Friday, June 29, 2007

And The Good News Keeps On Rolling In . . . Not!

I don't think any of us are all that surprised by this latest decision handed down by the Supreme Conserva-Court.

You've gotta love the arrogance with which Roberts' explains his decision, even though it totally disregards all of the arguments that exist for affirmative action:

The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” he said. His side of the debate, the chief justice said, was “more faithful to the heritage of Brown,” the landmark 1954 decision that declared school segregation unconstitutional. “When it comes to using race to assign children to schools, history will be heard,” he said.

All of a sudden Justice Kennedy starts talking sense:

The four justices were “too dismissive” of the validity of these goals, Justice Kennedy said, adding that it was “profoundly mistaken” to read the Constitution as requiring “that state and local school authorities must accept the status quo of racial isolation in schools.”

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Imagine a World with Lots of Female Slayers

I finally saw the very last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer last night and yes, I balled. I did. I was so moved by the ending. If you haven't seen it, then don't read my post. I won't have lots of spoilers, but enough to ruin it if you are just now watching the series like I did.

Anyway, what really moved me about the last episode was Buffy's idea to overthrow the "patriarachal" rule that there can be only one slayer in any given age. She devises a plan with Willow to activate all the potential slayers in the world, thereby giving them the power and strength to combat demons, vampires and evil (obviously this is all a metaphor). The scenes showing all the young and older women becoming slayers is powerful because it is such a clear message that what needs to happen is for women--young and old--to embrace their own power and self-reliance to fight evil. Buffy is not a show that features damsels in distress, the heroes are women and girls and they can rely on themselves to tackle whatever frightening or just plain difficult obstacles that come their way.

The show in no way degrades men, their powers and talents, but it elevates women as their equals and does a good job modeling true partnerships, wherein relationships are built on complete mutual respect and admiration.

Anyway, I made a random comparison while watching this last episode. I thought of William James' The Will to Believe. In this essay, James gives an example of a train robbery. The point is that if everyone on a train, which is being robbed, believed that if he or she stood up against the robber, then the robber would never succeed. The robber would be totally outnumbered. James' point is that sometimes beliefs can make facts. But, in this case, everyone would have to believe that if they were to challenge this villain, then everyone would stand with them.

I started to think of my dear friend, Ann's book on Rape (Rethinking Rape). One of her last arguments is that if women were to redefine their bodies--train them via rape prevention courses and other means of helping women feel more embodied and powerful--then potential rapists would have to transform the way they see women's bodies. Currently, women's bodies are culturally coded as vulnerable, weak, and easy to overpower. This cultural view is internalized by women themselves, who grow up to see themselves as vulnerable, in need of male protection, and thereby rapable. Women also don't believe that if they were to confront a rapist that others--especially other women--would come to their rescue (hence why I was thinking of James' essay).

But, what the Buffy episode did was ask the viewer to imagine a world wherein a woman's body did not automatically signify weakness, vulnerability, and thereby rapability. You could never be sure if you were coming up against a slayer. Clearly, this is fantasy. But the message still holds. If women were to begin to take power, embrace their strengths, shed views of themselves as defenseless, weak and in need of male protection, it would not only transform their confidence, but it would stop rapists in their tracks.

I am glad that I saw this episode right after my post on intimate partner violence and pregnancy. Because I am a feminist and therefore view domestic violence as part of a cultural view that sees women as weak and rapable, I am always moved, deeply moved, by visions of women as powerful and self-reliant. I don't relish women who "kick ass," which unfortunately is the default Hollywood, barbie-boobification view of powerful women. The point is not to represent women as violent chicks on bikes with big boobs. The point is to represent women as capable of protecting themselves, not only physically but emotionally too. And, what Joss Whedon does well is show women bonding together, rather than ripping each other apart to curry the favor of some cro-magnon guy who will supposedly bestow them with status and protection.

So, I hope that my daughter will want to watch Buffy episodes with me someday. I know there is a real Nancy Drew revival, but I gotta say, I think Buffy speaks far more to younger generations now than Nancy Drew does.

Any Buffy fans out there?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Big Pharma Will Get You One Way or Another?

The reporter Gardiner Harris has always been valuable to my research, precisely because he tracks a lot of the good and bad of what psychiatrists do (probably more bad). Today he has a very interesting piece that exposes psychiatrists as earning the most money from drug makers--more than any other specialty in medicine. This might not be so bad, if it weren't for the fact that there is some evidence that these "drug maker gifts" influence prescribing habits. Harris reports that in Vermont, psychiatrists prescribed atypical antipsychotics to children the more they received from the drug companies that make these drugs.

In my writings and criticisms over the biotechnological age, I rarely take the "Psychopharmacological Calvinist" position, but rather find myself deeply disturbed by these political trends: how much big Pharma influences politics, how blatantly they bribe and co-opt psychiatrists, and how aggressively the advertise their wares to the average consumer which amounts to advertising "diseases." The Calvinist position--drugs are inauthentic--often combines with my more political concerns, but not always. I have been struggling to come up with a catchy name for my political concerns and how to better distinguish them from the Calvinist position.

While Big Pharma has enormous power over Washington, the FDA, the average consumer and the psychiatrists, I am loathe to see the consumer as a complete pawn to it. I want to give more credit to the consumer than many would, but one has to be very honest about the enormous power that Big Pharma has and how effectively it plays on the insecurities and frustrations of the average American.

What I have found, btw, when I discuss my concerns with psychiatrists is that they tend to lump the barrage of commercials for drugs in the same category of any consumer product. Marketers, I have heard them say, try to sell their goods to the average American by playing on their sense of inadequacy. The goal is to create in the consumer a problem, identify and name the problem, and then--voila--fix the problem. Clearly this dynamic is going on--par excellence--in drug commercials.

The question is whether something more insidious is happening when Big Pharma sells "Social Anxiety Disorder" vs. the iPhone? (Digression: While I find the commercials disturbing in their portrayal of male sexualilty, I almost prefer the advertisements for the non-pharmaceutical male enhancement drugs that make plain their all about late night sex after lots of drinking vs. the "erectile dysfunction" hogwash).

Here are my questions to readers:
(1) How much agency do consumers have given the powerful tools of manipulation of Big Pharma?
(2) What are the effective strategies that such consumers use to weed out the "unnecessary" use of drugs from the effective use?
(3) Is there something more insidious about marketing "Social Anxiety Disorder" vs. the iPhone?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What You Don't Know About Me, Yet Meme

IsThatLatin at Goldbricker tagged me for a new meme and well, since my brain is mush today, I will give it a go.

First we have the rules:

  • We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
  • Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  • People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
  • At the end of your blog post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
  • Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

8 Random Facts or Habits about Aspazia.

1. During the height of my morning sickness, where most food elicited high nausea, I craved--of all things--Garlic Bread. Go figure! I couldn't get enough of it, though you think it would've made everything worse.

2. I check the account balance of my bank accounts at least 3 times a day. I also spend as much time looking at my credit card sites, mortgage site, TIAA-CREF account and other investments.

3. I absolutely cannot sleep at night if I don't have a breathe right strip and a glass of water. I have a collapsed sinus and a deviated septum, so without these tools, Aspazia will simply not sleep. (I did finally kick my Ambien habit a year ago!)

4. I always have about 4 knitting projects going at one time. If I find myself nearing the end of one of those projects, as in the case of a sweater I made for ZA, I immediately have to buy yarn for a new project.

5. I hate--absolutely hate--talking on the phone. I find it hard to establish a rhythm wherein you aren't talking over the other person. I hate having to solicit information in this medium as well, since I am far more articulate in person or in writing.

6. I have never become a fan of any musical group. That is, I have never followed a band, had to own all their albums and live performances and what not. And, what makes it worse is that I am pretty sure that I have no finger on the pulse of the current music scene (as evidenced by my lack of hipness in comparison to the younger, hip feminist blogs out there).

7. I have been known to tune out while my students are making some interesting remarks in class. I have the reverse Charlie Brown experience. While the teacher is incomprehensible to him, my students become so for me. I have to quickly fake it when this happens so as not to disappoint the poor student who just contributed.

8. I have never gotten a course syllabus done before 10 am the very first day of class. NEVER!

Now, I must tag several other blogs, here goes:

Hattie's Web
Arbitrary Marks
Geeky Mom
Gone Public
Mostly Academic
Only in America
Oxymoronic Philosopher

Get to it folks!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Intimate Partner Homicides and Pregnancy: Jessie Davis

I usually try to avoid CNN, especially because of all the stories of kidnapping and other sorts of horrific tragedy that seem so remote from your life until you watch CNN. But, I have been hanging with my mom in a hotel room the last few days and she likes to watch it and so, I was forced to follow the story of Jessie Davis.

I am about a month, or less, away from giving birth to my first child. I am huge and swollen and every move I take is exhausting. Jessie Davis was due in less than 2 weeks. And, she went missing. They finally found her dead body yesterday and it turns out that the chief suspect is her "boyfriend" the married cop. Before the news announced this latest development, he was ruled out, but . . . I had a suspicion it would be him.

The sad truth is that pregnant women are too often victims of intimate partner assualt and murder. The Women's Rural Advocacy Program reports:

Pregnant or recently pregnant women are more likely to be the victims of homicide than to die from any other cause, finds a new study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 285, No. 11 ). The study, Enhanced Surveillance for Pregnancy-Associated Mortality, Maryland 1993 - 1998, explores the causes of death for 247 Maryland women who died while pregnant or within a year of having been pregnant.
Here is the abstract to the JAMA article. It is tragedies such as this that should be a reminder to all of us why feminism is not irrelevant. Until a pregnant woman is no longer in danger of being murdered by her husband or lover, we are far from living in a world that values not only women, but mothers.

I am surprised by how affected I am by Jessie Davis' death. So close to birth, she must have been feeling the kicks and hiccups of her baby every day. She must have prepared the nursery and was awaiting, nervously, when contractions would begin . . . what an incredible tragedy. And what is worse is that this is not a rare event.

UPDATE: Salon has an excellent article--"Murder Most Foul"-- up on intimate partner violence and pregnancy. Consider the following excerpt:

"Juley Fulcher, policy director for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in Washington and an attorney who used to represent battered women in court, many of them pregnant, agrees. "I can't tell you how many times those women were beaten while their abuser would say things like, 'I'm going to kick that baby out of you,'" she recalls. Fulcher believes that hurting the fetus is the most effective way for a batterer to "get to" his wife or girlfriend. "It's what she cares about the most, and that's what abusers focus on," she says. "They are so obsessed with control and power that they will do anything. It's extraordinarily common for men to threaten to hurt or kill a woman's pets, or threaten or hurt the children."

Edelson believes that stress brought on by the pregnancy itself -- such as anxiety over finances -- can lead to increased violence. Or, he says, it may be triggered by simple jealousy. "Suddenly, attention is focused on the woman, and she may pay less attention to the man," he says. "Perhaps she's tired and doesn't make the kinds of dinner he likes, perhaps she doesn't want to have sex."

See also Amanda's analysis at Pandagon.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Ethics is More About Background Assumptions: Reflections Spurred on by Propanolol

I was a busy little (well, no so little these days) feminista yesterday and never got a moment to post. But, there is a lot going on in my little brain that I want to share so, I will start with my reflections on a conversation with colleague, PD, on Propanolol. PD had just seen a 60 minutes special on Propanolol, which addressed (I didn't see it) the ethical implications of giving this drug to people who have experienced traumas in order to help the "forget" or readjust to normal life.

I have read a lot about this drug since it is part of my general interest in enhancement drugs, and so I was interested to see what PD thought of this debate. His response was, what I call, classic Psychopharmacological Calvinism. PD's concern was that if any old chap or chica could get her hand on Propanolol, then we would be encouraging a cohort of "shallow" people. For PD, the pain and disappointments of life tend to deepen us, make us more mature, moral and thoughtful. This is view that pain makes us deeper is pervasive in Western thought. It is not only part and parcel of the Judeo-Christian tradition (and there used to be a medical diagnoses called 'religious melancholy,' which indicated that the sufferer was being challenged in her faith), but more secular thinkers such as J.S. Mill held the same view (see Chapter 5 of his Autopbiography).

Intuitively, I share some of PD's concerns, and when I first started writing and thinking about the ethics of enhancement drugs, I found myself equally concerned that this technological approach to tweaking our personality and making us more socially acceptable was bad, bad, bad. After all, I was a student of European philosophy--I loved the Existentialism of Martin Heidegger and Simone de Beauvoir. But, alas, enough reading and thinking about this issue has challenged this view for me.

And, I credit my change of position to thinking more carefully of the stories that we construct prior to or simultaneously with thinking through the ethical question: is it ethical to give Propanolol to people who want to forget traumatic experiences and live 'normal' lives? Before any of us begin to answer an ethical question, we have a host of background assumptions at play about what people are like. PD's background assumption was that the typical "patient" asking for Propanolol would be a young woman or man, who had his/her heartbroken and wants a "quick fix" to overcome the pain of unrequited love.

PD's intuition is a reflection of how he understands the majority of Americans around him and he is not alone in this view. Surely many of the opponents to enhancement drugs think that what is wrong with contemporary American culture is its rampant consumerism, its ultimate faith in technology to "fix" all perceived problems, and the pervasive and perhaps, shallow view, that we all deserve to be happy. The ethicist, Carl Elliott has an interesting book on this: Better than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream.

I don't think PD is totally wrong about this, but over the years, my intuition about the typical patient seeking out enhancement drugs has transformed. I no longer envision snively, whiny, and weak willed Americans looking for a quick fix. Rather, I envision people battling real tragedies and real stresses seeking for relief. One of the reasons why I don't think that we will ever have droves of people seeking out enhancement drugs is that another cultural meme goes, perhaps, deeper than the veiw we are entitled to pursue happiness, namely, individual responsibility. No matter how nuanced our sociological analyses might be about why people become criminals, homeless, or poor, Americans are deeply committed to a view of ourselves that we be responsible for our actions. To turn ourselves wholly over to technological aids would require totally rejecting that cultural meme, which would be as difficult to do as eradicating religion.

However, our commitment to 'individual responsibility' is not why I am less condemning of enhancement drugs. Rather, it comes from the stories that I hear, the images I conjure up of the typical person seeking these drugs out. While PD might see an overprivileged, upper-middle class white boy looking for an easy way out of the hardwork of learning, I see a really stressed out young man, with a great deal of pressure on him, and a world that is speeding up rapidly throwing him into some horrendous competition. I think that my intuitions about the patients' seeking enhancement drugs is similar to how I now picture the typical woman seeking an abortion: it is not an irresponsible young girl who just wants to have sex and no consequences and is rather cavalier about "life."

So, the point of this post is not so much an endorsement of taking Propanolol, but rather a reflection on how powerful our intuitions are about what people are like, in particular, the people who are figured in ethical scenarios, shape our view of what is ethical. We always approach ethical questions with a rich and multi-layered set of background assumptions about the individuals involved and if ethicists don't challenge those assumptions, then we will not get very far in persuading others of what is indeed the ethical course to take.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Well I'll Be . . .Rebellion Against LAC Rankings

Boy was I surprised to read in the NYTimes this morning that a majority of Presidents of Liberal Arts Colleges (LACs) have decided to no longer participate in U.S. News and World rankings. As I was reading this piece, I wondered what my own college's position was on this new development, since I know full well that our president attends the Annapolis group. I didn't have to get far into the article to find this:

“We really want to reclaim the high ground on this discussion,” said Katherine Will, the president of Gettysburg College and the incoming president of the Annapolis Group. “We should be defining the conversation, not a magazine that uses us for its business plan.” The association did not take a formal vote and each college will make its own decision, Dr. Will said.

Wow! Good for President Will! I didn't know that she was the incoming President of the Annapolis group (kudos!) and I am happy to hear that she joined with the other LAC Presidents in taking back our college reputation from U.S. News and World rankings. It is indeed demoralizing to think the priorities of an institution are driven by the flawed ranking system of a periodical.

I am curious to see what other criteria the group comes up with to assess the quality of LACs.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Dad's Want to Spend More Time With Kids: Feminism to the Rescue

CNN reports results from a survey that found that 37 % of Dad's would like to be full-time stay-at-home fathers if their spouse made enough money to support them.

Nearly one in four (24 percent) working dads feel work is negatively impacting their relationship with their children. Forty-eight percent have missed a significant event in their child's life due to work at least once in the last year and nearly one in five (18 percent) have missed four or more.

According to the survey, the time working dads spend on work far exceeds the time spent with their children.

More than one in four (27 percent) working dads say they spend more than 50 hours a week on work and nearly one in 10 (8 percent) spend more than 60 hours.

In terms of the time they spend with their children, one in four (25 percent) working dads spend less than one hour with their kids each day. Forty-two percent spend less than two hours each day.

While more companies today are offering various programs and options to promote work/life balance, some working dads say their employers are lacking in this area.

Thirty-six percent of working dads say their company does not offer flexible work arrangements such as flexible schedules, telecommuting, job sharing and more.

When I read "trend" articles like this, I cannot help but wonder why on earth feminism gets such a universally bad rap. What does feminism bring to this problem: well, first of all a wealth of women who would be happy if their husband stayed at home. Secondly, feminists have been campaigning for a long, long time for changes to the workplace to accomodate families--not just working women.

Why haven't feminists made more headway in these endeavors? Well, because the men--you know, the ones at the power table--haven't exactly stood behind these initiatives. I am assuming that the men surveyed here aren't exactly the "managers," who would have the power to restructure the workplace in ways more accomodating to their parenting role. But, even so, these men who want to spend time with their children need to start paying attention to what feminists have been arguing for decades, and hell, get behind them.

I don't see the "family values" crowd helping these Dads out; after all, their warped conservative worldview leads them to conclude that Dad is being a good Dad when he sees his child for only an hour a day. His role is to support the family, while the more naturally nurturing mother stays home to rear them. (Side note: Za just said that he should stay home since I am not very maternal!)

So, if men want more options and flexibility in their work schedules, then dammit, stop fighting feminism and get behind it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Antioch College's "Legacy"?!

I just finished reading Michael Goldfarb's op-ed on the closing of Antioch College in the NYTimes. I was surprised to hear that the college is closing and to be honest, I am not exactly sure what the circumstances around its bankruptcy are. Many who know me well will not be surprised that what really interests me in Goldfarb's op-ed is the following paragraphs:

Antioch College became a rump where the most illiberal trends in education became entrenched. Since it is always easier to impose a conformist ethos on a small group than a large one, as the student body dwindled, free expression and freedom of thought were crushed under the weight of ultraliberal orthodoxy. By the 1990s the breadth of challenging ideas a student might encounter at Antioch had narrowed, and the college became a place not for education, but for indoctrination. Everyone was on the same page, a little to the left of The Nation in worldview.

Much of this conformist thinking focused on gender politics, and it culminated in the notorious sexual offense prevention policy. Enacted in 1993, the policy dictated that a person needed express permission for each stage in seduction. (“May I touch your breast?” “May I remove your bra?” And so on.) In two decades students went from being practitioners of free love to prisoners of gender. Antioch became like one of those Essene communities in the Judean desert in the first century after Christ that, convinced of their own purity, died out while waiting for a golden age that never came.

I particularly like the line: "practitioners of free love to prisoners of gender." I have always found the Antioch code to be totally out of touch with reality and practice. What Goldfarb doe not mention is that many, many colleges ended up adopting a similar sexual offense prevention policy. While Antioch's code was a grassroots one--it grew out of the community it was in--other colleges adopted it because it was a great CYA move. Such a strict code makes it easy to get the accused off campus ASAP, without due process, and needing little in the way of evidence.

So, to echo Goldfarb, one of the ironies of this liberal college is that it bequeathed a legacy of fascism to other colleges still operating with its illiberal sexual offense prevention code.

Let's Get This Bill Passed: EC in the ER!

I promised to keep all you readers updated on the PA bill making its way through the legislature to offer EC in the ER. Today I received the following email from PPFA and thought I would post it here to motivate my PA readers to pick up the phone and call his or her legislator.

The next two days determine how rape victims are treated in PA.

On Tuesday, June 19th, the Pennsylvania House will consider the "good" version of the EC in the ER bill, and vote. They may also consider some amendments, including an amendment that would affect whether the bill provides protection to EVERY WOMAN at EVERY HOSPITAL. We need to make sure those amendments don't weaken the bill or allow any hospital to WITHHOLD this medical care.


We need one more push from you. Why? Constituent contact will decide this vote. We need you to convince your legislator to make sure that NO amendment passes the House that would allow any hospitals to withhold care from any rape victim.


The amount of contact legislators have been receiving so far is truly making these members think about these important issues before they cast their votes. This vote will be very close - we expect there to be opposition to providing birth control to rape victims -- and your call can have a significant impact, so please call your legislator today! After you do so, please send us an email and let us know what you hear.

Thank you again for all you do!

Here is a link to help you find your legislator so you can give him/her a call. If this bill passes it will be an important victory for PA. For the life of me, I cannot fathom why it should be legal to withhold EC from a rape victim in the ER. I suppose that the truly die hard pro-life folks will say that this is a precious life from God. My retort, pure and simple, is where was God during the rape? How could God have had anything to do with that rape?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

That Damn Calvinism Again: The "Case" Against Dr. McIver

The NYTimes Magazine has an excellent article, "When is a Pain Doctor a Drug Pusher?" on Ronald McIver, the Pain Doctor who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for writing prescriptions of high doses of opiods like Oxycontin. What emerges in Tina Rosenberg's piece is the sense that McIver was prosecuted for offending the 'common wisdom' of jurors for what constitutes credible pain prescribing practices. The D.E.A. is also a player, trying to crack down on the epidemic of Oxycontin abuse in rural places of the U.S. And, finally, the fact that McIver was a D.O., who spent a lot of time with patients, only employed family in his office, and had sort of messy record keeping strategies, all count against him.

The prosecution did not really demonstrate that McIver had intent to break the law and become a drug pusher. In fact, what Rosenberg paints is a portrait of a man who was zealous and passionate in his drive to ease the pain of chronic pain sufferers. He was willing to prescribe high doses of opiniods and "titrate" them to high levels if it brought their pain levels down to a "2" rather than a "10."

What I like about this essay is that is illustrates there is a difference between "addiction" and "dependence" and that our underlying Calvinism is what leads to so many restrictions and unease among physicians to properly medicate chronic pain sufferers. I have always been interested in the treatment--or undertreatment of chronic pain sufferers--long before I became one after back surgery in 2000. Physicians have not been properly trained in pain management and so they get squeamish about prescribing enough pain medication to free a sufferer from pain. Likewise, patients panic that if they take some kind of opiniod they will become a drug addict, which they believe is worse than suffering from chronic pain.

The dilemma of preventing diversion without discouraging pain care is part of a larger problem: pain is discussed amid a swirl of ignorance and myth. Howard Heit, a pain and addiction specialist in Fairfax, Va., told me: “If we take the fact that 10 percent of the population has the disease of addiction, and if we say that pain is the most common presentation to a doctor’s office, please tell me why the interface of pain and addiction is not part of the core curriculum of health care training in the United States?” Will Rowe, the executive director of the American Pain Foundation, notes that “pain education is still barely on the radar in most medical schools.”

The public also needs education. Misconception reigns: that addiction is inevitable, that pain is harmless, that suffering has redemptive power, that pain medicine is for sissies, that sufferers are just faking. Many law-enforcement officers are as in the dark as the general public. Very few cities and only one state police force have officers who specialize in prescription-drug cases. Charles Cichon, executive director of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (Naddi), says that Naddi offers just about the only training on prescription drugs and reaches only a small percentage of those who end up investigating diversion. I asked if, absent Naddi training, officers would understand such basics as the whether there is a ceiling dose for opioids. “Probably not,” he said.

There is another factor that might encourage overzealous prosecution: Local police can use these cases to finance further investigations. A doctor’s possessions can be seized as drug profits, and as much as 80 percent can go back to the local police.

I couldn't help but compare McIver's plight to WJ Bryan Henrie, the D.O. who performed abortions pre-Roe that I spent some time studying. Here is a physician who flouts convention and spends 4 hours with patients, rather than 10 minute check ups. He decides to give high doses of pain medication if he can bring the pain levels down to 2, knowing full well that such a practice is open to intense scrutiny. And, what really interests me about this case is that his trial--and conviction--will deter even more physicians from entering into the field of Pain Management, even if the need is great.

We have an entire system built on a prejudice: pain medication is bad for you. We also have a strong, underlying belief that pain is what makes us stronger or better as humans (a nod to Nietzsche). Of course, that is just empirically false, since chronic pain wears on our health dramatically and reduces our quality of life.

I am sorry to hear of McIver's conviction and I hope that Rosenberg's piece leads to a re-examination of this prosecution, our Calvinistic attitudes toward pain medication, and we begin to take seriously the need to alleviate pain.

In the past few years, it has become increasingly clear to me that what I cannot abide in 'ethical debates' about medications is an underlying Calvinism and glorification of withstanding pain (hence, why I have not been so keen on the 'natural' childbirth route). Perhaps my rejection of this worldview comes from the fact that I don't possess the concomitant religious view that pain is valuable and necessary to developing moral character. Pain is pain.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

This Feminista Got Hitched!

It's true. Za and I headed over to the District Justice yesterday at around 3 pm to get married. We didn't have our families there because we fully intend to have a real, bonafide wedding next year at the same time. But, well, as my baby girl's due date is rapidly approaching, I got to thinking that I would rather we be married before her birth than after her birth. I am not sure all the complicated reasons that went into the decision. Mostly I wanted to avoid awkward paperwork at the hospital to establish paternity (if we are married the hospital assumes that Za is the father--go figure!).

In any case, our civil marriage turned out to be rather religious. I picked a courthouse in a different county, because (a) it was near my favorite restaurant and (b) I knew the judge from a hearing I had been a witness to back in the fall. Last January (2006), I was out protesting Alito's nomination and celebrating Roe in the square of my little town, when one of the protestors was arrested (see post). Several months later, an ACLU attorney decided to challenge a borough ordinance that prohibited people from protesting without first getting insurance (violation of 1st amendment). The District Justice who married us yesterday sided with us in that case, and so I thought that was a good endorsement for a local justice.

Nonetheless, we got a lot of God in our 5 minute ceremony. If God was going to come up, I wanted to pick who would share that message, not have a local judge do so. Oh well. I still got choked up when we said our "I dos." The rings we ordered had not yet arrived from Denmark, but we were rescued by Funkfoot, who gave me a ring to put on Za and we used my engagement ring. Luckily, the judge laughed with us and seemed to be in good humor.

So, I woke up a married woman for the first time in my life this morning. So much change, so quickly. But, it is exhilirating.

P.S. It was far too tempting to show up with a shotgun at this wedding! The big pregnant belly and a tiny courthouse near Dover, PA was just too much.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Business Time: Flight of the Conchords

I had to put this up for my dear readers. I nearly fell out of my chair the first time I heard these guys.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Expensive Care Does Not Mean Quality Care

It's increasingly difficult for me to stomach arguments against serious health care reform in this country. I couldn't be more for a single-payer system, whether the government be that payer or not. I was recently informed by a colleague that the measly raises we all got this year will be completely eaten up by health care costs; the college trustees voted to make us share 45% of our total health care costs. I am one of the lucky ones; I have health insurance in this country, even if I have a fairly large deductable. 47 million Americans do not have health insurance, and 80 percent of those uninsured are native or naturalized citizens.

Given how much health insurance costs in this country and how much health care costs, it is deeply disturbing (and not at all surprising) to know that higher cost for care does not mean higher quality care. The NYTimes today reports on a survey of 60 Pennsylvania hospitals:

In a Pennsylvania government survey of the state’s 60 hospitals that perform heart bypass surgery, the best-paid hospital received nearly $100,000, on average, for the operation while the least-paid got less than $20,000. At both, patients had comparable lengths of stay and death rates.

And among the 20 hospitals serving metropolitan Philadelphia, two of the highest paid actually had higher-than-expected death rates, the survey found.

And . . .

As eye-opening as the Pennsylvania report may be to the public, insurers have already been aware that their payment practices do not necessarily encourage hospitals to provide better care. Medicare, for example, pays essentially a flat fee, which varies depending on location and type of hospital, for the same surgery, regardless of outcome. Complications tend to simply mean additional payments. And many insurers follow the government’s lead.

And so hospitals are rewarded for providing more care, not better care.

“The Medicare program pays for services,” said Leslie Norwalk, the acting administrator for the federal program, who says hospitals are reimbursed even if the care they are providing is a result of a mistake or avoidable hospital infection.

Independence Blue Cross, which is Philadelphia’s largest private insurer, says the difficulty lies in finding the right measures to use to pay for quality care.

“Philosophically, you’re not going to get an argument from us,” said Dr. Richard Snyder, a senior executive at Independence. “We believe we should pay more for high quality than poor quality.”

While this survey is indeed "eye-opening" and in fact downright depressing, one can hope that this study will put the lie to the counterargument to health care reform from conservative quarters that claim a single payer system (or any sort of 'socialization' of medicine) will result in lower quality health care.

Geez, I am not sure we should be so proud of what we get now, considering this case: Edith Isabel Rodriguez at MLK Jr.-Harbor Hospital. Ms. Rodriguez died in the ER after writhing in pain on the floor for 45 minutes, while numerous hospital staff and 911 operators simply ignored her.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

How to Transform Scorned Love into Revenge Art

A former student, Crystal, sent me this article, which is part of a series on notable art at the Venice Biennale. Sophie Calle was callously dumped via an email and turned the otherwise traumatic experience into a work of art, that heckles and mocks the dumper. What sweet revenge!

Our guy -- the artist has kindly identified him only as "X" -- dumped Calle by writing her an arrogant, self-absorbed, self-pitying missive. He used the old line that he was leaving Calle for her own good. He'd found himself eyeing other women again and didn't want to have to break his promise not to cheat on her. All of which, he implied, hurt him more than it hurt her.
Here is how she transformed the otherwise miserable scenario into cathartic laughter:

The piece is titled "Take Care of Yourself," after the writer's closing words, and Calle and her comrades have certainly taken care of him.

Calle sent a printout to a copy editor, who tore apart the jilter's diction and grammar. The text, marked up by the editor in black pen and four highlighter colors, is blown up to fill a giant patch of wall in the pavilion, alongside Calle's photographic portrait of the grammarian.

Also on the wall of the pavilion are the face and comments of a certain Mme. Aliette Eicher, comtesse de Toggenburg, an etiquette consultant who teaches "savoir-vivre." She pointed out, without sparing any bile, all the ways in which Monsieur X broke the basic code of love that any true "man of the world" would follow. (The countess encloses an example of the crisp note a real gentleman might send, handwritten with a fountain pen on rag paper bearing a coat of arms: "My Dearest Sophie, What you offer is a rare and precious thing. I find myself, obliged, however, to give up your company. Please trust that I do so with deepest regret.")

And there are the comments of a forensic psychiatrist, who diagnoses the words as revealing "a true, twisted manipulator, psychologically dangerous and/or a great writer. To be avoided. Categorically." (The originals are mostly in French, but there were translations available in the pavilion in English and Italian.)

Calle gets female experts to translate the note into Latin, Braille, Morse code, bar code and shorthand, all presented huge on the pavilion wall. A female journalist writes it up as the briefest wire story; a puzzle writer turns it into a crossword; a grade-school teacher reworks it as a fairy tale with a sad ending; a pair of Talmudic scholars put it through the most rigorous scriptural analysis.

In a room of ever-changing videos, Calle has the e-mail read and commented on by the great French actress Jeanne Moreau, by British stars Miranda Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave, by pop singers Peaches and Feist. It gets "interpreted" by a clown and a puppeteer. It's sung out by an opera diva and danced to as a tango, a ballet and tough punk rock.

In one moment of cross-species solidarity, a parrot -- female, one assumes -- shreds a copy of the thing with her beak. (In a nicely democratic, anti-market move, Calle has made many of these videos, and lots of other details from the project, available in a deluxe new book. It costs almost $100, but it includes several DVDs that, in more limited editions, would cost collectors hundreds of times that much.)

My favorite video shows a competitive markswoman whose response to the e-mail was to shoot it up. She's shown on a firing range, kitted up with the latest high-tech clothes and a gleaming rifle custom-machined just for her hands. The gun barrel barely twitches as she blows the note away. This is jilted woman as remorseless killing machine. Lucky for X that Calle is only an artist.

I love the grammarian and etiquette dame pointing out how poorly constructed and unmannered the email was.

So, this art exhibit got me thinking about stories of scorned love. I have been lucky in that I have never been dumped over email. In fact, I have never dated someone who actually had the guts to dump me; instead, they cheated on me or provoked me to dump them. But, I know there are some stories out there. So tell me, what's your horror story of love scorned? And better yet, any glorious revenge stories?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why We Teach: Even the Required Courses

This was sent along to me from Craigslist and I think it is an excellent and rather straightforward disquisition on what we are up to in courses that seem to be just about "fulfilling requirements." I have highlighted the sections where I was nodding vigorously in agreement.

I am your professor. And unlike that other guy, I respect you.

Date: 2007-05-10, 10:31PM EDT

I am your professor. And unlike that other guy, I respect you.


I teach you a physical science course that you need to graduate. I know it’s hard. I know that some of you will give it your best shot, and others won’t.

But I truly believe that all of you are capable of this. And as a result, you do learn. A lot. And that’s kudos to you.

Who am I? I am the chubby middle-aged white chick that teaches you your lab science. Or, as some of you told me straight up because I asked: "it’s that one last class that I’ve put off forever but gotta have to graduate."

Granted, you might not think you need this class to own your own business, to raise your kids, or to manage an office. But the quiet secret of a lot of college courses is that there’s always something you can take away from it that’s good – if you do your bit and I do mine.

My business is to teach you science, and the real point of that is to help you to learn how to think. How to write. How to ask good questions and demand straight answers. Ten years from now you may not remember the difference between a reverse fault and a normal fault, but you’ll know how to find out.

Like that other guy, I too would like to pass on some tips, and to vent a little bit too. (But in a different way.)

First rule- Let’s be respectful to each other.

Actually, this is the only rule because everything else proceeds from there. I think most of you get that. In fact, my experience is that it’s only a rare few of you that don’t understand and value that.

Who am I to know this? I grew up so far below the poverty line that education was my only ticket out. It worked -- I have a doctorate from one of the best universities in the US, and I’ve been teaching evenings while holding a full-time day job for several decades, just because I love to do it.

But that alone should not impress you -- what ought to matter to you is whether I know my stuff, and can convey it to you in ways you can “get.” And having been there, I do know how hard it is to “get” material in class when you’ve already put in a full day at work. And when your kid is sick. Or when it’s just plain gorgeous outdoors and you’d rather be there than here in my class.

I get that. And I think for the most part, you get that about me.

Second rule- Be respectful to your classmates.

This one is a truth, and you know I expect it of you. I’m not the berating type, or the insulting type, but you have all seen me stop lecturing, look to the back of the room, and ask the chatterers to take it outside please. I don’t have to rant or raise my voice; your peer pressure and my quiet request have always been enough to keep the class on track. Thank you for that.

Third rule- Be on time, but know that I understand about life.

Some of you drive 45 miles each way in heavy traffic to get to my class. I know this. I myself drive 25 miles each way. I know that traffic around here is hideous and that life contains unreasonable bosses who hit you with stuff right at quitting time, bad weather, and fender benders on I-66. I don’t want you to risk life and limb to get here! You know that I will start at 7:30 on the dot to be fair to those who do get there on time, but I’m not going to dump on you if you occasionally arrive late. All I ask is that if you truly have to be late, just come in quietly. You know I want you there.

Fourth rule- Do ask questions during class.

Some of the best class discussions in my memories came of students asking a question that seemed to be coming from left field. But when asked why they asked it, there was a link, and it took the class in a new and good direction and we explored a connection to science and ...policy, child-raising, environmentalism, history, or any other number of cool things. There’s time for that. I build it in. I love the left field questions...they keep me honest and thinking hard, and they do the same for you.

Now, all that said, you know and I know that I grade tough, and some of you aren’t sure how to handle this. You can’t wheedle a grade out of me, or nag one out of me, but you can work for one and get the one you truly deserve. And you can ask for help outside of class and get it. And when you leave my class, you will know how to do this stuff, and what’s even better, you’ll know that you know.

I’m old enough and have been teaching long enough to know that I don’t know everything, and that you don’t either and I don’t expect you to. Some of you went to cruddy underperforming secondary schools; some of you dropped out for one reason or another, worked a while and are now trying to do better for yourself; some of you wasted your opportunities; some of you have learning disabilities, and some of you for whatever reason just don’t think you can learn, and therefore, you can’t learn. A very few of you are just trying to slide by, but the great majority of you are here, day in and day out, working hard and making real progress. That’s why I’m here standing in front of this room instead of drinking a nice cognac at home. If you don’t know it, it’s my job to teach it to you.

And my advice to you when anyone – ANYONE – trots out that tired old nonsense about Americans being the worst educated -- smile politely and just walk away, permanently, because that’s been a fashionable position for some Europeans to take for decades. I’ve worked in Europe and Africa myself and I’ve heard it plenty of times. But guess what --It wasn’t true in the 1970’s, ‘80’s or ‘90’s (I was there) and it isn’t true now. And what’s more, it’s rude. Just. Plain. RUDE. And also ignorant. Broad statements like that, that bin an entire nation into one supposedly-illiterate pool, serve only one purpose: to aggrandize the person saying it.

At the beginning of the semester, as you my students know, I don’t assess you to find out what you know and don’t know. I give you a survey to ask what you are interested in, what aspects of the science intrigue you, what your expectations are, and for the opportunity to tell me anything else you think I ought to know.

The answers you give me are like gold to me. Some are flip, some profane, some naive, and some reveal that you’re scared, unconfident, tired, sick or angry. Sometimes you do tell me about a subject you’re interested in, or a question you need an answer to. Do you know how I use those? I use them to get to know you. I use them to get an idea how you think. I use them to tailor my lectures each semester so that ideas have a chance to grab you by the throat and spark your imagination. I don’t care that you don’t know stuff going in – that’s a given! That’s why you’re here with me! It’s what you know when you leave that matters. And for some reason, most of you come back to me for second semester...even if you got a “D”!

The dirty little secret about teaching, especially as an adjunct (which is what a lot of us who teach evenings are) is that it pays...dirt. When you count the hours spent preparing, lecturing, writing, grading labs and papers, I’d make way more dollars flipping burgers than I do for a semester of teaching. So obviously that’s not why I do it...and I‘ve been doing it for several decades now. I think you can figure out the answer. Yeah, I’m addicted to the “Aha” moment when we’ve been struggling together on something difficult and all of a sudden the light bulb comes on for you. And when you ask me to write you a letter of recommendation because you’re going on to a 4-year school to subject? OMG, I walk on air for months.

Why does a true teacher teach? Because of the students. Not because of the pay. Not because of the prestige, such as it is. It’s because of the students. Teaching doesn’t depress me; it energizes me. You students keep me in touch with what’s real. You each are the tip of the iceberg – all that potential and a lot of life ahead. That’s the point of having a lot more growing to do. And I get to be a little part of shaping it. You are the future generation, yes, and I am psyched about that.

So thanks, all you students who’ve come through my classes. I think the world of you.

And that’s my RAVE.

Let's see if we can turn this discussion, like the parenting one, into a "well, you are doing it because you are selfish and you chose to do it. I, for one, am fairly tired of the egoist-altruist debate. But have at if you wish . . .

Monday, June 11, 2007

Richard Rorty Died

*I* alerted me to his death last night and I found this obit in the SFChron this morning. In the last few years, several philosophers who I have read, admired, and had the opportunity to see speak have died: Jacques Derrida, Iris Marion Young, Teresa Brennan and now Richard Rorty. This list, by the way, is not exhaustive, it is just what it is.

I only mention it because I remember, early in my grad school days being in awe of my professors who had taken seminars from Sartre, Foucault or Heidegger even. I couldn't imagine what it would've been like to be in such close contact with these giants. But, as I grew older, I realized that it was probably no different than having attended panels that Rorty was on or visiting Derrida's office hours. At bottom, these were people, academics and very approachable.

I don't have a lot of incisive things to say about Rorty other than he was one of the best writers in American Philosophy and quite a rebel. When I was still an undergraduate, I saw him go after John Searle in a heated debate about 'realism' (for my non-philosopher readers, yawns). Rorty thought he had 'nailed' Searle, Searle stood up and pointed out how he had misread his text, and then Rorty shirked his shoulders and said "Oh, Shoot." I thought that was one of the coolest moments in Philosophy for me.

Feel free to reminisce any Rorty stories you have in the comments.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Where You Should Not Take Your Family This Summer: The Creation Museum

IsThatLatin sent her readers to this Flicker account to see pictures of the Creation museum. Ever since I took a look at these (Monday) I have been haunted by the very existence of this museum, its veneer of credibility, and the large sums that must have gone into financing it. I am trying to picture what family would take their children to this museum and the damage it would cause. There are two exhibit photos in particular that trouble me:


Let's ignore, for the moment, the substantial racism that has gone hand in hand with most religions. And, let's put aside the fact that the Enlightenment was a huge emancipation for the common human being--and that the Enlightenment took aim precisely at the Church teachings that supported Racism and Sexism.

What is most disturbing about these images is how sinister they are in teaching young, impressionable children to "hate." So, while the explicit message is that God loves everyone and finds a place for all, the implicit and more powerful "take home message" is that God hates humans who dare exercise reason and judgment in the service of the progress of humanity. In other words, these exhibits teach children to hate, distrust, and reject reasoning that is not rooted in the blind acceptance of a particular spin on what Christianity is all about.

The exhibit is actually performing what it accuses the secular, scientific, rational thinkers of doing: create hate, intolerance and catastrophe.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A Victory for EC in the ER in PA! Woot!

I received a very welcomed email this morning from the PR director of our local PPFA:

Thursday, June 07, 2007
Of The Patriot-News

The state House Health and Human Services Committee gave a big win to advocates for crime victims and women's rights yesterday, approving 20-7 a bill that would require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to women seeking treatment for sexual assault.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, was drafted in part in response to a 2006 rape case in Lebanon County. The victim sought treatment at Good Samaritan Hospital, but was refused emergency contraception by an emergency room doctor who said it would violate his religiout beliefs about abortion.

When a similar guaranteed-access bill stalled in the Senate last year, advocates for victims of sexual assault made it a priority for the new session.

"This is a really strong statement for the protection of women who are in really difficult circumstances," said Susan Gobreski, president of Planned Parenthood Advocates, the public policy arm of the state's Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Leach's bill, which might be voted on by the House next week, would require hospitals to provide rape victims with information about emergency contraception and, if requested, make available the two-pill treatment that's most effective when taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex.

Surveys show about half of Pennsylvania's hospitals routinely make emergency contraception available to rape victims.

Legislative opponents, most of them abortion foes concerned that the emergency contraception pills amount to a form of abortion, tried to derail the vote by seeking a second public hearing. They complained abortion opponents, including leaders of Catholic hospitals, were not represented at a May 29 hearing.

But the panel's Democratic majority, joined by a few Republicans, defeated that motion and a subsequent amendment by Rep. Doug Reichley, R-Lehigh, that would have let faith-based hospitals withhold the treatment if medical tests indicated that a pregnancy had begun.

Reichley warned the bill could violate religious freedom protections designed to prevent the state from compelling someone to provide services that are contrary to his religious beliefs.

Bill supporters, however, argue the pills -- marketed at pharmacies as Plan B -- generally act like regular birth control pills by preventing ovulation or fertilization of an egg. They contend that means pregnancy has not begun and no abortion is occurring.

Leach said the bill relieves victims of the dilemma of deciding to have an abortion or bear a child who was the product of a rape. He said the bottom line for him is creating a strong standard of care for sexual assault victims.

Gobreski agreed. "What's really important is that these women should be empowered to make medical decisions based on medical information and not the religious beliefs of others."

Rep. Mauree Gingrich, R-Palmyra, was one of five Republicans to support the bill.


This bill comes out of a case that I wrote about back in 2006 here. I promise to keep you posted about when the bill goes to the floor for a vote.

I wonder what many of the readers here think about the opposing arguments to EC in the ER, namely that it violates religious freedom. How far can one take the religious freedom argument in a hospital? Is it possible to have a hospital set up by the Creationists, who deny any scientific validity to evolution and thereby, I would imagine, most medical treatments? I guess it is possible to set up such a hospital, but what happens if that is the only place to get treated for many many miles?

I am fairly unschooled on the legality of hospital regulations. Thoughts?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Send a Message That The Truth Matters

It's old news by now: Scooter Libby has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in the Plamegate scandal. The new coverage yesterday and this morning got me thinking about how self-serving Republican logic has been thus far.

Many heavy hitters, including Donald Rumsfeld, Henry Kissinger and Paul Wolfowitz
(with friends like this, who needs enemies?) sent letters in support of Libby and asking for leniency.

Vice President Cheney, although he didn't write a letter of support for Libby,

noted that Mr. Libby was appealing the verdict and said that he and his wife, Lynne, “hope that our system will return a final result consistent with what we know of this fine man.”
Libby said
“consider, along with the jury verdict, my whole life.”
And, speculation surrounds whether or not Bush will pardon Libby.

If you are a high ranking official in this administration then, it seems, you are above the law or should not feel the fierce consequences of your action. If, however, you are a lowly schlub--maybe a pregnant teenager who crosses state lines to get an abortion or an illegal immigrant--then you are most certainly NOT above the law. Which is it?

Luckily, some sanity from Patrick Fitzgerald:

In court on Tuesday, the chief prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, urged Judge Walton to issue a stiff sentence that would “send a message that the truth matters.” Mr. Fitzgerald said Mr. Libby’s misstatements had made it difficult for law enforcement officers to figure out the truth “in a hall of mirrors.”
A hall of mirrors indeed; the illogic of this administration is darn right crazy-making.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Why the Logic of Burden?

Watch out! A post spun from navel gazing ahead!

As a very pregnant feminista, spending more and more time at home preparing for the baby and my life to change, I can't help but muse on the way that many, well-meaning, liberal, smart friends of mine talk about having children. I am barraged lately with rather depressing, if not a tad threatening, comments about how my sanity, my peace of mind, my relationship, my freedom are all about to be gone.

Where does this come from? Perhaps this is the stern rhetoric that is shoved down our throats as a kind of "family planning" measure. Surely we are a society that has come to represent having and raising children as an absolute drain on our autonomy, self-reliance, and liberty. Sadly, the conservative "family values" pack has better rhetoric on children than the left does. We all bemoan how much we lose and then, almost as an afterthought, smile wide and say "but I never knew how much I could love . . ." The trade off always seems a bit off: my life for the child's. This frame of reference seems wholly toxic for parents to be.

When I got sick a few months ago, a nurse in the emergency room said: "when you finally have your child, you will see how selfish you really are." Not long after that, a former student, who works at a magazine aimed a parents told me that she reads mounds of letters from stressed out, depressed, and ravaged mothers begging for a "spa day." These sort of sentiments in the air are truly toxic and yet we seem to pick them up, utter them, roll our eyes in a knowing way and carry on the meme.

One of the ways in which the Dems seem like losers to young, idealistic people (like many of my students) is because they are essentially uninspiring in their rhetoric. They point out what needs to be fixed, how poorly certain policies are working, how endemic and intractable our energy and economic struggles are. Don't get me wrong; I am glad they are a party of truth-tellers and that they do their homework. I just wish they could inject some happy, joyous and plain old optimistic rhetoric into their projections about the future.

Couldn't we find better ways of representing and speaking about parenthood? Are we forced to choose either the liberal or communitarian models for making sense of family? Do we have to always frame this as a huge burden, drag, and obstacle to personal liberty (with good trade offs)?

Za pointed out to me that many of the negative ways of speaking about the challenges and difficulties of raising children come from the fact that having a child is like putting a large mirror to yourself. If you don't like what you see, you may be more likely to indulge in the groaning, waxing-nostalgic-for-the-good-ole-days, rhetoric. His theory has some plausibility indeed. But I think it is compounded by convention: we just pick up this language of burden when it comes to children. I think we can do better.


Monday, June 04, 2007

I Don't See Any Pro-Life Nods in "Knocked Up"

So I heard David Edelstein's review of Knocked Up last week and debated whether or not to actually see the film. I was hoping for a light, summer screwball comedy but his review made it sound like an ode to the Pro-Life movement.

I took the plunge, however, and went to see the film last night. And, I don't see the "conservative" theme at all. I now reject Edelstein's analysis of the film which seems to hinge on a few key points: that Alison decides to not get an abortion and that she and Ben end up together and thereby complete nuclear family bliss. This is what bothers me. Why are these choices deemed "conservative" and thereby considered to be in league with a more right-leaning politics?

First of all, Alison chooses to keep the baby, which is perfectly consistent with a progressive, feminist and pro-choice worldview. In fact, to isinuate that the only way this film would be reflective of those kind of politics would be if Alison gets and abortion and eschews the trappings of nuclear family life is, frankly, a parody of liberal/progressive politics.

The film is funny. My friends laughed far more than I did, only because in some ways the fears, the hormonal rages, and the birthing scenes hit too close to home for me. I probably should have seen this film after I gave birth. I had a hard time believing that Alison could fall in love with Ben, but by the end of the film Ben endeared himself to me.

The film is also very middle class--money is not really an issue. Alison gets a promotion, rather than penalized for her pregnancy. Even Ben lives pretty well for his "squalor." And, I found it hard to believe he could turn his life around so quickly and get a decent job in L.A. But, it is a film--i.e. fantasy.

What did the rest of you think? To whet your appetite, here is snippet of Kathryn Jean Lopez's review from NRO:

In Knocked Up abortion is presented as an option whose time has come and gone. You don’t get a baby “taken care of,” not when you can see the little one and her heartbeat on a monitor on the first post-conception doctor visit. Not when even loser Ben’s dad can tell him he’s the “best thing that ever happened” to him. Not when we know that Alison’s sister had an unexpected pregnancy, and that Alison wouldn’t have that beautiful but bratty six-year-old niece she loves.

That’s the refreshing part of the movie: There’s no question it embraces life. If you stretched optimism a little bit further you would see some kind of ode to marriage in it. First off, even Ben, whose only real relationship is with his bong, thinks he should “make an honest woman” out of Alison — proposing to her with an empty box and a promise that there’s a ring to come if he ever makes a killing off his “job” (a not-yet-launched website showing hot actresses in their movie nude scenes). And instead of laughing at the sitcom model of bitchy wife (played by Leslie Mann) abusing the nice-guy husband (Paul Rudd), we watch a mean wife nearly ruin her marriage. While hitting a club to celebrate her sister’s promotion (and her whole source of confidence being that she knows men there would want to have sex with her), she’s got her own husband so unhappy he feels the need to lie to her about his fantasy baseball league. (Not that he’s a model husband either; he lies about going to work when he’s actually going to a movie.)

The only reason we have hope for these characters is the baby, who only appears at the end. The baby doesn’t destroy Alison’s career. The baby nurtures a love between Alison and Ben, a very unlikely couple. The baby ultimately brings the unhappily married (for no real good reason) Debbie and Peter back together.

But as delighted as I am for the Knocked Up message that sex has consequences (including unexpected joy and transformative love) and parents have responsibilities, there’s something about Knocked Up that still leaves one a bit disturbed — and a little depressed. It’s pro-life and pro-marriage in its crude way. And it’s important that Hollywood isn’t making pro-life, pro-marriage movies just for more conservative audiences.
Here's an interesting interview with Judd Apatow. And as I listened to it, I kept thinking how ridiculously polarized we still are if we think that making clear there are consequences for our behavior is a "conservative" value. Gee Whiz.

What do you think?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Soccer Shereos Save Woman from Gang Rape

Za to the rescue. He discovered this story from the SF Chron and immediately forwarded it to me. Three young women soccer players, from my old stomping grounds--the South Bay--rescued a young woman who was being sexually assaulted while 8 or men watched. The three "shereos" carried a very intoxicated woman out of a bedroom, pushed a guy off her, and none of the other men standing around offered to help. They took her to the hospital and volunteered to testify, give statements and whatnot.

How are they rewarded?

"People I didn't even know were coming up to me and saying, 'Stop your lying. Shut your f -- mouth,' " Chief Elk said in an interview last week. "We'd be walking around, and people would actually come up and get in our face."

It reached the point where they felt threatened. Cmdr. John Hirokawa of the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department confirms that deputies were called to the campus on a complaint of harassment.

"I can say that we went out there at least once in regards to a possible complaint," Hirokawa said. "People were warned."

After the Sheriff's Department and District Attorney Dolores Carr investigated the case, Carr declined to press charges, saying she doesn't have enough evidence to convict. Although nearly everyone agrees that, in Carr's words, "bad things happened in that room," there does not appear to be a positive identification of the perpetrator. And those speaking for the men said that any sex that occurred was consensual.

What is perhaps even more upsetting is that the lawyer for the perpetrators argued that the sex was consensual. Excuse me? How on earth can a woman who is so intoxicated that she has to be taken to the hospital consent?

"We did our own investigation early on,'' says attorney John Cahners, who represents Steve Rebagliati, a baseball player whose parents own the house where the alleged assault took place. "What we found was, no, we don't think a crime did occur. But I am not going to drag a 17-year-old girl through the dirt to explain what we found.''

Cahners also says that because the men were 19 and 20 years old, sex with an underage girl would be only a misdemeanor. He says that's the law if a victim is no more than three years younger than the person accused of having sex with her.

"It seems to me that a bunch of folks have already made up their minds,'' says Cahners. "I would say this: The D.A. is a woman, she is married to a policeman, and she is the former head of the sexual assault team in the D.A.'s office. Do you really think she doesn't want to prosecute?''

(Cahners, it should be said, is a supporter of Carr's, giving $1,000 to her election campaign. He says he did not donate to her opponent.)

Perhaps the Duke case has embolded defense attorneys of rapists? Given the facts of this story--at least as its reported here--it is nearly impossible for me to see that this kind of sexual activity can be consensual. What I think disturbs me more is that this kind of "gang rape" scenario is still so prevalant on college campuses. (See Peggy Sanday's Fraternity Gang Rape)

But when he opened the door, the soccer players saw the victim on a mattress on the floor being sexually assaulted. Breayans, who is out of the country until June 17, says she can identify one man who was sexually assaulting the girl.

They shoved their way through the door and confronted the men.

"We weren't very nice," Grolle says. "We were swearing like sailors. I couldn't believe some of the words that were coming out of my mouth."

They got the guy off the girl -- although they didn't get a look at his face -- and tried to get her on her feet. She was unable to stand. Grolle says they looked at the men and asked for help to take her out. Instead, the guys drifted away sheepishly. Breayans and Grolle draped her arms around their shoulders and pulled her through the door, her feet dragging behind.

"It just boggles the mind that not one of these big, strong men stood up to help us carry this lifeless girl out of the room," Grolle says.

"She had vomit dribbling down her face," Chief Elk has said. "We had to scoop vomit out of her mouth and lift her up."

(Cahners says tests proved that the vomit was not the victim's. But Grolle says "that's even worse,'' meaning that someone else's vomit was in the girl's mouth.)

"She was literally lifeless," Grolle says. "Her eyes were completely shut. On the ride to the hospital, I had to keep my hand under her nose to make sure she was breathing."

This, remember, is the girl who is supposed to have "consented" to sex.

Well, April Grolle, Lauren Chief Elk and Lauren Breayans are my shereos!

UPDATE: feministing has a link to the San Jose news coverage of a protest to the D.A.'s office.

The Nester

So Marty my beloved beagle is a sick dog again. A really bad diarrhea . . . This time I think the culprit is the chemicals in the lawn. Last summer when this happened, I was sure he was dying. Now, I think he is just sick from eating the grass. Poor Marty.

It's funny how doting I have been on my little beagle today. For the first time in my life, I made him homemade food (boiled chicken and rice). I usually think that is soooo nuts when people do that. But, I remember the viral gastro-enteritis I had back in April and so I want him to feel better.

I have to say that tending to my sick beagle who absolutely cannot talk to me at all gives me some assurance that I can take care of my newborn. I do have anxiety about all these things, but its one day at at time (did I just bust out an AA quote?)

So its been a weekend oriented around my newly developed strong urge to "nest". I went to Lowe's for the third time this week to buy paint and a woman asked me when I was due
(I am HUGE). I said July 20th and she told me how she and her husband painted their whole house before her first (she has three). I asked her why on earth I was doing this (after all my ankles are totally swollen and I am unable to bend down). She told me I was in the nesting phase.


People send me some interesting news stories or links to other blogs. I am threatening to turn this blog into too much navel gazing otherwise!

Any good nesting stories out there you want to share?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Painting Day!

Today is a painting day! IsThatLatin is coming over to help me beautify the house before my daughter arrives. I love painting, but the size of my belly and the swollenness of my ankles threatens to turn this good time into a chore. In any case, I have marveled at how much energy I have had--well, at least moodwise--in this 8th month. I look around my house and think of all the little things I have neglected to do while I was busy writing or teaching and well, I am diving in to get those things done.

Yesterday was a day of reflecting on (either in conversations or during my childbirth class) what my post-partum life will be like. After we left the class, Za reminded me that I should confirm my mother's arrival during that time. We both realized how tired and overwhelmed we will be. What comforts me is that this period is finite and eventually life will readjust to accomodate our new roles as parents. But, I imagine that period in between will be quite a challenge for me. Not so much for Za, who has been through this and is in fact very knowledgeable about all thing babies and biology.

Until I get to that period of post partum overwhelmdom, I will paint away and try to prepare this little house for a new life. This feminista has become so damn domestic all of a sudden!

P.S. to those seasoned mothers out there reading the blog, do share your tips for how to survive the post partum period!!!