The Bible on Abortion

From Reddit:

Quoting the bible to contradict a Christian almost never helps, but there is only one part that brushes against the value of an unborn life versus a fully formed human.

Exodus 21:22 –

And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no [further] injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any [further] injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

We can extrapolate from this that the value of an unborn fetus is not equal to the value of the mother. As the passage says, cause a miscarriage and you’ll be fined, not put to death. There are pages and pages of research about this passage where pro-lifers try to twist and contort the meaning in the original Hebrew, but the context makes it quite easy to understand the message that was trying to be conveyed.

Biblical Scholars– the overwhelming majority of which are pro-life– argue that the verse refers only to live births.  But at least one admits that “in fact, it is never used for a miscarriage, though it is used of a still birth.”

Further to that, does this passage make sense if it only refers to live births?    Where is the harm, exactly, if the woman is struck and then gives birth?  If it is the harm of being struck, then why the reference to “miscarriage” or “birth”– your choice?  It really does not make much sense unless it refers to a miscarriage.

The pro-life partisans argue that the particular Hebrew word is not used elsewhere to refer to still-births, but, of course, the Bible isn’t a comprehensive list of all possible eventualities.  The argument has some currency, but not very much, in my view.

Mank

Not sure why so many critics seem to love “Mank”. Maybe they didn’t do their homework: the central thesis of “Mank”– that Herman Mankiewicz didn’t get enough credit for “Citizen Kane” — has been thoroughly debunked. And it’s kind of beside the point anyway. So what if Mankiewicz wrote some or most of the dialogue? Welles produced, directed, co-wrote, and starred in “Citizen Kane”, and did all these things beautifully and brilliantly. 

“Mank” doesn’t want to admit that Welles was the real genius.  And he has been correctly regarded as such ever since “Citizen Kane” was released.

Fleabag Season 1 Episode 4

There was a scene in “Fleabag” episode 4 that kind of stunned me.   Fleabag is at a “silent retreat” with her sister Claire, an unwelcomed gift from their dad.  Next door is a men’s retreat in which a leader hilariously tries to train men to not call women sluts or mock them when they receive promotions.  She sees Bank Manager there– someone she had previously flirted with while negotiating a loan for her cafe.  She strikes up a conversation with him, over smokes, and he tells her that he has been forced to attend the workshop as a consequence of some inappropriate behavior at work.  He touched a woman’s breast, twice.

Fleabag immediately offers him her breast to touch.  He frowns and says, “I’m trying to quit”.

I immediately tried to image a similar scene in a CBC comedy, or on an American Network.  I don’t think it’s possible.  I think there would have been shrieking and threats of violence and boycotts and a new hashtag and resignations all around.

I thought of Mayor Park Won-soon of Seoul, Korea, who committed suicide after a secretary went public with accusations of sexual harassment.  His offense seems to have consisted of repeatedly hitting on her.  He sent her pictures of himself in his underwear.  He pressed his body against her while taking selfies.  He kissed a bruise on her leg.

“I felt defenseless and weak before the immense power,” the woman said in a statement released through her lawyer at a news conference on Monday. “I wanted to shout at him in a safe court of law, telling him to stop it. I wanted to cry out how much he has hurt me.”

It is politically incorrect to think:  for this, he felt his only choice was to commit suicide?  Was the secretary not able to warn him that she would go to the police if he continued the harassing behavior?  We are not told if she did, but the prevailing wisdom among activists is that she shouldn’t have to.

The secretary is not apologetic.  In fact, she is angry that people feel bad about Park Won-soon– who was a sterling advocate for progressive women’s issues his entire career– and not sufficiently considerate of her feelings.

I was disappointed.  I thought she might say something like, “the way he treated me was wrong but I am horrified that an otherwise admirable person felt driven to this terrible act.”

I thought Fleabag’s reaction to the Bank Manager was admirable.  It was “what’s the big deal?”.    It was the act of a truly liberated woman, self-confident, independent, and wildly immune to the “system” that we are led to believe oppresses women.  She would have told Park Won-soon to fuck off and that would probably have been the end of it.

But then… later, Fleabag tried to convince Claire to take a job in Finland that she was reluctant to take because she would be away from her husband, Martin.  Fleabag told Claire that Martin had tried to kiss her, which was true.    Martin denied it and claimed Fleabag had tried to kiss him.  We learn later that Claire always did believe Fleabag but chose to stay with Martin for reasons of her own.

Unlike her interaction with Mr. Bank Manager, this was disappointingly conventional and hypocritical of Fleabag who has herself seduced married or attached men.

We know that Fleabag herself is not innocent of hitting on other peoples’ partners.

“Fleabag” is an outstanding series– you should see it.  It is fabulously original and witty and sometimes transcendent, as when the priest delivers the homily at Fleabag’s father’s wedding, and when Fleabag’s father tells her that he likes Claire.

 

Michael Flynn is Set UP

“The Federalist” declares that that the FBI investigation of Michael Flynn was a “set up”. That’s clever. I may inform the police, the next time I get a ticket, that I was “set up”: obviously, you were out to catch people who were speeding.  You decided to park on the side of the road with your radar gun to see if I was speeding.  That’s entrapment.

This logic is fairly typical of conservative, right-wing media, trying to make it sound like they–just like those real journalists at the New York Times and Washington Post– have the goods on someone.  Yes, yes, our deeply researched investigation (we looked at three websites) has uncovered the shocking story of how the FBI, believing the Michael Flynn may have been coordinating Trump’s foreign policy with Russian interests, decided to try to trap him into coordinating with Russian interests so they could charge him with coordinating with Russian interests.  The bastards!  They even tricked him into confessing, and pleading guilty– oh the perversity of liberals and the media!

 

 

Wisconsin’s Supreme Idiots

“Isn’t it the very definition of tyranny for one person to order people to be imprisoned for going to work, among other ordinarily lawful activities?” Justice Rebecca Bradley asked.

This is from a justice of the Wisconsin State Supreme Court.  I am not making this up.  This is one of the questions this justice, Rebecca Bradley, a Republican appointee, asked when considering whether or not a State Governor should have the authority to take emergency measures in the face of a pandemic.

I’m not sure I don’t like her logic.  Let’s think about it.  How about this:

Isn’t it the very definition of tyranny for one person to order people to join the military, learn to kill people, and travel overseas to participate in mass killings?

Absolutely.   Or:

Isn’t it the very definition of tyranny for one person to order people to be imprisoned for smoking weed in the privacy of his own home, at no inconvenience to other citizens?

Isn’t it the very definition of tyranny for one person to order people to be imprisoned for driving on one side of the road and not the other?

Case dismissed.

SNL Stars

The list of comedians commonly assumed to be the big stars of SNL includes:

  • Chevy Chase
  • John Belushi
  • Bill Murray
  • Eddie Murphy
  • Martin Short
  • Chris Farley
  • Tina Fey
  • Will Ferrell
  • Billy Crystal
  • Dan Ackroyd
  • Amy Poehler

Quick– name a single important movie that any of these “stars” made?   Name a movie made by an SNL alumnus that mattered.   All right– maybe these:

  • Lost in Translation
  • Driving Miss Daisy
  • Groundhog Day
  • Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Ghostbusters
  • Punch-Drunk Love
  • Enough Said
  • This is Spinal Tap

Okay, some of these were okay as entertainment.  None of them, with the exception of “Groundhog Day”, which was, at moments, transcendent, or “Lost in Translation”, really mattered in any serious way.  “Punch-Drunk Love” was completely out of character for Adam Sandler (so out of character it’s the only Sandler movie I can stand) and doesn’t really qualify as the product of an SNL alumnus.

So, while reading the book “Saturday Night Live”, I kept cringing when someone or another would go on and on about what a great “star” so-and-so was when I couldn’t think of single movie this star was in that was important in any way to me– except, perhaps, Bill Murray.  Here’s another discussion of the issue.  In fact, Tina Fey’s “Date Night” had the singular honor of being one of a very, very tiny number of movies I simply walked out on.  Now, I rarely give up on a move no matter how bad it is because I consider it always educational to see what Hollywood is up to even if the answer is “not very much”.  But it is well known that SNL alumni have starred in some of the worst movies ever made in the past 45 years.   That is amazing, and it’s a testament to the power of celebritydom in modern entertainment.  Hollywood moguls routinely believe that a well known comedian will draw droves of fans to their movies.

 

 

 

The Biden Apology

A former aide to Joe Biden,Tara Reade, has accused him of assaulting her at a campaign rally in 1993.

A number of feminist “women’s groups” have prepared a nice letter to Joe:

Vice President Biden has the opportunity, right now, to model how to take serious allegations seriously,” the draft letter said. “The weight of our expectations matches the magnitude of the office he seeks.

Reade’s accusation has little bait-and-switch in it: she does have friends who do remember that she alleged an inappropriate act by Biden way back shortly after it happened.  She claims that that is proof that this is not something she thought of later or that may be due to faulty memory.  But none of those friends remembers the same specifics that she now claims.  At least, not before she updated her allegations and clued her friends in on the fact that she was waiting until the time was ripe (once the nomination was secured).

I leave aside for a moment the question of just how long it has to be before dredging up an accusation becomes pure vindictiveness.  Ten years?  Twenty years?  In this case, 27?  If you say, it’s never too late, I say you have no rational basis for making that argument.  There is no rule that says transgressions may be punished no matter how long someone has waited to make them known.  I think there is a very good argument to be made for the idea that anyone who waits that long should just suck it up: you are too late.  You could be taking advantage of the fact that no one can really disprove your allegation, and you are implying that people never change, and you are really, really just playing the victim card long after your victimization is relevant.  And you have this:

Ms. Reade, who worked as a staff assistant helping manage the office interns, said she also filed a complaint with the Senate in 1993 about Mr. Biden; she said she did not have a copy of it, and such paperwork has not been located.  (This Article)

But let’s leave that aside for now.

So, several women activists are demanding that Joe Biden “respond” to the allegations.  They say he “owes” them a response.  They say he “must” address the issue.

Why?

Here’s the million dollar question:  is there anything Joe Biden can say about the allegation that would result in the accusers and activists say, “Oh– okay.  That’s what I wanted to hear.  Thanks Joe.  We’ll drop the issue now.”

Not in your lifetime.  The purpose of badgering Joe Biden into addressing the issue to provide leverage to his accusers for television appearances, interviews, speaking engagements, and the fake virtue of self-righteous indignation.

Think about it– what could Biden say that would actually result in “closure”?  Can you imagine any words he could use, any phrases, that would satisfy his accusers, that would cause them to say, “oh.  Well, that’s okay then.”?

Ms. Reade said she faced a wave of criticism and death threats, as well as accusations that she was a Russian agent because of Medium posts and tweets, several of which are now deleted, she had written praising President Vladimir Putin.  [my emphasis]

How about a full-throated apology, you say?  That is never enough for the harpies who crave this spotlight.  He can’t possibly sound sincere enough to escape the accusation that he is doing it for political gain.  In fact, they are inviting him to do it for political gain by insisting that he cannot be the Democratic nominee unless he addresses this issue.  But then, if he does, you accuse him of insincerity and reject the apology.  Or you shout that he has admitted guilt and must, therefore, resign.

The accusers and sympathizers could only be on the right side of the issue if they genuinely offered to unconditionally accept a clear apology, and to support Biden if he gives it.  They will not.   That is not their real agenda.  The real agenda includes appearing on nationally televised talk shoes to discuss, tearfully, how humiliated they felt.  So humiliated, they had to tell the world.  And write a book.  And openly lobby for Merle Streep to play the role in the inevitable movie.

If he denies that it ever took place– which he does– he must be a liar– because this school of thought believes– contrary to overwhelming evidence– that women never make up these accusations.  Never.  If he makes a full apology– we’ve seen this before– you will label him an “admitted abuser” and continue to demand that he quit.

I will say it: i believe that some of the women who have accused men of inappropriate behavior want people to know or think that they are so desirable  that a powerful, influential man could not resist hitting on them.  That is why they go public with information that they claim is “humiliating” to them.  People never voluntarily disclose information that they genuinely believe to be “humiliating”.  They disclose information that, in their own minds, flatters them, or excuses pathetic behavior.

David Brooks makes an interesting point about why the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic is so forgotten by history.  It is because people were compelled, by the virulent contagion, to shun infected friends, neighbors, and family.  To admit it would be genuinely humiliating.  Nobody writes a book to tell us how they refused to help look after cousin John’s children when he became infected.  Nobody goes on national tv to tell you something that they think reflects badly on them, that humiliates them.

You put yourself in the category of those right-wing blow-hards who treat every piece of evidence that proves them wrong as more evidence that they are right, that the conspiracy is deeper and more widespread than even you imagined.

 

The Virus Virus

This article in the Daily Mail in Britain is contrarian and provocative and interesting.

I’m not sure I agree with Mr. Hitchens, but I agree with part of his sentiment: there is, without a doubt, a portion of public policy that is over-reaction.  It is almost inevitable, just as it was after 9/11.  The dynamic is inescapable: nobody ever got re-elected by declaring that things are moderately bad but not disastrous and we should all stay cool and calm and take some reasonable measures but not get carried away.  No, no– much better to say, “Extreme Situations call for Extreme Measures!”.  Let’s make it an acronym we can glibly roll off our tongues:  ESCEM.   Do you want to be responsible for any deaths that are the result of your lax prescriptions?  I see.  Then you will vote for my Patriot Act or my FISA courts or quarantine in place or whatever.  You will consent to torture and arbitrary imprisonment.  You will not vote me out of office because I continue to enable $300 million a year expenditures on a prison in Guantanamo that holds 34 prisoners without warrant or trial or habeas corpus.

This is something Mr. Trump has learned, as you can diagram from his earlier comments to his more recent dire warnings.  Yes, they did some polling, and they found out that most voters want the government to be worried.  Conventional political wisdom is that they will forgive over-reaction, but never indifference.

Someone on the news the other day said that governments can’t really go wrong in over-reacting.  You mean, like Iraq?  HUAC?  Viet Nam?

One thing that is verifiable:  the number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 includes a substantial number of people with other life-threatening conditions.  So we have a phenomenon that should not be unknown to critics of #metoo.  If an individual has emotional or psychological problems and anxiety and depression and was not sexually abused, then their dysfunction is caused by emotional or psychological problems and anxiety and depression.  But if they have emotional or psychological problems and anxiety and depression and were ever sexually abused, then their dysfunction is always caused by sexual abuse.  There is no other cause.

Obviously, this can’t be true, but it is widely and deeply believed.

In the same way, a certain portion — perhaps a large portion– of any deaths of any individual with Covid-19 will be attributed to Covid-19 even if the patient, as is likely, had other serious health conditions.  To this day, the number of deaths attributed to SARS includes elderly victims who were already near death and likely to have died soon anyway.

If I am right you are in for a mild surprise: the number of cases will diminish before you expect them too, and the number of deaths will not meet the most dire forecasts.  There are a lot of idiots saying this but not everything an idiot says is untrue.

The Covid-19 pandemic can only be prevented from resurging when at least half the world’s population has become immune to the new virus. And that can happen in only one of two ways: After enough people have been infected and have recovered, or have been inoculated with a vaccine.  N.Y.Times

 

 

 

 

Two Perfect Women

In the entire history of the world, there were two perfect women.  Elizabeth Bisland and Hedy Lamarr.

I exaggerate, of course.  There may have been only one, and it would have been Hedy Lamarr.  Hedy Lamarr, of course, was the famous actress, regarded, in her time, as one of the great beauties of the world, and unlike most “great beauties” of the world, she deserved to be ranked.  Near perfect face, complexion, body, and– shockingly– brains.  In fact, if you are using a cell phone or WiFi today, you owe some thanks to Hedy Lamarr who invented the basic principle behind this kind of wireless transmission.  Look it up– it’s true.

Elizabeth Bisland was said to cause an entire room to go silent when she entered.  But, like Lamarr, she also had a brain, and she grew up to be a pretty good writer.  Her magazine, Cosmopolitan, sent her around the world in 1889, to see if she could do it in less than 80 days, and faster than the competition: Nellie Bly, who was sponsored by New York World, had set out around the same time and there was a kind of informal race between the two.  It is alleged that someone lied to Ms. Bisland about the availability of a fast steamer to the continent which caused her to lose the race by a few days.

What is the point?  We are humans.  We love many things about ourselves, our looks, our achievements, our styles.  Why not celebrate exceptional packages of all three?