succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, April 03, 2008

This photograph*, taken moments after Martin Luther King's assassination, always takes my breath away, and not just because of the tragic event it depicts. Every time I look at it I am amazed anew at the four men standing upright and pointing. I would argue that anyone's natural instinct after hearing a gunshot is to duck. And yet here they are, four men who valued identifying MLK's killer more than they did their own lives.

In about 30 minutes it will officially have been 40 years since we lost this great man. Have you ever heard his "I've been to the mountaintop" speech? He delivered it the night before he was killed. I swear, he saw it coming:
Well, I don't know what will happen now; we've got some difficult days ahead. (Amen) But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. (Yeah) [applause] And I don't mind. [applause continues] Like anybody, I would like to live a long life-longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. (Yeah) And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. (Go ahead) And I've looked over (Yes sir), and I've seen the Promised Land. (Go ahead) I may not get there with you. (Go ahead) But I want you to know tonight, (Yes) that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. [applause] (Go ahead. Go ahead) And so I'm happy tonight; I'm not worried about anything; I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. [applause]

If you live anywhere nearby, or next time you visit Atlanta, schedule a stop at the King Center into your trip. I'm ashamed how long I lived here without going, but it's an amazing way to spend an afternoon.

*I nabbed it from this conspiracy sight, but I can't find the original newspaper attribution.

Income distribution

Ezra Klein has a very interesting graph up (apparently from Larry Bartel's new book) that seems to show "...that income growth during Democratic presidencies is both more progressive -- which is to say, more of it accrues to the poor -- and higher for everyone." He also offers up some quotes from Krugman about being unable to explain mechanism behind this particular phenomenon. I'd love to hear another economist's take on this (Steve - I'm looking at you). Firstly, of course, is it even real? Klein does a pretty reasonable job of hedging his bets about what the appropriate interpretation should be, but I'm wondering about the sources of the data themselves.

Where have you been all my life?

Czech is my favorite person of the day. (well, ok, maybe second to Lydia, who helped me debug Latex code this morning. Hooray!) (copied in completion, because you really should read the whole thing):

I was walking through UK's campus today and ran upon a little demonstration in front of the classroom building. There were about 20 huge pictures of bloody fetuses, along with "Stop the Genocide" signs.

If you know me well, you know... well.... I can't resist.

I decided to go up to the young female students who were passing out their "genocide leaflets" to the students walking by and chat.

I asked each one if they wanted to overturn Roe vs. Wade and make abortion illegal. They all said yes, of course. I asked them if abortion was murder. They all said yes, of course.

I then asked each of them, once this is made illegal, what the preferred prison sentence should be for a woman that has an abortion.

The first girl I talked to seemed bewildered by the question. She literally had never thought about that before. She was willing to stand in front of these horrible pictures and accuse people of murder and genocide, yet she had never even thought what type of penalties women would get if this was made illegal. She looked like a deer caught in the headlights, so I let her go to ponder just what in the hell she's doing out here.

Another girl seemed a bit taken aback, but then went into the "well, it's not the women who should be punished, it's the doctor who performs it" line.

"So wait a second, if someone hires a hitman to kill someone, they're charged for murder, right? Then why wouldn't the woman who hires the person to perform the abortion guilty of murder".

Silence. "Well... maybe. I don't know."

"Well, you're out here calling people murderers and accusing them of genocide. What do you mean you don't know?"


One of the girls who was listening in came to her defense. "Well if abortion is made illegal, yes, that should be a crime."

"So, what, 20 years in jail? 40 years in jail? What should a woman have?"

"Well, I don't really know if jail is necessary..."

"So... abortion is kinda like jaywalking?"

"Oh no!"

"So, it's murder?"

"Oh, yes!"

"And you don't think that people should go to jail for murder?"

"Well, yea, I guess they should"

"For how long? 20 years? 40 years?"

"Well, I guess if the jury felt they should"

"What about capital punishment?"


"If a jury felt that she should be put to death for having an abortion?"

"Well... I.... suppose"

"So, you're not really pro-life, more pro-fetus?"


"OK, well just think about that. Have a nice day."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What she said

Go read Twisty:

In case you missed it: 14-year-old kid is unwitting host to opportunistic
growth. Growth becomes non-viable, and is summarily expelled by kid’s body while
en route from New York to Houston on airliner. Kid chucks expelled tissue in
trash can (What was she supposed to do with it, asks Echidne, “[wrap] it up
carefully and [take] it home to show her parents?”). Homicide cops interrogate
kid and teen sperm donor. Prosecutors ultimately decide not to charge kid with
“wrongdoing.” Magnanimous of them.
The 14-year-old said she didn’t know she was pregnant, and I believe it.
Kids might have half a clue about the symptoms of pregnancy, or at least about
the general ramifications of boinking, if these goddam antifeminist public
health policies didn’t go around trying to pass off shit like “abstinence-only”
classes and “purity pledges” as sex education.

Homicide cops, faugh. Why not just institute the Houston P.D. Criminal Uterus Unit and be done with it?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Sometimes I think I'm overreacting to a situation, just being unfairly judgemental about people who react differently from me. Then some time later I figure out that I was actually (appropriately) offended, and my subconscious just hadn't had a chance to clue me in yet.

So one of the students in my adult gymnastics class sprained her ankle tonight (for those of you keeping track at home, in about a dozen classes, that's one sliced open hand, one torn calf muscle, and one sprained ankle. we're all former athletes who do dumb things. so what). Now everything was fine. She hit the ground, started to get up, then sat back down. I hurried over, she said her ankle hurt, I could see it already turning colors and swelling up. A few of the other women and I helped her over to the side while someone else grabbed an ice pack. We propped her foot up and cracked jokes while assessing the situation and deciding if it warranted a trip to the emergency room. Having broken my ankle and then subsequently sprained it, I'd like to think I can do a pretty decent triage on ankle injuries. The rapid swelling was obviously not the best sign ever, and when I tapped higher up on the outside of her leg it hurt worse (if you vibrate the fibula and pain increases down in the ankle, it's a fairly good sign that you've broken something), but the color, feeling, and pulse in her foot were all fine, and there was no obvious displacement. Time for x-rays, but certainly not panic.

Now, at this point in the story I'd like to give the benefit of the doubt. I was, after all, raised in a fairly eastern-European-minded gym, and made several trips to the ER before graduating high school. I'd also like to think that I'm not a cold person, but perhaps I am a bit more nonchalant about injuries than your average person.

Ok, so the rest of the team (all adult women, former gymnasts) and I are totally handling things. The injured student's friend is making phone calls to get her picked up and taken to the ER and another student who works with doctors is calling around to see if she knows anyone on call at local ERs and finding out wait times. Around this time two male employees (I should note here that I work for a community center, where there are lots of other activities, sports, daycare, school, etc. etc.) from elsewhere in the athletics department (not affiliated with gymnastics) come over all purposefully. One is worried that we've only propped up one leg, and makes us move her to prop up both (wtf? she wasn't going in to shock, the only reasonable motivation for elevating both legs) and the other asks if we want to call an ambulance. WTF? They start running the show. Then a member of security comes over to start taking notes - what's injured student's full name? phone number? are we taking her to the hospital? which one? And a secretary-type (I don't actually know her official title, but she's not affiliated with gymnastics or athletics, more administrative of some flavor) comes over and keeps asking if we're going to take her to the hospital and reminding us that we'd better not let her drive and generally acting like an idiotic and useless mother hen.

Eventually the two guys bring around a wheelchair (when crutches were available), but even worse, it's a wheelchair without footrests, so they slowly parade her out, one guy pushing the chair, the other and security guy holding up her leg. A big damn circus.

I blame myself for not reasserting my authority as the instructor of the class, and I'll be kicking myself for that until I talk to my boss about the whole mess tomorrow.

Bottom line, my student is fine, she's been injured plenty of times before, and knew this one wasn't a big deal. But could you imagine how traumatized some little kid would have been by that sideshow? Suggesting an ambulance for a sprained ankle?! A whole crowd of adults standing around looking worried? As it is I'm sure all the 10-12 year olds who were working out while all this was going on went home pretty freaked out. Stupid grown-ups.

I get that a lot of the rules at my gym amounted to ridiculous psychological control, especially when you consider that we were all 10-15 years old, but now that I'm an adult, and having experienced the plus side of those rules as a child, I can see their logic. For example, when someone did something scary-looking or potentially injury-causing, we weren't allowed to gasp or comment how scary said event just looked. And if/when someone was injured, we all knew the productive steps to take - ice pack, elevation, flag down coach. Once those were achieved we weren't allowed to hover or stare and were instead supposed to go back to practice as usual. The absolute worst thing, as a kid in pain, is to look around and see adults looking worried. Or gawking. Don't other people know this? Do they just lack self-control?

As for the security guy, I get that the community center is all terrified of being sued, but, um, everyone had to sign releases to take the class. So back the hell off. I will fill out your stupid incident report once she's taken care of, but you have absolutely no business quizzing someone while they're in pain. I really wish I'd had the wherewithal at the time to intervene and shut him up.

Monday, March 31, 2008

David Wilcox

Apparently this guy has been around forever, but I heard him for the first time on my local NPR station Saturday afternoon. Reaper Sweepstakes made me chuckle, about how he longed for the days when he knew the thing to fear was nuclear annihilation. Now there are too many things to worry about - global warming, terrorism, etc. But be sure to click over and listen to Falling For It - a very pretty song "...about the manipulation of our fear that happened after 9/11...On our travels around this beautiful country, we found in many conversations that people were nervous talking about politics. A lot of people have been convinced that it’s not a conversation, it’s a war between two sides, and once we’re divided, we can’t talk to each other about real issues. It seems we’ve been taught to fear each other and retreat behind our name-calling and team colors. But real discussion is crucial for our form of government to work. Our founding fathers wanted us to feel free to speak our concerns about national policy, so they decided that our leader should be a president and not a king." Airstream is definitely on my to buy list now.

Also, tonight I had the pleasure of hearing Helen Thomas speak, but you'll have to wait for that re-cap. And afterwards I met a lovely gent from Dublin, who will hopefully e-mail me some tips for my upcoming trip! Hooray!

The cost of healthcare

This graph (of healthcare dollars as % of GDP for several countries from 1970 and today; from Ezra Klein via Paul Krugman) provides important context to the healthcare debate. As Klein says, "On our side of the border we spend far more than they do, don't insure 47 million people, and give really excellent care to the upper middle class and the rich." I hate that whenever it is brought up that other countries (Canada, the UK, France) manage some aspects of healthcare better than us (like, oh, providing actual healthcare to all of their citizens) the typical response is nothing but criticism of their systems without acknowledging how fundamentally broken ours is. Ok, fine, so there are things we might want to do differently from countries like Canada. But let's start with the obvious - what we're doing sucks, a lot, in inexcusable ways for such a great and prosperous country. And since the criticisms of other countries inevitably seem to come from a belief that America is always better and awesome at everything, why assume that when we bring up other country's systems we mean to simply import their ideas wholesale? If we're so great and all, doesn't it stand to reason that we could take what other government's have done, learn a thing or two, and actually improve upon those ideas? Why are certain members of our society and government so determined to keep sticking their heads in the sand about this problem, all because admitting that we're perhaps worse at something than some other country(ies) would, what, hurt our collective feelings? Mean our dicks were smaller?

Sunday, March 30, 2008


I'm a bit of a compulsive editor. I write dozens and dozens of drafts of every paper. But I'm beginning to see how this will be a problem with my dissertation. I'm revising my proposal at the moment, which comprises about 1/2 to 2/3 of what my final document will hopefully be. I just spent two hours critically reading the whole damn thing and making notes, and still my brain turned to mush about halfway though chapter 4 (of 5). I know people make their living doing this to much longer novels and textbooks and whatnot, but I'm not those people. And I'm beginning to wonder how I'm ever going to be able to get through the whole damn thing once it's actually a whole damn thing. And I feel like it really needs to be edited in one sitting to determine if the whole thing actually hangs together as one coherent document. Sigh.

I haven't quite reached the totally-isolated-out-in-the-ether feeling that this guy once described on his long-since dead podcast, but having so far read my document umpteen gazillion times, I am beginning to feel something for it akin to an old lover. Also, it's sheer existence still sort of amazes me. Every time I print out a new version to edit I feel like rays of light should bounce off of it and somewhere a high-pitched "aaaahhhhh" should be sounding.