courting pro-lifers is not a problem! The fat moneybags of the conservative forced-birth movement are no obstacle at all! We gave money to Naral! Neither is the fact that Fox News is forced birth propaganda 24/7 or that the other news have adopted conservative framing on the issues. Indeed, the conservative framing crops up everywhere. Unborn babies, you know.

Clearly, the pro-life movement is at fault. If only it had figured out a better meme! Even Michelman, a former president of Naral Pro-Choice America, goes along with that:

Those opposed to legal abortions have learned a lot about reaching out to the many Americans who can't make up their minds about the issue. Many of these people don't want abortion to be illegal but believe that too many such procedures take place in this country. Conservative groups, such as Focus on the Family, have gotten that message. They know to save the fire and brimstone for their hardcore base; for Super Bowl Sunday, you appeal to people's hearts with a smiling baby -- or Tim Tebow and his mom. Presenting Americans with a challenge of personal sacrifice, especially if the person who has to sacrifice is a woman, is a convincing sell.

Women's and choice groups responding to the Tebow ad should take a page from the Focus on the Family playbook. Erin Matson, the National Organization for Women's new vice president, called the Tebow spot "hate masquerading as love." That kind of comment may play well in the choice choir, but to others, it makes no sense, at best; at worst, it's seen as the kind of stridency that reinforces the view that pro-choice simply means pro-abortion.

Time for the rant:

What is the pro-choice movement? Is it like a firm that you pay to get the goods delivered? If it sells something a little bit unsightly, do you have the product sent to you in an unmarked brown box? When opinion polls ask you whether you are pro-choice or not, do you say that you, of course, would never have an abortion, because it costs you nothing to say that and might get you some approval? After all, abortions are still legal and even available in some places. You can get one, whatever you say in opinion polls, or your girlfriend or wife can get one. Lots seem to suffer from this particular type of paradox, given the numbers on pro-life sentiment in polls and the actual figures on abortions.

Who do you complain to when reproductive rights are endangered? The political firms which were supposed to produce them but came up impotent against the Stupak amendment? Not Focus on Family? Or the many wingnut millionaires who fund this stuff?

How do you run an effective pro-choice movement when you can't post grisly pictures of women bleeding to death on their bathroom floors because the pro-choice movement got abortions legal? What is there that you can match with pictures of cute babies or Tim Tebows or unending female sacrifice?

And what do you do when far too many Americans see all this as if they were watching a new show on television, as if they were neutral observers, ready to be persuaded by one side or the other, but only if a catchy meme can be provided? It is the odd consumerism of American politics that I'm complaining about here, once again, and for a good reason: Nobody, ultimately, can take that neutral observer standpoint, not even people with vasectomies or tied tubes, as long as they have women in their lives they care about. Yet that's the way I read much of the writing on this topic: Talk me into buying your product. Make me care! Or I shall get up for another beer during the Super Bowl ads break.

Gah. Take a looong step backwards to Basic Principles: One of the major reasons for women's eternal subjugated position throughout the history has been our inability to control our own fertility, to space our children or to even stay alive while giving birth. A woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding or suffering from birth-related illnesses is not going to paint paintings, compose music, fight for political power or even take a small trip somewhere interesting.

Her family will struggle to feed those children, her husband will view her fecundity as either a handy resource or as a burden, depending on the economics of the situation. No one child will get very much attention or resources. Girls are not worth educating, because all they will do is marry and have children. But they must be carefully watched prior to marriage so that the children won't crop up too soon. If they do, the girl is spoiled goods.

This is an extreme version, true. But then the forced birth side always gives us extreme versions and we swallow them. So swallow mine. It has the advantage of being closer to truth.

The Basic Principles I have outlined above are the crucial ones. Not the women bleeding to death in hidden bathrooms after a botched-up illegal abortion, but the women whose whole lives are chained to their wombs. And that is what contraception and reproductive choice have changed. We forget so very fast, we take the wrong things for granted. We should not.

It is not really privacy that should stand behind reproductive rights but the opportunity for women to have equal lives to those men can have. Ideally, this would be achieved through safe and effective contraception, but as long as such contraception is not available the battle will be about abortion. And make no mistake: Many so-called pro-life entities are also adamantly opposed to all contraception. What they really want is that bad history back.

My take is not the popular approach to reproductive choice, these days. That one focuses much more on women's rights to have children, to determine the way one gives birth and so on. All these are an important part of reproductive rights. But they pale in comparison to the basic right of not giving birth when you don't want to.


Odd how quickly the interpretation of events changes. Take the Super Bowl Tebow ad. We started with this scenario:

Pro-choice advocates were shocked when CBS appeared to violate internal policy and accepted this spot -- reportedly at a price of at least $2.5 million -- produced and paid for by Focus on the Family, a conservative antiabortion, anti-gay group. Though CBS says it has altered its policy, the networks have consistently rejected advocacy ads on controversial topics. The United Church of Christ was turned down by CBS in 2004 when it wanted to air a Super Bowl ad that celebrated diversity and welcomed gay and lesbian Christians to the denomination. And last year NBC rejected a spot from an antiabortion group that tried to use President Obama's life story to convey its message. The rules of the game seem to have changed without warning.

This is the point when I posted an action alert linking to a petition for CBS to withdraw the ad. If the United Church of Christ couldn't do it, why can the Focus on (male-dominated) Family?

What happened next? CBS told that they had changed their policy. Only they didn't bother to tell anyone until after the Tebow ad was accepted. And now all the pro-choice organizations who called for the withdrawal of the ad have egg on their faces (pun unintended)! They are censors and worse! A NYT editorial:

The National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice America and other voices for protecting women's reproductive freedom have called on CBS to yank it. Their protest is puzzling and dismaying.

The reasons cited in the editorial may be puzzling and dismaying. But the initial campaign for yanking the ad was not, because it was based on the sudden (and secret) shift in CBS policy.

OK. Now that we all know that CBS changed its policy, what is the proper pro-choice response to the ad? Is it to point out that Tim Tebow's mother exercised her choice, a choice which the Focus on Family guys would not want women to have?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Obama’s Great “Moderate” Hope, Susan Collins, Spits Into His Outstretched Hand by Anthony McCarthy

Well, that didn’t take long. In today’s paper Susan Collins has shown Barack Obama exactly what his latest attempt to make nice with Republicans is going to yield. Exactly what it has so far, nothing.

Give it up, Barack Obama, give it up and be The one and only President it is possible for you to be given your circumstances. Your Lincolnesque pose is a flop, in so far as governing goes. You aren’t in his position, you don’t have his advantages. Maybe you don’t have his skills or maybe he’d do as badly in your shoes. I don’t know if you are imagining yourself giving Old Abe’s Second Inaugural or some other speech but it’s not working for you.

Let’s state the obvious first, the Republicans are counting on the racists who would hate you and oppose you if you were Lincoln, Washington, Jesus and God all rolled into one. Racist hatred of you is a cornerstone in their unstated strategy, it frequently seeps to the surface. Peeling your support apart through getting you to betray your core supporters is another, making you fail one way or another is the ultimate goal. And that is working too. Your self-deluded attempts to woo them with your considerable charm and persuasive powers is one of their most successful weapons. Those are beginning to fail with your supporters who you wooed during the nomination and general election campaigns, expecting them to work with your enemies is doing their work for them.

Give it up, Mr. President, your chosen office means you don’t get to dally with them any longer. You are betraying those who supported you, the ones who might still be pursuaded to support you agin but only if you immediately give up being the chump of the Republicans.

You are not only choosing to lose and so being a loser, yourself, you are bringing down Democrats from the top of the ticket to the bottom. You are doing the opposite of what Lincoln did, he began a political party, you are ending one. And with it you are insuring that government by, of and for The People will perish. You can savor any irony you like that it is nominally the party of Lincoln who is the beneficiary of your failure, the rest of us don’t find it a savory prospect.

When Did Obama Meet With The House Progressive Caucus For That Long?

I’m not seeing signs that Barack Obama is abandoning his failed strategy, if those are there but are subtle, they’re too subtle to matter. Progressive Democrats have to try something else.

I’ve been a consistent critic of the third party delusion, the history of the dozens of third parties is a story of ideals gone awry, personality cults and total failure. They are a waste of our too little time and resources. I would not encourage even the most disillusioned progressive to go a route that is as likely to fail as Barack Obama’s charm offensive against the Republicans.

But if the House Progressive Causus and the ten most liberal Senators began to act up together, working from a list of basic demands - a real government option, health care bill foremost among them, a real jobs bill second - and making that an absolute requirement for their votes on ANY OTHER LEGISLATION Barack Obama and Harry Reid couldn’t ignore them.

If you wanted to you could think of it as a third party within the party.
The Blue Dogs apparently are and they are the rump that is wagging the entire thing right now. As pointed out here for the past two months, their threatened defection and obstruction are the only thing that makes them effective.

This virtual third party of the left would begin with the advantage of having office holders in place, office holders who gained office ON THE BASIS OF A PROGRESSIVE AGENDA. They would not be spoilers, giving seats to the enemies of progress. From everything I’ve seen, it’s the lack of progressive action by the Obama administration and the Democrats in the Senate that are the cause of our problems. Who knows? If the progressives forced some spine into the president and Harry Reid, maybe they could save this administration from itself. Who knows, maybe they could force the Senate to work on the basis of 51 votes, just like it has for Republicans with far fewer numbers of seats.

Sunday Funnies

This cartoon is an excellent way to define how sexism works. This one explains the dangers of careless extrapolation, and I like this just because.

FYI, From My Mailbox

Our Bodies Ourselves is looking for a few good women:

Our Bodies Ourselves is seeking up to two dozen women to participate in an online discussion on sexual relationships.

Stories and comments may be used anonymously in the next edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” which will be published in 2011 by Simon & Schuster.

We are seeking the experience and wisdom of heterosexual, lesbian, bisexual and queer women. Perspectives from single women are encouraged, and you may define relationship as it applies to you, from monogamy to multiple partners. We are committed to including women of color, women with disabilities, trans women and women of many ages and backgrounds.

In the words of the brilliant anthology “Yes Means Yes,” how can we consistently engage in more positive experiences? What issues deserve more attention? And how do we address social inequities and violence against women? These are some of the guiding questions that will help us to update the relationships section in “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”

The conversation will start Sunday, Feb. 14 (yes, Valentine’s Day) and stay open through Friday, March 12.

Participants will be invited to answer relevant questions

(view sample questions at Our Bodies, Our Blog)
and build on the responses of other participants. We’ll use a private Google site to post questions and responses.

Personal stories and reflections are welcomed, along with updated research and media resources. While we intend to use some of the stories and experiences in the book, names will not be published.

We hope the open process* will spark robust discussion. We expect new questions to arise that challenge us to re-work this section even more.

If you would like to participate in this conversation, please e-mail OBOS editorial team member Wendy Sanford:

In your email, please tell us about yourself and what you would bring to the conversation. We need to hear from you by Feb. 5 and will let you know soon thereafter about participation. Thanks for considering this!

*We have thought a great deal about privacy. If you want to share a story or information, but do not want to participate in the private Google site discussion, please indicate that in your email. We may send you questions that you can answer on your own.