Sunday, February 18, 2018

"My Glock is my equalizer": twisting women's rights

We cry and grieve for the lost children, the life long agony of their families, the incomprehensibility of our country's continued gun fetish. 
We, you and me, and your friends and my friends read Michael Tomasky (Daily Beast) & Adam Gopnik (New Yorker). We ask big, discourse-worthy questions about society and our democracy. 

 We frame the gun problem using things like criminal justice studies, social pathology, cycles of poverty and economic interests. We speak of the ethical and the moral.

We ask?
  • What does it say about a society that has more handguns per capita than war-torn countries like Yemen,?
  • How can we accept the fact that 5,740 young people died from gunfire in the United States, just in 2008 and 2009.
  • Why can't our children go to school, shopping malls, movies, concerts without the threat of being slaughtered by someone with a war weapon?
  • How can we allow elected officials to accept millions $$$ from the NRA?
  • Why can't this great democracy pass sensible gun legislation?
BUT who is fueling the pro gun movement even at this moment. We're familiar with the usual argument frames:
  • freedom from state tyranny
  • constitutional rights
  • militia madness
But with the Florida HS shooting I found myself consuming lots of commentary, trying to make some meaning out of the chaos.

I discovered (PragerU) "Short Videos Big Ideas".  Their website boasts:

Our videos make it easy to get smarter five minutes at a time

I'm writing in this entry about a specific "show' they have presented by Katie Pavlich

Here the narrative is more pernicious. 

It has critical elements of persuasive argument: (I'll use Aristotle here circa 386 BC)

                   "My Glock 43 is my equalizer"
                    "Don't you want equality between men and women. 
2.  She speaks  in an honest,  straight forward style. (Ethos)

                 "How is a woman supposed to defend herself" - against a man who is bigger and stronger.

3.  She asks the viewers to explore together "let's just think bout this".  (Pathos)

4.  She uses compelling real world, real people evidence for her argument, with clear, easy       consumable visuals (logos). 

5. She "closes" strong.

      "I'm all for equality between the sexes...that's why I own a gun." 

Forget the cherry-picked research comparing English and American crime rates.
She's got the   "real people" stories like the female mail carrier who took matters into her own hands when the police turned a deaf ear. 
And there you have it. 
Smarter in 5 minutes!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Is this the new face of disaster relief??

Im stewing about an issue that should be so much lower on the “ do something useful for mankind today” totem poll today that it’s turning out to be.  

Perhaps it’s because I’m in Greece at the moment and here you can certainly get your fill of the Byzantine web of political infighting, nepotism, idiotic bureaucracy, and a little too much Retsina, to be at your best every day. 

The latest in FEMA dysfunction has hit my gender button (among others) and is messing with far more than my Aegean day.

FEMA Contract Called for 30 Million Meals for Puerto Ricans. 50,000 Were Delivered.

The facts as reported in the NYT

Immediately after apocalyptic Hurricane Harvey and Puerto Rico’s utter devastation, FEMA determined that at least 30 million meals were needed to be there right away. 

Who did they choose to meet this enormous challenge? 
Tiffany Brown, the sole proprietor of Tribute LLC. 

This is the website I found: She has a number of companies - some in fashion.

I quote the NYT,   

"Ms. Brown, who is adept at navigating the federal contracting system, hired a wedding caterer in Atlanta with a staff of 11 to freeze-dry wild mushrooms and rice, chicken and rice, and vegetable soup. She found a nonprofit in Texas that had shipped food aid overseas and domestically, including to a Houston food bank after Hurricane Harvey."

Comes Oct. 2017 Brown’s contract was ended  - why? 
Because she only had delivered 50,000 out of a total 30 million meals.  BTW the meals showed up separately packed from the heaters that people needed to make them eatable.

So, the moral of this story....
Yes, once again we see that, as with Hurricane Katrina, FEMA’s system for responding does not work.  They don’t seem to have vetted, proven contractors in place before disasters hit. 

Secondy - we don't know just how they chose Tyfanny Brown and Tribute LLC. 

It seems food service may not be Tribute’s thing.  Quoting the NYT again,Four cancellations involved the Federal Prison System, which found that Tribute failed to deliver meat, bakery, cereal and other food products to various correctional institutions.”

But here is what else has so soured my Aegean day, the devastated US citizens that needed to be fed backgrounded for a moment,

The art and crime of giving government contracts ( local and national) to insiders is nothing new.  I get it.  The “old boys” network – etched in our culture and capitalism, is not going away soon.

But now, it really does hit me that there is and will likely grow an “old gals” network of savvy female insiders, who have their fingers in the pot. 
According to Brown's multi-business website:

She has held positions with the United States Government Accountability

Office, Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, Georgia Law Center for the
Homeless, Georgia Conservation Voters, Supreme Court of Georgia, Equifax,
Coca-Cola Enterprises, and Atlanta Bar Association. Upon Graduation from
Walden University, she has truly impacted change as an academic and
practitioner. Dr. Brown is a former 2009 Write-in Atlanta Mayoral Candidate
and owner of 3 companies.

Tiffany Brown’s Tribute LLC, as far as I can tell, was certified as a Women Owned/Minority Owned Business ( WMBE).  Coincidentally my small consulting business is too.  *Disclaimer I don’t do food delivery, or claim to be able to feed any one besides myself and my dog on a regular basis. 

But I do respect, support and believe in the mission of the WMBE federal program.

  • “We promote equity and increase participation in public contracting and procurement for small businesses owned by minorities, women and disadvantaged persons through education and certification. 
  • Creating an environment where small businesses owned by minorities, women and disadvantaged persons have equal opportunity to participate in public contracting and procurement.

Emboldened by the #MeToo movement  - Yes. 
But I'm also sobered to be reminded again, that this is one of the ugly upshots of women getting ahead.  The age old tradeoff of ethics for ....what, status, power and money.  

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” -Maya Angelou

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Bleak future for US Academics in Trump Era?

Why am I taking the time to write this blog? Is it…

a) I’m putting off working on an academic article that was rejected by an   international health journal this week.
b) I haven’t posted in a while and my students get a kick when I do.
c) Recent women’s discourse has reminded me that abuse is never acceptable.
d) I have chilling feeling that what people have been saying about how the rest of the world sees US, post election 2017, is really true!!!

You guessed it.  A little of all of the above.

Let me set the stage – briefly.

A while back I submitted one of my research studies to an international health journal of some repute.  In the little bitty corner of the academic world I've worked in for 40+ yrs. -  health communication work - my reputation is not too shabby.  

This week, as has happened many times before, I and my co-author both received an email from the journal’s Editor in Chief notifying us that our article was not going to be accepted. Nice enough as rejections go.  After all these years the prick of rejection is dulled. The instantaneous urge to go eat a box of Chips Ahoy cookies remains.

My co-author and I assumed the reviewers’ comments would be sent along shortly.

Neither of us realized that – and this is VERY CRITICAL TO MY STORY – the reviewers’ comments were included at the bottom of the rejection email letter. You had to scroll down. ( No instructions to do so.)  But sure enough, there they were, plain as the nose on your face.

But – and again CRITICAL INFO– because I couldn’t find the reviews I sent the following short email to the Editor.
( and this is where my story really begins) 

Chris’ email query:
Chris: Thank you for the response.  May I ask whether the article ever went out for review?
Editor in Chief’s response to above query:
Editor: Dear Christina,
I am a bit miffed by your query - the comments of two reviewers and our Associate Editor are included in our decision. Would you suggest we invent reviews in our office?

Chris (apologizes for something she’s done though she’s not sure what):
Chris: I'm sorry that my email was misinterpreted.  I haven't seen the reviews and don't know how to access them.
And a few minutes later, wanting to make sure I make it clear that I really don’t know where the reviewers’ comments can be found:
I did not mean any offense.  I don't know where to go to access the reviews.
Sorry for not being clear and more diplomatic.

About an hour later: – (me gathering a little moxie)
Chris:  Actually, I re-read my email to you - it was a rather polite question - I was seeking information. I now realize I failed to scroll down to see the reviews were in your email - (a custom I am not familiar with).
I think your response to my initial query was snide, unprofessional and completely uncalled for. 

Editor Responds One Last Time  (the cute de grâce)

Dear Christina,
We may live by different standards of politeness. In my world a letter, even an email, starts with a kind, even friendly, salutation. Similarly, it ends with a gentle expression of sincerity, e.g., 'yours truly'.
Maybe the Trumpian era has shifted your bearings?
The insinuation that we would have rejected your paper without properly reviewing it was - in particular considering your stature in the field - sufficient reason for a terse response. If this has offended you, so be it.

“Yours”!!!!  Is she kidding?

So, what can I make of this?
I’ll usually give people a pass  - at least once. She goes off on me - well any number of things can be in play: 
Bad hair day
Bad day generally
Sore feet from Women's March
World hunger
Personality disorder

But Trump!!!

Has it really come to this? That even someone on the other side of the globe is now so revolted by Trump’s crassness, arrogance and stupidity that her perceptions and judgments of Americans is so contaminated that she can only read mal-intent into anything I say.

Unlike some who have tired of the incessant  political and social critiques,  I still read the paper, listen to Rachel Maddow every night and expose myself to Trump’s nonsense in tweet alerts that plague my days. 

But being scolded, bullied, because of my imaginary links to Trump - this one got to me.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Herd Immunity and Other Civics Lessons

On Jan 15 Aaron E Carroll (NYT,  Section, The Upshot) wrote a good article about why the public should get vaccinated against flu - Still Not Convinced You Need a Flu Shot? First, It's Not All About You.

While urging the public to do so is a perenniel pursuit, Carroll focuses on the role of herd immunity

Photo & captions from NYT article 

I quote the author here - 
"If you fall into one of the lower-risk groups (i.e., adults age 18-50), you might still think that the flu isn’t such a big deal, and that you don’t need to worry much. I could argue that there’s evidence that even if the shot doesn’t prevent you from getting the flu, it could make your illness less severe. But even this misses a huge point. You don’t get immunized just to protect yourself. You also get immunized to protect those who can’t protect themselves."(my bolding) 

Carroll makes his point further by citing statistics of childhood deaths from chickenpox  between 2004 – 2007.  No children died of chickenpox during these years (US), even though young children are not given the vaccine.  

Carroll explains - 
"But, their older siblings were – thus protecting them from getting sick…and perhaps dying. “That achieved the herd immunity necessary to slow or prevent the rates of infection significantly.”

For many years I've thought about health and science concept such as herd immunity and tracked if and how they are embedded into health messages for patients and the public. In short, I don't see this important concept foregrounded enough. 

I'd like to introduce the way my co-authors and I talk about the aspect of health literacy related to seeing oneself as part of and a contributor to the larger group's health and well being ( Christina Zarcadoolas, PhD., Andrew Pleasant PhD., & Dr. David S Greer, ) in Advancing Health Literacy: A Framework for Understanding and Action, Jossey Bass 

In that book we defined a component of health literacy we call CIVIC LITERACY. 

In part, "Civic literacy includes understanding how to act with the collective good in mind (Gaventa, 1993; Kawachi & Berkman, 1998)."

 "When a person has both a sense of individual and collective identity they are better prepared to consider and coordinate personal and collective interests.  Civic literacy comprises a range of understandings including:
Judging the sources of information 
Judging the quality of information 
Knowing where and how to access information 
Knowing how to advocate for yourself and others 
Understanding the relationship between your actions and the larger social group 

I continue to believe that health education/outreach, health messages and campaigns can be strengthened by integrating the role that civic literacy plays. Using more positive framing than negative/punitive, health messaging can use dual benefit strategies - ("Take the Stair: Burn Calories + Save Energy ).  It's equally important to not assume that people "get it." 
Real world example - take the stair signs.  They're fairly ubiquitous in NYC building now.  When they first started to be displayed about 5 years ago, in my best non-intrusive ethnography fashion, I'd simply ask people about the signs as we stood at the elevator.  I can't tell you how many people grumbled,  "I don't think taking the stairs is gonna save me any energy." 
Advice:  You have to make sure you explain the dual benefits effectively.   

Messages implicating the consumer's responsibility to consider and protect the health of others can strengthen campaigns ranging from second-hand smoke, and handwashing in hospitals, to disaster evacuation directives and, of course, flu vaccination. Creating patient/consumer messaging that taps into and advances a person's civic health literacy would be a very good thing. 

Carroll's phrase - It's Not All About You - would be a perfect start.