My Rant on Pseudo-Science

April 23, 2008 at 7:15 pm (Current Events, science)

Alright, so I have admittedly ignored my blog for too long, but I have some good excuses.  I graduated with my PhD, moved across the country, moved in with my fiance (finally) and bought a house.  In the last month.  Wew.  So it was going to take a big kick in the pants to get me to write again, but I just saw the motivation I needed:

Apparently diet can now determine the gender of a child.  And thank god SOME people are being skeptical!  I guess I can throw out everything I learned during my PhD training in cancer research, my B.S. degree in Genetics as well as my high school and junior high biology.  Apparently the father’s contribution of either an X chromosome (for girls) or a Y chromosome (for boys) can be trumped by the mother consuming more calories rich in things like potassium and vitamin C.

Say it with me people:  this is BULLSHIT SCIENCE.  And I’m using the word “science” extremely loosely here.  There is NO WAY that once a woman has conceived and is carrying a developing fetus, that anything she does determines the sex.  Her actions may well determine characteristics of the child, even sexual orientation as some studies suggest, but the GENDER of the child is fully determined by whether it was conceived with a sperm containing and X or a Y sex chromosome.  Plain and Simple, and we have known this for decades.  So number one, why was the “research” even done in the first place and number two, why would ANYONE believe even a word of it?

Try this on for size:  maybe women who are carrying a male child are driven to consume more calories for some reason.  And I even have a semi-plausible explanation – female reproductive organs are the “default” system when babies are developing, so perhaps the influx of hormones (which are lipid based) and the energy expended to produce male organs is more calorically costly.  That took me all of 3 seconds to think up.  You’d think these “researchers” could have come up with a more plausible explanation.  It is also very plausible that women carrying male fetuses crave foods rich in certain minerals and vitamins.

So lets review:  there are ALWAYS multiple ways to correlate two seemingly related events.  For example, studies have shown that kids that play violent video games tend to be more violent and unlawful in real life.  Well, perhaps its not the video games turning them into hulligans, rather, children that have a predisposition towards violence seek out violent video games.  I certainly wouldn’t ever choose to play a violent video game.  So back to this hackneyed bullshit study.  Instead of throwing away decades of knowledge that tell us that the sex chromosome in the sperm determines a fetus’s gender, perhaps we can come up with a different correlation that doesn’t spit in the face of all known genetics and developmental biology.

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Electability

October 6, 2007 at 9:20 pm (Current Events, politics, presidental race)

I hate the word Electability. It is being used so much during this current presidential race and I really just despise everything about the idea of it. Electability is obviously not a real word but I think we can all gather what it means. The media and candidates alike have latched on to the idea of electability to tell us, as citizens and as voters, who we should vote for, because they are the most likely person to be voted for. Follow my logic? Neither did I, because its ridiculous. This is being thrown around a lot, especially in the current race, because there are somewhat “non-traditional” contenders in the race, i.e. non-white and non-male.

The reason that I think the idea of electability is so insidious is that it heavily influences voters. For instance, Rudy Giuliani has let it be known, by polling for his electability, that if (and its assumed that she will be, I guess because she’s so darned electable) Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, he would be the GOP candidate most likely to win. I’m sorry, aren’t actual elections supposed to decide things like that? So then American voters, like the sheep many of them are, are expected to vote for the candidate that they are expected to elect. This circular logic has the potential of completely skewing elections, which is of course the entire point of it.

No individuals I know would avoid voting for a candidate due to their race or gender, however, many individuals I know (myself included) have said that they don’t think the “American people” would elect a black candidate, or a woman, or any other non-white male.  So where’s the gap? Where’s the disconnect? I believe that the fault lies with the pundits and talking heads and poll after poll telling us who the “American people” will elect.  We ARE the American people, and we can elect whoever we damn well please, whether its a woman, an African American, a Hispanic, a Caucasian, a Muslim, a homosexual, an atheist.  A couple months ago, NYTexan on BlueBloggin wrote about the presidential primaries, and why it is our chance to really be heard and make our opinions be heard loud and clear through the electoral process.  It is drilled into our heads to only vote for people that could be “real contenders”, causing everyone to vote for the same old generic, main-stream candidate time after time.  We need to get that rhetoric out of our heads.  It is only true if we buy into it.

Don’t let them use the herd mentality to influence our votes.  Look where it has gotten us so far.

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A Farewell to Rove

September 19, 2007 at 4:00 pm (Current Events, politics, The Atlantic Monthly)

I have unfortunately been too busy to read any books lately, but in the little snatches of time I can steal throughout the day I grab my new favorite short-term reading source:  “The Atlantic Monthly”.  I’ve been eying this great magazine for a while now and a few months ago I gave myself the present of the subscription.  The articles are long, but well written and very in depth.  I find that I’m learning a lot about very diverse subjects that I normally wouldn’t seek out information on.  The September issue focuses a lot on the failed Bush administration – “failed” is their word, not mine (although I agree).  It had a feature article on Karl Rove, a man that I have long disliked, but really didn’t know a lot about.  So in honor – or celebration – of his departure from the White House, here is what I learned about “The Architect” from the wonderful article, “The Rove Presidency” written by Joshua Green:

  • He is not a college graduate.  He attended the University of Utah for a very short time before quitting to take a job with the College Republicans (apparently one needs not be in college to belong), he was definitely ambitious for a career in politics from the beginning.  So here we have a college drop-out as one of Bush’s top advisers.  No one would argue that Rove isn’t intelligent, but he is self-educated, and with self-education you can focus on only what you want to learn and filter out the rest.  Certainly not a well-rounded or complete education.
  • His grand plan for taking back the government by the Republicans was to have a candidate (GWB) run on platforms that would attract a wider variety of voters.  A prime example of this is Bush’s (Rove’s) stand on immigration.  Bush is widely criticized by the GOP for his views and plans regarding immigration, but if you think about it, those policies did attract a lot of immigrant/Latino voters for both of his elections.
  • He came to the campaign and to the White House with 5 major ideas, and thankfully they were not all successful.  (1) Education standards, i.e. “No Child Left Behind” – this was the first policy passed, although its success is highly questionable and it may not be renewed.  (2) Passing “faith-based initiatives” to direct government money to religious organizations – isn’t this patently unconstitutional?  Although very typical of our evangelical executive branch.  (3)  Privatize Social Security – this was his pet project, and we all know that it went over like a lead balloon, thank god.  (4) Private health-savings accounts, instead of Medicare – again, like privatizing social security, the average citizen should not be held responsible for managing their own retirement or health insurance.  Its risky and doomed for failure.  (5) Reform immigration laws to appeal to the growing Hispanic population.  Also another raging success.  This was in such conflict with the GOP base that it really never stood a chance, although such blatant pandering to Hispanics is quite a bold choice.
  • President William McKinley is his hero.  The GOP really took hold during and after McKinley’s presidency, and it is this series of events that Rove has tried to emulate.
  • Pretty much everyone on Capital Hills, GOP and Dems alike, think he’s an uppity asshole.  The author of the article interviewed Republicans and Democrats that said he bullies our elected representatives around like he is actually in higher standing than them, even though, until just a couple years ago, he had no official title in the White House.  He is compared unfavorably to the “Big, booming voice of Oz”.  He and Bush are said to be arrogant and jerky to most people around them, which is one of the main reasons why no one would work with them on getting the majority of his 5 policies passed.  Bush worked cooperatively on with Dems. on the “No child left behind” act, but inexplicably abandoned that cooperative nature for later policies.  Maybe after 9/11 he had the Dems cowed for so long he thought it was no longer necessary.

Granted the article is obviously written with a bias against the Bush administration, but frankly, its hard to write about it without a bias these days.

I have been thoroughly enjoying all of these articles.  In the same magazine there was a great one written about Bush’s former lead speech-writing, Michael Gerson, another ego maniacal evangelical Christian.  That article was actually written by another Bush speech writer, Matthew Scully, so the perspective on the situation was quite interesting.

So a final farewell to Rove, you certainly won’t be missed by me and my fellow liberals.  However, I’m sure your words and wisdom will never be far from our President’s mind, even while you are “spending quality time” with your family in Texas.

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All Kansans Aren’t Idiotic Hicks, Just The Ones That Make The News

September 12, 2007 at 3:56 pm (Current Events, Kansas, politics)

Thank you G for sending me this article and making me proud all over again for being a Kansan!!

 

Horrible antics of college Republicans.

 

 

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News of the Week

September 2, 2007 at 12:30 am (Current Events, opinions, politics)

We all knew it couldn’t last.  And in Iowa of all places!  After a brief legalization of gay marriage in Iowa, it was taken away, but not before 20 couples could get their marriage licenses!  Now of course Iowa will have to add a constitutional amendment to guarantee that something so heinous never ever happens again.  So sad.

And everyone’s favorite Fox “news” analyst turned Press Secretary, Tony Snow, is leaving his post, apparently because he’s one step up from having to pan-handle for his chemo.  Are we really supposed to believe, or find it reasonable, that he left his White House job because $170,000 is not enough for him and his to live on?

Mr. Snow said. “I’ve told people when my money runs out, then I’ve got to go.”

This I just do not understand.  Either he is leaving for completely different reasons (my guess) or this was the best of the lies they could come up with.  How can someone say with a straight face that $170K a year is not enough to live on when the overwhelming majority of Americans survives on much, much less.  What evil arrogance this is.  It is my personal interpretation that he may have mounting medical bills due to his extended battle with colon cancer that his insurance has been unable or unwilling to cover.  Someone working for our government in a public and powerful position isn’t able to support both his family and extensive medical treatment on the generous salary of $170K.  Isn’t irony a cruel mistress?  I know this is only my guess at the real reason, but its still better than the reason we are supposed to choke down.

And of course there’s the latest train-wreck of a sex scandal that has rocked Washington D.C.  I won’t even touch that one because really there is nothing new to say and I honestly don’t know what to believe in this case.

However, just because I can’t let it go without saying anything…I will say that overall, it is incredibly sad that homosexuals aren’t able to be both openly gay and openly Republican.  Really, its actually the case that few politicians on either side of the aisle are open about homosexuality.  Statistically one in ten are gay, so that would mean 10 senators and about 43 representatives.  And we are supposed to believe that only 3 actually are (Rep. Barney Frank D-MA, Rep. Jim Kolbe R-AZ, Rep. Tammy Baldwin D-WI)?  That math certainly does not add up.  And these representatives aren’t even all currently serving.  (On a side note, Kolbe just happens to have been the representative from my own district until last year, and I didn’t even know he was gay!  You learn something new every day!)

Now I didn’t do an exhaustive search on openly gay Congress people, and I didn’t include all of the former openly gay Representatives.  So if you’re saying, well duh, there’s also so and so, please correct me!

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Vile in any Color

August 25, 2007 at 6:08 pm (Current Events, opinions, rants)

I had to put my two cents in about this Michael Vick thing because its just making me sick. And its not even the horrifying aspect of animal abuse that has me so upset this particular morning. Listening to NPR this morning I heard some “expert” or another talking about how Vick is being persecuted more harshly due to his race. However, when pressed by the NPR interviewer, the “expert” admitted that if that dog-abuser had been white, he’d probably receive the same legal and social ramifications. So I’m confused. Which is it, fair or racist? I certainly have my opinion on the topic and I hesitate to even start in on the racial issue. So before I say anything else, I have to acknowledge that I am very aware that harsh racial inequality is alive and kicking every minute of every day in our society, not only against Blacks, but against Middle-Easterners, Asians, Latinos, and many more groups. However, I very much dislike when the tactic of accusing the media or the public of racism is used to defend someone as vile and despicable as this.

One of the main arguments I have heard in defense of Vick is that dog fighting is part of the black culture and highly prevalent in the inner cities. This is quite a slippery-slope argument, because it could be used at one time or another to defend gang violence in the inner cities, white supremacy in the South, or even Antisemitism in the Middle East. Just because it is prevalent and part of the culture does not make it right.

Actor Jamie Foxx had this to say, although I truly have no idea why anyone gives a crap about his opinion:

“It’s a cultural thing, I think,” Jamie said. “Most brothers didn’t know that, you know. I used to see dogs fighting in the neighborhood all the time. I didn’t know that was Fed time. So, Mike probably just didn’t read his handbook on what not to do as a black star.” While he has a way of lightening even the most sensitive of subjects, Jamie is sincere in his belief that the quarterback is not being given a fair shake.
“I know that cruelty to animals is bad, but sometimes people shoot people and kill people and don’t get time,” Jamie continued. “I think in this situation, he really didn’t know the extent of it, so I always give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Apparent Vick also hasn’t read his handbook on being a decent human being either. I know that the issue of cruelty to animals is fraught with hypocrisy since we eat animals, test drugs on them, wear them, etc. But there is a distinct difference between consuming animals for survival/nutrition or using them for the betterment of human health (although a debate on those topics could fill an entire blog) and causing them harm for our entertainment and pleasure. And its not even the dogs vs. chickens debate. I recognize that it is a cultural construct that we value the lives of dogs and cats more than pigs or chickens. I know that in certain Asian cultures, the consumption of animals that we consider “pets” is a common practice. However, countries like China also have a long history or massive starvation and famine. I would never fault someone for consuming a dog or a cat if the alternative was death or surviving on tree bark and dirt (which many people did). But I would go out on a limb and say that I doubt that the Chinese would torture dogs before killing them for consumption. Humane treatment and sacrifice of animals should always be a priority.

That being said, I was literally nauseated when I heard about these charges, and in truth I avoided reading/hearing about them for about a week because I absolutely can’t stomach cruelty towards animals. And not being much of a sports fan myself, I had no idea that Vick was even black when the story first broke. It sickened me nonetheless. There are many things in our society which are illegal and vial no matter what color you are, and the ruthless torture and killing of animals is probably near the top of that list.

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