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    • The Wages Of Embarassing Elites Are Death
      Everyone remember the Panama papers? A leak of bank records showing that the ultra-rich are hiding massive wealth, tax-free and often breaking the law to do so? A rather weak set of laws designed to allow tax avoidance by rich people, at that. Found out the other day that the reporter who broke the Panama Papers story was killed by a car bomb. Coincidence, n […]
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Pop culture sensations

I’m going to talk about Gabby Petito. If this subject triggers you into a frenzy about missing white women and how women of color don’t get this kind of coverage, well, you aren’t telling me anything new. But in a way, you are the target audience because you just might be a dinosaur. Allow me to explain.

I’m not a true crime aficionado. I don’t watch whatever the most popular true crime shows are and don’t even know where to find them on TV. In fact, I don’t watch a lot of TV. I stopped watching it for the most part about 7-8 years ago. Content creators on YouTube and podcasts are getting so good that TV just doesn’t interest me any more unless there’s a good bingeable series. Then I stream. I watch about an hour of cable news a day. The rest of my news I read or listen to. And I’m deliberate about avoiding video news programs on TV because it’s very easy to manipulate perception about current events in a visual format.

So maybe that’s why I had no idea who Casey Anthony was until about 24 hours before her verdict. I only heard barely snippets about Natalie Holloway. Indeed, there’s a whole population of missing white women and children and murders that I am not aware of. Maybe that’s because the times I have been forced to watch Fox News always featured them prominently. You definitely get the feeling from watching Fox that there are pedophiles and homocidal maniacs behind every tree just waiting to snatch your kids or bludgeon you to death.

I’m just too cold and analytical to fall for that stuff. Yes, their cases are tragic. But the risk to ones safety is greatly GREATLY exaggerated. So, I just tune that fearmongering out. There’s enough actual fear inducing material in real life.

I’m also aware that women of color and indigenous women don’t get the same kind of coverage. Rent the movie Wind River if you want to see what that’s all about. It’s heartbreaking. But there’s something disturbing about the reaction to Gabby’s disappearance and coverage. I’ll get back to that in a minute.

All of this is to say that when it comes to this case of Gabby Petito, I have gotten exactly zero information from any news programming. I have no idea how much time CNN has spent on it or CBS or John Walsh or the latest true crime program or Nancy Grace or anything like that.

All of the information, first degree video, accounts, search area data, all of that stuff on Gabby’s disappearance, has come directly from the internet. Her disappearance went viral because 1.) she had social media presence including an Instagram account with 50,000 followers and 2.) she was vlogging about a very popular lifestyle among young women and that is van life. It’s a spin off of cottagecore. It’s all about independence, minimalism, do it yourself and the great outdoors. Gabby was a bit unusual in the genre in that she took her boyfriend with her in her van. Van life for young women is viral to begin with. Everyone is buying an old white van, converting it, and digital nomading it in Wyoming or Colorado or Yosemite. Gabby was just following the crowd.

When she disappeared, it was her followers who spread the word. It is no exaggeration to say that the FBI was greatly helped by the crowdsourcing of the internet. We are still getting reports by people who saw Gabby and Brian on their road trip. Just yesterday, two people said Brian caused a scene at a restaurant in Jackson and Gabby was crying on the sidewalk. That might have been the last time anyone but Brian saw her alive. That kind of information is crucial to estimating the time of death.

The news about Gabby may be on every channel now. I wouldn’t know. But it started on Instagram, Youtube and Twitter. You can watch the Sarasota Sheriff’s helicopter circling over swamps in real time online. You can get throughout the day updates from your favorite pop culture YouTube channels.

This is not a case of missing white woman syndrome or at least it didn’t start out that way. This started as a mystery on the internet and people became intrigued by the footage they shot while on their trip and the incident with the police in Utah and the weird behavior of her boyfriend and his parents. People are just trying to figure it out, put all the pieces together. This time, they seem to be trying to clamp down on conspiracy theories and misreading clues. There is a lot of examination of the evidence by youtubers who know how to use video editing tools, people who share online applications, discussion of body language, the psychology of domestic abuse. It’s not just a narrative dramatized for true crime. It’s actual crime and thousands of amateur detectives sharing bits of the puzzle pieces.

If you only got your information about gabby from TV, it’s probably more the case that a narrative has been shaped in order to wring out every bit of emotion, pathos and concern from you. That might be the thing that people like Joy Reid is responding to. Everyone is beatifying Gabby. She was beautiful, young, kind to animals, wholesome, sweet, had a lot of friends who miss her. Have there been candlelight vigils yet? It’s the standard tragic young life cut short story and it’s yet another white woman.

So the pushback narrative is that nobody cares about women of color or indigenous women and it’s not fair and everyone should feel ashamed of caring so much about this one white woman and that implies those of us who are invested in this case must be latent racists.

You know what, Joy? Please stop trying to tell the rest of us how we think and feel. If this happened to a black woman on a road trip in a white converted Ford van and she had a growing fan base and a weird boyfriend who is behaving bizarrely, there’s a pretty good chance we’d be all over that too. That’s not to say that cable news is not sensationalizing that missing white girl angle for its target audience. Cable news is trying to get ratings.

But there is another audience out there that just likes to solve problems and help. Gabby Petito’s disappearance is an interesting problem to solve and working on it gives us satisfaction.

Nobody I’ve been following is in it for the big bucks or the fame. They’re just trying to figure it out. If it were a woman of color with a set of unique circumstances and internet accessible evidence, they’d be all over that too. Maybe it’s up to Joy to find that person and promote the story. Bashing her audience over the head with accusations of implied racism is really missing the story.

And that story is, TV programming, whether network or cable, is now in our evolutionary past. We are writing our own narratives now.

Doxxing by PA Republicans?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

Fresh off a crushing defeat of the California recall that cost $300 million to advertise, organize and lose, Republicans have decided to waste time and taxpayer dollars in another state in order to distract, cause havoc and prep for whatever they’ve got planned for elections in 2022.

I’m referring to the subpoena by Pennsylvania Republicans for personal identifying information (PII) of EVERY voter in the state who cast a ballot in the 2020 presidential election.

These “lawmakers”, who apparently have nothing better to do with their time than sow fear, uncertainty and dread about “election integrity” and have caused the disqualification of all voting machines in one PA county already, are asking for the name, address, social security number, driver’s license number and voting record of every voter in the state. What they intend to do with this information is anybody’s guess.

The Democrats in the PA legislature are suing their Republican colleagues. Yes, this is how we spend our time now. We rehash the 2020 election looking for something that isn’t there. Well, it worked so well with Hillary’s emails. Just keep looking and looking even the target hands over absolutely everything and you never find anything. Keep insisting that they’re holding back important information even when there’s nothing more to give. Create an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust.

(Note that this is not the case with The Big Orange who hasn’t turned over anything without a Supreme Court ruling and has obstructed justice every step of the way and has actually had members of his staff and campaign go to jail for him. You know, the witch hunt actually found witches. You can’t say that about Hillary’s emails.)

But I digress.

So, the PA Republicans will have enough personal information in their hot little hands to cause all kinds of mischief against people whose votes they do not like. I don’t know why they have to do this. We have already told them how we voted. I’m not hiding anything. I voted for Biden/Harris and I did it because I did not want Trump/Pence to win. It’s that simple. Then the PA Secretary of State got all the paper ballots and counted them and the pile of votes for Biden/Harris was higher than the pile of votes for Trump/Pence.

The ballots were recounted and audited and certified. Ta-da!

There is no legitimate reason for PA Republicans to collect my PII or anyone else’s PII in the state for any innocent reason that I can think of and there’s a very good chance that a database with this information could be hacked and distributed to persons with bad intentions who will engage in identity theft. Like maybe someone who is not you will order a mail in ballot on your behalf and cast your ballot for you. You won’t know it until your ballot doesn’t show up in the mail and you check the voter ballot services website to find that your ballot has been cast already. Or maybe someone will send their men around to assess your worldly goods because it would be a shame if something “happened” to them. Or I don’t know, fill in the blanks. I’m seriously not talented in the proactive skullduggery and voter intimidation tactics. My mind doesn’t work that way because if it did, I’d have my retaining wall fixed and be planning my luxury vacations by now.

But you can be sure that they have a plan for all that personal data if for no other reason than it costs taxpayer money and causes havoc, anger and draws attention to itself.

The question is, will the Republicans be required to give a copy of all that data the state will be forced to gather to the Democrats?

Oooooo, *scary*.

OMFG, we needed a Jaime Lannister after all.

Before I begin, I have some new things on my plate at work. All good but it means I need to spend some time in rapid learning mode. So posts from me might be spotty for a couple of weeks.

Now onto the fireworks.

General Mark Milley had to reassure his counterpart in China that he wasn’t going to let Trump nuke them.

Take that in. Breathe its unsubtle aroma.

This news is coming from Bob Woodward (natch) in his new book Peril.

Here’s the scoop:

One call took place on Oct. 30, 2020, four days before the election that unseated President Trump, and the other on Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the Capitol siege carried out by his supporters in a quest to cancel the vote.

The first call was prompted by Milley’s review of intelligence suggesting the Chinese believed the United States was preparing to attack. That belief, the authors write, was based on tensions over military exercises in the South China Sea, and deepened by Trump’s belligerent rhetoric toward China.

“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,” Milley told him. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”

In the book’s account, Milley went so far as to pledge he would alert his counterpart in the event of a U.S. attack, stressing the rapport they’d established through a backchannel. “General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”

Wasn’t that nice. At least we would call them in advance before we blasted Beijing.

Didn’t Mary Trump allude to something like this? Donald can’t tolerate the idea that in some universe in the space time continuum, he loses anything to anyone. It doesn’t happen. Ever. So he’s likely to lash out either from anger or retribution or just because he’s still a brat and a bully and he doesn’t care about people who are not him and may not actually exist anyway.

I know that the Cult of Trump will claim “there was a reason why Trump wanted to plunge us all into a nuclear winter and we just don’t know what it is but if we did, we would see him as the steadfast, patriotic, principled strong guy that would have put the fear of god into all our enemies. Why are we picking on him?? Leave Donald Trump Aloooone!!, you stupid commie liberals. You just wanted China to win because you love socialism blah-blah-blah.”

And anyway, he was only kidding. He wasn’t serious about nuking the Chinese. {{they roll their eyes}}

Wait for it. You know it’s coming. Somehow, they’re going to spin this. Mark Milley was a failure. He’s disgruntled. He begged Trump for a job. He’s a never Trumper. He’s a secret Democrat.

Technically, General Milley didn’t have the power or authority to run interference or prevent Trump from doing whatever he wanted. He was a Jaime Lannister watching the mad king unravel, ready to set the world on fire. If Milley had to override the president without constitutional authority, if he was successful, only Milley’s reputation would suffer.

No one would be around to do a retrospective on the alternate outcome.

Paper Tiger

When Morning Edition on my car radio crackled with static and went out on my way to work, I just changed the station from WNYC to WHYY. I had just crossed the invisible boundary at Princeton that separates the New York news market from the Philadelphia market. Princeton has dead spots for radio and cell service. What I didn’t know or any NPR station for the next 5-10 minutes was that the broadcast antenna on top of the WTC north tower had been cut off.

When I got into the lab and fired up my workstation, I usually checked the news in my browser before I settled in for a morning of creating pretty protein pictures. But my browser was slow. Like impossibly slow. Almost like the whole world had logged in at once.

When my supervisor A. rushed in to my office to tell me that a plane had accidentally hit the north tower, I remembered that time about 7 years previously when some terrorists had planted a bomb in the garage of one of the towers. Then I remembered the day I took the elevator to the top of the WTC tower and thought there was no fucking way it was an accident. So that’s what I told A., except I left off the expletive because it was a work environment and it was still early in the morning. Well that explained the slow internet.

When the second plane hit a few minutes later, I *almost* expected it. It just seemed like the kind of thing a terrorist would do. You can’t just leave one smoking tower on the skyline. Symmetry demands two. It sends a clearer message. But we assumed the loss of life would be contained to the floors affected and that everyone else would be able to evacuate the floors like they did the last time.

When the plane hit the pentagon, I jumped out of my seat and ran out to the parking lot to my car to turn on WHYY. I remember saying to no one in particular, “we’re under attack” and I started to consider all the other targets because there were definitely going to be more. Then I recalled how my dad, the nuclear reactor maintenance specialist, took me on a tour of Three Mile Island and told me that the reactor building was reinforced to withstand the impact of a plane crashing into it. I was hoping the structural engineers had gotten that right and then wondered how they knew this day might come.

When the managers realized that no one was going to get any work done, they opened the auditorium and projected the network feed on a large screen. We watched in horror as the first tower fell. The room gasped and then cries erupted and fear was all around because some of those people had relatives working at the WTC and the their cell phones were busy. Our colleagues at the New York labs stood on the roofs of the buildings and watched the smoking towers in the distance.

When I heard about United 93 crashing somewhere between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, I wondered again what the target might be.

When the school called and told me to pick up Brook from her first week at Kindergarten because after school was canceled, the lab had already told us we could go home. By then, the computational chemists I worked with were sitting around talking about what was happening. My Chinese colleague K. turned to me with a smirk and said, “That is not surprising. The country that did this thinks America is what we say in Chinese, a Paper Tiger. You know what that is?”, she smirked again.

Then I turned on her and looked her dead in the eye. You never say that to someone who was born here, grew up here, shouted “this is a free country, I can say whatever I want” on the playground. We didn’t have military parades. We had sonic booms from jets that went faster than the speed of sound. We saved Europe- twice. We dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I said, “We beat our chests and roar and then we eat you alive. Whoever did this has no idea what they have unleashed on the world. You think Americans are soft? You have no idea what you are talking about. Watch us.”

I picked up my bag and left her a bit stunned. But not nearly as stunned as what she would see in the next few weeks.

We took it seriously. We sought vengeance. We delivered retribution and punishment and justice for the lives they took. We were also remarkably restrained. It would have been no trouble at all to reduce Afghanistan to a glass parking lot. I’m probably not the only one who wanted to do it. But our cooler heads prevailed. The pastor of the Princeton Presbyterian held an impromptu lunch service, and read the psalm about the waters of Babylon where the Israelites sat down and wept for Zion and then vowed to dash the heads of their enemies’ little ones against the rocks. Do we really want to do that?, he asked. Aren’t Christians all about peace? Which religion would have the moral high ground?

When the dust settled but the chaos remained, a new set of bad guys stepped in to take advantage of all that rage.

The rest of it we did to ourselves.

The Vaccine Mandate

Biden is expected to give a speech this evening to announce a vaccine mandate for all federal employees without a test out option. It’s about time. I think we’ve given refusers long enough. I’m sure Biden will have some speechwriter frame this decision diplomatically but I’d let them have it. Here’s what the selfishness and defiance means:

  • The hospital system in some states is collapsing. That would include Oregon, Mississippi, Idaho, Missouri and Louisiana to name a few.
  • ICU beds are overwhelmingly occupied by unvaccinated Covid patients leaving cancer patients and people with other life threatening health issues with nowhere to go. Some cancer patients have had to wait for four days in the ER for a bed only to be transported to another hospital hours away.
  • Children are both victims and vectors. The delta variant spreads so quickly and with such a high viral load that more children under 12 are getting Covid. And although their immune systems are better equipped to handle it, the magnitude of increase in the number of patients means that more children will end up in the hospital. They also bring it home to their parents, grandparents, other children. They take it to school and spread it around.
  • It is impacting the economy in the expected ways. If a school needs to quarantine a couple of classrooms of kids under 12, then someone has to stay home with them. That usually means mom. If mom can work from home, that will work. But if she can’t, then she has to decide if she can continue working at all.
  • Unemployment benefits are running out. That means there will be less money coming back into the economy. Less money being spent means fewer goods and services purchased which impacts small business’s bottom line which leads to unemployment. It’s a vicious cycle.
  • Fewer people working means fewer people paying taxes, especially social security taxes. That means there may be an impact to the benefit payoff down the line. That should make the soon to be retired VERY nervous.
  • The more time it takes to reach herd immunity, the more likely there will be more variants. Some of those variants, such as the Mu variant, may be escape varieties. That means the vaccines we already have circulating may no longer be effective or as effective. That means pharma will need to create new versions of the vaccine and everyone will need to get one periodically or the economy will continue to sink, more people will die and the hospital system will continue to be stressed beyond its capacity.

If that’s ok with you who are still holding out, then go ahead and continue to make a stink about having to get a shot. It’s not the hill I would want to die on, literally or figuratively, to defend my freedom but your mileage may vary. Maybe the refusers want the country and the globe to devolve into chaos, pain, and economic collapse. Maybe it suits their purposes. Maybe that will make a big daddy politician more popular no matter how ugly his policies or bad and incompetent his performance. I don’t see how anyone but the very wealthy elite benefit from that. I dunno. I just do thought experiments and follow them where they lead and the chaos scenario only works for you people like Littlefinger. The rest of us will suffer.

But I suspect that this is just the opening salvo in a war against the holdouts. It starts with a federal employee mandate. It will spread to large corporations and I am here for it. It should be a test of character, reliability, teamwork and ultimate employability. Those wellness points should be adjusted accordingly. Just a suggestion.

No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Re: Catholics

The anti-abortion crowd is very concerned about the souls of Catholic lawmakers today. They’re swarming AOC, well, who wouldn’t, she’s smart as a whip and can take down a right wing talking point in a single tweet. Then there was this:

This is analogous to the Catholic question that John F. Kennedy was asked back in 1960. The implicit assumption was that he would place his fealty to his religion and the pope over defending the US constitution. That was the fear of a lot of white Anglo Saxon Protestants back then. But he assured a slim majority that he wasn’t going to take orders from the pope.

Joe Biden is hewing to that line. He’s not going to check his support of the constitution in order to comply with the Vatican. He didn’t take an oath to the Vatican when he was inaugurated. He took an oath to defend the constitution. As a faithful Catholic, I’m fairly sure that he’s not pro-abortion. There are very few people in this country, if any, who are pro-abortion. But the first amendment does protect freedom of religion and he has quite a few constituents who are not Catholic.

So even if the pope had a say over Joe’s opposition to abortion, Joe does not have the right to impose this view on others. In other words, we do not all have to become Catholic. Joe is leaving the choice up to the people who are affected by abortion the most and that is not the nebby busy bodies in the anti-abortion movement.

I sense that the tweeters are starting to change their tactics a bit today. More than one has said that their opposition is not religiously based. It’s based on ethics. Ok. I’ll bite. Let’s talk about ethics. The choice issue is very much like the Trolley dilemma ethics problem.

It turns out that how you solve that problem depends in part on your culture. The solution could be either outcome. It is a choice you have to live with and you weigh the rightness of the solution depending on many factors.

“Oh, but it’s MURDER!!”, they wail. Yes. In the above example, someone(s) is going to die. That’s the problem. Are you going to condemn only one person or 5? There’s a variation that requires the problem solver to decide whether to push a man off a bridge to stop the trolley from hitting the five people. This is actually much closer to the actual abortion problem. In the first problem, all the solver needs to do is throw a switch. Maybe the trolley kills someone, maybe it stops in time, maybe the people on the track get out of the way. But in the second instance, the problem solver has to actively kill someone to save other people.

This is what it’s like to have choice. It is a very difficult choice. I don’t think the religious, I mean, newly converted “ethicists” actually appreciate that.

But let’s get back to Catholicism. I’m so glad these anti-abortion activists are finally bringing up the topic of religion because, goddess knows, we heard enough of their yelling and screaming about how unfair and impolitic it would be to ask Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Barret, Roberts or Thomas about their attitudes towards their catholic religious teachings. For the record, Gorsuch is now an Episcopalian but he graduated from a Jesuit prep school. I think he is a convert to episcopalianism so he might as well be Catholic. That right there is 6 Catholic Supreme Court justices. I believe Sotomayor is Catholic as well but she seems to be perturbed by the constitutionality of putting enforcement of state laws into the hands of private citizens. She seems to be ruling in the JFK manner.

What about the other 6 Catholic justices? We couldn’t ask them about whether they would put the constitution first. It should have been a legitimate question. Why is it that so many Conservative presidents nominated Catholics? They could have chosen Sikhs, or a Buddhist or a Quaker or an atheist. But they didn’t. Each and every time there was an opening they could appoint or steal, they chose a Catholic. Once or twice is reasonable. But SIX times? That is definitely a trend, nay, a correlation.

I think there is a lot of culture that a Catholic brings to the court. Their religion teaches them that abortion is wrong but as we have seen above, public servants at their level are expected to serve the US Constitution not Pope Francis. Also, they are taught from an early age to revere authority. But you know, it’s not a requirement. You can think for yourself as you uphold constitutional principles. It should be noted though that women have no authority in the Catholic Church. Maybe they did in elementary school but they don’t write papal bulls or vote on the next pontiff or get to be cardinals or bishops or priests.

Anyway, they can’t get around the party that brought them to power. The were nominated because they were more likely to adhere to the Republican Party platform, and all that it stands for, some of it unjust and not pretty. And for the most part, they have, even if that means they are opening up American jurisprudence to all kinds of outcomes that we will all regret later. They are smart enough to think things through and I have no doubt that they have.

Defend my what??

I heard the details of the Texas Abortion law from lawyer Christopher Melcher on Popcorned Planet on YouTube yesterday. I made a comment to the effect that it was to be expected once the Republicans put two more conservative justices on the Supreme Court that abortion would be sharply curtailed. We should now expect more states to follow like Missouri, Florida, and Utah but not Pennsylvania. In any state where the court, legislature and governor are all Republican, we should see more of these laws. In states where there is divided government, like PA, the governor is very unlikely to sign such bills into law. Now it is up to Texans to decide if this law is really going to work for them. We have now gone back to the Bonnie Jo, Go Home days where young women will need to travel to another state to get an abortion. That’s not easy in Texas where the nearest clinic may be in New Mexico 4 hours away.

Some idiot replied to my comment with “Defend your argument”. I didn’t take that bait. This is not a theoretical discussion about the existence of God. It’s definitely falsifiable. We can collect evidence.

It just occurred to me that an awful lot of people took their anti-abortion stance because being contrary didn’t have a down side. They could speculate and argue until the spittle flew from their mouths and there was a kind of brotherhood of rebellious defiance. But they didn’t think it was ever going to happen. There weren’t going to be any real world consequences. It was all win-win for anyone who was not a pro-choice commie liberal militant lesbian who was going to force gay marriage abortions down our throats. I’d love to piss on Rush Limbaugh’s grave right now if I could find it.

I can guarantee that there were thousands of teenagers who woke up yesterday absolutely panic stricken in Texas. A lot of them are worrying for nothing but some are freaking out right now, counting days, desperately looking to friends to give them money or help them get to New Mexico or looking up “abortion pill” online. There will be some who have already run out of time, can’t get away from work, or scheduled their 10 week abortion for the weekend and now have to figure out how to get it done. Some of them will do whatever they can. The cases of poisoning by ivermectin for Covid will be nothing compared to what is about to happen.

I’ve heard a lot about the consequences for the people who aid women to get an abortion in Texas. It’s going to be nasty and brutal and there doesn’t seem to be any exception for rape, incest, life or health of the mother, or serious fetal defects. This law is completely devoid of mercy of any kind and full of retribution from busy bodies and religious nutcases.

Every woman in Texas is Catholic now. Not one of them has freedom to practice her own religion. There will be shaming because it will be seen as cold, unmaternal and irresponsible to give up a child for adoption. You shall reap what you have sown. There won’t be any way to escape scrutiny. If you’re 16 and pregnant and you live in a fundamentalist house where you will be forced to accept lifelong parenthood for a child you didn’t want, can’t afford and will seriously affect your ability to provide for yourself in the future, this is not just an argument. It’s reality.

If I were a young woman in Texas, my sex life just came to an abrupt end. Sure there is birth control. But we know that it fails. We can get Plan B but thanks to Barack Obama, minors will still need to consult a parent in the Bible Belt. The abortion pill is available but it will not be easy to get one. Every sexual interaction from now on will come with some risk. And the consequences of that risk will only fall on one partner. Texas may become a very chilly place.

This is what it was like before Roe when young women were expected to be mothers or whores. The only way out was to travel somewhere to get an abortion, sometime legal, sometimes not. Sometimes women lost their fertility permanently or ended up dead. There will be a whole class of well to do people who can’t have children who will think adoption is a perfect solution. But when we romanticize motherhood, there will be a social price to pay for women who give up their children.

These are not theoretical concepts. This is actually going to happen and we know this because this is what happened before.

But the abortion debate has hurt women who never had to make that choice and it has been doing it for as long as my entire adulthood. I came of age in a country where Roe was the law of the land but it only partially protected me. I’ve never had an abortion but there has been a sword hanging over my head my entire life. Just talking about abortion day after day, month after month, year after year was like dealing with a threat. The threat was “we men and fundamentalist religious persons have the power to make you an unequal person in a way that will never affect the men in this country.” That’s been out there and let me tell you, there isn’t a woman in this country who hasn’t felt the affects of that threat.

It has affected the way we parent and when we have or do not have children. It has affected when we put our kids in daycare or if we have maternity leave. It has affected our incomes and employability. Because at any moment, we could get that fifth Supreme Court justice who would make a pregnant woman a burden to her employer or her research group or her family.

Now that I think of it, why would ANY woman of childbearing age go to Texas to do research? If I were the head of a lab, I’d be extremely concerned by a woman working with teratogens or suspected teratogens or substances of unknown teratogenicity. If my grad student unintentionally ends up pregnant, I could be held responsible for any harm to her unborn child. Or she might not be aware she’s pregnant until it’s too late to do anything about it. I’d think twice about hiring female grad students because in order to protect them, I’m going to have to exclude them from certain kinds of lab work. How would that be useful to my research? The contrarians never have to think about these things but any female scientist who has been excluded from working in the lab once she’s found out that she’s pregnant will know exactly what I’m talking about. That may permanently affect what kind of research a female scientist will be able to do. Texas is leading the way in excluding some of our most talented women from the labs. No Jennifer Doudna will be coming from Texas universities.

The sword of Roe rescinded has kept wages artificially low, it has made fewer of us managers, it has affected our creativity. Just recently I noticed that all of the YouTube channels I subscribe to that feature young, creative women having the time of their lives doing risky entrepreneurial things are Canadian. It’s hard to find an American female YouTuber who isn’t married with kids or working with her husband who is the editor who doesn’t throw in homeschooling and religiosity as the defining aspects of their personalities. Oh, I’m sure the happy go lucky and plucky creative American women are out there in YouTube land but it’s the Canadians and Swedes and Austrians and global digital nomads that keep showing up. American women who are not in the entertainment industry are matronly, stolid, pious, modest and boring by comparison. Or they’re cottagecore Dianas, virginal and in touch with nature and faeries. We are very madonna or whore in this country.

That is the result of decades of religious voices defining what is acceptable and what is not. It’s motherhood above all. But it doesn’t benefit any woman who doesn’t want to be a mother or doesn’t want to be a mother now or wants to excel in her career or doesn’t want to be harassed just because the culture has been shaped by the abortion debate to see women as not quite professional or at least hobbled by the prospect of that sword coming down on her at any moment by some former altar boy sitting on the Supreme Court.

I don’t need to defend an argument. We are living it.

Sooner Diplomacy

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R Oklahoma) decided to grab a pile of cash (source?), fly to Tajikistan, rent a helicopter and fly to Afghanistan to rescue our allies that have been left behind. He called the embassy in Dushanbe for assistance and they told him “No“. According to WaPo, I Mullin’s actions were illegal according to the Tajik’s laws on cash transaction limits. Plus, it’s f\¥£ing dangerous.

Mini-Rambo had a meltdown:

Mullin was outraged by the response, the officials said — threatening U.S. ambassador John Mark Pommersheim and embassy staff and demanding to know the name of staff members he was speaking with.

The episode marked Mullin’s second attempt to travel to Afghanistan in as many weeks for an unauthorized evacuation effort despite the perilous security environment. Last week, Mullin traveled to Greece and asked the Department of Defense for permission to visit Kabul. The Pentagon denied Mullin’s request, an administration official said.

That’s right. It was his second time trying to fly into Afghanistan by helicopter. He’s not the only Congressional douchebag who has tried to be a hero In Afghanistan. Democrat Seth Moulton is another one. If I recall correctly, Moulton tried to unseat Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the house. He’s a shameless publicity hound whose ill timed trip to Kabul in his unsolicited offer to oversee the evacuation meant that security details had to be allocated to him when we were trying to evacuate desperate people from the airport. That’s reckless and selfish. At least Moulton has a military background and served in the marines in Iraq. Still, he, of all people, should have known better.

But the award for stupid hero tricks goes to Mullin and other Republicans who didn’t think the military was doing enough to save their constituents. They weren’t elected yesterday. Mullin took office in 2013. So he was well aware of his party’s policy of slowing down special immigration visas for all those people who couldn’t leave. Some of them have spent the last four years hobbled in their visa process by Stephen Miller’s insane resistance to immigrants of any kind, even the ones who put their lives on the line to help us. Then Annoying Orange made a deal with the Taliban to let them speed things up in their takeover of the government. So, the people that Markwayne was trying to rescue were caught between a rock and a hard place of the Republicans’ making.

I can forgive a lot of things but the cynical use of people’s lives by putting them in harm’s way and then using that eminent danger as an excuse to play Rambo is disgusting. Well, it’s not the first time that party has disgusted me. I’m sure it won’t be the last. But our media should be asking why it is that these people needed to be rescued, what held up their visas, who is really to blame for this clusterf#$&, and where the hell did Markwayne get all that money.

I’m not holding my breath.

It’s like shark week

Our Covid hospitalizations are at 100,000 and Florida is fiddling with its case numbers again. We’re holding our own here in PA. We are not seeing the stratospheric spikes that are common in the southern states but it’s still pretty serious out there.

I’m still impressed by the number of holdouts who claim to be fearless about getting Covid. Yep, nothing bad is going to happen. No sirree. A vaccine is just for sissies.

It’s a little like shark week where a bunch of people find themselves suddenly surrounded by sharks. The narrator breathlessly recounts how the swimmers waited with rising anxiety for the shark cage they could swim into. In the meantime, they tried not to make any sudden moves that would attract the nasties.

But there are always some people in the group who are hot dogging and making waves and drawing attention to themselves.

Meanwhile, a few people bob, shriek and go under, never to be seen again. The fearless make fun of them and keep making noise.

Then one of the last survivors of the Indianapolis describes the days and nights in the water where the sharks picked them off one by one while a shark behavior expert describes shark feeding behavior and bait ball frenzies.

The tension is rising in the viewers at home. Will the shark cage arrive in time?

It arrives. But there is only room for half of the people exposed. They get in quickly and their vital signs return to normal as they calmly observe the sharks close up but not, you know, from *inside* the shark.

Another shark cage arrives for another quarter of the original group. They start observing the sharks safely as well.

The noisy guys got their own expert. He’s the one holdout out of 100 marine biologists who says that sharks are no threat to humans and everyone is panicking over nothing and all anyone needs to get rid of the sharks is to eat asparagus because studies published in the Journal of Kyrgyzstan Marine Biology says they’ve never had a person die from shark bite after consuming a pound of asparagus.

Meanwhile, the sharks close in on the cageless while the caged calmly take notes…

Fitness INDY: warm up

Where to begin.

I like to warm up slowly but I also want to be ready to actually do something by the end of that warm up period. Think Proud Mary by Ike and Tina Turner. Except that one starts feeling a bit over the top by the end. Me and Bobby McGee, the Janis Joplin version, is also pretty good.

But the following two songs are my favorite warm up songs.

Everything Goes by Poolside is a cool, layered tune that has a moment where you just feel like everything kicks in.

Amazing Grace by Laura Love is a new take on an old classic. It starts very slowly but has a surprise ending that’s worth waiting for.

I’m going to do both today. I feel like a nice long warm up.

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