asterroc: We Can Do It Sinfest - Up Yours (We Can Do It Sinfest - Up Yours)
Finally, the TSA is accepting comments on their "AIT" x-ray and microwave scanners of passengers. Here's the comment I submitted. Feel free to model after mine.

I do not feel that there is sufficient necessity for x-ray and microwave machines to justify the additional exposure. I have not seen sufficient evidence from independent third-party evaluators that the dosage of x-ray and microwave radiation used by AIT machines is safe, and I have not seen any evidence that exposing me to these types of radiation is either in my best interest, or in the public good. I understand that I am already exposed to these types of radiation on a daily basis due to other devices (such as medical x-rays and cellphones), but in those cases I feel that the need to use such devices justifies the exposure. Neither x-ray nor microwave radiation are inherently harmless, and even types of radiation which are harmless at typical dosages can cause harm at high dosage - for example, visible light is harmless at the dosage in flashlights, but can cause blindness at the dosage in laser pointers. In the absence of evidence of sufficient need for the increased risk to my health, it is my wish that I not be exposed to potentially harmful x-ray and microwave radiation.

I always opt out of the AIT machines when traveling by air, however I do not feel this option is sufficient to maintain my safety because I am usually told to stand next to the AIT machines while waiting for the pat-down, resulting in exposure to x-ray and microwave radiation despite my decision to opt out. I feel that the only resolution which would maintain my safety by reducing my exposure to unnecessary and potentially harmful x-ray and microwave radiation is to remove AIT machines from airports entirely.

Tracking # 1jx-84jq-nset

Originally posted on Dreamwidth. comment count unavailable comments there. Comment here or there.
Bad Astronomy (Phil Plait)'s post on the subject

House Committee on Appropriations post on the subject

Write your own letter to Congress (site via the National Education Association, but you'll be writing your own content and can opt out of sending a copy to the NEA or getting on their email lists)

Model letter to congress on the subject )
I am now proud to say I am from both NY and MA. Anyone interested in the gay pride parade in NYC on Sunday? I'm busy much of the day, but going to try and make at least part of it.
q10 and seekingferret, you'll want to read this.

The US State Department is proposing a new Biographical Questionaire for everyone applying for a passport. The form would require all citizens to provide the name and contact info of all previous employers, the address of all previous residences, and addresses of all immediate family members (parents, step parents, siblings) and their citizenship status. In addition, naturalized citizens will need to provide the address of their place of birth, and anyone not born in a medical facility will also need to provide their mother's residence a year before and after your birth (presumably so the government can track those citizen children of fence-hoppers who wish to travel abroad), and contact info for witnesses (presumably so the government can strip your citizenship if you don't provide the info or if they're illegal immigrants who the government can bully into recanting the story of your birth in the US).

A lot more info is available here, including the full form and links to submit comments:

The comment I submitted:
The information requested by this document is ridiculous, and the gathering of the information is prohibitively difficult to obtain.  I am only 33 years old, but I have had six employers in five different states and it would take me around an hour to track down all their contact information. In addition I have lived at somewhere between 10 and 20 different residences and it is not possible for me to find all those addresses.  This high number of jobs and residences is primarily a result of my being in academia, and this form is systematically biased against academics and will stifle international cooperation and research as a result.  In addition, it will seriously hurt naturalized citizens and US-born citizens with foreign parents.  There is no need for this level of detail unless the government is deliberately attempting to prevent the movement of it's citizens, in violation of the UN charter of basic human rights.  

Edit: There is some question about whether this policy might only apply to people unable to provide traditional forms of proof of US citizenship, or whether it would really be all US citizens looking for a passport. There is also some question about the validity of the supposed form hosted at the above link. Unfortunately the .gov website doesn't actually contain any information about what it is we're supposed to be commenting on - what is the form, who would it apply to, etc.
Apparently the Tea Party supports Governor Walker's union busting. I don't get this at all. I thought the Tea Party was a conservative libertarian group. Shouldn't they resent the government interfering with and attempting to regulate how workers interact with employers? Or is their fiscal conservatism trumping their libertarianism?
What do I need to know about the version passed last night? And what happens next to make it law?
What is it about the US's three branches of government that has led to a two-party system throughout the US's history, where nations with two branches tend to have a robust multi-party system?

(Where by "two branches" I mean the Executive and Legislative merged into a Parliament and the head of their majority party is the prime Prime Minister. If there's another name for this style of government, I'd be curious to know.)
An open letter to my senators and representatives.

I am writing to you today regarding the health care reform bill currently before the house and senate.

The bill as it currently stands sets women's rights back decades. Not only does the bill currently not provide access to safe, legal abortions, but it also does not provide access to the hormonal birth control which would reduce the necessity for abortions. If women are not provided access to safe legal abortions, some women will be forced return to back alley hack-job abortions, coat hanger abortions, or chemical abortions. The greatest benefit of Roe vs. Wade was not that it allowed women to have abortions, women were already having them, but allowing women to have SAFE abortions. In addition, removing access to hormonal birth control will only increase the need for illegal unsafe abortions.

What's even worse is that the bill as it currently stands does not allow for pelvic exams, a necessary routine yearly medical examination for the physical health of women. This routine preventative exam helps catch the early stages of fertility and life threatening diseases such as ovarian cancer or cervical cancer. Removing access to such exams threatens the lives of every woman on such a health plan, and will increase health care costs in the long run through treating the full blown disease instead of preventing it. In addition only women are being denied access to routine exams, giving the message that only men should have the right to good health care.

I urge you to work towards a more equitable health care bill by supporting any amendments that would provide access to abortion, to hormonal birth control, and to pelvic exams.

Look up your Reps and send your letter here.
The House of Representatives is currently working on a bill that would outlaw all non-native species of animals in captivity - that is, anything other than cats and dogs - whether as pets, for research, or for education. I urge you to contact your Representatives about this bill because it would not only decimate zoos and scientific research, but it would also severely limit the rest of my life with my bird Kappa.

Write your Legislators:

More detail and links )

Edit: [ profile] amavia, guinea pigs are not among the exempt species (despite the fact that they are domesticated), so you might want to get your networks cracking on this.

Thanks for your time!
So y'all know I advocate for public higher ed, especially the value of community colleges since I work at one. And I also agitate for adjuncts - part time faculty who are paid per course with no benefits or even an office most of the time. They're essentially taken advantage of by the administration, and many full-timers put them down for not contributing to the college the same way full-timers do (e.g., advising and committees). So when I read the L.A. Times article on Dr. Jill Biden, I just had to see if my union chapter pres would fwd it to the membership. We shall see if she does, but here's the email meantime.

If you feel this would be appropriate for the union membership, they might be interested to know that the Second Lady (VP's wife), Dr. Jill Biden, is apparently the first to continue in a paying job while her husband was in office - and the position she is in is as a community college adjunct! She's teaching ESL and developmental English at Northern Virginia Community College.,0,548459.story

I am pleased to see that she feels that adjunct teaching at a community college is as valuable a contribution to the country as being the Second Lady.

Thanks to [ profile] the_xtina for the linkage.

Edit: When is the picture from? I feel like it's pre-inauguration, so it might be even better if it were a picture during the ceremony itself.
I haven't been following Obama's picks for cabinet members. Someone care to update me? I think I saw Hillary was taking one.

I've also heard that people who have cabinet positions can never successfully run for office again after that. Is this true? If so, why? And why would someone like Clinton take the position then? Please give me the short version, as usual, too long and I lose track of where it started...

Which reminds me, this week I've had two people tell me either that since I teach physics I must be really smart, or else that physics is a really hard subject. Both times I replied in complete honesty that I think history is harder. Politics/current events might be even worse since things change so quickly, at least history's over and done with.
This came up on someone else's blog, and now I want to know what people think.

Viewpoint A: "Human rights should never be subject to a general vote. We should never allow the majority to oppress the minority."
Viewpoint B: "But how do we know what basic human rights *are*? Who defines them except the people, and therefore a popular vote?"


FWIW I ask these discussion questions when I'm uncertain of what I think on the topic and I want input to help me understand the nuances of it. As usual, I would appreciate it if vituperation was kept to a minimum, yadda yadda.


Nov. 5th, 2008 08:23 am
Growing up, my parents taught me two of the most important values I hold today: that I can do anything I set my mind and my heart to do, and that I should treat all people with respect, regardless of race, color, creed, or disability status. It's heartwarming to see that most of the US agrees with those values.
Earlier today I found myself wondering why everyone was calling this election a historic one.


And then I remembered that Obama's black.

And for the next year they're going to be talking about the first black US President.

And then the year after, or maybe the one after that, we'll have forgotten it, and it will be a non-issue for everyone else too.

Then we'll truly be living in the future.
Scanning the various ballot measures listed by CNN, it turns out that Arkansas has a ballot initiative to prevent adoptions or fostering by unmarried couples - straight or gay. Glad to know they consider me an evil sinner too!


Nov. 3rd, 2008 08:16 pm
Don't forget to vote tomorrow. If you live in MA, you can find where you vote at



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