Archive for May, 2007

I’m in Boston, attending the Internet & Society conference at the Berkman Center tomorrow and Friday. I was perusing the Boston free paper on the metro (which they call “the T” here and which, incidentally, totally sucks compared to the DC metro — more on that later, with photographic evidence. and probably more on the conference later, too. but anyways…), in which I read an article on what seems to be a truly bizarre government crackdown: the war on little plastic tubes full of fake roses.

“The look like novelty items, but they’re not. For sale at convenience stores in Boston are four-inch glass tubes featuring fake mini-roses inside of them. They are crack pipes.”

Well, not necessarily. I may be being naive here, but I highly doubt that EVERYONE who buys these novelty items intends to smoke crack out of them, that they were solely manufactured in order for crackheads to smoke out of, and that all the Boston-area convenience stores that sell them are part of this nefarious plot.

Nonetheless, Boston city councilors are trying to pass a city ordinance banning the sale of these items, with a penalty of $300 for each rose-tube/pipe found in a convenience store.

“As a community, we need to work together on issues of drugs and violence,” said (City Councilor Chuck) Turner. “The business community needs to work with us as well. We have to find many creative ways to lessen the use of drugs.”

Righhhhtttt … because the only reasons people are smoking crack currently in Boston is because of the ready availability of these rose pipes. And they won’t just find other products to make crack pipes out of. And it’s up to convenience store owners to determine and police how people use any of the items they sell …

I know the panic over meth addicts using Sudafed to make the drug has led the common flu remedy to become an over-the-counter product, and there’s currently a trend-panic over “cheese,” the combination of Tylenol PM and Heroin .. but this whole rose/pipe thing just seems especially bizarre. There are about 8-hundred-billion ordinary products that can have more shady, if you will, uses (remember gravity bongs?). Attempts to ban these products (or make them less easily available) in an attempt to curtail illegal drug use is, well, futile at best, and a waste of legislator’s time (and resources) and an unfair intrusion on consumers at worst. Or maybe the other way around. Either way…

**** I guess this whole rose pipe phenomenon is nothing new.

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My god, in what universe is this girl obese?

[Via Cicero at TTP]

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    ABC News:As 21st century women dominate the universities and continue to climb the executive ladder, and metro-sexual men explore their feminine side, it’s harder to define what it means to be a woman

In the mildly frustrating category of the week … why is everyone so up in arms about this “new” birth control that allows women to not have periods at all? Doctors have been telling women to just take their regular birth control continuously (skipping the placebo sugar pill week) in order to avoid periods all together for years now. Seasonale, the pill that allows women to only have 4 periods a year when taking it regularly, has been out since 2003. The fact that this new pill, Lybrel, is touting itself as the birth control pill that allows women to skip periods entirely is more of a marketing ploy than some sort of grand scientific or cultural development; the regular old pill has been doing the same thing for years.

What’s funny is that “The Pill” — in it’s earliest form, in it’s iconic 1960s incarnation — could have been just like Lybrel, more or less. The earliest versions of the pill did, in fact, halt menstruation. But somewhere along the line pharmaceutical companies decided that giving women a pill that would stop their periods all together would be too radical, too unsettling, for most of their consumer market, so they created the whole one-week-dummy-pill system to make it seem more “normal” and “natural.” Notes the Washington Post:

The birth control pill was originally developed to mimic a normal cycle in the belief that women would find it more acceptable, not because it would be safer or more effective at preventing pregnancy.

More about the particulars of all this here.

So people back in the day, worried by the kind of moral outrage the Pill would provoke over lost fertility and womanhood, etc. etc., decided to keep periods as part of the pill, assuming America wasn’t ready for the other version. What’s amazing is that, more than 40 years later, a period-free pill is STILL provoking this kind of moral outrage about “lost” fertility and womanhood, what with Leslee Unruh out there screaming about this pill being a “pesticide” that’s somehow part of an evil NARAL and “big Pharma” conspiracy plot to make women hate babies; ABC news worried that, without the little ladies bleeding every 28 days, our society will suddenly lose the ability to differentiate between men & women (hint: it has something to do with penises and vaginas, yo. And maybe differential amounts of body hair); and Eugene Volokh imagining ridiculous scenarios where every month, we gals call all our friends a la the telephone scene in Bye Bye Birdie to share the news that we’re once again shedding the lining of our uteruses (What the story? Morning Glory? Called to tell you that I’m on the rag.).

I suppose this sort of crazy is not entirely surprising, though, considering that it still seems hard to get it through certain conservatives’ heads that birth control does not cause abortion (quite the opposite, really), nor does it represent a complete rejection of having children, as Unruh seems to think (in the Think Progress article, a NARAL spokeswoman notes that 98 percent of American women will use some form of contraception in their lives, and we’ve yet to see the USA become a land of childless harpies, so…).

Ann at Feministing wonders how the tampon companies will react to Lybrel. I kind of hope the tampon companies are the ones behind all this lost-womanhood-we-love-babies-gender-bending nonsense. A stealth, Bernays-like advertising campaign by the feminine-hygeine-products cabal would make a lot more sense than people actually believing this crap …

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new kind of Web video

What happens when you take Internet video out of its little YouTube box? Or use a mix of flash and video to tell a narrative? You get the National Film Board of Canada’s strange Web site/movie hybrid. Check it out; it’s pretty fucking cool, and presents an interesting picture of where Web movies could go. (there are also some pretty cool short film/stories here, including one where the filmmaker in residence gives cameras to homeless pregnant women to document their lives).

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new blogger

Welcome youngjoe below. Raee and I wanted this to be a group blog, but our original two other alleged contributors never contribute, so we’ve brought youngjoe on board for the time being. I will let youngjoe give his own introduction or bio if he wishes, but in the interim, I will provide … let’s see … 5 facts about youngjoe.

1. He is on hiatus from an undisclosed college somewhere in the midwest.
2. He can walk on lighting grids like a monkey.
3. He has to get up to go to work really early in the morning, allegedly because he works for some shipping and packing company, but maybe because he is a spy.
4. He is going to an IHS seminar this summer, and I am very excited for him because they brainwashed me when i was there and now they can brainwash him too!
5. He generally has cool shoes.

Bonus fact: he is kind of young, but not that young. he can drink legally. but he couldn’t when I knew him.

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Let’s talk about Paternalism for a moment.  This has been on my mind for a couple of days, triggered by a TV commercial regarding Ohio’s seatbelt law.  Now, most people agree that wearing seatbelts in cars is good and people want to be safe while they are driving, but look at the big picture here.  Why is there a law requiring it?  The government is trying to make all of our decisions for us because obviously we aren’t smart enough to make them for ourselves.

And this is happening everywhere.  With drug laws, laws regarding suicide, smoking, alcohol, pornography, and the reasons are all the same; the government is “trying to keep us safe.”  Safe from what?  From ourselves?  I think most people would agree that we are more capable than the government of making decisions about our personal safety.

I think it’s time for our teenage nation to stand up and fight for the right to decide for ourselves what is safe and what isn’t.  Maybe we’ll get hurt, maybe we’ll make mistakes, but dammit, they’ll be our mistakes!

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It must be my week to quote from Forbes business magazine, I’ll just say I love netvibes and leave it at that.

In a science fiction twisted story, a professor at McGill University is attempting to pull an “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “The Giver.” Professor Karim Nader is trying erasing people’s memories.

Nader’s method is deceptively simple. He asks his patients to recall their bad memories and then gives them a so-called beta-blocker, a type of medication originally developed to treat heart conditions. The method does not aim to actually erase bad memories, but it can significantly reduce the severe pain of traumatic memories. His work could revolutionize how doctors treat epilepsy, obsessive compulsive disorder and even drug addiction.

If I were better at student in math, I would have loved to do memory and genetics study, alas, I’m stuck to reading it in business magazines. The idea that painful memories can be lessened and eased is both awe-inspiring and frightening. I think it’s important to look though at how we define memories, or at least how Nader does.

Nader’s big breakthrough came in 1999, when he first revived and tested the obscure theory that memories, once formed, do not necessarily remain stable. Instead, he posited, they could be unfixed and “reconsolidated”–a notion that flouted 100 years of conventional wisdom in his field

I understand the immense pain that people carry with them, but I’m still frightened by the fact that those painful memories can be lessened and/or erased. I have to be truthful that I haven’t had a lot of overt pain in my life and maybe there is a time in the future I would want to forget things. But I still tend to think that it can off-setting to use a drug to lessen pain. It might have been all those books I read about apocalyptic worlds where emotions are controlled with a drug or the government all in the hopes of protecting the greater good. I need to think about this more. Less pain, people are able to move on, but with a drug? Is that real what we need, more drugs? Maybe. Maybe, it’s the only way. Either way, I’m interested to follow the work of Nader, no matter what, the research is fascinating.

After speaking with my science adviser, I have to admit when I’m wrong. I am wrong. I am way wrong. I understand a bit more what the doctor is trying to do and what actually can be done. I encourage everyone to read up on this more. I still think it’s sticky issue but I find interesting none the less. It’s hard to imagine what will be possible in the future due to science advancements.

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I’ve been having a lot of frustrating conversations about libertarianism this week. First — and I suppose this isn’t really a conversation, per se, but whatever — a commenter told me:

You have to understand libertarian mind set. They feel like nothing should be changed by force. Abortion is changing the outcome of an event by force.

Um, nice try, but ….. ? Libertarians don’t feel like things should be a matter of government force, sure. But unless George Bush is going around personally reaching up your vagina and swatting at your unborn child with a knife, then the issue really has nothing to do with government force. The government isn’t mandating anybody get an abortion. Most libertarians I’ve ever met are pro-choice. There are some libertarian arguments against abortion (if you believe a fetus has natural rights, for instance) or against Roe v. Wade (if you believe it should be a state issue instead of a federal one), but “changing the outcome of an event by force” has nothing to do with it.

I don’t mean to sound like I have any right to say what is a “proper” libertarian position and what is not. I’m actually a pretty terrible libertarian; for all accounts and purposes I should describe myself as a libertarian-leaning democrat or a democratic leaning libertarian or something like that, but that’s a lot to say. Regardless, though, I can tell you when something most definitely IS NOT a libertarian position, including most of what people have been trying to argue with me are “true” libertarian positions this week.

A person I was talking to a few days ago tried to tell me that banning smoking and trans fat is good because to not do so would infringe on a person’s choice not to pay someone’s health care costs if they smoke or eat trans fats, and therefore banning these things was somehow a “true” libertarian position, or something like that. I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around in what universe this made any sense.

He then brought up traffic lights.

I swear to god, to hear people talk sometimes you’d think all libertarians really did was go around talking about traffic lights. Don’t libertarians think we should get rid of all traffic lights then? No! No, we don’t! I’m not even going to elaborate further, just please no one ever again talk to me about libertarians and traffic lights.

A friend I was IM-ing with about this said he’d been asked about whether or not libertarians think the state should intervene if a parent is constantly beating their child and locking it in a closet. My professor asked me if a libertarian would think the government should intervene if a corporation was dumping horrible toxic chemicals into the public water supply.

Answer to both: yes, of course, OBVIOUSLY.

When I mumbled something to the arguee about the “public good” and the harm principle, he had an “Aha!” moment, like he’d caught me. “Ahhhh, I see, there’s a loophole, is there?” Sure, there’s a loophole, if that’s what you want to call it. I’d probably call it, you know, one of the basic tenets of classical liberalism, but whatever. Libertarians do think that the government should be able to intervene when a private actor is harming someone in a manner that deprives them of their life, liberty or property. It’s a crazy little loophole dating back to, oh, Thomas Jefferson.

This ties into something else I was IMing about (which Julian has already written about over at his blog) but the fact that people have started referring to matters of civil liberties and individual rights as “libertarian” positions, which is somewhat frightening. These aren’t libertarian positions, they’re American positions. They’re democratic positions. They’re positions this damn country was founded on, yo.

** because I have too much time on my hands right now, what with this 3-week break I have between the end of last semester and starting my summer internship, and no cable.

ADDENDUM: So I have my iTunes on completely random right now, and I was typing this, “Against the Law,” by Billy Bragg & Wilco came on. Ha!

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Forbes has a fascinating article on what worries the rich. Tongue-in-check, yes this article exists. I wonder how it was pitched to the editors. Listen, we know what worries the poor, late payments on credit cards-not a warm fuzzy feeling. Let’s do something on the rich! They worry too. Okay, I am kidding. Honestly, it’s a good sociological look at our society. The idea of materialism and the ever present not good enough-for-me mentality.

As Russ Prince describes it, it’s the mindset of “I have the $5 million jet. I want the $10 million jet.” But he doesn’t see it as greed. Rather, he says, it’s simply a reflection of what everyone at every income level wants: something more.

What I found most interesting in examine exactly what the rich do worry about is how income effects the level of worry. The more money the more worry.

For example, only 17.6% of those polled with a net worth between $500,000 and a million dollars say they feared being unjustly sued. In the highest bracket–net worth above $20 million–83.5% say they feared suits. Identity theft? That’s a biggie. At the bottom level, 45% fear it. At the top level 74% say they’re concerned.

What I found most interesting was this American dream model. The idea of being stable, but of course, that has morphed into things we don’t have will make us happier if we have them. For instance, a new car would help get me that promotion. Plastic surgery will get me that rich husband. On the whole, our culture is extremely materialistic and borderline paranoid.

Strikingly, what most concerned those polled was not being able to maintain and improve their current status and get ahead. This might come as a surprise because, well, they already are ahead.

It makes me kinda sad. I thought when I started making three figures by my 27th birthday I’d be worry free. Although, I did want the flying car by that point too, and those pure bred grey hounds, oh and don’t forget the outdoor pool and my vintage jag, and…Read more for what the rich worry about.

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I’m a bad blogger, because I’m always so late to the game responding to anything going on. But that’s okay, because the people who read this are mostly my friends who don’t read a lot of other blogs (which is neat, because then they actually think I have something novel to say!), or the 20-or-so people who come here every day searching for “emo bangs” (you make one post containing the word emo bangs in the title, and you get 15-year-old hipsters for the rest of your life).

I’m also a bad blogger because I bury the lead like this every time, but I’m getting to the point now, I promise: Garance Franke-Ruta’s dust-up over the age of consent for porn. It started with a WSJ op-ed in which she proposed that the age of consent for appearing in pornography should be raised to age 21, which I guess led to minor outcry from, like, everyone. Franke-Ruta somehow seems to have gotten the impression that it’s because everyone LOVES BARELY LEGAL PORN!, but most of the arguments actually centered around much more sensible, if mundane, things, such as the fact that if we consider people old enough to vote and join the military, etc. etc. at 18, they’re probably grown-up enough to make their own decisions about porn.

Franke-Ruta’s main concern seems to center on potential regret, the idea that 18-year olds are too young to realize they’ll later regret appearing in pornography:

Yglesias pretends that a young woman’s “decision” to have nude pictures of herself floating about without her consent is no different than picking a college major or “getting tattoos.” But he’s wrong. People don’t lose their jobs – or become permanent public spectacles – over “buying lottery tickets” or choosing to major in chemistry rather than physics.

Maybe people don’t lose their jobs over getting a tattoo, but there sure are a lot of other decisions they can make at 18 that they’re just as capable of regretting as appearing in porn. Joining the army for instance — you make that decision, you’re capable of, well, not even really having the chance to “regret” it, because you might be dead. Does Franke-Ruta really think a decision that might possibly result in the loss of your life is not as serious as a decision that might result in the loss of some potential future job? As Julian notes (and you should just read this whole post, because it’s hilarious):

Perhaps most jaw-dropping, she considers Matt Yglesias’ observation that treating 18-20 year olds as adults means recognizing their right to make all sorts of choices they might later come to regret, then asserts that getting photographed nude is somehow uniquely harmful, uniquely damaging. This, apparently, in contrast to trivial choices like whether to bear a child or drop out of school or join the Army.

The problem with an argument like Franke-Ruta’s is all its logical extensions, especially for women. Right now, women at 18 have the legal ability to make the decision to be on birth control, if they want, and to get abortions if they want, and to marry or not mary, if they want. Using Franke-Ruta’s logic, wouldn’t it be possible that they will later regret the decision not to carry a child to term, or the decision to block conception in the first place? Or the decision not to marry someone their parents tell them to? Maybe we should raise the age of consent for contraception and marriage and abortion to 21 too!

Considering this, I was surprised to see Amanda Marcotte somewhat defending Franke-Ruta’s proposal:

I think raising the age of consent to be in commercial porn to 21 could have to potential to protect youthful sexual experimentation. At least in the case of “Girls Gone Wild”, the presence of Joe Francis and his cameras has turned things like Mardi Gras from occasions of joyous debauchery to mean, misogynist events that aren’t nearly as fun as they used to be. It’s a shame that there’s no space for kids to experiment with some public debauchery anymore without some dick shoving a camera at them in the process of making porn movies that are punitive in nature.

This quote (in Franke-Ruta’s article) might be taken somewhat out of context, as Amanda is usually all about trusting women to be smart enough to make their own decisions (and she does some hemming and hawing in the rest of her full post), but I think it’s interesting to look at the whole porn-age-of-consent thing from a feminist perspective. I guess it all depends on whether you’re more of an all-porn-is-exploitative feminist or a women-should-be-able-to-make-their-own-decisions feminist (or, god forbid, a porn-empowers-women feminist). But Jill had a really interesting post at Feministe earlier this week about the new-wave of anti-abortion-activism oozing with faux-concern for how “abortion hurts women,” and should therefore be banned because women don’t even realize what’s good or bad for them. On the some-women-regret-their-abotions front, Jill writes sarcastically:

But since women may regret a choice that they made, we should clearly take away the right to make that choice! The 1873 Court could see this one coming from a mile away — if you give women choice and freedom, they’re gonna just go and muck it up. Better to just make their decisions for them.

I say we take this a step further and really ensure that women don’t regret anything ever. We should institute a fresh new system wherein women are property of their fathers until their father chooses who they marry (wouldn’t want her to mess that up and have to get a divorce — just look what happened when we gave women full divorce rights!), and then their husband controls all of the money, property, progeny and decisions. Obviously she would stay home and raise the children — in the manner dictated by her husband, of course, since the children would be legally his. Wouldn’t want her to make a bad parenting decision and regret it forever! And we definitely wouldn’t want her to regret going to school or getting a job.

Extreme (but fabulous) snark aside, this can really be applied to Franke-Ruta’s argument. We start not trusting 18-year-old women to make decisions about porn, we open the way to not trust them to make decisions about anything else. Regrets are a part of life. Trusting women, or young adults (or anyone for that matter) to make their own choices means that some people will inevitably make some choices they will regret. That doesn’t mean the government should make those choices for them, or that we should limit the choices of everybody else, just to offset that off-chance of regret.

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books, a crazy-new-age-hippie-manifesto I found in the back of the-people-my-mom-used-to-work-for’s-druggie-son’s room when I was 14:

Don’t ever start thinking you know what’s right for the other person. He might start thinking he knows what’s right for you.

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We get on tangents around here at Yellow is the Color. A week or so ago it was copyright stuff. This week, apparently, it’s strippers. All strippers all the time here at Yellow is the Color’ that’s my motto of the week.

Anyways, a bill proposed in Brooklyn this week would require strippers to obtain state permits in order to work. The New York Times reported on it Sunday. The women quoted in the article bring up privacy concerns, which is a real and valid issue. But the mysterious mustachioed man quoted in the article sees other benefits:

“It’s a great idea to give them a license — that way if they get caught scamming guys, they get their license taken away,” Mr. Parco said as a woman with a pair of tiger eyes tattooed on the small of her back danced for a moment in front of him.

Oh, I get it. It’s not big deal to inconvenience and violate the privacy of these women, because it will benefit the poor men who may be tricked into lap dances by the evil wiley ways of tiger-eyed-tattooed women (this guy was only at the strip club in the first place for a book club, the article points out, leaving me to wonder who the hell has book events at strip clubs???). Regret that money you spent on 16 private dances? Report her to the stripper licensing board! You were drunk; she took advantage of you! You were only there to attend a book event!

Jill at Feministe tears apart the ridiculous language used in the article.

The women in the article are described in detail. All we know about Mr. Parco’s appearance is that he’s mustachioed. By contrast, the first woman quoted is described as “petite,” wearing “a sapphire blue gown with a neckline that plunged to her navel,” tossing her “long black hair” and sashaying away to her “lanky” co-workers. She may make an interesting point, but the reporter is sure to clarify that she is a dirty stripper.

I don’t know enough about this proposed bill to comment one way or another. I’m also not going to get into my personal views about sex work. But I do write, I have taken a few journalism courses in my day, and this kind of blatant sexism and sexual condescension isn’t too difficult to spot. This article is embarrassingly bad. I know strippers are titillating and existing for male gratification (until those bitches screw you out of your hard-earned money!) and sub-human and all, but the writer could have at least tried to put forth some pretense of respect. But Emily Brady — yes, the reporter is a woman — and the New York Times are quick as usual to put the bad women in their place, and to stand up for the truly downtrodden and oppressed: Mustachioed former TV actors who moonlight as strip club patrons.

I don’t know; I thought they did actually describe the one man quoted in the article in just as much detail as the women quoted. The whole feel of the article was very narrative. Nonetheless, she’s right about the fact that it’s hard to ignore the condescension in the article. A little more description of the bill and the potential consequences and a little less description of 4-inch heels would have been nice.

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Sometimes when my favorite feminist bloggers point out that a lot of anti-abortion concern for the sanctity of the fetus is really just hatred of women and sex, other people get a little touchy. They like to accuse people making this point of being hysterical and overreacting, or dismiss them as angry man-haters looking for any excuse to blame any possible thing on misogyny, or wanton whores who just want “abortions on demand.” Which is why I think it’s good to point out, at every possible instance, the cases when the anti-choicers slip up and make it their real feelings so blatantly obvious.

Neil the Ethical Werewolf does just this, in a post referring to something that is kind of old, I know, but I had missed up to this point. Apparently, in March, Missouri “pro-lifers” had a chance to possibly reduce the number of abortions potentially taking place in the state. The legislature was voting on whether to resume state spending on birth control for low-income women. Now, one can obviously make a valid case that this isn’t the state’s prerogative, that there’s no reason for tax-payer money to be going to contraceptive spending. I tend to think that that’s a fine position as long as the state isn’t spending any money on any elective healthcare for low-income residents, but if there are state-sponsored programs covering a whole slew of other less-than-life-threatening conditions and procedures and medications, you might as well throw birth-control into the mix.

But regardless, the legislature’s stated reasons for not reinstating state spending on contraception have nothing to do with taxpayer money and such. No, the Missouri legislature is, of course, primarily concerned with low-income floozies getting away with fucking without the proper god-intended consequences.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – An attempt to resume state spending on birth control got shot down Wednesday by House members who argued it would have amounted to an endorsement of promiscuous lifestyles. “If you hand out contraception to single women, we’re saying promiscuity is OK as a state, and I am not in support of that,” Phillips, R-Kansas City, said in an interview.

Neil notes,

The fact that birth control pills would actually avert abortions is insignificant to them.  What do a few fetal lives matter when you’re trying to stop women from having sex before marriage?  There are some other bad reasons why one might oppose funding for birth control — doctrinaire libertarianism, or an extremely short-sighted focus on budget-cutting — but these motivations aren’t especially strong among anti-abortion activists.  I’m left with no choice but to take Susan Phillips at her word. 

Where I’m confused, too, is … since when are all low-income people, people on public health assistance, single? What about the married low-income people who are trying to, you know, be responsible about their family planning so as not to have a whole slew of kids they can’t pay for who will all end up needing even more state-sponsored health assistance? From an economic standpoint, isn’t the relatively low cost of providing birth control to women on public assistance a whole lot cheaper than having to pay to care for all the children these women can’t afford and might be giving birth to without contraception?

Anyways, as per usual, right-wing commenters entirely fail to grasp the point.

No one owes anyone an abortion. If they want one, it’s lawful…knock yourselves out. No one owes anyone birth control drugs. If they want them, they are lawful…there ya’ go. This is truly a ridiculous argument that women are suppressed because someone doesn’t foot the bill for their needs. Needs that are not life threatening unless you are the fetus. Needs that can be avoided through behavior or a $1 condom. It’s the same ol’ liberal “You owe me” meme.

No one owes anyone an abortion? Sure. But who’s even talking about abortions here? Why are right-wingers so obsessed with abortions??? All Neil said was that birth control, you know, can possibly reduce abortions. No one’s really saying anyone owes anyone birth control, per se, either. All they’re saying is that, in a debate about whether birth control should be provided, morality should not be brought into it.

This isn’t a matter of whether legislators think single women (or poor women in general) shouldn’t be having sex, because that is not a matter of law. A judge trying a criminal case might think that the defendant is evil or bad or morally deficient, but he/she can’t just say that when making a ruling, he/she has to decide as a matter of law. You don’t read court opinions that say “In the matter of the People v. So-and-So, we find so-and-so guilty of the crime of murder because we think he is a bad person.” Similarly, it’d be nice if legislators did what they were supposed to and made decisions based on law, instead of their personal moral opinions on other people’s sex lives.

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The MPAA has joined the fight against an Ohio law (SB16) that would unfairly restrict strip club workers and owners (and possibly shut them down). I wrote about the bill a few weeks ago, when a group calling themselves Dancers for Democracy gathered in front of the Ohio Statehouse to protest the proposed legislation, which would prohibit any touching between nude or semi-nude dancers and customers, and require the clubs and adult bookstores to shut down most activity at midnight (there was a provision that dancers — even fully clothed — must stay 6 ft from patrons at all times, but that was at least removed).

Now the MPAA has sent a memo to Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland’s office asking him to veto the bill if it is passed as is, and warned legislative leaders that if the bill becomes law, there’s a chance of a lawsuit. The reason MPAA cares about any of this has to do with the adult bookstore/film portion of SB16. The Columbus Dispatch reports:

In the bill’s definition of sexually oriented businesses, the bill says it “does not include a business solely by reason of its showing, selling, or renting materials rated NC-17 or R by the Motion Picture Association of America.” The proviso was added to exempt mainstream movie theaters and video stores from the proposal. But the Hollywood types never want to see their rating system appear in law, and the group has been successful in knocking down laws in other states that have tried it, said Vans Stevenson, a top lobbyist for the group. “You can’t incorporate a private trade association’s voluntary rating system into law and make it a legal standard,” he said. “It would be comparable to letting the NRA have their standards for gun laws.”

Although proponents of the bill, a group called Citizens for Community Values, seems to think it’s some sort of MPAA/pornography conspiracy (“nothing more than a ploy by the MPAA and the pornography industry to deceive Gov. Strickland into thinking that he needs to veto the (bill)” because “the association between the pornography industry and the MPAA is well known” …), the MPAA’s protest will really do little to stop the more heinous provisions in the bill, which passed in the House last week and is expected to pass in the Senate today, according to the Dispatch. The MPAA just wants its ratings system left out of it.

The Other Paper has a piece about House Speaker Jon Husted and other Ohio legislators moaning about how reporters keep wanting to talk about “the stripper bill” instead of their tax policy or whatever. Dude, what do you expect? You don’t introduce or support legislation like this unless you WANT people to talk about it and know how moral you are as a legislator, especially when you’ve got a big ol’ “community values” group being very vocal about the bill and your support.

At least this guy seems to have some sense:

Democratic Rep. Michael Skindell offered a better idea during Tuesday’s committee meeting. If Citizens for Community Values wants to put the issue on the ballot, “Let them do so,” Skindell said. “I believe we have spent enough time—and way too much time—and energy on this ridiculous issue.”

On that point, it seems Skindell would agree with Husted. But unlike the speaker, Skindell backed up his words by voting “no.”

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A few weeks back I posted about Justin.Tv, and I hadn’t really been back since. Then, I posted about Don’t Tell Ryan, the practical joke of video taping your friend with out his knowledge. Well, it seems I missed a few months, two to be exact, and Justin.Tv is now a network. TechCrunch had the story this morning.

Today, Justin.tv is launching its own network to allow users to create and publish their own shows.The site has been redesigned to improve usability and in preparation for expansion into a network of live video streamers. Ustream.tv currently has a fully open lifecaster network, with profile pages and all, but Justin.tv is expanding more slowly.

It’s pretty damn innovative. Not for the masses of people who will watch people pee or sleep, but for those that are creating the software. What a great business plan. Make yourself a star. But what does this say about us as people? We are more willing to connect to people through a computer? Or does it go more towards the massive movement of star-generating power that, according to mainstream media, is part of Generation Y. We, yes — me too, are already considered to be extremely self-involved and selfish.

To critics, this generation is an army of self-absorbed narcissists with a swollen sense of entitlement

Oh Generation Y think about this: Myspace has the ability to friend block as does Facebook. But does Justin.TV? This is a great way for parents, teachers, and employers to know exactly what you are doing at all times. Think, a few clicks away and your wonderful drunk night becomes nightly dinner conversation and rehab. Fantastic! What a great way for the world to see what a unique person you are.

Right now, Justin.Tv will be using a voting system, so it’s not open to everyone yet. I just ask that when, and if, it does become open to everyone, who will be left to watch? If we are all filming ourselves who will be left to watch it and what will they say?

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While pursuing the free articles in the Wall Street Journal today, I came across this one on “microtargeting” and Sara Taylor, a former top strategist in the Bush-Cheney campaign. She was a major force in the re-election in 2004.

“Ms. Taylor helped perfect political “microtargeting,” a system for squeezing votes from neglected segments of the electorate, based largely on reams of data about such things as voter demographics and personal-spending habits.”

Being a graduate student (almost former) in communications and a learner of new business practices, microtargeting was like graduate class 101. It’s the practice of data mining, or, collecting information about individual persons so that you (as in politian and or business) can directly target with specific-individual- tailored information just for that person.

“Microtargeting was originally developed by corporations and their marketing experts, and businesses continue to make sophisticated use of consumer data to tailor offerings”

Source Watch gets a bit more specific on a defined definition of microtargeting.

“Political microtargeting, also called “narrowcasting”, is aggregating groups of voters based on data about them available in databases and on the Internet—to target them with tailor-made messages.” Personal information—”everything from your magazine subscriptions to real estate records—can and will be used by political parties in the approaching elections to deliver specifically targeted messages calculated to influence your vote.”

The whole “influence your vote” makes it sound like there are shady cabals of Washington strategists watching you sleep, eat, read late at night, etc. But what if you think of it as a way for a candidate to speak directly to you about the issues you care about. Why wouldn’t it be fantastic to get custom-tailored information that answers the questions that you care about?

The Wall Street Journal article beings to discuss the possibility of a cross-over with political microtargeting and business.

“Others see much potential for cross-pollenization between political and corporate marketing. Another group of Bush-Cheney 2004 veterans, including voter-contact director Adrian Gray, has formed a business that aims to create social networks around products and brands to supplement traditional mass marketing. It is modeled in part on the 2004 campaign’s huge, sophisticated volunteer network.”

Google and Amazon are already on the way to specifically targeting ads and products to individuals and Web sites.

“We go beyond simple keyword matching to understand the context and content of web pages. Based on a sophisticated algorithm that includes such factors as keyword analysis, word frequency, font size, and the overall link structure of the web, we know what a page is about, and can precisely match Google ads to each page”

Microtargeting just takes this concept and applies it outside the Internet realm, and I’m actually looking forward to the possibilites of microtargeting. If you go beyond the idea that this “Big Brother” is suddenly watching us and taking notes, and look at it as a way for a business/candidate is able to understand you for more than your socio-economic role. Of course, microtargeting calls on individuals to be responsible. Just like any other media, reading and paying attention and research don’t go away. But microtargeting in itself is not evil, it’s not taking away any privacy, it’s merely a tool that, when used effectively, can motivate people to buy or vote.

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He’s all about “personal liberty,” but on his Web site, just a few paragraphs under “Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) is the leading advocate for freedom in our nation’s capital,” it makes a point to note that he is anti-choice on abortion. Leading advocate for freedom and personal liberty, except where women are concerned?

And for some reason, in all the Ron Paul frenzy lately, I haven’t really seen anyone bringing this up ….

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Apparently a study announced by researchers at Johns Hopkins last week found evidence that oral sex leads to increased chances of getting throat cancer.

If you and your girlfriend have had more than five oral-sex partners in your lives … you are both 250 percent more likely to develop throat cancer than some sad asshole who’s never had oral sex. “Researchers believe,” reports New Scientist, “[that] oral sex may transmit human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus implicated in the majority of cervical cancers,” and the virus lodges in the throat, where it can cause cancer. Study subjects infected with HPV were 32 times more likely to develop throat cancer; folks who tested positive for one highly aggressive strain of the virus, HPV-16, were 58 times more likely to develop throat cancer. Smoking, previously believed to be the culprit behind most throat cancers, only triples a person’s risk.

While this will probably be heralded by at least a few ultra-religous wingnuts as evidence that, see, missionary procreative sex is the only god-sanctioned non-throat-cancer-giving way to do it, Savage points out that the news that men can get cancer from HPV is probably the best thing that can happen as far as the HPV vaccine is concerned:

There’s a vaccine that offers 100 percent protection against the strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer in women and, it now appears, throat cancer in men and women. Religious conservatives believe that the HPV vaccine undermines abstinence education by making sex less risky. Never mind that numerous studies have shown that abstinence education does not work, HPV vaccine or no HPV vaccine. The right would rather see 4,000 American women die of cervical cancer every year than call off the idiotic, ineffective fraud that is abstinence education. And up to now the mainstream media have refrained from calling the right’s opposition to the HPV vaccine what it is—delusional, psychotic, homicidal—because up to now only women’s lives were at stake.

That’s about to change. Here’s the headline from my morning paper: “HPV Factors in Throat Cancer: Study Could Shift Debate About Vaccine.” You bet it will. Up to now, the HPV vaccine—which, again, has proven 100 percent effective against the cancer-causing strains of the virus—could merely prevent 10,000 cases of cervical cancer in American women every year, along with 4,000 deaths. But now the debate could shift—it will shift, it already has shifted—because it’s no longer “just” the lives of 4,000 American women that are on the line, but the sex lives of 150 million American men.

“If men got pregnant,” goes the bumper sticker, “abortion would be a sacrament.” Now that straight men can get cancer from eating pussy, the HPV vaccine is going to go from controversial to sacramental faster than you can say, “Suck my dick.”

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I don’t understand this kerfluffle over these ads. The ads, for online-dating-service startup Chemistry.com, feature a gaggle of attractive young people who were allegedly rejected from another online dating site, eHarmony.com. eHarmony is all riled up and asking media outlets to stop running the ads, which they feel make the site appear discriminatory and racist. Some friends of mine tried to argue the other day that this is true, because this ad features a black man:

I think that’s just ridiculous. I suppose there is a chance that racism could be inferred, but the ad does nothing to connote this in any way, and the site also runs about six other ads with white people, including this one:

In fact, the only ad that implies eHarmony is being outright discriminatory is this “still gay” ad:

.. which eHarmony hardly has any right to complain about, considering the site openly has a hetero-only policy. As noted by Pam at Pandagon, apprarently the site (which gives extensive compatability tests to mate-seekers) thinks “gay folks don’t have ’29 dimensions of compatibility’ that hets do.”

A private dating service can come up with whatever criteria it wants to decide who can join — their are all sorts of services dedicated exclusively to various things, like a certain religion or people over a certain age, etc. These measures are well within a site’s prerogative, and many probably help narrow the dating pool for members. If eHarmony wants to exclude gay people or muliple-divorcees (which it also does) or left-handed people or blonds or people with funny birthmarks, that’s fine. It’s just, well .. one can hardly be discriminatory against gays and then pissed when called out about it (I mean, one can, one just doesn’t really have a valid claim to).

Besides, for all the people eHarmony might turn off with its policies, it will attract those like this person, who believe rejecting gays and divorcees is a “quality control” issue.

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What kind of former Texan would I be if I didn’t mention NASCAR! Just the world alone sends me in to shock and awe memories of going to lunch with co-workers timed around NASCAR laps. No, I am not joking. I have to say, I watched a few laps. Which makes me all more ready for the new branding effort.
Sporting News has the beef on this new brand extensions effort that is moving NASCAR from the garage to the kitchen.

Mark Dyer, NASCAR’s vice president of licensing, describes food as a growing category among sponsors and, especially, licensees, where Monogram Foods, Birchwood Foods and others are producing everything from NASCAR-branded hamburgers to smoked sausage and even fruits and vegetables.

Can you just imagine eating a hamburger in the shape of Dale Jr.’s head? I just don’t think you can imagine all the possibilities.

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“It is simply no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse,” writes Al Gore in his forthcoming book, The Assault on Reason, excerpted in Time this week. The central tenet of the except is “Why do reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions?”

It’s the kind of question that seems plausible and productive at first, but when you really think about it seems to have more in common with teen girl “prom baby” sex scandals and new research proving the perils of daycare than anything else: a bold and seemingly timely narrative (diminishing logic, reason and truth in America!) purporting possibly dire consequences (lack of important decision making capabilities!) that has actually been told time and time again with slightly new players. It’s one of those problems that masquerades itself as new and pressing but has really been bandied about time and time again for the better part of the past two centuries.

In The Sociology of News, Michael Shudson pointed out that people complained of ‘sensationalism’ in the nineteenth century, of ‘yellow journalism’ at the turn of the century, and of ‘tabloid news’ or ‘jazz journalism’ in the 1920s, all worrying about the consequences these forms of “low culture” would have on public discourse and thought. Early- to mid-century communication theorists like Marcuse and Horkheimer & Adorno theorized about the devastating effects the “culture industry” wrought on “the masses” ability to see outside the insular and entertaining. In the 50s and 60s, George Gerbner and his cultivation theory attempted to explain the effects television would have on public perceptions of reality. In the 90s, Funkhouser and Shaw argued that “synthetic experiences,” such as those found on TV, film and computers, represented a distortion of reality that would have serious consequences on media audiences and society as a whole; that it would lead to lowered tolerances for boredom or inactivity, heightened expectations of perfection, expectations of quick, effective, neat resolutions of problems, and limited contact with, and a superficial view of, one’s own inhabited environment. “Impaired understanding and appreciation of our own immediate milieu may leave us on balance more ignorant of reality than were citizens of pre-electronic ages,” the predicted. The past ten years or so have seen countless public outcries over the rise of “soft news” and the “tabloidization” of American media and discourse. Gore worries in this excerpt that “the well-informed citizenry is in danger of becoming the well-amused audience,” a point which Neil Postman dissected in his book “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” in 1985.

It’s not to say that some — or any — of these concerns are unfounded. “It is simply no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse,” Gore wrote, and there’s no disagreeing with him there.

At first I thought the exhaustive, nonstop coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial was just an unfortunate excess—an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. Now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time: the Michael Jackson trial and the Robert Blake trial, the Laci Peterson tragedy and the Chandra Levy tragedy, Britney and KFed, Lindsay and Paris and Nicole. While American television watchers were collectively devoting 100 million hours of their lives each week to these and other similar stories, our nation was in the process of more quietly making what future historians will certainly describe as a series of catastrophically mistaken decisions on issues of war and peace, the global climate and human survival, freedom and barbarity, justice and fairness.

Also true, and also disturbing. I just think it’s a stretch to make the claim that this is somehow new to Right Now. Like the social conservatives who seem to think the 1950s were some sort of paragon of smiling dads in bowler hats, decidedly not-desperate housewives and universal prosperity, this school of media thought seems to imply that prior to the advent of television (or the Internet, or Fox News), American citizens were spending their nights sitting around reading the Declaration of Independence while sewing American flags and discussing the state of international affairs. (more…)

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