Tuesday, October 31, 2006

More Levity: Oh, Canada, Oh, SNAP!

From my friend Maestro Jeffrey Jesus Jones Timbrell:


10. Canada has snow. Republicans are just a bunch of flakes.
9. Canada has beavers. Republicans have crabs.
8. Canada allows Gays to be Married. Republicans allow Siblings to be married.
7. Canada`s favorite sport is Hockey. Republicans favorite sport is Lying.
6. Canada isn`t fighting in Iraq. Neither are the Republicans.
5. Canada has Rush. The Republicans have...Rush Limbaugh.
4. The average Canadian man has a very big penis. So does Ann Coulter. We`ll give you that one.
3. Tucker Carlson says Canadians are into dog-sledding. We don`t even KNOW his Mom.
2. Canada helps impoverished children the world over. Republicans just have sex with them!!!! OH SNAP!!!

And the number 1 reason why Canada is better than the Republicans.

Really, I have nothing to add. There just isn't anything to say about that, is there?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Tardive Dyskinesia, Spastic Quadriplegia, and My Good Left Leg

I'm really furious about Rush Limbaugh's implying that Michael J. Fox is maybe faking it, that he somehow was playing around with his medication in order to look more profoundly affected for his tv spot for MO Democrat Claire McCaskill [YouTube video link].

Digby catches some of my anger in a post called "Melting Snowflakes," and also in "Good Morning, Creep."

First, some facts. Tardive dyskinesia, which is the sort of athetosis Fox is manifesting in the ad, is a side effect of medication, the synthetic dopamines Fox takes so that he can be limber enough to move (and speak), and also of common antipsychotic medications. (If Limbaugh had been under proper medical supervision all this time, one would think he'd know that firsthand...)

Parkinson's Disease is a progressive, terminal condition that affects approximately 1% of the population over the age of 50. There is also a variant called "young-onset Parkinson's" that affects people under age 40. It affects the neurons in the substantia nigra section of the brain, which produce the chemical dopamine. Drug and surgical therapies are available, but do not halt the progression of the condition, nor do they cure it. They also have unpleasant side effects, including nightmares, depression, constipation, and the dyskinesia you can see Fox exhibiting in the clip.

In short, this is not a nice disease, and the treatments aren't particularly wonderful, either.

What really rankles me about the right-wing reaction to the Fox ads isn't even the blatant partisanship (I've long since burnt out about that), but the rank disablism of it. (This is especially ironic coming from Limbaugh, who is deaf and impotent, thanks to years of heavy opioid [ab]use.) I see this reaction to Fox's tv appearances as an extension of the popular media portrayals of disabled people. Fox is confounding the narrative.

By being legitimately concerned about the issue, exercising political power, and, most of all, standing up for himself, Michael J. Fox is refusing to allow himself to be boxed into being a stereotype of the passive, helpless, bitter cripple, or the handicapped guy who can't get out of his own way -- if he'd only just stop feeling sorry for himself, he'd be doing a lot better. (I have been accused numerous times of being the latter. I have no self-pity, but I am pretty angry, and most people with disability issues just can't deal with that.) It's fairly obvious that much of the negative reaction is trying to slot Fox into the "pitiable cripple" mould; they're accusing him of playing for sympathy. They're also relatedly and second-handedly trying to slot him into the "evil cripple" mould, since they're also more or less claiming he's faking it. That latter is probably a harder charge to make stick with a lot of people, since almost everyone remembers him as cute little Alex P. Keaton and Marty McFly.

But Michael J. Fox isn't a stereotype, and neither am I. I feel a great amount of empathy for him. He's not in my situation and I'm not in his, but I've taken much the same sort of crap from much the same sorts of idiots in my life -- although, to be fair, the idiots I'm usually faced with don't have massive media support, but I'm not a movie star, either. My spastic quadriplegia isn't going to kill me (although everything's a terminal condition in the final analysis), and the only reason I'm sitting here unable to stop moving right now is because I'm slightly stressed out and overcaffeinated, but hey, I've had people get in my face just because their tender psyches are injured by the sight of my semi-functional carcass, and it sucks.

Michael J. Fox, like me, also refuses to be the decorous kind of cripple who considerately spares the easily-offended viewing public the humiliation of having to watch them deal with the slings and arrows of everyday life. He's not visibly embarrassed about doing tv interviews with his dyskinesia showing (although he might be privately, which I wonder if it be a combination of showbiz vanity and culture), just like I'm not embarrassed to use my hands to climb over large snowbanks in the winter or sit in the handicap seats on the bus, if I feel I need to that day. The pressure can be intense, and I think the empathy-free political robot brigade on the right is also trying to run a public shaming number on him.

How dare he be a non-stereotyped handicapped person! In public, even!

And that is why I'd like to grab my American friend with the Parkinson's precursors, use him as help balancing (because even if I'm standing on my good left foot, it might be a problem) and administer them all a swift kick where it'll do them the most good.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Project Worth Endorsing

As seen on Pandagon, San Cai Bao from Fugitive From Gilead has started Emergency Kindness, an organisation which hopes to have a network of "Janes" (and possibly "Joes") in place to deliver emergency contraception to women who need it, in time for them to use it effectively. Since I've been writing about emergency contraception for years (ever since I yanked Katha Pollitt's original article on the subject wholesale off The Nation's site and posted it in its entirety on another one of my online journeaux a clef), I wanted to bring this to perhaps a few more people's attention than might see it otherwise.

My original take for the Internationale is here. Those of you who are worried about prescriptions and the legality of passing on prescription medicines to people for whom they have not been prescribed, please pay attention to this possibly-salient (depending on location) fact:

Emergency contraception is available without a prescription for the asking at most Canadian pharmacies. It costs $40CDN, and most pharmacists are very willing to dispense it. ... My suggestion is, if you live in the US and you are close enough to the Canadian border, particularly to Ontario and BC (where I happen to know pharmacists are unlikely to claim "moral objections" and where pharmacies commonly stock Plan B), and you need emergency contraception, think about coming here. Think about buying some to take home if you're here visiting, playing the casinos in Windsor, visiting Niagara Falls or Stanley Park, or skiing in the Rockies or Collingwood. ... It may be the best $40 you ever spend.

Maybe Emergency Kindness needs a complementary network of friendly Canadians up until the time when EC becomes available in the US without a prescription.

Little Joe McCarthy, Where's Little Joseph Welch?

I am not Peggy Noonan, and this is not a plea for civility. (On the other hand, neither am I so engaged in the practice of literary invective that I've come out with some of the ominous [anti-luminous] gems for which Noonan is justly infamous.)

While cruising around the internets today catching up on the blogs I read more infrequently (as opposed to the ones I read daily), I quite randomly discovered that zuzu from Feministe is taking a hiatus from blogging due to litigation threats from another blogger. After having read precisely as much of Feministe as I wanted to, I hopped on over to Creek Running North, only to be greeted by this message (quoted in its entirety):

System Offline

After family discussion regarding a commenter's threat of violence against our dog, Creek Running North has been taken offline.

The entirety of Creek Running North is just gone.

This reminds me all too much of what happened to my good friend Thers, late of Metacomments (no link because the blog's not there anymore). A bunch of commenters from one particular right-wing blogger's site descended en masse onto Metacomments, and someone made a very inappropriate comment about a member of Thers' family. (It wasn't even about Thers, and I'm not going to repeat it because as far as I can tell, he doesn't like to talk about it. So if you want the disgusting details, you'll have to pester him. I did, however, see the thread in question before Thers took Metacomments down, and it was oogly.)

I try not to get involved in blogwars and flamewars and the like, which is part of the reason why this blog reads, for the most part, like a recitativo secco of current events and political trends. However, I think this is a political trend -- an intra-blogosphere political trend -- worth paying attention to, especially for me, given my (usual) precarious situation.

Should this blog disappear at some unspecified point in the future, it's merely me trying to protect my patchy anonymity and whatever remaining tattered fragments are left of my reputation. I suspect that's unlikely, though, since my nine regular readers generally like me. For now.

The larger lesson here is, I guess, think before you type, and, as one commenter over at Feministe noted, "The bothersome effect of pseudynimity is that it gives the rest of us the privilege that [the blogger in question] takes for granted. And that’s the real problem: not that it gives others impunity, but that it creates a situation where impunity ceases to be [a] special privilege." We all like being able to say whatever we want -- not that there's much here I wouldn't say in public or to the offenders' faces anyhow -- but these days, it's getting a little tricky to even open one's mouth in semi-public without fear of reprisal one way or another.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Unusual Hazards in Afghanistan (and Elsewhere)

I don't normally do humour on this blog, but for a bit of Friday levity, may I present this article from CNN:

Canada troops battle 10-foot Afghan marijuana plants
OTTAWA, Canada (Reuters) -- Canadian troops fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan have stumbled across an unexpected and potent enemy -- almost impenetrable forests of marijuana plants 10 feet tall.

General Rick Hillier, chief of the Canadian defense staff, said Thursday that Taliban fighters were using the forests as cover. In response, the crew of at least one armored car had camouflaged their vehicle with marijuana.


One soldier told [Hiller] later: "Sir, three years ago before I joined the army, I never thought I'd say 'That damn marijuana'."

Well, I knew Afghanistan was a high-altitude kind of place, but I didn't realise they meant high-altitude...


Also, for a bit more blog-related Friday fun, my friend Tomble spotted this picture somewhere.

Someone takes a blog comment to the Big Blue Room.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Plan B and the 49th Parallel

A while ago, the story of what happened to radical feminist blogger BitingBeaver, was going around the blogosphere, particularly the feminist blogosphere. BB and her long-term monogamous-relationship boyfriend had a condom break, and BB related a gut-wrenching and heartbreaking tale of trying to obtain emergency contraception (Plan B) in rural Ohio. She was stonewalled, slut-shamed, asked probing personal questions about her sexual history, and, in one case, refused Plan B outright because she was neither married nor raped.

Amanda at Pandagon provides a detailed update with commentary, plus links to the original post. BB got her emergency contraception, but too late for it to be effective, and has since learned that she is, in fact, pregnant. She already has three children and doesn't want any more, and has been enduring abuse and death threats because she even took emergency contraception in the first place. (Apparently those people really don't understand how it works, so I've helpfully provided a link above to PZ Myers at Pharyngula giving the biologist's eye view.) Someone even sent her a missive with a list of purportedly "helpful herbs," all of which are toxic to lethal. ("Pro-life" my rosy pink behind!)

Needless to say, she's a bit ticked off.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

Emergency contraception is available without a prescription for the asking at most Canadian pharmacies. It costs $40CDN, and most pharmacists are very willing to dispense it. I live in SW Ontario, which means I'm in the part of Canada closest to where BB lives. My suggestion is, if you live in the US and you are close enough to the Canadian border, particularly to Ontario and BC (where I happen to know pharmacists are unlikely to claim "moral objections" and where pharmacies commonly stock Plan B), and you need emergency contraception, think about coming here. Think about buying some to take home if you're here visiting, playing the casinos in Windsor, visiting Niagara Falls or Stanley Park, or skiing in the Rockies or Collingwood. Even if you wind up not needing it, you probably know someone who will, and better safe than sorry. It may be the best $40 you ever spend.

My Emergency Contraception Story: Some months ago, I discovered that one drug I was on was interfering with my hormonal birth control (I'm still kind of mad that I discovered it while researching on the internet, since I figure the doctor and/or pharmacist should have known -- they actually had to call the manufacturer of the birth control in question). I had had some sexual contact where the possibility existed that I might become pregnant. When I called my pharmacist at my usual drugstore to discuss the possibility with her, she called the manufacturer of the birth control to find out, and then offered me EC over the phone. She said if I wanted to take it, I should just tell her and she'd make up the package right there so I could come and pick it up right away.

As it was, I declined for various reasons, including timing, the fact that the drug interaction had basically been making me have a continuous menstrual period for a couple months at that point, and various other factors I'd rather not talk about.

In any case, the upshot is, I, as someone in Canada, was able to access Plan B with a phone call and (what is to me) a week's grocery money. Nobody harassed me, nobody stonewalled me, and nobody really even wanted to talk about my sex life.

The difference is striking, and something to think about.