Saturday, May 30, 2009

Where does Sonia Sotomayor stand on reproductive choice? had a link to this L.A. Times article that describes Sonia Sotomayor's unclear record on freedom of reproductive choice. Here's another RHRealityCheck post on Sotomayor, which discusses both her record on reproductive choise, and her judicial record in general.
She sticks to the rule of law, respects precedent and writes thoughtful and reasoned opinions. She was nominated to the federal district court by George H.W. Bush. Her decisions are left-leaning insofar as she generally seeks to protect Constitutional rights by supporting religious freedom and free speech, and she often sides with the plaintiffs in discrimination cases - hardly "activist" material. But she's not a liberal dream by any stretch. She has some bad First Amendment cases to her name (Doninger v. Niehoff, where she sided with a school that disqualified a student from running for senior class secretary after the student posted a vulgar school-related message on her blog), and some bad Fourth Amendment ones (United States v. Howard, where she held it was constitutional for state troopers to entice suspects away from their cars in order to allow other troopers to search the vehicles for drugs). Those cases, though, are the exceptions rather than the rule; generally, Sotomayor follows a fairly consistent Constitutional philosophy, and errs on the side of maintaining rather than limiting rights.

Domestic violence is more deadly than swine flu

Feminist Peace Network points out that While We Were Obsessing About Swine Flu, 68 People Died From Domestic Violence.

US covert military actions continue even though Bush is gone

Conn Hallinan has an interesting analysis of continuing covert operations by the Obama Administration at Foreign Policy in Focus.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Electrinic Frontier Foundation launches copyright education website

As someone who has to deal with copyright law every day, I can tell you that the entertainment industry seems to go to extremes to protect what it considers its legal right to prevent copying of the material it has produced. Carried to extremes, this stifles artistic creativity and freedom of speech.

Now the Electronic Frontier Foundation has launched a new website to give help teachers teach their students a more balanced view of copyright law. Here is the press release announcing the new web site. A link to the actual web site is here.

Gender & Sexuality Law Blog on Sonia Sotomayor

“Justice Sotomayor” - A View from Columbia Law School

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Freedom of speech" versus women's privacy and safety

You can read about the disturbing case of Barnes v. Yahoo over at Feminist Law Professors. Here is the more recent post, and here is the original post.

OK Policy Blog comments on health care coverage initiative

David over at OK Policy Blog has this commentary on the Oklahoma State Coverage Initiative.

I'm not sure what I think of either the initiative or the commentary, but it's sure an interesting read. The SCI is apparently a project of Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland which has been developed over the past two years. The goal is to find a way to bring health care coverage to the 640,000 Oklahomans who lack it. Last week a meeting of the SCI reportedly reached consensus on a way to do this. According to David:
The cornerstone of the plan would be a gradual expansion of Insure Oklahoma, the public-private partnership which provides subsidized employer-based coverage for working adults, along with a public product for eligible adults without access to employer coverage. The program, which is funded by a portion of tobacco tax revenues approved by voters in 2004, has now grown to cover just under 20,000 Oklahomans, which is about half of the capacity under existing revenues. The principal SCI recommendation is to generate new revenues by assessing a dedicated fee on all health insurance claims paid by health insurers in Oklahoma. It is estimated than an initial 1 percent fee would generate $78 million that, along with matching federal funds, could insure an additional 80,000 Oklahomans.
David also summarizes other parts of the plan:
In addition to expanding Insure Oklahoma through a targeted assessment, the SCI plan includes several other components:
  • It endorsed creation of lower-cost commercial health plans targeting younger adults through the waiving of mandated benefits, as was recently enacted by HB 2026. This approach is unlikely to have any real impact on expanding coverage as insurers already enjoy considerable flexibility in the individual market and limited-benefit plans have proven unpopular with consumers;
  • It added a recommendation that OK Policy has strongly advocated to extend Medicaid coverage to all adults with incomes below the poverty level. Currently, Medicaid extends to less than 40 percent of the poverty level, and this population of very-low income adults is unlikely to be able to afford any of the cost-sharing obligations required of Insure Oklahoma
  • The group weighed recommending an individual health insurance mandate, in conjunction with guaranteed issue of coverage, but stopped short. Instead, they are calling for a variety of strategies to “induce” Oklahomans to purchase coverage, stating that “the failure of these strategies will require policymakers to consider mandating that all individuals secure health insurance”.
David admits that it's uncertain how well the plan will work, but seems to believe that on the whole it "represents a realistic, middle-ground approach to tackling this huge and urgent issue." Meaning, perhaps, that it doesn't seriously tread on toes of insurance companies and won't arouse their well funded opposition, even if it can't result in significant expansion of health care coverage?

Single payer health-insurance is often criticized on the grounds that it is not a middle-of-the-road, realistic approach. But single-payer, or possibly the creation of a voluntary public health care plan that could compete with private insurers, seems to be the only effective ways to actually contain health care costs and provide universal coverage. If the Oklahoma State Coverage Initiative is a realistic and effective approach, surely it will succeed without any support from me. Given what I've read, it's difficult for me to work up any enthusiasm about working to support it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Inter Press Service on Sonia Sotomayor

U.S.: Obama Picks Latina Judge as First Supreme Court Nominee

Another interesting post on gay marriage from the Gender & Sexuality Law Blog

Reflecting on The Way to Win Marriage Rights from the Perspective of Roe v. Wade

Why not just get rid of marriage?

Yesterday, as most everyone seemed to expect, the California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of last November's anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8. Feminist Law Professors cross-posted Katherine Frank's interesting analysis of Marriage in California After Strauss v. Horton, which also appeared on the Gender & Sexuality Law Blog. On this second blog, after a bit of exploration, I found a wonderful post from the same author which argued that it would make the most sense for the California Supreme Court to disestablish marriage.
So is marriage more than a word?  Did the justices of the California Supreme Court simply not “get it” when they asked why Prop 8 didn’t just deny same sex couples a word, a label, the nomenclature of marriage? The plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case insisted that the fight is not simply over a word.  It is a fight for dignity and respect.  They claim and indeed insist that denying the label marriage to the unions of same sex couples is an insult, a degradation, and a dignity harm.  Yet to do so is to take for granted that marriage is something sacred, something to be honored and something that dignifies those who earn its blessings.  It is to argue from within a normative universe whose values you take for granted and embrace.  And it is to base your legal arguments on the legitimacy of those values - the recognition of the harm alleged in the Prop 8 case depends on it.
Hear, hear.

Update on email hoax case

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that a Massachusetts judge has ruled that a dorm room search for evidence of a "prank" email was illegal.

I reported on this case a about a month ago. While the email in question wasn't criminal, it wasn't exactly a "prank," either. It involved outing a gay student to a campus electronic mailing list. Unfortunately, the student whose dorm room was searched was identified as a suspect on the dubious grounds that he had computer expertise.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Trying not to do anything rash

This afternoon, some friends came over to see my little house. One of these women told me she thought that the plant with shiny red leaves that has spread through so much of my back yard might be poison ivy. I'd had that same thought myself, but concluded it was something different. I've pulled lots of it out of my yard, and haven't had a reaction, so I'd thought I had nothing to worry about.

But, then again, back when I was a Girl Scout in Philadelphia, I used to get the worst cases of poison ivy. Once, I had a big red scar on my face and one eye was almost swollen shut. Another time, I managed to get a poison ivy rash in the dead of winter. Hearing my friend explain how much this thing looked like poison ivy, I could feel myself start to itch. If this stuff turned out to be my old nemesis, I was going to be in for some itchy times indeed.

What to do?

I did a web search on poison ivy pictures and found the Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac Information Center. A quick search of their site turned up a photo of the thing growing in my back yard, which appears to be something called pepper vine. Comments on the site said that this plant can also cause a rash, but so far I haven't gotten one.

This must be my lucky week. I don't have poison ivy and the Terro got rid of the ants.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Antipathy and anticipation

For the past week or two, there have been a very few ants wandering aimlessly around my kitchen counter. I could trace them back to a line that was marching along my living room basement. My kitchen is mostly clean. It hasn't particularly gotten dirtier in the past couple of days. But for some reason, this morning, the right-hand countertop and the cabinet shelves above it were swarming with ants. A bit of investigation showed that they had found a little chocolate pastry from the supermarket that comes clad in only a cardboard package. Discarding the pastry, wiping up under the honey and jam, and murdering thousands of ants with my dishrag did little to discourage them. Convinced that a bounty of sugary stuff awaits them in my kitchen, they just keep coming.

It's time to get serious about ant eradication. I went out to Ace Hardware and got the Terro. Tonight when I get home I'll put it out. It's sugar syrup with boric acid in it, and I've had good luck with it in the past. You pour out a little bit of the stuff on a flat piece of cardboard or plastic and put it where the ants will find it. At first, you draw more ants than you can imagine. They all come out to get this wonderful treat and dutifully carry it back to their nest, where it kills them and their offspring. Ants are difficult not to admire for their hard work and team spirit. I kind of hate to do them in. But it's kinda gross when they climb all over everything. (By this afternoon they had even infested Spot's dish of cat food.) At least with the Terro, I figure they'll die happy.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My little house

Here are some photos that I've taken of my house since I've moved in. As I've said before, it's a sweet little house, but it's going to keep me busy doing repairs for a while.

Friday, May 15, 2009


You won't see any posts for a few days because I've gone to the Herland Spring Retreat. See you there?

GOP ought to be made to live up to its health-care rhetoric

So writes Lois Uttley in an interesting analysis of the health care debate at

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cooking with the sun... usually practical in Oklahoma nine months of the year. But this spring is a little bit different, as Peak Oil Hausfrau discovered when she tried to demonstrate solar cooking to a Sierra Club outing last weekend.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The cure was worse than the disease

I don't know why I happened to remember this, but I did. Back in the mid-1970s, during the Ford Administration, there was great concern about the possible public health effects of an outbreak of swine flu. The flu outbreak itself was relatively minor, but the vaccine that the federal government encouraged everyone to get had serious side effects.

Wondering if I remembered this right, I did a Google search and found this Los Angeles Times article that tells the story. The death of a soldier at Ft. Dix in New Jersey raised concerns that the deadly influenza virus that killed so many people in 1918 had returned. More than 40 million US citizens received a vaccine against the flu. More than 500 people contracted a disorder that causes temporary paralysis from this vaccine, and 25 people died.

In the current wave of concern about the H1N1 flu virus that has spread internationally, I think it's well to remember that it may be impossible to predict exactly what will happen with an outbreak of any contagious disease. Ironically, reports that "Acting CDC Director Richard Besser...said U.S. health officials are examining whether people who received flu shots for the swine flu in 1976 may have some level of protection from the current swine flu."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

US also imprisons journalists for dubious reasons

Yesterday I noted that journalist Roxana Saberi had been released by the Iranian government after being imprisoned for several months on trumped-up espionage charges. Over at I found a piece by Glenn Greenwald (originally published on that documents several cases of the US government imprisoning foreign journalists for basically no reason.

For instance:
Right now -- as the American press corps celebrates itself for demanding Saberi's release in Iran -- the U.S. continues to imprison Ibrahim Jassam, a freelance photographer for Reuters, even though an Iraqi court last December -- more than five months ago -- found that there was no evidence to justify his detention and ordered him released. The U.S. -- over the objections of the CPJ, Reporters Without Borders and Reuters -- refused to recognize the validity of that Iraqi court order and announced it would continue to keep him imprisoned.

Feminist author Marilyn French dead at 80

Carol Jenkins has an obituary at the Women's Media Center site.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Right here in Oklahoma City

There is this really cool blog: Peak Oil Hausfrau. Check it out.

Roxana Saberi freed

The government of Iran has freed jailed reporter Roxana Saberi. BBC NEWS has the details. Saberi was not acquitted on appeal. Her sentence was reduced and suspended. She was banned from working as a journalist in Iran for five years. This seems to me to be a tacit admission on the part of the Iranian government that the spying charges against her were baseless. If she has really been spying on them, would they allow her to come back in five years and do the same thing?

According to the BBC, "her partner, film director Bahman Ghobadi - whose work has won prizes in Cannes and Berlin - said Ms Saberi was a victim of Iran's `political games'." That sounds about right.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

State budget for 2010 won't be OK

The OK Policy Blog has the details.
In spite of all the attention paid in Oklahoma in recent weeks to such urgent matters as the Ten Commandments, stem cells, and the Flaming Lips, the real work of the 2009 legislative session has been unfolding largely behind the scenes as key legislative leaders from the House and Senate try to hammer out an agreement on the budget for the upcoming year, FY ‘10. From conversations I had last week at the Capitol with a number of legislators, fiscal staff, lobbyists, and agency personnel, it appears that the main outlines of the budget have been decided, although some key issues and details remain to be determined.
Apparently, most state agencies will be facing budget cuts of 7.5 to 10 percent in fiscal year 2010.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Writing on

Posting here may become a little bit sporadic in the near future as I not only have a bunch of work to do on my house, but I am also trying to get back to work on Urban Legends, my convenience store novel. It's the first novel I started to write, during National Novel Writing Month in 2006. So, not knowing anything about what I was doing, I started right in on a complicated multi-plot novel. I have often said Urban Legends is what might have resulted if George Eliot had written a Naiad novel. Except, George Eliot  was really good at writing complicated multi-plot novels, and I am not--at least not yet. (If you're not familiar with Naiad Press, you could check out their Wikipedia entry. If you aren't into following links and doing research today, your average Naiad novel was a sort of Harlequin romance for lesbians.)

Anyway, I've been floundering around a bit, wondering what I am going to do with Urban Legends. It's a mess.  I tell myself that we learn by making messes. Maybe I should give it up as a writing exercise that has taken me as far as it can. But the truth is, I'm kind of in love with the characters, and I'm kind of in love with the idea of a novel about lesbians who hand out in a convenience store in downtown Oklahoma City. So I've been re-reading George Eliot's Middlemarch and Dusty's Queen of Hearts Diner by Lee Lynch, trying to figure out some stuff about how to re-build this novel.

Wish me luck.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Thanks, but no thanks

The Daily Women's Health Policy Report said on May 6 that the president of America's Health Insurance Plans has offered to end the practice of charging women more than men for private health insurance.
About 9% of U.S. residents, including about 5.7 million women, are insured through individual policies. Unlike employer-sponsored plans, premiums for individual insurance policies typically charge women higher premiums than men (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/5). Women in these plans can be charged 25% to 50% more than men for the same coverage, according to the Times. Insurers say the disparity results from women using more health care than men, especially during their childbearing years.
Eliminating this form of discrimination against women sounds like a great idea, right? But wait, there's a catch.

Democrats, including President Obama and congressional leaders, have proposed creating a public insurance plan that would compete with private insurers. During a congressional hearing on how to provide health insurance to people who don't have it, Karen Ignagni, president of AHIP, made the offer to end discrimination against women seeking private insurance--if the government doesn't create the public health insurance plan.

Now let's reason this out. Most likely, the proposed public insurance plan would not discriminate against women. Which means lots and lot of women--maybe as many as 5.7 million of them--would stop giving their money to private insurers and sign up for the public plan. As I've written in a previous post, the option to choose a public health plan has significant drawbacks to the option of creating a single-payer health insurance program. But this situation makes it obvious that private insurers don't want to have to compete with a public plan, which would probably offer superior care at a lower cost than private insurance. I don't think we should let the private insurers try to bargain their way out of this one.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cinco de Mayo, a few days later

I always forget what Cinco de Mayo celebrates, so I did a Google search on it. Then, I had to leave for work on May 5th before I'd finished the post. But it seems to me that the information is still worth knowing.

According to Wikipedia:
Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for "fifth of May") is a regional holiday in Mexico, primarily celebrated in the state of Puebla, with some limited recognition in other parts of Mexico.[1][2] The holiday commemorates the Mexican army's unlikely defeat of French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín.[3][4]

This is not at all the same as Mexican Independence Day, which fell on Sept. 16, 1810. Nevertheless, it represented a significant victory by the Mexican army over a much larger French force.

According to
The French had landed in Mexico (along with Spanish and English troops) five months earlier on the pretext of collecting Mexican debts from the newly elected government of democratic President (and Indian) Benito Juarez. The English and Spanish quickly made deals and left. The French, however, had different ideas.

Under Emperor Napoleon III, who detested the United States, the French came to stay. They brought a Hapsburg prince with them to rule the new Mexican empire. His name was Maximilian; his wife, Carolota. Napoleon's French Army had not been defeated in 50 years, and it invaded Mexico with the finest modern equipment and with a newly reconstituted Foreign Legion. The French were not afraid of anyone, especially since the United States was embroiled in its own Civil War.
Wikipedia notes that the holiday is of limited importance in Mexico, but that it serves in the United States as a way for Mexican-Americans to celebrate their heritage--much the same role that St. Patrick's Day plays for US citizens of Irish descent. Not only that, the Mexican Army, though victorious at Puebla, was unable to keep the French from installing Maxmillian I as Emperor of Mexico in 1864. Eventually, however, the democratically elected government of Benito Juarez  was able to regain power with the help of large quantities of weapons that had been conveniently "lost" by US forces near the Mexican border. Juarez executed Maxmillian in 1867. suggests that the Mexican victory at Puebla on Cinco de Mayo, 1862 may have played a role in allowing the US government to survive long enough to aid Juarez.
The Mexicans had won a great victory that kept Napoleon III from supplying the confederate rebels for another year, allowing the United States to build the greatest army the world had ever seen.  This grand army smashed the Confederates at Gettysburg just 14 months after the battle of Puebla, essentially ending the Civil War.
This year the celebration of this famous victory over European imperialism may have been subdued because of swine flu and difficult economic conditions. Here's hoping that next year will be better.

Bill to strengthen grocery tax rebate unlikely to pass Oklahoma Legislature this session

Oklahoma Policy Institute has the details.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

There are worse things than being fat...

...including the health problems often caused by popular weight-loss supplements. This Los Angeles Times story describes the side-effects that caused the Food and Drug Administration to recall the weight-loss supplement known as hydroxycut.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The kitty in the window

I took this a couple of weeks ago before I got rid of the pool. Spot likes to sit in my kitchen window and look out at the back yard.