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Tasty oysters

November 23, 2022

LomaxOysterFarmTexas Monthly has a good article on Brad Lomax’s foray into oyster farming, of interest to most everyone in the coastal bend, whether or not they eat shellfish. I hope he sees better years, and that future Thanksgiving feasts include some of his produce.


Medication abortion soars

November 21, 2022

Unsurprisingly, abortion by medication acquired from out of state has soared in the states that have banned abortion:

In a study released last winter, Aiken found a spike in requests for self-managed abortion through Aid Access after Texas banned abortion at six weeks in September of 2021. During the first week after the ban, the average daily requests in Texas increased by 1,180 percent over baseline—from 10.8 to 137.7 per day. One of Aiken’s studies released last winter found that 96.4 percent of those who used abortion medications purchased from Aid Access reported successfully ending their pregnancy without surgical intervention.

This will have consequence on several fronts. First, it obscures abortion statistics. The research letter providing the statistics above looks at just one such source. There are others. Unlike for a known set of clinics providing surgical abortion, there is no way to enumerate them, much less collect and aggregate their statistical data. (Look to some of the links right, if you need to find a source.)

Second, it expands the use of telemedicine for a significant procedure, amplifying a medical trend already in progress. That larger trend will change both how medicine is practiced and what people expect from it.

Third, it is a practical step in the legal game now unfolding between the prohibitionists and those seeking reproductive liberty. Providers who are out of state are protected by laws where they reside. Prosecutors can and will turn on the women who abort. Which should cause them and their friends and their families to take a variety of precautions. The conflict between women pursing reproductive liberty and the moralists who would deny it goes back to the early years of this nation.

The safest thing for any young woman is to live in a free state rather than a red state. Those considering college or professional school or other pursuit involving a move would be well advised take that into account in where they look.

Twitter haiku

November 18, 2022

Twitter is hardcore.
You must work at the office.
The office is closed.

Election workers

November 17, 2022

A democracy depends on a myriad of government workers who incorporate its values into the jobs they do. Some are volunteers, such as the many election workers, who train and toil in order to provide honest elections. They deserve our gratitude.

The MAGA cult’s most dangerous aspect has been its attack on government workers, labeling them “the swamp,” calling truth lies and lies truth, and bringing to power the most corrupt administration in US history, one that demanded loyalty to its leader over commitment to the law. An important chapter of that is how they tried to subvert Ruby Freeman, a Georgia election worker they falsely accused of villainy, in their attempt to undo the results of the 2020 election.

Pence has been working hard to point out that in his most important task as VP — certifying the electoral vote in 2020 — he stood up to MAGA and did the honest thing. He will discover that he is mistaken about his own party. A large part is far down the populist path, and hate him for having done that honest thing. They would have hung him that day. They never will support him.

Russia, Ukraine, and the US

November 15, 2022

Everyone sees politics mostly from the perspective of their home, and Americans moreso than most of the world. Jim Rutenberg writes an article explaining how Russia’s support for MAGA always was tied to their policy goals regarding Ukraine. Putin no doubt finds it convenient that MAGA aligns with the ideological message he pushes: the ultra-nationalism, the historic destiny, the traditional values. I doubt he personally is any more an ideologue than Trump.

Russia news spun the US election in much the same way as the red media here. Yevgeny Prigozhin, one of the Russians indicted by the Mueller investigation, is more publicizing his intent. Perhaps he has larger political ambitions?

The Democrats keeping the Senate was first and foremost a win for American democracy and a blow to MAGA. But also a win for Zelenskyy and a loss for Putin.

Musk and Markey

November 14, 2022

When I wrote hopefully about the possibility that Musk would create cheap, verified identities, I was anticipating that he would do something hard and valuable, putting in place a process that actually verified identity, paid for by his new blue check fee. It’s easy to imagine an initial and automated process: check that the credit card provided to pay the fee has the same name as being requested, verify that it isn’t a business card, validate the monthly charge, then mail — by USPS — the account’s initial password to the credit card’s billing address. The hard part will be all the ways something like that doesn’t quite work. I suspect, inevitably, it will have to have some manual backstop. That likely can be made as exceptional as the manual backstop to Amazon purchases.

Instead, Musk rolled out a mechanism to impersonate. Senator Ed Markey is pissed. Not at all what I was anticipating.

Well, many a new business direction starts out flailing and nonetheless pulls things out of the fire. Many more crash and burn. I’m not making any predictions — just watching the show, with everyone else. Seth Abramson explains that successful social platforms are hard to create, and that their cultural momentum gives them an importance beyond current management.

Any libertarian upset that Markey would threaten Musk’s companies should keep in mind that Musk became wealthy in part by making good use of the corporate structure. Which is granted by the state, purposely to provide a powerful social mechanism to entrepreneurs and investors. State-free corporations are like gold-shitting unicorns, found in the libertopias untethered to reality.

Update: Unsurprisingly, Twitter engineers warned Musk what would happen without any actual verification of identity in place.

Galveston sunset

November 10, 2022

GalvestonSunsetFramedA small boat that exits the Houston ship channel and rounds Galveston during a fall sunset may see those onboard pull out their cellphones to snap a photo. Those photos often have parts of the boat showing, as in this first one. I’m never quite sure when that works, and am not sure it does here. I lengthened the aspect ratio and hope the dodger, main, and sheet serve to frame the seascape. If I had had the time and space to plan it better, I would have done it a bit different.

GalvestonSunsetThe second was snapped not long after, almost the same view. I had moved outboard, to get a “clear” shot. Without losing my cellphone or falling overboard.

Needless to say, most every shot I take from a sailboat is rotated to get the horizon level. If you saw the originals, it would be canted at every which angle, partly due to the boat’s constant motion, and partly from the fact that when crew act as photographer, they often are in an odd position themself.

GalvestonSunsetCroppedThis last sunset view is more tightly cropped, all the boat bits in the original photo removed. Even so, it obviously is taken from someplace low in the water a few miles offshore. Click on any of the embedded photos for their larger version.

These were taken while delivering Kinderspel 2, a J/105, back home to Corpus Christi from her temporary berth at Clear Lake. We shoved off at 1430 Saturday, and arrived at 1730 Sunday, making a 28 hour trip. You won’t be alone if that math confuses you. We made good time after leaving Galveston behind, under spinnaker. Then the wind slacked, and we motorsailed. On the last leg, we had to sneak around a few dredges, working to expand the Corpus Christi ship channel.

PortAransasEntranceJust before sunset, two large dolphins rode beside the cockpit eyeballing us, and frustrating one crew member who wanted to snap them mid-breach. As we passed Port Aransas at the other end of the trip, I took a photo of its entrance. If you look sharply, you barely can see a dolphin breaching, just to the right of the sailboat mast.

It’s not a good photo. I’m not crazy about the sunset photos either. I sometimes ponder the role photos play, from various trips. They always seem to me very partial and sterile compared to what one sees while there. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from thinking about a newer phone with a better camera.

Last night was the first Wednesday race after the time change. The sun set while the boats were in sequence. The gibbous moon poked up from a low cloud bank as we neared the mark, joining the stars to encourage the competitors.


November 9, 2022

I criticized Bolsonaro’s environmental policies, which were bad for the entire world. And I am glad to see him defeated. So it is worth noting how he is responding to that loss. He has not stoked his base with a bunch of conspiracy theories about the election being stolen. He is proceeding with a transition to his successor. He says this:

I’ve always been labeled as anti-democratic but unlike my accusers, I’ve always played by the rules. As president and a citizen, I’ll continue to follow our constitution.

And, now, he is telling truckers who are blocking highways in protest to stop.

What a contrast to the US, which saw its right-wing president attempt a coup to retain power, after losing re-election! Had some fortune-teller two decades past told me that, in 2022, Brazil would serve as better example of working democracy than the US, I would have laughed. But here we are.

“Better” doesn’t mean “good.” Any nation that relies on the restraint of a populist leader to retain its rule of law is in a precarious position. Bolsonaro deserves credit for that restraint. His supporters deserve condemnation that they would take their nation into a political crisis, were he eager for that. In the late 1990s, with the Cold War over and China quickly adopting capitalist practices, western liberals imagined the end of history and the inexorable growth of democracy. The future had something more interesting in store.

Update: Alas, this post did not age well.

Unpredicted consequences

November 8, 2022

One consequence of the 2020 election was an explosion in right-wing conspiracy theories about it. They serve as a fund-raising mechanisms for the MAGA cult, obfuscate the nature of Trump’s attempted coup, and sow general suspicion about US elections. They also have brought a wave of defamation suits, as Amanda Carpenter describes. While companies like Dominion Voting Systems are bringing those suits on their own behalf, Protect Democracy brings them on behalf of individuals who have been harmed:

Protect Democracy lawyers filed suit against the makers and promoters of the conspiracy movie 2000 Mules on behalf of a private citizen in Georgia who was filmed legally depositing 2020 ballots for himself and his family and falsely labeled a “ballot mule”— that is, someone who illegally trafficked ballots as a means to deprive Donald Trump of his re-election victory. The state election board investigated the case and the plaintiff was cleared of wrongdoing. Despite his exoneration, 2000 Mules was released to the public. The complaint details the extensive harassment the plaintiff has suffered as, to this day, his image continues to be used to promote election conspiracies.

The problem is that those who eagerly consume such conspiracy theories are fat marks. The proceeds from them — which includes donations as well as advertising and direct sales — typically outruns liability exposure. The recent judgments against Alex Jones, in suits brought by the the parents of children killed in a mass shooting, make the glaring exception, where the legal liability — assuming it holds — exceeds what Alex Jones made from his lies. Should blue states consider law that somehow address that imbalance? I’m not sure how. Maybe, in some narrow circumstances, awarded damages should be based on the slanderer’s media income, with the legally defined purpose of shrinking that financial stream?

Liz Cheney has followed up on her promise to endorse Democrats running against Republicans who peddle election lies. That isn’t so much patriotism as it is simple integrity.


November 7, 2022

Gulnaz Sharafutdinova explains why Russians still support Putin:

If a minority of Russians were roused to anger by the invasion, the majority were in a state of shock. In days, Russia had become a pariah, cut off from international travel and targeted with deep sanctions. It was profoundly disorienting. To navigate this uncharted territory, Russians in the main reached for familiar moral ground: collective national identity. “My country, right or wrong” was the default reaction. One message from a popular movie star resonated intensely: “You don’t criticize your own folks in war, even if they are wrong.” Instead, people blamed President Joe Biden, NATO expansion and the West, as well as Ukrainian nationalists.

GullibleRussiansMany Americans seem to think that America is uniquely patriotic. Or uniquely deserving of patriotism. Which is exactly the kind of thought that patriotism causes, in every nation. Mona Charen complains that the Americans who are the most overtly patriotic also are the ones who most tarnish America’s reputation. She finds that incongruous, because she has bought into the patriotic notion of how patriotism works. Sharafutdinova understands it better.

Cartoon by Ward Sutton.