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Claw your way out

July 20, 2022

Begin with two stories about parents and children. Oath Keepers’ founder Stewart Rhodes now is facing prosecution for seditious conspiracy. His son, Dakota, tells how he worked away from his father because of the father’s MAGA politics. The second has nothing to do with politics. It nonetheless shines light on how a pattern of deceit affects relationships.

My two posts previous looked at the cult-like behavior in the MAGA movement.

Some cults actively encourage people to cut ties with friends and family outside. It works the other way around also. Many people outside, when they see someone’s cult-like thinking, will set boundaries to the relationship. I doubt Stewart Rhodes can expect visits from his son, while he is in prison. His devotion to MAGA will carry a high personal cost. Guy Reffitt’s MAGA participation similarly has torn apart his family. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is playing out broadly in the US, in cases much less newsworthy. And often without those put at arm’s length or more realizing what has caused that. Many relatives and friends put off by such behavior will not be vocal about it.

I don’t hesitate to tell those so devoted that the best thing they can do for themselves is to claw their way out. As with any other cult. I don’t know that there is solid information on how people do that. Perhaps because so few do. Often the suggested way out relies on the individual having a close relationship with someone outside. Which is the very thing weakened by their cultic behavior.

Still, it’s better on the outside.

Boomerang bullshit

July 19, 2022

MAGA conspiracy theories target all sorts of people. Sometimes even their own. Erie, Pennsylvania postmaster Robert Weisenbach was a Trump supporter. That did not help him when he became a convenient cartoon villain in claims that he was backdating ballots. He now is sueing Project Veritas for their role in propagating that. He joins dozens of other individuals and companies who have been defamed as part of Trump’s Big Lie.

One of the more absurd MAGA conspiracy theories is that January 6th was a false flag operation, and that if only the screws could be put to Ray Epps, he could explain how the FBI planned it all to besmirch Trump. Threats and harrassment have forced Epps to go on the lam.

I wonder if Weisenbach will realize that he is in much the same situation as Ruby Freeman? Or if Epps will consider the many thousands of other innocents the MAGA cult has persecuted? Will either see that they are suffering from the same bullshit that they believe and help propagate? That they are suffering because of the rest of the cult doing what they once did? The self-harm from their political alignment is obvious to anyone outside the cult. Seeing it may be a step too far for those inside. Even when they are the ones hurt.

Cults and loyalty

July 18, 2022

More than anything, cults demand loyalty. Their internal discussions invariably turn to who are true adherents, who are falling away, how their leaders are strengthening or weakening the cult, and how the rest of the world poses, between threat and opportunity. In the MAGA cult, one manifestation of that is the obsession with false flag operations. Marjorie Taylor Greene casts the mass shootings on the 4th of July as such, “to persuade Republicans to go along with more gun control.”

reverend-moon-marrying-couples-bettmannWhat makes that a sign of the dire state of our politics isn’t just that she is a sitting congressman, but that saying such unhinged things will cement her support, rather than losing it.

A larger and more ominous sign is that militias aligned with the MAGA cult have engaged in action to sway political outcomes. They failed with the coup. We should not assume that is the end of them. Even after some of their current leaders are incarcerated. Texas Three Percenter Guy Reffitt is facing more than a decade in prison, if the judge applies a terrorist enhancement in sentencing.

MAGA lawyers tried to use the legal arena to forward Trump’s Big Lie, despite a lack of any evidence that would stand up in court. Giuliani and Powell have faced professional sanctions for that. They are not alone. It is a sign of loyalty when lawyers are willing to hurt their professional standing to fight for their cult.

Unlike many, I see Trump as more a symptom than a cause. The Tea Party which morphed into the MAGA cult was there before him. He was just the right kind of conman to figure out how to ride it to power. He soon will be gone. Cults, alas, have quite a bit of staying power. Which is why I am not optimistic about US politics. I expect Cheney to be trounced in her primary. Even her leadership team can’t paint a much hopeful outcome. She chose integrity over loyalty. Cults hate that.

The photo shows a mass wedding by Sun Myung Moon. When I was in college, at the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, the Moonies actively recruited on major university campuses. Most of my fellow students recognized them as batshit crazy, competing with the Scientologists. In the half century since, they have embedded themselves firmly in the right-wing ecosystem.

Medical complications from Dobbs

July 14, 2022

It is understandable that medical confidentiality, law enforcement secrecy, and journalist protection of sources would make it difficult to quickly verify the story that a ten year-old Ohio girl had to be taken to Indiana for an abortion. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost should have understood the difficulty, and not so quickly dismissed it. Now he just nods his head that her rapist has been arrested. In 2019, when that law was being debated, it was brought up then that it made no exception in cases like this, with the example of an eleven year-old girl then seeking an abortion. The question for Yost is whether he would enforce any future law that banned taking minors out of state for that purpose, arresting parents in such situations?

Due to changing abortion laws, a pharmacy in Austin has sent a letter to ob-gyns saying it would no longer fill prescriptions for methotrexate to treat ectopic pregnancy. While it is used for that purpose, methotrexate is most commonly used to treat arthritis  and other autoimmune diseases. Rheumatologists are finding their patients also are having difficulty filling prescriptions. Perhaps new physicians should start favoring blue states in planning their early career. Avoid Ohio. If that wasn’t already obvious.

Benjamin Franklin included an early 18th century herbal remedy for restoring menstruation to a woman who was late, in a math text he was eager to sell. Medicine has come a long way in the last three centuries. Any herbal that might cause abortion will contain some potent and toxic substances. If it might work, it also might kill you. Modern drugs are singular, targeted, tested, and provided in known form. Physicians have much better understanding of their therapeutic range and side effects.

Language wars, part 2

July 13, 2022

A Trump supporter has been arrested for threatening companies that didn’t toe his narrow sexual views. He wanted to bomb the offices of Merriam-Webster, because it is keeping up with the changing language around gender. As is its job. Once upon a time, everyone well-educated aspired to own a large, unabridged dictionary, that described slang, obscenities, technical terms, and even words antiquated.

UnabridgedDictionaryLike many, he suffered the delusion that if only people used the “right” language, they would think in the “right” ways. A very strong form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. The problem there is that language is invented, and people keep inventing it as they desire. Indeed, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to describe science and mathematics as the invention of artificial language for better describing the world. Those who have difficulty reading research in an area often just haven’t learned the language. And learning it in some areas makes it easier to learn the next, because of commonalities.

Language wars

July 12, 2022

I recently saw someone object to being called a cis man, complaining that they were just a man. Their anger was twice misdirected. First, the adjectives trans and cis have become commonplace. Fighting language in that fashion is a stupid thing. Second, I doubt they were so much upset about the language as they were about the push for transsexual rights and acceptance. Anyone upset by the mere existence of trans men will find some related rant, regardless of the relevant language.

Alas, quite a few people on the other side are stupidly fighting language also. In my post yesterday, I wrote “before the woman knows she is pregnant.” And I can hear some twit objecting that I should write “pregnant person” or “person with uterus.” Which is silly. Like most English words, “woman” and “man” have multiple meanings. Those senses can be clarified with adjectives, such as “cis” and “trans.” Sometimes the verbal context is plenty to know what use is intended. I doubt anyone reading my post yesterday was confused by my use of “woman.” (Nor by that post’s later use of the word “man” to refer to every human.) There is nothing wrong with using the word “woman” in a biological sense, referring to someone who has or had ovaries. That doesn’t negate social gender. That doesn’t negate any different sense of the word. It is just one way that word is used. Those who think there is one “true” sense of any word don’t understand how language works. Insisting that there must be is foolish.

I suspect, as with my first example, that those who get upset merely by the use of “woman” in the biological sense are taking out on language some other battles they have in mind. There is plenty of bigotry against transsexuals, much of it open, sometimes expressed by all sorts of nonsense. Such as laws about who uses what restroom. Or complaints about any transgender character in comics and on TV.

But, there also are some thornier issues in particular domains. As first example, how to view transgender people, when making handicaps and categories in various sports? That is a complex question. It needs to be discussed in terms of biology and social purpose. The substance of it will vary with the sport and competition grade. It is vacuous to think it can be solved by trotting out the solipsism that “trans women are real women.”

Why most human embryos don’t survive

July 11, 2022

Most human embryos fail to implant in the uterus. And a large fraction of those that do spontaneously abort, often before the woman is aware she is pregnant. Now, yes, many animals lose a much larger share of each new generation. What is odd about mammals, and especially humans, is that this failure occurs before there is a relatively independent baby. Fish are more efficient at turning fish eggs into baby fish. Research continues to illuminate how the common failure of human embryos is an evolutionary consequence of animal meiosis and long gestation time. (Cite.)

There are many people who claim that an embryo from conception is a person, deserving the same moral status as everyone else. There is no one who acts as if they take that view seriously. If they did, they would demand attention paid to early embryonic failure as the single largest cause of human death, greater than all other causes combined. Yet the world will go on acting as if this is just an aspect of our biology that is interesting, perhaps relevant to fertility specialists, but not of much consequence. Which is good, because that is the quite sensible thing. But we ought to call out those who pretend to a morality otherwise. They are like children who have given no serious thought to what their desires entail. Something I have explained before.

Of course, many of those who fetishize “the unborn” are ignorant of biology. They think from a religious viewpoint. Their god decides who gets pregnant, at some point places a soul inside, and man is evil to interrupt that. I doubt you will find much theology written about the souls of the majority of human embryos that fail, something that has been the case as long as our species has existed. Is their heaven populated mostly with the souls of those failed embryos? What a strange afterlife that would be.

If you’re on a moral soapbox regarding some issue, and that hasn’t motivated you to actually study the related facts and grapple with how well your moral framework handles them, there is no reason anyone should take your moral views seriously.

Laguna Madre

July 7, 2022

LagunaMadreI was tickled to see this article on the Laguna Madre in Texas Monthly. It is one of the features of south Texas that makes the area so attractive to those who love the outdoors.

Germany to seize and repurpose Nordstream 2

July 6, 2022

Most of the Nordstream 2 pipeline runs under the Baltic, from Russia to Germany. Now, fairly useless.

There is a little bit at the German end that runs to that nation’s gas infrastructure. Since it already goes to the sea, why not repurpose it to receive LNG from other nations? That seems to be the plan.

For the first time, the EU now gets more natural gas from the US than from Russia. Cheniere just greenlighted an expansion at its Corpus Christi facility. Which means ever more big boats running past Port Aransas.

The stars above

July 5, 2022

There always will be conflict over who has a right to use particular pieces of land and sea. In the US, one example is the long-running tension over camping, which is lauded as an avocation for the middle class, and something else when it is an escape for the undesired, or done where a community has richer plans for the area. A battle of that last sort is playing out in Richardson Bay, in Sausalito. (Here is a video on that.)

Winslow_Homer_Indian_CampWhether homelessness counts as a large problem in a community depends to some degree on how much their campsites intrude. For many decades, Austin had so much  green space both unmanicured and out of sight, that most homeless had an easy time finding a sleeping niche visible only to the more dedicated hikers. I doubt that is so now. Tennessee is passing a state law against urban camping.

Land use rights inevitably bump up against other legal issues. In Maine, it is legal to hunt on other people’s land, unless posted otherwise. Which makes the law against Sunday hunting a kind of compromise.