The “v” word


Lansing – House Republicans prohibited state Rep. Lisa Brown from speaking on the floor Thursday after she ended a speech Wednesday against a bill restricting abortions by referencing her female anatomy.

Brown, a West Bloomfield Democrat and mother of three, said a package of abortion regulation bills would violate her Jewish religious beliefs that pregnancy be aborted to save the life of the mother.

“Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no,'” Brown said Wednesday.

Brown’s comment prompted a rebuke Thursday by House Republicans, who wouldn’t allow her to voice her opinion on a school employee retirement bill.

“What she said was offensive,” said Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville. “It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.”

“If I can’t say the word vagina, why are we legislating vaginas?” Brown asked Thursday at a hastily called Capitol press conference. “What language should I use?”

Brown noted “vagina” is the “medically correct term.”

“We’re all adults here,” she said.

Ummm.  Or not.

Photo(s) of the day

Love, love, love this In Focus set of the Space Shuttle Enterprise moving to NYC.  Cannot resist an interesting juxtaposition and this set has a bunch.  My two favorites:

The space shuttle Enterprise passes the Statue of Liberty on the final leg of its journey to its new Manhattan home, on June 6, 2012.(AP Photo/Richard Drew)


Viewed from the streets of New York, the Space Shuttle Enterprise makes its way up the Hudson River on June 6, 2012.(Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

And even though it’s not very interesting, as long as I have my own photo of the Enterprise at its former home, here you go:

You and your bacteria

Given the headline of this article

In Good Health? Thank Your 100 Trillion Bacteria

I was hoping to read that science was now suggesting that my overall very good health was largely a result of my great little microbiome I’ve been cultivating.  Despite the headline, that’s not actually where the story seemed to go.  Interestingly, nonetheless:

In a new five-year federal endeavor, the Human Microbiome Project, which has been compared to the Human Genome Project, 200 scientists at 80 institutionssequenced the genetic material of bacteria taken from nearly 250 healthy people.

They discovered more strains than they ever imagined — as many as a thousand bacterial strains on each person. And each person’s collection of microbes, the microbiome, was different from the next person’s. To the scientists’ surprise, they also found genetic signatures of disease-causing bacteria lurking in everyone’s microbiome. But instead of making people ill, or even infectious, these disease-causing microbes simply live peacefully among their neighbors.

The results, published on Wednesday in Nature and three PLoS journals, are expected to change the research landscape.

Over the past academic year I’ve managed to avoid a number of illnesses that have waylaid most, if not all, the members of my family other than me.  This past week every kid had a nasty cough and/or runny nose and Kim lost her voice.  I’ve been fine.  My mom rarely got sick (until that damn cancer at the end) so I’ve always assumed I’ve been fortunate to inherit a good immune system (and I figure my significant increase in the fruits and vegetable I eat ever since starting weight watchers can’t hurt either).   I’m sure all those help, but interesting to think that the many species of bacteria with which I share my body may be part of the key.  Also, I’ve never messed with them by taking an antibiotic.

Oh, and I almost forgot, of all I’ve read about bacteria in recent years, somehow I never came across this disgusting/fascinating factoid which I’m sure I’ll do all I can to spread around:

“The gut is not jam-packed with food; it is jam-packed with microbes,” Dr. Proctor said. “Half of your stool is not leftover food. It is microbial biomass.” [emphasis mine]  But bacteria multiply so quickly that they replenish their numbers as fast as they are excreted.

On media whore-dom

I meant to write a post a while back about how some of my media interviews just make me feel cheap.  It’s obvious the reporter has a point of view they want to get across and they just can’t say it themselves.  Or, for whatever reason they just feel they need somebody with PhD after their name to make a point that, honestly, anybody could.  After an interview like this I have to question whether I’m just doing this to see myself on TV or get my name in the paper.

Well, yes, at least to some degree.  The thing is, in some interviews I actually bring up relevant points related to my expert knowledge as a political scientists and these points actually inform the reporting and/or make it into the article.  I really love when that happens.  Thing is, you really don’t know which kind of interview it is going to be when it starts.  That said, if they are calling to ask about John Edwards, there’s really not a lot that political science has to contribute on presidential candidates buying the silence of their mistresses (not a lot, but actually some).  Anyway, I bring this up due to an interesting post by Drum on the topic:

President Obama is raising less money this year than he did in 2008. Quelle disaster! But wait: during the first half of 2008 Obama was in a tightly contested primary contest. This year he’s running unopposed. So it’s not very surprising that the pace of fundraising is a little less frenetic this time around

In any case, this is what a couple of political scientists told BuzzFeed’s Rebecca Elliott when she called them to talk about Obama’s money woes for an article she was working on. But apparently that didn’t make a very good story, so their comments never made it into the final piece. Jonathan Bernstein wonders if public complaints about this kind of behavior will change the way reporters operate:

[Bernstein excerpt]

I’m actually surprised this doesn’t happen more often. After all, as Jonathan points out, the existence of blogs and Facebook and Twitter and listservs makes it pretty easy for interviewees to chat about their interactions with the press. But it doesn’t actually happen all that often. I can think of several possible reasons for this:

  • The vast majority of interactions with reporters are pretty boring and not worth writing about.
  • Writing about a reporter interviewing you might sound a little conceited (“Look Ma, I’m being interviewed!”).
  • Or it might make you sound like a rube. Sophisticates take this stuff in stride.
  • Or it might make you sound like a bellyacher.
  • Maybe most reporters do a good job and there’s not really much cause for complaints in the first place.
  • Sources don’t want to risk not getting calls in the future, and dishing on reporters might get you blacklisted.

Put me down as voting for the last one.  If I was regularly bad-mouthing the reporters I talk to (and believe me, it’s been tempting) it’s a pretty safe bet that word would get around and you could no longer count on me for all that great commentary that they love so much in Slovakia.

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