But the idea that I should only pay for things that
benefit me directly is anathema to me. Every single thing
on that list benefits me in some way, because it benefits
the community around me. Kids’ education matters not
because they’re my kids, but because education matters,
in general. I might not need rescue services in the woods
out in the corner of the county, but some day, maybe I
Which reminds me of this Steve Jobs note:
I love and admire my species, living and dead, and am
totally dependent on them for life and well being.
So there’s a meme that goes around regularly and it’s introduced in terms of “food for thought”. It goes something like this: “One day, your mom will pick you up, put you back down, and then never pick you up again.” I’ve seen it a bunch of times by now, and every time, it rips through me. Kind of like how I felt for the entire duration of the movie “Inside Out” (which, to this day, I can not yet watch once more), but in meme-form. I think this trips the same part of my brain that wrote a farewell post to my dorm room or to our first house.
Suppose you’re taking a class on medieval history and the
final exam is coming up. The final exam is supposed to be
a test of your knowledge of medieval history, right? So
if you have a couple days between now and the exam,
surely the best way to spend the time, if you want to do
well on the exam, is to read the best books you can find
about medieval history. Then you’ll know a lot about it,
and do well on the exam.
No, no, no, experienced
students are saying to themselves. If you merely read
good books on medieval history, most of the stuff you
learned wouldn’t be on the test. It’s not good books you
want to read, but the lecture notes and assigned reading
in this class. And even most of that you can ignore,
because you only have to worry about the sort of thing
that could turn up as a test question. You’re looking for
sharply-defined chunks of information. If one of the
assigned readings has an interesting digression on some
subtle point, you can safely ignore that, because it’s
not the sort of thing that could be turned into a test
question. But if the professor tells you that there were
three underlying causes of the Schism of 1378, or three
main consequences of the Black Death, you’d better know
them. And whether they were in fact the causes or
consequences is beside the point. For the purposes of
this class they are.
I wish I could go back in time. I would tell myself to submit to this reality and actually get smart about tests and grades and working the system. I wasted a lot of time.
Getting a good grade in a class on x is so different from
learning a lot about x that you have to choose one or the
other, and you can’t blame students if they choose grades.
Everyone judges them by their grades — graduate programs,
employers, scholarships, even their own parents.
How did caring about a drowned or desiccated future come
to be a partisan issue? Perhaps the simplest answer is
money. A report put out two years ago by the Senate
Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis noted,
“In the 2000s, several bipartisan climate bills were
circulating in the Senate.” Then, in 2010, the Supreme
Court, in the Citizens United decision, ruled that
corporations and wealthy donors could, effectively, pour
unlimited amounts of cash into electioneering.
Fossil-fuel companies quickly figured out how to funnel
money through front groups, which used it to reward the
industry’s friends and to punish its enemies. After
Citizens United, according to the report, “bipartisan
activity on comprehensive climate legislation collapsed.”
I’ve certainly been reading and thinking about the Court a lot lately, but this one surprised me. Perhaps the hyperpartisanship we suffer under wasn’t stumbled into, as so many pieces about algorithms and media silos suggest, but rather made by some warped old men warping the law.
And, indeed, when you think about it: our tragic addiction to stupid guns can trace its roots back to different warped old men mere decades ago, warping the law.
And, indeed, when you think about it: our societal refusal to protect women, to criminalize pregnancy on a path to god-knows-where has been similarly paved by warped old men warping the law.
Republicans are expected to win majorities in at least
one house of Congress in November, meaning that Democrats
will have sweated through a rare trifecta with little to
show for it. “At a certain point, it’s, like, O.K., we
tried being patient, we tried to be good little soldiers,
and it got us nowhere,” Levin said. “Imagine going home
and facing your relatives: ‘Oh, cool, you work on climate
policy? Well, where the fuck is it?’ ”
I’ve been, uh, not reading news for a good five months now, but you know… if the bad news keeps getting worse, I’m going to start again.
Connecticut, a progressive state on the matter of
abortion, recently passed a law that prevents local
agencies from coöperating with out-of-state abortion
prosecutions and protects the medical records of
out-of-state clients. Other progressive states will follow
suit. If prohibition states can’t sue out-of-state
doctors, and, if abortion pills sent by mail remain
largely undetectable, the only people left to target will
be abortion advocates and those trying to get abortions.
If a fetus is a person, then a legal framework can be
invented to require someone who has one living inside her
to do everything in her power to protect it, including—as
happened to Savita Halappanavar, in Ireland, which
operated under a fetal-personhood doctrine until 2018, and
to Izabela Sajbor, in Poland, where all abortion is
effectively illegal—to die. No other such obligation
exists anywhere in our society, which grants cops the
freedom to stand by as children are murdered behind an
unlocked door. In Poland, pregnant women with cancer have
been routinely denied chemotherapy because of clinicians’
fears of harming the fetus.
Fetal-personhood laws have passed in Georgia and Alabama,
and they are no longer likely to be found
unconstitutional. Such laws justify a full-scale
criminalization of pregnancy, whereby women can be
arrested, detained, and otherwise placed under state
intervention for taking actions perceived to be
potentially harmful to a fetus. This approach has been
steadily tested, on low-income minorities in particular,
for the past four decades. National Advocates for Pregnant
Women—the organization that has provided legal defense for
most of the cases mentioned in this article—has documented
almost eighteen hundred cases, from 1973 to 2020, of
prosecutions or forced interventions related to pregnancy;
this is likely a substantial undercount. Even in states
such as California, where the law explicitly prohibits
charging women with murder after a pregnancy loss,
conservative prosecutors are doing so anyway.
And now, with that criminalization, we are rocketing toward an Attwoodian future:
Pregnancy is more than thirty times more dangerous than
abortion. One study estimates that a nationwide ban would
lead to a twenty-one-per-cent rise in pregnancy-related
deaths. Some of the women who will die from abortion bans
are pregnant right now. Their deaths will come not from
back-alley procedures but from a silent denial of care:
interventions delayed, desires disregarded. They will die
of infections, of preëclampsia, of hemorrhage, as they are
forced to submit their bodies to pregnancies that they
never wanted to carry, and it will not be hard for the
anti-abortion movement to accept these deaths as a tragic,
even noble, consequence of womanhood itself.
[Dismantling voting rights], moreover, is consistent with the history
of an institution that once blessed slavery and described
Black people as “beings of an inferior order.” It is
consistent with the Court’s history of union-busting, of
supporting racial segregation, and of upholding
Moreover, while the present Court
is unusually conservative, the judiciary as an
institution has an inherent conservative bias. Courts
have a great deal of power to strike down programs
created by elected officials, but little ability to build
such programs from the ground up. Thus, when an
anti-governmental political movement controls the
judiciary, it will likely be able to exploit that control
to great effect. But when a more left-leaning movement
controls the courts, it is likely to find judicial power
to be an ineffective tool.
The Court, in other words, simply does not deserve the
reverence it still enjoys in much of American society, and
especially from the legal profession. For nearly all of
its history, it’s been a reactionary institution, a
political one that serves the interests of the already
powerful at the expense of the most vulnerable. And it
currently appears to be reverting to that historic mean.
My anti-Supreme-Court rhetoric as of late felt like my own conclusion, but of course it is just a result of me reading people smarter and better-read than myself. Case in point, Gerald Rosenberg’s “The Hollow Hope”:
Rosenberg’s most depressing conclusion is that, while
liberal judges are severely constrained in their ability
to effect progressive change, reactionary judges have
tremendous ability to hold back such change. “Studies of
the role of the courts in the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries,” Rosenberg writes, “show that courts
can effectively block significant social reform.”
So if you live in what is nominally a representative democracy, but two out of three of the branches of Federal government (again, as pointed out by Millhiser) are structured to hold back societal improvement by granting such great, stubborn power to a minority belief (e.g. abortion prohibition)… what, precisely, do you do?
After reading Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxane Gay, I’ll read anything by her, no introduction necessary. So you can imagine hers is the first take I read after the leaked forthcoming overturning of Roe v. Wade. Here she is at The Times, “It’s Time to Rage”:
We should not live in a country where bodily autonomy can
be granted or taken away by nine political appointees,
most of whom are men and cannot become pregnant. Any civil
right contingent upon political whims is not actually a
So that got me wondering, what is the best thing for me to keep ready in my head should I ever need to explain where I stand? The following tweets from Shannon Hale’s excellent thread are a good place to start:
• How do we determine what constitutes a baby?
Science overwhelmingly agrees that an embryo and fetus are
not a fully formed human. Some religions disagree, and
many believe that at the moment of conception, an enteral
spirit enters those cells, making it human.
• There’s no proof of this. It is a belief. It is
faith. And people are absolutely free to believe as they
will and act on that faith. But requiring others to
believe and act according to others’ religious beliefs?
That’s, like, just SO against the laws of this republic.
• Also against the laws of this republic? Requiring
anyone ever to put themselves in any harm or threat of
harm in order to save another’s life. Mandatory blood
donations? Bone marrow? Kidneys? Liver? Skin grafts?
NEVER! Even after death, no one can take our organs w/o
• The ONLY instance where laws require people to
sacrifice their own health and give up their body autonomy
in order to support another’s life is with pregnant
people. So it’s not really about the sanctity of life,
it’s only about controlling pregnant bodies.
• And here’s the final realization that changed me:
If you believe that a pregnant person should be able to
terminate their pregnancy if they were raped, if they are
a victim of incest, if they are a 10yo child, if pregnancy
and birth will kill them, then you are pro-choice.
And now I loop right back around to what Roxane Gay said: Any civil right contingent upon political whims is not actually a civil right.