America Knows Best

Sorry for the little hiatus. Finals are coming Real Soon Now and my writing has been monopolized by a paper on Henrietta Lacks and HeLa cells. Fascinating stuff. For a minimally sciencey version, check out this biography.

Depending what day it is, the world news front is likely to say something about Iran, North Korea, and/or Syria. Iran is developing nuclear technology, and probably weapons. North Korea is more open about their weapon development. The US is warning Russia that they had better not send Syria better missiles, particularly since Syria is accused of using chemical weapons.

Now make no mistake. I don’t think anybody really wants Iran or North Korea having nukes. I don’t think most people think a better armed Syria is a good thing. But here’s the thing: who gave us the right to enforce our opinion?

Who is the United States to tell another sovereign nation what weaponry it can or cannot have? Under what authority? What if some other country decided that the United States shouldn’t have nukes? Or aircraft carriers? Or [insert fancy piece of military technology here]?

I know a lot of people in the West don’t think much of Al Jazeera as a news source, but they are right to point out that the American bargaining position regarding Iran — and truly, all 3 nations — is a lot like trying to negotiate with Republicans: the only possible option is “do it our way or else.” Or, if you prefer to be more patronizing if not outright racist, “everything would run so much better if you brown people would do it our way like civilized people!”

Maybe, just maybe, international issues could be resolved more smoothly if we treated other sovereign nations like big boys and girls rather than little children who need our guidance.

In Closing: soda; I suspected as much; Jesus is coming, look busy; the Borgias are coming, look busy; um yeah, you can’t do that; student loan debt is officially bad for the economy; consumer spending is up and late mortgages are down (good news!); eVerify; Too Big To Fail must be Too Big To Exist; side effect; don’t forget that Federal law always trumps state law; and riiiiight, exactly where I want to go on Mother’s Day. Not.

Music Monday: What’s Going On


In Closing: the cat came back; the wages of austerity; aww rats; adventurous surrogate mother wanted; rubber duckies; well yeah, it looks silly when he does it; too redacted; Clouds! Pork Exercise! Mexico! Pass the word; backtrack; never occurred to them that’s not an option for everybody; locking up the dumb b**** for not knowing what’s good for her baby; dealing with climate change; some bosses think Jesus wants them to break laws they don’t like (I seem to remember a line about rendering unto Ceasar…); on math; on history; and a prototype of facebook.

The Bar Set Low

Music Monday will be delayed a bit.

So. A woman will be allowed to ask questions of all the important men at the big Presidential Debates for the first time in 20 years. This is after a “recent push” to let a woman do this big, important job. That recent push, by the way, is from 3 female high school students that started an online petition.

Really? This is what passes for an achievement these days? Has the participation trophy movement finally reached this high? Whoop-dee-freakin-doo.

No mistake. Congrats to Candy Crowley for being named a moderator. I hope she holds their feet to the fire and won’t take lies for an answer. And congrats to those high school ladies that learned they can make a difference just by bringing enough attention to an issue. That’s a great civics lesson and one we adults should take to heart.

However, there are many more “women’s issues” that deserve the same kind of news coverage: your right to control the size of your family is a political football instead of a private and personal matter; some high school students are subjected to pregnancy tests (here’s a hint, none of them are boys); sexual harassment still exists (and I admit it cuts both ways sometimes); a woman can still lose her job for having kids; women still earn less than men while conservatives make excuses instead of solutions; and, as PunditMom points out, nobody’s asking who will be watching Paul Ryan’s kids while he’s on the campaign trail as they asked about Sarah Palin.

If only we could solve all those things with a couple of petitions.

There is no in closing today.


Yesterday, we learned that Ford was planning to create 1200 new jobs in the state of Michigan. GM and Chrysler also announced job plans.

This morning I learned the truth: they planned to create those new jobs if they got certain tax breaks.

Sure is a nice state ya got here, Miz Granholm. Sure would be a shame if somethin should happen to it.”

Seeing as Ford’s profit in just the last three months was $1.7 billion ($1700 million if you prefer), why do they deserve such a tax break at the expense of the everyday people who pay taxes? Don’t you suppose the tax break given to the large and newly profitable again auto manufacturers could do a lot towards fixing Michigan’s abysmal roads and Detroit’s crumbling infrastructure? Perhaps it would be easier to balance Michigan’s budget if they didn’t have to play tax games with their biggest taxpayers.

Of course every state and many municipalities have to play this game, and corporations are more than happy to play us off one another, threatening to pick up their factories and stores and go somewhere else if they don’t get their way. And since Congress is a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Business, we can’t expect them to level the playing field for us. All we can do is sit back and hope our state and local politicians don’t screw us too hard in the name of “economic development” that may never materialize.

In Closing: How will they make enough money without bubbles to inflate??; college degrees by county; growth, accidents, and the poisoning of the Gulf of Mexico; the ACLU finally caught up to me on this one; I agree; how about we stop doing things we aren’t proud of instead?; Paul is Dead; and a novel way to get crime tips.

Twist the Facts

Yesterday morning, I wrote a post over at Age Against the Machine on British research showing that oral contraceptives reduce women’s risk of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease. Those happen to be the top two causes of death for American women, so it’s a big deal. And we aren’t talking about some teeny study, but over 46,000 women in a study that went on for 39 years. I think this is good news for the vast majority of women!

Yet I could not help but think that this news might not be welcomed by all. After all, there is a segment of our society that might think this encourages promiscuity. When I ran this past my partner, he thought that was just nuts.

But unfortunately, we live in a society where parents withhold vaccines that could someday save a woman’s life not because of safety concerns with the vaccine itself, but because they think she might think it’s ok to have sex (because good girls don’t like sex, good girls are never sexually assaulted, and good girls certainly never have cheating husbands). We live in a society where pharmacists who should know better are arbitrarily deciding not to dispense oral contraceptives because of “moral objections” and/or the mistaken belief that they can cause “abortion” of an embryo that has not implanted (never mind the other medical indications for oral contraceptives, and never mind that these pills prevent pregnancy rather than end it; arguably they prevent abortions by preventing unwanted pregnancy). We live in a society where the so-called-pro-life crowd thinks abortion causes breast cancer. We live in a society where some people value the lives of embryos more than the lives of full-grown adult women and their families.

So yes, I expect this study to be either ignored, mis-quoted, or mis-used by the Religious Right. They will focus on the small but unexplained increased risk of death by accident or violence — See? The Pill increases your risk of [violent] death! —  if they acknowledge the research at all.

Mere minutes after posting, I found this article at the Christian Science Monitor — hardly a “liberal media” source — with the headline “High divorce rates and teen pregnancy are worse in conservative states than liberal states.” It turns out that educated women and access to contraceptives lead to greater family stability and fewer unwed or teen mothers than “that old time religion.” Yet the Religious Right  has hamstrung both trends by getting the Feds to go along with “abstinence only” sex ed, which not only doesn’t work, fails to teach about contraceptives and disease control, and outright lies to children, but attempt to reinforce very outdated gender roles.

And then I read about how the Texas State Board of Education has decided to re-write history, decreeing what may and may not appear in textbooks. Sure, the Civil War was about “states rights” — specifically the right of states to say it’s ok to own other human beings! Sadly, Texas is a large enough textbook market that students around the country may be subjected to this ultra-conservative, highly Protestant, reinterpretation of reality.

You can say what you like about reality, but you can’t change it.

In Closing: 30! 30 bank failures this year, ah ha ha ha! (reference); fattiest fast foods; mortgage insurance providers say “sorry, we won’t cover this fraudulent claim“; obligatory health insurance reform items (notice I don’t call it health care reform, or worse yet HCR which always makes me think HRC instead) includes Go Grayson Go! Put them on the spot of either saying yes to a real public option, or going on the record as being against Medicare!; oh sure, let’s make it more complicated; what recovery?; Oh No! Obama’s Liberal base is “disengaged!” Could that be because they’ve kicked it in the butt at every opportunity?; most Americans think Wall Street needs better (i.e., more) regulation; for that matter, most Americans would like to see the Government make some progress on anything; don’t take the battery for granted; median wealth, $5; and Blog Against Theocracy weekend is coming.

What’s wrong with this?

From USA Today:

Women are driving longer into their pregnancies — often saving maternity leave until after giving birth — a lifestyle change that is leading to predictions of an increase in fetal deaths in car crashes.

What? Do they mean that at some point, I was supposed to have stopped working or going to the grocery store and maybe even just remained in my nice safe home until I went into labor?? Perhaps I should have called an ambulance instead of driving myself in the snow to the hospital where my husband was working? I swear I never got that memo!

Perhaps it would interest “journalist” Sharon Silke Carty that the average American woman has paltry maternity benefits: in most cases 12 weeks leave, with no pay, and that assuming she works for a company with more than 50 employees — fewer than half of all American companies — has been there at least 12 months, and has put in a minimum of 1250 hours during the previous 12 months. For most families, the “unpaid” part of that is a deal-breaker even if she qualifies. As conservative rag Forbes observed back in May:

And since the majority of women can’t afford not to work for a full three months, they also tend to return to work sooner than the law dictates. Perhaps that’s why in May 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 55% of first-time mothers were working six months after giving birth. In the early 1970s, only 25% were working 6 months after childbirth.

So I am not sure what USA Today is on about when getting the vapors over pregnant drivers. Sure, it would be nice if Detroit gave a flip about anything but 6 foot tall men when it comes to safety in the front seat — reason #2 I buy cars from countries that have short women — but I’m not holding my breath.

In closing: political minefield; what’s wrong with this picture; small business getting the stimulus funds shaft, ensuring recession for the foreseeable future; credit card scam involves hiding your bill; how is a Vegas magic act like the CIA?; knives that the TSA never notices; Twilight models an abusive relationship; Nevada still not sure we need any of that there Real ID stuff; 9 ways to avoid holiday weight gain; Americans doomed to financial illiteracy (in addition to the more mundane illiteracy and innumeracy); and emo comic book characters.