Five a 8 – 8/21/09: Disagreeing with ourselves

1) Again with the journalism, eh Jon Stewart? The Daily Show host’s guest last night was Betsy McCaughey, one of the leading opponents of President Barack Obama’s health care plan. Here’s the first installment of the extended interview (and here’s the second part).

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McCaughey said, “it’s one thing to pay doctors to spend time with their patients to discuss this issue, but putting pressure on their doctors to require patients to go through a consultation… that’s really wrong.”

It was at that point that I wished Jon Stewart kept up with the news from South Dakota. Don’t get so smug, Minnesota politicians. It wasn’t that long ago (2003) when you passed the Women’s Right to Know Act, which required doctors to inform patients that abortions increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer, even though that assertion is very much in dispute.

Time to rewind the conversations: When exactly is it OK for government to dictate the conversation with your doctor? And when isn’t it? On this matter, it’s not about agreeing with each other. We don’t presently agree with ourselves.

The links above are the extended interviews. Here’s the one edited for the yucks.

Meanwhile, last night hundreds packed a forum on health care in Mankato. Contentious, but polite, is the characterization from an MPR reporter who was there.

2) I can’t decide this question: Is the world in good shape or bad shape when it can find the time to preoccupy itself with the question of whether a woman who wins a track & field event is really a woman?

3) Is Bob Dylan really from Minnesota? If so, where did his accent come from? Graeme Wood, writing in The Atlantic, traveled to Hibbing to find out, and — of course — to get in a few shots at the people who do live here:

So far, from Jaqi and the regulars at the Sportsmen’s, I had heard not even the faintest echo of what Philip Larkin called that “cawing, derisive voice,” though I had heard plenty of derision. But accents are tricky, especially in diversely settled regions like northern Minnesota. Hibbing was an iron town, and the mining jobs had attracted immigrants from at least fifty different known ethnic stocks. Even today, one of Hibbing’s main attractions is the Hull Rust-Mahoning Open Pit Iron Mine, a vast scar on the earth where generations of miners extracted ore from taconite. The pit extends more than a mile across, and from behind the chain-link fence at the lookout point on the northern fringe of town, it resembles a polluted northern twin of the Grand Canyon.

(h/t: @MNstories)

4) I’ve written plenty this week about the national convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Minneapolis, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much. Today, they take up the full resolution on non-celibate gay clergy (Today’s activities start at 8 a.m.). Here’s the live video feed, but if you want an example of Twitter at its finest, spend the day following the vote here. A few are blogging but what we’ve learned in Minneapolis this week is nobody can tweet like a Lutheran.

5) I forget. Are frogs an indicator species? New research: Traffic noise could be ruining sex lives of frogs.


Health care reform is the subject of town hall meetings, congressional negotiations and presidential news conferences. But the debate is happening in locations that never make the news. We want to know how the controversy is playing out in your life. Where does your health care debate take place?


I’ll have another installment in the News Cut series, “The Unemployed,” by early afternoon. I’m looking for more people to profile. Contact me here.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: When both the Lockerbie bomber and disgraced quarterback Michael Vick were released back to society, some people were outraged. But one scientist suggests that we have evolved to forgive, alongside biblical traditions of redeeming sins. Kerri and her guests consider forgiveness. News Cut readers, on the other hand, already have. Here and here.

Second hour: Singer Dar Williams.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Cardiologist Dr. Thomas Kottke and Dr. David Wallinga, director of the Food and Health program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, discuss what constitutes healthy living.

Second hour: Three brain scientists discuss how the brain works.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – It’s Science Friday. First hour: A look at the hurricane season.

Second hour: The food-shopping decisions we make and whether they matter.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Toni Randolph is following the ELCA vote. Brandt Williams will report on the use of police video. Who looks at it and when? Dan Olson looks at the transportation hub springing up near the Twins ballpark.

Nationally, Mike Pesca begins a series — Friday Night Lives — with a visit to high school football training camps. Richard Gonzales profiles the last remaining auto plant in California, which is likely to close soon. Joel Rose will report on why the promise of digital TV has fallen so far short.

  • Al

    I think Gary should put off the show on what constitutes healthy living and do it next week live from the State Fair.

  • Alison

    So what makes you male or female? Genitals? Genes? Hormone levels? How you look? What your brain is telling you you really are? There are plenty of people where some of these conflict with each other, even genes and genitals.

    The hurt comes when these people have to try to fit into a society where we require that everyone fit into male or female and deny that there could be anything in between. I don’t what the case is behind this runner, but I feel sorry for her being subjected to spotlight.

    On a side noted related to the other story of the day, wouldn’t it do damage to our ideas of hetero/homosexuality if you had someone who didn’t fit either category?

  • JohnnyZoom

    >>So what makes you male or female?

    The sex chromosome you inherit from your biological father determines that. Straightforward medical science. Your brain cannot tell you anything about the enumeration fo your chromosomes. It can, on the other hand, tell you your opinion of the various sex roles presented to you by your culture. But the roles and the sex itself are different things.

    The case of the runner is not about roles. It is about fraud.

  • Alison

    So Johnny, how about if you have XXY? What if your chromosomes and your genitalia disagree? What if you are born with ambiguous genitalia, maybe a combination of male and female? These things happen in real people. What role do hormone washes in the womb have in determining gender? Is all of this straightforward medical science or really confusing medical science?

  • Heather

    Ah, ambiguous genitalia. “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides should be required reading.

  • JohnnyZoom

    Um, sorry I was trying to be helpful, no need to get snippy. I am sure the science is still straightforward, but once you get into issues of aneuploidy (what your example is), it is out of my particular area. But trust me, it is someone’s.

    I am not sure what the rest of those questions are really asking. So I guess the best answer is “it depends” Genetics and development are fascinating areas. How they apply to the running situation is of course the discretion of the governing body of the sport. But I suspect the maxim “hard cases make bad law” will be apropros here; I find it usually is.

    I reread Bob’s original question, are we in good or bad shape because of the attention this case is getting, and might revisit it in light of the direction this is taking.

  • c

    we all have male and female in us and the most healthy, in my opinion, exercise both.

  • Kim V

    As soon as we, as a society, understand that biological sex is not a binary, nor is gender or sexual orientation, I think we’ll be more accepting in general.

    On another note, those 2 “Daily Show” videos were incredibly frustrating to watch. It’s like they were speaking 2 different languages and had 2 different interpretations of the bill. This is probably why nothing gets accomplished at the town halls either.

  • standard issue female

    Sorry….but there is just no way Castor Semenya is a woman.

    I get that different people self identify in different ways. But that is subjective. I can decide to self identify as a tuna sandwich on whole wheat but that doesn’t change the fact that genetically I am part of family Hominidae.

    As a person who is genetically as well as physically unambiguously feminine, I resent having to share my gender identify with people who aren’t genetically and physiologically female. I have no ill will for people who don’t fit my genetic/biological category, but it is inaccurate to describe them as women.

  • The Real S.I.F.

    ///As soon as we, as a society, understand that biological sex is not a binary, nor is gender or sexual orientation, I think we’ll be more accepting in general.


    girl does not necessarily always = Boobies + PINK

    (ta hell with barbie)

    nor does

    boy necessarily always= Rough and tumble jockster sports man.

  • standard issue female

    Real S.I.F.–where did I say a woman has to look like barbie or a man has to be “rough and tumble”?

    My point is that men and women have defined chromosomes (xy/xx respectively) and particular physiological (primary and secondary sexual)characteristics and those who don’t fit the definition don’t belong in the category. I absolutely agree sex is not binary. We need more categories to define the range of sexes. (Klinefleter’s, Triple X, Turner Syndrome, etc.)

    BTW –Your argument is fundamentally flawed because you assert the non-binary argument first then go on to suggest the binary definitions of traditional m/f categories should be expanded to encompass the range of different sexual identities. The argument is nonsensical because you can’t logically have it both ways.

  • Alison

    “As a person who is genetically as well as physically unambiguously feminine, I resent having to share my gender identify with people who aren’t genetically and physiologically female.”

    It’s hateful comments like that that cause those of us stuck in the middle to live in fear and shame. Have you ever taken the chance to get to know one of us, really know one of us? It’s pretty easy to spout off hurtful comments like that annonymously, but try doing it to the face of someone you know. Comments like this keep transgender and intersex people in the closet.

    Further, it’s not just intersex and transpeople who are hurt by attitudes like this. Hopefully you or someone you love never marries a closeted transgender person who later comes out. If you think that doesn’t happen, think again. Thankfully it happens less frequently these days because people with hateful attitudes towards transgender and intersex people are quickly becoming the minority. More of us have the courage to leave our depressing, frightening closets before getting married.

  • michele


    I am genuinely sorry for any hurt I have caused you. Obviously we are all human beings regardless of sex. I’m not trying to hurt anyone, it just makes more sense to me to have proper categories for all people. I believe we are at a point of scientific sophistication that we can do that with some accuracy.

    Neither men nor women are better than the other and, likewise, I don’t think traditional xy/xx people are better than people in the “middle”. We are all humans. We are all different. We all deserve dignity.

    I used to worked with an intersex person (a woman with some male traits). We were good work friends and we socialized somewhat outside work, but not extensively. She didn’t tell me details and I didn’t ask because I didn’t want to pry into her business.

  • Alison

    Thanks for the apology, Michele.

    We aren’t at point where we can put people into categories of male and female with perfect accuracy, and that is something we cannot attain. There isn’t agreement on exactly what determines if you are male or female. Scientist don’t have it all figured, but they have figured out that there are a few ways to determine if someone is male or female. There are people fit different definitions depending on which route you use for the determination.

    I think the way that best respects the dignity of each person is to allow them to choose how they would llike the world to see them.