A quick one

We’re still on the road here—we’ve ducked into a place in Eau Claire for dinner, and it has free Wi-Fi!—and while sucking in the pile of email waiting for me, I see that our prom photos have arrived. Here’s me and Mary at the Geek Prom.


Yeah, she does look better than the octopus woman from yesterday, even with the deficiency of limbs.

Chew on this for the afternoon

Need something to talk about while I’m on the road? I think Atrios’s post on positive things for progressive bloggers to advocate (which is also echoed by Drum) is an excellent starting point. These are good things that set us apart from them; these are the kinds of ideas we should be talking about. Any right wing trolls want to oppose any of these proposals?

  • Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration
  • Repeal the estate tax repeal
  • Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI
  • Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one)
  • Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation
  • Pro-reproductive rights, getting rid of abstinence-only education, improving education about and access to contraception including the morning after pill, and supporting choice. On the last one there’s probably some disagreement around the edges (parental notification, for example), but otherwise.
  • Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code
  • Kill faith-based funding. Certainly kill federal funding of anything that engages in religious discrimination.
  • Reduce corporate giveaways
  • Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan
  • Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions. Change corporate bankruptcy law to put workers and retirees at the head of the line with respect to their pensions.
  • Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana. Generally move towards “more decriminalization” of drugs, though the details complicated there too.
  • Paper ballots
  • Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies. Obiously details matter.
  • Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes.
  • Marriage rights for all, which includes “gay marriage” and quicker transition to citizenship for the foreign spouses of citizens.

These are also good general values sorts of proposals.

  • Torture is bad
  • Imprisoning citizens without charges is bad
  • Playing Calvinball with the Geneva Conventions and treaties generally is bad
  • Imprisoning anyone indefinitely without charges is bad
  • Stating that the president can break any law he wants any time “just because” is bad

I left out Atrios’ joking suggestion that we jail Goldstein. Who would take care of his kid?

Scurrying hither and thither

It’s another traveling day for me! I’m off to Minneapolis for a few meetings, and also this important event tonight:

Café Scientifique
Antibiotics in Agriculture
with Timna Wyckoff
Tuesday, May 9, 6-8 p.m.

Varsity Theater, Dinkytown
Free. Must be 18 or older to attend.

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that more than 70% of the antibiotics produced each year in the U.S. are used in livestock production. How exactly are antibiotics used in agriculture? Do those uses lead to bacterial resistance? Does this have an impact on human health? Timna Wyckoff, assistant professor of biology at University of Minnesota Morris, will discuss the questions and answers surrounding this controversial topic, and share her recent work involving bacterial antibiotic resistance at conventional and organic dairies. Sponsored in part by the University of Minnesota Morris through their Café Scientifique program.

Note that the speaker is UMM’s very own Timna Wyckoff. Yay, us!

Then, tomorrow I have to scoot on down to Madison, pick up #2 Son and a few tons of accumulated college stuff, and zip all the way back to Morris. I’m hoping to have a few oddments of time to post a few things—there’s some new stuff on diploblast Hox genes that I want to mention, that will fit in well with the reruns I ran yesterday—and I’m also going to squeeze in some more grading. This is a fun week, isn’t it?

Why does everyone hate Richard Cohen?

The poor man is inundated with hateful email. People don’t like him, they’re angry at George Bush, they accuse him of being Bush’s lapdog (a charge he denies, but Digby provides the evidence—hatefully, no doubt), and he just can’t understand why (at least I can answer that one: it’s because he’s not very bright).

Cohen can whine all he wants about the fact that people don’t like him, but here’s the charge to which I must take strong exception:

But the message in this case truly is the medium. The e-mails pulse in my queue, emanating raw hatred. This spells trouble — not for Bush or, in 2008, the next GOP presidential candidate, but for Democrats. The anger festering on the Democratic left will be taken out on the Democratic middle. (Watch out, Hillary!) I have seen this anger before — back in the Vietnam War era. That’s when the antiwar wing of the Democratic Party helped elect Richard Nixon. In this way, they managed to prolong the very war they so hated.

Oh, yeah—don’t be angry, you’ll lose! And please, please don’t throw me into that briar patch, Br’er Fox!

I despise George W. Bush, and I’m extremely angry at the direction the Republican party has taken my country. That, it seems to me, is the appropriate response; why would anyone with my best interests at heart suggest otherwise? We’re in the middle of a morass of a war that was started by those assholes on the basis of an error (charitably) or pure venality and stupidity (most likely), our people are dying, the Middle East has become more unstable, and what are we supposed to do? Nod pleasantly at the nice oilmen, sit back and enjoy our high fat diets and cable TV, and try to be placid? That’s insane. We should be angry. We should be fighting back. We should be standing up with veins throbbing at our temples, shouting at the tepid Democrats who want our votes that they damn well better wake up and oppose the status quo. Cohen himself says that “Institution after institution failed America—the presidency, Congress and the press”…and we’re not supposed to be furious about that? We’re not supposed to demand change?

As for the Vietnam War—I remember that. I remember the demonstrations and the college campuses lighting up with howls of protest. I remember the dead every night on the television news. That’s also a war the people wanted to stop, and we screamed at the top of our lungs until they heard us. We were so loud that Nixon had to promise “peace with honor” and to “end the war and win peace” to get elected. In the 60s and 70s, that vigorous opposition had even the Republicans admitting that they somehow had to end that wasteful war; have you noticed how quiet the campuses and city streets are now, and how no one in power is admitting their failures yet? The message of Vietnam is that we need to mobilize more anger and stir up more strenuous, vocal opposition.

It’s the lapdogs of the administration, the tools of the destructive status quo, whose job it is to quell the angry mob. Rise up and scream, people, ignore the lackeys of the Right who want you to be ashamed of righteous fury.

Plan B, again

The idiots at ABC News have an article in which they describe the efforts of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to get good information out there about emergency contraception, and they get it all wrong:

Plan B, the brand name for emergency contraception, can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus after a woman has unprotected sex or experiences contraceptive failure (like a condom breaking). It has to be taken within 72 hours of having sex and is made of the same hormones used in birth control pills.

Look, it prevents ovulation, OK? Not implantation.

They’re interviewing ob-gyns about their campaign against misinformation and encouraging people to be prepared, and instead of asking how the damned pill works, they repeat the same old bogus story the anti-contraception kooks are spreading around.

DarkSyde has a post on this at dKos. And I have to say that the commenters there who keep insisting that there might be a remote possibility of some other effect than on ovulation are irritatingly obtuse. I had to write this in reply to one of them.

How many times do I have to say this? There is ABSOLUTELY NO CLINICAL EVIDENCE FOR ANY EFFECT OTHER THAN ON OVULATION. Vague hypotheticals that it might do X, Y, or Z don’t cut it, unless you’ve got some supporting observations.

This is exactly how the pro-choice movement shoots itself in the foot. Take some remote, unlikely, unsupported possibility that sometime, somewhere, some zygote might not implant, and use that negligible unlikelihood to make dithering progressives get all tentative and weak-kneed. Jebus. Even if one in a million times some zygote got flushed (compared to the 500,000 times in a million that it will be spontaneously aborted), WHO CARES? Is it worth giving an abortion-doctor-killer somewhere a little bit of a sanctimonious boost in the execution of his God-given mission to make sex a little bit more guilt-inducing?

I also said that whatever negligible possibility of other forms of interference exists is negated by the remote possibility that an angel might dash up the woman’s vagina to escort God’s favorite sperm directly to the waiting egg. Can we just call it a wash and stop playing the game the Religious Right wants us to play on this issue?