Archive for October, 2006

The News Cycle

I make a concerted effort to stay up on current events. Some days I’m better about it than others, but at the very least I try to peruse the local headlines on a daily basis. When I’m feeling more ambitious, I mosey on over to Google News.

More often than not, I do this when I’m looking for a wider perspective on a story I spot in the local paper or hear on the news. However, while I’m there, I at least check the national headlines. Sometimes, too, I check the science or health headlines. Like I did today.

It amazes me as to what is considered “newsworthy.” A 24 hour news cycle has it’s benefits in that you can get up-to-the-minute coverage. The downside, besides a higher risk of inaccuracy (as you’re scrambling to get the story out and to the public ASAP), is that sometimes there’s not a whole lot interesting going on. Sure, it’s not hard to find something interesting, as there is always a story to be told, but when you’re constantly telling thousands of different stories every second, you’re bound to run low on ideas.

With that, I give you some of the headlines I spotted today.

Families grin and share it, study says
I’m sorry … DUH?! I have my mother’s laugh and I have my grandmother’s eyes. Why would anyone think a SMILE would be any different? Is this seriously what science research money is going to?

Study links hair to eating disorders
Now, on the surface, this seems interesting. But think about it for a second – those with eating disorders generally don’t seek medical help until they are willing to admit they need help. And, unlike with drug use, starving yourself is not against the law. What, are we going to compel hair samples from everyone and FORCE someone who is anorexic into a treatment program? Good luck with that one.

Marijuana-like compound may slow Alzheimer’s
SPEAKING of illegal drugs, here’s yet another argument as to why marijuana should be legalized. Hey, if red wine intake can decrease incidents of heart disease, why couldn’t marijuana slow brain degeneration? Stranger things have happened …

Eat more fish, study urges, despite toxin risk
I’ve stopped paying attention to knee-jerk reactions to what foods are “good” and “bad” for us to eat. It’s all bad in excess. *Yawns* I wonder when The Powers That Be will deem carbs wonderful again?

Charles Darwin’s works go online
I’m sorry, you mean it wasn’t before???

There are hundreds of these gems, which you’ll find all on Google News.

I’ll sign off with my favorite waste of newsprint political scandal:
Top Republican testifies in sex scandal

… and …

Priest admits fondling but denies rape

Oh, the things we choose to care about.

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Framing the issues – the downsides

On an only semi-related to this post note: I found it interesting, last year, for my Politics and Policy class that we had to read a NY Times feature article all about George Lakoff’s theories, yet we never got to read George Lakoff. This surprised and disappointed me, as I really would have liked a good excuse to read Lakoff. Not that I need one, per se, but it does force my hand.

Anyway.

As many of you already know, and as I blogged about a couple of months back, Plan B, otherwise known as the Morning After Pill or Emergency Contraception (EC) is now available over the counter. Depending on which editorial, news outlet, or blog you read, will depend on the language used. For example, in my blog, you’ll note the frequent use of the term “War on Sex.” In some more, *ahem*, religious or conservative literature, you might see “Pro-Abortion,” or “abortifacent” used frequently. The terms “Pro-Choice” and “Pro-Life” are simply too PC and friendly to describe what is going on in our polarized society.

Yet, really, we’re not as polarized on this issue as those framing it would have us believe. To quote the character of Harriet Hayes on Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60, “I have no problem with premarital sex. In fact, it’s probably the only kind of sex I’ll ever have.” For those of you who don’t watch the show, Harriet portrays an evangelical Christian who is also a comedian.

It underlines my point: Most people who are “Pro-Choice” believe that abortions should be safe, legal, but a last resort – and that education, access to contraception, and access to health care and support networks for those who DO decide to carry the child to term. Most people who are “Pro-Life” support all of these things as well, they just believe the abortion part is wrong.

Except, now, the framing has gotten so out of control that you either love to kill babies or you hate sex. I don’t think most Americans feel either way. Yet, as the mantra goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Hence, why framing is so powerful politically. However, policywise, it can be detrimental. Instead of driving two opposites toward a compromise, it pulls two issues to the polar ends, making it impossible to find a compromise. Then, as a result, the two factions fight continue to fight it out. No one ever wins, because the other faction will fight harder when it is kicked down.

Plan B was a little victory for the “Pro-Choice” faction. So, now the “Pro-Life” faction will strike back – in fact, it already has, with the new South Dakota law practically illegalizing abortions. This law could end up in the court, and if the court overturns Roe v. Wade …

… you see how this framing can cause even the most middle of the road voter to panic. And panic is hardly an efficient way of making policy and encouraging citizen participation.

I wonder if Lakoff would agree?

Closed for Business

I suppose that this article is as good as any to illustrate how, as the writer puts it, the National Labor Relations Board gutted the right to unionize a couple of weeks ago.

What with changing jobs, starting my second year of grad school, and other various tumult in my personal life, sadly my following of the news of late has been not what it usually is. Though, it’s true, there hasn’t been a lot brewing that I’ve much cared to write about (well, except for Plan B being overruled by the Bush administration, which I may write about at a later date). Not even Mark Foley. He’s a scumbag who goes after underage girls. He should resign. There will be major backlash for the GOP. This is not surprising, and I don’t much care to analyze it further.

ETA – One of my fantastic and news-savvy readers gently reminded me that Mark Foley is a scumbag who goes after underage boys – I, however, am not editing the above paragraph, because it simply illustrates how much I do not care about this story. By the by, if you’ve read today’s news, he’s also a scumbag who blames being a scumbag on the Catholic Church, which, while it doesn’t make me care anymore, it makes me dislike Foley that much more, but I digress and return you to our regularly scheduled blogging.

No, rather, this NLRB decision which seems to have generated hardly any buzz at all, is far more interesting. For those who choose not to click on the link above, the gist is this: “supervisor” was redefined to mean anyone who “supervises,” the definition being up to interpretation. By this, the NLRB has essentially told employers that anyone working at a para-professional level or higher in an organization can be denied the right to unionize.

A New York Times article was left on my desk this morning in regards to this decision. It was dated Oct. 3rd. I couldn’t believe that I had somehow missed this – then again, Google News indicates to me that there hasn’t been a whole lot of press on the matter.

Feelings on unions are mixed, especially in the State of New York. Unions in New York have tremendous political clout and financial resources, and often in protecting the interests of their membership, some would say they cross the line into infringing on the rights of the public they serve. A prime example is the Transit Workers Union December 2005 strike. The people the TWU hurt the most was not the Metropolitan Transit Authority, but instead the working class of New York City who depend on that public transportation for their livelihoods. And, perhaps if they were making a statement against egregious human rights issues – such as, for example, mandatory, unreasonable overtime – more people would have been more supportive. However, it was over increasing the retirement age of new hires and contributions to the health insurance plan. What with skyrocketing health costs coupled with people living longer, and a six year waiting list to get into MTA employment, this was hardly what the forefathers of labor rights had in mind when the union movement gained momentum.

Having said that, unions do more good than harm. They work hard to secure rights for working and middle class Americans, and more often than not it is an uphill battle. Now, with this ruling, not only will certain people be excluded from union protections that they would otherwise opt to have, the unions themselves will lose power simply by a decreased membership. Now, if membership decreases because an organization decides to allow an “open shop” policy – essentially, allowing an opt-out of union membership, and also union protections – and membership decreases as a result, it is market forces and free choice that does so. With this ruling, however, it disrupts the balance of power between manager and worker. Some argue that a “closed shop” – compulsory union membership – does this by artificially inflating union membership, but forcing people out of unions (much like, in my opinion, forcing people into unions) is hardly a democratic way of handling the issue.

Yet, regardless of the impacts to organizations which likely have not even been considered, it’s a simple labor rights issue. In the same way that someone shouldn’t be forced to join a union if he doesn’t want to, someone should not be denied the opportunity to join a union, either.

It gives whole new meaning to the term “closed shop.”