New Design

As you can see, the Mahablog is now all new and shiny. I’m still working out the kinks, so have some patience while I iron it all out. Now back to your regularly scheduled blogging.

other live blog

For those of you who enjoyed the live-blogging of the veep debate last week, the Mahablog tech/design team (that’d be me) will be live-blogging the debate over at my pad (here). It’s just me and the cat tonight, so I can’t guarantee it will be as entertaining.

in the tank!

So I get to live blog, I suppose to give my perspective as both a Young Person and as a debate expert. (I have 12-some years of experience with policy debate, as a participant, judge, and coach, most recently affiliated with the University of Massachusetts. See, once upon a time, people payed me to judge debate. I’m like Gwen Ifill. Only, you know, pastier.)

Last Friday, I watched the debate from the comfort of one of my favorite bars, and tonight, I’m at a small gathering of friends at an apartment in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn for extra Young People Cred. We’re eating fondue and drinking lambic (a Belgian beer brewed with fruit). My friend who’s hosting (Olga) just informed all assembled that there is plenty of alcohol, so this could get entertaining.

The pundits are all basically that if Sarah Palin doesn’t fall on her face, it’ll be a success. So, let’s get to it. Get out your bingo cards.
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Save Burma

I ran into this pro-Burma rally in Manhattan yesterday. Photo taken on 77th Street between 5th and Madison:

Protest for Burma

Funnily enough, I later ran into an anti-Scientology rally in front of the Scientology Center on 82nd Street. Yesterday was a good day for rallying, I suppose. (The weather was nice, anyway.) Both were small, very tightly controlled, mostly polite rallies behind those blue police barriers.

And thanks for playing nice this weekend. I didn’t have to work too hard after all.

Fundraising Follow-Up

Mahadaughter Erin here again. I wanted to report that New York Cares Day was this past Saturday, and my team (Team Truthiness) worked at a school in Jamaica, Queens, where we painted and cleaned up the grounds. My team leader mentioned that this was one of those schools that No Child Left Behind left behind, since their funding got cut when grades were low. The good news is that test scores are back up, so they’re getting money again. (I think this is some pretty Republican logic. Your school is failing? Let’s take away your money!) So the work New York Cares does is necessary.

So I figured I’d post and thank those of you who donated for doing so. If you missed out, you’ve got until November 9th to contribute and can do so by going to my personal donation page.

That’s all. I will stop bugging you about money now. Back to your scheduled blogging.

Donate to a good cause!

Mahadaughter Erin here. I’m volunteering on New York Cares Day for the second year in a row, and my team and I will be going to a middle school in Queens to make the school a better place for the students. Last year, we went to an elementary school on Staten Island and painted, cleaned, sorted library books, and made the recess area more fun.

I mention this because, as part of volunteering, I’m also raising some funds for New York Cares, which is a really great organization that, in addition to helping out the schools, also cleans up parks, reads to students, helps the homeless, and supplies coats for people who can’t afford them, among other things.

So, if you’ve got a few extra bucks laying around, I’d seriously appreciate you sending them my way to benefit New York Cares. To donate, you can go to my personal donation page. And also check out my totally awesome team, Team Truthiness, a really great group of volunteers just out to make New York a little better. (If you live in New York and are interested in volunteering, tomorrow’s the last day to join the team.)

Thanks for letting me interrupt. Now back to your regularly scheduled blogging.

Oh, those silly kids

One of the comments to my post about the HPV vaccine mentioned that it was nice to see a “younger” voice on this blog, so that’s what I want to post about now, while the maha-in-chief is still in Washington.

A few links. Sadly, some of these are behind subscription walls.

My mother has said to me that the feminist movement is effectively dead, but, although I think the movement has lost some of its oomph for sure, I like to think it’s still flailing and kicking somewhere. Perhaps on college campuses: Salon’s Broadsheet reports that an organization of anti-feminists is opening up chapters on campuses all over the country:

These young women read Danielle Crittenden and Christina Hoff Sommers, attend conferences key-noted by Ann Coulter and Elaine Chao, spread jittery but false gossip that Lynne Cheney is a donor, and host 80’s dances in honor of Ronald Reagan’s birthday.

Kinda sends shivers down your spin, dudn’t it?

Broadsheet crows that this is a sign that women’s movements are enjoying a “a vibrant, exciting renaissance” among college-aged women. I hope that’s true; certainly when groups emerge to oppose you, it’s a sign that you’re doing something right.

But, so, young people. There’s a vicious cycle at work wherein young people don’t participate politically and therefore their interests aren’t represented or talked about and therefore they don’t want to participate. It means us 20-somethings get slandered a lot for being lazy or entitled.

Young women in particular are left out of the conversation. A friend of mine recently pointed to MoveOn‘s most recent campaign as an example. Ten issues were voted on and narrowed down to three big ideas: “Health care for all, energy independence, and restored democracy.” Worthy goals, certainly, but of the ten issues originally presented to us, not one of them dealt with the eroding rights of women — access to abortion and birth control, which you may think is a pet issue, but which I think is key to women’s autonomy and equality, and that’s a hell of a big deal to me. Or equal pay, for that matter. Or better family policies, like access to childcare and better maternity/paternity leave… and these are “women’s issues” in the public discourse, I guess because “family” still falls in the women’s sphere — that’s some progress, eh? All that is right up there with health care for everyone and whatever “restored democracy” means, for me. (Energy, too, insofar as I’d like for us to find sustainable and renewable alternatives before we all bake, but I don’t own a car, so “gas prices are too high” is not really a motivation for me to advocate anything.)

Ah, but how do you get those pesky kids to vote?

One last link, while we’re talking about gender issues: Everyone’s favorite cabbage argues that girly books make boys not want to read. And we’re back on the whole “male and female brains are wired differently and so boys and girls excel in different subjects” nonsense debate. Last I checked, Brooks was not a scientist, so I don’t see how not liking Jane Eyre gives him the authority to make suppositions like that. And the whole debate ignores how kids and their teachers are socialized. But why am I so angry? I should not expect so much from the produce aisle.

When Mom’s away, the kids will play

So my mother runs this here blog, and she sent me an email before she left for YearlyKos saying that I should post some links and things for you people so that you don’t get bored in her absence.

And you may already know me as the daughter partly responsible for last fall’s blog re-design (so, yes, you can blame all the display glitches on me, thanks) and the occasional subject of posts on diaper rash or whatever. I also blog, but I think the only people who read my blog are my friends, so it’s kind of neat to annex this blog for a few days, since it reaches a much wider audience. I hope I don’t blow my audition.

Yesterday’s big news was the death of Zarqawi, but I don’t really want to post about that, particularly since a) it won’t make much difference in the war effort, and b) we could have got him without going to war, and that whole debate makes me weary. Also, I generally don’t really feel qualified to say much about Iraq, since my knowledge of the subject is limited, so lets talk about things I am familiar with: women and science! (But feel free to talk about Zarqawi in the comments if that rocks your boat.)

I want to preface this by saying that this discussion has been kicking around on the feminist blogs for a while, but my perception here is that the demographic here skews a little differently, so I hope you learn something new!

The big story this morning is that the FDA approved the HPV vaccine. Under any other circumstances, a vaccine that prevents cancer would be cause of celebration and ticker tape parades and all that, but because the disease prevents a cancer caused by a sexually transmitted virus that mainly affects women, we have to stop and talk about it.

So first, congrats to the FDA for being less stupid about the HPV vaccine than they are about emergency contraception.

But second, boo! to the conservatives that would block the administration of the vaccine. Arthur Caplan at MSNBC points out:

[T]he best time to vaccinate is just before women become sexually active. And that is why this new cervical cancer vaccine is sure to be ethically controversial.

Some conservative religious groups and family-values advocates believe that the best way to prevent any sexually transmitted disease is to teach young people to be abstinent until marriage. They don’t want HPV vaccine offered to young women because it will encourage, in their view, sexual promiscuity. Or they only want the vaccine discussed by parents not in schools or in the doctor’s office. But there is a big flaw in this reasoning.

Even though a woman may remain chaste until marriage she may marry someone who wasn’t. She would still be at risk of infection. Given that risk, the case for getting schools, doctors, public health departments involved even if you are someone who wants to keep all talk of sex in the home starts to become very strong.

Not to mention the pressure a lot of girls feel to have sex anyway, regardless of how much abstinence is emphasized. A new study indicates a lot of teenaged girls have sex when they don’t want to, “and the result may be a higher risk of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.” That’s a whole other post about how girls are socialized and expected to behave, but the study speaks to the point that teaching abstinence is not going to prevent the spread of STDs like HPV. (There’s been some buzz recently about teens breaking their virginity pledges as well. So much for that, eh?)

Further, there’s no reason to think access to the vaccine would encourage more girls to have sex anyway. Studies in countries where emergency contraception is available over the counter indicate that there was no rise in sexual activity once the pills became available, so there’s no reason to think an HPV vaccine would cause that either, especially since this one vaccine doesn’t really make women immune to, you know, every other STD plus pregnancy. More to the point, HPV is one of the least talked about STDs (AIDS kind of trumps most discussions) but is also the most common.

But there you have it, folks. For some conservative Christian groups, choosing between cancer and sex, sex is the greater evil.

The other problem is that the vaccine is expensive, and some groups are pushing for administration of the vaccine to be mandatory for pre-teen girls, which begs the question of who will pay for it. And there’s also an interesting ethical dilemma: should we treat a vaccine for a sexually transmitted virus the same as we treat the vaccine for the measles? Or are we framing the question wrong? The Times article I linked to above says that cervical cancer — almost all of which is caused by HPV — is the second-leading cause of death among women worldwide. If that’s the case, why not say we’re administering a vaccine for cancer? Isn’t that revolutionary? Take sex out of the equation.

Heh, my first post on my mom’s blog and I write about sex. Good thing she’s so cool! (Hi, Mom!)