Wheelchair sex!

So, a good friend of mine in junior high and high school has a professional writer, live-in girlfriend, who goes in for quite the confessional form of writing. On FB, he linked to this piece in New York magazine, where they apparently have a weekly series of somebody keeping a diary of their sex life.  Ummm, interesting.  Mostly, I just want to say that’s its really weird reading the diary of the sex life of one of your HS friends that you haven’t seen in 20+ years.

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What Mark Sanford’s win tells us

Republican districts– especially heavily Republican ones (this one voted for Romney by an 18-point margin) tend to elect Republican candidates.

 

 

Okay, I really should just leave it at that, but it’s kind of amazing to me the amount of media coverage this race has gotten given that above fact.  Mark Sanford won this race when he won the Republican primary.  I also really like Krugman’s take:

So they just convincingly voted for Mark Sanford, a man who cheated on his wife, tried to cover his actions with an absurd story about hiking the Appalachian Trail, and trespassed on his ex-wife’s property, over an exemplary Democratic candidate. And you know what? Given their preferences, this was the right thing to do.

Look, we have an intensely polarized political system, and in Congress, at least, party affiliation is basically all that matters. When Massachusetts voters chose Scott Brown because he seemed like a nice guy, they were being idiots; his character (which I suspect they misjudged, but never mind) didn’t matter, while the loss of that 60th seat in the Senate almost killed health reform.

Maybe, just maybe, you can make a case for choosing the right person for governor, regardless of party. But when you’re sending someone to Congress, all that matters is the R or D after that person’s name. It seems that conservative voters understand that; liberals and moderates should, too.

Yep.  It should also be noted that voters hate lying for personal financial gain at the expense of “the people” but they are much more forgiving about lying regarding personal failings (Bill Clinton, anyone).

Abortions, pre-term birth, and NC

So, when they’re not cutting taxes for the rich, NC Republicans seem to be about making all the laws about abortion they can.  I mentioned earlier a bill that is absolutely horrible from a public heath perspective by requiring teens (under 18) to have parental permission to discuss anything sex or drug related with a doctor.  Apparently, allowing teenagers to discuss matters confidentially with a medical professional other than a parent leads to the dissolution of the American family.  Of course, the fact that many teens are already in dysfunctional families and may damn well have good reasons to not discuss with their parents is not actually considered by the Republicans who know best.  Anyway, this bill requires parental permission for an abortion (certainly justifiable and Constitutional under most circumstances) but expects the parents to get it notarized.  Please!!

The latest abortion bill is about educating teenagers about the risk from abortions on future pre-term labor:

RALEIGH, N.C. — A proposal to require schools to teach students that abortion causes preterm births is headed for the Senate floor despite dueling University of North Carolina experts and an unclear committee vote.

Senate Bill 132 says the state’s mandated health curriculum on reproductive health and safety “shall include information about the preventable causes of preterm birth, including induced abortion as a cause of preterm birth in subsequent pregnancies.”

“It’s a bill based on science. It’s not based on political ideology,” sponsor Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke,  told the Senate Health Committee Wednesday. “It’s based on the scientific evidence that you will have a future risk of preterm birth if you decide voluntarily to have an abortion.”

What evidence is there, however, is hotly disputed within the scientific community of experts on preterm birth and reproductive health.

UNC School of Medicine Associate Professor of Pediatrics Dr.Marty McCaffrey is a member of the state’s Child Fatality Task Force. He spoke in support of the bill, calling the evidence that abortions increase risk of later preterm births “immutable.”

Citing studies and meta-studies of data, McCaffrey said evidence shows abortion as a risk factor for preterm birth “dwarfs” smoking as a risk factor.

“It’s been estimated abortion may be responsible for 31 percent of preterm births in North Carolina,” he told the committee. “It’s time to educate our young citizens about preterm birth.”

But UNC School of Medicine Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology Dr. David Grimes called the bill “unnecessary and uninformed.”

“Senate Bill 132 would establish a state-sponsored ideology,” he said. “The statement is scientifically false.”

Grimes formerly directed abortion surveillance efforts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I found a NYT piece about the Finnish study and while you certainly cannot claim that abortion “causes” pre-term labor, there’s certainly something going on there as the study controls for all the covariates that readily come to mind (i.e., socio-economic status, smoking, etc.) and the Finns are surely not a particularly conservative lot on the issue of abortion.  But here’s what the researchers have to say:

“The risk is low,” said the lead author, Reija Klemetti, a researcher at the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, “and abortion is a safe surgical procedure. But having more than two can have consequences, and this information should be included in sexual education programs.”

Now, I don’t know that I’d say the risks are “immutable” but I wonder if those saying there’s no link to pre-term birth are driven by ideology just as much as those putting it into the sex ed curriculum.  That said, if you really want to reduce abortion than the evidence is damn clear that you should be focusing your efforts on 1) birth control and 2) poverty.  I find it hard to believe that sharing this information with teenagers will have even a marginal impact on abortion rates.

Photo of the day

Amazing gallery of Solar System photos from In Focus:

This photo is almost as old as me, but amazing as ever:

December 13, 2012 marked the 40th anniversary of Apollo 17, the last manned lunar trip. Here, in this photograph from the Apollo 17 spacecraft in lunar orbit in 1972, the crescent Earth rises above the lunar horizon. (Reuters/NASA)

Babies are racist, sexist, etc.

I heard about this study on a podcast a while back, but I really like this nice summary in the Atlantic.  Short version: in watching a puppet show, babies preferred puppets that were mean to puppets that were dissimilar from themselves.  If the baby preferred graham crackers they were happy to see a puppet being mean to a green bean preferring puppet.  And vice versa.  Oh, we’re mean from the beginning, us humans.

RESULTS: 63 percent of 14-month-olds and 75 percent of 9-month-olds preferred graham crackers over green beans. (Science!) 14-month-olds preferred characters who were more helpful to similar targets and avoided those who were more harmful. In the dissimilar-target condition, in contrast, 14-month-olds showed the opposite preferences: They preferred characters who were more harmful to the dissimilar target, and avoided those who were more helpful. “A developmental trend was observed, such that 14-month-olds’ responses were more robust than were 9-month-olds’.”

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At no age did the babies prefer helpers (or harmers) across the board — the puppet’s attributes seemed to determine how the baby felt about it being helped or harmed.

IMPLICATIONS: The authors conclude, “These findings suggest that the identification of common and contrasting personal attributes influences social attitudes and judgments in powerful ways, even very early in life.” My immediate reaction is that this invokes all societal ills; racism, sexism, foodie-ism, and every other sort of discrimination against those dissimilar to us, at least partly as inborn instincts to overcome. The paper does note that “there was no effect of puppet color.” And again, as much as one could potentially make of this, it’s babies watching puppets eat graham crackers.

It may be just graham crackers, but I think it is pretty clear there’s something quite real here.  I’m sure the psychology research on stereotypes has advanced plenty in the 17 years since I’ve had a course on it, but what I remember from the time–and surely still holds true– is that stereotyping is our brain’s natural tendency and we have to actively work against it.   Anyway, it seems pretty clear that many less desirable human traits are not a product of culture, but rather are innately human.

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