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    • Clown College as the Ukrainian military effort “sputters”
      The Ukrainian military clearly doesn’t care enough to actually fight: The day began inauspiciously for Ukrainian forces as they sought to establish an operating base in the city of Kramatorsk, moving in units from a nearby military air base. According to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry and a witness who spoke by phone, a column of six [...]
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Ooo, look what I found

This is one of HRC’s appearances on the morning talk shows during the financial crisis of 2008. This entry is dated September 23, 2008. It was almost a month after the nomination so nobody was listening to her anyway. You might have missed this if you had been waiting to hear what the lightbringer would say.

Here’s another video from the Today Show from the very same day:

And another from Morning Joe. Well, no wonder no one was paying attention to her. All she wanted to do was bailout homeowners and hold the banks accountable. That’s all she said all fricking day long, over and over and over again. Booooooring.

And here’s one from CNN’s American Morning. Homeowner mortgages, nag, nag, nag. Conflict of interest provisions for the Treasury Department officials who will oversee the bailout money? Please. (Anyway, it was just a lucky guess on her part.)

Must be really frustrating to know what has to be done and have some schmoozer and his financial backers standing in the way of the controls. Kinda like one of those heartbreaking scenes in a blockbuster movie when the good character gets killed off and the not-so-good character has to undergo a crisis of conscience deciding whether to carry on the legacy- and then doesn’t. It’s a dark, dystopian film with lots of rain or scary looking men in long black cloaks.

Well, we don’t all get the government we deserve but we sure do get the one we voted for.

Thursday: Fantasies of a Lab Rat

What happens at the lab when the managers and the MBAs go to an international meeting and leave the labrats in charge of themselves:

Can we get an Amen?

*****************

True Story:  Last week, I was standing in front of a halal grease wagon in Philadelphia waiting for my baba ganouj, when some African American dude selling a book started chatting me up.  Much eye rolling ensued but he was actually kinda of interesting and I had some time to kill.  I wasn’t interested in buying his book because I told him I was out of work and trying to save money (yeah, yeah, I should have brought my lunch but I had a yen for roasted eggplant.  So sue me.)  He asked me what I did and I told him I was a drug designer of oncology drugs.  Oooo, he said, does that mean your companies have figured out the cures for cancer and are just sitting on them?  I hear this kind of uninformed opinion all of the time, that the pharmas are sitting on some big cancer cure and they’re holding out in order to, um, to, well, hell, I don’t know.  This accusation never did make any damn sense to me.  If the pharmas had THE definitive cures for cancer, they’d be screaming and jumping up and down at the FDA to approve them right away.  Cancer is big business and there’s a lot of potential extortion money to be made.  People who are frantic to survive to see their kids grow up will pay just about anything for a cure.

Sadly, there is no cure for cancer yet, mostly because cancer is not just one disease but many diseases.  You would think that with all of the work that is left to do to cure cancer and all of the discoveries that we are making in cell biology in the past decade that every scientist in the world would be overwhelmed with work instead of getting laid off and scraping together a meager existence.  But the truth is that those of us who should be working round the clock to do protein expression, structural biology, genomics and medicinal chemistry are falling out of the middle class and into the realm of a precariat existence while cancer goes uncured and the amount of resources thrown at is is parsed into “need to know” CRO operations in foreign countries.

So, when I saw Derek Lowe’s morning post on the hope of curing cancer, I got a little wistful.  Derek ends his post:

But I’m operating on a different time scale from Eschenbach. Here he is in 2006, in The Lancet:

 

“Think of it”, von Eschenbach says, “for thousands of years we have dealt with cancer working only with what we could see with our eyes and feel with our fingers, then for a 100 years we’ve dealt with cancer with what we could see under a microscope. Now, we have gone in 10 years to a completely different level.” This new science “is going to change how we think, it’s going to change how we approach things; it’s going to change everything.” 

. . .He points to the example of testicular cancer. The development of treatments for this cancer was a great success, von Eschenbach says, but one that “took decades of trial and error, one trial after another, after another, after another”. That hit-and-miss approach is no longer necessary, von Eschenbach says. Now, if 10% of patients responded to a treatment, he says, “you take the tools of genomics and go back, reverse engineer it, and ask: what was different about that 10%? Well, they had an EGF [epidermal growth factor] receptor mutation, ah ha!”

 

Ah ha, indeed. Here’s more in a similar vein. The thing is, I don’t disagree with this in principle. I disagree on the scale. No one, I think, knows how to eliminate deaths from cancer other than the way we’re doing it now: detailed investigation of all sorts of cancers, all sorts of cellular pathways, and all sorts of therapies directed at them. Which is all a lot of work, and takes a lot of time (and a lot of money, too, of course). It also leads to a huge array of dead ends, disappointments, and a seemingly endless supply of “Hmm, that was more complicated than we thought” moments. I don’t see that changing any time soon. I’m optimistic enough to think that there is a bottom to this ocean, that it’s of finite size and everything in it is, in principle, comprehensible. But it’s big. It’s really, really big.

There are people who defend goal statements like Eschenbach’s. Such things force us to aim high, they say, they focus attention on the problem and give us a sense of urgency. Taken too far, though, this point of view leads to the fallacy that what’s important is to care a lot – or perhaps to be seen to care a lot. But the physical world doesn’t care if we care. It yields up its secrets to those who are smart and persistent, not to the people with the best slogans.

Or the best MBAs that money can buy.  I guess the pharmas really are sitting on a cure.

*****************

Speaking of Amens, our poll shows that an awful lot of us (about 76%) are heathens with a naturalistic worldview.

Alright!  {{high fives}}

Oh, sorry about that, believers.  We’ll try to be nice.

If you haven’t had a chance to declare your godlessness or semi-godlessness, as it turns out, check it out here.

****************

Sounds like it was “Rick Santorum has cooties” night at the Republican playground debate last night.  I didn’t know that Romney supported Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey. I like the end of this article for its “I know you are but what am I?” flavor:

Mr. Romney, who has struggled to win the trust of party activists, is under intense pressure to prove his conservative bona fides. He was asked about a recent statement that he was “severely conservative” when he was governor. He defined his meaning as “strict,” saying he empowered state police to enforce immigration laws, pushed English language immersion programs and “stood up and said I would stand on the side of life.”

Mr. Paul, in response to a question about the biggest misconception about him, complained about the perception that he could not win against Mr. Obama in the general election, pointing to a recent poll that showed him closer to the president than the other candidates.

When Mr. Romney was asked to describe a misconception about him, he demurred, borrowing from Mr. Gingrich’s debate-the-moderator playbook and saying sharply, “You know, you get to ask the questions you want; I get to give the answers I want.”

But the discussion kept returning to Mr. Santorum.

When the moderator asked Mr. Paul why he was running a new television advertisement calling Mr. Santorum “a fake” conservative, Mr. Paul answered simply, “Because he’s a fake.”

“I’m real, I’m real, I’m real,” Mr. Santorum said, shaking his head.

Oooo, I think the debate game has run its course (about 15 debates ago) and everyone is getting a little testy.  For Pete’s sake, can we just have Romney appoint Santorum as his VP running mate and get on with it already?

*****************

Speaking of Santorum, I LOVE his condescension of other religions, even other Christians, as being inferior to Catholicism.  Whoo-hee!, too funny!  Evangelical Fundamentalists do that to more liberal brands of Christianity all the time.  Presbyterians are just posers to them.  It’s kind of amusing for some Pennsylvanians who are Santorum admirers to get a taste of their own medicine.  You’re nothing to Rick if you’re not a Pope toady.  Papists rule, Protestants!

Pass the popcorn.

Coming out of the closet as a non-religious person

Digby’s back to her usual quotable self today, lamenting why it is that the religious get all of the respect.  With respect to a doctor’s concern with his freedom to treat women in a Catholic hospital according to his professional judgment, Digby writes:

He points out that the Catholic Hospital system has been growing as they take over more and more community hospitals around the country. He also points out that they receive many millions of taxpayer dollars to do it. So, what about my conscience? It is truly offended by this behavior and I’m not being facetious. Why does this only go one way?

This isn’t just about lady parts, although they are as obsessed with them as ever. This is about dying with dignity as well, another extremely personal decision that these religious people take out of the hands of individuals and their families and insist on their own religious practices, regardless of the medical necessity among other extremely personal issues.

I find that story morally reprehensible and I deeply resent contributing to such practices. Maybe it’s time for non-believers and those of other faiths to seriously start challenging this with their own arguments. Many of doctors who’ve been forced into these institutions chafe at what they are required to do as well. Perhaps they should invoke the Hippocratic oath and stop doing harm as well.

[...]

Maybe we should be thinking about ways to change that mix.

Well, there’s always The Reason Rally that’s coming up on March 24. Richard Dawkins and Adam Savage will be speaking there.  The rally is intended to be a demonstration of the growing numbers of secularists in America.  You don’t have to be an atheist to attend.  You just have to want to protect our secular government and the separation of church and state.

But now that I’ve brought it up, how many people have come out of the closet about their religious beliefs?  The podcast, TheThinkingAtheist, hosted by Seth (whose last name I can never find), takes calls from many people every week who have come out to their family as non-believers and get a similar reaction to coming out as gay.  Their families reject them or treat them as sub-adult.  What’s really annoying is that the religious refuse to confer the same respect for the non-religious believer’s worldview that the religious demand from everyone else regarding their belief in God.  Some out of the closet non-believers have been disinherited.  You can even lose your job or custody of your children if you’re an atheist.  In many respects, it really is like being gay.

But the numbers of non-believers is growing and there is some safety in numbers.  I’ve really been surprised by the number of non-believer outlets out here that have sprung up in just the last couple of years.  There are worldwide conferences as well.  For some strange reason, Australia seems to host a lot of them.  Maybe that has something to do with their single, white, female, atheist prime minister.  But even here in the US, freethought societies and atheist associations are springing up all over the place including the south, where being an atheist might be hazardous to your health.

This new cohort of non-believers are all ages, all sexes, all socioeconomic groups.  There are more women and they’re not the Madelyn Murray O’Hare types of the 60′s.  They’re people like Annie Laurie Gaylor of FFRF, Cristina Rad, and atheist minister Margaret Downey.  And Seth gets calls from young and old, cosmopolitan and good old boy.  Suddenly, it’s getting safer-and apparently a lot more popular, to be a non-believer.
This bunch of non-believers are not rejecting God so much as thriving in a naturalistic worldview without God.  It’s a return to nature.

We’re not a majority.  The religious still outnumber us by a wide margin.  But our numbers are not insignificant anymore and we are a growing voting bloc.  Whether this is a natural evolution of the human condition, part of a step from totems and anunna spirits, to polytheism, to monotheism, to something else, or just a reaction to the non-stop, shoving of 13th century BCE traditions down our throats to the point where they have a choked the life out of our modern American culture is a question that will only resolve over time.  But whatever it is, it’s not going back in the bottle.

So, what’s the membership like these days?  Can we get a show of hands? (BTW, there’s no way for me to know who you are if you respond to this poll.  Your secret is safe from me)  

My resident atheist was mildly curious about my recent interest in the atheist community.  “Are you ready to come to the dark side?”, she asked with a grin.  “We have cookies.”

I have to admit that the prospect of hot chocolate chip cookies and a glass of cold milk is very tempting…

Wednesday: I don’t like this

Aside from an Occupy march or three, my life is unexciting.  I’ve never had a speeding ticket, never been arrested, don’t do drugs.  But if I *wanted* to smoke a joint in my backyard, I’d like to think I could do so without some drone hovering a mile overhead watching me do it.  Don’t they even make little drones that look like insects and birds and stuff or did I read that in a Michael Crichton book?

This article in The Atlantic should have all of us pretty pissed off.  There’s a limit to how much surveillance we need to keep everyone on the straight and narrow:

Drones, in my mind, make it clear how many of our feelings about privacy rest on the assumption that surveillance is time consuming or difficult. If someone smokes a joint in her backyard, she is making the (pretty good) calculation that a police officer is not watching. In our cars, we assume we can quickly send a text message at a red light or not wear our seatbelts for a few minutes or drive a few miles over the speed limit. We don’t expect that someone is watching our every move and that gives the law some give, a bendiness that reflects it’s a human construction.

But these little flying video and audio recorders, paired with powerful data analysis tools, make previously unthinkable levels of surveillance possible, even easy. Before the Internet, tracking someone’s reading and shopping activities would have been nearly impossible without a private detective. Now, new online tracking tools make it possible to easily capture every page that you visit on the Internet. So companies do. Technology doesn’t create entirely novel privacy questions, but it tilts the playing field towards or away from increased privacy without many citizens (or courts!) really noticing that anything had changed.

Let’s look at one example of how drones change the privacy equation. We tend to think of our homes as having a perimeter. Property maps are two-dimensional, we talk about property lines as if they were burned into the ground. There are access points in two-dimensional space — paths and roads — that channel visitors through a small number of places. We can build fences or plant hedges and they need not be high to mark the territory out.

A flying drone with a zoom lens, though, makes that whole sense of two-dimensional privacy an anachronism. If one wanted privacy from the government or other citizens, one would have to defend the entire volume of airspace reaching up from one’s property to several hundred feet up, if not much farther. This vastly increases the cost of physically hiding one’s activities. And, vis a vis law enforcement, the idea of “plain sight” hardly even makes sense anymore, as Jonathan Zittrain pointed out yesterday:

“The prospect of constant government surveillance of citizens through cheap drones tests the “plain sight” doctrine by which, under our Constitution, police are generally allowed to scope out whatever is in plain view, without requiring a warrant. Supercharged technologies face some limits — extra-sensitive remote microphones, or heat signature detectors of the sort that might be pointed at the wall of a home to detect marijuana-growing lamps in use inside.”

Anyway, the concept of a drone is sort of what my concept of biblical God is.  Doesn’t God have better things to do with his/her time than watch ordinary people do things that shouldn’t be illegal?  And what kind of life do you have when everyone is afraid to step out of line even a fraction of an inch for fear of being fined or jailed?  Isn’t that like being a cow or some other dumb animal?  You get up in the morning, go out to a pasture, chew some cud, go home and go to sleep.  What would be the point? I’m sure the apocalyptic evangelical fundamentalist crowd would see this scenario as some kind of earthly paradise but what about the rest of us?

On the other hand, all of those people who are looking for houses with a lot of “privacy” from their neighbors might as well give it up.  You’re never going to get a chance to have a threesome in the pool with your wife and that personal fitness instructor that you’ve been fantasizing about.

The writer of the Atlantic article thinks the additional surveillance (just because we can) will prompt citizens to run screaming to their legislatures and courts demanding legal protections and that the backlash will include things we don’t even think about now, like various internet giants tracking our every move through the web.  I don’t care if they check out where I’ve been but there is a limit to how much information I’m willing to share with the outside world and the world right now is pushing it.  And giving an entity this much power is an invitation to abuse.

One other thing that’s worth noting is the effect this will have on our most innovative, artistic, and politically useful people.  If everyone is forced to conform as if they live in a fanatical townhouse association with the Staasi for neighbors, then we’ll get the same cookie cutouts running our elected offices too.  Nassir Ghaemi, author of A First Rate Madness says that in times of crisis, the last thing you want is some normal dude or dudess who has no mental abnormalities and has never tested the bounds of what is socially acceptable, which is why it should come as no surprise that George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been such disasters. Monogamous, normal, sane, conformity minded people make the worst leaders in times of crisis and make horrendous decisions.  In fact, it helps to have had a mental health crisis of some kind or to have broken some social taboo.  Think Winston Churchill and his cyclical political career, JFK and his affairs and illnesses, Abraham Lincoln and his depression and atheism and finally Steve Jobs and his LSD use.  If there’s a drone watching you and listening in to every conversation, it’s much harder to think out of the box and do what needs to be done without fear of severe reprisals.  In fact, you may never get the chance.  Drones are going to nip a first rate madness in the bud (no pun intended).

Maybe the world works best when there’s a little bit of unravelling, a soupçon of testing the limits.  Sometimes you have to go up in energy to overcome some barrier.  That involves a certain amount of risk taking that others may not approve of.  As Nucky Thompson said, “We all have to decide how much sin we can live with.”  With a drone buzzing up above, that decision may be made for us.  And that’s not a good thing.

**************

The People’s Party considers non-violence:

*************

In other news: Chemists are screwed.  The statistic in this article is old.  The pace of job losses has accelerated in the last two years for chemists.  You know, I can’t think of a more depressing prospect for a chemist than to have spent at least 4 years stuffing my brain with all this complexicated nollij and then be stuck in a CRO lab doing the same damn thing, day after day, like some low level factory worker, never being involved in the design of the compound or asked to participate in a project.  So, maybe it’s better if we just didn’t have American chemists at all.  Yeah, let’s all devolve.

*************

The only guy who could compete with Jon Stewart, George Carlin, takes on the pro-life (actually, the pro-dirty, illegal abortionist) position:

It’s hard to believe he’s been dead for 4 years because he could have written this material yesterday.

Finnish Humor

I’m beginning to really like the Finns.  They seem to have a twisted sense of humor from the Porkka Playboys who play Bohemian Rhapsody in an old Volkswagon in the middle of a meadow to the Helsinki Complaint Choir to the Finnair crew who do a Bollywood musical number in the aisles of a plane.

Since I cut the cord on satellite, I’ve been surfing youtube for interesting things to watch and I haven’t been disappointed.  My latest discovery is a Finnish series with an ensemble cast called The People’s Party, which has problems that seem eerily familiar, like a tendency to wordsmithing.  The People’s Party is a group that meets every Friday to formulate a response to the ruling party’s latest moves.

This episode is called Forcing People.  If you like it, there (were) a ton of episodes online.  Enjoy!:

Tuesday: Fits and starts

I followed a link from Susie Madrak’s place yesterday to a post on AlterNet by Sara Robinson called Why Patriarchal Men are Terrified by Birth Control.  Robinson makes several good points that most of us probably figured out several decades ago.  The “scriptures” were written at time when transfer of inherited property depended on having the right credentials.  You could always be sure who your mother was.  Your father?  Ehhhhh, not so much.  And, so, for thousands of years, culture was pretty fixed around keeping an eye on the ladies.  Biology was destiny.  And I guess that the extinction of silphium complicated matters somewhat when it came to having a life outside of marriage.  (Hmmmm, I wonder if you can get an aloe vera plant to express silphium’s active ingredient in its resin?  Yeah, probably.  Now, that would make an interesting horticultural blockbuster.)

But that all changed with the pill and earlier forms of birth control like the diaphragm and the condom.  With reliable birth control, all those scriptures and cultural artifacts seemed anachronistic to those of us who came of age in the 70′s and 80′s.  Because they were.  That old time religion doesn’t apply to us.  I turned my back on the Old Testament probably as soon as I was able to reason out how inapplicable it was to modern times in every way from evolution to gender discrimination, slavery and birth control.  Why the heck we’re still expecting anyone to bow and scrape to these old rules is beyond me.

But Robinson says that we’re going to keep fighting this battle for a few more hundred years because the menfolk need some time to get used to the idea that they’re not alone at the top of the food chain anymore.  I’m not sure I agree with her there.  In Europe, the religious are getting more rare.  Oh, sure, there’s still gender discrimination and violence but that’s a function of how accountable we make the perpetrators.  When there is political will to crack down on it, that will start to fade away.  Of course, women will always be at a disadvantage as far as upper body strength is concerned and rape can be used as a method of control and violence.  I don’t know what we can do about that short of retrofitting our vaginas with taser devices.  But books have been written about how the human species has become less violent over the centuries and I see no reason why rape should be an exception.

Evolution is not necessarily smooth and linear.  Who would have thought just a century ago that the internet would put all of the knowledge of human civilization at our fingertips and change the world?  Look at how much damage we have accomplished just since 1993.  My youngest daughter has never known a world without google.  My oldest learned to read on a computer.  And yet, this year, we are fighting tooth and nail to keep SOPA and PIPA from turning the clock back on what we can do with the internet.  So, there are fits and starts with every new thing.  Birth control has had a profound effect on our culture and this is just a glitch, a short one.

I’m still of the opinion that there is an age factor at work in this latest push back on women’s bodily autonomy.  The most socially conservative voters are elderly and came of age before they had the chance to form their lives according to their own desires.  Many women in their 70′s had responsibility shoved down their throats and their opportunities spirited away by the era they were born into.  If they had been born only a few years later, their lives would have been so much different.  The men of this age, on the other hand, lived in the salad days of post war America where any hard working guy could own a house and a car and earn a pretty decent living with a pension.  Must have been swell.  The guys that came after them have seen their livelihoods diminish over the past 30 years.

I think as the older generation dies off and the newer generation who has thought through the Old Testament problem comes of age, the pendulum will swing away from the patriarchal fear of birth control and this will happen on a much quicker timeframe than several hundred years.  But what has happened to us as a culture, with our diminished expectations, is a result of an economic assault on us by some very determined conservatives.  And those predators have been with us forever.  We need to develop a pill that prevents selfishness and arrogance.  That will be the next modern medical miracle.

******************

Check out this post about dyeing your macbook.  The third picture nearly gave me a heart attack.  I don’t know why you’d want to do this.  White goes with everything.

This macbook decal is a lot less permanent:

There’s more where that came from.  Check out more decals here.

Monday: The Standard

What is it about this video that has spiked our stats and spooked the left blogosphere?

Yesterday, Digby, who really should know better, wrote the most ridiculous post about right wing framing and the phrase “safe, legal and rare”.  It was so illogical, so twisted, that it could only have been suggested by some very pushy Democratic party loyalists who are freaked out that their lightbringer is not measuring up in the area of reproductive rights for women.

I can almost see them now with their fingers stuck in their ears and hear them shouting.  “La-la-la, she’s not all that.  La-la-la- Third Way, Third Way, Third Way!”

Yeah, it was the Third Way detail in her post that was the dead giveaway.  Someone is very worried that the above video is going to make Hillary Clinton look good at Barack Obama’s expense.  And a small minority of the party has the official position that they hate Bill and Hillary Clinton for, er, *something*.  We’re just not sure what, the target keeps moving.  But for sure, someone is pissed that there will be a lot more women who didn’t know that video existed until last week who will be kicking themselves for voting for the dude in 2008.

And as long as we’re on the topic of the Third Way, why don’t we take a look at this graph of where exactly our most recent presidents are on the liberal-conservative spectrum.  This is from a recent Paul Krugman blog post:

I didn’t have to see this graph to know where Obama stood in relation to Clinton.  Let’s not forget that Clinton put up with eight. long. years. of relentless special prosecutor investigations and was blindsided by movement conservativism.  He learned from his mistakes.  It’s too bad Obama didn’t learn from Clinton’s mistakes.  Never in my wildest dreams could I see Clinton doing what Obama has done.  For damn sure he wouldn’t have squandered two years of having a filibuster proof majority of his own party in Congress during a major economic crisis.  And from what I can tell of Hillary’s voting record and public statements, she’s even more to the left than her husband. (And that, my friends, is why she didn’t get the nomination in 2008.  With almost a guarantee of a filibuster proof Congress, she was too much of a threat to the finance guys) So, all you people screaming about the Clintons being Third Way while defending Obama’s Republican positions can stuff a sock in it.

The party faithful could respond to this in one of two ways.  They could go to Obama and say, “See this video?  See what Hillary did here?  Do it like that from now on or we aren’t going to vote for you.”  Or they could slime her and try to ruin her reputation again by accusing her of right wing meme framing.  They have chosen the latter.

Let’s look for the briefest of moments at the utterly nonsensical idea that “safe, legal and rare” is some kind of acknowledgement of a right wing frame.  To those of us who remember history as it actually happened, “safe, legal and rare” meant that abortions should be unnecessary.  The idea is that if you provide low cost contraceptives, make them easily available and educate people about their sexuality and good family planning, you will reduce the number of people facing unwanted pregnancies.  Of course, accidents do still happen even under the best of circumstances so abortions need to be safe and legal.  But if we do everything right up front on the prevention end of things, abortions will be rare.

How is this a right wing frame of the abortion argument?  I’m not religious in any way shape or form.  I have relatives who are batshit crazy and inflexible about abortion.  I’m talking about foaming at the mouth, fetus romantics whose position I think is about as far from sane as it is humanly possible to go.  In fact, I don’t agree with them on so many things it’s not even funny.  Their framing of the abortion issue is completely divorced from reality.  And as far as I can see, “safe, legal and rare” is not anywhere near the same frame that they’re living in.

BUT, the idea that we must reject “safe, legal and rare” because it is too far right is going to play right into the hands of the right wing nutcases.  Because they’re going to say that to the left, abortion is a picnic at the local clinic.  It’s no big deal.  Now, I’ve never had an abortion but I’ve had friends and roommates who have and no matter how relieved they were afterwards, an abortion was definitely not a picnic.  Some people wrestle with the ethics of abortion before they have one, some just want to get it over with but in neither case was it a day at the beach.  To denigrate a perfectly respectable idea like “safe, legal and rare” cheapens the seriousness of abortion.

Just for kicks, I looked up the abortion laws of some of the world’s most progressive countries like Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.  In most of them, you can get an abortion on demand up to 12 weeks.  It’s probably a medical abortion at that point.  After 12 weeks, most of those countries make you get approval from a committee or a couple of doctors and there is a cut off unless there’s something wrong with the fetus or the mother.  That’s because after a certain point, there is a gray area about viability and if you’ve dithered past three months, you’re starting to push it.  Dithering suggests uncertainty.  So there’s hoop jumping.  But then again, in Scandanavian countries, the social insurance system is so good that having a baby is less likely to ruin your life if you’re not quite ready for it.

Then again, the health insurance in these countries is good so getting contraceptives is not a problem.  In Finland, expectant mothers get a baby box filled with all kinds of clothing and baby essentials and it also comes with a six pack of condoms and lube.  Isn’t that thoughtful of the Finnish government?  THAT is the epitome of “safe, legal and rare”. I look forward to the day when conservatives in Congress have a shit fit over whether to include the lube in the American Baby Boxes. Safe, legal and rare means responsibility.  How does a lefty reasonably argue against that?

Well, a lefty can’t *reasonably* argue against it.  Political operatives who are worried about the viability of their candidate can though.  They must be really nervous about the wimmin’s vote if they’re asking Digby to push the idea that the socially and medically responsible position “safe, legal and rare” is some kind of right wing meme.  I’m a lefty and “safe, legal and rare” seems like the de facto position to me and always has even before I ever heard the phrase.

What I can’t understand is how attacking Bill and Hillary Clinton and “safe, legal and rare” is supposed to make Obama’s non-defense of reproductive rights better.  The problem isn’t with the Clintons.  It’s Obama who’s not setting a standard.  I mean, you could successfully trash two of your most loyal party members who will slavishly campaign for you in the homestretch and they’ll be doing it for a dude who doesn’t share their values- at all.

The Obama loyalists have to explain why they are so devoted to this guy.  Why are they willing to ruin the credibility of two people they depend on to defend a guy who really *does* buy into the right wing memes.  It’s almost like the Democratic operatives are attacking their greatest strength and projecting their own conservative right wing values onto the Clintons.  They’re the ones who are so enveloped in the right wing frame that they can’t tell when they’re unquestioning support of Obama’s weak position on reproductive rights is seriously out of step with their own party base and most women in this country.  We’re supposed to turn our backs on a principled defense of reproductive rights so that we don’t embarrass Obama for not having any principles at all in this regard? How the hell does that make any sense?  Remember it was OBAMA who said that a woman who was contemplating an abortion should get the consent of her family and pastor, as if she wasn’t capable of making this decision on her own.  That’s what Digby is defending when she attacks the Clintons on his behalf.  Does Digby really want to do that?  Wouldn’t it be better for women if Digby refused to play along?  Yes, it won’t look good for Obama but the election is still eight months away.  The party has time to figure this out.  But giving in to the right wing on contraception and abortion is not the way to retain your women voters.

Well, anyway, the video has struck a chord.  Yep, and that’s good.  It’s set the standard for the passionate and principled defense of reproductive rights.  It’s grounded in reality while still acknowledging that people’s opinions on morality may differ.  Obama’s crew should adopt it instead of criticizing it.  Wanna see it again with a shorter blah-blah-blah from Chris Smith?  Let’s watch together, shall we? (This one has a better ending)

Sunday: Interesting observation

Rooney Mara prefers her Dad's Giants to her Mom's Steelers

I was checking out the actors and actresses who were nominated for Academy Awards this year and found that of the actresses nominated, 4 out of 5 nominees came from well-connected families or very upper middle class backgrounds.  Rooney Mara is part of a football dynasty, Meryl Streep’s dad was a Big Pharma executive who lived in Bernardsville, NJ (very posh), Michelle Williams dad was a wealthy stock broker and Glenn Close’s family went back to colonial Viginia and also featured major hospital/brokerage people.  The only exception to this trend was Viola Davis whose mother and grandmother were domestic servants on a plantation in the deep south, which *might* have something to do with the reason why she was cast in the movie The Help, even though she has a slew of other drama awards for various roles.

On the men’s side, all but two come from a working class/middle class background.  George Clooney came from a political family and is also a nephew of Rosemary Clooney. Demien Bichir’s family is in the acting biz in Mexico.  Since Clooney and Bichir’s connections are within the acting profession, you might call that a professional relationship.

I just thought it was interesting that given this particular set of data for this year, it appears that your chances of getting to the top of the acting world if you’re a woman has a lot to do with who your daddy knows.  Of course, your “connexions” can’t act for you but your chances of getting your foot in the door appear to be greater if your family has money and know people who owe them favors.

If you’re an actor looking to reach the top, just be born incredibly good looking and work on your trade.

Which makes me wonder what happens to all of the phenomenally talented women who come from working class backgrounds.  I mean, how do we know that the acting we are seeing is the best that there is if the only people who ever make it in Hollywood are the scions of the investment class?  That’s not to say that Meryl Streep and Glenn Close aren’t incredibly talented and I’d watch Brad Pitt in anything.  But if this is our standard, how do we know it is set high enough?

The reason I ask is because the science profession is sort of getting to be this way.  You’re nobody if you haven’t got a PhD from Harvard.  And we know that getting into Harvard is not merely a matter of merit.  The Ivies turn down thousands of well qualified applicants every year.  What if your brain doesn’t kick into gear until your sophomore year and you’re in a state university?  Can you even get a job anymore?  It’s who you know these days.  Who is going to be your patron.  What if you come from a working class background and don’t have a patron?  Can a Steve Jobs type even get an interview at Apple these days and if the answer is no, is that trend supposed to be good for America?

Just askin’.

 

The first (and possibly last time) I have ever agreed with ThereIsNoSpoon

David Adkins, aka ThereIsNoSpoon, tells it like it is on the contraception debate at Digby’s Hullabaloo:

These things don’t happen by accident. The conservative establishment decided early on that this was going to be a hill for them to die on. They weren’t forced to die on that hill. They could have let the Bishops stand alone. But they didn’t. They decided to run this ball all the way down the court.

And guess what? As Digby points out, it’s working. What just a few weeks ago was considered so mainstream as to an afterthought (providing contraception) is now seen as some sort of controversial touchstone, even as “religious freedom” has become a buzzword in the press.

Democrats can high-five one another about Republican overreach and laugh hysterically at the increased number of votes Barack Obama will receive in 2012 over Mitt Santorum. But ultimately the joke’s on us. It’s been on us ever since the Obama Administration decided to concede an inch to the misogynist conspiracy of extremist fanatics that are the Bishops, rather than mock them immediately for being out of touch with their own flock, to say nothing of the mainstream American public.

The political ground on contraception has suddenly shifted to the right faster than I have seen on any social issue in my lifetime. It’s incredible.

I think my tinfoil antenna were picking up the “Religious Liberty” meme a couple of months ago (damn, I really should be more thorough with tags) and wondered what the heck the Republicans were up to.  For some strange reason I thought it would have something to do with Faith Based Initiatives or something like that.  Definitely, this was going to be The Big Deal during the 2012 election season, The Wedge Issue of the Year.  Who knew it would take the form of a War on Contraception?

When are Democrats going to realize that the Republicans have a crack operation of skilled psychmetricians and marketing people who have have done expert data analysis and have strategized the best way to get their voters to the polls in November?  Democrats SUCK at this.  Yes, all you Kool-Aid addled Obots, Barack Obama didn’t win because he was some kind of wonderful.  He won because part of the Republican war machine got behind him in 2008 to take out the real Democrat.  He’s a fricking one-off.  His election was historic and that was the wedge issue of 2008.  Now, he’s no longer historic.  He’s just a lousy president.

So, while the feminists are justifiably tearing their hair out over the loss of more bodily autonomy, let’s examine why this is such a phenomenally successful wedge issue.  First, Obama and his entourage went on a rampage in 2008 and slashed and burned their way through the Democratic base.  Misogyny went unchecked and even gained a foothold.  Congratulations Democratic party!  You’ve just made a substantial portion of your base second class citizens.  Any woman who jumped on this bandwagon seeing a ticket to ride to the top of the access list should really have her head examined and none of us should be forced to listen to her or read about her anymore.  For damn sure, she should not be sitting on panels in places like the local branch of NOW in Kansas.   (H/T Katiebird)

It goes without saying, even though some women are apparently dumber than a box of rocks, that women should NEVER put their own interests second to the political ambitions of any man.  No, no, no.  Not until we have achieved full equality, which means not for the forseeable future. If you have an opportunity to vote for a reasonable woman, even if you do not agree with her 100%, you should vote for her if she represents your interests as a woman and is willing to fight for your equality. Your focus should be on what she will do for women because we are the majority of citizens in this country and what is best for us, tends to be best for everyone else as well.  You should not be distracted by someone else’s priorities and unless she is personally leading the convoy into Baghdad on the top of a tank like some modern day Boudicca, her views on war should be put into the same context as other candidates. In the future, I hope that women will hold each other accountable for maintaining unity.  Any stepping out of line should be met with swift and thorough correction.  We need to be a voting bloc to be feared, uncompromising and retributive.  Let’s learn from the Christian coalition playbook, shall we?

And let’s dispense with the idea that the Republicans are ignorant of the scientific method.  What did the Republicans learn by observation from 2008?  They learned that Barack Obama is a self centered, ambitious guy.  He’s a guy who doesn’t have any particular interest in women’s rights.  His fealty is to the banking class.  That’s who’s footing the bills.  Unfortunately for Obama (and this is what makes him such a lousy politician), he still needs women he’s been blowing off in order to win.  He needs their votes.  He doesn’t need banker votes because there aren’t enough of them to make a substantial dent in the electoral college. And what do bankers care about contraception?  Do they even have an opinion?  No.  The only people who really care about contraception are the conservatives and Obama’s not going to get their votes anyway, unless he intends to kiss up to them. And the only reason he would bow to their votes would be if he was intending to blow off his base and go right.

This is where we are.  Obama had a choice.  He could either stick up for women’s equality and bodily autonomy and tell the religious they were being intrusive.  Or he could try to be all things to all people and hope that the bishops would negotiate with him in good faith so he could grab the religious while keeping the women relatively quiet.  Remember, this is no-drama Obama we’re talking about.  He’s not into confrontation.  He prefers quiet little negotiation sessions where no one raises their voices and everything is on the table- because that’s worked so well in negotiations on our behalf with the bankers in the recent past {{rolling eyes}}.

(Note to loyal Democrats: Once you experience the “Pain of Independence“, you’ll never be able to look at Obama in the same way again. The nausea and disorientation can be alarming but your perspective will change and you will be almost desperate to get him out of the Oval Office.)

The Republicans see this as passivity, which it is.  In the corporate world, we have management training courses on personal power and dynamics.  The facilitator would describe Obama’s modus operandi as a losing strategy.  Imagine there is a passive-aggressive scale from 1-10 with passive on the lower end and aggressive on the higher end.  To be truly effective as a negotiator, you should stay in the sweet spot of 5-7.  A 4 or below is too passive; 7 and above is too aggressive.  Ideally, both parties want to stay in the sweet spot.  But if you normally operate as a 4 and your opponent is at 7, you need to go up to level 7 to be effective.  If he goes to 8, you need to go to 8.  He has to see that you’re not backing down so that he must in order to strike a deal.

The problem with Republicans is that they are always at level 8.  And if you don’t come right back and smash them at 8 or above, they’ll escalate.  We are now at escalation.  They’ve gone to 11 and Obama et al are at level 5.  Great, just great.

That’s why ThereIsNoSpoon is disconcerted by the way Republicans have dominated this issue.  They went from 8 to 11 and now anything Obama does is going to look defensive.  If he had come out swinging in the first couple of days and told the Republicans that they were setting new precedent and moving the goalpost back on women’s rights and he, Obama, was not going to yield on contraception unless Jesus tapdancin’ Christ came down personally to negotiate on behalf of the bishops, he would have ruled the day and even *I* might have had some kind of grudging respect for him.

But he’s a baaaaaaad politician.  Craven, selfish, indifferent, calculating and a poor decision maker with equally bad political consultants.  So, now, the idea that a religious institution can have a say over whether or not you get birth control when 98% of its own adherents ignore said religious institution’s very clear, very unambiguous proscriptions against it, suddenly, that idea looks pretty reasonable.  Americans don’t tend to think these things through very carefully these days because they are overwhelmed with personal and financial obligations, so they rely on the media to tell them what’s going on.  Obama managed to be so ineffective at stopping the meme through his own inept handling of the matter that the right wing noise machine’s religious liberty meme is just hitting its stride.  It’s going to be repeated and repeated and repeated until it seems normal until suddenly, women will start having a devil of a time getting their prescriptions filled without some byzantine procedure.

And let’s not forget that the only people who really care about denying people contraceptives are highly conservative seniors and their church hierarchy.  No one else gives a damn.  The wedge issue is just a clever way for Republicans to separate a few more women’s votes from Obama when they realize that, once again, he threw them under a bus and doesn’t seem to understand how much harder he has made their lives.  In the meantime, the religious right will think they’re being persecuted (oh PLEEZE) and will have a very good reason to show up at the polls this November to toss the Democrats out on their asses.

Now, I could be wrong about this but I don’t think that there is anyway *this* president is going to be able to fix this particular issue at this point in time.  He may go on to win as a result of some other catastrophe but he’s lost the edge he had on the contraceptive issue.  Maybe another player will be able to change this around but not Obama.  So, the Democrats better have something else up their sleeves or the Republicans will eat their lunch.

Just because they don’t like their present candidates doesn’t mean the Republicans can’t get their voters spitting nails by November.  And Democrats shouldn’t count on independent liberals to save their bacon at the last minute.  We’ve got our eyes on a different prize these days.  We’ll just sit on the sidelines and watch the bloodbath.  We’re into solving problems and this election isn’t going to solve any problems.  If I were the Democrats, I might have curbed the impulse to squash OWS and women and ignore the unemployed for so long.

And don’t look now but the Republicans are going to turn off the gas spigot this summer and stop UI bennies in September.  If the Democrats had stored up some goodwill over the past four years, the impending pain and chaos wouldn’t look so horrible.  But they didn’t and it will.  If I were them, I’d pass on the White House and work like madmen to elect new faces to Congress.

**********************

More of Titli’s Busy Kitchen.  This recipe is for Caramel Shortbread.  Stick with it.

Friday: English Muffins

YouTube is getting rid of a lot of copyrighted content.  Yesterday, I was looking for a scene from the movie Water, which was more like a music video, and the Taylor Swift version of Mean from the 2012 Grammies and I couldn’t find them anymore.  It seems like content owners take even their own versions down within a very short period of time.  I don’t see the point.  If you can’t make any money off of them anyway, why not just leave them up so we can all enjoy them?

Anyway, the nice thing about YouTube is that it is easy to find new YouTube stars.  YouTube exposes you to people from all around the world with unique talents and personalities.  Yesterday, I discovered Titli Nihaan, a video cook.  It’s difficult to describe Titli’s style.  Let’s just say that she delivers her precise cooking techniques in a voice that’s a cross between Julia Childs and Monty Python.  I can’t understand why she’s not more popular.  I absolutely adore her.

Here’s her recipe for English Muffins:

[youtube-http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=8b6Bp2PCFhY]

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