Thursday, January 27, 2005

Friday, January 21, 2005

Roe Turns 32

If you're in DC tomorrow, check out the rally at the Supreme Court to commemorate the 32nd anniversay of Roe v Wade. Also, the DC Metro Planned Parenthood clinic will be open 24 hours in celebration of the anniversary, providing free counseling and testing. [Thank you, Sarah Weddington.]

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Summers in Hot Water

Well, hasn't Harvard president Lawrence Summers managed to stir up a little trouble? In a speech given at a National Bureau of Economic Research conference, Summers made allusions to the possibility that innate differences between men and women may be responsible for their unequal performance and representation in the sciences. Having been asked to "be provocative" during his speech, Summers opted to forgo wearing lace panties and instead spouted off about the need for more research into essentialist ideas about men and women and their respective scientific aptitudes.

Luckily for Summers, there is no transcript of his remarks, so the debate is turning into a "he said/she said" kind of thing that is making both sides look petty. This is what Summers has admitted to saying (from a Globe article):

''It's possible I made some reference to innate differences. . . I did say that you have to be careful in attributing things to socialization. . . That's what we would prefer to believe, but these are things that need to be studied."

Summers said cutting-edge research has shown that genetics are more important than previously thought, compared with environment or upbringing. As an example, he mentioned autism, once believed to be a result of parenting but now widely seen to have a genetic basis.

In his talk, according to several participants, Summers also used as an example one of his daughters, who as a child was given two trucks in an effort at gender-neutral parenting. Yet she treated them almost like dolls, naming one of them "daddy truck," and one "baby truck."

Well, obviously if his daughter anthropomorphizes trucks, then girls must be genetically predisposed to not want to pursue or excel in science!

Now, I know I'm one of the many who are up in arms about his comments without actually hearing the context in which they were made. So, take my criticism with a grain of salt. But, do think long and hard about what it means for a college president to be open to the possibility that women do not pursue science as much as men due to genetics. He is not some biological theorist - he crafts and implements educational policies at one of the most prestigious colleges in the country. The implications of his personal beliefs on this issue could be huge.


Summers' third point was about discrimination. Referencing a well-known concept in economics, he said that if discrimination was the main factor limiting the advancement of women in science and engineering, then a school that does not discriminate would gain an advantage by hiring away the top women who were discriminated against elsewhere.

Because that doesn't seem to be a widespread phenomenon, Summers said, "the real issue is the overall size of the pool, and it's less clear how much the size of the pool was held down by discrimination."

Yes, and how often has this "well-known concept in economics" been used to justify discrimination? I've heard it used plenty of times to explain why discrimination will not happen in the labor market (or at least why it won't be sustained), and have never been convinced that this popular economic principle is put into practice in real life.

I certainly empathize with MIT biologist Nancy Hopkins' statement about why she had to leave Summers' speech:

I would've either blacked out or thrown up [if I hadn't].

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Haphazardous Material

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

If Not for Hitler

The ingenious creator of everyone's favorite baking dish - the Bundt pan - died last week at the age of 86. Not only did he create the pan that has made monkey bread and Tunnel of Fudge cake possible, H. David Dalquist was also responsible for the rotating platter in your microwave. To think, if not for Hitler, we'd all be eating Bund cake.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Spoiled, Putrid Pork Butts

Yet another reason to quit eating meat, from a U.S. Attorney's Office Press Release:

Court records reflected that Shamrock is a meat and poultry trader that buys salvaged, damaged and otherwise distressed product from insurance companies in salvage sale situations for subsequent resale. In May 1998, Shamrock purchased 162,000 pounds of product from Stoner and Company, Inc. The product was part of a salvage operation resulting from a refrigeration failure at Bruno's, Inc. of Birmingham, Alabama, a retail store distributorship. On May 14, 1998, Shamrock sold 660 cases (41,807 pounds) of pork butts to R.W. Zant, a Los Angeles, California distributor, via Lighthouse Trading, a Newton, Iowa meat broker. Two hundred cases were sent directly to R.W. Zant, while the other 460 cases were delivered to a Los Angeles cold storage warehouse. Soon after its receipt of the 200 cases, R.W. Zant and Lighthouse notified Shamrock of complaints that the pork butts were spoiled and had a sour odor. Though Shamrock had been notified of this spoilage, it caused the other 460 cases to be delivered to Professional Food Systems, an El Paso, Texas retail store distributor. Professional Food Systems, in turn, sold some of the 60 cases of spoiled, putrid pork butts to New Mexico retail stores prior to learning the meat was adulterated. Importantly, the adulterated pork butts were recovered before they were sold to retail customers.

Friday, January 07, 2005

I'm Quitting My Coke Habit

While I no longer drink Starbucks, I'm ashamed to admit that I've been supporting the evil empire that is Coca Cola almost every day for the last few years. I don't know why my knowledge of their human rights abuses, union-hating practices, and sheer disregard for the dignity of any living creature had no practical impact on my soda consumption. But reading this article finally made it all sink in. I'm swearing it off for good. Honestly, if someone sees me with a Coke product, yank it out of my hands and pour it over my brainless head.

In this consuming ZNet article, Harsha Walia offers an argument about Western compassion (in light of the tsunami) that I've seen attempted by commentators on tip-toe in other media outlets, but not nearly as brashly or thoughtfully as Walia does in this quote and throughout the article:

Meanwhile, international humanitarian and charitable organizations that have increasingly come under scrutiny for not only inefficiency, but also due to the larger effects of “international NGO-ization” that actively hinders grassroots development and autonomy, are suddenly propelled to the forefront as saviours for the Third World. Let us be clear that there is no doubt that humanitarian work in order to save lives and provide adequate access to food and shelter is absolutely necessary. But the larger context must never be lost: international aid and NGO work will largely defuse the anger of those affected by the tsunami. Anger that again the people of the Third world are not important enough to matter; that again, preventative measures (such as early detection measures that exist in the Pacific rim) that could have been taken were considered expendable. The power and anger of the people has again been channelled into victimization to curb any political resistance.

The author's linkages between natural disaster assistance and corporate crimes against humanity are astute and I'm glad someone put them in writing. Does anyone know if Pepsi or Dr. Pepper are similarly evil? Will I have to resort to the expensive Dr. Brown's Diet Cream or Jones' FuFu Berry?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

I'm Continuing the Kristin Hersh Lovefest

For these three reasons:
  • I just received in the mail my very own copy of Live at Noe Valley Ministry and it is pure musical and comedic genius. Her story about people in CA being reviled by a newspaper photo of her with "lactating" breasts (does that mean big? nipply?) is hysterical and exemplifies society's ever-present fear of the female body and its emissions. She also performs some Muses songs, which always makes me happy. "Delicate Cutters" and "Serene" are extra-special highlights.

  • She is coming to the Iota Cafe on February 3rd, which is conveniently located near a District of Columbia Metro stop. (Clarendon, to be more precise.) I am SOOO ready for my fourth magical experience watching this woman perform. (Note that Tommy Stinson - of the Replacements and G 'N R fame [hehe] - is playing on the 4th!)