Friday, March 30, 2012

I Think I'm Going To Be Sick...

Today was a bad, bad news day. First there was this story on TheYoungTurks this morning

I totally get what Steve Oh is saying, that this gross negligence could be just as much a "poor thing" as a "black thing". 

However, here's one that's definitely a "black thing"

Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., a 68-year-old African-American Marine veteran, was fatally shot in November by White Plains, NY, police who responded to a false alarm from his medical alert pendant. The officers broke down Chamberlain’s door, tasered him, and then shot him dead. 

Unknown to the police officers, the entire altercation was recorded by a device inside his home. The police officers were responding to what they thought was a medical emergency, and when he told them he was alright and to please leave they called him a nigger, broke down his door, tasered him, shot and killed him in his own house. 

Not only is this policeman not in jail, his name has not even been released, so we don't even know if he is still on active duty since he murdered a 68-year old war veteran. To top it all off, want to hear the title of the newspaper article covering the shooting the next day?

"Officer fatally shoots hatchet-wielding man."
 or, how about
"Police Fatally Shoot Disturbed Man Carrying Knife."

Shit, there's only so much I can take in one day. I feel utterly sick for these people and their families. How in the hell does this shit still happen?

If anyone comes up to me and says "bah racism isn't a problem in the US anymore! We/they elected a black president!" in the next week I think I'm going to punch them in their stupid face.


Edited to add: and now they've had to go and add this story to this crappy news day. Wonderful. Good to know what actually matters to the people in power in the police force.  

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ooh How I Get This Guy...

Being only half Italian, my travels often brought me visiting my mother's family and friends, and when I was younger occasionally this brought me to New York. My mother has a long time friend from an Italian-American family, so when I would visit her kids would present me to all their friends as an Italian, like from Italy, how cool am I. At my tender young age I didn't get how deeply these families prided themselves in their Italian heritage, and it just annoyed me when the 100th person came up to me and said "You're Italian? Cool, I'm Italian too!" which was second only to "Hey, want some more mutzarel?" So when I saw this Funny or Die clip, I couldn't relate more to the poor guy

I don't know how many people get this the way I do, but trust me, it's funny as hell, and so so true.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Holy Shit They've Done It Again

Seriously Catholic Church, enough now. The extremely long list of bullshit you've done is reaching the point of absurdity. Are you desperately trying to elbow your way to the elusive top spot as World's Biggest Villain? You've kicked the Joker and Ted Bundy's ass, no doubt about that, now you're going to have to wrassle with Darth Vader and Hitler. Keep on going like this though, and I'm sure you'll get that top spot, no doubt in my mind.

From Australia to Spain, Ireland to America, and as recent as 1987, young mothers say they were “coerced”, “manipulated”, and “duped” into handing over their babies for adoption. 

In some cases, mothers in Australia were drugged and forced to sign papers relinquishing custody. In others, women were told their children had died. Single mothers also did not have access to the financial support given to widows or abandoned wives, and many were told by doctors, nurses, and social workers that they were unfit to raise a child.  Siewert says, “We heard practices that were either illegal or unethical and downright cruel.”  

Two weeks ago, a prominent Canadian law firm announced that it would file a class-action lawsuit against Quebec's Catholic Church accusing the Church of kidnapping, fraud and coercion to force unwed mothers to give up their children for adoption.

Good job Canada, you've redeemed yourself since yesterday. I'm just glad that people who actually make a difference in your country are doing what is right.
So what is the number of children stolen from their birth mothers estimated at this time? 1.5 million. Just think about that for a second. 

1.5 million

That's one third of the population of Ireland. That is a staggering number.

Vatican, seriously, go fuck yourself.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Oh, It Happens In Canada Too

Feel better Americans! Looks like, occasionally, in Canada theyalso like to discriminate against that scary, gross, cootie-filled LGBT community
Jenna Talackova, 23, has been disqualified from the Miss Universe Canada competition because she was born a male, according to CTV. Talackova was originally selected as one of 65 finalists for the Donald Trump-owned competition. Her profile and photos have since been pulled from the Miss Universe Canada website.

Yeesh Donald Trump owns the Miss Universe beauty pageant? Why does that make me feel like the entire process is even skeevier?

“Jenna Talackova from Vancouver, British Columbia will not compete in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada competition because she did not meet the requirements to compete despite having stated otherwise on her entry form,” Miss Universe Canada said in a statement Friday. “We do however, respect her goals, determination and wish her the best.”

Hmm. Well I looked at the preliminary entrance form, and there’s nothing regarding gender on it. You have to submit a face picture and a swimsuit picture, be over 18 but under 27, and if you’re hot enough they will send you a more complete application form. Do they really ask what gender is stated on your birth certificate? Even if they do ask you if you are female, she is a female now, both physically and psychologically, so how was she lying on her application form?

Now I can hear the dissenters saying no, I’m sure it was just that she was not attractive the way a woman woman is attractive. Man hands, jaw line, you can always tell, they just look different, sometimes attractive sure, but not Miss Universe matieral. OK fine, here’s a picture.
Now you tell me, can you tell that this woman was born a boy? You’re really going to tell me she’s not hot enough to participate?

Look I don’t give a crap about beauty pageants. The contestants are often woefully vapid and it seems to celebrate eating disorders, plastic surgery and fake tans over contributing to society in a meaningful way. Having said that, stupid discrimination is stupid discrimination, and when I see it I will condemn it regardless.

Although I would never watch the Miss Universe beauty pageant in Canada anyway, I sincerely hope this story becomes widespread enough to significantly hurt ticket sales and ratings. Money is the only language these people understand, so spread the word.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Thoughts On: The Smoking Ban

For some strange reason, my second hand smoke episode of bullshit has gotten an unusually high amount of traffic in the past few days, bringing with it a tirade of comments. Because of this I thought I’d write a post about my thoughts on the subject, since the comments section is getting quite heated.

First of all, it never ceases to amaze me how socially acceptable it is to vilify smokers in the US. I remember an excellent parody done by South Park to this effect as well, and it is an attitude that I found reflected in the comments section. The only bad thing about tobacco is that it doesn’t kill smokers fast enough! We should be allowed to publicly stone smokers in the streets! Etc. etc. I remember once when in the United States taking a walk with a girl I had only recently met, having a pleasant conversation when her attention was diverted to a man smoking a cigarette. She promptly snatched it from him, stomped the living daylights out of it, and went on to give him a lecture on how he was killing himself with his cancer sticks and my god there were children around!! I was flabbergasted to the point of being utterly speechless. The man was luckily at the end of his smoke, so e simply rolled his eyes, called her a lunatic and walked off. She then turned around to me, pleasant as ever, and explained that she hated smoking because her grandfather died of lung cancer, thereby resuming our conversation. When recounting this bizarre episode to my other American friends they informed me that, while her behaviour might be considered a little overzealous, it was certainly nothing to call the men in white coats over. I often wonder how they would have reacted if, instead, we had passed by a fast food restaurant whereby spotting an obese person eating a bacon cheeseburger I ran over, snatched it from his grasp, threw it in the garbage and yelled how could he be killing himself my god doesn’t he know how bad trans fats are and there are children around what if they see him and think being fat is OK??!! My guess is, not very well.

Anyway, bringing the topic back round to the smoking ban. The majority of the new commenters seem to be creating this false dichotomy, whereby the only two options are either A. have a smoking ban or B. have every single public venue clouded by smoke. While I remember well what it was like to grow up without the smoking ban and it was indeed very similar, closer to the time when the ban came into effect there were plenty of places that had banned smoking or at least created smoking and non-smoking sections. Thinking the smoking ban is silly is not about thinking that smokers should be allowed to smoke everywhere, its about thinking that private businesses should be allowed to decide for themselves what to allow.

When the smoking ban was coming into effect, I was still a smoker, but I still hated the smell of smoke in the air. I was all for having mandatory smoking and non-smoking sections, if you were going to allow smoking in your business at all. I remember being in the Gatwick airport and passing by the smoking area at least 12 times before finally spotting it, despite it being a little open-top cubicle in the middle of the grounds, and yet I couldn’t smell any smoke even when I was right in front of it. It had these powerful fans that just sucked the smoke right out of the air, and I remember thinking why can’t we have more of these around? Why, if we must have a law, have it say that smoking areas have to be adequately ventilated?

Instead, we had an outright ban, no exceptions. In Rome and in London there are hookah bars that are quite popular, where you go to smoke big hookahs filled with flavoured tobacco. However, since the ban, if you want to smoke a cigarette in one of these places you have to take it outside, because that is the law. Does that not sound absurd to anyone? Would any of you who hate smoke so much even go to one of those places?

I am not saying that I want to go back to a time where smoke was everywhere. I also am not saying that being against the smoking ban means being for being allowed to smoke in any indoor place there is. All I am saying is, why can’t I open a smoking bar where people hang out, drink and smoke exotic cigarettes and cigars if that is what I want? Why can’t I designate a very well ventilated back room to my pub so that my customers don’t have to go out and smoke in the cold or rain, encouraging them to stick around and consume more? Is it really that hard to reduce second hand smoke without hurting businesses?

Leaving your visceral smoke-hatred at home, what are your thoughts on the subject? Do you think there are better ways to get to what the smoking ban was trying to do, or are you really for the smoking ban because what you really want to do is ban cigarettes?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Give A Bra, Save A Life

I have a bag of old bras sitting in the back of my closet that I know I won’t ever wear but at the same time I don’t want to throw out.

The reason I put them away was because my favourite lingerie store of all time had started a promotional deal that I thought was brilliant: donate an old bra you no longer use, they would recycle them as insulation for buildings, get a discount on a new one. Suddenly I was in the throes of bra spring cleaning, and I discovered that I had many more than I thought I had that no longer fit. However, since the store in question is a little expensive, and they only took one bra of yours for every one you bought, and they stopped having this deal for a while now, that bag has been sitting there ever since and I still don’t know what to do with them.

Sound familiar? Is there a single woman among us that does not have at least one bra that is never going to be worn again?

Well, thanks to CNN (wow, they still are good for something aren’t they), I have discovered an excellent destination for those bras

The stay-at-home-mom started collecting unwanted bras as a way to help women on the other side of the world. It started small through word of mouth, and then a Facebook page.

Langas collects unwanted bras for a charity called "Free the Girls" which gives them to young women coming out of sex trafficking in Mozambique - not to wear, but to sell in used clothing markets where bras are a luxury item and command top dollar.
The girls can make three times the average wage, more than enough to support themselves and not be trafficked again.

It’s amazing how many things we take for granted. I have at least 15 bras in that bag doing absolutely nothing. Women of Mozambique, I would be happy to give them to you.

It spread so much that Langas had to rent a storage unit to hold them all. But now she has a big problem: How is she going to move 25,000 bras 10,000 miles (15,000 kilometers)?
A shipping container would cost $6,500; money she says she just doesn't have. When she hears about people traveling to Mozambique, she asks them to take an extra suitcase with them, filled with bras. But her goal is to raise enough money to ship all of them.

In the meantime, she is encouraged by the volunteers helping her and motivated by the young victims she is fighting for, happy to do her small part in the fight to end modern-day slavery.

Here is her Facebook page for updates on their progress, and here is the link with information on how to donate bras and/or money to the Free the Girls charity. Mine are on their way, and I hope you girls out there follow suit and give what you can. 

I know that you all have at least one bra you can part with

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Flies Denied The Pootang Get Hammered

A little anthropomorphization there on my part, but I’m allowing myself a little artistic liberty with my titles for my journal-clubbing of these papers that just put a big old smile on my face. Science is awesome guys, didn’t ya know?

So in a paper that just came out on Science, Shohat-Ophir et al demonstrated that flies that are denied sex by females are driven to drink. Literally.

Basically, Drosophila melanogaster flies mate on a kind of first come, first serve basis. If they have already been mated, they will reject males that come along soon after looking for a little attention. These researchers therefore took some male flies and subjected them to this constant sexual rejection, for three hours every day, for four days. Their counterparts had a much better time, getting to romp around with multiple virgins 6 hours a day for four days (and they didn’t even have to die in jihad, har har har). After these testing conditions, these flies were then given the choice between eating normal food or eating food containing 15% ethanol. The difference between the two groups was remarkable

The rejected males went straight for the booze, whereas the perfectly satisfied males generally avoided it until a few days after they were in there.

So the question became this, was it the lack of sex that drove them to drink, or was it the pain and humiliation of being rejected? It turns out that, even if you simply deprive flies of sex without forcing them to go through the courtship process only to get rejected over and over again, they still prefer their drink. On the other hand, if they were subjected to constant rejection but then allowed to get it on with a few virgins, they had absolutely no interest in getting drunk with their sexually deprived friends.

As amusing as this research is, it makes for an interesting hypothesis regarding alcohol abuse and addictive behaviour.

There are certain reward systems hardwired into animal brains that are extremely useful for the propagation of the species. Having sex, eating food, brains “reward” animals for doing these things in order to give them a very good reason to keep doing them to keep the species going. Drugs like alcohol hijack these reward systems, making the animal feel good while it is actually doing something that is harmful rather than good for species survival. This research takes it a step further, suggesting that these reward systems need to be fulfilled in one way or another. Therefore, by depriving these flies of one way to satisfy their brains they resort to other methods to get that pleasure, like alcohol.

Of course humans are far more complicated than flies, so the extension to humans would be overly simplistic at best, but you see how we are finding ever more common ground with our fellow animals.

Feel better, flies that are sexually frustrated want to drown their sorrows in booze too.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Add This To The List Of Catholic Church Atrocities

Oh it is a very, very long list. Let's see, there's the whole thing about condoms and AIDS in Africa, that was pretty bad. There was the baby stealing scandal in Spain, that was quite horrific too. There's the unbelievable amount of sexual abuse of children, followed by the massive cover-up, with guys like this asshole thinking that there is nothing wrong with protecting pedophiles, and now there's this article. I thought that forcing children to shut up about what happened to them and never seeing the predator brought to justice was bad enough, but it turns out that, in Holland, the Catholic Church came up with a whole new way to punish their victims.

The NRC Handelsblad newspaper identified Henk Heithuis who was castrated in 1956, while a minor, after reporting priests to the police for abusing him in a Catholic boarding home

Two clergymen were convicted of abuse but Mr Heithuis, a victim, was nonetheless transferred by police to a Catholic psychiatric hospital before being admitted to the St. Joseph Hospital in Veghel later that year. 

There, court papers confirm, he was castrated "at his own request", despite no submission of his written consent. Sources told Mr Dohmen that the surgical removal of testicles was regarded as a treatment for homosexuality and also as a punishment for those who accused clergy of sexual abuse. 

Cornelius Rogge, 79, a well-known Dutch sculptor whose family knew Mr Heithuis in the 1950s, reported the castration to an official inquiry into abuse within the Catholic Church. But his evidence was ignored. 

"We once asked Henk to drop his pants when the women were gone. He did that. He was maimed totally. It was a huge shock," he said.

So in the 50s, if you dared report a predator, you were maimed for life. 
When are people going to stop defending this institution, realizing that the terrible things they have done around the world far, far outweigh the good?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Another Heart-Breaking Example Of Pure Racism

This is a story that I have been following for the past couple of weeks on TheYoungTurks, and it still amazes me that this disgusting excuse for a human being has not been arrested. A man runs after a 17-year old kid, 10 years his junior and 100lbs lighter than him who is running away and screaming for help, shoots him in the chest murdering him in cold blood, admits it all to the police claiming self defense, and why is he not rotting in jail? Oh, of course, he's white, the kid he shot is black, duh. I was unaware this was 1920s Mississippi and not 2012 in Florida.

Now, thanks to PZ Myers I have discovered that there is a petition calling for this bastard's arrest. Please sign it, share it, do whatever you can to bring as big and bright a spotlight on this unabashedly racist police department that you can. The 9/11 calls made that TYT was speculating about have also been released, damning Zimmerman even more, and yet he's still kicking back at home.

I don't know what else to say

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Good Day For The Italian LGBT Community

How about a little good news for once? Any takers? Excellent!

For years, Italy has been far behind Europe when it comes to gay rights. The Vatican just loves to spread propaganda and stick its nose into a society's business, and because of this last year Italy was described as being second to last in Europe when it comes to gay rights. While Wikipedia seems to indicate that this depends on whether or not you are looking at EU countries or countries that find themselves on the landmass that we call Europe, it is still undeniably something this coutry should be ashamed of.

What is interesting is that Italy actually was among the first to legalize gay sex in Europe in 1890, despite the Vatican's influence. In the 70s the Italian Constitutional Court declared that it was unconstitutional to prohibit gays to serve openly in the military, a decade in which Italy also saw the legalization of many things the church was not happy with including abortion and divorce. However we seem to have stagnated in our progress for rights, and almost every other country in Europe has overtaken us. Yesterday, we took our first step forward to change that.

In a revolutionary decision, the Italian Constitutional Court ruled that gay couples living together are to have the same rights has heterosexual married counples, after a male couple married in Holland were refused the right to have their marriage recognized by the State. While this is not gay marriage, it is a civil partnership of sorts, allowing gay couples the same legal rights with regards to penisons, visitation rights etc. 

All of this was done completely bypassing Parliment, and we will see if there is any blow-back in the form of a proposed Constitutional Amendment from the Vatian's lackies. Until then, let us appreciate this small but significant step in the right direction, and hope that it is a sign of good things to come.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Repost: The Right Not To Know

I've been quite cheery in my post about the Doonsebury comic strip, not touching on how horrific the laws that the comic mocks really are. I guess I didn't really want to think about it, how I would feel in that situation, what I would think if it happened to me. After reading this article I feel like I did it an injustice not to do so, and everyone should read what this woman went through. 

If you think that a group of cells, or a fetus, should have more protections and more rights under the law than a woman, you have a disgustingly offset moral compass. This is not a matter of benign agree-to-disagree opinion, it is a matter of human decency.

We Have No Choice': One Woman's Ordeal with Texas' New Sonogram Law

The painful decision to terminate a pregnancy is now—thanks to Texas' harsh new law—just the beginning of the torment.

by Carolyn Jones 
Published on: Thursday, March 15, 2012 
Halfway through my pregnancy, I learned that my baby was ill. Profoundly so. My doctor gave us the news kindly, but still, my husband and I weren’t prepared. Just a few minutes earlier, we’d been smiling giddily at fellow expectant parents as we waited for the doctor to see us. In a sonography room smelling faintly of lemongrass, I’d just had gel rubbed on my stomach, just seen blots on the screen become tiny hands. For a brief, exultant moment, we’d seen our son—a brother for our 2-year-old girl.

Yet now my doctor was looking grim and, with chair pulled close, was speaking of alarming things. “I’m worried about your baby’s head shape,” she said. “I want you to see a specialist—now.”
My husband looked angry, and maybe I did too, but it was astonishment more than anger. Ours was a profound disbelief that something so bad might happen to people who think themselves charmed. We already had one healthy child and had expected good fortune to give us two.

Instead, before I’d even known I was pregnant, a molecular flaw had determined that our son’s brain, spine and legs wouldn’t develop correctly. If he were to make it to term—something our doctor couldn’t guarantee—he’d need a lifetime of medical care. From the moment he was born, my doctor told us, our son would suffer greatly.

So, softly, haltingly, my husband asked about termination. The doctor shot me a glance that said: Are you okay to hear this now? I nodded, clenched my fists and focused on the cowboy boots beneath her scrubs.
She started with an apology, saying that despite being responsible for both my baby’s care and my own, she couldn’t take us to the final stop. The hospital with which she’s affiliated is Catholic and doesn’t allow abortion. It felt like a physical blow to hear that word, abortion, in the context of our much-wanted child. Abortion is a topic that never seemed relevant to me; it was something we read about in the news or talked about politically; it always remained at a safe distance. Yet now its ugly fist was hammering on my chest.
My doctor went on to tell us that, just two weeks prior, a new Texas law had come into effect requiring that women wait an extra 24 hours before having the procedure. Moreover, Austin has only one clinic providing second-trimester terminations, and that clinic might have a long wait. “Time is not on your side,” my doctor emphasized gently. For this reason, she urged us to seek a specialist’s second opinion the moment we left her office. “They’re ready for you,” she said, before ushering us out the back door to shield us from the smiling patients in the waiting room.

The specialist confirmed what our doctor had feared and sketched a few diagrams to explain. He hastily drew cells growing askew, quick pen-strokes to show when and where life becomes blighted. How simple, I thought, to just undraw those lines and restore my child to wholeness. But this businesslike man was no magician, and our bleak choices still lay ahead.

Next a genetic counselor explained our options and told us how abortions work. There was that word again, and how jarring and out-of-place it sounded. Weren’t we those practical types who got married in their 30s, bought a house, rescued a dog, then, with sensible timing, had one child followed by another? Weren’t we so predictable that friends forecast our milestones on Facebook? Suddenly something was wrong with our story, because something was wrong with our son. Something so wrong that any choice we made would unyoke us forever from our ordinary life.

Our options were grim. We learned that we could bring our baby into the world, then work hard to palliate his pain, or we could alleviate that pain by choosing to “interrupt” my pregnancy. The surgical procedure our counselor described was horrific, but then so seemed our son’s prospects in life. In those dark moments we had to make a choice, so we picked the one that seemed slightly less cruel. Before that moment, I’d never known how viscerally one might feel dread.

That afternoon, my husband and I drove through a spaghetti of highways, one of which led us to a nondescript building between a Wendy’s and a Brake Check. This was Planned Parenthood’s surgical center, part of the organization constantly in the news thanks to America’s polarizing cultural debates. On that very day, Planned Parenthood’s name was on the cover of newspapers because of a funding controversy with the Susan G. Komen Foundation. These clinics, and the controversial services they provide, are always under scrutiny. The security cameras, the double-doors and the restricted walkways assured us of that fact.

While my husband filled out the paperwork, I sat on a hard chair in the spartan reception area and observed my fellow patients. I was the oldest woman in the waiting room, as well as the only one who was visibly pregnant. The other patients either sat with their mothers or, enigmatically, alone. Together we solemnly marked time, waiting for our turn behind the doors.

Eventually we were called back, not to a consulting room, but to another holding area. There, the staff asked my husband to wait while a counselor spoke to me in private. My husband sat down. Posters above him warned women about signs of domestic abuse.

Meanwhile, I was enclosed with a cheerful-looking counselor who had colored hair and a piercing in her nose. Feeling like someone who’d stumbled into the wrong room, I told her between choked sobs how we’d arrived at her clinic on the highway.

“I am so sorry,” the young woman said with compassion, and nudged the tissues closer. Then, after a moment’s pause, she told me reluctantly about the new Texas sonogram law that had just come into effect. I’d already heard about it. The law passed last spring but had been suppressed by legal injunction until two weeks earlier.

My counselor said that the law required me to have another ultrasound that day, and that I was legally obligated to hear a doctor describe my baby. I’d then have to wait 24 hours before coming back for the procedure. She said that I could either see the sonogram or listen to the baby’s heartbeat, adding weakly that this choice was mine.

“I don’t want to have to do this at all,” I told her. “I’m doing this to prevent my baby’s suffering. I don’t want another sonogram when I’ve already had two today. I don’t want to hear a description of the life I’m about to end. Please,” I said, “I can’t take any more pain.” I confess that I don’t know why I said that. I knew it was fait accompli. The counselor could no more change the government requirement than I could. Yet here was a superfluous layer of torment piled upon an already horrific day, and I wanted this woman to know it.
“We have no choice but to comply with the law,” she said, adding that these requirements were not what Planned Parenthood would choose. Then, with a warmth that belied the materials in her hand, she took me through the rules. First, she told me about my rights regarding child support and adoption. Then she gave me information about the state inspection of the clinic. She offered me a pamphlet called A Woman’s Right to Know, saying that it described my baby’s development as well as how the abortion procedure works. She gave me a list of agencies that offer free sonograms, and which, by law, have no affiliation with abortion providers. Finally, after having me sign reams of paper, she led me to the doctor who’d perform the sonography, and later the termination.

The doctor and nurse were professional and kind, and it was clear that they understood our sorrow. They too apologized for what they had to do next. For the third time that day, I exposed my stomach to an ultrasound machine, and we saw images of our sick child forming in blurred outlines on the screen.
“I’m so sorry that I have to do this,” the doctor told us, “but if I don’t, I can lose my license.” Before he could even start to describe our baby, I began to sob until I could barely breathe. Somewhere, a nurse cranked up the volume on a radio, allowing the inane pronouncements of a DJ to dull the doctor’s voice. Still, despite the noise, I heard him. His unwelcome words echoed off sterile walls while I, trapped on a bed, my feet in stirrups, twisted away from his voice.

“Here I see a well-developed diaphragm and here I see four healthy chambers of the heart...”
I closed my eyes and waited for it to end, as one waits for the car to stop rolling at the end of a terrible accident.

When the description was finally over, the doctor held up a script and said he was legally obliged to read me information provided by the state. It was about the health dangers of having an abortion, the risks of infection or hemorrhage, the potential for infertility and my increased chance of getting breast cancer. I was reminded that medical benefits may be available for my maternity care and that the baby’s father was liable to provide support, whether he’d agreed to pay for the abortion or not.

Abortion. Abortion. Abortion. That ugly word, to pepper that ugly statement, to embody the futility of all we’d just endured. Futile because we’d already made our heart-breaking decision about our child, and no incursion into our private world could change it.

Finally, my doctor folded the paper and put it away: “When you come back in 24 hours, the legal side is over. Then we’ll care for you and give you the information you need in the way we think is right.”
A day later, we returned to the clinic for the surgery that had us saying goodbye to our son. On top of their medical duties, the nurses also held my hand and wiped my eyes and let me cry like a child in their arms.
Later, in reviewing the state-mandated paperwork I'd signed, I found a statement about women who may opt out of the new sonogram edict. It seemed that minors, victims of rape or incest, and cases in which the baby has an irreversible abnormality might be spared the extra anguish. I asked the Planned Parenthood staff about this and, after conferring privately, they thought that my child’s condition might have exempted me from the new sonogram rules. They apologized for their uncertainty, explaining that the law was so new they’d not had a chance to understand what it means in practice. “Could I have skipped the 24-hour wait, too?” I asked, wondering whether that extra day of distress might have been avoided. “No,” a staffer replied, “the mandatory wait applies to everyone.”

A few weeks later, I decided to clarify this for myself. I asked the Department of State Health Services, the agency responsible for implementing the sonogram law, who exactly is exempt. The department responded by email: “A woman would still be subject to the sonogram but would not be required to hear an explanation of the sonogram images if she certifies in writing that her fetus has an irreversible medical condition as identified by a reliable diagnostic procedure and documented in her medical file.” Based on this reply, it seems that the torturous description I'd borne was just a clerical mistake.

However, in looking through the paperwork I signed for Planned Parenthood, I noticed that the Department of State Health Services had issued technical guidelines four days after I'd been at the clinic. So for three weeks, abortion providers in Texas had been required to follow the sonogram law but had not been given any official instructions on how to implement it. Again, I asked the agency about this, and a spokesman replied as follows: “No specific guidance was issued during that time, but clinics were welcome to ask questions or seek guidance from their legal counsel if there were concerns.”

My experience, it seems, was a byproduct of complex laws being thrown into the tangled world of abortion politics. If I'd been there two weeks earlier or even a week later, I might have avoided the full brunt of this new law’s effect. But not so for those other young women I saw in Planned Parenthood’s waiting room. Unless they fall into one of those exemption categories—the conditions under which the state has deemed that some women’s reasons for having an abortion are morally acceptable—then they'll have politicians muscling in on their private decisions. But what good is the view of someone who has never had to make your terrible choice? What good is a law that adds only pain and difficulty to perhaps the most painful and difficult decision a woman can make? Shouldn’t women have a right to protect themselves from strangers’ opinions on their most personal matters? Shouldn’t we have the right not to know?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Streisand Effect Strikes Again

The Doonesbury cartoon this week hit the nail on the head when it comes to the all-out war on womens' reproductive rights that is being waged in the US at the moment, so of course there were many newspapers that refused to run it. Their various reasons (excuses? maybe some) can be found here, but all in all I think they did us all a favor. Honestly, how many of us would even be aware of a Doonesbury cartoon if it hadn't sparked so much controversy? Ah beloved internet, we love you so.

So here it is: the controversial newspaper comic strip







I will update this post as the new strips are released.

Wow, comic strips have gotten serious. What's next, will Garfield get diabetes? 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Me? A Woman? HOW DARE YOU?!

OK so it’s time for a little rant, as this has been bugging me for a while now and I figured Id get it out of my head as best I can. First, a little back story.

A few days ago I was chatting on fb with a friend of mine, whom I talk to on a regular basis despite the fact he lives in the US. Now we take little digs at each other, constantly, it’s just what we do, and so when he told me he was watching a tv show I had never heard of I automatically said that if he loves it, then it must be corny (the fact that he loves corny tv shows is a well known fact, two of his favourites being Gilmore girls and the OC). I thought he’d giggle and tell me what it was about, instead he got extremely defensive and very, very pissy with me. This being a completely unexpected reaction, I made a period joke, as the comparison to PMS seemed very applicable, i.e. the getting overly emotional and angry at something that is actually innocuous and realizing, a few days later, that you totally overreacted. I said

Jesus [friend] what are you manstruating today or something? (…)  in a couple of days you wont even know why you were this upset. hormones will do that to your head. i know its frustrating,  but it does stop

Wow, he got really, really mad. Before signing off, he said

trust me, when I have problems to fix the LAST thing I need is to be told I'm not a man

Well I let that go then, I figured it was the wrong time to tell him he was pissing me off ever so slightly when he was obviously actually mad about something else that I knew nothing about. So I didn’t bring it up, until he contacts me the other day, and I ask him if he’s over it. Apparently not, because he gets pissed at me again for bringing it up

if I'm not talking about it then its obviously not something that needs to be brought up

there's just certain things you cant touch. That’s all I’m saying

it wasnt necessarily the things you said, because I allow people to do it and my humor is so self deprecating, people never know that there's a point where they need to just not. So I really have to make it a point now. When im dealing with something the last thing I need is something of the immasculating variety.

Now I’m pissed.

Look, I get he was actually pissed about something else, and hence got overly defensive about something as asinine as his taste in TV shows, but what bothered me was how angry he got at being compared to a woman (when that was not the nature of the friendly insult at all, the nature was comparing his overly-sensitive behaviour to that of a person in the throes of fluctuating hormones). Being a woman is such a terrible fucking thing, isn’t it?! The LAST thing ANYONE needs when they’re worried about something is have someone suggest they were born without a penis! Can’t you see how that is the HEIGHT of self-deprecating humour?

I can hear the girls telling me that I’m exaggerating. Yes, it is common for men to feel that being called a “girl” is the absolute worst thing they could be called (except maybe being called “gay”), but my question is why? Why the fuck is it so acceptable?

Try, for just a second, to change up the roles for one second. Imagine you’re teasing me about my taste in music, and good-naturedly tell me that I might as well have been born in Compton because all of my favourite artists come from there. Say you take it further and say I should get big rims for my car or some other rapper-stereotype in your jibe my way. Then imagine I flip at you, and say

“trust me, when I have problems to fix the LAST thing I need is to be told that I’m not white”


“I get my humour is self-deprecating and all that, and usually that’s fine, but when I’m dealing with something I just really don’t need that. You have to understand how telling me I’m black in that moment would get under my skin. It’s not what you said, I just didn’t need that right then”.

Wow, sounds unbelievably racist, offensive and all-round shitty when rephrased like that, doesn’t it? See how I took something about music and hip-hop, and turned it into something about race? 

Remember that fifty years ago being compared to a black person was a relatively acceptable insult to use. It was telling someone they’re lazy and uneducated, but nowadays public opinion has shifted enormously away from that mental image, and being insulted by someone suggesting you are black has definitely been restricted to a minority.

Now I hear the voices saying “but no, that’s different”. Well, is it? Why is it different? 

Why is being offended by the undertone of disgust with being compared to my gender different from being offended by the undertone of disgust with being compared to my race?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bad Science: When There's No Science At All

I have to admit I do enjoy National Geographic. Sure some of the articles can be a little wishy-washy, but the pictures are stunning and it definitely keeps my attention and keeps me company far more than an any “women’s” magazine ever would (no, I could give a shit if those are Angelina Jolie’s real boobs, and if she has an eating disorder it is none of my business). This month, however, when flipping through I came across an article that bothered me called Rhino Wars.

The article talks about the illegal trade in rhino horn from Africa to Asia, where it is rumoured to have medicinal properties ranging from fever reducing properties to a cure for cancer. Despite the lack of scientific peer-reviewed evidence, many people believe in this and even doctors suggest it as a possible treatment for cancer.

Because of this demand, poachers have driven all five species of rhino onto the Endangered Species List, selling the horn for up to twice its weight in gold. This has also led to entrepreneurs trying “rhino farming”, where they keep the animals alive and sever their horns two-three inches above the base, which ensures its re-growth within a few years. While it doesn’t seem like an optimal solution, the argument for rhino farming is that it makes for competition for poachers (who kill the rhino before severing its horn) and is a good way to ensure the species' survival. However, there is one big glaring problem that this NatGeo article completely fails to mention:

What about the millions of people that are duped into paying a fortune for something that most likely doesn’t work?

This is where the lack of science becomes incredibly bad science. A search through the literature on this subject has led me to only two studies, from the 1990s, on the effects of rhino horn on hypothermic rats. OK, so it seems as though they have been published in an actual journal with an actual Impact Factor, which is a good start. Unfortunately I cannot access the full article in order to take a good look at their methods, but here is an excerpt from one of the abstracts:

Intraperitoneal administration of an aqueous extract of rhinoceros horn at 5 2.5 and 1 g/ml, showed a significant antipyretic effect in rats with hyperthermia induced by subcutaneous injection of terpentine oil. Similar assays with extracts of the horns of saiga antelope, water buffalo and cattle at 5 g/ml also caused a significant drop in fever

Let’s say for the sake of argument that this is true, and that this effect translates over to humans. So rhino horn reduces fever, so what? So does paracetamol. We already have drugs that do this. Also notice that cattle horn has the same effect. Well, if you have to use some kind of horn, why not use one from an animal that is already farmed and has the same effect?

Here’s the problem, I cannot find a single peer-reviewed paper on the effects of rhino horn on cancer treatment. So what the hell are we waiting for?!

Although I highly doubt that rhino horn will have anti-cancer properties, I have explained again and again that not thinking something likely is no reason to not investigate it. There are doctors that are suggesting this, there need to be studies done. If one, two, three studies are done that show no health benefits, these results need to be plastered in these doctors’ faces and all over the news, only that way can we have any hope of educating people and getting them to devote their efforts to other, tried and tested treatments, possibly saving lives. You want to save the rhino and decrease poaching? Start by decreasing the demand.

And what if these studies demonstrate that rhino horn actually does have an anti-cancer effect? Well great! We can start looking for the active ingredient in the rhino horn so that it can be purified in the lab.

If it turns out that rhino horn does aid in cancer treatment then maybe I’ll be in favour of expanding and trading from rhino farms, at least until scientists are able to identify and replicate the compound that has these medicinal properties. But, until then, I think that rhino farming is a terribly flimsy band-aid over this festering problem.

By supporting rhino farming you are supporting financial interests in keeping the rhino horn trade alive. You may decrease the poaching and black market trade a little, but you are supporting people that do not want it to get out that rhino horn doesn’t have the medicinal benefits people think, because that would hurt sales. I know that there are going to be people that believe in traditional medicine no matter what, but to think that education could not make a huge dent is ridiculous. You only have to look at the past hundred years to see how this is not the case.

The fact of the matter is that, while NatGeo is right to point out the lives of rhino’s that are being saved, they fail to make the more obvious point. It is not just rhinos that are losing lives in this “war”, it is countless sick, desperate humans that are losing their lives as well.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar FTW

So yesterday was International Women's Day (woo) and to celebrate the release of the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar is here! Yay!

In case you've forgotten (or never knew), #NudePhotoRevolutionary started when Egyptian blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdy posted a nude photo of herself on her blog, in protest of the rampant sexism and violence against women in her country.

In response, she received threats of violence and all-round condescention for her decision to freely express herself and protest the repressive culture in which she lives.

In solidarity, women around the world decided to emulate her example and produce this stunning calendar which celebrates the female form (of all shapes and sizes), free speech and women's rights.

Even my broke ass bought a copy, so go get yourself one of these! Hang it proudly on your wall and whenever someone comes over and asks "?!" explain the revolution, spread the word, fight for change.

For a free pdf version of the calendar there is also this link BUT CAREFUL it downloads automatically and opens in your pdf viewer, in case you're reading this at work

Oh, and while we're having fun, I thought I'd include this picture too, cause I just love it

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Kony2012: Both Sides Of The Support

Yesterday I reposted this video about Kony2012, I facebooked it to my friends, and just as I expected the next day I found my homepage flooded with people shitting all over the project. Stop sending me Kony2012 bullshit! The organization is shady! It’s stupid! Don’t support it! You are all stupid in your blind following of any cause. I knew it was going to happen, and my friends responded right on cue. As usual, I have a response to their criticisms.

 I know full well that there are people that don’t research their causes and just give money to any “charity” in order to appease their guilt. What are you talking about? I gave 5 bucks to Oxfam last month. Im totally helping, now leave me alone Jersey Shore is on. However, for every person that blindly supports a cause without researching it, there are two who blindly finds the existence of a single article criticizing said cause and uses it as an excuse to dismiss it from their mind and justify their apathy, no more research necessary. Here, I wanted to look in to both sides of the story.

For the criticism, here’s an article that I find makes some valid and well researched points. This one is far more snide and dismissive in its tone, but well sourced so I included it. My response to both is this: the video is about raising awareness, not an open call for donations to Invisible Children. Of course many seeing the video will be inspired to do just that, but Kony2012 is a project with a different goal.

I don’t care if IC is shady, because this is about spreading awareness. If IC is shady great, let’s talk about that, this campaign will do more to expose that than not participating ever would because this is thrusting them right in to the limelight. Welcome to the age of communication, information and ideas. If they suck, someone better will take their place, or they will have to restructure and rebuild in order to survive. 

Status updates like “don’t support Kony2012” is an oxymoron. When you post and repost links criticizing IC and about “not supporting Kony2012”, you ARE supporting Kony 2012, youre bringing him into the public forum, you’re discussing him, you’re researching him and making him one of the most famous names in the world. That is exactly what this project has set out to do. 

Here is TYT discussing these aspects too

So now you may ask, well what does me knowing about him change? In this day and age, spreading the word, talking about something and demonstrating that you care about something is the only way to get the attention of people who actually do have the power to make changes. Also, if there are in fact charities that are exploiting the heart strings that are attached to the purse strings, it shines a bright light on these problems and forces them , under criticism, to clean up their act or crumble under scrutiny. 

This is what I am throwing my support behind. Not the charity responsible, not the Ugandan government, but the conversation. The research. The exchange of ideas. The taking of action against this horrible man. That is what Kony2012 is about, and I fully support it.

And if you are talking about it, even to criticize IC, so are you.