I have a strong conviction that I'm getting dumber. As I posted the trollery update below, I had a sense that I've posted it before, and also that in my smarter days I'd be able to keep it straight better. Maybe it's just chronic tiredness. (Although our paleo ancestors didn't sleep much, either! apparently.)
At any rate, I'm losing my mental whateverness.
NickS writes: Living history. Powerful interviews with "seven doctors who practiced on the cusp of Roe" (three of whom are still practicing).
Dr. Curtis Boyd: "A few years later, I was asked if I would be willing to provide abortions by a multidenominational clergy consultation group in Texas. Pastors and priests from all sorts of denominations would refer women to me for abortions. I had a wife, small kids, and I had to decide whether I was willing to take on the risk. Of course, I said yes. It was a matter of conscience.
Dr. Douglas Laube: "After Roe, we thought we'd won. We thought it was over. "I remember back in the '80s, I was sitting on the exam stool with the patient in the middle of a D&C abortion. We were in a basement facility and heard this big noise coming from the ground floor, right above us. Fortunately, there were heavy steel-cased doors, but they had glass windows. An extremist group was using a telephone pole as a battering ram, trying to break through the front door.
"We could hear the breaking of the glass, the pounding against the door, our people were screaming. One nurse ran to call security. The other nurse was trying to calm the patient down. The patient was pleading with us not to leave her. She kept saying, 'Please don't leave me, please don't leave me.' I couldn't leave; I had to finish the procedure. I said, 'Don't worry, we'll finish our job.'
Dr. Suzanne T. Poppema: "For a while, in the Pacific Northwest, I lived in a beautiful little pro-choice bubble. Then in 1994, my friend Garson Romalis was shot in Vancouver. I couldn't just say, 'Oh it's all the crazy people in the South.' That was scary enough that we had the Feds come out and do a safety analysis. We put in bulletproof glass and double-locked doors.
Heebie's take: Super riveting read.
Update: to make this comment thread more active, I'll troll a little: I don't think this pro-choice gotcha works: "If abortion were illegal, what punishment exactly do you see fit for the mothers who have abortions?" [crickets]. It is reasonable to say that an act that should be illegal, but you still have compassion for the perpetrator and want to see them get help instead of be punished.
A whistleblower just gave a bunch of docs about the US drone program to The Intercept. Here's one point.
To be read, probably, alongside the story of the US bombing that Afghan hospital, possibly deliberately.
It's pretty clear that Obama et al. have made a calculation that not enough people in America care about the drone program to curtail it. The blood is on his hands, but if it doesn't hurt him politically, and enough guys in uniform show up in his office to say it's really important, it's bombs away. Maybe this leak will make a difference. He certainly deserves the stain on his "legacy."
I got a text message from my credit card company, saying there'd been a fraudulent charge. I called them. Apparently someone had tried to make a dozen online purchases (using an old expiration date, from 2011!) and all but one had been declined. It was a ten minute phone call, they refunded my money, and sent me a new card.
This is the first time I've dealt with any identity theft, surprisingly. It could not have gone more smoothly. The credit card companies have really polished their act on the consumer side of the most conventional thefts. Of course, now I've got to update all these various auto-pay bills that go to that card, but I'll be ok.
Witt writes: OK, I admit to being primed to be skeptical of this kind of organization, but I find a few of the claims in this NYT op-ed on forced marriage in the United States really astonishing.
Let's stipulate that it's not that hard to imagine that 16- or 17-year-old immigrant girls in the US are being married to adult men, sometimes under heavy family pressure or even against their wishes. That part isn't so farfetched, and I support efforts to help young people in this situation extricate themselves. (I have no idea whether the organization pushing this op-ed is doing that effectively or not.)
But if I'm reading this op-ed correctly, a judge married a 10-year-old child to a much older spouse and no one present batted an eyelash? That just seems absurd. Far likelier to me is that there was a typo in the marriage license application, and the 10-year-old groom was really 20.
Am I crazy? Is there something in the op-ed that clarifies that the organization actually verified that this was a ten-year-old?
Heebie's take: I have no idea! This op-ed certainly implies that there must be wildly isolated communities with complicit judges.
That said, they have to reach pretty far back to find 10 and 12 year olds - the 10-year old boy marrying the 18-year old woman (if that wasn't a typo) was in 2006, and the 12-year-old girl marrying the 25 year old man is in 1996. Although they seem to mostly have data for New Jersey. Is New Jersey known for wildly isolated communities with bought judges?
"When [Boyajian] showed me the data, I was fascinated by how crazy it looked," Wright told me. "Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build."
These sounds like non-crazy people. I guess it could just be comets.
PREPARE TO DIE.
NickS writes: Charlie Stross has a good time complaining about the poor script-writing for the 21st century:
I want to complain to the studio execs who commissioned the current season of "21st century"; your show is broken.
I say this as a viewer coming in with low expectations. Its predecessor "20th century" plumbed the depths of inconsistency with the frankly silly story arc for world war II. It compounded it by leaving tons of loose plot threads dangling until the very last minute, then tidied them all up in a blinding hurry in that bizarre 1989-92 episode just in time for the big Y2K denouement (which then fizzled). But the new series reboot is simply ridiculous! It takes internal inconsistency to a new low, never before seen in the business: the "21st century" show is just plain implausible.
So what do people at unfogged find plausible or implausible about the 21st century. I'd say that I'm happy with the way the show has handled the increasing political importance of social media -- clearly a major subplot for the 21st century, but not one that that's being rushed. (Also, if you like the conceit of the post, I recommend Zeitgeist by Bruce Sterling).
Heebie's take: The Republican party is completely implausible - repetitive, boring, premised on being too stupid to find their ass with both hands, and yet relentlessly destructive. Truly poorly written as a villain. Environmental destruction on its own would make a terrific narrative arc, without the pointless pretense by the Republicans that the main storyline isn't occurring.
Amelia Earhart writes: I have an ethical conundrum that I'm not sure what to do about. It does not reflect well on me. About a year and a half ago I started up an online friendship with a man that lasted about nine months. We're both married with children. Our friendship was entirely online but I grew to trust him and thought he valued our friendship. I was wrong. Throughout our friendship there were a few things that seemed a bit off about him but I pushed those aside believing that I was over-thinking things. Toward the end, things started to seem really wrong and when I pulled on one thread of deception it revealed a whole sweater's worth of lies and sociopathic behavior. I ended the friendship immediately.
I know of several of this man's secret online personas and since the end of our friendship I have occasionally checked in on what he has been up to. All of it is quite bad. He preys on just eighteen (and sometimes probably not even eighteen) year old girls: trying to get them to meet him, developing online sexual relationships with him, sending naked pictures. He has many different personas through which he conducts these kinds of relationships.
I feel sick about the whole thing. First, because I was complicit in unintentionally hurting his wife. I genuinely believed he was in a sad marriage and just wanted a friend (while our relationship wasn't physical it did have a sexual component). Second, that I was so thoroughly duped by him. I still feel somewhat ashamed that I fell for his act because I usually know better.
Do I somehow inform his wife about what he is up to? I mean, of course I don't, of course I don't get involved in this mess. I have always been of the opinion that it's a mistake to get involved in these types of things. But I also feel terrible for her. His transgressions are much worse than an affair between adults which, while maybe not the height of moral integrity, would at least be understandable. He is an online and possibly in-person predator of girls. To walk out an old cliche, I would want to know in this situation.
Tell me why it makes sense to not tell her. Or, convince me that I should somehow inform her about what he is up to.
Heebie's take: WHOA.
I'm usually persuaded by Apostropher's emphatic STAY OUT DON'T MEDDLE message, so that's my inclination here: the wife may be turning a deliberate blind eye in order to keep the marriage together, who knows, don't de-stabilize things for other people.
But maybe someone will make a compelling case otherwise.
The two-year-old: "I can speak Farsi now."
"Oh yeah? Say something in Farsi."
The Times comes through with a nice editorial on Native Americans' interactions with the police.
E. Messily writes: I'm so confused by this story. Is hypnotism actually a real thing? Huh. And apparently you need a license to do it, in Florida at least. The whole thing sounds like a plot summary to a mediocre young adult thriller (Help! My Principal is a Creepy Black Market Hypnotist!) which probably makes it even harder for the families to grieve and whatnot.
Heebie's take: so very weird and YA! Heathers crossed with...did anyone else ever see Class of 1984? (I misremembered it as having an evil principal, so it shouldn't be crossed with Heathers after all.)
A friend of mine is egging me on to nominate myself for the local Planning and Zoning committee. I'm intrigued - I think it would be interesting and important work - but the time commitment is probably a dealbreaker. Talk me out of it. Or into it.
(Anyway, I'm nobody, so the city council probably wouldn't select me anyway.)
Obama and Marilynne Robinson have a chat. What can I say, the dude really believes in America. It's a good read, although I would have liked for her to bring up America's fear of its other other, the Muslims out there being droned.
I get made fun of a fair amount for living in the liberal bubble, which is cool, I do. I know my beliefs about how ordinary people interact, political correctness-wise, what things are so racist that you literally never hear anyone say them in real life, and so on, are really out of step with larger America, and my sense of social norms is that of a clueless, out-of-touch, white liberal.
Anyway, Jasmine, a friend of Sally's whose mother moved her out of town this year, to an almost all white UMC suburb of a medium-sized NY city, came back for the weekend and had some reactions to leaving the bubble. She's black, and gay, and personally really charismatic and fun -- apparently no one's been hostile, and her fashion sense is exactly how all the straight white boys want to dress. So it hasn't been that bad. But.
(1): "Literally ever other conversation is someone asking if they're allowed to use the n-word."
(2): "I had no idea white people could be racist." (I asked Sally to unpack that one for me a bit, and apparently Jasmine's take was that in the city schools she's been in, the black and hispanic kids feel free to be kind of assholes to each other about race, while the white kids have a tendency to mind their manners. Having left the bubble, she is now for the first time encountering white people with no manners, particularly around race.)
(3): "They have no idea about privilege, and what they've got." Her new school has much better facilities/equipment than the city high school she came from. Despite the government-funded luxury her new classmates are lolling in, she spends a lot of time in and outside of class defending necessary government spending as opposed to "why don't those people all get jobs and stop being dependent." It's apparently exhaustingly isolated being the only voice for rationality on that kind of issue.
So, the liberal bubble? Maybe it's inauthentic and unrealistic and out of touch with American norms, but I'd still like to spread it to cover as much area as possible.
1. It's not a new debate on whether women are getting unnecessary breast cancer treatments, but this is a good article:
Now, after more than 30 years of routine screenings, some experts are raising a different, perhaps less comfortable question: How many women have mammograms harmed?
If you include everything, the answer is: millions. Mammograms do help a small number of women avoid dying from breast cancer each year, and those lives count, but a 2012 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine calculated that over the last 30 years, mammograms have overdiagnosed 1.3 million women in the United States...In a 2013 paper published in the medical journal BMJ, breast surgeon Michael Baum estimated that for every breast cancer death thwarted by mammography, we can expect an additional one to three deaths from causes, like lung cancer and heart attacks, linked to treatments that women endured.
Anecdotally, I know women who have died around 40 from breast cancer, as well as women in their 30s who I suspected were enduring unnecessary treatments (but I really have no idea what their situation was).
2. The most severe cases of chronic fatigue syndrome are crazy:
But now, at 31, Whitney lies in bed in a darkened room in his parents' home, unable to talk, walk or eat. He is fed intravenously and is barely able to tolerate light, sounds or being touched. His parents and the medical personnel who see him wear plain clothing when they enter his room because bright colors, shapes or any kind of print make him feel even worse, as does any movement that he's not expecting.
It doesn't sound made-up (like Yom Kippur):
Whitney has extremely low levels of several small molecules associated with energy metabolism. He also has three mutations in a gene that codes for an enzyme that helps convert folate and vitamin B12 to their active forms, a process necessary for both metabolic and immune function.
This seems like a cheap shot:
The National Institutes of Health allocates only about $5 million a year to ME/CFS research, slightly less than the amount it devotes to hay fever.
Hey, hay fever affects a lot of people.