Saturday, September 12, 2015

Hilarious! In Louisiana You Should Go To A Dentist For Your Pap Smears

This is the hilarious side of the Republican war against women.  Just check for yourself, if you don't believe me:

When Louisiana state officials announced their plans to terminate Planned Parenthood’s state Medicaid contract in late August, they argued that there were plenty of doctors who could take on the more than 5200 patients the reproductive health organization sees each year in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
They even provided a list of those doctors to the US District Court when Planned Parenthood filed suit against the state (Planned Parenthood argues that breaking the contract is a violation of federal law). It’s an impressive 37 pages long, including 1146 Medicaid providers near New Orleans and 864 near Baton Rouge.
But actually reading their list reveals that very few of those doctors are qualified to give pelvic exams, provide contraceptives, or administer screenings for STDs or breast and cervical cancer. The list is actually of every provider who takes Medicaid in the region—including dentists, along with anesthesiologists, eye doctors, radiologists, cardiologists, pharmacies, and nursing homes.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals submitted a revised list of providers on September 8. This list is much shorter. It includes just 29 providers, 24 of which provide the same range of services as Planned Parenthood. Only five providers are in Baton Rouge; two have three-week waits for new patients, and one is not accepting new patients.

Bolds are mine.

Read the linked article.  It has a fun discussion of how a Federal judge reacted to the original list.

What's not so hilarious is the utter do-not-f***ing-care-about-women's-health that presenting the original list demonstrates.  Breast cancer and cervical cancer fears?  Go to a dentist, for godssake!  Or lie down in a nice nursing home bed.

Friday, September 11, 2015

More On Religions And Women's Rights

It's hard not to notice the impact of certain religious dictates as one of the major barriers to true gender equality in this world.*

Take the Catholic hospitals in the US:

By the close of 2011, one in nine hospital beds in this country existed in a Catholic or Catholic-sponsored health-care facility. If viewed together as one corporate entity, the ten largest Catholic-sponsored health systems of hospitals and clinics would constitute the largest in the country. And these hospitals are routinely denying medical care to women, citing Catholic doctrine as justification.
The crucial point is that it doesn't matter if this happens to patients with different faiths or none at all, because they have no other hospital to go to:  They, too, will be potentially subjected to the Catholic rules about contraception, abortion and sterilization, and they, too, might find themselves at risk of not getting the best possible medical care when pregnant.

Or consider the case of the Iranian cartoonist, Atena Farghadani:

An Iranian artist currently serving more than 12 years in prison for criticising the government now faces further charges of “indecency” for allegedly shaking her male lawyer’s hand.
Amnesty International reports that Atena Farghadani, 29, who was jailed after she depicted Iranian government officials as monkeys and goats in a satirical cartoon, may face a longer sentence amid claims over the handshake.
Charges of an “illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery” have been brought against Farghadani and her lawyer Mohammad Moghimi amid allegations he visited her in jail and shook her hand - which is illegal in Iran.

And it is illegal in Iran because of the gender segregation rules which are based on that country's interpretation of Islam.  It is the gender segregation that is the problem here, because it's extremely unlikely that such a system could ever produce equal rights for women.  Separate cannot be truly equal.**

These two examples demonstrates the inherent clashes between many conservative interpretations of religion and women's rights to full human existence.  It also follows that when people demand certain religious rights which benefit or harm men and women differently, the shadow attaching to those rights is often a reduction in the rights of women, whether those women are believers or not. 

That's because the religious dogmas we still follow are ancient, and if taken ultra-literally would guarantee that women's rights remain at the level societies considered appropriate two thousand years ago.

*  For more on this topic, read here and here.

**Except perhaps in a science-fictionish arrangement of two separate-but-equal countries, one for men and one for women, where the trade is one way in sperm and the other way in baby boys.

I haven't found out if Farghadani's lawyer will also be sued for shaking the hand of a woman.  But in general sex segregation laws have more severe consequences for women who in the extreme forms are excluded from positions of power because those places are full of men. 

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Today's Idle And Not-So-Idle Echidne Thoughts

1.  Watch this video about women's fashions in the West changing from 1915 to 2015, because it's both fun and because you can then watch it again while thinking about the economic, technological, political and social influences behind the changes you see.

2.  I was struck by one interaction in this Salman Rushdie interview :

[Q.] Your novel is a homage of sorts to the myth of Scheherazade, who told stories every night to delay her execution, and the title is a riff on “One Thousand and One Nights.” It struck me that you have experienced the inverse of the Scheherazade story, after being a target for execution for your novel “The Satanic Verses.”
A. Yes, the anti-Scheherazade. My life is what it is, and clearly it affects what I think. Scheherazade is one of the great authorless figures. No one has any idea who made her up, so it’s easy to think she made herself up. But there she is, one of the immortal characters of literature, and how can you not fall in love with somebody who civilizes savage people by telling them stories?
I love the idea of stories having such powers!  If only that was the case.

Still,  in some deeper sense it is true that telling stories is an inherent aspect of being human, of trying to understand this bewildering mess that is reality, and, most importantly, of trying to reach others.

3.  This Huffington Post article argues that gender equality is the most critical of global goals. 

Whether it is the most critical depends on how we define such goals (as climate change, for example, might become so drastic as to wipe out the need to talk about a now-extinct species and the forms of inequality it accepted for millennia), but I have come to the conclusion that a shared global goal on gender equality is absolutely necessary. 

It's insufficient to let various countries or cultures pursue those goals for themselves only.  The world no longer consists of many isolated cultures, after all, but of something much more integrated, and what happens inside one culture affects other nearby cultures

Productivity Rises Much Faster Than US Average Wages

Here's an exciting article by Josh Bivens and Lawrence Mishel for all you economics nerds!  It talks about the possible reasons why the pay of a typical American worker has not risen as much as the overall productivity tells us it could have risen.   Look at the graph:

What's important in that graph are its two halves, divided by the vertical line.  Before the time marked by the vertical line productivity and the compensation of a typical worker went pretty much hand-in-hand:  When productivity* rose, workers' real earnings rose.  After that date, not so much.  The extra productivity which could have enabled higher average earnings instead enabled something else.

Bivens and Mishel argue that this "something else" is higher incomes for the owners of capital and for a small group of very highly paid workers, such as the CEOs in the financial sector.  In short, average real earnings could have risen considerably more, but they did not.  Instead, the income accruing to capital and the highest earners grew disproportionately.

What's behind that decoupling of average earnings growth from productivity growth?  The article notes that one factor consists of

 ...the passage of many policies that explicitly aimed to erode the bargaining power of low- and moderate-wage workers in the labor market.
I'm not certain if outsourcing and globalization is included in those policies, but its effect on reducing the bargaining power of workers in this country has certainly been much greater on low- and moderate-wage workers than those earning the high salaries.

*Here productivity is defined as:

Productivity is simply the total amount of output (or income) generated in an average hour of work. As such, growth in an economy’s productivity provides the potential for rising living standards over time.
The Bivens-Mishel article goes into a lot of detail about various theories that might explain the divergence shown in the above graph.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Europe's Refugee and Migrant Crisis: What About The Women?

I have spent a lot of time trying to understand the wider ramifications of Europe's* current crisis with mostly Syrian refugees and Europe's general longer-standing crisis with migrants and refugees.  The numbers in the long-run are not manageable, the short-term situation is utterly devastating for the refugees and the real solutions are either politically unfeasible or pie-in-the-sky (stop the war in Syria, make Eritrea and Libya into  safe places, reduce income differences between Africa and Europe).

I'm not going to write more about the humanitarian catastrophes or who is most at fault for creating them, because I have nothing useful to say about that, or at least nothing that you couldn't read elsewhere.  Neither am I going to write about the horrible plight of the refugees and migrants because I have nothing extra to say about that, either, except to agree that the situation is horrible and that aid (both places of safety and much more money) is urgently needed, and that Greece, in particular, needs help in its attempt to cope with refugees.

Instead, I am going to write about why young men seem to be the largest group of refugees and migrants currently seeking asylum in Europe.

That's because this is a blog writing about gender issues, and because my Internet surfing showed me that many comments sections asked why the refugees and/or economic migrants** seem to consist of a majority of young men traveling on their own.  Some more right-wing commentators ask why those men are not fighting ISIS (or Assad?), why they look so healthy and well-fed, what they are escaping from if it was safe enough to leave the women, children and the elderly behind and so on.