All things weird and wonderful, 18

27 02 2012

Photo by Cienna Madrid

Because. . . why not?

h/t Cienna Madrid, The Stranger





Mayan Campaign Mashup 2012: The sky is falling!

26 02 2012

Kids going to colleges! Episcopalians not being Southern Baptists! States separating from churches!

It’s hard out there for Santorum.

And women, oy, women, fooled by feminists and secularists into wanting jobs and guns and contraceptions and everything! Amirite, Republican ladies?

Now, to be fair, he wouldn’t actually mandate that women remain barefoot and pregnant, but there’s no reason for the government to make it easy to women to purchase footware, is there?

No good can come from that.





Feeling groovy

24 02 2012

How long does it take to carve oneself into a place?

I’ve been in New York for over 5 years, and only very recently has it begun—begun—in some small way to feel like mine.

This wasn’t something to which I paid much attention in my early wanderings. Madison was the first stop out of SmallTown and I loved it unreservedly, threw my whole self into what seemed the far shore of previous life.

Minneapolis? I did not love, less for its Minneapolisness than for the fact that a) it was not Madison (where my friends were having fun in their fifth year of school) and b) it was the location of graduate school, where I was not having fun.

Albuquerque was so brief—11 months—that it felt more like an interlude to life than life itself. I wasn’t particularly happy to trek back to Minneapolis, but I knew the place, had friends there, had more-or-less (mostly less) of a life there.

The 2 bus down Franklin to campus, the 52 back to Lyndale, or maybe a bus to downtown, then the 15 up Nicollet. The bike route past the convention center, through downtown, sneaking up to the West Bank from behind, then over the river and over the bridge to the gym. Or hopping into my car and on to the interstate to get to campus, scoping out the few all-day spots scattered around Riverside or at least trying for a 4-hour spot.

The diners at Cedar-Riverside, the bars at Seven Corners, Electric Fetus for cds and the 3 used bookstores in Uptown, this one good for memoir, that one for fiction and philosophy, the other one for history of science. Walks through Loring Park and over the bridge to the Sculpture Garden. Swimming in Cedar Lake. All of my friends, oh, all of my friends.

I never adored Minneapolis, but at some point I wore a groove into to the place, a path which became my life.

I did adore Montreal, had my routes and habits, but Montreal was so easy that I wonder if I ever really took my life there seriously at all. I could make my impressions—feet on sand, boots in snow—but a wave or a wind and I was gone.

Then again, with my departure built into my arrival, I was free to swim its surfaces, to rove over the island trying to soak in every last bit of its sublime beauty; I passed through Montreal and let Montreal pass through me.

Somerville and Boston? No, no chance, not for me.

And then, Brooklyn. Unprepared and upside down but determined to make this place stick, to make myself stick. I told a friend last night that it might have been a terrible decision to move here but it wasn’t a mistake. I had to know, I told her.

Still, while a part me locked into the city, there were many more parts which were just. . . alienated? uncomfortable? suppressed? I tried consciously to create habits of living, but that felt fake; I acted as if this were already home, but that was a lie.

I wanted New York to be home, and it wasn’t. It still isn’t.

Recently, however, I’ve noticed that my path is, in some places, noticeably smoother. There are places I know, places I count on without knowing I count on them, friends who are true friends.

Another friend told me, before I moved here, that New York is a hard place, and she was right, it is a hard place. But I can run my hand over this ground and feel, for the first time, the ground begin to give.





All things weird and wonderful, 17

23 02 2012

Sree V. Remella/Nat Geographic Photo of the Day

Needed a bit of break, don’t you think?

 





Stories for boys

22 02 2012

My college roommates and I once asked the assorted male guests in our apartment if they hung to the left or to the right.

Answer (unanimously): left. (We theorized it was because they were all right-handed and so put their keys and whatnot in the right pocket.)

We also asked those who had been on swim teams what they did if they got aroused in their Speedos.

Answer: it was usually too cold for this to be a worry, and, anyway, that’s what judiciously-wrapped towels were for.

You’re welcome.

h/t PZ Myers, Pharyngula





I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused

21 02 2012

Nope, not linking to that piece on the purpose of women.

Not because it’s a troll-in-a-post or ludicrous or page-view bait, but because it is so poorly written I cannot understand what he is saying.

Now, I might be offended if I could get through his When-in-the-course-of-Heidegger-skirts-barbarism-feminism-oh-look-a-pony style of, er, argumentation.

Or, y’know, I might just laugh.

Other bloggers have noted that beneath this pundit’s Potemkin’s pretensions is an appeal to natural law.

Natural law: the god-in-the-gaps explanation for all that eternally is when all that is eternally is turns out to be, not.

Jeremy Bentham offers the best riposte* to this sort of metaphysical mystification: Natural rights is simple nonsense; natural and imprescriptable rights, rhetorical nonsense—nonsense on stilts.

Now that’s a metaphor.

~~~~

*I know, not an argument, and he’s talking about natural rights, not law, but, goddammit, “nonsense on stilts” is just too good not to use.

h/t Commenter Spurious on this Crooked Timber thread, and SEK at Lawyers, Guns & Money





Testing, one, two

20 02 2012

Rick Santorum got one (kinda) right.

The bottom line is that a lot of prenatal tests are done to identify deformities in utero, and the customary procedure is to encourage abortions.

That is exactly why a lot of prenatal tests are done—to identify any possible problems—and, yes, if the problems are sufficiently grave, an abortion may follow.

I’d argue about the word “encourage”—doctors are unlikely to be so explicitly directive in their discussion of test results—but I wouldn’t doubt that a fair amount of pressure is brought to bear on the woman (and her partner) to decide quickly, not least because abortions become more complicated the later in the pregnancy they’re performed.

And in fact, prenatal testing, particularly amniocentesis — I’m not talking about general prenatal care—we’re talking about specifically prenatal testing, and specifically amniocentesis, which is a procedure that actually creates a risk of having a miscarriage when you have it, and is done for the purposes of identifying maladies in the womb. And which in many cases — in fact, most cases physicians recommend — particularly if there’s a problem — recommend abortion.

Again, this is less clear. “Non-directive counseling” is the watchword in genetics counseling, and while OB/GYN’s have not necessarily undergone such training, the mantra of let-the-patient-decide has pretty well seeped into the ethos of American medicine.

“Doctor’s orders” ain’t what they used to be: since the 1970s, patient autonomy has been elevated to one of the main principles of biomedical ethics, a principle reinforced by the legal system. Doctors may and do recommend a particular course of action, but having been imbued with the notion of respecting the ability of the patient to make her own decisions and mindful of the possibility of tort action if their recommended solution goes south, they are far more likely to dump information into the patient’s lap and say “your decision”.

Okay, that’s a bit severe, but it is the case that patients expect more information and that courts will hold a doctor liable if she withholds such information from them; failure to perform standard medical tests and inform the patient of the results can itself result in lawsuits.

This is the real dynamic behind the pressure—and oh, yes, there is pressure*—for pregnant women to undergo prenatal testing.  Blood tests and ultrasounds are routine in all pregnancies in the US, and amniocentesis is strongly recommended for high-risk pregnancies, a procedure which Santorum, correctly, notes puts the fetus at risk for miscarriage. To decline such tests is to open oneself to repeated (incredulous and/or hostile) questioning of that decision.

But here is where Santorum begins to go off track:

One of the things that you don’t know about ObamaCare in one of the mandates is they require free prenatal testing. Why? Because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and, therefore, less care that has to be done, because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society. That too is part of ObamaCare — another hidden message as to what president Obama thinks of those who are less able than the elites who want to govern our country.

Let’s unpack this, shall we?

First, those who perform the test, those on whom the tests are performed, those who pay for the test,  and those who regulate insurance are not all the same person. The doctor orders the test because it is standard medical practice and because she agrees that this standard medical practice is, in fact good, insofar as it gives both her and her patient more information. The patient generally (although not always) wants this information, so she, too assents to the screenings.

Those who pay for the test do so as a result of pressure from doctors to pay for good medical care and because, yes, testing can lead to lower costs to the insurer down the road. These lower costs may result from treatments prior to birth to forestall greater problems after birth and, yes, from women deciding to terminate pregnancies which are at high risk of resulting in the birth of a child with a disability. Over 90 percent of fetuses which test positive for Trisomy 21, the chromosomal abnormality responsible for Down Syndrome, are terminated.

There was, in fact, a case in which an insurer told a couple that if they did not terminate an affected pregnancy, any medical expenses associated with the birth and the child would not be covered. The couple sued, and won. Given that many couples will chose voluntarily to end such pregnancies, however, such coercion is generally unnecessary.

Finally, there are the insurance regulators, who have to balance concerns of patients, doctors,  and insurance companies; given that there is little conflict between these different groups (although there may be with some individual patients and doctors) about the desirability of the tests themselves, encouraging or even mandating partial or full coverage of such tests is non-controversial.

This basic dynamic was set into play long before Barack Obama became president, and it is highly unlikely that the (equally highly unlikely) presidency of Rick Santorum would alter this in any way.

Oh, he might try to force insurers to drop coverage of prenatal care, but both Congress and the courts would be hostile (for a variety of reasons) to any such executive orders. The testing regime, for better and for worse, has become entrenched in American medicine.

Let us now consider the most offensive aspect of Santorum’s screed against screening: he doesn’t consider the role of the women (or couples) themselves. Once again, they are pure victims of a dark techno-liberal conspiracy, unable to make any decisions for themselves and unworthy of consideration as actors in their own lives. They must be protected from Obama, liberals, doctors, and, of course, themselves.

That is Santorum’s own not-so-hidden message to the rest of us: he doesn’t consider us able to make the most basic decisions about our own lives.

I hate the term “sheeple”, but it certainly seems as if that’s how Santorum, the would-be shepherd, views the American people.

~~~~~

*Questions regarding prenatal screening have long preoccupied those who work in bioethics; a good introduction to some of this work is Prenatal Testing and Disability Rights by Erik Parens and Adrienne Asch.





Talking ’bout what everybody’s talking ’bout

19 02 2012

Let’s not talk about contraception—oh no, no no no.

Can’t talk about contraception—except, as in the case of Senator Lynn Blankenbeker, a Republican legislator in New Hampshire, to talk about not using birth control:

“People with or without insurance have two affordable choices, one being abstinence and the other being condoms, both of which you can get over the counter,” she said. [. . .]

“Abstinence works 100 percent of the time,” she said.

Blankenbeker also asserted that condoms and abstinence offer married couples a wider range of family planning options than oral contraceptives.

“If you decide you want to get pregnant you can refrain from abstinence,” she said.

Uh-huh.

If nothing else, Blankenbeker helps to remind us that women may also qualify for the title as American idiot.

Anyway, let’s talk about all of those who don’t want to talk about what everybody’s talking about: sex and not-making babies. Let’s start with an inquiry into how many children these got-my-fingers-in-my-ears-lalalalalala-can’t-hear-you legislators have.

There are a lot of legislators, of course—100 senators, 435 voting representatives, plus hundreds more state legislators—so why not start small, with, say Representative Darrell Issa (he of the all-male panel on not-contraception) and the 112th Congress’s Full Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

Republicans
Rep. Darrell E. Issa (CA-49), Chairman: b. 1953, married for over 30 years to second wife, 1 child
Rep. Dan Burton (IN-05): b. 1938, Church of Christ, 3 children w first wife (deceased), 1 child resulted from extramarital affair; remarried
Rep. John L. Mica (FL-07): b. 1943, Episcopalian, married, 2 children
Rep. Todd Platts (PA-19): b. 1962, Episcopalian, married, 2 children
Rep. Michael Turner (OH-03): b. 1960, Presbyterian, married, 2 children
Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (NC-10): b. 1975, Catholic, married
Rep. Jim Jordan (OH-04): b. 1964, evangelical Christian, married, 4 children
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (UT-03): b. 1967, Mormon, married, 3 children
Rep. Connie Mack (FL-14): b. 1967, Catholic,  2 children w first wife (divorced), remarried
Rep. Tim Walberg (MI-7): b. 1951, Protestant, married, 3 children
Rep. James Lankford (OK-5): b. 1968, Baptist, married, 2 children
Rep. Justin Amash (MI-3): b. 1980, Orthodox Christian, married, 3 children
Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (NY-25): b. 1951, Catholic, divorced, 6 children
Dr. Paul Gosar (AZ-1): b. 1958, Catholic, married, 3 children
Rep. Raul Labrador (ID-1): b. 1967, Mormon, married, 5 children
Rep. Pat Meehan (PA-7): b. 1955, Catholic, married, 3 children
Dr. Scott DesJarlais (TN-4): b. 1964, Episcopalian, 1 child w first wife (divorced), 3 children w second wife
*Rep. Joe Walsh (IL-8): b. 1961, Catholic, 3 children w first wife (divorced), remarried, 2 children (w second wife?)
Rep. Trey Gowdy (SC-4): b. 1964, Baptist, married, 2 children
Rep. Dennis Ross (FL-12): b. 1959, Presbyterian, married, 2 children
Rep. Frank Guinta (NH-1): b. 1970, Catholic, married, 2 children
Rep. Blake Farenthold (TX-27): 1961, Episcopalian, married, 2 children
Rep. Mike Kelly (PA-3): b. 1948, Catholic, married, 4 children

Democrats

Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD-7), Ranking Member: b. 1951, Baptist, married, 3 children
Rep. Edolphus Towns (NY-10): b. 1934, Baptist, married, 2 children, surrogate to 2 nephews
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY-14): b. 1946, Presbyterian, widowed, 2 children
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.): b. 1937, Episcopalian, divorced, 2 children
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH-10): b. 1946, Catholic, 1 child w first wife (divorced), married to third wife
Rep. John Tierney (MA-6): b. 1951, Catholic, married, 3 stepchildren
Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (MO-1): b. 1956, Catholic, divorced, 2 children
Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA-9): b. 1955, Catholic, married, 1 child, surrogate to niece
Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5): b. 1954, Episcopalian, married, 3 children
Rep. Gerald Connolly (VA-11): b. 1950, Catholic, married, 1 child
Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-5): b. 1958, Catholic, married, 2 children
Rep. Danny Davis (IL-7): b. 1941, Baptist, married, 2 children
Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-1): b. 1957, Presbyterian, married, 3 children
Rep. Peter Welch (VT-At Large): b. 1947, Catholic, 5 stepchildren w first wife (deceased), 3 stepchildren w second wife
Rep. John Yarmuth (KY-3): b. 1947, Jewish, married, 1 child
Rep. Christopher Murphy (CT-5): b. 1973, nondenominational Christian, married, 2 children
Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-12): b. 1950, Catholic, 2 children w first husband (deceased), remarried

So what can we tell from this august group? Of the 40 members, 4 are women, 38 are some variety of Christian, and, apparently, damned near all of them almost certainly practice some form of birth control.

“Almost certainly”: I do not know and do not want to know the sexual habits or fertility of these men and women, whether they or their sexual partners have miscarried or had abortions, or whether there were any health problems during pregnancy or with any of their children.

None of this is my business. None.

But what is my business is the public activity of these 36 men and 4 women and what they prescribe to the rest of us in terms of our own, private, business. And while I tend not to make much of the usual gaps between private behavior and public pronouncements—I don’t actually know if any of these representatives have voted against making birth control more accessible—it is nonetheless worth noting that evidence suggests that these representatives (or, perhaps, their wives) have accessed birth control themselves.

________________
*Joe Walsh deserves special mention, and not just because he’s been sued by his ex-wife for child support and chastised by a judge for his non-cooperation; at the not-contraception hearing he stated This is not about women. This is not about contraceptives. We know, you’ve said it, we’ve said it up here. This is about religious freedom. This is about religious liberties.

Because women and religion have nothing to do with one another. Perfect.

(Biographical info from Wikipedia, Project VoteSmart, official home pages)





Anthony Shadid, 1968-2012

17 02 2012

Anthony Shadid has died.

Photo credit: Ed Ou, for the New York Times

Two weeks ago I mentioned my surprised upon (re) discovering that he had worked for The Daily Cardinal. Although I must have known him, I don’t remember him, so it was more with a start than with grief that I heard the news of death on the Syrian/Turkish border.

His death, however, is a loss, for all of us. Anthony was among the finest of reporters, deeply humane, who paid attention.

My condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.





American idiot, part deux, drei, quatro. . .

17 02 2012

Delegate Marshall, meet Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA).

Representative Issa put together the following panel of experts  for “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?”

photo via Planned Parenthood Action Fund

Notice anything about this panel? Uh-huh.

The one woman who was invited (by Democrats) to testify, third-year law student at Georgetown Susan Fluke, was blocked from doing so by Issa.

Democrats Elijah Cummings (MD), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), and Carolyn Maloney (NY) responded by walking out.

Issa offered his own response to the criticism of the all-male panel by Twittering a photo of Martin Luther King and noting We hear from religious leaders whose positions might not be popular, like MLK’s was not so long ago.

Yes, the anti-birth control men on this panel are exactly like Martin Luther King.

Oh, and should we talk about Foster Friess, the genius moneypot behind Rick Santorum’s candidacy? Y’know, the guy who joked (?) to Andrea Mitchell that On this contraceptive thing, my gosh, it’s so inexpensive. You know, back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly* ?

Okay, let’s not.

Finally, the reproductive specialists in the Virginia House of Delegates have been joined by the embyrologists in the Oklahoma Senate, which just passed its own personhood bill.

Unfuckingbelievable—in no small part because it is all too fuckingbelievable.

Anyway, I give the last word on bad laws to Dahlia Lithwick at Slate, who hammers (surprise!) Virginia’s new ultrasound-before-abortion law, one which will require most women to have a trans-vaginal ultrasound:

. . . Since a proposed amendment to the bill—a provision that would have had the patient consent to this bodily intrusion or allowed the physician to opt not to do the vaginal ultrasound—failed on 64-34 vote, the law provides that women seeking an abortion in Virginia will be forcibly penetrated for no medical reason. I am not the first person to note that under any other set of facts, that would constitute rape under state law.

What’s more, a provision of the law that has received almost no media attention would ensure that a certification by the doctor that the patient either did or didn’t “avail herself of the opportunity” to view the ultrasound or listen to the fetal heartbeat will go into the woman’s medical record. Whether she wants it there or not. I guess they were all out of scarlet letters in Richmond.

. . .

Evidently the right of conscience for doctors who oppose abortion are a matter of grave national concern. The ethical and professional obligations of physicians who would merely like to perform their jobs without physically violating their own patients are, however, immaterial. Don’t even bother asking whether this law would have passed had it involved physically penetrating a man instead of a woman without consent. Next month the U.S. Supreme Court will hear argument about the obscene government overreach that is the individual mandate in President Obama’s health care law. Yet physical intrusion by government into the vagina of a pregnant woman is so urgently needed that the woman herself should be forced to pay for the privilege.

. . .

Of course, the bill is unconstitutional. The whole point of the new abortion bans is to force the Supreme Court to reverse Roe v. Wade. It’s unconstitutional to place an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy, although it’s anyone’s guess what, precisely, that means. One would be inclined to suspect, however, that unwanted penetration with a medical device violates either the undue burden test or the right to bodily autonomy. But that’s the other catch in this bill. Proponents seem to be of the view that once a woman has allowed a man to penetrate her body once, her right to bodily autonomy has ended.

During the floor debate on Tuesday, Del. C. Todd Gilbert announced that “in the vast majority of these cases, these [abortions] are matters of lifestyle convenience.” (He has since apologized.) Virginia Democrat Del. David Englin, who opposes the bill, has said Gilbert’s statement “is in line with previous Republican comments on the issue,” recalling one conversation with a GOP lawmaker who told him that women had already made the decision to be “vaginally penetrated when they got pregnant.” (I confirmed with Englin that this quote was accurate.)*

A-yup. As Lithwick noted, Today was not a good day in the War on Women.

_____

*I actually heard this for the first time when I was 16 or 17 and one of the women at the NOW meeting I attended joked that this was the birth control advice she had been given. She lay down on the couch and demonstrated how it was supposed to work; the visual made all the difference.)

(Photo h/t Melissa McEwan, Shakesville; Issa Tweet h/t Alex Seitz-Wald, ThinkProgress; and one, too, for Emily Hauser, just because.) (Update: and dmf! dmf, who commented on the OK bill yesterday.)