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Archive for October, 2009

1-499x387[via sociological images]

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This afternoon Obama signed the new Act to Prevent Hate Crimes. This is Obama’s first big LGBT rights move.  I sincerely hope it won’t be his last.

Read a statement from major gay rights organization here.

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500x_tumblr_kr8nybGVqn1qzmvbao1_5001[via Jezebel]

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I’ve been reading/hearing a lot about parents who are opposed to vaccinating their children. Admittedly, I am not a scientist, or particularly knowledgeable about science, so I decided to do a little reading. I came across this article in Wired, which details why vaccinating is a good idea and why there really is no scientific evidence that it will cause autism. This article is incredibly persuasive, but what struck me the most is this quote:

But researchers, alas, can’t respond with the same forceful certainty that the doubters are able to deploy — not if they’re going to follow the rules of science. Those tenets allow them to claim only that there is no evidence of a link between autism and vaccines. But that phrasing — what sounds like equivocation — is just enough to allow doubts to not only remain but to fester.

I think it’s interesting to think about how important language and messaging is to a campaign. In this case, there is only so much scientists can say without breaking ethical codes of conduct, whereas those who are opposed to vaccines can be as hyperbolic and forceful as they want. They can make sweeping claims appealing to the emotions of others, without having to worry about violating anything. Of course, many people react more to passion than to science, and this fuels the movement.

Swine flu is enough right now, I really don’t want to face another polio or measles epidemic. I hope people will read the actual scientific literature on vaccines and make rational decisions, rather than listening to people like Jenny McCarthy.

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I’m just going to post the NCLR Press Release, because it explains this wonderful news much more eloquently than I can.

THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR LESBIAN RIGHTS APPLAUDS FINAL PASSAGE of HATE CRIMES BILL

(Washington, DC, October 22, 2009) — Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) applauds the United States Senate for final passage of the hate crimes bill, now known as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The Department of Defense conference report was approved with the hate crimes bill provisions included by a vote of 68-29; earlier in the day Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii cast the final affirmative vote on a procedural motion to limit debate that cleared the last hurdle to final passage as an honor to his long service to the Senate. The conference report accompanies H.R.2647, the underlying Department of Defense Authorization bill. The measure now heads to President Obama for his signature.

The hate crimes legislation gives the Justice Department the authority to fully investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes where the victim has been targeted because of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. President Barack Obama has vowed to sign the bill.

“We thank the Senate—indeed the full Congress—for passing the hate crimes bill, and especially those who provided strong leadership on this measure,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “My heart is very full today as I think of families who have lost loved ones, of Senator Kennedy, who championed this bill for so many years, and also as I imagine all those who may be saved by this measure. I look forward to President Obama swiftly signing this measure into law.” 

On October 8, 2009, the United States House of Representatives voted 281-146 in favor of a joint House-Senate “conference report” on a defense authorization measure that also includes provisions that would expand the definition of federal hate crimes to cover attacks based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and military service.

The bill was introduced in the Senate on April 28, 2009 by the late Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), among others. At the June 25, 2009 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified that the Obama administration strongly supported the bill, stating, “The President and I seek swift passage of this legislation because hate crimes victimize not only individuals, but entire communities.”

 NCLR has long supported passage of this key measure, assisting with drafting bill provisions, drawing public attention to the problem of hate violence and the need for hate crimes legislation, and providing grassroots support necessary for its passage.

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high-heels-250x250There’s a great article in The Guardian today about flats versus heels. The author explains that wearing flats regularly instead of the heels that fashion magazines dictate is an “act of collective fashion disobedience.” She explains:

Fashion has given us shoes as decorative objects, not footwear. A couple of years ago, Prada brought out shoes whose heels were shaped as vases. They sent out a specific message about the person wearing them: that they had elevated themselves above such plebeian activities as walking. Like the towering wigs of women in the 18th century, or the hoops and bustles of the 19th, they signal a life lived entirely ornamentally.

While I appreciate the beauty of high heels, and do (on very rare occasions) put them on to feel particularly fashionable, I spend most of my life in flats – not comfort flats (and never sneakers), mind you, but flats nonetheless. My dad likes to say that women wear high heels in order to show off their chests and their butts. I’m not sure if this is really the case, but I do think that there’s this expectation that to be sexy women should be wearing high heels. A guy recently told me that he thinks women should wear high heels all the time, because it just looks better.

It does seem like many women wear heels in order to live up to some kind of beauty expectation that was largely put into place by men. In this way, I can see how not wearing heels is an act of feminist defiance. Heels are, after all,  incredibly uncomfortable (I dare you to find me a pair of 3 or 4 inch heels that you can wear comfortably all day), and they can cause long lasting back and leg pain. I will continue to wear my flats with pride, and I won’t have to worry about bringing a change of shoes with me everywhere I go.

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I must admit that I have participated in the whole slutty Halloween costume phenomenon on a few occasions – I mean modesty just doesn’t work at the West Hollywood Halloween extravaganza. But, this costume, which was recently brought to my attention, is totally unacceptable and horrifying. The costume is called “Anna-Rexia,” and consists of a woman dressing up as a slutty anorexic (see picture below). I don’t even know where to begin. I realize that Halloween is a time when political correctness is not a priority, but an anorexic costume is neither funny nor cute. Anorexia is a serious disorder that afflicts thousands of young girls. This costume, at best, trivializes a terrible disease, and at worst, suggests to young girls that anorexia is something that they should or can strive for. Moreover, think about the type of reaction this costume would elicit in a recovering anorexic who sees someone wearing it on the street. The creators of this costume should be ashamed of themselves, and I hope that there aren’t any women out there who are disrespectful enough to buy it. 

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The HAPPY Act

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 Representative Thaddeus McCotter from Michigan has introduced a bill that will allow pet owners to deduct up to $3500 in qualified pet care expenses from their taxes. HR 3501, also known as the HAPPY Act (Humanity and Pets Partnered Through Years) is a result of research that shows the emotional and physical benefits of owning a pet.  Qualified pet care expenses include routine expenses such as vet bills, but not any costs related to the acquisition or purchase of a pet. McCotter hopes that this bill will reduce the amount of pets that are abandoned because their owners cannot afford to take care of them.

I know very little about taxes and tax law, but I don’t see why this is such a crazy idea. I know from personal experience that pets can provide a great deal of comfort and stress relief. In a time when people are losing their jobs and struggling to make ends meet, it seems like a great idea to provide the means for people to be able to keep the pets that are providing them with comfort and companionship. Helping people during this financial crisis is not just about solving the big problems, but is also about providing resources so that people can get through their day-to-day lives.

You can sign a petition here to help pass this act.

To find out more about adopting a pet who has been abandoned you can visit petfinder.com for adoptable pets in your area or visit the ASPCA.

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A Nobel Peace Prize, Really?

Okay, I am a big Obama fan. I think it’s great that our country came together to vote him into office. I think it’s amazing to finally have a leader who is respected internationally, and who actually knows what he’s talking about when he gets to the podium. But, a Nobel Peace Prize?! He makes great speeches and he has great goals, but what has he actually done?  As the writers at The Frisky point out, he is far behind the accomplishments of the other American presidents who won Nobels. I also find it incredibly troubling that he is being given this award when he has yet to make good on some of his campaign promises. The healthcare debate is a mess. Our education system is a mess. We still have Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I think the mark of a good president is not only how he deals with international crises, but how he responds to the smaller battles that are being fought domestically. I sincerely hope that this award will prove to be a rallying cry – encouraging him to step up to the plate and take some real action.

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Salon.com reports on a new law in Oklahoma that is set to take effect on Nov. 1 which would post detailed information about every abortion performed in the state on the internet. The rationale behind this law: decrease the number of abortions.

This is such a gross violation of privacy, and it just shows how little a woman’s right to have control over her body and the decisions she makes about her body are valued in some places.

What seems so crazy to me is all the talk about decreasing the number of abortions as if many women out there are just dying to have an abortion. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t consider an abortion to be a form of birth control, but rather a last resort.  I think that this is the way many women feel, since having an abortion is by no means an easy choice or a pleasant process. Scaring women out of having abortions is not the way to decrease the number of abortions that are performed in this country. Instead, we need to be educating women about safe-sex practices and providing resources to women so that they feel like they can bring a child into the world and adequately care for it.

Luckily the Center for Reproductive Rights has brought a lawsuit against Oklahoma, which I sincerely hope is successful. But for now, I must say, Shame on you Oklahoma, shame on you.

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