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Google's doodle today celebrates the 366th birthday of Maria Sibylla Merian.  In 1699 Merian traveled to Dutch Surinam in South America and spent two years studying tropical plants and animals, and in 1705 published the first book to show tropical organisms interacting in their environment.  Earlier she had published two books on European insects that were the first to show plant/animal interactions in a way that modern scientists now think of as ecological relationships.

Trained as an artist from her childhood, Merian illustrated her own books, and she is often more celebrated for her art than for her science.  But her work was groundbreaking, and she spent decades studying the life cycles of insects, their behavior and relationships with plants and other animals.  Her writings are as important as her beautiful images, but are sometimes overlooked.

I apologize for the short diary (busy day), but hope the images below and above from her 1705 book on the insects of Surinam will speak for themselves.  There are many websites and scholarly articles on her biography and work on-line; the wikipedia entry is not bad as an introduction to her work.  Kim Todd's biography is also a nice read.  Maria Sibylla Merian's work was hugely influential on naturalists and natural history artists who followed her, and it is wonderful that Google salutes her today.


Two quick observations from today, from someone (me!) living in a heavily Republican county in PA.

One- We walk our dogs for miles in our middle-class neighborhood, and I have seen only ONE Romney/Ryan sign, and virtually no Romney bumper stickers.  Even more telling perhaps, a string of houses we fondly call "Freeper Ridge" not only has no signs for Romney, but they have taken down their little tea party emblems, e.g. the "Don't tread on me flags."  These houses are populated by a mix of retirees with pathologically neat lawns, and others who from prior signs are clearly right leaning.  Now.... nothing in sight.

Have seen only one sign for Obama in the neighborhood, but compared to the last election the visual support for the Republican candidate seems minimal, too. We will be putting up an Obama sign when I can get one; for now just have my car magnet.

Two- the hardworking woman in her 70's who cleans our house once a week responded vehemently when I jokingly asked her if she was a moocher.  Let's call her Lucy.  Lucy and I  have a long and friendly relationship, so she knew where I was coming from when I asked this.  She does not make enough to pay federal income tax, nor does her grand-daughter who lives with her and waits tables, nor her son who is disabled from a stroke.  

Lucy launched into a tirade that showed she was very informed about the latest Romney spouting, detailed her long work history, and continued by telling me what she thought of Ann Romney's tales of hard work.  While I don't have evidence that Mrs. Romney has relied entirely on nannies and help, our hard-working friend clearly thinks that was the case, and I am guessing she might be representative of many in the so-called 47%.  Lucy, who by the way is white, then sang the praises of Michelle Obama for helping to improve the lunches at her great-grandaughter's school.

So based entirely on today's anecdotal evidence, I declare Mitt to be toast.  I will close by promoting my husband's favorite phrase from the last month as a bumper sticker:

Keep talking Mitt....keep talking.


Do you see many Romney signs in your neighborhood?

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| 192 votes | Vote | Results


Sat May 12, 2012 at 10:47 AM PDT

Mitt Romney: Serial bully

by seriousaboutscience

Several decades ago in grade school I wrote and passed a cruel note about a girl in my class.  She was a bit chubby and had few friends.  Whether she ever knew of the note or not, I immediately felt tremendous guilt, and still cringe when I think of it.  Every since, I have tried to be on the side of the bullied, but I certainly have never forgotten what I did, and can even remember her name and her face.  This ugly chapter of my own history is burned into my brain, although I have never spoken of it until now.

When Mr. Romney says he does not remember the high school incident reported by his classmates, there are a few possibilities:  a) he has a crappy memory (not good in a President); b) he is lying; or c) he frequently bullied, such that this was commonplace and therefore not memorable.  Initially I thought he was lying, but upon further reflection I am leaning toward choice c.  For a serial bully this would just be another day in their life, forgettable, like what you eat for lunch.  I do not think that we should judge people based on mistakes made in high school or even later in life, but as to the person that they are now, and how they have "evolved." But just as Romney has said he will not evolve on gay rights, he also appears to retain his primitive and cruel behavior as an adult, at least when it serves his own interests.

People who treat their dog like a piece of furniture and then regret only that it brought negative attention are probably serial bullies.  People who enjoy closing down businesses and firing people profit from pushing other around, a great motive for being a bully.  But more recent evidence for Romney as a serial bully can be found in a Vanity Fair piece that recounts two horrific cases of his intimidation of women; both relate to his position as a leader in the Mormon Church.  In one instance Romney pushed a single mother to give up her child for adoption.

In that moment, she also felt intimidated. Here was Romney, who held great power as her church leader and was the head of a wealthy, prominent Belmont family, sitting in her gritty apartment making grave demands. “And then he says, ‘Well, this is what the church wants you to do, and if you don’t, then you could be excommunicated for failing to follow the leadership of the church,’ ” Hayes recalled. It was a serious threat. At that point Hayes still valued her place within the Mormon Church. “This is not playing around,” she said. “This is not like ‘You don’t get to take Communion.’ This is like ‘You will not be saved. You will never see the face of God.’ ”
In a second incident reported in the same Vanity Fair piece, another woman describes what happened when Romney came to her in the hospital, where she was planning to have an abortion, in part due to a dangerous pelvic blood clot:
“As your bishop,” she said he told her, “my concern is with the child.” The woman wrote, “Here I—a baptized, endowed, dedicated worker, and tithe-payer in the church—lay helpless, hurt, and frightened, trying to maintain my psychological equilibrium, and his concern was for the eight-week possibility in my uterus—not for me!”
Romney denies telling the first woman to give up her child, and of the second he said “I don’t have any memory of what she is referring to, although I certainly can’t say it could not have been me.”

I imagine these accounts only scratch the surface, and that many other Romney victims have their stories.  Too bad he does not remember them.


This is what is implied repeatedly in a stunning interview with Franklin Graham (son of Billy) on Morning Joe today.  You really need to see the entire video, which can be found in two parts on Mediaite.

Graham wants people to believe that the President is a christian (lower case intentional) of political convenience, and explains that he comes to this conclusion because Obama was told he needed to join a church in order to work as a community organizer in his Chicago days.  So when asked if Obama was a Christian, Graham said that you would have to ask him- he could not say.

Thankfully, an "A" team was interviewing this morning, and Graham was asked if Santorum was a christian, to which he gave an unequivocal yes.  And Newt?  Yes again.  On Romney he hedged a bit but repeated twice that most christians do not accept mormons as christian.  So nice of him to clarify all of this for us.

My preference would be for all candidates to be secular humanists, but as it is impossible for anyone to be elected in this country without being a "man/woman of god" then this will likely be part of the dialogue for years to come.  But watching Graham is like a window into the tiny little minds of many fundamentalists, and if you can stand to go there, it is very informative.  Of course you get similar snapshots of medieval thinking when listening to Santorum, but that is another diary altogether.

It is a very creepy interview, but kudos to the Morning Joe crew for asking the right questions.  Sorry I do know yet know how to imbed video.


I imagine all of us are a little tired of hearing men say what they have decided women should do with their reproductive capacity, so let's consider the fact that we as a species reproduce sexually as opposed to asexually (no partner needed).  By definition sexual reproduction means it takes a gamete from TWO different sexes to make an embryo.  Time to talk about sperm, and the behavior of the sperm carriers.

If birth control should not be covered by insurance, that should mean that vasectomies would not be covered.  But they are.  If birth control should not be available to women, then neither should condoms be available for men.  And yes, I know that condoms are also used for disease prevention, but if you follow the medieval thinking of Santorum and his ilk then the rules are that only virgin males and females get married and have sex only with each other, so disease is not an issue.  Or at least not for the virtuous, and the others be damned (if you need a review of medieval thinking, please reread Dante's Inferno).

Now for the consequences, which of course would be babies, and lots of them.  These babies need TWO parents supporting them, so I have a nifty plan to make sure that this happens. Everyone at birth gets a social security number and this is tied to a sample of their DNA.  It will then be easy to track and bill for child support any daddies who slip through the net after depositing sperm and hitting the road.  Or mommies who try to do the same.

And as John Hodgman would say- problem solved.


Morning Joe is not always my cup of tea, but I do like to hear what people like Eugene Robinson and Zbigniew Brzezinski have to say on issues of interest. And yes, Scarborough is a blowhard, but I can mute the tv when he blathers on. And on. And on.

What I can no longer stomach is his refusal to let Mika Brzezinski speak, particularly if she has something solid to contribute that refutes his Republican propaganda. This morning was the last straw for me. Mika had researched some of the background on the current religion and health care controversy, and he would not let her get it out. She had some facts, and since this might bring down his house of cards, he talked over her and would not allow her to be heard. But he does this on almost every subject from the sports to politics, and it is beyond tiresome, especially if you are a woman that has experienced similar treatment in the workplace.

Now I understand that a) I do not have to watch the show, and b) Mika does put up with this (of course not putting up with it would mean quitting a lucrative job), but it represents a form of disrespect for women that is commonly displayed in society.

I am asking people to speak out by contacting MSNBC. I did so this morning and wanted to post the contact link. Click on Reader Inquiries and let them know how you feel. It might not do any good, but perhaps if producers hear enough complaints, Scarborough will be pushed to let a woman be heard. After all, they did dump Pat Buchanan.

Quick edit- this is my first diary and the title was the trickiest bit. I realize you cannot "force" respect, but perhaps we can push him to at least give the appearance of respect for women. It would be a start.


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