Friday, October 02, 2015

The Victims in the Umpqua Community College Shootings

The names which matter in this latest of so very many massacres, all enabled by the easy access to guns, are these:

Lucero Alcaraz, 19, of Roseburg, whose sister posted on Facebook that she won scholarships to cover her college costs
Quinn Glen Cooper, 18, of Roseburg, whose family said he loved dancing and voice acting
Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, 59, an outdoors lover who was taking classes at the same time as her daughter
Lucas Eibel, 18, of Roseburg, who was studying chemistry and loved volunteering with animals
Jason Johnson, 33, whose mother told NBC News that he successfuloly battled drug abuse and was in his first week of college
Lawrence Levine, 67, of Glide, an assistant professor of English at the college
Sarena Dawn Moore, 44, of Myrtle Creek
Treven Taylor Anspach, 20, of Sutherlin
Rebecka Ann Carnes, 18, of Myrtle Creek

It is these names which should become famous, it is these names which should be remembered when someone mentions this latest of frequent mass killings in the US.
This also matters:

Authorities confiscated 13 weapons associated with the shooter, six at the sight of the killings and seven at his apartment, Celinez Nunez, assistant agent in charge at Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told reporters Friday. Nunez said all the weapons had been purchased legally by the shooter or members of is family.
And it matters that other countries, despite having their fair shares of angry, disturbed individuals, don't have the same massacre statistics by private individuals as the US. 

The difference comes from much easier access to guns here, from much greater support for the right to bear arms, from a far greater willingness to pay the price for that "liberty."*  When even the deaths of small children in Newtown, Ct., didn't look too high a price for that "freedom," more deaths of  adults will make nothing change.  This is reflected in the frustrated comments of the president.
*I can't help thinking, after reading many of the comments threads attached to articles about the UCC massacre, that far too many Americans think this carnage is the watering of the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants and patriots which Thomas Jefferson mentioned.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Carly Fiorina And The Planned Parenthood Videos

Carly Fiorina and the Planned Parenthood (PP) videos.  The harvesting of baby parts.  The humongous profits PP makes from harvesting baby parts!  The need to close down all PP clinics because all they do is lure women in so that they can harvest baby parts to make money!  And watch the videos to find how horrible abortions really are!

That's one take on the Planned Parenthood videos.  It's also not the truth, but never mind that part, because none of this has anything to do with truth, not even truthiness, as the most recent round of debate shows you.

I haven't written about this topic.  The main reason is that truth in this context is utterly, entirely and wholly irrelevant.  The point of the videos, much doctored and edited, is to shut down all PP clinics, and the Republicans are doing pretty well pretending that they are going to get there.

Of course they might not quite want to get there, because the existence of PP is an important part of their vote-getting campaigns:  If they succeed in gutting almost all access to abortions, those forced-birthers might go on a political diet and no longer turn out at the election booths!  The bloody meat women's issues offer them needs to be kept available.

But in any case, pointing out all the errors in Fiorina's statements about the videos doesn't matter.  When something is not about the truth in the first place, truthiness works just fine.  It has the advantage of keeping the opposition busy trying to get those boots on.*

Have I ever mentioned that PP shouldn't fall for every trap the forced-birthers weave?  It's not required in any law I'm aware of, and it gets awfully awfully boring.
*From here.

Monday, September 28, 2015

What To Read on Women, Monday, 9/28/15

1.  This long piece on what happened to someone who didn't want to report a rape to the police but was encouraged to do so anyway.

2.  This NYT health article on cancer during pregnancy, because of its last

It remains to be seen if doctors will be swayed by the study’s findings. Dr. Cardonick, who maintains a registry of cases of cancer in pregnancy, has heard of a couple of “sad cases” where “a patient was denied cancer treatment during pregnancy, and died soon after the baby was born, because there was no confidence that cancer treatment during pregnancy would be tolerated by the fetus.”
Bolds are mine.

If those sad cases are true, someone else denied a pregnant woman potentially life-saving treatment.  Because she was pregnant.

The rest of the article provides useful information, however.

3.   On the European refugee/migrant crisis and average gender role expectations among the refugees vs. the receiving population and how those different expectations might clash, given that most of the recent refugees/migrants come from countries with much more traditional gender roles  than those prevailing in their new host countries in Western Europe*:

Actually, I found nothing written about this by anyone who isn't a rabid right-winger.  Maybe I just didn't search hard enough?

*  The largest source countries for asylum-seekers in Finland, for example, are Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Given that the refugees are fleeing war, not mistreatment because of their gender equality views, it's likely that their views match the average in their countries of origin (adjusted for social class, religion, rural vs. urban origin etc.).  To assume that all refugees are already fully aware of the average norms prevailing in their new host country seems unwarranted to me, even arrogant and Euro-centric.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Saudi Arabia to Head a UN Human Rights Council Panel

Remember my friendly alien from outer space?  The one who tries to make sense of earth-people values and norms and customs?

Suppose I told this alien (possibly of no biological sex or of what's called race in loose human parlance) that human rights are supposed to be something earth's countries, or at least some of them, really care about.  How, then, would I explain this piece of news?

Last week’s announcement that Saudi Arabia — easily one of the world’s most brutally repressive regimes — was chosen to head a U.N. Human Rights Council panel provoked indignation around the world. That reaction was triggered for obvious reasons. Not only has Saudi Arabia executed more than 100 people already this year, mostly by beheading (a rate of 1 execution every two days), and not only is it serially flogging dissidents, but it is reaching new levels of tyrannical depravity as it is about to behead and then crucify the 21-year-old son of a prominent regime critic, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was convicted at the age of 17 of engaging in demonstrations against the government.
Then there's of course the obvious problem of women's rights, or rather, lack of such rights in Saudi Arabia.  Greenwald doesn't mention that part.  Maybe because it's too obvious. 

Greenwald's piece continues by linking to an interview with a US State Department spokesperson, Mark Toner.  You should read the interview.  I bet you don't know whether to cry or to laugh.  That is, if you actually care about human rights.

If you only care about oil, well, then the interview is pretty understandable.  You have to say something to defend this bizarre choice, to hide the fact that the powerful defend those who have something material they want.

I feel sorry for the job Mr. Toner had there.  But this particular farce puts into rather clear light the question how much human rights, including women's rights, actually matter in the top games those powerful boys (and a few gals) play with our lives.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Pope Speaks. Echidne Whines.

If you didn't watch Pope Francis' speech to the US Congress you can read it here.  It looks like* the lefties and liberals liked it, the righties and conservatives, not so much.  There wasn't enough on the control of the vaginas or the defense of traditional marriage (with male dominance) for the latter, while the former liked the references to caring for the poor, accepting immigrants,  and the need to fight climate change.

I liked the caring tone of the speech (perhaps because that was missing in the speeches of the last few Popes and because religions in my view should be caring), and you must be a brand new reader here if you don't know that my views on income inequality, wars and climate change agree with what Francis said.

On the other hand, my eagle eye did not miss the quick references to what the conservatives wanted to hear, about the sanctity of human life (to be read as opposition to abortion though Francis segued from that to urging a global ban on capital punishment) and the  reference to the importance of "family" (a word which means very different things to different ears in the audience, one of those meanings being opposition to same-sex marriages**).

Still, the Pope honored three men and one woman as examples of great Americans!  Girls got included!

That reference was to Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement.

One aspect of the speech looks problematic to me.  That is Francis' plea for people to combat climate change, when it is combined with his church's anti-contraception stance.

That's because all people on earth ultimately want the western standards of living.  To achieve those without destroying the planet in the process requires global commitment to smaller family sizes.***

It's a bizarre feeling to write about the three big Guy Religions (Christianity, Islam and, to a lesser extent,  Judaism) for someone like me, because once you have seen the missing women in many religious hierarchies (which decide religious women's proper roles, their right to use contraception etc) you can't stop seeing them.

But if you point out that omission you sound whiny, right?  Why can't Echidne rejoice over this Pope?  Why can't she be content with all the good words that come out of his mouth? ****

My answer to that one I have learned from women's history:  If you don't demand your rights you won't get them, ever.  So someone needs to keep up the whining.


*  Based on surfing in various places, not on proper research.

** And the link between women's roles and the family.  The Catholic Church is as big on motherhood as the American fundamentalists and much of Islam (check the Iranian constitution, for example).  Those references to "motherhood" mean more than urging women to give birth.  They also mean that women should focus on the family and that when women's rights and their family duties clash it is the latter which should win. ---  As an aside, it is almost always family vs. women's rights in these religious debates, not family vs. men's rights, because the traditional view of family places women firmly and almost entirely in only that context.

***  The alternative ways to save the environment are simply not practical:  Most people will not accept a minimal lifestyle just so that there could be both a healthy globe and more people.  The idea that rich countries should cut back their consumption to much lower levels will not fly politically, the idea that poor countries should just stay consuming little will not fly politically, either, not to even mention the ethical problems in that.

The only realistic approach to me seems to be to cut back on the overall global population.  If we don't do it through birth control, then it will happen through resource wars (Syria began that way).  And yes, I'm aware that the global population growth rate may have slowed down.  But the population numbers which can be sustained in a world where everyone has a good standard of living and where the environment is also taken care of is probably lower than whatever the current numbers might be.

The Catholic Church's anti-contraception stance makes keeping the planet healthy much harder.

**** Or I guess I could just pack up my bags and surrender to the view that the Guy Religions just don't believe that women and men should have equal rights.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Speed Posts 9/23/15: On Upward Income Redistribution, Women's Leisure Time and the Dalai Lama

1.  Economics geeks and nerds should read this article  about the possible role of government regulation in enabling rent capture and how that might fit into the income inequality puzzle in the United States.  I'm not agreeing with everything in the piece, but it has some food for further thought.

2.  A piece about leisure time and women with family obligations from Australia.  It makes the point that leisure for women in that position comes in tiny driplets, not really amenable to being used for rest, recreation or creativity, and suggests a few correctives.  It made me think about how much of this is about control, both at home and at work.  If your employer at work won't give you a firm schedule beforehand you will have very little control over some parts of your life.  How to organize for childcare when you don't know if you are working?

A similar problem at home has to do with the on-call nature of parenting.  If only one parent is responsible for it then she or he will find great difficulty with finding longer chunks of leisure time.

The wider links are naturally to things like annual vacations in the US (required ones being rarer than hen's teeth), the expectation of increasingly long working hours for everyone, and what happens when all these clash with the traditional gendered beliefs about who is to care for the children and the home.

3.  The Dalai Lama and a joke about any female ever planning to reincarnate in his role:  She needs to be attractive.

Which makes me think of the oddness of all those earlier reincarnations happening pretty close to the place where the previous Dalai Lama died, and always suitably in boys whose parents would be OK with the honor they were accorded as having produced someone so important.  And also of the oddness of the Catholic Church on earth deciding who has become a saint, and how they know.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

We Need to Make A Profit. On Daraprim.

Pyrimethamine, better known under its trade name of Daraprim, is a drug developed in the 1940s by Gertrude Elion, a Nobel Prize winning scientist. It is used to treat protozoal infections and also as an anti-malaria drug.

Until quite recently, the US price of Daraprim was quite low.  But that has changed:

Specialists in infectious disease are protesting a gigantic overnight increase in the price of a 62-year-old drug that is the standard of care for treating a life-threatening parasitic infection.
The drug, called Daraprim, was acquired in August by Turing Pharmaceuticals, a start-up run by a former hedge fund manager. Turing immediately raised the price to $750 a tablet from $13.50, bringing the annual cost of treatment for some patients to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The former hedge fund manager referred to in that quote is Martin Shkreli.  He justifies the fifty-fold price increase by the need to turn a profit:

On Monday, Shkreli said: “We need to turn a profit on the drug.” He defended the decision by telling Bloomberg News that newer versions of the drug needed to be developed and his was the first company “to really focus on this product” for decades and that such research was extremely expensive.
He also promised: “If you cannot afford the drug we will give it away for free.” Shkreli also said the drug was currently underpriced.
This whole setup is confusing for several reasons.