Michael Vick Did A Bad Thing

Michael Vick hurt dogs. Michael Vick tortured dogs. Michael Vick drowned dogs. Michael Vick murdered dogs. Michael Vick did some of the most horrible, unspeakable things to dogs that I have ever read. He lied to federal prosecutors and they threw the book at him.

Michael Vick spent 21 months in federal prison contemplating the horrible things he did to those dogs. He spent 21 months thinking about turning his life around.

Michael Vick is out of jail. He has been out of jail for over 6 years. He has played football in the NFL for most of those six years, both with the Eagles and the Jets. And now…

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced Tuesday that they have signed Michael Vick to a 1-year contract as back-up quarterback after Bruce Gradkowski sustained a season-ending injury during Sunday’s pre-season game against the Green Bay Packers. The former dog fighting ring lord and canine assassin is now a Steeler.

Some fans are outraged. Some of my hard-core Steeler fan friends have even said to me that they will not watch a single Steeler game because Vick is on the team. At today’s practice, there were even protests!

Michael Vick murdered dogs. Michael Vick went to prison for murdering dogs. Michael Vick is now a Pittsburgh Steeler.

And I am okay with that.

There is a lot to be said for honoring the rule of law. Vick pled guilty to the crimes of which he was accused by the federal prosecutor. He served his time. And since his release from prison has shown a remarkable 180 degree attitude adjustment. After serving his time for his role in the dog fighting ring, Vick became an advocate for humane animal treatment. He has volunteered his time and notoriety for The Humane Society of the United States, supporting their Pets for Life program and helping to spread their message with public appearances. He even helped to get the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act passed in Congress.

In this case, justice was served. Whether one agrees with his sentence is a moot point now. Unfortunately, in our society, we often make it extremely difficult for ex convicts to lead meaningful, gainful lives. In some cases, it would be better to keep convicts imprisoned than throw them on the streets without the means to provide for themselves and their families or enjoy a sense of accomplishment after serving their time. The resulting lack of opportunity leads to re-convictions and life behind bars. This is why Rand Paul and Cory Booker have brought justice to Congress with their REDEEM Act; and why many Americans seek to “ban the box” from employment applications.

Michael Vick served his time; and he deserves a second chance. He’s not perfect. He’s just a football player. Michael Vick is a Pittsburgh Steeler. And I’m okay with that.

But I still wouldn’t let him babysit my cats.

Edit:
The illegal dog fighting culture is alive and thriving in Western Pennsylvania and throughout the United States. Therefore I feel like I have not done justice to this issue without encouraging everyone to write to your legislator and encourage him or her to support legislation that strengthens the laws against dog fighting. In Pennsylvania there are bills sitting with the Assembly waiting on them to take action. I encourage everyone to make a phone call to your legislator to ask them to support laws that aim to end dog fighting for good and put dog fighting ring participants behind bars.

A Fate Worse Than Pseudoscience

You have to be careful what information you believe nowadays. The internet is chock full of wannabe experts trying to sell you on their various theories on health, wealth, and child rearing. It isn’t even limited to the internet anymore. Even that television doctor Doctor Mehmet Oz was dragged in front of the United States Senate to explain his charlatan ways. It’s one thing when such pseudoscience causes unwitting dupes to shell out their hard-earned cash on some useless panacea. It’s quite another when personal opinion masquerading as science actually causes harm.

Case in point – the anti-vaccination wave. A 6 year old boy recently died in Spain because his parents chose not to vaccinate him against a preventable disease – diphtheria – because one money-grubbing doctor wrote an article based on pure falsehood that associated vaccines with autism.

So imagine my [lack of] surprise when I ran across an article aimed at convincing women that mammograms cause cancer. The article, to the unscientific eye, looks legitimate. There are no flashy ads, no claims of CIA schemes or Obama plots, and two scientific articles are even referenced. But a simple examination of the details revealed this blog to be full of unscientific bullshit.

For example, the author straight up claims mammograms cause cancer. [This is where my jaw nearly fell off, it dropped so low.] To support this argument, the author cites Paul Yaswen, a researcher with the Life Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and links to a journal article by the same. Taking a look at the article, one can clearly determine the study findings are taken out of context. Yaswen’s study proved that epithelial breast cells respond to radiation by creating variant cells, which he postulates to be more likely to be pre-cancerous. However,Yaswen’s finding cannot be logically interrelated to the claims being made in the mammogram article. Yaswen did not even prove radiation caused the cells to become cancerous. In addition, the radiation dose applied to the epithelial cells in Yaswen’s research is far, FAR higher than that which would result from a mammogram. (Sorry to pick on you Yaswen.) In fact, some of Yaswen’s samples were dosed with 200 Rads – a dose that would cause visible skin inflammation (burns). In contrast, a mammogram results in around 0.3 Rads. And I don’t know anyone who every got a skin burn from a mammogram.

[Smooshed Boobie Syndrome – now that’s another story…]

The author goes on to make many other bogus claims. I’m not going to enumerate them all. Suffice to say it is bull crap like this that could potentially cause real, actual harm. What if a woman reads that crap and then decides not to get a mammogram? If she develops cancer, it might not be detected in time to save her breasts or, possibly, her life.

I wish there was a way to scour the internet and zap away all the harmful falsehoods to make it easier for users to discern fact from fiction. Or better, we need a way to hold people accountable for things they post on the web. As replacement, I give you this warning – beware the internet pseudo-expert.

Passive Aggressive Bigotry

Now that the United States Supreme Court has ruled that barring same-sex couples from marrying the person they loved amounted to unequal treatment under the law, my social networks have exploded in a wash of rainbow colors speckled with dingy, gray flecks of hate. Even before the ruling, I had to endure daily flashes of undesired religious admonition. But now…

Hole—EEE—crap.

The parade of exhortation has become so repulsive and weighty, I am half a mind to hide certain friends for the foreseeable future to protect my sensitive eyes from the scrolling diatribe of Christian guilt.

So, imagine my (non)surprise when, the a day after Obergefell v. Hodges, one woman I know posted a meme showing a man and woman outlined in bathroom sign fashion with hands interlocked that said “straight pride.” Wow.

Of course, people – including me – called her out on it. Though she didn’t see fit to retain the comments that countered her view, she claimed she only posted the picture to show she was “proud to be straight,” and that she couldn’t see why anyone would be offended by her expressing her “straight pride.” The whole thing smacked of anti-gay sentiment.

Coming the day after the Supreme Court overturned state-sanctioned discrimination, her claim that she – a “Catholic, conservative” woman – only felt the need to boast to the world her pride at being a straight person in order to show she is “pro-me” was highly disingenuous and utterly and completely insensitive.

As a straight, white, Christian woman, she has never been made to feel inferior because of her race or her sexual orientation. She hasn’t had to fight for her rights for anything. She has never had to hide who she really is.

Her posting this sign is akin to posting a “white pride” sign the day after Loving v. Virginia. It was not meant to be a benign personal expression. And I found it extremely hard to believe that she didn’t think it would be taken negatively because I don’t think she is stupid. She posted it in an act of counter-protest to the many expressions supporting marriage equality, or in her words, the people “shoving gay acceptance” down her throat.

At best, it is a mockery of a day that was about freedom for an oppressed minority. At worst, she is just another bigoted liar.

When does life begin?

I was enjoying a visit from my sister and brother-in-law a while back when I was asked a very interesting and enlightening question. You see, I’ve been through a life changing event. Last year, in a feat of strength, I conceived. And nine months later, I had a baby. It was an amazing, life-changing event.

And so, while sitting on the couch taking in the breath, feel and sound of a newly born human, my brother asked me, “So, now that you’ve had a baby, when do you think life begins?” When he asked me this question, I was deep in the thrall of sleep deprivation, and didn’t really realize where the question was coming from. I think my response was something on the lines of, “What? I don’t know.”

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I assume he asked me this in light of my political history. If you know me or have read this blog at all, you know I am pro-choice – staunchly so. I’ve written many blog posts supporting a woman’s right to chose if and when to have a child. I’ve also been an abortion clinic escort for many years. And so I can only assume my brother wondered whether, having experienced pregnancy and childbirth, my views on reproductive matters had changed.

So, when does life begin?

At conception? At implantation? At 12 weeks? 20 weeks? At quickening? At viability? When you’re born? When you start to remember things? Maybe. It is such a subjective question. There is no right answer.

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But the thing is, for me, being pregnant only more keenly highlighted the importance of self determination. Until you’ve been pregnant, you haven’t actually faced the possibility that, under different circumstances, someone else could control your health outcome and even whether you live or die. Being pregnant made me even more grateful that if I had to make a choice about my pregnancy it would be MY decision – not some priest’s or politician’s or some health board’s decision. If I chose to sacrifice my health for the sake of the baby it would be my decision. I was in control of my own body.

So does the moment life begins matter to me? Sure it does. I mean, I AM alive. But the moment life begins cannot bring back the any of the millions of women killed by illegal abortion. The moment life begins cannot put food into the mouths of a poor family. The moment life begins cannot make a woman’s teeth grow back. And the moment life begins doesn’t make me willing to relinquish control of my body and my life for the sake of another.

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I am a mother. I am pro-child. I am pro-family. And I am pro-choice.

“I’m no feminist, but…”

Ya know what pisses me off? Women doing feminist things while saying they aren’t feminist. So often these days, “anti-feminist” women will use a platform they’ve earned to disavow any and all self-identification with feminism as if it is some man-hating branch of the KKK. A lot of times an anti-feminist will take a stand against what he or she perceives as misogyny – such as internet harassment – while at the same time disowning feminism. I doubt the anti-feminist even realizes she is calling out of rape culture – a purely feminist act!

I’m not sure when feminism became a bad word. Feminism has affected women’s lives in ways many of these anti-feminists don’t begin to appreciate. A woman can have a bank account and a credit card in her own name. Women are able to vote. Married women can own property. These are all things that would not be possible but for feminism.

Some of the anti-feminists claim that prejudices against women are a thing of the past. However, women have a long way to go to truly be equal to men in our society. Though laws to the effect have been struck from the law books, to this day a woman’s word in court is not as credible as a man’s. Women are stripped of their autonomy by patriarchal governments while making pregnancy decisions. Women in abusive relationships are in some states legally prohibited from leaving an abusive spouse. And, in theory, women have the same opportunities as their male counterparts. But in practice, girls are discouraged from breaking with gender stereotypes at an early age, and women are passed over for promotions in favor of men. So, at this point, feminism is very NECESSARY!

Therefore, to the anti-feminists I say, “get on board my feminist bang wagon!” We have cookies.

Why the “Black is the New Brown” Shirt Is Offensive

Black people are not defined by being black. And being Black is not being a color.

Being that less than 1 percent of the population in my neighborhood is African-American, I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and am married to a white man, I get a fair number of questions about race and Black culture. I think I own a special perspective on race and culture because I grew up where I did – my sister and I were the only Black kids in our elementary school for a while. My skin is fairly light and I talk like a TV news anchor. So throughout my school years I had to weather the “trying to act white” accusations and the “not black enough” comments – a different perspective.

This week when a friend of a friend made a comment about the fairly offensive “Black is the New Brown” t-shirt that was put up for sale on etsy and subsequently removed after public outcry, I felt compelled to share with him – and you – why so many people the shirt offensive.

It’s not the fact that the shirt was likely created and sold by a white person (if that is even the case). The race of the seller would not change the offensive sentiment behind the product.

This shirt is offensive because rather than acknowledging Charlie Strong for his record, his accomplishments or even by his name, the shirt maker chose to acknowledge only his blackness. And to boot, the venerable Mr. Strong is reduced to a black body and then compared to another man – a white man – who was acknowledged properly (by his name).

Black people are not defined by being black. And being Black is not being a color.

It would have been much more acceptable to have printed “Strong Is The New Brown” on that shirt. Such a slogan would acknowledge that the new Coach Strong is much more than the color of his skin. Calling him by his name accords Mr. Strong the level of respect every law abiding person deserves. Using his name would reflect in the shirt the strength his name represents. Even if the shirt maker is African-American, he or she should have respected Mr. Strong as a whole person – not just a black man.

We should never reduce a man to a color. As Martin Luther King said, we should judge him by the content of his character – as I’m sure the University of Texas did when they offered him a HELL OF A LOT of moolah to take the position.

Post script: Charlie Strong just released a demanding list of expectations to his players. It’s pretty badass. Somebody should make a t-shirt about this!

Feeling Warm And Toasty? Thank An Isotope!

I am warm.

Today is January 6th, 2014. I am in Pennsylvania. And at the moment, the temperature is -5 degrees Fahrenheit. (Yes, that’s a negative number in Pennsylvania.) And the forecast does not call for a heat wave anytime soon.

We’ve got the kind of cold front weather men and women everywhere fawn over – the kind that gins up groovy names like “polar vortex” and “snowmageddon.” One of my cleverer friends is even broadcasting snowmageddon updates replete with egg shortages and cannibalism (!!!). And I am as comfortably warm as warm can be, thanks to my local power plant.

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I live near Beaver Valley Power Station. Beaver Valley has two pressurized water reactors with a combined capacity of 1815 megawatts of electricity. That’s enough electricity to power more than 1. 4 million homes. At last report**, both reactors are cranking at 100 power – powering my furnace to push out the cold air mother nature insists on delivering.

And as of October 2013, nuclear energy accounted for 19 percent of all the electricity produced in the United States. So whether you are rubbing your hands over a space heater or relaxing in a warm, cozy bedroom reading a book, know that safe, reliable nuclear energy played a part in getting you to that comfort zone. You’ve got to love that good ol’ uranium-235!

**Oh the irony! Beaver Valley Unit 1 automatically tripped from 100 percent power due to a current differential in the main step-up transformer just as I was writing this post. (Ref. Event Number: 49697, 1/6/2014,19:09 hrs.)