“Little Scalia”

MoveOn has a petition to stop the appointment of Sam “Scalito” Alito to the Supreme Court. They’re trying for 250K signatures in 48 hours; please take a moment right now and go sign it.
Briefly, here’s why this matters so much:

Basic Rights for Working Families
As a judge on the Appeals Court, Alito issued a ruling to gut the Family and Medical Leave Act, which guarantees most workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a loved one in an emergency. The Supreme Court effectively overturned that ruling in 2003


malicemap3.jpg This is fun: Frappr lets you stick a virtual pin in an online map to show where in the world you are. You can even attach a photo and a comment if you want to.
If no one signs my map, I’m gonna be all hurt. (Those of you with anonymity to protect, pick a location you’d like to be in.) I’ll update the screencap if y’all show up.
Update: whee! I like the way that, if two or more virtual pins are stuck too close together to show up separately, the shadow darkens to indicate more than one entry.

Plan B deadline is Tuesday!

From the ACLU:

This Tuesday the deadline expires on a public comment period for Plan B, a form of emergency contraception that would already be available without a prescription if it were not trapped in bureaucratic limbo for purely political reasons.
Although scientists overwhelmingly agree that Plan B is safe for over-the-counter use, the FDA has unconscionably put off making a decision on whether or not it will allow over-the-counter sales for over two years. Even senior members of the FDA support making the drug available without a prescription. In fact, Susan Wood, director of the FDA’s women’s health office for nearly five years, has resigned because of this delay.
To add your voice to the call for reproductive rights by posting a comment to the FDA website, click here.

More information is available here, here and here; FDA’s weaselly bullshit here. This is the comment I sent:

I urge the FDA to approve Barr Laboratory’s application to market Plan B over-the-counter. By continuing to delay a decision on this application the FDA fails to meet its obligation to promote and protect women’s health.
How many women have suffered needlessly in the two years the FDA has been dragging its feet on this issue, in direct defiance of medical evidence and opinion (from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, and the American Public Health Association, to name just three authoritative bodies who support otc access to Plan B)?
The current requirement for a prescription for Plan B is utterly ridiculous: emergency contraception must be taken within 72 to 120 hours after unprotected intercourse. What part of ’emergency’ are you having trouble understanding? Do you require a prescription for snakebite antivenom? (Well no, of course not: men might get bitten by a snake.)
The decision to limit otc availability of Plan B to women seventeen years or older will do nothing but humiliate women who are already dealing with a traumatic situation. It smacks of pandering to the repressive, authoritarian, misogynistic religious right. So let’s get away for a moment from the madonna/whore nonsense the fundies are peddling. Every year approximately 25,000 pregnancies occur because of sexual assault, and the prescription requirement serves as a major barrier to access to emergency contraception for many of these women. Would you, whoever you are reading this, be prepared to face any of these women and tell them, tough, you need a prescription: you have to find another doctor, answer more personal and painful questions, and find a pharmacy to fill your prescription, all in the next 72 hours? Plan B can immediately and safely remove the risk of unwanted pregnancy; what possible reason could there be for denying the victim of sexual assault this protection?
Finally, there can be no objection to Plan B on the grounds of opposition to abortion. Plan B is NOT an abortifacient; it prevents implantation1. It is contraception, no different in functionterms of whether it causes abortion from a condom. Otc access to plan B will significantly reduce abortion rates.
More than 70 medical organizations and the FDA’s own drug advisory committees support making Plan B available over-the-counter. Continued stalling makes it plain that the FDA is not an independent regulatory body but a political organization, not an advocate for citizen health and safety but a pliant tool in the hands of power.

Everyone should know about emergency contraception. You can learn what it is, how it works and how to get it from Back Up Your Birth Control and Princeton U’s Emergency Contraception page.
1 Update: oops. Although progestin does prevent implantation in some animal models, there is no direct evidence that it does the same thing in humans. What it clearly does do is prevent ovulation. This matters because sperm can survive up to five days in the reproductive tract, and a mature egg has a window of about 24 hours during which it can be fertilized. Note, though, that this can in no way represent abortion, since implantation does not occur until 7 days after ovulation.
How do I know all this? I read ema’s post over at The Well-Timed Period. You should too. (Hat-tip: Prof B.)
Did you leave the FDA a comment yet? If not, please do.

The last of his kind.

The Last Post has sounded for the last digger to see active service: Evan Allen, 106, died last week and was laid to rest in a state funeral today. From the Australian:

Born in Bega in New South Wales in July 1899, Mr Allan enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy as a boy sailor at the outbreak of World War I when he was only 14 years old.
As an able seaman, he was a member of the crew of HMAS Encounter from 1915 until 1918.
He sailed in the Pacific and also in the Indian Ocean escorting troop ship convoys.
Mr Allan served in the Royal Australian Navy for 34 years and also saw service in World War II.
During World War II, he served at sea in the Royal Navy armed merchant cruiser HMS Moreton Bay, as well as at Flinders Naval Depot, as Piermaster at HMAS Ladava at Milne Bay, New Guinea, in 1944, aboard HMAS Australia and as an instructor at HMAS Cerberus.
Mr Allan retired from the navy in 1947 with the rank of lieutenant.
He had lived as a boy on a family property in Upper Brogo, NSW, and after leaving the navy returned to the land, this time on a small farm near Frankston, Victoria.
In 1999, Mr Allan received the 80th Anniversary Armistice Remembrance Medal, awarded to all living Australian World War I veterans.
He was also awarded the King’s Silver Jubilee Medal in 1935, the King’s Coronation Medal in 1937 and the Australian Centenary Medal for the 2001 Centenary of Federation.
Mr Allan … is survived by his daughter Judith Blake and grandchildren Duncan and Philippa.

Thanks, mate.

Posted in woe

kitty in the window

That is a photo, but it’s a photo of the shadow KC cast as she sat in the front window. I didn’t have time to grab the tripod so it was underexposed, hence the noise from altering levels and sharpening in PhotoShop. I’d prefer it sharp, I think, but I like it well enough this way.

bone-eating snot-flower

image of Osedax mucofloris, a new species of deepsea wormThat’s roughly what Osedax mucofloris means. It’s a new species of “zombie worm” that feeds on whale-fall (which may be the most self-explanatory piece of bioscience jargon ever). O. mucofloris was discovered on a “planted” whale carcass in the shallow North Atlantic, near Sweden, by a collaborative research team from the Natural History Museum, Tjärnö Marine Biological Laboratory and the University of Hawaii. Its only known relatives hail from whale carcasses in the deep (1500

blogroll deletion

Jay Manifold has left the blogroll. He thinks it was excusable for US troops to position two dead Taliban facing Mecca and burn their bodies, then taunt onlookers:

Jay Manifold
TIME dutifully reports that:

… as one Kabul cleric Mohammed Omar told newsmen, “The burning of these bodies is an offense against Muslims everywhere. Bodies are burned only in Hell.”
I know just what he has in mind. <----------- (WARNING: Twin Towers 9/11 image!)
October 22, 2005 11:31 AM

(Warning added by me.) I don’t remember, and can’t be bothered looking up, whether Manifold had anything to say when the bodies of US contractors were desecrated in Falluja. If he did, I bet it wasn’t self-righteous and approving.
Update: Jeanne has links to a transcript of the original broadcast and an interview with the photographer.

on luck

Posting has been patchy lately because I find myself starting up the same pattern that precipitated my recent hiatus — too much to think about, too much to cover here, what to do what to do? I will have to find a better way to cope than throwing up my hands, but for now I just want to highlight this brief but important observation by Rafe Colburn:

One of the biggest mistakes people make in assessing their success or failure is discounting the effect of luck. People prefer to think that they are masters of their own destinies but the truth is that in large parts we are victims of circumstance. Yes, you should avoid problems that you see and make the most of the opportunities that you are presented with, but luck is the main factor. Heck, I was born a white male American with responsible parents who placed a high premium on education. Furthermore, I was born during the period of time when a natural curiousity in computers and the Internet could lead to a decent career. That alone makes me luckier than a huge majority of the people in the world. People are fools not to take those sorts of things into consideration.

Rafe is absolutely right. Failure to take such luck into account is a large part of what makes Republicans. I don’t mean conservatives, I mean Republicans — the modern kind, like Bush Mere: mean-spirited, narrow-minded, empty-hearted assholes with an empathy deficit that would be terminal if there were such a thing as abstract justice. Her son is another perfect, if extreme, example: born into privilege, shielded all his life by that same privilege both from hardship and from the consequences of his own mediocrity, he has nothing but contempt for anyone who does not share his good fortune, which he firmly believes is not fortune but the consequence of his own natural superiority. Less spectacular examples abound; as the spousal unit likes to say, this is why we can’t have nice things.