Guaranteed City Services

The power went off about 2am while I was having a soak in the tub before heading to bed. I grumbled and then rinsed and dried myself off in the dark and climbed up out of the tub to get dressed again so that I could go find the flashlights and the hurricane candles and make sure the house was set up for several hours of life without electricity in the middle of a nearly unprecedented winter storm.

This is the second time in a month that the power has gone off here at the house. It’s off at the school across the street too which has never happened before, and that bothers me. The school is on a seperate grid set aside for essential services. Most Texas schools were built to be shelters for harsh weather as well as their main purpose as schools, and they are largely self-sufficient architecture if properly maintained. The power being out there was a signal that this was not the ordinary squirrel chewing on transformer wires kind of problem.

The power stayed off until 4:38am. It came back on while I was washing dishes by candlelight. Weirdly that is the same thing I was doing the last time there was a power outage. The power stayed on for ten whole minutes and then it went back off again. I’m going to start a fire in the fireplace soon and start cleaning the shotgun in preparation for the zombie hordes that should be milling about by the time everything thaws in a week. I hope all of you have your zombie plans ready.

This is getting to be a too frequent problem. If I wanted to be on my own for power I would live out in the country. I don’t live in the country because I want services from the city to work when I need them too. I’d like to not have to buy solar cells, a battery backup and a generator just because I as a homeowner can’t rely on the city to keep the power on. This is why we pay taxes. We pay through the nose so that the services we need are there when we need them.

Yes, this is unprecedented weather, a never-before seen type of winter storm for this area. I get that. But this is the second time in a month, and that time the weather was normal and the power was still off all day. The city needs to start making sure that basic services stay on all the time, and just FYI that also includes the internet in this day and age. It’s time for a rethink, as the saying goes. Let’s start getting the city to pay attention to what is really important to us as citizens. What is that?

  • Shelter for everyone.
  • Clean water for everyone.
  • Food for everyone.
  • Electricity for everyone.
  • Healthcare for everyone.
  • Information services for everyone.

When it became clear to me that climate change was a thing some time around 2010, I started thinking that the municipalities and states needed to start making plans to deal with unexpected weather conditions in the future, because we really don’t know what will happen as the planet warms up. Winter storms stalling out in the Southern regions of the United States are perhaps a completely unlikely event to contemplate, but that is what the word unexpected means, and that is also why they changed the nomenclature from global warming to climate change, because the net effect may have been hotter temperatures worldwide, but the individual weather patterns will include things like what we are seeing right now. We need to be planning for this kind of event in the future, and we should have started these plans twenty years ago or even earlier.

We’ve waited too long and now it is time to play catch up, and we’d better start doing the planning in earnest or we’ll be seeing rolling blackouts all summer and winter in the years to come. People dying to unforeseen climate events is something that we should not just be accepting blythely like we are doing right now. How many homeless will freeze to death tonight? How many of them have died so far this year?

In a year marred by uncertainty and loss, homeless Austinites and advocates gathered Sunday morning to remember and read the names of the 256 homeless Austinites who died in 2020 – an increase of more than 70 deaths compared to last year.

Along Auditorium Shores, dog tags representing each life lost were nailed to a memorial live oak on the banks of Lady Bird Lake. The silver tags fluttered and jangled with each gust of wind on the blustery morning, while Austinites on the Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail went about their Sunday exercises largely unphased.

kut.org

Will it top 400 in 2021? 500? When will we say enough?

February 18, 2021 – I wrote the original portion of this article Sunday night, early Monday morning, by copying parts of text that I had written on Facebook and Nextdoor earlier in the day Sunday. I was using my phone as a hotspot while typing on my laptop and it was the only connection to the outside world that we had in the house at that time. Not too long after my 5 am post, the phone and then the laptop went dead, and I had no power to charge either of them (other than sitting out in the SUV we borrowed from a friend due to the terrorist squirrels attack on our car) until Wednesday afternoon when we were woken up from the pretty poor sleep we were getting without our cpap machines, woken up by the sound of the high temp alarm going off on the chest freezer that sits just the other side of the wall from our bedroom. So that makes just under four full days without power for us here in Austin.

Most of the food in the chest freezer will be of questionable safety and will have to be thrown out, and that goes double for the contents of the refrigerator. We moved most items that we needed to keep edible to the porch, which remains colder than the refrigerator even today, Thursday the 18th.

That is 59 hours without power thanks to the Texas electric grid manager’s (ERCOT) unwillingness to provide or find additional power to keep the electricity on for most Texans. The death toll from freezing will not be known for some time (90 days per the Statesman article quoted further down. -ed.) and the cost of life among the homeless population may never be known. Nor is this winter storm over. I noticed flakes of snow falling again today as I washed dishes in my freshly boiled tap water this morning.

Boiled tap water? The boil water notice was instituted yesterday as the assessments of the damage that the lack of electricity for four days has had on our local infrastructure revealed that the power had been turned off at Austin’s largest water treatment plant, and that water pressure remains under low pressure conditions. Low water pressure means that contaminants can be siphoned off of toilet tanks or leaks in cracked water lines, rendering the once potable water in the lines potentially life-threatening. The boil water notice will probably remain in effect here for several days.

I’m still no more confident the power will stay on than I was when it came back on the last time. It may be still on now, but how long will it be before ERCOT or the PUC once again screw up and Texas is subjected to blackouts because of it? This has happened several times, pretty much every time that the weather goes below freezing for long enough for the non weatherized portions of the electricity grid to freeze and then fail to provide power.

When I wrote about this issue on Nextdoor several people displayed a complete lack of knowledge about the subject of the electric power grid in Texas. People like this guy:

So you’d like Texas to invest hundreds of millions (or possibly billions?) of taxpayer dollars to expand capacity to meet the power needs created by a single day of once in a century weather?

The problem is not capacity that needs to be built into the system. The problem is weatherization. Weatherization that has been pointed out as being needed before, but that Texas’ electricity council has never done anything to address:

Morning Edition – What Went Wrong With The Electric Grid In Texas? – February 17, 2021

So this is a very frustrating narrative, and largely because it is true that some of the solar and wind farms were producing less than you might have expected because of the extreme cold, but a lot of them were actually overperforming expectations as well. Simultaneously, almost an order of magnitude or almost 10 times as much of the thermal system – so coal, gas and nuclear – actually shut down because of the extreme cold, due to things like instruments freezing, et cetera. So I think the overall point here is all of the fuels were really, really struggling. And as the governor mentions, renewables being about 10% of the grid, the other 90% of the grid was not available in the way that we expected to, either, and in a way that was very, very far outside of what we expected to see fail.

NPR.org

The weatherization issue is a known problem and it is an old problem. In 1989 Texas faced power outages due to freezing weather impairing the electrical grid. It happened once again in the 1990’s and in 2011. Now it is happening again because ERCOT and it’s member corporations have still not complied with suggestions made by the national electrical regulating body more than a decade ago.

As another commenter pointed out on that thread on Nextdoor, this is because ERCOT was set up specifically to allow Texas to avoid federal regulation. This is possible because all of ERCOT’s activities are inside Texas, which means its activities are not interstate commerce and thusly cannot be regulated by federal authorities. ERCOT passed on the recommendations from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to their participating electrical power generators, but few if any of them were followed:

Moreover, some of the same equipment, the report noted, had failed during previous cold snaps. One in December 1989 prompted the state’s grid operator to resort to system-wide rolling blackouts for the first time.

“Many generators failed to adequately apply and institutionalize knowledge and recommendations from previous severe winter weather events, especially as to winterization of generation and plant auxiliary equipment,” the 2011 report said.

The failures have already spurred a tangle of finger-pointing, with Texas Governor Greg Abbott calling on leaders of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s grid operator, to resign.

bloomberg.com

The wikipedia page I linked under the acronym ERCOT above appears to have been written from press releases and from ERCOT’s own website. It is pretty hard to find any information on this obscure agency that isn’t filtered through their own internal lens. A local news station has just recently published a story that claims that several board members don’t live in Texas and one board member purportedly lives in Canada:

A KXAN analysis of ERCOT’s board revealed a total of five members do not live in Texas. Along with Telberg and Cramton, board members Vanessa Anesetti-Parra, Terry Bulger and Raymond Hepper do not appear to live in the Lone Star State.

Anesetti-Parra’s professional social media account shows her location as Canada, Bulger’s ERCOT biography lists his home as Wheaton, Illinois and a University of Pennsylvania law school biography shows Hepper calls Maine home.

kxan.com

What is clear is that ERCOT has proven that it can’t manage Texas’s electrical generating grid with any reliability and needs to be scrapped and replaced with another organization that is mandated with ensuring that power stays on for the average Texan even when inclement weather is affecting the region.

This is not a big ask. This is not asking the government to invest billions of dollars providing excess capacity, although re-investing the millions of dollars of profit that these corporations have taken out of Texas in the future of Texas and in Texas’ ability to sustain the necessary systems for power generation and delivery would be a completely justifiable demand.

I’ll start simple. I’d like the state to stop denying that climate change is real. It’s all around us and affecting us more and more each day. Stop pretending that science is political. Science is real and climate change is real and we are just going to have to learn how to deal with this new reality that we have created. I would like a task force to be set up to spitball and then solve similar issues to this one we are living through now, and then they need to set up preparations to deal with similar crisis in the future.

There will be another crisis this summer from the heat and there will likely be one next winter from the cold. Once in a century storms seem to happen every other season these days. It is time to get off of our collective asses and go about setting up the systems we will need to survive this new and rapidly changing climate we find ourselves in. Austin should probably increase their investment in the South Texas Nuclear Generating Station, and possibly start backing current plans to expand that station to generate more power. That would be a good place to start. On the other end of the spectrum Austin and Texas should allow and/or encourage households and businesses to install battery backup systems for their solar power systems, so that households and businesses can draw on their own power during peak demand cycles. Completely the opposite direction from where Governor Abbott is currently agitating energy to go, demanding a reinvestment in oil and natural gas:

Beau of the Fifth ColumnLet’s talk about windmills in Texas and cars on Mars – Feb 17, 2021 (I’d like to thank Facebook for making it so buttfucking hard to link videos inside Facebook that they’ve forced me to go out and subscribe to Beau’s Youtube Channel that I didn’t even know he had in order to get a working link to this video that I originally found on Facebook. Facebook video, a major driver of video subscriptions for Youtube. Google should be paying you. -Ed.)

(When South Australia Went Dark, Some Politicians Blamed Wind Turbines. They Were Wrong, Too.)

In the meantime we still don’t have running water. Luckily we started having drinking water delivered a few years ago because Austin tap water had started tasting weird and didn’t look to be improving anytime soon. At least I could still wash dishes and clothes in it, as well as cook with it, while it was running. I really miss water at the taps that we could drink as well as do all those other things we need water to do in the average human home. Looking forward to the time when we can once again take basic necessities for granted as being guaranteed by the governments we elect to make sure we have what we need to survive.

If you elect people who hate and fear government to run government, you get bad government.

Bad government has consequences. Bad government can’t handle a crisis, won’t help its citizens (not can’t help its citizens, won’t), and can only blame others for its endless failure.

And you don’t have to look any further than what’s happening in Texas right now to see it.

facebook.com/Stonekettle

We made the Rachel Maddow Show and The Last Word on MSNBC Feb. 18th & 19th . A clip from Rachel’s show is the featured image. Here are some links to the screenshots (Instagram link 1 and link 2) I took from the Thursday Feb. 18, 2021 show.

The last commenter on the Nextdoor post I cribbed a portion of the text for this article from kept passively/aggressively implying that we had better shut up about wanting the power to stay on if we didn’t want to pay more for our electricity here in Texas. After about the fifth version of this reply being posted in the thread, I asked her to answer the question “is it a prosecutable crime to allow someone to freeze to death in their house by turning off the electricity? Yes or no?” She never responded to the question.

Hector Nieto, public information officer for the county, said the medical examiner’s office was busy processing at least 86 cases from Feb. 13-20 to determine the causes of death. 

statesman.com

Here is a story from the Feb. 25th Texas Standard:

texasstandard.org

Tap water was declared safe to drink citywide in Austin on the 25th. There were three other stories about the aftermath of the storm in this episode of the show.

Postscript

The state’s tally currently stands at 151 deaths. But by looking at how many more people died during and immediately after the storm than would have been expected — an established method that has been used to count the full toll of other disasters — we estimate that 700 people were killed by the storm during the week with the worst power outages. This astonishing toll exposes the full consequence of officials’ neglect in preventing the power grid’s collapse despite repeated warnings of its vulnerability to cold weather, as well as the state’s failure to reckon with the magnitude of the crisis that followed.

buzzfeednews.com

The official tally is up to 210, but I have to agree with Buzzfeed here. The graveyard doesn’t lie. The death toll during the storm was the number of people who died during the storm, less the average number of deaths for that month historically.

300,000 Dead Americans

We went from 200,000 to 300,000 in less than three months.

We hit 100,000 officially dead to the Coronavirus back on May 27th. It took 4 months to get to 200,000 from that number. It is expected we will hit 400,000 dead by January 20th, a mere 2 months away.

Joe BidenPresident-elect Biden Delivers Remarks on the Electoral College Vote Certification

I wouldn’t even have known we passed 300,000 today if Joe Biden hadn’t observed that we passed that landmark after marking the victory that was recorded by the electoral college today. A grim pairing for a grim year.

Fuck you 2020. Let’s hope your next of kin is kinder than you were.


I hate being right.

washingtonpost.com

Toxic Isolation

Perhaps even before the virus, before Brexit, we had all been quarantined in our own naked individualism — an isolation far more toxic. There we were, incarcerated and alone inside the penitentiary of our temporal identities with no faith or care for anything other than the fleeting fulfillment of our wayward wants. This is the divide that British people have to reach across for there ever to be any real sense of unity among us. Ultimately, it is the island of self that we must either leave or remain trapped within.

NYTimes – Brexit: What Were We Thinking?!

Is This It?

In the cool light of an impending winter’s day, watching as the world economy spirals down the drain of the Coronavirus pandemic; as the various nations of the world including the vassal states of my own country flex their muscles to assert their dominance, and lastly in light of the naked insanity of our president and his supporters, is it completely reasonable to ask the question:

Is this it? Is this the end of us?

The question could be answered in a number of ways. Parsing the question, it depends on what you mean by the word us. The human race will continue on, and the world will continue spinning just like it always has. In that sense the answer is no. No, it is not the end of us. Some form of government will continue. Other nations will take over our leadership role. This process has already started and will continue whether we want it to or not.

A different take would be to observe that every empire in history has fallen. They rise, and then they fall. We watched the Soviet Union dissolve before our very eyes just over thirty years ago. This could be the point in time where the empire that the United States maintains falls apart.

Maybe our empire should fall apart. Maybe we shouldn’t have an empire in the first place? I’ve been warning people for years that the US is one major crisis away from ceasing to exist. Some people laughed when I first proposed this problem back in the day, the problem that the United States is a paper tiger.

A paper tiger in that, the American people don’t want an empire. They never have wanted one. The federal government in Washington D.C. established one anyway. They did it in our name, at the urging of power brokers of previous generations. Stealing the lands of our neighbors and putting native peoples to the sword in a fair approximation of England or France or any other empire-building nation of previous generations.

We have built a military that is unrivaled in the modern world, spending blood and treasure at a phenomenal rate to the benefit of our corporate masters and even to the benefit of the assembly line workers that build all the armaments that we currently deploy. We can, with pinpoint precision, remove any threat that we recognize as a threat with that military. We can do this and we have done this, right up to this point in history.

We are the wealthiest, most powerful nation in recorded human history. How can we just cease to exist?

…and here we are laid low by a virus, the simplest form of life on this planet. Life so simple that it barely qualifies as life in the first place. It is a little bit of replicating code that has evolved to use the larger bits of life around it to make more of itself without ever knowing what it was doing. It just does what it does, and we can’t stop it.

We can’t stop it. Not with jet planes or nuclear weapons or all the money in the world can we stop it. We can’t stop it unless we accept that we have to stop it, and then make that the thing we need to do now instead of building jet planes and nuclear missiles. This is the biggest crisis we’ve faced in our lifetimes, bigger than the crash that happened in 2008 that we still haven’t recovered from. It is possible that we are living through the greatest crisis in recorded human history, when our children’s children look back at this time through the lens of history.

The future of the United States as a political entity is a small thing compared to the effect that a pandemic can have on the human psyche. In the end that is really all that matters. Unless we can grasp the threat we face right now and answer that threat. Unless we put aside the petty dictators and their Trumpismo’s and focus on the real threat, the fear that this virus inspires in us all and the impact that its continued existence unchecked in the world represents, then the United States will be done for in spite of its globe-spanning military presence and its corporate reach.

…and just maybe, in the end, that is the way that it ought to be.

Featured image: IFLScience How Long Do We Have Left Before The Universe Is Destroyed?

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spineSpinal stenosis occurs most often in the lower back and the neck.

mayoclinic.org

At five in the morning Friday, after an evening spent feasting with the same three people that I’ve been COVID quarantining with since March, them drinking champagne, me drinking water and hoping to be able to empty my bowels later (a generally empty hope as it was that night. Alcohol causes constipation, something on the avoid list for those of us who have issues with our guts) a late night spent watching television in an all-to-rare showing of familial appreciation, I was woken from a rather weird dream in which I could hear animal noises coming from a nearby set of bushes, only to discover that the weird noises were the Wife trying to get up off of the toilet and failing to be able to manage it, try as hard as she might.

Spinal stenosis has been having its way with her over the last few years, and it has caused her to become a frequent visitor to pain specialists as they try to address the various pain complaints (neck, back, feet, knees and legs) that seem to crop up at almost random times and places. The last visit to a pain doctor for treatment was a few days ago, and we thought she was heading into a more lengthy period of being free from the daily grinding pain that Spinal Stenosis inflicts on her.

With a little coaxing I was able to help her get moved into a chair in the next room, but it was clear to both of us in a very short time that we were going to have to transport her to the emergency room in order to get the problem diagnosed and addressed, because the pain that had started bothering her as she and the Daughter were preparing pies and cooking ham together was simply getting worse with time.

The problem she was having did not appear to be related to the recent treatments, but the only way to be sure was to bundle her up and take her to a doctor. So at six am amidst the Black Friday sale desperation visible at every shopping center we passed, I drove her to the ER of the hospital that we seem to be spending more and more time at these days.

With masks in place and temperature checks passed, we were ushered into a private space where the nurses and doctors popped in and out and over the next hour or so, until they finally agreed on the pain meds they wanted to try out. The problem here is that most of the pain meds that have been made available over the last few decades don’t seem to work well for the Wife, and most of them are also extremely addictive with some severe side-effects to boot. She has some preferences for older pain drugs, but those drugs are interdicted as barbiturates or some such, and so you have to pull teeth in order to get a doctor to prescribe you any of them. But those drugs do work, if you can get someone to give them to you. The emergency room doctors will not be doing this. They’ll try some other new drug, one that isn’t already deemed bad for some reason or other. It was a new drug, so we figured why not?

Then came the attempts to get an intravenous tap into the Wife’s veins. This is always a hit and miss process with her. Very few nurses seem to have the skill to get a needle in one of her veins. After a few tries the nurse dragged in an ultrasound machine specifically set up to help nurses with people like the Wife , people who don’t want to give up their secret blood supplies to interlopers like medical professionals. It was a cool gadget and with it she was able to hit a vein with the least amount of trouble I’ve ever seen in the many times I’ve watched them try to get a needle in that woman.

With the IV in place they could finally do the thing they wanted to do, and they gave her the pain medication she needed. Her blood pressure receded from the scary levels it had been at up to that point, and she finally started to doze off, only occasionally being woken by the alarms that seemed to go off every time she fell asleep. Heart rate too low, blood oxygen too low, whatever. After this had gone on for awhile, the nurses came back in and hooked her up with some oxygen and gave her a second shot, and at that point she actually slept for a bit.

Hours had passed by then. As I sat there in my mask trying not to touch anything other than my phone, I marveled at the hectic non-stop activity all around us. City hospitals are always a little busy, but I’ve never seen the kind of activity that was going on during that morning. Signs of the long pandemic we are suffering through were everywhere. Plastic sheeting hastily taped up to partition the various spaces that used to be simply curtained off. Masks, face shields and gloves were in place for every person who wandered in and out of the room, including the janitorial staff. The room next to the Wife’s was filled and vacated three times before we left there sometime around noon. Everyone looked tired and stressed, and I wondered if we really should be taking up these poor people’s times with some simple pain complaint that seemed almost trivial in that time and place.

The Wife was sleeping, which was all I really cared about. Sleeping, when she hadn’t been able to sleep at all before that point because of the constant pain. As I mentioned, they discharged her at about noon Friday. We got back to the house and got her into bed, and she promptly passed back out again. The pain doctors are all on holiday, of course. None of them will be available for consultation again until Monday. In the meantime she needs pain medication to keep the back pain to tolerable levels, and none of the pain meds that are commonly on offer do anything to help her with the pain she is experiencing. The ER doctors got her pain to recede enough that she has limited mobility again but they didn’t have any medication to send home with her.

The Wife has to be able to walk in order for her to to get around inside our house. It is an older two-story home, and it simply isn’t set up for wheelchairs or even a walker to work inside of it, even if she stays on the first floor. She can barely get around the house on crutches. Luckily we had some crutches that her father bought her after she injured her leg in high school and that we have never let go of since then. If we hadn’t had those crutches we would have had to call an ambulance to even get her to the ER in the first place, and she wouldn’t have made it back into the house when we were discharged and sent back home.

One good thing that the COVID pandemic has done is allow telemedicine to gain traction in society. Leaving the house is an invitation to get infected, and so talking to doctors via video chat makes it possible to see a doctor without having to sit next to sick people for several hours at a time. We managed to get a telemedicine appointment with or general practitioner on Saturday morning. That is the miracle of telemedicine. Seeing your GP for a few precious minutes on the weekend in order to get you some medicine that you need so that you can not be enduring constant pain for three days waiting for the specialist to get back to you about this problem that just might kill you with pain-induced stress. With the desired prescription winging its electronic way to the pharmacist, I can finally rest easy knowing that the Wife will not be in constant agony over this long weekend.

The insane war on drugs goes on, though, and its victims are people like the Wife who cannot get pain medication because every medication that works for her chronic pain is a medication that every doctor can get in trouble for prescribing too frequently. Pain doctors are the targets of convenience for these stupid government drug crackdowns because obviously you go to a pain doctor to get your pain meds. That is what a pain doctor is for. To help you alleviate your pain. Sometimes the drugs are required and when they are required that point in time has a two in seven chance of being on a day when the doctor will not be available to prescribe them, and no one is willing to go out on a limb and give pain meds to a patient that they don’t know personally, even when that person is in the kind of pain that registers as spikes in blood pressure. This situation is intolerable and has to change.

Pain management has to turn a corner and come to grips with the fact that pain meds are both required and potentially addictive, both at the same time. It is a juggling act that the medical establishment had better learn to master, and soon, if they want to head off the next oxycontin embarrassment. That debacle simply waits in the wings for the next corporation to see a chance to reap a profit from people who have pain and have the money to spend alleviating the pain. This problem is not going away because the problems with pain are not going away either. We are going to have to learn how to deal with this problem. The sooner the better.

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The Tonight ShowSheryl Crow “You Don’t Know How It Feels” Tom Petty – Nov 25, 2020

TrumpConLaw 40-42

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TrumpConLawJacobson and COVID EP. 40 – 04.24.20

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TrumpConLawThe Socially Distanced SCOTUS EP. 41 – 05.29.20

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TrumpConLawPolice, Race, and Federalism EP. 42 – 06.27.20

If you think #MAGA means anything other than Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, you are the person these tweets were written for.

Editor’s note.

There are several things that I should explain in this editor’s note. One thing that I should explain is that I have changed phones and carriers multiple times over the last year, and consequently some of my podcast feeds got lost. Trumpconlaw was one of those feeds. I had wondered why there hadn’t been new episodes of the podcast over the summer. Radiotopia could well have tried to deliver me new episodes and the reply would have been “new phone, who dis?”

The second thing I should explain is my complete dissatisfaction with the way WordPress is dealing with embeds these days. The new functionality is apparently intentional and not a bug. This conclusion leads me to believe that I have no alternative but to get rid of the Gutenberg/Jetpack add ons for WordPress and fly solo, because I want to be able to craft the HTML code to my liking on my blog. I’ll have to ponder what direction represents forward from here.

I have modified all the previous audio links for TrumpConLaw now. Modified all the audio links and updated the articles, and am finishing up the last of the Trump articles before moving on to new things. I’m doing what everyone should do as the new year approaches.

Normal Saline Causing Vertigo?

I learned something new. I love it when that happens. When I was hospitalized for the night after having my angioplasty last year,

…I started to experience vertigo. I didn’t think too much of it, other than the irritation that I felt while trying to wheedle a Xanax out of the nurse because of the vertigo. The stress of having to argue with the nurse about a medication that the hospital could see on my charts as being a medication I have been prescribed adding to the anxiety of an approaching vertigo spell. Yeah, that was fun.

But still. I couldn’t figure out why I had that sudden bout of vertigo. No warnings, none of the normal patterns (not that surgery is normal) But then I remembered that they had me on an intravenous drip of normal saline for most of the day and the night, about 16 hours of normal saline by the time I started to feel the spinning. For a lot of Menerieans salt=vertigo and saline is definitely salt. I have been on a reduced sodium diet for decades now because reducing salt is also what they recommend for people with hypertension, another chronic illness that I enjoy.

Sixteen hours of saline fluid introduced into my system. Surely that wouldn’t cause vertigo, right? I mean, normal saline is the same sodium levels as blood, right? Why else call it normal saline? It turns out that this is not the case. Normal saline just means the saline solution most frequently used in hospitals, and the salt levels are not the same as the levels in the blood.

Each bag of saline contains the same amount of sodium as 20 snack-sized bags of potato chips.

webmd.com

I haven’t eaten an entire bag of salted potato chips in… well, it has to be at least a decade. I occasionally (once a month or less) get a snack bag of air-fried chips from Schlotzsky’s (another Austin original) along with my regular original sandwich (hold the cheese and add the guacamole, please) and unsweetened iced tea, and that is almost more salt than I need in a day. I know they changed that bag at least twice while I was there, which is a lot more salt than I needed.

The assumed harmlessness of introducing normal saline into the bodies of all of their patients has been a point of worry for many doctors. So much so that there have been trials conducted using other replacement fluids than saline solution,

For more than a year, the emergency room and intensive care units at Vanderbilt rotated the IV fluid used to hydrate patients. On even-numbered months, they used saline, and on odd-numbered months, doctors could choose between either lactated Ringer’s or Plasma-Lyte-A. Both Ringer’s and Plasma-Lyte have less sodium than saline, along with other electrolytes. Most of the patients on balanced fluids in the study got lactated Ringer’s.

webmd.com

When I read the phrase lactated Ringer’s I heard it in one of the voices from the show Emergency! from way back when. That was the show that first got me interested in medicine and emergency care. My mother would probably be horrified to learn that I was indoctrinated into the evidence-based medical system by a TV show that she let me watch as a child.

Facts VerseEmergency! Behind the Scenes Facts & Secrets – Aug 26, 2020

Lactated Ringer’s or the Plasma-Lyte appears to be the better way to infuse fluids into patients. Not world’s better, but statistically measurable improved results from not relying on normal saline for all the patients admitted into the hospital. If you also need lower saline you might ask for one of those two the next time you find yourself needing surgery. Here’s hoping that time isn’t in the near future.

The Battles You Choose

Maddow speaks to AOC last night on her news program.

MSNBCRachel Maddow ShowRep. Ocasio-Cortez Warns Of Severe Fallout As Trump Rejects New Covid Relief – Oct 6, 2020

In that clip, and in other segments in the show, Rachel and her guests seem to be incapable of understanding what it is that Trump and McConnell are doing right now. She uses the phrase politically inexplicable several times. This is an incorrect assessment.

Telling Americans and their representatives in the House and Senate of the legislature that they won’t get coronavirus aid until after Trump’s SCOTUS nominee is confirmed is politically explicable, if you understand that the Republicans are fighting on a different battlefield than the rest of the country is fighting on.

The battlefield that the Republicans are willing to die on is the battlefield where they turn the United States, through control of its courts, into a Christianist country perfectly aligned with the prosperity gospel dogma espoused by their evangelical base. The dogmatic anti-abortion hordes that were created by Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority, promoted to power by Ronald Reagan, that went into resistance mode under Newt Gingrich and then the Tea Party, and are now given voice my Mitch Mcconnell and the last, dying coronavirus-infected gasp of Donald Trump. They are demonstrably ready to die on that battlefield, and they are determined to take us with them.

V.P. Pence’s attitude towards Kamala Harris and the extra COVID-19 precautions that the council on debates has proposed confirm this assertion of mine. He is quite likely a super spreader himself now, since he spends so much time sucking Donald Trump’s cock in their private meetings. It is only a matter of days before he too shows a positive coronavirus test result, and he’ll get the same gold-star treatment that is reserved for the politically powerful in the United States of today. This is the country that America’s evangelicals have been working towards since 1978. Do you like it?

The war the rest of us are fighting is the one where the coronavirus is destroying our country with the president’s help. The president that has done nothing but pander to his evangelical, white nationalist base since he took office. The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has given them all one last chance to lock in the changes to our government that they have been seeking for more than forty years now. They think that with six solid conservative votes on the SCOTUS they will finally be able to enjoy the fruits of their Christianist efforts, establishing the dogmatic supremacy that the evangelical faith was established to produce more than a hundred years ago.

Roe v. Wade Was a Conservative Decision

Liberals should not capitulate. The Democratic party should continue blocking the efforts to replace RBG with Amy Coney Barrett. She, like Kavanaugh and Thomas, has no business being on the highest court in the land, much less being there for the next sixty or seventy years. Her willingness to subvert fact with dogma precludes her from ever being suitable for the federal bench, at all. Do not give in and allow them to fast track the corruption of our courts. If the Senate confirms no more judges until after next January 20th it will be a service to the country, even if that service comes at the cost of more lives destroyed by the coronavirus. Don’t do anything, if that’s what it takes. I’m betting the conservatives will blink first. Especially once the coronavirus finishes working its way through the ranks of Washington elites.

h/t to Stonekettle on Twitter for the featured image. Who created that image Jimmy Kimmel?

Roe v. Wade Was a Conservative Decision

The Republicans are poised to reverse Roe v. Wade! How can you be so cavalier about this?

A question I posed to myself in 2006

My response in 2006 went something like “Republicans have no intention of reversing Roe v. Wade. They would be fools if they did reverse it.” I’m beginning to suspect that I overestimated their intelligence on this particular subject. There has been a veritable deluge of attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade in the last decade, not to mention the war that conservatives are waging on Planned Parenthood in the mistaken belief that Planned Parenthood is where all abortions occur in the United States.

As the writing appears on the wall in this final gasp of American conservatism, the soon to be disempowered Republican party continues to slice parts of itself off in an orgy of self-congratulation. It seems that throwing all their morals out the window and voting for a confirmed con-artist, philanderer and pathological liar requires them to double down on their debunked claims to a moral high ground. They are convinced that if they only pass one more law they’ll finally be able to get rid of the medical procedure, abortion, by overturning Roe. They also seem to think that they’ll stop women from using birth control or morning after pills. I think they should stop while they are ahead.

Ahead you ask? How are they ahead? The answer is as demonstrable as the the lack of a moral high ground was in the previous paragraph. Roe was a conservative decision based on science and the law back when it was decided in 1973. It was and is conservative because it represented a partial step towards granting women the same bodily autonomy that men enjoy, before there was a detectable change in the woman’s body, while protecting the state’s interest in making sure that the maximal number of new citizens is born to each new generation of women. The state’s interest is expressed in those terms and in only those terms.

Abortion wasn’t even a hot button issue back in 1973 when Roe was decided. Several churches and leaders of the time signed on to allowing abortion to spread across the nation as a legitimate medical procedure back then. It wasn’t until the birth of the Moral Majority in response to the changes in the American family and the threat to the subjugation of women that the Equal Rights Amendment represented that Abortion became the focal point of American conservatism. American conservatism that was being used like a sock puppet by the Christianist right.

Throughline – Apocalypse Now – June 13, 2019

That episode of NPR’s Throughline covers how abortion was turned into the issue that it is today by Jerry Falwell and his merry band of Moral Majority pranksters. This article isn’t about Christianists and Christianism and why the rest of us who live in the United States should be opposed to everything that Christianists want to do to our country. They are important issues, but this article is about a medical procedure, abortion, and what banning that procedure does to the citizenry in general and women in particle. Why we as average citizens should be opposed to the banning of abortion that modern American conservatism is based on.

Access to healthcare is a woman’s right. There really isn’t any question about this because access to healthcare, a combined investment by the society at large as well as individuals caught up in the various healthcare systems across the globe, is every human’s right. This right is established through the fact that each person born came from someone who in some way contributed to the current status of medical knowledge and the existing medical infrastructure. People come from somewhere, and that somewhere is from other people. People created the healthcare system over generations, and this basic fact grants later generations access to the combined knowledge of their forebears on what should be an equal basis. An equality that is currently being denied to most people living today, but that observation is also a digression from the specific point I’m trying to make with this article.

Abortion is a medical procedure, no if’s and’s or but’s about it. As a medical procedure, abortion should be available to anyone who wants one, end of story. Or rather, it would be the end of the story if men had to carry the next generation in their bodies in the same way women do. But that isn’t how nature set procreation up. Nature put the bearing of young on women’s backs, not men’s backs. This left the women at home while the men formed hunting parties. It left them at home caring for children while the men created the first governments. It left the women at home changing and washing diapers while men learned professions and took jobs outside the house. Because of these historical facts, men today vy for access to a women’s reproductive organs, by violence if necessary, and then try to keep their unwanted progyny in the woman’s body by force of law since they, the men, set up that law through their control of government.

Men do not face the kinds of obstructions that women do in life. There is no litmus test for young men like there is for young women. No one asks men if they are planning to have children. No one hiring a man for work worries about the man getting pregnant and having to be absent from work. Women are by default subjected to these kinds of stigma because they are the ones that keep Homo Sapiens Sapiens a going concern. Without them there would be no future humans to buy all the stuff that H.S. Sapiens is obsessed with producing.

No one expects men to reveal whether they’ve had a vasectomy. No one wants to hold men accountable for wasting potential life every time they masturbate (no one who is sane does, anyway) their privacy is respected, even when it comes to making decisions about whether they will have children or not. This is not true of women.

Women’s health is fraught with demands to know things about their physical being that a man would never, ever, put up with. “She’s on the rag.” “You look fat.” “your tits are too small.” “When are you due?” the intrusions into their personal privacy defy any attempt at comparison to the way men are treated in public. The next time a man loses his shit in public, ask him if he’s played with himself recently. Go ahead, I dare you.

Female hysteria was once a common medical diagnosis for women, which was described as exhibiting a wide array of symptoms, including anxietyshortness of breathfainting, nervousness, sexual desireinsomniafluid retention, heaviness in the abdomen, irritabilityloss of appetite for food or sex, (paradoxically) sexually forward behaviour, and a “tendency to cause trouble for others”. It is no longer recognized by medical authorities as a medical disorder. Its diagnosis and treatment were routine for hundreds of years in Western Europe.

In Western medicine hysteria was considered both common and chronic among women. The American Psychiatric Association dropped the term hysteria in 1952. Even though it was categorized as a disease, hysteria’s symptoms were synonymous with normal functioning female sexuality. In extreme cases, the woman may have been forced to enter an insane asylum or to have undergone surgical hysterectomy.

Wikipedia.org

There is a right to privacy in the constitution, and the reason this right exists even though it isn’t enumerated is itself a function of constitutional jurisprudence. Political pundits talk about how abortion is a litmus test for potential Supreme Court justices. If there really were a litmus test when it comes to abortion, it ought to be the constitution that forms it since the constitution is what they swear to uphold. The test could be formed of a single question with two possible answers. What is the meaning of the ninth and tenth amendments to the constitution? The answer to this question could be either unenumerated personal rights and/or limited government power. Any potential judge that does not concede the existence of a right to privacy, of a limit to state power, does not have a place on the bench within the US court system. They demonstrably do not understand the document that they will be sworn to protect.

Roe v. Wade utilizes the right to privacy found in previous jurisprudence. The findings of all of the cases that involve privacy since that case rely on the findings of Roe for their justification. The court will have to find some other basis for privacy as a right in any form if they hope to preserve privacy after reversing Roe. Yes, the prospect of reversal of that judicial precedent is that far-reaching. To reverse it is to make us all wards of the state and to make all claims to privacy by persons, including the multi-national corporations null and void. Pick one. Outlaw abortion or lose your ability to talk to your doctor or attorney in confidence.

Evidence for life

Proving something in court requires that you produce evidence for your claims. First you have to prove that there is a life, a life with a conscious mind, a will to live, and not just autonomic responses. Breath is the baseline for determining whether human life is present. Without breath there is no voice to speak up in protest. Without breath there is no human life that medicine or science can document. Without breath there isn’t a soul, as your own religious document states.

Normal brain activity is another baseline piece of evidence. Normal brain activity which isn’t possible without a functioning set of lungs for each brain. Going into all of the vagaries of what life is and when it begins or ends is the subject of this just published article of mine EPHN: A Right to Life? and the long article I wrote on the subject of abortion five years ago, Abortion: As Natural as Life Itself. Abortion and its detractors are a frequent subject on the blog. Far, far too frequently for my taste and probably for many of my reader’s tastes.

After you do that you still aren’t done. You still have to show how you will preserve that life without harming the life of the mother-to-be, and by harm I mean economic as well as physical or emotional harm. If you did all of that, you might have a telling argument. Failing to do any one of those things will put you back at where we started this entire fiasco. Individual choice. The woman decides if she will have a child, and that means right up to the day before delivery as far as legal arguments are concerned.

Keeping abortion legal does protect the life of the real, live woman whose body you want to use as a government-mandated incubator. Women die during pregnancy and childbirth, all the time. Savita Halappanavar died an unnecessary death in horrible pain due to Ireland’s (since repealed) ban on all abortions. This will happen here too if abortion is banned. Underaged girls get pregnant. Rape and incest figure into these pregnancies. Will you inflict further harm on girls who have already been violated by someone close to them by forcing them to carry those pregnancies to term? Some of them will die during pregnancy and childbirth. Just exactly what limits will you set in your pursuit of protecting the life of the unborn? How many women will die because of your crusade? It should be your job to count them all. All of those lost lives will be the blood on your hands. May you have better luck than Pontius Pilate had in removing that blood.

Anti-abortionists are now attempting to change the basis for evidence in legal arguments through their promotion of judges to higher seats on the bench in the United States. Judges who are just fine with not forcing claimants to prove that there is a human life being taken with every abortion. This is far, far more dangerous a move than just reversing Roe would be. That way lies inquisition and its many, many victims as Christianists look to destroy the impure in their midst, the impure that probably don’t even exist. If we want to maintain courts as the bastion of common decency that they are in the United States today, we cannot allow them to weaken evidentiary rules.

SpotifyConLaw – A Jurisprudence of Doubt – EP. 59 | 12.17.21 

The stage is set for the final act of this farce. The farce that started when the Moral Majority decided to make America a christian country and set about forcing their beliefs about the nature of existence on the rest of us. The problem for them remains the same problem that the United States Supreme Court faced back in 1973. Namely, if they force women to carry every pregnancy to term, who pays for that? Who pays for those children’s futures? Who makes sure that they have equal access to the benefits of society right alongside every wealthy, wanted child?

Who Pays? Well, We All Will

Your taxes will be raised to cover those costs. Don’t bother to try to disagree, this is written into the constitution. Brown v. Board of Education outlines the bare bones of what will be required of the general public if women are forced to carry every pregnancy to term. Equal schools for all those children. Equal access to healthcare. Equal access to the courts will ensure that this prediction will play out as I describe. Trillions will be spent.

Not just on schools and medical facilities, things we should probably be investing in anyway, but also on police and investigative capacity. Every woman will have to be registered as soon as they have their first period. They will have to be registered as a potential mother so that they can be properly tracked. Don’t say this won’t happen, it has already happened in Missouri and in Donald Trump’s concentration camps. Sexual activity will have to be monitored to make sure that no one attempts to prevent a pregnancy. This task will require a police force the likes of which has never been seen before in history. The Handmaid’s Tale only hints at the depths of depravity that will be required to insure that no pregnancy is terminated, ever.

That is what reversing Roe will entail. But it only begins there. The current thinking for who will pick up the tab for all these new children amounts to making the men who father them pay for them. As if men are made of money and all you have to do is tap them like a Maple tree and they’ll ooze more money than any number of children will require. Most men are too shiftless to be willing to work to support the results of every orgasm they experience. Considering the thousands of times the average male masturbates in a given lifetime, this is understandable. Most men are unwilling to devote themselves to raising children through their own direct effort. This has been my experience as a dad who spent two years at home raising his second child. Most men that I have revealed this fact to have been incredulous that I would waste my time in that fashion. As if crafting the minds and bodies of the next generation of humans was work that wasn’t of prime importance to every currently living person.

Equality will not be achieved by enslaving the men unlucky enough to be caught fathering children. They will never produce enough to pay the costs of raising those children properly. The failure to produce funds to guarantee equality will result in the taxpayer having to fund the shortfall. This means your taxes will go up, and up, and up…

…if you ban abortion. Someone has to pay for these children, and the full faith and credit of the US government will require that the taxpayer eventually pays that bill.

Should men carry their share of the weight? Certainly. Should we leave children in the hands of women who don’t believe they are people and don’t want them? No. Should we force the fathers to share the poverty with these women and their unwanted children? No. Shall we then confiscate children from parents that cannot raise them? Make them wards of the state and then task the state with making sure they have the best life possible? Seems to me we probably shouldn’t even begin to head down that road, the road that is labeled banning abortion. That’s the point that I’ve been trying to make since this subject was forced into my personal space as a teenager, witnessing the misfortune of people who didn’t pay attention in health class. Someone will pay for the stupidity, eventually.

If, on the other hand, I were trying to craft political positions for the movers and shakers on the issue of abortion. If I were asked to advise them on the subject of whether to support this or that bill limiting women’s access to healthcare (as far-fetched as that notion would be) I would tell them to insist on a quid pro quo arrangement.

“Fine, I’ll support your interference in the health and family decisions of the average woman in exchange for legislation that guarantees that there will be no homeless children in our state. Legislation that insures no children go without meals or beds to sleep in or whatever level of education they prove themselves capable of working towards. Either we agree on this equal exchange, or I will torpedo your bill with every legislative trick that I can muster.”

That would be my advice. Anti-abortionists claim to be pro-life. It should be beholden on them to prove that they really are pro-life by making every child a wanted child, every child a child with a home, every child a child who is not hungry. Either that, or they can just admit that abortion is sometimes necessary and give up the whole idea of interfering in a woman’s right to choose. They are, after all, the shiftless men I’m talking about.

Punishment is where the entire roller coaster ride of anti-abortion sentiment goes off the rails. The moment that anti-abortionists decided to punish women for their promiscuity with forcing them to raise children they don’t want, they crossed an unforgivable line in the sand. Children are not punishment, and we cannot afford to treat them as punishment. Infants become adults, people with rights they can assert for themselves, and those people will take their dissatisfaction with their unwanted lives out on the rest of us.

This experiment has been tried in recent history and the results are known. Ask Nicolae Ceaușescu how well that worked out for him (another dictator that Trump would have loved) You can’t, because all those unwanted children dragged him out of office and killed him. That is what has happened before when an authoritarian government attempted to make women raise children they didn’t want. If avoiding that fate means abortion is legal for the full term of a woman’s pregnancy then so be it.

All of the alternatives to the decision handed down in Roe v. Wade will be far less satisfying for anti-abortionists and Christianists than the status quo is right now. Over and over, looking at possible outcomes from reversing Roe, making abortion illegal, reveals that the current arrangement is most likely the best deal that those people can hope for because the chances that women will stop having abortions and stop having sex are almost nil, and that in itself represents a nightmare than men wake up screaming from anyway. Roe v. Wade was a conservative decision, far more conservative than what the status quo will be after the precedent is reversed, no matter which way the country goes after that. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The common refrain when abortion on demand became the law of the land was that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. The question that has never been answered has always been “what is the number that is rare?” I say let women decide. For themselves. For the Christianists out there in the audience: settle for the limited control you have now or potentially lose everything you currently cherish about American life. Because after women take back their rights to their own bodies, they are going to come after your other religious beliefs one by one, and people like me will encourage them to do so. Stop while you’re ahead.

You demand this life be born to appease you miserable vengeful god, but you then abdicate any responsibility for it whatsoever. Life begins at conception and ends at birth, well, at least society’s responsibility for it. To you, “sacred” means life must be born, no matter the consequences, and then it can die in the dirt and it’s not your problem. You would force life into the world, but shrug off any responsibility to build a better world for it.

Stonekettle Station

Case history

George Carlin: Pro Life, Abortion, And The Sanctity Of Life

They aren’t pro-life, they are anti-woman.

George Carlin

Featured image: Norma McCorvey and her lawyer in front of the supreme court building, from Roe v. Wade, explained

Afterword

Portions of this article were previously published by me on bulletin boards across the internet (the Abortion thread on the DCBBS) for the last thirty years, and were also published previously on the blog here. I have reassembled my thoughts here simply to have one article to point to when people want to argue with me about Roe versus Wade and it’s impacts. I have added references and adjusted poorly worded language since this article’s publication. If this bothers you on subsequent reading, I apologize.

Texas S.B. 8 is exactly the kind of thing that I was most afraid of as a result of decades of anti-abortion nonsense. It incorporates all the elements of a secret police dedicated to the mission of keeping women barefoot, poor and pregnant that an aggressive police state could muster, without having to pay for the massive investment of time and energy that this kind of surveillance state will require in order to be successful. Other anti-abortion states will go farther given time.

Unless and until they understand what it is they are promoting, poor women will continue to die from a lack of proper medical care. Poverty will increase and crime rates will increase as the volume of unwanted children that result from efforts like this one in Texas also increase.

You cannot assert that the resultant children will not suffer poverty and abuse without a simultaneous investment by the state in foster care systems. Equivalent anti-poverty injections of cash into the lives of the women who will now have to raise these children that have been forced on them by the anti-abortion movement. People are going to die because of this law. Real, breathing, talking people who will get caught up in the insanity that is the anti-abortion movement and its war on this medical procedure.

EPHN: A Right to Life?

Part 3 of a series of posts defining the Emergent Principles of Human Nature. This effort is an outgrowth of a challenge issued to me ages ago by a fellow libertarian that I explain inalienable rights without including god. Like most challenges of this type, the work is larger than the speaker or hearer understands at the time.


A Right to Life. What does that phrase mean? It’s patently obvious that an individual can’t claim an unlimited right to continue existing. Nature itself fails by comparison to infinite existence, since life as we know it on this planet did have a beginning and will have an ending. Life as we know it is the closest thing to nature, or natural, that can be said to exist at all.

Individual lives are far more transitory than the multi-billion years of life as we know it. Life as we can scientifically determine has existed on this planet. Life that will continue into the unknown and unknowable future. Life that will (hopefully) continue in an unbroken chain until the sun turns into a red giant and consumes everything inside the orbit of the planet Mars some billions of years in the future.

Did any of the individuals that came before us in that four billion year chain that lead to your existence have a right to live? A right to life? They all lived, from the crude beginnings of genetic coding to the first multi-celled organisms to the primates that lead to the human beings that were your parents, all of them lived and bred and passed on their life or you wouldn’t be here. Did any of them have a right to their existence? Is that right manifested here through your existence alone?

Do the children you produce have a right to live, a right to life? Your friends?Your neighbors? Does the person dying of cancer have a right to life? The starving person, the homeless person, the person lying out in the cold on a freezing winter night? Do they have a right to life? Why aren’t we compelled to help them? Why do they die, if they have a right to life? You too will die, we all will die. Do we have a right to life?

If rights are a thing that can’t be revoked, and yet life itself abandons the physical body, can there realistically be a thing called a right to life? It is an open question, in my estimation.

Human life is different, I hear you saying, human life is precious. You are right, human life is different. I don’t know that I would go so far as to say it is precious considering how we treat the needy among us, but human life is demonstrably different from any other kind of life on this planet that has ever existed before, in spite of the common ancestry we share with all other forms of life we have ever found. From a scientific perspective, we are the first creature that has modified its environment to such an extent that the impact of our habitation on Earth could well wipe out all traces of previous life and permanently alter the planet in the process, requiring the Earth itself to regenerate the life-sustaining envelope we currently enjoy today.

We have probably already entered the next era of Earth’s evolution. The Anthropocene is still in its proposal stages in the halls of science, but there is little doubt remaining that we have crossed the boundary into the human-created environment, for better or for worse. So we are different than other forms of life on the planet. But do we have a right to this life?

It is a mistake to start a list of rights with a right to life beyond the basic observation that taking the life of another person negates one’s own right to continue existing in the eyes of your peers. Again, this is demonstrable. The knee-jerk abortion protests and the outrage over euthanasia practices illustrates this fact as well. We want to exist. We want to exist for as long as we can maintain that existence in a fashion that is acceptable to our own vague notions of normal existence.

Abortion frightens those who see it as ending a life. They see it as a retroactive threat to their own lives, a cheat that allows the sexually permissive to go free. This is why the anti-abortion movement turns into the anti-sex movement as soon as it feels that it has established the beachhead of ending abortion. This is why they are now trying to end the use of contraceptives and other family planning practices. In their eyes, sex is for procreation only. The sex that other people engage in, at least.

Euthanasia is a far more personal threat. Everyone who exists, lives, will die. Tomorrow or several centuries from now, all of us will be gone at some point. Even these words set down in a permanent form of expression will cease to exist, to have meaning. Euthanasia ends that personal existence before its natural time. It is the bookend to abortion, in the eyes of a believer. Abortion ends life before it starts, euthanasia ends life before it is supposed to end, naturally.

However, most people do not understand what nature is. Nature is not just precious life, but cruel slavery of the living of one species, for their use by another species. This happens in the animal world as well as the human world. It is the nature of existence. Energy for continuing life must be harvested from somewhere, and that means killing something in order to continue existing. Did the cow that was turned into your hamburger have a right to life? Cows are mammals. They share a huge amount of genetic code with humans because of this fact. Shouldn’t all mammals have a right to life?

You might go for that argument and respond in the positive to it. Let’s go further out on the limb. How about the plants and insects that we consume. They are alive. Insects are even mobile and have primitive brains. Don’t they have a right to life? What will we use to continue our own lives if all forms of food are considered forbidden to eat because of the impact that will have on the sanctity of life?

This is the mistake of a fundamental right to life laid bare. We have no problem at all with taking the life of other living things, even other humans. To our credit, we have become less violent over the centuries. You can’t walk out into public and just start killing people without facing negative consequences for your actions. Acting under the color of authority does give cover for a substantial number of sociopathic tendencies. Wars kill thousands of people, sometimes hundreds of thousands in an instant. Because wars are conducted under the authority of governments, we allow these massive losses of life to go unpunished.

The police are routinely forgiven for killing the defenseless by accident. They are granted the right to use deadly force, and some accidents will happen. Did the person killed accidentally by the police have a right to life?

The state conducting executions in the town square strikes most people as insane or barbaric in Western countries, today. But it was a common practice throughout the world in previous centuries and there are some countries that still practice public executions. No one questions the legitimacy of the threat embodied in a hogtied victim that is the scapegoat for some reviled behavior or other, but the person is just as dead in the end whether he represented a legitimate threat or not. Do they have a right to life? Why not?

These examples are the kinds of reasons that historical lists of rights start with a right to life, not the reasons that are bandied about today. Abortion and euthanasia are commonplace in nature. Nature is survival of the fittest in the most personal form imaginable. Abortion and euthanasia were so commonplace in previous centuries as to be completely brushed aside by the average observer. The elderly were allowed to die, to take the long walk, because we couldn’t afford to feed them anymore without threatening our own existence directly. The mammalian body will re-absorb or miscarry young that threaten the life of the mother, or the pregnancy will kill her. A human female who has children that she can’t feed would, and in some countries still do, simply leave the young exposed for predators or the weather to kill. These were far more common as occurrences than public hangings were. Every family would have experienced at least one of these once a generation until the modern age.

People are born, people will die. When do they begin to have a right to life? When does it begin?

…Consciousness requires a sophisticated network of highly interconnected components, nerve cells. Its physical substrate, the thalamo-cortical complex that provides consciousness with its highly elaborate content, begins to be in place between the 24th and 28th week of gestation. Roughly two months later synchrony of the electroencephalographic (EEG) rhythm across both cortical hemispheres signals the onset of global neuronal integration. Thus, many of the circuit elements necessary for consciousness are in place by the third trimester. By this time, preterm infants can survive outside the womb under proper medical care. And as it is so much easier to observe and interact with a preterm baby than with a fetus of the same gestational age in the womb, the fetus is often considered to be like a preterm baby, like an unborn newborn. But this notion disregards the unique uterine environment: suspended in a warm and dark cave, connected to the placenta that pumps blood, nutrients and hormones into its growing body and brain, the fetus is asleep.

Scientific American

When does it expire? Why does it expire?

the complete and permanent loss of brain function as defined by an unresponsive coma with loss of capacity for consciousness, brainstem reflexes, and the ability to breathe independently.

livescience.com

As far as EPHN would be concerned the first principle wouldn’t be life. The first principle is speech. Speech defines us to each other and to ourselves.  In some far-off future it’s easy to imagine that human life as we know it might not even be a requirement. Allowing for the granting of legal rights not only to qualifying AI but limited rights to higher level mammals capable of communicating. Speech defines who we are and what we know.

Without life there is no behavior.  Without behavior there aren’t any patterns to be analyzed.  There cannot be rights or Emergent Principles of Human Nature if there isn’t human life.  This problem is far more difficult to tease apart than any of the various ideologies crafted to grapple with it actually take into account. The many failings of the human animal listed in previous articles on the subject of EPHN all impact this problem. Perception is largely credited by the observer as being reality and yet perception is at best subjective or anecdotal.

Part of our mental dealings with the world around us involves assigning agency, purpose, to the things we interact with. This process is all but unavoidable.  The term for this process is Anthropomorphism. Try interacting with your pets without crediting them with human emotion, human motivation. The weather is frequently imbued with agency, as if the air currents that crash into each other actually think about dumping water in one place and not another.  If you stub your toe on a rock, you are likely to blame the rock for existing in that location rather than admit your own clumsiness, your gaps in perception that allowed the collision in the first place.

All manner of events in life are credited with consciousness, with agency, completely in error. Why would it be surprising then for someone to assign agency to a form, specifically the human form? Believers of various stripes credit their religious statues with agency.  What is clearly a construct of stone or metal can be said, even by non-believers, to project emotion. Art by its own definition should make you feel emotion, or it isn’t art in the judgement of the individual. But the emotion comes from within the observer, not from within the object. The statues are not happy or sad, joyous or vengeful, they evoke the emotion in the observer; they are crafted that way by human hands specifically in the hopes of garnering that emotional response.

Statues do not shed tears, do not bleed. Test after test reveals that contrary claims by the religious are baseless and there are many of these kinds of claims. Statues are constructs, devoid of agency, unlike a biological human form. What then of the form that does bleed or shed tears, is that human life? Not necessarily. Form is just the physical component of human life. Are amputees less human because their forms are not perfect? Are ugly people less human than pretty people? Of course not. There is something else, something in addition to the form which imbues the form with that thing we deem human life.

That elusive thing is consciousness. It is so elusive that we’ve only recently been able to detect its presence. We’ve only recently been able to attempt to describe what it is. It is there when you are awake and to some limited extent it is even present while you are sleeping, and it is gone when the body ceases to function normally. Without consciousness you are not you and I am not me. Consciousness defines human life and human principles, and without consciousness no concepts or conceptualizations are possible.

Consciousness coupled to memory, embedded in a recognizably human physical form capable of fulfilling the requirements for maintaining life. That is what creates the possibility for human behavior to occur, to be studied for patterns which can yield an understanding of the underlying principles that govern human interactions. Consciousness is the defining characteristic of human life, it is what makes everything else that we do possible. Life itself is not the basis of rights or principles, consciousness is. Speech is how we express what our consciousness perceives, which is why speech is the first Emergent Principle. Without speech we are even less than the other animals. Without the ability to speak our minds, we are not free in any real sense of the word.

Judging by the degree of those women’s intensity, I would say that it is an issue of self-esteem and that their fear is metaphysical. Their hatred is directed against human beings as such, against the mind, against reason, against ambition, against success, against love, against any value that brings happiness to human life. In compliance with the dishonesty that dominates today’s intellectual field, they call themselves “pro-life.”

Ayn Rand

Featured image: Michelangelo Creation of Adam