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Living free in the US

May 4, 2022

[Pinned to top — new posts below.]

Authoritarian movements today in many ways resemble those from history. Human psychology has not changed. The fear of the outsider and the desire to force one’s own community into some moral frame are powerful dreams, that politicians have used for centuries.

Technology marches on,  often expanding the range of individual action, in ways unknown just a few decades past. Modern drug-induced abortion is quite effective in the first ten weeks of pregnancy. Dr. Jen Gunter points out that if any subsequent medical care is needed, doctors and nurses cannot distinguish it from a miscarriage. Unsurprisingly, interest in that is rising as access to surgical abortion becomes more difficult. Were I a woman, possibly fertile, living in a red state, I would act now to acquire the recommended doses of misoprostol and mifepristone. Tuck them away on the shelf in the bedroom closet next to the fire extinguisher, or in the dresser next to the passport. Just in case. However difficult acquiring those are, the task becomes more onerous when acting under a clock and unknown future circumstance. The first can be purchased south of the border without a prescription. And it is pretty effective by itself. The second is tougher to get.

TwoSuitcasesWithFinancialStatementsGroups in Mexico are trying to make it easier for American women to acquire these drugs, given the decline of liberty in this nation. Don’t wait to see how such movements go.

Some reading this might think they don’t need to prepare. Not yet. From measure of their own personal circumstance or of the political environment. Texans always can travel to Colorado or California when they want? So far. Both personal circumstance and political environment change. Sometimes with surprising suddenness. As with the fire extinguisher, the need for it can seem theoretical and remote. Until the need is urgent, and you’re glad it is there.

Don’t drift. Prepare. Aid Access provides information on acquiring those drugs. Make sure to read Dr. Gunter’s post.

Painting by Tilly Strauss.

Update: MIT Technology Review writes about medical abortion, with some discussion of how to obtain the drugs in red states. The article has a graph depicting the growth of medical abortion: 54% of US abortions in 2020 were done in that fashion.

Terrorist peas in a pod

August 15, 2022

The US experienced two acts of domestic terrorism in the past several days. In the first, an armed MAGA cultist tried to enter the Cincinnati FBI office, and later was killed in a standoff. Lest his intentions be doubted, he wrote: “Kill the FBI on sight.”

In the second, a Shi’ite extremist stabbed Salman Rushdie, while he was on stage delivering a talk. Though he hasn’t confessed his motive, for this post I will assume it is the obvious one.

Both men are native Americans. Both consumed by an ideology that purports to reveal how the world really is. Both believed things are so terribly wrong here that they are willing to sacrifice their lives to kill those they perceive as enemies. Both viewed themselves as heroic.

Now, yes, there are those who will go off the deep end, from most any cause or point of view or personal grievance or warped psychology.

But. These terrorists were not lone wolves. Both had plenty of predecessors who had made similar attacks from the same cause. Both received supporting messages from their ideological media. Some of the press in Iran praise the attack on Rushdie. And it’s easy to find others writing likewise.

As to the first, parts of MAGA are calling for civil war. CPAC, before the Cincinnati attack, cheered on domestic terrorists. Kevin Williamson correctly notes that the views that drove the first terrorist are now spouted by GOP leadership:

This is standard Republican stuff right now: Florida governor Ron DeSantis insisted that the FBI was enabling the “weaponization of federal agencies against the Regime’s political opponents.”

There are differences. Of course. No two peas are the same. One obvious difference is that the first terrorist acted in defense of a cult leader, while the second attacked a demonized author. You’re not paying attention, though, if you think extreme Shi’ites wouldn’t act to defend their leaders, or that MAGA cultists wouldn’t attack authors and librarians.

If you don’t see how similar these acts are, or have more sympathy for one than the other, you might be too close to one or the other of those ideologies.

Picking up the scent

August 11, 2022

Wired has one of the better explanations of the recent two papers on Covid’s origins. I am not as convinced as the author that these narrow down the possibilities quite so much. And I view the genomics paper as the more important one. Only time will tell if scientists can pick up a further trail.

That said, the popular articles I have read about these papers sustain my bias that the tech press generally does a better job of reporting on technical issues than the mainstream press. And that the bottom of the barrel are outlets that have a strong political affiliation.

60th Navy Regatta

August 9, 2022

NASanchorageThe weekend past was the 60th Corpus Christi Navy Regatta. This annual, two-day race is sponsored by the Corpus Christi Yacht Club, the Bay Yacht Club, and the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station.

We had fair winds. Enough Saturday that some of us on the rail were splashed. A bit less Sunday. And heat that gives August in south Texas its reputation. As usual, the Saturday race starts at a line set up near the Corpus Christi marina, rounds a couple of marks to give a downwind leg, and finishes at a line set near the Naval Air Station. The boats are left overnight there, inside a small anchorage with a ramp and bit of beach. The photo right shows some of the boats Sunday morning.

TheFloatingPlayscapeI was tickled to see that the base organized a bit of a carnival  on Saturday afternoon. There was an inflatable child’s playscape just off the beach. (Photo left, facing the ramp instead of from it.) There were refreshments ashore, and more inflatable playscapes. Kudos to the Navy folks who planned that! Past years had something for the sailors. But I don’t recall much to attract other folk. I hope those who came out for the festivities enjoyed it, especially the kids, and that it marks a start for coming years.

NavyDaysCockpitSunday’s race back to Corpus Christi marina is the Military Challenge Cup. Competing boats must have a service member at the helm. The photo right shows two of the Navy pilot trainees who recently have been sailing with 5th Landing. Duncan is in between. Mad Dog had the wheel the entire race. It was mostly a long spinnaker run, which can be tricky for a new helm. She did a great job and brought us in just behind Kinderspel II, the other J/105 participating.

RobertFlyingChuteThe able Robert has crewed on 5th Landing since its current incarnation. Photo shows him flying the chute on the race back. I was working foredeck, but snuck below to grab my phone for a few shots.

Liars and the law

August 8, 2022

In the defamation suit that found Alex Jones liable for tens of millions of dollars to parents whose child had been killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting, the judge had to take Jones to task for lying on the stand. In particular, about whether he had complied with discovery. He lost the suit, because he had not. This exchange stands out:

“I believe what I said was true,” Jones replied.

“You believe everything you say is true,” Gamble said. “That does not make it true.”

Trump is sueing some media companies for defamation, that had characterized his election lies as lies. His lawyer’s argument is much the same as Jones’s argument:

In this instance, President Trump’s comments are not lies: He subjectively believes that the results of the 2020 presidential election turned on fraudulent voting activity in several key states.

The problem with Jones’s and Trump’s appeal to their own belief is that they are like an eight year-old child, who believes he won a board game he lost, because he wants so much to be the winner. They believe what they want at the time. Both will find out that the law and the courts don’t give much credit to such belief. Especially when it stands in sharp contrast to broadly available facts.

There are always narcissists and bullshitters and liars. What distinguishes this time in our nation is how easily they gain political prominence on the basis of their spiel. I quite agree with Alex White, that “America can survive the demagogues themselves, it’s their audience that will kill us.”

Banning books and harrassing teachers

August 4, 2022

Alas, I am not surprised that those who want to ban books from school libraries are active in Corpus Christi. Nor that this kind of right-wing activism has contributed to the teacher shortage across the nation.

Al Qaeda, still

August 3, 2022

It is easy to cheer al-Zawahri’s death. This is the hopeful take on that. This is the cautious one.

Abe and the Moonies

August 2, 2022

Jake Adelstein writes a fascinating account about the assassination of Shinzo Abe, and the Moonies. Seemingly, the assassin was motivated by the Moonies impoverishing his family, and targeted Abe because he had ties to them. I didn’t realize that cult had such a strong influence in Japan.

Having eyes, see ye not?

August 1, 2022

Over drinks, the topic turned to the surging influence of religion. My date rolled her eyes that people still believe such “fairy tales.” She mentioned that on our last visit, our six year-old grandson asked her if Santa Claus was real? She did the smart thing, and turned the question around on him, asking what he thought?

ChurchAttendanceByAgeCohortGallup’s recent poll shows that Americans’ belief in a god has dropped to 81%, a new low. The importance of that depends quite a bit on whether it is caused by social winds affecting people of all age, or more a generational change carried by demographic tides. The former can move quickly, and change direction unexpectedly. The latter stays a course for a while.

Ryan Burge provides relevant data to that question. He went through the General Social Survey for the last few decades, graphing church attendance by age cohort. Click the diagram right to expand. The generational change is pretty dramatic. For those born 1980 or later, weekly church attendance hovers around 20%. With the odd exception of the 1990 to 1994 cohort.

Some writers credit the decline in religious belief to its association with right-wing politics. Just looking at the graph of belief from the Gallup article linked above, the accelerated slump since 2016 is remarkable. And that is reflected in several of the age cohorts from Burge’s graphs. But, those graphs point to a larger underlying trend, that began earlier and is likely to continue regardless of shifts in political alignment.

Flying dinosaurs

July 28, 2022

PXL_20220728_010705939Ars Technica explains how scientists study the flight characteristics of ancient dinosaurs. That write up has all sorts of things that bring joy to a nerd’s heart, including new imaging technology revealing fossil details previously impossible to see, sophisticated analysis of joints, and the scaling physics of fluids.

Photo was from the walk home after last night’s race.

Where’s my Ranch Water?

July 25, 2022

AbsintheDrinkerThe drought is causing a water shortage. Not just in Texas. Monterrey, Mexico, is imposing use restrictions. Which has created a shortage of Topo Chico. Texas’s favorite.

The photo shows mi novia y yo, eating out last Friday at one of our favorite dives. You can see that she is disappointed that her ranch water was not made with authentic Topo Chico. And maybe, because I had gone to long without a shave.