Friday, February 22, 2013

Meanwhile, in Oklahoma. Who Is Dr. Dominic Pedulla?

In Oklahoma, fascinating political stuff about contraception:

Under State Sen. Clark Jolley (R)’s measure, “no employer shall be required to provide or pay for any benefit or service related to abortion or contraception through the provision of health insurance to his or her employees.” According to the Tulsa World, Jolley’s inspiration for his bill came from one of his male constituents who is morally opposed to birth control, and wanted to find a small group insurance plan for himself and his family that didn’t include coverage for those services:
Jolley said the measure is the result of a request from a constituent, Dr. Dominic Pedulla, an Oklahoma City cardiologist who describes himself as a natural family planning medical consultant and women’s health researcher. [...]
Women are worse off with contraception because it suppresses and disables who they are, Pedulla said.
“Part of their identity is the potential to be a mother,” Pedulla said. “They are being asked to suppress and radically contradict part of their own identity, and if that wasn’t bad enough, they are being asked to poison their bodies.”
The bill has already cleared a Senate Health committee and now makes it way to Oklahoma’s full Senate. It is unlikely that either Jolley and Pedulla themselves rely on insurance coverage for hormonal contraceptive services — but if the measure becomes law, the two men could limit the health insurance options for the nearly two million women who live in Oklahoma.
 The bolds are in the original.

All this made me most eager to meet Dr. Dominic Pedulla.  If he is the same doctor Pedulla I've found on the Google, he is the founder of the Edith Stein Foundation. 

Who was Edith Stein and what does she have to do with this foundation?

As a brilliant feminist scholar she was able to challenge certain assumptions of the day, arguing for greater involvement of women in the liturgical life of the Church, in the professions, and in the workplace. She was an intellectual leader of the fledgling women’s movement in Germany after World War I. It is a remarkable tribute to her persona that she was able to harmonize these feminist aspirations with her abiding belief that at the deepest core of woman’s personality one will find receptivity and motherhood. Not a ”barefoot and pregnant” reductionist view of motherhood, the kind which sees woman as a passive prisoner of her biology, and slave to her tyrant fertility. Rather, she saw receptivity and motherliness as woman’s unique power, a power capable of transforming a home, workplace, professional environment, country, or society in ways that men cannot.
One of the prescient original insights was derived from her exegesis of the Genesis biblical narratives as well as from her intuitive analysis of the lived experience of woman. This insight was that procreation would always be a more consuming and psychologically preoccupying concern for the woman. This prophetic analysis anticipated the work of later experts of the psychology of woman, who recognized the procreation and childbearing can be anxiety-provoking challenges to integration in a woman’s life.

We think that if Edith Stein were alive today she would be a zealous promoter of fertility consciousness and appreciation, and would see this issue as an existential core feminist issue. She would see this alternative as the only authentic and empowering way of satisfying modern woman’s fertility-control needs in a way that fulfills also the deepest needs of her person. She would also see contraception and sterilization as a deeply traumatizing form of rejection of woman’s core self. She would see them as debilitating compromises with fear and therefore contrary to reproductive freedom. She would not view contraception and sterilization as liberating technologies, but rather cruel instruments of woman’s personal degradation and enslavement to the will and desires of others.
We therefore look to Edith Stein as patroness of our Foundation and movement. We believe it most fitting that this great feminist and saint inspire all efforts to empower the world’s women in an authentic way in this new millennium. We think her ideas, articulated within the woman’s movement, will have great power to influence the cultural dialogue concerning woman, sexuality, marriage, and family.
Bolds here are mine.  In short, the Edith Stein Foundation is a Catholic Foundation, opposed to contraception and sterilization and pretty much created by Dr. Pedulla.  The rest of the leadership consists of two men and one woman, the latter the wife of Dr. Pedulla.  How odd that something like a foundation can be just another name for one couple...

The mission of the Edith Stein Foundation:

In 1968, an Italian scholar predicted that if contraception were to become a cultural norm, four things would result: a general lowering of moral standards, an increase in promiscuousness and infidelity, a rise in the disrespect men have for women, and the coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments. Strikingly, in the more than forty years since that portentous prognosis, all four of these have been realized. Social science not only shows it, but is showing the connection between a contraceptive culture and the social maladies of our day.
What’s more, medical research has shown and is continuing to show the far reaching ill effects of all methods of contraception. Not many people have heard about the 1968 predictions, and the growing body of evidence against contraceptives. For the dignity and health of women, this has got to stop. This is where the Edith Stein Foundation comes in to educate, advocate, research, connect, and heal
Thus, fighting for the eradication of contraceptives is the reason why we have this proposal in Oklahoma.  Truly fascinating stuff!  And think of how much power one man has in getting something like this into the political system!

Note also the code-word "dignity" in that last quote.  It's customarily used by various religions as a replacement for equality when talking about women.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Simple Proposal: Have Elections On Weekends

This I don't get about the US elections:  That they are held on a weekday.   By doing that, the American system maximizes the costs of voting for all hourly workers, for all those who need transportation (by a friend or a relative) to go to vote and for all who are minding small children.

Why not have elections over the weekend?  They can be made two days long and that way nobody's religion should stand in the way.   That solution is not complete as there are people who work over the weekends.  But it would reduce the costs of voting to many more people.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What To Read And Why Echidne Is Tired

If I could go back to the beginning of my blogging life I would make a few changes.  For one, I'd make different blogs for different topics.  For another, I'd probably call myself Average Bob or something similar on one of those blogs and Lettuce Prey on another.  I could have carried out amateur studies of the impact of one's handle!

Alas, even goddesses cannot go backwards.  But I wish I hadn't started to write about everything under the sun or at least far too many areas.  When I debate stuff with people it's like fighting enemies on all fronts, ultimately.  Very very exhausting.  I should have stuck to the areas in which I have decades of study.  But of course that is boring.

Here are some interesting things for you to read.  Some of them require no extra writing, others I'm too tired to write about, and the first link most of you can't read at all so you must just trust me!

Sweden's stock-market-quoted companies have more men named Johan than all women, whatever their names,  in their leadership. (Link is to a yellow Finnish rag paper so take with a ladle of salt without checking).

What is happening in Egypt, as seen through the eyes of one Tom Friedman and the fact that the bellydancing channel there has been closed.

On the age-old question:  Are women responsible for how men react to their clothing?

Interesting ideas on how languages might affect our thinking.  I have lots more ideas about that based on my bilingual life.

A fascinating story about found photographs and the unknown taker of them:  A 1950s nanny.

More on the Baby Dearth And Selfishness

That "Where Are All The Babies Gone" article made me think of this genre as a whole.  With very few exceptions, these pieces discuss the horrible consequences of not enough babies, focusing on "you-are-going-to-die-alone-in-your-own-filth" and "who's going to pay for you when you are old" as the two major be-very-afraid triggers.

But most of them also mention some version of the fear what might happen if liberal women don't start having a lot of children in the United States (conservatives will take over) or if non-Muslim women don't start having a lot of children in Europe (extreme Islamists will take over):  If you thought you have something to complain now about sexism and rigid gender roles, just you wait.

Which means that a voluntary return to traditional gender roles is required in order for us to avoid a compulsory return to those gender roles.

All of that is naturally aimed at the hidden (but very real) assumption that it is the selfishness of women which is causing all this.  Women must stop being so selfish because either liberalism or the white race or the Western Civilization will die if they don't.  That the solution sorta resembles the death of liberalism or the death of modernity for women is not a part of those articles.

I put it all in somewhat sharper terms than any of the articles I've read does, just so that you can see what I mean.  The basic setup means that we will NOT look at certain solutions.

For example, if the lower fertility rates are because people are too selfish, the only clear solution is for them to stop being so selfish!  An article which digs more deeply into that question might ask what other reasons people might have for not procreating than selfishness, and that digging would bring up all the stuff about the United States having no paid parental leave, about the high costs of college in this country, about the nonexistent or very expensive daycare, about women still being assumed to do all the hands-on childcare and so on.

But by positing selfishness as the explanation, very little of that needs to seep into the articles.

Japan is an interesting test case of many of those ideas.  Japan pretty much HAS traditional gender roles and that has not helped in raising fertility rates.  Indeed, it is those very gender roles which probably cause the low fertility rates, because the Japanese still view mothering as a full-time occupation and because women in the labor force suffer from fewer promotions etc. after they get married.

Likewise, the countries in Europe which experience the greatest birth dearth are Catholic countries in the south and Germany.  What those share are traditional assumptions about how mothering should be carried out.  One study noticed that a very large number of Italian men has never operated a washing machine.  And another pointed out that mothers who don't dedicate themselves sufficiently to their children are called Raven Mothers in Germany.

I find this all very interesting!  Women are selfish (all people, yes, but mostly women) and should stop being so selfish.  That's the solution, and the motivation is linked to a certain kind of far-future society or one's own hypothesized suffering in old age.  And there the conclusions pretty much end.

But if we asked WHY women don't have more children we could get solutions which actually work.  For instance, those guys writing books about this could start daycare facilities!  They could lobby for better parental leave!  They could lobby for lower college costs!  They could really change the world rather than complaining about it in a way which costs themselves nothing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Facebook And Taxes

Do you know how much Facebook paid in federal and state income taxes in 2012?  Assuming this article has it right a total of zero dollars:

It’s good to be a corporation in America. Despite making $1.1 billion after going public last year, Facebook didn’t pay a dime in state or federal income taxes in 2012. Instead, thanks to the social media company’s use of a single tax break—the tax deductibility of executive stock options—it anticipates getting a massive refund from the government totaling $429 million.
I don't know if that $1.1 billion is profit or revenue.  But this is interesting information in any case.  It's like that saw about financial markets being too big to fail in that now firms can be too big to pay taxes.

But taxes are (ideally) the cost we pay for the infrastructure, the police, the firefighters, the public health services and so on.  They are the price of civilization, and watching large firms get away without paying their fair share also gnaws on the ties that bind us to each other.  Because the outcome is unfair.

Where Have All The Babies Gone, Ask Joel Kotkin And Harry Siegel.

At the Daily Beast.  The article is about:
Sitting around a table at a hookah bar in New York’s East Village with three women and a gay man, all of them in their 20s and 30s and all resolved to remain childless, a few things quickly became clear: First, for many younger Americans and especially those in cities, having children is no longer an obvious or inevitable choice. Second, many of those opting for childlessness have legitimate, if perhaps selfish, reasons for their decision.
Indeed, that opening tells you almost everything you need to know about this article.  It's about the baby dearth and the selfishness of those who don't have children.  It's also about who's-gonna-pay-for-you-when-you-are-old:

As younger Americans individually eschew families of their own, they are contributing to the ever-growing imbalance between older retirees—basically their parents—and working-age Americans, potentially propelling both into a spiral of soaring entitlement costs and diminished economic vigor and creating a culture marked by hyperindividualism and dependence on the state as the family unit erodes.
Crudely put, the lack of productive screwing could further be screwing the screwed generation.
So.  The family will be in the dustbin of the history and nobody will take care of all the elderly.  But note that the women who in the past had many children and stayed at home taking care of them tended to be the poorest in old age because of the way retirement benefits are calculated.  I'm pointing that one out because the article tends to ignore all the costs to women in the various alternatives.

Lest you haven't been scared enough by now, the authors also suggest that:

In the long run, notes Eric Kaufmann, the author of Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, high birthrates among such conservative, religious populations as Mormons and evangelical Christians will slant our politics against the secular young, childless voting bloc as well. Even among generally liberal groups like Jews, the most religious are vastly out-birthing their secular counterparts; by some estimates roughly two in five New York Jews are Orthodox—as are three in four of the city’s Jewish children. If these trends continue, and if these children share their parents’ politics—two big ifs, to be sure—even the Democratic stronghold of Gotham will be pulled rightward.
This prospect would pose dangers to our society as a whole, and singletons in particular, including a potential reversion to a more rigidly traditionalist worldview.
What's quite funny about that quote is that the very large families of some of the fundamentalist sects are made possible with the help of the government.  And note that stick (rather than carrots) in the last sentence:  If the liberal young people don't breed more then they will get rigid traditional gender roles back!

The authors then mention a few countries with lower fertility rates than the United States.  Germany and Japan, in particular.

You know, I'm always grateful for Japan having such a low fertility rate, not because I don't care about Japan, but because Japan is not a feminist country.  Neither are Italy or Spain terribly feminist places but they are also places with very low fertility rates.  Of course what all those three countries share are pretty "rigid traditionalist worldviews" when it comes to sexual division of child care tasks.  In short, they are not divided at all but fall to the woman.  This means her costs have risen in a world where two incomes may be necessary.

What are the solutions to this Baby Dearth, then? Joel and Harry tell us:

There are several steps our government could take that might mitigate postfamilialism without aspiring to return to some imagined “golden age” of traditional marriage and family. These include such things as reforming the tax code to encourage marriage and children; allowing continued single-family home construction on the urban periphery and renovation of more child-friendly and moderate-density urban neighborhoods; creating extended-leave policies that encourage fathers to take more time with family, as has been modestly successfully in Scandinavia; and other actions to make having children as economically viable, and pleasant, as possible. Men, in particular, will also have to embrace a greater role in sharing child-related chores with women who, increasingly, have careers and interests of their own.

Perhaps those "other actions" only hinted at include good quality daycare, longer maternity leaves, less financial punishment (in terms of lowered future earnings and retirement incomes) for women who either take time off from the labor force or work part-time.  Perhaps those "other actions" might be doing something about college costs which can now average $40,000  per year?  Or the expectation in this country that all parents should support their children through college?

In short, having children in the United States is expensive and has little concrete support from the society.  At the same time, mothering, as defined in various popular media articles, has almost become an extreme sport:  All-consuming and never sufficient.  No wonder if young women hesitate to join those races.  Incidentally, this article isn't alone in trying to turn people off parenting.  Neither is it alone in that definition of parenting problems as purely individual ones.

Not all of the Kotkin-Siegel article is bad or wrong.  But I find it astonishing that one important aspect of the whole question is simply omitted, or replaced by stories about young women in a hookah bar.  And yes, we can question whether lower fertility rates indeed might not be the best solution to what is ailing Mother Earth.  As I've mentioned before, it would be hard to bring all people to a high standard of living (and leave some place for the rest of nature) without reducing the number of people on this earth.

Today's Fun Fact

I had to hover near the computer, waiting for something to finish, so I went to I fucking love science.  It has a story about Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, with this picture:

Oops, I thought.  

If you don't get why I thought that way, go and read the comments attached to the post. Or a sample of them.  That's what I did.  And then I read all the 2944 comments that were posted at the time.

Here's the fun fact:  Three percent of those comments consist of some version of the "get back into the kitchen and make me a sammitch, biatch" joke.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Take One For The Team, Republican Ladiez

I must scratch my head over these Republican boys' antics.  Here's the recent joke column at the National Review by Michael Walsh:

Nevertheless, you’re on to something I’ve been advocating for years now. And that is the repeal of all four of the so-called “Progressive Era” amendments, including the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th, which were passed between 1911 and 1920.
The income-tax amendment was a self-evident attack on capitalism and led to the explosive growth of the federal government we currently enjoy today. (Without it, there’d be no need for a Balanced Budget Amendment.) Direct elections of senators has given us, among other wonders, the elevation of John F. Kerry to, now, secretary of state. Prohibition was directly responsible for the rise of organized crime and its unholy alliance with the big-city Democratic machines. And women’s suffrage . . . well, let’s just observe that without it Barack Obama could never have become president. Time for the ladies to take one for the team.
Who’s with me?

A party which is currently known best for supporting rapists' fatherhood rights and for demanding vaginal ultrasounds before abortions and for trying to block the VAWA then comes out with public jokes about how women's suffrage should be abolished?

They couldn't be clearer about their views if they erected a banner over their headquarters saying No GURLZ Allowed.  Well, that was overly nice of me.  The banner would say something like "bitches are dumb, women are inferior, and egg Americans rule."

But I think Michael Walsh is dumb.  Or rather blind and deaf and living in a little locker-room bubble rather than in the real world.  Because what his joking tells us is that he thinks it would be easier to ban women from voting than to change those things about his party platform which are against most women's interests.  But perhaps the Republicans have figured out that if they have the money boys and the fundies, all they need are the misogynists, and this might be part of the courting of those haters.

To put things into some perspective, I have never read a Democratic pundit or politician proposing the abolition of male suffrage, even though that, too, would benefit one party.  That the Republicans have done the reverse several times tells us something.

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia

(The "meanwhile, in x" posts are about negative news concerning women's lives in various places. )

Content Warning:  Violence, Sexual Violence

These news explain why laws which treat men and women differently can create horrible outcomes:

  • Religious scholar "sentenced to pay blood money to mother after serving short jail term" for daughter's death.
  • A Saudi man who raped his five-year-old daughter and tortured her to death has been sentenced to pay "blood money" to the mother after having served a short jail term, according to activists.
  • The man, said to be a religious scholar who is also a regular guest on Islamic television networks, confessed to having used cables and a cane to inflict the injuries, activists from the group Women to Drive said in a statement on Saturday.
  • Lamia was admitted to hospital on December 25, 2011, with multiple injuries, including a crushed skull, broken ribs and left arm, extensive bruising and burns, the activists said.
  • They said the father had doubted his daughter Lama's virginity and had her checked up by a medic.
The torture and killing could happen anywhere.  But in this case two aspects of the way the shariah law is applied in Saudi Arabia makes things much worse:

 First, the couple was divorced and the father had automatic control of the child.  The mother asked him for custody but he refused, and that was that.

 Second, the way the Saudi clerics interpret shariah, a father killing his child cannot be considered an ordinary murderer:

As for fathers, the matter is different; a father cannot be executed for killing his child. This is because a father is the considered the origin of his child and the child is the branch; and the branch cannot be used to eliminate the origin.
It was narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “No father should be killed (executed) for killing his son.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Having said this, it should be also pointed out that Imam Malik has a different opinion: if a father kills his son definitely on purpose without any doubt, he may be executed.
Allah Almighty knows best.

I'm not an expert and therefore don't know why the alternative is a few months in prison and the payment of blood money (half of the amount that would be given in the case of the killing of a son), but the first linked article states that the same principle applies to husbands killing their wives, even though he cannot be the origin of her.

Those rulings create bad incentives.  Why not just kill a troublesome wife  rather than divorce her?  They also give a green light to extreme forms of pedophile violence as long as the perpetrator only attacks his own children.

Activists in Saudi Arabia have raised objections to the ruling.  I was unable to find English-language news stories about general reactions and what most people thought about the ruling.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

What Lindsay Graham Said

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) today:

During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Graham suggested that the sequester’s across-the-board cuts to federal spending, including about a roughly 7.5 percent reduction in military spending, would be “destroying the military.” But rather than agree to President Obama’s proposed alternatives to the sequester, the South Carolina Republican said we should save money by eliminating health care for the 30 million people covered by the Affordable Care Act:
CHRIS WALLACE: Let me just ask you one more question about the sequestration before we let you go, Senator. You know if we go into the sequester, the president is going to hammer Republicans, the White House already put out a list of all the things, terrible things that will happen if a sequester kicks in, 70,000 children losing Head Start. 2100 fewer food inspectors and small business will lose $900 million in loan guarantees and you know, Senator, the president will say your party is forcing this to protect tax cuts for the wealthy.
GRAHAM: Well, all i can say is the commander-in-chief thought — came up with the idea of sequestration, destroying the military and putting a lot of good programs at risk. It is my belief — take Obamacare and put it on the table. You can make $86,000 a year in income and still get a government subsidy under Obamacare. Obamacare is destroying health care in this country and people are leaving the private sector, because their companies cannot afford to offer Obamacare and if you want to look at ways to find $1.2 trillion in savings over the next decade, look at Obamacare, don’t destroy the military and cut blindly across the board. There are many ways to do it but the president is the commander-in-chief and on his watch we’ll begin to unravel the finest military in the history of the world, at a time when we need it most. The Iranians are watching us, we are allowing people to be destroyed in Syria, and i’m disappointed in our commander-in-chief.
Bolds are in the original.   Here's that fun picture of the US military spending:

Somehow I don't think that a 7.5% cut in the budgeted amounts for defense would destroy the  US military.

I tried to find that reference to $86,000.  Perhaps I didn't search hard enough, because this is the closest I found to it:

  • For example, a family of four earning just below $88,000, or 400 percent of the poverty level, will receive about $5,000 in annual subsidies to purchase insurance in 2016. Once that threshold is crossed, the subsidy immediately drops to zero. So for a family of four in that income range, a raise in wages would actually result in a significant reduction in take-home pay.
Or it could be a reference to this:

And it turns out that there’s a problem there. Whereas many welfare and government programs take into account the number of people involved in a household, Obamacare does not. Analysts testifying before Congress yesterday discussed the disincentives:
“The way this bill is structured, there are disincentives for women to marry and disincentives for women to work,” said Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.
“Two singles would each be able to earn $43,000 and still receive help to purchase health insurance, but if they got married and combined their earnings to $86,000, they would be far above the limit,” Furchtgott-Roth explained. So those with that much income as a couple would lose the government subsidies and be on their own for thousands of dollars in health coverage.
???  The two appear to contradict each other, despite the fact that the latter links to the former.  I'm too tired to figure that one out.  Perhaps you can do so in the comments.