Thursday, October 2, 2008

I am so sick of this debate!

You know what? Screw it. I say we overturn Roe v. Wade and let the states decide if they want to outlaw abortion.

Of course, the mother has the right to self-defense in every state. So that means that if there is a risk to her, she has the right to defend herself against an attacker. Now, one can probably say that the basic, healthy pregnancy does not involve risk to the mother; of course, healthy can become unhealthy very quickly, but I digress. Let's just look at the factors that can increase the risk to the mother, and say that if she had such a factor, she would have the right to abort, because she COULD be in danger, even if she wasn't already. After all, I can shoot someone coming at me with a gun, even if they haven't already shot at me, if I am threatened by them.

So that means that any increased risk would be a reason for the woman to feel threatened. Increased risks like having ever had cancer or an abnormal PAP, having diabetes or a family history of it, pulmonary, thyroid, heart, or kidney disease; sickle cell anemia, a blood clotting disorder, epilepsy... Or women who have had more than 3 live births, or women who need to take category C, D, or X drugs, or women who have a previous infant who weighed more than 10 pounds, or women with any kind of uterine or cervical abnormality...

Since once could EASILY say a C-section or very long labor poses a risk to the mother, anything that might cause a large baby, difficulty giving birth, or fetal distress would be a threat to the mother. Plus there's smoking and drug use, which can complicate pregnancies for the mother as well as the fetus. In fact, anyone who drinks in early pregnancy is at risk for the fetus having fetal distress, which means that they could wind up having to have a C-section, which means they are at risk. Plus anyone under 20 and over 35 is high-risk, and anyone who has a BMI less than 18.5 or greater than 30, they're high-risk, too. All of those women are at risk for serious complications and would be defending themselves by preventing a birth.

So yes, let the states ban abortion. They are perfectly free to ban it for very healthy women between age 20 and 35, with a BMI between 18.6 and 29.9, a normal uterus and cervix, no family history of diabetes or childbirth complications, less than 4 births (all of which infants were less than 10 pounds, delivered vaginally without serious tearing, none of which were past 42 weeks and none of which involved preeclampsia or post partum depression), have not had any trauma to the pelvis or abdomen in the pregnancy, have not been exposed to and agree to avoid dangerous chemicals, and who agree to abstain from drugs or alcohol. Meanwhile you can't actually restrict any of their other rights, as long as what they're doing is legal for adults their age, because that would be discrimination considering that there is no way to remove the fetus without killing it.

Good luck with that. I'm sure the five women who have had absolutely no risk to themselves in their pregnancy will be very sad to learn that they will now have to go drink a few beers if they want an abortion.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Palin and Abortion: A Part of the Debate I Just Don't Get

I don't understand Sarah Palin. I really don't. Because she claims she is pro-woman, and yet, she wishes to deny women the right to defend themselves from an attacker.

What am I talking about? Of course, she supports gun ownership. Anyone who can shoot a person attacking them, they can defend themselves.

And yet, she says: "I am pro-life. With the exception of a doctor's determination that the mother's life would end if the pregnancy continued."

Yes. If the mother's life would end. If it would END. Not, mind you, if she would wind up brain-dead or on a ventilator. Not, mind you, if she was left permanently and debilitatingly physically injured. No, the woman's life has to END.

Which means that if a man stabs me in the arm, well, I can shoot him, because he's threatening my health and safety. But if I'm pregnant and I discover I have cancer, and if I wait nine months, I'll live but I will have to get a double masectomy that I could avoid by earlier treatment, I can't be rid of the being that is threatening my health and safety. In fact, I could kill a man-- or even a child, really, it's still self defense-- because he cut off my breasts but I can't kill the child inside me that is preventing me from being able to get treatment.

Or if I have a condition that means I can't go under anesthesia or that I am allergic to an epidural, and I have placenta previa and need a C-section, well, I would survive a C-section without anesthesia, but at what cost?

Or maybe I am severely bipolar, and I wind up hurting myself or someone else because to take my medications would result in the death of my fetus?

I do understand when people argue that Roe vs. Wade should not include social and economic concerns to the woman's well-being. I get that, I really do. I don't agree with it because I believe the baby's soul enters the baby much later in pregnancy, but I do understand the concern, and would probably feel the same way if I believed the baby got their soul earlier.

But you can't limit it to life or death. There are so many things that are actual, real, physical or mental concerns (and by mental I mean psychiatric) that would mean a woman's safety and sometimes the safety of those around her would be in danger if she continued the pregnancy. Even if her life wouldn't end, she could suffer permanent disability, or kill someone else.

As long as there is a self-defense charge, a woman must have the right to abort if her health is in danger, even if her life is not. To do otherwise is to deny women the right to protect themselves from harm. We allow people to use the self-defense charge when they kill someone even if the person was psychotic, not aware they were harming someone, or did so on accident, so the argument that a baby is not being malevolent does not hold up. If the woman's health or safety is in any danger, it is self defense and must be legal. And if you think otherwise, you really can't call yourself pro-woman.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Fails

According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, we will focus all our energies on the lowest level of needs that are not met. For example, if we aren't breathing, we will not care about anything else but breathing again.

The thing is, though, besides breathing, homeostasis and excretion, it doesn't really work that way in certain people. Once we get past the lower levels, we will always care about the highest level we've achieved even if we start to fail on lower levels, but we're supposed to still put the lower levels first. For example, we will care about having friends even if our health is very bad and we lack health security, but we're still supposed to put our health first.

And yet, so many people today don't function like that. I know a girl who lacks security of health, of resources, and of property and at times even the physiological need for food. And yet she still cares more about self-esteem, respect of others, and spontaneity. She's focused at the top of the pyramid when she should be focused at the bottom.

Anorexics lack food and homeostasis and still care more about self esteem and respect of others. Many, many people today forgo sleep for security of employment and of property, or even just for friends. Many others forgo sex and sexual intimacy for confidence and respect of others; indeed, respect and achievement in out culture surpass almost all other needs. Why? Are we a culture of the mentally unbalanced? What drives us to forgo our basic needs for higher needs? If one actually acheives self-actualization and enlightenment, I can understand losing the need for all but the most basic needs, and of those they could even lose the need for sex. But the people I spoke of above, they aren't Buddhist monks. They're ordinary people who get their priorities screwed up. How does a person get to that point? What wiring in their brain comes undone?

My father always told me my priorities needed to be as follows: My health (physiological and security of health and body needs), my schoolwork (to provide, eventually, security of employment, resources, and property), then my friends and family. Is it so hard to follow?

The girl I mentioned above is allowing herself to suffer and potentially either cause irreparable harm or die (though I suspect when the need to breathe and maintain homeostasis kicks in she will reconsider how much the respect of others matters to her) because of pride. Pride has ruined more lives than any other emotion. I don't object to pride on principle, there's nothing wrong with being proud of yourself, but when we let it get away from us... The results are devastating.

Priorities. Come on people.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A little followup... this post on circumcision.

A new study has shown that male circumcision has a even higher rate of protection against STDs and HIV than expected, at 59%. It was previously thought to be about 50%. Of course, the argument about this meaning that circumcised men will not use condoms, thinking they are safe, has been trotted out again. Obviously condoms are much more effective than circumcision at preventing the spread of HIV and other STDs. They have about a 10% failure rate for HIV transmission in normal use-- meaning there's a 10% chance that a man who uses a condom every time and has sex with an HIV-positive woman will get HIV anyway. But a circumcised man who doesn't use condoms has a 41% chance of getting HIV from an HIV-positive woman. In addition, condoms protect women from HIV-positive men and circumcision does nothing for them.

This clearly means that circumcision shouldn't be touted as an answer to HIV, right?

Well, no. But those who are against circumcision aren't really looking at the real information here. Of course you can't tell a person who is circumcised that they are fully protected, they aren't. BUT. An uncircumcised man using a condom has a 10% chance of getting HIV from a positive woman. A circumcised man using a condom has a 4.1% chance. So an uncircumcised man is more than twice as likely to get HIV from a woman who is positive. That's pretty significant, and it could be used to argue that much the same way as people should use condoms AND hormonal birth control if they want to protect against pregnancy, because the risk is so decreased (condoms have a 14% failure rate, the pill has a 5% failure rate, so when you use them together there's only a 0.7% failure rate), men should both be circumcised and use condoms to prevent HIV.

However, even that's not the full story. Let's say you live in the United States, where 0.6% of adults (which we are assuming is your dating pool) are HIV positive. That means there's probably about a 0.6% chance that any given partner of yours would be HIV positive, if you don't know their status and you don't know if they have any risk factors, obviously the numbers would change if they were a drug user or something and obviously they would change in the other direction if they were a virgin.

Now, the risk of infection for an uncircumcised man from one exposure to an HIV positive woman without using a condom is 3%. So the risk for an uncircumcised man of getting HIV from a woman of unknown HIV status, without using a condom, would be 0.018%. The risk when using a condom would be 0.0018%. The risk for a circumcised man, using a condom, with a woman of unknown status, would be 0.000738%. Both are pretty low rates and the difference is actually only 0.001062%.

I'm kind of the opinion that the benefits in preventing HIV and other STDs is sufficient to outweigh the risks of any complications from the procedure itself, but probably not enough to warrant doctors encouraging patients to do so, so ultimately, it should neither be considered necessary nor harmful and should be up to the parents and their cultural and religious needs, until more evidence is in. Still, I find it interesting how the studies are being manipulated to support one side or another.

Also, if you are going to post comments, please be aware that I don't really care to hear middle-aged men blame their lack of sexual prowess on their circumcision. If your significant other hates your sex life, then however convenient it might be to blame something you had no control over, your time and energy would probably be better spent giving her a massage and engaging in some roleplay.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

And if you think HIV doesn't cause AIDS, I'll probably laugh in your face.

Apparently the HIV virus is most effective in people of African descent due to genetics.

Add to that the fact that a parasitic worm common in contaminated water sources, like in third-world countries, can increase the effects of AIDS and I am beginning to see why so many people in Africa, and African-Americans, think that HIV was engineered to kill black people.

Think about it-- it targets one race, a race that has a long history of being subjugated simply because they were unlucky enough to live in a region of the world that can't support agriculture and domestication of animals well enough to give them a competitive edge. The people who are most affected by it are Africans/African-Americans, poor people, people who have multiple partners, drug users and homosexuals. It's incurable, only treatable with expensive and complicated drug regimins, and can even pass to children from mothers. Basically, if there was a designer illness made up by right-wing mad scientists (right wing because it targets promiscuity and homosexuals), HIV sounds like a pretty good bet.

Of course, I don't actually beleive it is, for two reasons-- first of all, we already figured out that the original HIV was in monkeys and passed to humans through hunters in Africa handling monkey blood. Second of all, there are major flaws in the design from a mad-scientist perspective. First of all, it's got such a long dormant period. While a certain dormant period is required for a disease to be successful, 10 years just to have the first symptoms is pretty excessive, and in that time people can successfully reproduce, and there's a chance that their kids won't get it-- not a super chance, but a chance. Also, it can ONLY pass through blood or semen, so it's limited to people who are exposed to those things coming from multiple people. Doctors and nurses who handle open wounds and needles are a high-risk group, which doesn't make much sense from a mad eugenicist's perspective because we need doctors and nurses. And because of rapes, many people who the eugenicist probably wouldn't want to wipe out have been dying.

Basically, it's too slow to transmit, too slow to kill, and too easy to affect people you actually want to keep around. Besides, if any government or organization was actually racist enough to commit such a heinous crime they'd probably have it attack Native Americans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, etc as well. Or some up with a different disease to do that.

Still, it's really no wonder why so many conspiracy theorists and even normal people believe HIV is man-made. Oregon State University did a study in 2002-2003 that said 48% of African-Americans believed HIV was a man-made virus, 27% thought it was made by the US government and 15% thought it was designed as a form of genocide. I'm sure this new research will probably only fuel those opinions, and I can understand why they persist, no matter how detrimental they are to public-health campaigns.

I'll go put on my tinfoil hat now...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Delicious, nutritious frankenfruit

And in continuation of my last post... GMOs.

Genetically modified organisms. For consumption. The HORROR!

Actually, I strongly support GMOs for several reasons. First of all, I have no squick factor about eating something that's not "natural," in fact, I hope they come up with lab-grown meat soon. After all, pretty much nothing we eat is remotely close to it's original state unless you are a hunter, or a naturalist. Corn was originally a tiny grain, teosinte. Tomatoes? Bred to be bigger, meatier, and redder. In fact, most of the food we put in our mouths has about as much in common with their untampered ancestors as a pug has with a wolf.

But surely genetic modification is different!

Plant breeding is genetic modification. The only difference with GMO vs. heavy selective breeding is that GMO allows us to introduce gene combinations that we want, rather than waiting for them to appear at random. So if we want a papaya that won't get attacked by a certain fungal infection, and the fungal infection doesn't attack pineapples because the pineapples have a certain chemical in their skins, we don't have to wait for a random mutation in the papaya to protect it, we can simply make the papaya produce the pineapple chemical. Then, we can test the fruit and make sure it's safe and still tastes the same, and if it does, voila, problem solved.

We can genetically modify food so there's much less unusable waste, so it takes up less space, and so it has less impact on the environment. We can make it so it doesn't need pesticides or fungicides. We can even make it more nutritious and grow in poor soils or where there's not much water, so people in third world countries can grow them and thus fight famines.

The only reason we aren't already doing such wonderful things with GMOs is that they are all patented by the corporations that designed them, and what's more, those corporations program their plants with a "kill" gene that makes them die after a year and their seeds useless. As a result, farmers keep having to go back and buy more, which is good for the company but sucky for the farmers, and impossible for poor subsistence farmers.

So I love GMOs in theory, and I certainly wouldn't hesitate to eat a GMO crop-- they're pretty heavily tested before going to market. But what I think needs to change is the following:

1. Some government funding going from international food aid to developing GMOs that are nutritious, safe, and grow in extremely poor conditions-- and have no kill gene.

2. Require companies that develop kill gene GMOs to pay taxes to go to the above.

3. Regulate, regulate, regulate. Test everything. Not that they don't do this already, but it's still a good idea.

4. Encourage GMO companies to contribute to a pro-GMO public awareness campaign talking about safety etc. They'd do it in a heartbeat, I'm sure.

5. AS much as I hate to admit it... require GMO labeling. If there's GMOs in it, the consumer should know. It's only fair and it makes it look less sneaky and dishonest.

But regardless of the issues, I don't get the anti-GMO crowd. It's not going to kill you. In fact, it might be healthier for you. Get over it.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The organic problem...

There are few things I understand less than people who buy organic food when they can't really afford food, period.

Nonaestima is like that. She's currently unemployed and ran through most of her savings, and since she's fresh out of college she wouldn't qualify for unemployment. Ryter is paying her part of the rent, a fairly hefty financial burden, and she can't get on the lease yet because she's not employed. And yet, she insists on eating organic foods only.

Let me clear something up first of all. For people who do not have a history of bad reactions or allergic reactions to pesticide traces, who wash their foods before they eat them, there is NOTHING WRONG with non-organic fruits, vegetables, and grains. There is NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE in health benefits or quality; the environmental impact is slightly better but you're even better off sticking to local and seasonal foods.

Pesticides on fruits and vegetables shipped to or used within the US are tested for safety. The only time non-organic pesticides should be a concern is if you have a small pet, like a rodent or a lizard, that eats the veggies or fruits, because such a small animal might have a theoretical problem from eating foods with pesticides. Do I agree with pesticide use? Not entirely. I don't like many pesticides, as an ecologist. But I also know they won't hurt ME, and that the current organic labeling system is bullshit. So I'd buy organic meats, maybe, and certainly organic liver; organic farmed fish are preferable as well; but for fruits and veggies, I'll buy what looks freshest, what's local, and what's in season (because that means it's not shipped from the Southern Hemisphere).

But I don't fault people who buy organic food in general. It's not my problem if you want to spend more for the same thing with a pesticide derived directly from plants instead of from a chemical derived from a plant or mineral extract. My beef is with people who insist on buying it when they could barely afford the non-organic version.

A can of regular beans is what, 40 cents? Organic beans are closer to a dollar, and almost never on sale. So basically people are deciding to take in half as many calories, but they're "better" calories somehow? Despite the fact they come from the same species of bean, canned in the same way? Sure, many people are overweight and can benefit from eating fewer calories, but in my experience, the poor young professionals who insist on organic-only are also the skinny types who really can't afford to be skipping meals. And in the case of Nonaestima, she's also recovering from abdominal surgery and a recent hemorrhage. Not the time to lower caloric intake.

I've even read about people complaining that the WIC offices don't allow organic foods. Now, I have a few issues with the WIC food lists, namely that as far as I can tell they only seem to include crappy, sugary, heavily packaged foods and a person living on them probably wouldn't get anything near proper nutrition, which is supposedly the point. But ORGANIC foods?

Know the term "beggars can't be choosers?" Call it un-PC, but if you can barely feed yourself normal food, you don't get to be picky. I want to see things like seasonal, inexpensive fresh fruits and veggies included on WIC lists, but it's completely irrational to expect them to let people who clearly need food aid desperately enough to qualify for WIC (and it's not just based on income level, there's a bunch of qualifiers) buy expensive organic foods that really have no difference. And people will refuse food that isn't organic! FREE food! Call me a penny-pincher but I always like free food, even if it tastes like crap. Oy.

Ultimately, I guess if you want to starve yourself rather than eat perfectly good non-organic foods, that's your right. But don't refuse gifts of food, or ask that gifts be organic only, or demand that the government help you pay for your fancy organic food. Because non-organic food won't kill you, and to be honest, most of the time it tastes just as good or better.