Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Feeding Dangerous Cruelly Slaughtered Meat to Our Kids

The Humane Society of the United States has made public an investigative video that shows how slaughterhouses try to force sick cows to stand up so they can be killed and sold as meat to children in school. I have included a copy of the video below, which is shocking but does not include any actual images of slaughter.

Whether or not you watch it, I hope you are moved to action. I sent a letter to one of the Texas senators. Here's what I wrote:

Dear Senator Hutchison,

Atrocious cruelty like that documented by The Humane Society of the United States at Hallmark slaughterhouse must stop immediately. (See the investigation video at

For the sake of animal welfare and food safety, please institute a "bright line" ban on all downers in the food supply by closing the loophole in USDA's current policy and by redirecting agency resources to ensure meaningful enforcement.

I have a daughter who is two years old and I am shocked that the US government would not do more to safeguard the meat that is sold to children.

This case illustrates the need for constant USDA supervision at slaughter plants, including overseeing the way animals are handled when they're moved off the truck, rather than occasional check-ins. Thank you for your consideration.


Friday, January 25, 2008

On Ending Extreme Poverty

In the year 2000, the leaders of the world gathered to respond to the startling statistics of poverty at the start of the new millennium. More than one billion people still lived on less than $1 dollar per day. Over 115 million children did not go to school. Four out of ten people in the world did not have access to a simple latrine. Two out ten had no source of safe drinking water. More than half a million women died per year from complications of childbirth that are almost completely preventable. The world leaders agreed to a framework to end extreme poverty that are called the Millennium Development Goals.

Through my job at the journal Feminist Economics, I had the opportunity to interview Professor Caren Grown about the Millennium Development Goals and efforts like microlending that are meant to end extreme poverty, especially for women and children. Dr. Grown has worked with the World Bank, the International Center for Research on Women, and the MacArthur Foundation and her research is extremely well respected in economics and policy studies. Her experience working across academia, foundation, and major institutions puts her in a special position to comment on international action to address gender inequalities, especially at the macroeconomic level. She has published several books, most recently The Feminist Economics of Trade (Routledge 2007), and co-edited a number of collections. I am posting an excerpt of a talk she gave at Rice University along with my interview of her. The whole piece was originally aired on 90.1 KPFT in Houston on a show called Border Crossings.

Click on the title of the talk to give it a listen: Poverty, Gender, and the Millenium Development Goals: Debates, Progress, and Ways Forward.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Since We Last Communicated

I wondered why it is that people always put things like blueberries or bananas or raisins in oatmeal, and rice with beans. Never one to have a thought without a recipricol action, when Grasshopper requested a bowl of cereal for dinner, I added some turtle beans to her oatmeal and molasses. I felt smarter than her the first few bites, when she, as usual, dived after the dark chunks that are usually blueberries in her oatmeal. It took her seven or eight bites before she determined she'd been hoodwinked. GreenDaddy and I tasted the oatmeal and were surprised it took her so long: the reason people don't but beans in oatmeal, we immediately surmised, is because it brings out the grossest sides of two foods that we generally like. The thick innards of the beans, particularly, doesn't go with the mushiness of oatmeal like it goes with grains of rice. This isn't to say I won't try adding lentils to the rice, one day, if Grashooper continues demanding to eat cereal 24/7.

Friday, January 11, 2008

How to Get Free Healthcare For You or Somebody You Care About

A friend of mine recently accompanied a neighbor who does not have any savings or any health insurance to the emergency room. Before they went, MaGreen and I researched and talked to friends about what there options were. I have recorded what I learned in the post below. Some might use these tactics to help friends, family, co-workers, or your own paid help (maid, nanny, etc.). You might need this information for yourself, but I have written it as if a person were helping a friend in the City of Houston. The same basic rules apply across the United States for everybody including Spanish speakers and those without immigration papers. (If you live in Sweden, Canada, or the UK, just smile smugly for having guaranteed healthcare and move on to the next post.) Please note that I am not advising and advocating anything, I'm just describing what I learned.

Non-Urgent Care
If your friend’s illness is not extreme, visit a walk-in clinic. These clinics go by many names and are run by many organizations throughout the area. All residents of Harris County can call Ask-A-Nurse at 713 633 2255. They have bilingual registered nurses who can help you and your friend figure out the best option for care. Also for those who live in Harris County, there is a free healthcare program known as the Gold Card. Your friend does not need papers to qualify, but proof of living in Harris County is required. Visit this link for more information. With this card, your friend can visit doctors at the public hospitals and clinics for free or a very low fee.

Urgent Care
If your friend has an urgent need for care – a broken leg, extreme stomach pain, an open wound – you should go to a hospital Emergency Room. The ER must accept her as a patient by law. Period. She should be prepared to wait 24 hours in the waiting room. (If you go, cancel all your appointments.) Only the most extreme cases are seen immediately. Here are the steps you should follow.

1) Choosing a hospital
Ben Taub Hospital is the public hospital. The nurses and doctors are accustomed to uninsured patients, but the wait is long because of overcrowding. Private hospitals such as St. Luke’s hospital have shorter waits, but if your friend does not speak English well she ought to take someone who does with her.

2) Giving a Different Name, Phone Number, and Address
Before she goes to the hospital, the friend might think of a different name, phone number, and address that are easy to remember. Jane Thompson instead of Jane Williams. She might change the last digit of the phone number. The friend would agree on the plan. When she enters the ER, she would explain her need at the big desk at the front. They will ask for her name. She would give them the one decided on earlier. Then she will have to wait. If there is a big crash on the highway after she arrives, the wait might suddenly double. At some point, they will call her up and ask for her information. She would give the made up name, number, and address. When they ask for ID, she would just say she does not have any. They might ask two or three times for different forms of ID, but they will quickly give up.

3) Ask for Translation
If your friend does not speak English well, she should still have the benefit of understanding what the doctor says. Ask for a translator if you are with her. Diagnosis is a subtle art. And your friend must understand the doctor’s instructions. Hospitals usually have a list of people who can help with various languages, even ones you might not expect like Hmong.

4) Discharge
The ER might be your friend’s one chance to receive expensive tests like blood analysis and CAT scans. Ask for a copy of the medical record so your friend can show it to the next doctor she visits. If your friend needs a prescription drug and you feel that you can trust your doctor, the doctor might be asked to write it out using your friend’s real name. When you leave, the hospital might ask for contact information again or try to set up a payment plan. Your friend would keep giving the new name she chose. If you are with her and they ask for your name, being prepared to make up a new name for yourself too might be necessary. Your friend may leave the hospital without being bothered at all.

5) Follow-up
The most challenging step will probably be following up on the care your friend received in the ER. Again, the Gold Card might be the best option. Or maybe you have doctor friends who can help out.

Good luck!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Are Mothers Opting Out of Careers to Care for Children?

A lawyer with a good shot at making partner quits. A picture shows her cradling a baby close to her breast. Since the publication of a New York Times story titled the “Opt Out Revolution,” the press has frequently reported anecdotes of high-powered, educated women who have decided to “opt out” of work in favor of full-time motherhood. The angle is that women in their thirties had mothers who fought for the right to work and raised their daughter to believe they could do anything, but it turns out that these successful women cannot balance a stressful career with childcare.Feminist Economics, which is the academic journal I work for, has published a new study on this controversial question.

The new evidence from scholar Heather Boushey refutes the idea of an opt out revolution. Boushey shows that the number of women leaving jobs to take care of children has decreased dramatically over the past two decades. The article, “Opting Out? The Effect of Children on Women’s Employment in the United States” counters media portrayal of “any exit from employment by a mother as about motherhood, not other factors, such as inflexible workplaces, labor market weakness, a decrease in men’s contributions to housework, or other reasons why women may not work outside the home.” She points to changes in the labor market, not children, as a cause for somewhat lower rates of women in the workplace more recently.

“Highly educated women, those with a graduate degree – those who the media claims have been opting out of employment for motherhood – have not actually seen a statistically or economically meaningful decline or increase in the estimated marginal effect of children on their employment,” Boushey writes. Furthermore, the effect of children on women with a high school or college degree and for single mothers has sharply decreased.

Using data from a nationally representative survey of the US population, the Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Survey (ASEC) from 1979 to 2005, Boushey did not find any evidence of an increase in opting out. In contrast, she finds that especially for women with a high school or college degree and for single mothers, “the estimated marginal effect of having children at home has decreased sharply over the past two decades.” She finds that the ‘‘child effect’’ on women’s employment has fallen since the end of the 1970s from 21.8 percentage points in 1979 to 12.7 percentage points in 2005.

“The US’s 2001 recession was exceptionally hard on women workers,” writes Boushey. “They lost more jobs than they had in prior recessions, even though they lost fewer jobs than men overall.” Boushey suggests that “the opting-out story” may be simply due to the lower employment rates for workers overall since 2000.

At the time of writing the article, Boushey was a senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which is a progressive think tank. Now she works for Congress as a senior economist. Her work focuses on the U.S. labor market, social policy, and work and family issues.

I think that Boushey’s work is a crucial intervention in the debate about support for women entering the workforce. Discussions of mother’s choices should be backed up by real evidence and Dr. Boushey’s article offers a rigorous, peer-reviewed analysis. The point is not that parents can easily balance their work and home lives. But we should not assume, on the basis of anecdotes, that privileged women reject the opportunities feminists have struggled for. We do need to talk about ways to support parents and enable more people to be able to choose the lives they find most meaningful.

My goal is to include more summaries of and interviews about work published in the journal or presented at the panels I attend so readers of this blog can learn from and respond to the latest scholarship. Hopefully, this will be the first of several reports.