Friday: Hili dialogue

December 3, 2021 • 6:30 am

Welcome to Friday, December 3, 2021: I hate to say this, but it’s National Peppermint Latte Day. This is in line with Coyne’s Fourth Dictum: All beverages save beer eventually revert to confections.

It’s also National Apple Pie Day (much better), National Green Bean Casserole Day (much worse), Faux Fur Friday, Bartender Appreciation Day, and International Day of Persons with Disabilities. 

News of the Day:

*The Omicron variant of Covid-19 has been found in three states beyond California: Colorado, Minnesota  and New York, which itself reported five cases. It will soon be everywhere. Biden is considering measures like vaccine mandates for domestic flights, stricter regulations for travelers entering the U.S., and there’s more:

  • People will be required to wear masks on airplanes, trains, buses and other transportation through March 18, according to senior Biden administration officials. The White House is also expected to confirm that all international travelers must take a coronavirus test one day before their flight to the United States.
  • Anthony S. Fauci, the United States’ top infectious-disease expert, said the Biden administration is preparing for a possible “variant-specific boost” of vaccinations.
  • GlaxoSmithKline announced Thursday that early laboratory testing indicates that its antibody-based covid-19 therapy, developed with U.S. partner Vir Biotechnology, is likely to be effective against the omicron variant of the virus.

Get ready for that Omicron booster!

*In a discussion of abortion law, four NYT columnists—Ross Douthat, Charles Blow, Michele Goldberg, and Lulu Garcia-Navarro, give their predictions about how the Supreme Court will rule in the Mississippi abortion case. All of them agree that Roe will be overturned in spirit if not in letter, but of course they differ in whether this is a good result and what the consequences will be for both women and the Democratic Party.

Every news source I can find—on both Right and Left—said that the outcome of the case was almost assured given what the Justices said during oral arguments. We’re about to enter another tumultuous time given that at least 24 states will outlaw abortion or make it very difficult to get if Roe were overturned. I cannot understand how any legislator can force a woman to bear a baby (as Mississippi does) if that fetus was the result of rape or incest. What kind of human could decree that?

*As for a good critical op-ed on the topic, read Linda Greenhouse’s “The Supreme Court gaslights its way to the end of Roe.” (Greenhouse covers the Supreme Court for the NYT.) She covers not only the history of the earlier decision, but shows how appalled she is at what’s going on now. Amy Coney Barrett comes in for special criticism:

Justice Barrett’s performance during Wednesday’s argument was beyond head-spinning. Addressing both Ms. Rikelman and Elizabeth Prelogar, the U.S. solicitor general who argued for the United States on behalf of the Mississippi clinic, Justice Barrett asked about “safe haven” laws that permit women to drop off their unwanted newborn babies at police stations or fire houses; the mothers’ parental rights are then terminated without further legal consequences. If the problem with “forced motherhood” was that it would “hinder women’s access to the workplace and to equal opportunities,” Justice Barrett asked, “why don’t safe haven laws take care of that problem?”

She continued: “It seems to me that it focuses the burden much more narrowly. There is, without question, an infringement on bodily autonomy, you know, which we have in other contexts, like vaccines. However, it doesn’t seem to me to follow that pregnancy and then parenthood are all part of the same burden.”

I’ll pass over the startling notion that being required to accept a vaccine is equivalent to being forced to carry a pregnancy to term. “Gaslighting” doesn’t adequately describe the essence of what Justice Barrett was suggesting: that the right to abortion really isn’t necessary because any woman who doesn’t want to be a mother can just hand her full-term baby over to the nearest police officer and be done with the whole business. As Justice Barrett, of all people, surely understands, such a woman will forever be exactly what she didn’t want to be: a mother, albeit one stripped of her ability to make a different choice.

*There are signs of big trouble brewing in Ukraine, though I hope this is just a threat. 90,000 Russian troops have massed on the Russia/Ukraine border, leading the West to worry that, as they did before, Russia has designs on the country (they took Crimea in the last invasion). Russia has taken pre-combat actions, like putting cages on tank tops to deflect antitank missiles (below). The Russians have also escalated their rhetoric.

The stark warning by the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, on Wednesday that Russia has made plans for a “large-scale” attack is backed up by open source analysis – and western intelligence assessments. “There is enough substance to this,” one insider added.

President Joe Biden is said to have been concerned for weeks, but efforts to cool the temperature – including Thursday’s summit between Blinken and his counterpart, Sergey Lavrov – have failed, suggesting Russia wants the crisis to continue.

. . . It is easy to argue that recent developments are designed by Russia to test the west and the US’s resolve, particularly as a new left-leaning German government is poised to take over. However, western diplomats emphasise that Ukraine is not a member of Nato and that therefore there is no obligation to defend the country if attacked.

This means that Russia has carte blanche to invade (nobody has the stomach for a war with Russia), and the only response would be words and sanctions.

The Russians look as if they’re preparing for battle:

*The NYT’s “Ethicist” takes up the question of whether religious exemptions from Covid vaccines can be justified. (I have previously said “no” because they compromise the health of society.) I disagree with his first paragraph below, but agree in general that exemptions should not be granted without good reason:

It matters, too, whether religious claims against the state or an employer are backed by a community of faith. (No major religious group has asked members to abstain from vaccination, though individual congregations may go their own way.) That’s relevant in two respects. First, we have some reason to try to accommodate a community of faith precisely because it is a community; and second, such membership increases our confidence that the profession is sincere. When conscientious objectors are asked to establish their bona fides, the fact that they belong to a tradition with pacifist commitments — such as Quakerism — may be taken as a useful proxy.

Our assessments of faith-based claims will be imperfect, no doubt. But allowing people to assert a religious exemption with no questions asked is an obvious invitation to abuse. Some people seem to think that merely uttering the words “religious exemption” obliges us to let them do whatever they want. That way chaos lies.

Nope, I don’t care whether there is a community of, say, Christians whose faith mandates no vaccinations. Their status as unvaccinated puts the rest of us at risk. And I don’t care about their sincerity; sincerity puts us at just as much risk as lying since both results in unvaccinated people. The only excuse for exemption, in my view, is preexisting medical conditions that make immunization dangerous. Period.

*Doesn’t the NYT have better things to do that kvetch about how cute cats are used to push right-wing dogma? I guess not, so you can read “Those cute cats online? They can help spread misinformation,” by technology reporter Davey Alba (h/t j. j.)

The posts with the animals do not directly spread false information. But they can draw a huge audience that can be redirected to a publication or site spreading false information about election fraud, unproven coronavirus cures and other baseless conspiracy theories entirely unrelated to the videos. Sometimes, following a feed of cute animals on Facebook unknowingly signs users up as subscribers to misleading posts from the same publisher.

. . . The website of Dr. Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician who researchers say is a chief spreader of coronavirus misinformation online, regularly posts about cute animals that generate tens or even hundreds of thousands of interactions on Facebook. The stories include “Kitten and Chick Nap So Sweetly Together” and “Why Orange Cats May Be Different From Other Cats,” written by Dr. Karen Becker, a veterinarian.

Oh for chrissake. Here’s a helpful picture that accompanies the article (the red line is from the NYT):

*Gravelinspector sent a “Scotland picture of the week” from the BBC: a quizzical mallard

*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 784,163, an increase of 1,021 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,253,114, an increase of about 8,000 over yesterday’s total.

Stuff that happened on December 3 includes:

This was a mess, but you know who won. Jefferson took the victory on the 36th ballot.

  • 1818 – Illinois becomes the 21st U.S. state.
  • 1910 – Modern neon lighting is first demonstrated by Georges Claude at the Paris Motor Show.
  • 1960 – The musical Camelot debuts at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway. It will become associated with the Kennedy administration.

A great musical, though I heard the late Stephen Sondheim diss it as as one of those “mindless musicals with memorable tunes” in an old NPR interview yesterday. Sondheim said he preferred to write other kinds of musicals that conveyed emotionality.  That’s the first time I heard him wax arrogant.

Voilà: from the original cast of Camelot: “I loved you once in silence” with Julie Andrews playing Guinevere, talking about the illicit love between her and Lancelot (Robert Goulet).

WHO’S a bad boy?
  • 1992 – A test engineer for Sema Group uses a personal computer to send the world’s first text message via the Vodafone network to the phone of a colleague.

Notables born on this day include:

Stuart’s most famous work is this unfinished painting of George Washington, painted from life in 1796. This is the George you’ll see mirror-imaged on the American one-dollar bill.

Finlay discovered that a mosquito of the genus Aedes was the vector of yellow fever, and that led to the conquest of the disease, which in turn allowed the Panama Canal to be built with not too much mortality.

Conrad’s native language was Polish but his famous works are in English—and what fantastic English he wrote! Photo below, ca. 1919:

  • 1895 – Anna Freud, Austrian-English psychologist and psychoanalyst (d. 1982)

She was Freud’s sixth child and herself became a psychoanalyst. Here she is with dad in 1913:


  • 1927 – Andy Williams, American singer (d. 2012)
  • 1960 – Daryl Hannah, American actress and producer
  • 1960 – Julianne Moore, American actress and author

Wikipedia notes, “Moore is an atheist; when asked on Inside the Actors Studio what God might say to her upon arrival in heaven, she gave God’s response as, “Well, I guess you were wrong, I do exist.”

She was in a vegetative state for 15 years before the courts finally allowed her feeding tube to be removed.

Here’s Witt in the long program in the 1988 Calgary Olympics. She finished second in this program, ultimately nabbing the gold medal for East Germany:

  • 1985 – Amanda Seyfried, American actress

Those who no longer needed to floss on December 3 include:

  • 311 – Diocletian, Roman emperor (b. 244)
  • 1888 – Carl Zeiss, German physicist and lens maker, created the optical instrument (b. 1816)

Here’s one of Zeiss’s beautiful microscopes (1879); the name “Zeiss” still stands for quality optics:

Stevenson died at 44 on Samoa. Here he is with his family on that island about 1892:

by J. Davis,photograph,circa 1891

Here’s Mosley, wannabe Nazi, speaking in Manchester with his blackshirts. Note the Nazi salute.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is sleeping in the firewood basket, and of course has to kvetch:

A: Hili:, this basket is dirty.
Hili: And it’s your fault.
In Polish:
Ja: Hili, ten koszyk jest brudny.
Hili: I to jest twoja wina.

And a photo of Kulka by Andrzej:

From Marie, a duck greeting card. Awesome! I ordered ten.

From Bruce:

From Athayde. OY!

Foxes and Fossils are releasing one Chrismas song each week for the next four weeks. Here’s the first, with Sammi singing:

A tweet from God. I don’t think this plan will fly, but, you know, he is omnipotent.

From Ginger K.:

From the Auschwitz Memorial, one of many displays in the Museum (including huge collections of dolls, shaving brushes, and an entire roomful of human hair shaved from women about to be gassed. It was used to fill mattresses. Here’s a display of the cans of cyanide granules used to gas the “selected”:

Tweets from Matthew. I wonder if telescopes could show you something older than this meteorite.

An excellent thread. Did the Omicron variant come from another species?

I wonder if the mother can feel it . . . .

They should do this with ducks:

87 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. Bad decision-making is inevitable.

    Living for the rest of one’s life with the consequences of bad-decision making should be in the hands of the decision-maker – namely, it is a human right for any individual to be able to do everything can to correct their mistake, and most importantly, learn from it.

  2. “I wonder if telescopes could show you something older than this meteorite.”

    I see in one tw337, he says “thing”, but the “deets” (shudder…) say “matter”, so I ask :

    Is light matter?

    I would say …. no …. I mean yes!….

    [ is tossed off bridge ]

    …. reading up, seems no mass means no matter. So, no.

      1. From a level of raw experience – getting pushed around by nature impinging on us from outside – the ancient photons hit the retina, the meteorite is felt by the fingertips in the same a way that we taste an apple or smell the fall foliage.

        How that is processed in the brain is another matter … oops … etc… and there we go down the rabbit hole which is philosophy …

        1. Some of the philosophy on this subject is interesting. Emergence, for example, is the recognition of patterns interesting to humans that arise from more primitive patterns. We see a table but physics sees only interacting fields. If our perception of simple things is so biased, what do we really know?

          1. Sure

            The taste of an apple is never, of course, only the taste of an apple. A host of other phenomena are wrapped around what we perceive as taste – our memories, the lighting in the room… which becomes most important at that moment though…

            1. Yes, but science does attempt to control for or ignore such things as personal experience and the lighting in the room. The biases I’m referring to are much more subtle and, therefore, much harder to eliminate. Science recognizes surface tension as a thing that can be measured but if one looks at interaction at a lower level, it disappears.

    1. The tweet says “naked eye”…doesn’t looking through a telescope/microscope negate the “naked eye” stipulation?

      1. Oh I see now … I mean … you know what I mean … ummm…

        Do physicists call light and matter “things”?

  3. Moss’s Exception to Coyne’s Fourth Dictum: all startup microbreweries will go through a stage of brewing something new each week until they find their place. Those that get stuck on fruit beers, especially blueberry, will die. Those that figure out how to make a decent bitter, lager, pale ale and porter will live.

    1. Not just microbreweries! Our beloved Genesee now has a Cran Orange Kellerbier to ‘complement’ their Ruby Red Kolsch. They have succeeded in making a beer worse than that horrible grapefruit-flavored beer. Sigh. The end is nigh.

      1. Only Genesee beer I’ve ever had is their Cream Ale. A long time ago. I had know idea Genesee became so adventurous.

        1. They’ve even tried to ruin Cream Ale with a ‘Dry Hopped’ version, which turns it into a pseudo-IPA! I just recently bought a pack, choked down one can, and am now trying to decide what to do with the rest. Any suggestions?

          1. I hate when that happens (a long-standing product I like is changed).

            Probably still be OK for cooking. Anything from chili to rarebit-like cheese sauce. Or for braising.

    2. Not just fruit (Belgium is exempt in my book, for many of their adjunct transgressions are tasty and traditional rather than trendy) but sticky toffee, banana bread, pecans, bourbon maple, bacon, various hot peppers, pumpkin, creme brûlée, vanilla, hibiscus, ginger, even baklava and Hawaiian pizza tiki party (boulevard brewing in KcMo) …I’m sure I’m forgetting many other disgusting offenders.

  4. Pretty much all of the heavy elements on earth (gold as an example) were formed in supernova explosions that occurred before the solar system formed……I’m a little perplexed as to why that makes the meteorite particles of any special significance. We are all made of stardust.

    1. Perhaps they meant that the atoms hadn’t moved for a long time. Of course, that doesn’t really work either. This is a good thought experiment demonstrating how much of our knowledge of reality is biased by human perception and biases about what is important and what isn’t.

    2. It’s the formation of particles – calcium aluminum inclusions – that precedes the formation of the particles making up planet earth. At the atom level it’s all the same super nova, but at the level of first clumping, the meteorite is older than earth.

  5. I cannot understand how any legislator can force a woman to bear a baby (as Mississippi does) if that fetus was the result of rape or incest.

    Jeez, why shouldn’t the post-man-o-pausal guys in the Mississippi legislature (86% male, median age 56) and governor’s mansion (100% male) have control over all the state’s uteri?

      1. +1

        I’ve always been sort of dumbfounded how any Christian could believe that their religion is morally superior. Of course most Christians haven’t read their Bible.

    1. And some of them are truly excellent. Though of course most range from awful to mediocre at best. Same as it ever was.

  6. The Economist has a quotation of Robert Louis Stevenson today, perhaps because of the anniversary of his death. Something to meditate on: “Our business in this world is not to succeed, but to continue to fail, in good spirits.”

    1. It’s not an easy business at which to succeed (at least the “good spirits” part of it), either…though I suppose that one’s failure to be in good spirits is just part of continuing to fail. But not in good spirits…which is, again, a failure, which is part of our business in this world, but which I have trouble doing in good spirits…which is a failure…which is part of…

      I’m getting a headache.

  7. 1960 – The musical Camelot debuts at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway. It will become associated with the Kennedy administration.

    It didn’t actually become closely associated with the Kennedy administration until a couple weeks after JFK got whacked in Dallas, when Jackie gave an interview to Theodore White of Life magazine wherein she confided that Jack had liked listening to the original cast recording.

  8. In a chilling article in the Atlantic, University of Baltimore law professor, Kimberly Wehle, discusses the potential repercussions of the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Many other rights now taken for granted could be reversed by a Court operating under the philosophy of “textualism.” She notes:

    “The thing is, the dangers of dispensing with Roe go far beyond abortion, because the legal logic that threatens this particular right could quite easily extend to others, inviting states to try out new laws that regulate choices about whom to marry, whom to be intimate with, what contraception to use, and how to rear one’s own children.“

    She concludes:

    “Nothing in the Constitution says anything to specifically protect couples’ ability to choose to have sex, use contraception, get married, decide how to educate their children, refuse bodily inspection or medical treatments, and, yes, terminate a pregnancy. From a legal perspective, if Roe falls, it’s hard to see what else will still stand.”

    In other words, a Court dominated by religionists could allow the states to become mini-theocracies. This Court, which could stay conservative dominated for decades, could further speed the social divide within the country. A century of social progress could be wiped out. Perhaps the most dangerous legacy of the Trump administration was his appointment of three religious radicals to the Court. Not only do we now see democracy threatened, but our right to make our most personal intimate decisions as well.

    1. It seems, whether we like it or not, the USA will transform into a federalist association, pitting the Blue states against the Red states. I live in solidly Blue Illinois, which years ago took steps to protect abortion rights, even to the point of becoming a destination for those of other states, e.g., Missouri, who are seeking abortion. We must brace ourselves for more civil conflict and try to forestall violence.

    2. I would still maintain the only thing that allows the courts to determine all of these things is a useless congress. Let’s eventually stop talking about the supreme court and put the blame where it belongs on the people and their elected officials. According to the way the Constitution was laid out, the power was suppose to be in the legislature. It has become just the opposite. Article I was suppose to be the dominate piece of government – what a disappointment.

    3. Yeah, overturning Roe would be the big Kulturkampf victory the Right has been longing for. If Roe falls, it won’t be long before red states seek to revivify anti-sodomy laws.

    4. How did that Margaret Atwood person put it : “This is a warning, not an instruction manual”.
      (Allegedly ; in reference to the Handmaid’s Tale).

      Designing a grave to contain her spinning bones is going to be a real challenge for mortuary engineering.

  9. A paper in Nature Communications outlines successful gene editing techniques for sexual selection in mice embryos:

    Scientists have used gene editing technology to create female-only and male-only litters of mice.

    Their technique could prevent the destruction of hundreds of thousands of unwanted mice used in research.

    The team says it could also prevent the slaughter of millions of male chickens in the UK, which are culled because they don’t lay eggs.

    The government is considering allowing gene editing to be used by the livestock industry in England.

    The technique, which has been outlined in the academic journal Nature Communications, deactivates a gene involved with embryo development.

    The system can be programmed to kick in for either male or female embryos at a very early stage of development – of between 16 and 32 cells.
    While some see this as a way to avoid the slaughter of male animals, such as male chickens in egg production, sceptics view the development as a means of strengthening the dominance of factory farming.

  10. Here’s [Katarina] Witt in the long program in the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

    Gotta admit, I never really warmed up to La Witt until the closing gala of the ’88 Olympics when she came out in her leathers and danced a routine to MJ’s “Bad”:

  11. I was looking on Amazon for a pair of binoculars for general use. While there were a bunch with overall good ratings, the negative reviews suggested quality problems. I decided to search for Zeiss, and, oh, boy, the price jumped from a couple hundred to about $1800. (I didn’t get binoculars.)

    Biden’s latest anti-covid measures again notably include any affecting the southern border. A reporter asked Fauci about this, and Fauci replied that they don’t have the resources to apply restrictions to people at the southern border. Why aren’t they restricting the inflow then? Under court mandate Biden will finally re-implement Remain in Mexico, but is looking to get out from under it. It’s hard to believe a booster is important given the unconcern about this major gap in covid policy.

  12. “Nope, I don’t care whether there is a community of, say, Christians whose faith mandates no vaccinations. Their status as unvaccinated puts the rest of us at risk. And I don’t care about their sincerity; sincerity puts us at just as much risk as lying since both results in unvaccinated people. The only excuse for exemption, in my view, is preexisting medical conditions that make immunization dangerous. Period.”

    I couldn’t agree more if I tried with both hands.

    1. This is the position taken by the Province of Ontario. There are no religious or creed exemptions, period. No getting bogged down in whether a particular religious view was sincere or cynical. The Ontario Human Rights Commission takes the view that even if someone invented de novo a Church of Latter-Day Vaccine Resistance, the government and employers would not be required to make accommodation to its adherents’ beliefs in the matter of vaccination. Refusing to do so would not constitute religious or creed-based discrimination under our law. Even the hocus pocus about fetal cells in an early stage of the research doesn’t cut it. If that bothers you, then don’t seek entry to a premises where vaccination is required. (In that way we have more freedom from religion than even Peter Singer would grant.)

      Now, what remains controversial is where vaccination mandates should be applied, another topic. But no religious exemption for anyone.

  13. I cannot understand how any legislator can force a woman to bear a baby (as Mississippi does) if that fetus was the result of rape or incest. What kind of human could decree that?

    It’s a criminal-like mindset: I don’t have to worry about the consequences, since I never plan on experiencing them.

    Barrett’s “solution” is not only unethical but impractical. The states that outlaw abortion are the exact same states that will scream bloody murder at the notion of increasing taxes to take care of other peoples’ children. Tell you what: let’s link abortion illegality to a 10% income tax hike on all income above $60,000 in order to care for all these dropped off orphans. Then we can watch how the “its a moral imperative to prevent abortion” pool dries up.

    1. I think it’s the same way people like her deal with their pets. Little Jonny does like like the pet we got him last week, just drop it off at the pound. Or just drop it off down the road somewhere. Problem solved.

  14. ”I cannot understand how any legislator can force a woman to bear a baby (as Mississippi does) if that fetus was the result of rape or incest. What kind of human could decree that?”

    Simple: a person who believes that a fetus of any age is a person and thus that killing it is murder. I know that you don’t believe that, but the other side does, so your only hope for progress is to convince them that a fetus isn’t a human. If you can’t do that, you can have no hope of them changing their minds, since “how cruel is that” or whatever is never used as a justification for murder in other circumstances.”

    Again, you stance implicitly assumes that there is a logically coherent position which bans abortions except for such exceptions. However, does anyone actually take that stance and if so why? Out of conviction or out of trying to placate some who would disagree with a total ban or no ban at all?

    1. “Your only hope for progress is to convince them that a fetus isn’t a human”. What about the other approach: convince them that not only is a fetus human, but so are the egg and sperm that give rise to the fetus.

      Gametes have metabolism and gene expression. They consume nutrients. They show behavior, movement, and choice. They cooperate or compete with each other. They can be very long-lived. The one thing they don’t do is cell division. They really are organisms, and in lots of other species those haploid single cells do undergo cell division and become multicellular organisms. Think ferns, and most fungi.

      So every time a woman ovulates without getting pregnant, that little organism dies. And every sperm really is sacred.

      The absurdity of that line of thinking might be convincing to at least some people?

    2. Exempting rape and incest is just a way to draw supporters who sort of in their guts feel uncomfortable about abortion but who don’t think it constitutes murder. (If they think about it, they will have to conclude that under the exemption framework a fetus cannot therefore, be a human person….so why restrict abortion at all?). If you don’t need those supporters, and they are only half-hearted supporters anyway, you just discard them if you can get what you want without having them tagging along muddying the moral waters.

      Since it would require religious conversion to change the minds of the absolutists, it might be better to engage with the exemptionists in the hope that they will recognize the logical inconsistency of their position and convert them to a more liberal view. Once you accept any circumstances where killing a fetus or embryo is OK, surely you can in principle accept others as the pregnant woman might decide. I have seen people undergo this shift and it is the only place in the spectrum where people ever do change their minds in the liberal direction.

      I think our host might have brought this up: even a rape/incest exemption is not of practical use. Would the woman having the abortion, and the doctor doing it, need legal proof that rape or incest had occurred—a conviction or a confession—to escape prosecution? Don’t forget the timing, and the low rate of convictions following sexual assault. So the exemptionists have to recognize that abortion would hardly ever be available to raped women even under those exemptions.

      I realize that merely getting the exemptionists to consider themselves pro-choice will not produce legislative victory in all 50 states, which is why gutting Roe will be a shame. Abortion in Canada, too, was slowly liberalized by Parliament but then completely by the Supreme Court. Even though the constitutional grounds were arguably flimsy, as with Roe, I think everyone except the absolutists heaved a sigh of relief that the issue was gone forever. There were a few early attempts after Morgantaler to write a new abortion law but all failed. There remain problems with access but abortion will never again be illegal in Canada. (Our advantage is that there is only one federal jurisdiction over the Criminal Code. No province can legislate on abortion except, say, to deny reimbursement under single payer — not going to happen.)

    3. Yep.

      I see so many pro abortion (I’m one) folks just sort of skip right past the central argument from the other side.

      Is a fetus is to be considered a human being, a Person, or not?

      If a fetus IS to be considered a person, then it follows a person has some rights, even when in the womb.

      It therefore does not make sense to parse out those rights depending on how that fetus came to be.
      As in “fetuses born of a loving, reciprocal relationship have the right to be born, but a fetus unlucky enough to have arisen from rape doesn’t have those same rights, and can be killed.”

      IF you believe that a fetus is a person, it just doesn’t make sense to parse out the “human rights” of the fetus this way. One may as well say we should give a different set of rights to a child or adult born of rape than people born from consensual loving sex.

      So you just can’t skip past this question and cluck about how awful it is that they won’t let fetuses be killed “EVEN IN THE CASE OF RAPE!” You have to meet the objection from the other side head on.

      1. I have already made the argument for why a fetus is not equivalent to a person. Given that, I’m perfectly able to say that forcing someone to carry a fetus that results from rape or incest is worse than forcing someone to carry a fetus that’s the result of consensual sex. I believe in free abortion, but if it’s to be banned, there must be this exception.

        1. I completely agree with both of your positions: a fetus is not a person, and forcing pregnancy to continue in the case of rape is worse. No argument there at all. My point is merely that the “if it’s to be banned, there must be this exception” argument has no chance of convincing those who believe that abortion is murder. The only hope is to convince them that a fetus is not equivalent to a person, then everything else follows.

          1. Your argument is internally consistent. But does it motivate anti-abortionists in practice? Do any state laws prohibiting abortion claim that the fetus is a legal person? Or do they just make abortion illegal? The infamous Ohio bill that would have required doctors to attempt to re-implant an ectopic pregnancy (which is impossible) created the new offence of abortion-murder…and amended dozens of other state laws mentioning murder to add this new offence. The Ohio bill was withdrawn. Have any other states done that?

            Any laws allowing abortion up to the “heartbeat” must obviously imply the embryo is not a person before that. If the law allows abortion under any circumstances at all beyond life of the mother, then the fetus cannot be a person. So opposition to abortion must come from some other place than purely religious ensoulment and legal personhood.

            In Canada, a fetus was not a person even before the abortion law was struck down, and it still isn’t. Right-to-lifers who said, “Abortion is murder”, could be told, “No it’s not, not in Canadian law.” I believe this was instrumental in taking the wind out of the move to write a new abortion law: it smacked of metaphysics and the imposition of a minority religious view on a sturdy legal and ethical common-law tradition.

            Legal codes have to have definitions of personhood in them somewhere because the legal concept is so important. If Roe falls, reproductive rights activists should get busy on figuring out if the way personhood as defined in each state could provide a route of opposition to new laws restricting abortion. “The zygote has a soul” is not the same as “the zygote is a person.”

      2. @Vaal: My thoughts exactly.

        Of course, people can, and do, say that a fetus is not a person in order to justify their own “pro-choice” position. The point is that simply saying it won’t convince the other side, and, perhaps indirectly, the issue will be decided by what the majority believes.

        1. That a fetus is not a person always seemed to me the result of a pro-choice decision and not a useful argument for that decision. It’s not like science can look at the unborn baby and see an “unperson” label.

          1. Science might not but Canadian law does exactly that. A fetus becomes a person only when it is born alive, breathes, and lives separate from its mother. I’ll bet you’ll find more states than you think have similar interpretations and it’s the Achilles heel of the absolutist position.

            Is it metaphysical to wonder when personhood “really” begins? Is the first breath kind of silly from a scientific viewpoint? Sure. Perhaps it’s a continuum. Perhaps it’s immoral to abort in 3rd trimester, or after “viability”, whatever that means now. But the law has to be definite. Because the law sets out the rules for when the state can put people in jail with all those guys from the Group W bench, the law says homicide applies only after that first breath. Make those who would ban a non-homicidal action against a non-person explain why exactly.

            I’m over-commenting out of passion. Sorry, I’ll stop. I guess the possibility that Roe will fall is eating at me as an impotent foreigner. “Drop the baby off at the police station,” was just a new low.

    4. If pro-life really was committed to ending abortions, they’d go after the men with the same vigor as they do with women. How about mandatory reversible vasectomies for men? Mandatory birth control for both parties. If the woman has to “have” the kid, then the man has to be there for every examination, every ultrasound, etc.

      From the moment of conception. Everybody keep a log book. (No more who-is-the-father? drama.) And if she (or hell, he) gets pregnant this “blessed event” will become a legally binding obligation. Sign before you screw.

      1. While it might be true of some, it is not true of many, and probably not true of most “pro-life” people, so your argument falls apart. If you had any idea at all about many “pro-life” folks, you would see that birth control, for either sex, is not an option.

        Roe vs. Wade will be overturned because of lack of good arguments from the “pro-choice” side.

        1. You seemed to have missed the point. The fact that the anti-abortion types don’t believe in birth control either is significant. It’s as if to say to women, “If you are fertile, you are going to have our damn babies no matter what!” Being against this attitude is reason enough for me and most Americans to support making abortion available to women. The other pro-choice arguments sound good to me also, though they apparently don’t resonate with you.

          1. Most anti-abortion types have no problem with birth control, at least for married couples.

            I have not missed any points. I am here to point out which arguments are illogical and have no promise of convincing anyone, even if they are made to support a valid cause.

            1. Strict anti-abortion types — the type who believe that a fertilized egg is the ontological equivalent of a live human being (generally because they believe in the ensoulment of zygotes) — oppose any form of birth control that prevents a fertilized ovum from implanting in the uterus.

    5. A good test to see if that’s what they really believe is to talk to them about IVF, which produces something like 12-20 fertilized zygotes for every one that actually is used. The rest…trashed. There are indeed some pro-lifers (especially Catholics) who will go to the logical, rational outcome that for them to be philosophically consistent, IVF must also be banned. But a lot of evangelicals come from areas where IVF is seen as a positive service for (cough *rich white christian* cough) women who are having trouble getting pregnant. And when you tell them that their definition will require these services must shut down, the prevaricating begins. Because the reality is that for a great deal of pro-lifers, they don’t mean that the zygotes people like them don’t want count as people, they mean the zygotes those other people don’t want count as people.

      1. True to some extent. Yes, there are some hypocrites. But I think in most cases the reason they don’t go after IVF as much is ignorance. Also, in some places laws require all fertilized zygotes to be implanted. A similar argument applies to the IUD. If they really knew how it works, then either they would be against it (some are; some are against all birth control) or be hypocrites, but again it is down to ignorance.

  15. I wonder if telescopes could show you something older than this meteorite.

    I’ve never heard anyone claiming that Allende is significantly older than the Solar system. “Pre-solar” grains (silicon carbide “mossianite” and nano-diamonds) are well established as minor components of chondritic meteorites, so a few parts per million of any randomly imaged asteroid is likely to contain something older than the Solar system – and hence of Allende.
    Slightly more excitingly, I recall a GRB (Gamma Ray Burst) in about 1998 which was imaged by the ROTSE telescopic camera within 14 seconds (yes, under a quarter of a minute – that’s not a typo) of the burst being detected. It’s peak measured brightness was about magnitude 8, and there is a good chance that somewhere in those un-imaged 14 seconds; it’s brightness was above the limit of human vision – about magnitude 6. (That’s magnitudes in optical wavebands. Of course the first detector was working in the hard-X to soft-gamma.) Estimating the distance to the progenitor of a GRB is hard, but I think this one was around z=2, which would put it well older than the origin of the Solar system.
    Sorry, it was 22-odd seconds from burst trigger to first image. And the approximate age is given as 9 Gyr. – twice the age of the Solar system.

    If you’ve still got an analogue TV (one with a receiver operating in UHF wavebands), you can tune into the cosmic microwave background (approximately 13.8 Gyr old) with a non-directional antenna. Plus a lot of other noise.

  16. It’s possible that public opinion, and that of her fellow justices, on her statements during the hearing may change Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s mind. After all, her argument wasn’t a legal one. Though she’s a woman, it is possible she’s never really thought about what a woman would go through if forced to have a child and give it up for adoption.

    In general, I thought that it was accepted wisdom that the justice’s comments during a hearing aren’t reliable indicators of their eventual decision.

    1. Though she’s a woman, it is possible she’s never really thought about what a woman would go through if forced to have a child and give it up for adoption.

      Two of ACB’s seven children are adopted, so I assume she’s given this at least some thought. Her calling card as a law professor at Notre Dame was her strong anti-abortion stance. She’s a member of a charismatic cult within the Roman Catholic Church. Her appointment to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg was seen as a huge victory for anti-abortion-rights’ forces.

      If the gutting of Roe and Casey is to stop at the 15-week mark in Dobbs, Chief Justice Roberts will need to bring along at least one of the hardcore justices to his right to join him in an opinion to that effect. Although he may yet succeed, none of the five gave much indication at oral argument that they were with Roberts on this, Amy Coney Barrett included.

  17. I had heard that Oswald Moseley, the wannabe Nazi, met Gandhi, so I looked up Moseley’s book. In My Life, Moseley writes of a frightful row that broke out during a meeting between Hindus and Muslims. Gandhi was overcome with ‘helpless laughter, overwhelmed by the comical absurdity of human nature’. The good news is that, at sundown, the row suddenly stopped because the Muslims had to pray. The bad news is that ‘after the specified interval, up they jumped and launched the row again, full roar, just where they had left off.’

  18. I cannot understand how any legislator can force a woman to bear a baby

    I’d stop right there. Forced gestation, rape/incest or no, is torture.

  19. Most of the legislators are male. They have no concept of pregnancy. With today’s medical knowledge a seriously defomed fetus as well as the rape/incest, should there need to be exemptions. The idea of having a child and just dropping it off someplace is cruelty exemplified.

      1. But the vast majority of people who sit in legislative bodies and governors’ mansions are men. And the only three of the entire 263-member Republican congressional caucus who are even marginally pro-abortion-rights are three women US senators.

        So I don’t think you can discount entirely that this is a male/female issue.

  20. Stop the presses! I just figured out a way Barrett’s “drop the baby off” solution can work.

    In any state where abortion is made illegal, the mother can drop the baby off (no strings attached) with the father and the father is legally required to care for it for at least 9 months. After that 9-month period if the father wants to put the baby up for adoption, so be it. Heck, let’s even cover their paternity leave during that period under the FMLA. That’s being MORE than generous! Just think dads, 2-3 months of your 9 months ‘pregnancy’ you can take unpaid leave! With job security! You can’t ask for more.

    [Yes, I know, rape and incest are still problems. The requirement is intended to highlight the blatant sexism in the conservative position: they put a legal obligation on the woman without thought, but would see a parallel obligation on the man as legally outrageous.]

  21. Maybe Mr. Sondheim was actually waxing arrogantly. Interesting how even geniuses can get things wrong. Speaking of genius, didn’t Conrad learn English as an adult while working as a shipmate? His understanding of the language’s subtleties and idiosyncrasies is remarkable.

  22. I wish to make an off-topic note of my present surreal circumstances, which of course can be deleted if not appropriate here.
    So, the family and I went to Texas for thanksgiving week, and headed back home in time to make sure we would be ready for work and school on the 29th. We took the RV, with a car on the trailer. That bit is normal for us.
    But the RV just suddenly stopped running after lunch on the 27th. I coasted into a rest area in Abbot, Tx. I worked on the normal sorts of things like fuel filters and such, but was making no progress. The family needed to get back on time, so they took the car.
    Anyway, surreal part is that I am still here a week later. A couple of diesel mechanics have come by, hooked up their computers and shined flashlights at the engine. The prescribe expensive parts that are sure to get me back on the road. But of course the parts will not be available for a day or so, then I need a ride to get them. I spend a whole day installing the bits and putting the engine back together, only to find it will not start. Then all night reading service manuals and Cummins diesel forums, and start again the next day.
    The dog and I are perfectly comfortable, but there is nothing here. Nothing that can be walked to. The rest stop is surrounded by fields.For miles.

    I have a freezer full of Cooper’s bbq, and had a pork chop for dinner, which reminded me of Dr. Coyle, and this forum.

    I almost expect to look on my local paper’s website, discover my eulogy, and learn that we have been wrong about religion, as I am in purgatory. If any regulars (particularly those with mechanical talents) want to stop by, I shall apparently be spending the indefinite future in the northbound I-35 rest area in Abbot, Tx. Look for the RV with a big red skull on the back.

    1. If only you could have called Click and Clack – that story is GOLD!… though I cannot recall their knowledge of diesel engines…

      1. I had not thought of that. I bet I would have gotten on, too.
        Last night, I extracted the injection control valve, and discovered that the stator is apparently dead. It is supposed to have a small resistance, but is an open circuit. The symptoms of it failing seem to match what I am experiencing, so I have fairly high confidence that will get me moving again.
        Sadly, the part is in stock in Dallas, at a place that will not open until Monday. That puts it in my hands on Tuesday. So, a couple more days to try to stay busy.
        I do have plenty of books.

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