succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Today was great, highly productive, but exhausting. Two job interviews*, returned a book to Borders, mailed Mom's Day gift, did some consulting work, a little dissertating, dinner with Kathy, grocery shopping, and sorted through several days of backlogged mail. Spent the last two nights elsewhere (all-night babysitting gig Tuesday and prolonged power outage last night resulted in crashing on the boys' couch) so I'm seriously looking foward to crawling under the covers momentarily (and maybe finishing my book).

*remember how I said I might start coaching gymnastics? Interviewed with a fellow former gymnast this morning who started a program at the local Jewish center. I may only make enough money to pay for the gas it'll take to get there, but I'm hoping the mental break and physical activity will make everything cost effective. I'm a little less jazzed about the second one (primarily helping out with birthday parties with a little coaching) but still, physical activity and new people could be nice...

Also, the Colbert Report is on in the background and Albright is his guest tonight! How cool is that?

"Margaret Atwood* has said in an interview that if you wanted to take over the United States you wouldn't use the language of socialism or democracy but rather you would claim to have the word of God. Given that you read a quote tonight about President Bush believing that God wants him to be president, in your opinion, was he honestly expressing his relationship with his religion or do you think he (or his administration) is using it as a tool to manipulate the power structure?"

That's the question I asked Madeleine Albright. That's right. Madeleine Albright. She was at the Carter Center Library on her book tour. She didn't really answer my question (I think she misinterpreted it a bit to mean that I (or Atwood) was against the spread of democracy), but she did say that she believes that Bush really honestly believes that God wants him to be president. Scary. Some other highlights:

  • Albright thinks the war in Iraq is actually worse than the Vietnam war because it has the potential for more harmful unintentional consequences
  • President Clinton used to assign books for his staff to read. She says one of the best he recommended was A Peace to End All Peace.
  • Albright used to host No Fault dinners, meaning that those invited could speak their minds, but also that she could, because often she didn't feel free to even ask the questions she wanted to ask
  • She spoke about the difference between a moral position vs. a position of morality and how important it is for us to have a foreign policy that comes from a moral place but isn't imposing morality in a righteous way.

*First of all, ask yourself the following question: If you were going to take over the United States, how would you do it? Would you say, "I'm a socialist and we're all going to be equal"? No, you would not, because it wouldn't work. Would you say, "I'm a liberal and we are going to have a society of multiple toleration"? You probably wouldn't say that if you wanted mass support. You would be much more likely to say, "I have the word from God and this is the way we should run things." That probably would have more of a chance of working, and in fact there are a number of movements in the States saying just that, and getting lots of dollars and influence.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

After rescuing my cat who looked more like a drowned rat this morning (and whom I fear is coming down with a case of the sniffles as a result) I spent the morning/afternoon at Borders indulging in coffee and the Sunday paper and a few more pages of The Devil Wears Prada (coupons = free coffee and 25% off the first half of a Mother's Day present - Madeline Albright will be in town next week doing a book signing). Thanks to the Sunday paper and it's summer movie listings I have significantly increased the length of my netflix queue (it'll save them for me until they come out on dvd around xmas, how great is that?) and gotten all riled up about the Sunday Magazine's excellent coverage of The War on Contraception (and gained a nifty new image for my office door). Here are some choice excerpts:

In addition to providing an information center for the abstinence industry that has blossomed in recent years, she takes her message directly to kids. Besides "Girls Gone Mild," she sponsors "Purity Balls," which fathers attend with their teenage daughters. "We think the relationship between fathers and their daughters is the key," she told me. At the purity ball, a father gives a "purity ring" to his daughter — a symbol of the promise she makes to maintain her virginity for her future husband. Then, during her marriage ceremony, the daughter gives the ring to her new husband. Abstinence Clearinghouse's Web site advertises the purity ball as an event "which celebrates your 'little girl' and her gift of sexual purity."

First, let me say, ew. Seriously, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. a) this whole linking of giving your virginity to your dad and then your husband is so gross and freudian and b) hi, treating women as property, much?

And, of course, the things those of us in public health, and really anyone capable of reading a study and understanding statistics, already know:

around the world, countries in which abortion is legal and contraception is widely available tend to rank among the lowest in rate of abortion, while those that outlaw abortion — notably in Central and South America and Africa — have rates that are among the highest. According to Stanley K. Henshaw of the Guttmacher Institute, recent drops in abortion rates in Eastern Europe are due to improved access to contraceptives. The U.S. falls somewhere in the middle in rate of abortion: at 21 per 1,000 women of reproductive age, it is roughly on par with Nigeria (25), much better than Peru (56) but far worse than the Netherlands (9).

The Netherlands, where the teen pregnancy rate also ranks among the lowest in the world, has long been of interest to sex educators in the U.S. for the frankness of its approach. The national sex education course, called Long Live Love, begins at age 13. One of its hallmarks has been dubbed "Double Dutch" — encouraging the use of both condoms and birth control pills. "It's proven successful," says Margo Mulder of STI AIDS Netherlands, the Dutch health education center. "It shows that when you discuss contraception and protection with students, they actually are careful. And I know that some people in the U.S. say that when you promote contraception, you're also promoting sex, but we've found that when you educate people, they don't have sex earlier. They think about it. So you're not promoting sex, you're helping them to be rational about doing it."

Sarah Brown, from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, nails it - "Here in the U.S., people are still arguing about whether it's O.K. to have sex."