Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I'm sure a pink ribbon will help

So, the Race for the Cure is coming up. No fewer than three people have already asked me if I've signed up. Um, no. I haven't. Why not? Well, it's a long story. You can read all about it here.

And now, in related news, it turns out that federal research and regulation of chemicals that impact breast health is ... basically nonexistent:
...it may come as a surprise that the federal agencies responsible for public health don't routinely take childhood exposures into account when testing whether commercial chemicals cause mammary tumors. In fact, in many lab-animal tests, they don't bother to look at the mammary gland at all. Breast cancer may be the No. 1 killer of middle-aged women in the United States, but as a new set of reports makes clear, the breast is a major blind spot in federal chemical-safety policy.
But it's not really that surprising, right? We allot billions and billions to research for pharmacological solutions to problems we ourselves are causing. In our model, we allow industry to fill our water and air with endocrine-disruptors and free radicals, and we relentlessly pursue agricultural policies that result in more toxic runoff and more hormones in our food, and then we invest big bucks in "curing" the resulting illnesses. Except that sometimes the cure doesn't work. Or the cure itself ends up killing you off. Or it "cures" you for awhile, and then you get some other heinous disease a few years down the road, that turns out to have been caused by the cocktail of drugs (and radiation) we pumped into you to "cure" you the first time. And this is somehow better than changing our practices to reduce the toxins in our environment to begin with? Really?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cartoon of the Day

Once more, with feeling: real foods are always better. Always.

This just in: Fat Substitutes Linked to Weight Gain

Are we surprised to learn that real, unaltered, actually-occurring-in-nature foods are better for you than frankenfoods? Of course not.

Will this change Big Food or the diet-industrial complex or the gov't regulatory agencies that produce our guidelines and recommendations even the teensiest lil bit? Hell no. Because switching to an evidence-based approach would be too ... anti-capitalist? Or reasonable. Or something.

See also:
Eat More
The "Obesity Epidemic"
We Need Policy Not Plates

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fun with Charts

Conservative blogger David Frum posted this graphic illustrating the rate at which workers' share of national income has steadily dropped:

Meanwhile, Felix Salmon posted this chart demonstrating the gains experienced by both finance institutions and domestic industries:

You might notice a huge asymmetry here. You might also notice that nobody seems to be willing or able to do anything about it. I can pretty much guarantee you that none of the candidates- from either end of the political spectrum - will address this issue in the upcoming election season. They'll talk about economic growth and job creation and housing, but they won't ask why it is that corporate earnings are up, yet American workers make less and less. Why is that?

Click here for more fun with charts.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Video of the Day

I love this song and wanted to post this video back in May, but decided that might be a bit insensitive. So now, just for fun, here it is:

The lyrics:
What if I'm wrong
And what if you're right?
And what if there is an intelligent design?
When the day comes and judgment begins
Will I be left behind?

But what if I'm right
And you're not correct
And there's no hellfire when we're dead?
Regretting all the boys you coulda kissed
All for nothing; it wasn't a sin

You were busy gettin' ready for the rapture
For the rapture
For the rapture
You were busy gettin' ready for the rapture, warning us all

What if I've been
A really nice gal
Followed the Golden Rule, but now
Because I don't believe in your best pal
You say I'll burn forever?

But let's say he's real
But not like you sell
He's more like the nice hippie in Godspell
Well, I'd think that he was swell
Would that bum you out?

You were busy gettin' ready for the rapture
For the rapture
For the rapture
You were busy gettin' ready for the rapture, warning us all

I'll give to you
There is a God
All-powerful, he sees it all
But do you think
That he's that small
To care about your candidate
Your football team or who you mate?
No, God is great

What if you're wrong
But then so am I?
And what really happens when we die?
And what if L. Ron Hubbard, he was right?
Well, that would bum me out

As you were busy gettin' ready for the rapture
For the rapture
For the rapture
You were busy gettin' ready for the rapture, warning us all

You were busy gettin' ready for the rapture
For the rapture
For the rapture
You were busy gettin' ready for the rapture, warning us all

You were busy gettin' ready for the rapture
For the rapture
For the rapture
You were busy gettin' ready for the rapture, warning us all

God is great

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gender Theory - it's not just theory

It seems to me that the debates between essentialist and constructionist theories of gender that so often play out in feminist spaces like this feel to most people like they're largely theoretical. Those of us who fall on the constructionist side argue that gender is largely a learned performance - there's a script and a system of positive and negative reinforcements, and clear penalties in place for those who fall outside the "norm." Meanwhile, gender essentialists claim that gender is innate, and any variation from the strict binary only occurs where there's some perversion or some negative force that's diverting the "normal" development of the individual away from his/her "natural" inclinations. But since there's no control group available - no child who grows up free of gendered socialization, and who isn't immersed in a gendered world from birth - all the debates and discussions feel pretty theoretical. It's simply impossible to test the theories in this case.

However, the recent news story about a man who underwent extensive "sissy-boy" "therapy" (more like a failed, abusive attempt at brainwashing) and went on to become a lonely, unfulfilled adult who committed suicide at the age of 38 serves as prime evidence that this shit is not just theoretical. "Therapy" programs and "retraining" camps and religious programs that try to pray the gay away often inflict real trauma on the individuals who suffer through them. Profound, lasting trauma that damages them for life.

Every time I'm confronted with this version of extremely conservative, no-holds-barred gender essentialism and sexuality policing I have the same questions, and there never seems to be a consistent way to answer them:
  • If gender identity and gender roles are innate, then why is there any need for the extensive socialization, and the corrective measures that are so often taken when an individual's development doesn't appear to be following an acceptable script? Why is there even a need for "therapy" programs like this if biology is destiny? Why the plethora of books telling you how to reprogram your child's gender expression and sexuality?
  • How can anyone believe that living a non-conforming life when it comes to gender performance could be worse than the trauma that's inflicted on children through these kinds of corrective programs? Would you honestly prefer to beat your child to the point of leaving welts on his body every day rather than watch him grow up to be gay or trans or genderqueer or whatever? Seriously?
  • Whose definition of "normal" is driving "therapy" programs like this? In the case of programs that are connected to churches and religious institutions it's clear, and at least there's no pretense that it's grounded in some kind of objective scientific framework. But in this particular case, you have an extremely socially conservative, religious individual who was using taxpayer dollars to run a "therapy" program designed to force children to conform to gender roles that came from his personal religious beliefs. Very, very problematic.
  • How is it that parents in these kinds of cases have such blind faith in the religious or therapeutic system involved that they willingly partake in the abuse of their children even when the signs of trauma are unavoidably clear right in front of their faces? And how do they overcome their protective instincts to the point where they can participate in the abuse of their child, regardless of what longterm results the program promises?
  • How many other people are there who went through this kind of coercive reprogramming and don't kill themselves, but live a life of quiet desperation and never manage to establish fulfilling relationships, or to really flourish in life? How many of them end up with serious addictions or troubling mental illnesses as a result of the abuse? For sure, we see the most extreme cases, but think of all the cases where the "therapy" is ostensibly successful but the individual is permanently traumatized.
I'm sure there are people who think there are reasonable answers to these questions, but to me the experiences of so many individuals like Kirk Murphy are irreconcilable with this conceptual framework. And even if there was a way to make the view coherent, when so much trauma results from a set of beliefs and practices, it seems like the only humane thing you can do is abandon the position and try to find new ground that allows people to thrive and find fulfillment. Even if the life they end up living doesn't look like the ideal you imagine. Because maybe the failure doesn't lie with them. Maybe you've experienced a failure of imagination. There should be some kind of therapy for that, shouldn't there?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Right choice, wrong reason

So there's this: Retailers move to greener, easier-to-open packaging:
[T]he maddening — and nearly impenetrable — plastic packaging known as clamshells could become a welcome casualty of the difficult economy. High oil prices have manufacturers and big retailers reconsidering the use of so much plastic, and some are aggressively looking for cheaper substitutes.
Which is good. What's depressing is their reason for it. It's not because plastic is unhealthy in multiple ways, and reallyreallyreally bad for the environment. It's not because that packaging was shitty and irritating to begin with. No, it's because of the cost.

Seems to me like this is reason enough:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Full of the awesome

So, it's finally gardening time again. Which makes me pretty damn happy. Until the first epic hail storm comes through and pounds my carefully nurtured seedlings to pulp. Then I'll be cursing the weather gods and guzzling tequila. But for now, YAY!

Y'all might remember Gunther, one of our garden gnomes. He's come out of storage hibernation for the season, and this has motivated me to get to work on these felted wool gnome hats I'm making for the girls.

And that made me realize that they need gnome beards to go with the hats, if they're going to be hangin' with Gunther and Linus (Gunther's stoic but loyal friend). So that prompted a search for beard templates, which led to this awesome set of images on flickr. It really doesn't get any better than this, does it?

For more gnome-related awesomeness, check it: