Abortion: a matter solely for the mother (long but worth it!)

A note to all the participants of last Friday’s antiabortion March for Life rally, in Washington DC:

I hope you’re preparing to make condoms rain from the sky. Buckets of them. Craploads, hurled from the cargo holds of the biggest planes you can find. Also, birth control pills. I hope every time a teenager opens her locker at school she finds 60 packs of Yaz.

“You have been holding these marches since 1974, the year after Roe v. Wade, and guess what? You might have finally done it. You stacked the courts. Your lobbying efforts and voting patterns jammed three conservative justices on the Supreme Court’s bench during President Donald Trump’s term — never mind the hypocrisy of stonewalling Merrick Garland and then replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That same court is now preparing to issue rulings that might overturn the precedent that guaranteed women control over their reproductive futures. So, congrats?

“I hope you’re ready for your odious brave new world. I presume each and every one of you is planning to adopt several kids. Those chia seed-size embryos that you insist on calling pre-born children eventually will be born to parents who never wanted to be parents, and someone will need to step up to the plate. Since “adoption” has been your solution, you’re up, slugger. Surely you can spare the extra $233,000 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2015 estimated it takes to raise a child from birth to age 18. (If the cost sounds steep, one of your crisis pregnancy centers might be willing to toss in a box of Huggies.)

“I hope that the 364 days you’re not attending this march, you’re marching for universal health care. Also, subsidized day care and universal preschool; I hope every Chick-fil-A sandwich will now come with a side of full-time nanny.

“Also, if your feet aren’t too tired, maybe you could mix in some marches for mandated parental leave for both mothers and fathers, and for free therapy for all of the people whose bodies and souls have been traumatized via forced pregnancy and forced birth.

“At the very least, I hope we can count on you to vote for candidates who care about these issues with the same righteousness you brought to supporting pro-life politicians.

“Truly, we can’t wait to see all the work you personally have been doing to reduce unwanted pregnancies, besides lurking outside Planned Parenthood and shouting at people who are trying to get Pap smears. (Have you been doing that work?).

“Intimate-partner violence can escalate during pregnancy — homicide is a leading cause of pregnancy-associated death — but you’ve probably already got a plan for making sure the boyfriends or husbands of these people don’t assault them upon learning they’re expecting.

“Also, I hope you’re prepared to have the talk with your 15-year-old daughter — the talk that I wish on no family, regardless of politics. The one where she tells you her boyfriend said he would wear a condom but didn’t. The one that happens 13 or 15 weeks into her pregnancy because she was afraid to tell you earlier, because she knew you believed abstinence was the only acceptable form of birth control. The one where she’s sobbing and terrified and you begin to fully realize that accidental pregnancies don’t happen to bad people, they happen to all kinds of people, and maybe not every accident needs to be punished with lifelong consequences.

“The one where you explain that there is no option but to live with those consequences. The one where you explain that you made sure of it.
Perspective: Why does ‘pro-life’ mean disregarding the actual lives of pregnant people?

“Your theme this year is “Equality begins in the womb,” which is really smart. I’m excited for you to reveal the sweeping legislation you have up your sleeve pursuant to this extraordinary dedication to equality. The immediate passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, perhaps? Racial and economic justice initiatives to specifically help Black women and poor women? I hope I’m not getting my hopes up. Otherwise, I would think the theme would read: “Equality begins in the womb, and also ends there.”

“March for Life founder Nellie Gray vowed to hold a demonstration every year until Roe v. Wade was overturned, according to your organization’s website. Depending on the outcome of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization later this year, it might be your last march for this particular cause.

“But once you have this thing you always wanted — state-sanctioned control over women’s bodies — your work is not finished. You are responsible for the pregnant people whose futures you have changed, and for their future children, and both are going to need a lot more than your prayers.
Monica Hesse, The Washington Post, Style section, 21 Jan 2022)

My comment: Bravo!! To adapt a phrase, Get your tanks out of the nation’s bedrooms! I’m sorry this is the longest quotation I have ever posted, but I believe that giving birth is the sole decision of the mother undergoing it, and no one else’s. I can imagine Epicurus saying “That is a decision for the mother. She deserves her own ataraxia. In short, mind your own business!”

Global warming update

How much did the world’s oceans warm in 2021 compared with the previous year? Well, our data shows that oceans heated by about 14 zettajoules (a zettajoule is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 joules of energy). This is a mind-bending number, so it may help to use analogies. This is the equivalent of 440bn toasters running 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Another way to think about this is that the oceans have absorbed heat equivalent to seven Hiroshima atomic bombs detonating each second, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I have plotted the ocean heat, measured since the late 1950s, and the clear, persistent rise over the past three to four decades is unmistakable evidence of an Earth that is out of balance.

You could say that we took the Earth’s temperature – and the Earth’s fever is getting worse. The oceans are vast, and you need many measurements spread out across the planet to get a good sense of what is happening to the oceans as a whole. This study used hi-tech temperature sensors on autonomous buoys that rise and fall in the ocean waters as they make measurements. These sensors then send the data to laboratories around the world for analysis. In addition, we deployed high-quality temperature sensors from ships, temperatures from stationary buoys, and even strapped sensors to animals so we could measure temperatures from the water they traveled through. Our research was enabled by thousands of in-field researchers who are obtaining and processing the raw data. Without their contribution, studies like this would not be possible.

We discovered that the temperatures are not rising uniformly across the planet. We found the fastest warming in the Atlantic, Indian and northern Pacific Oceans. In our work we also explore the question of why this pattern is emerging the way it is. Using climate model simulations, we directly tie various features of the ocean to human emissions of industrial pollution and greenhouse gases. These findings suggest that a similar pattern is likely to persist into the coming decades. (John Abraham,professor of thermal sciences at the University of St Thomas, Minnesota, 11 Jan 2022).

My comment: In other words it is caused by industry and its emissions, and major centers of population and their, man-made, emissions. We sort-of knew that, didn’t we? But tell that to those who distrust science and anyone who uses his or her common sense and wants government to do something about it – now, not in a generation’s time.

The obscenity of gun deaths

AR-15-style assault weapons were designed to kill people quickly with little effort. Allowing shooters to buy these weapons of war has torn so many families and communities apart:

Boulder – 10 murdered
El Paso – 22 murdered
Parkland – 17 murdered
Sutherland Springs – 26 murdered
Las Vegas – 60 murdered
Orlando – 49 murdered
Sandy Hook – 26 murdered

Countless lives might have been saved if these shooters had been prevented from accessing such deadly weapons. (Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund, PO Box 3489, Newtown, CT 06470, United States)

My comment: I am speechless. How can human beings countenance these atrocities (because that’s what they are)? And politicians take money from the gun manufacturers and sit on their hands in Congress, yattering on about “liberty” and praying piously on Sundays. Epicurus believed in fostering peace of mind – his mind would be far from peaceful we’re he alive today.

And so, people like me, who believe in humanism and decent behavior, continue to criticize the gun obsession, which yearly gets more prevalent. (I came within a fraction of a millimeter of death when an idiot fired an automatic weapon in my direction when I was 19. I am alive today only because of his incompetence. He missed. Forgive me for repeating this, but the experience lives on)

Man finds love with robot woman

A man who “never thought he would find love” has revealed he plans to marry a robot woman. Geoff Gallagher, from Queensland, Australia, had given up all hope of finding a partner until he read an article about AI robots and decided to splash out £3,000 on a synthetic girlfriend. He told 7 News: “The robots were very lifelike. Their skin even warmed up like a real human. I decided on a robot called Emma. With pale skin and beautiful blue eyes, I thought she looked lovely.”. (7 News, Australia)

My comment: Sorry. Speechless!

Obscene wealth

“Oxfam’s new bombshell report “Inequality Kills” lays out in stark detail just how much economic inequality has grown over the past two years of the pandemic and the negative, real-world consequences of the growth.

“We all know that inequality is out of control, but some of the numbers coming out of this report are truly shocking, even for people who work on these issues every day. Here I highlight some of the biggest takeaways from it:
“Over the course of the past two years of the pandemic, the world’s ten richest men doubled their collective fortunes – from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion – at the same time that incomes for 99% of humanity fell. And if these ten men had 99% of their wealth taxed? They would still be richer than 99% of the planet.

“Billionaires have had the greatest surge in wealth – $5 trillion – during the pandemic than any other period of time in modern history.
Inequality contributes to the death of at least 21,000 people around the world every day – or one person every four seconds. Whether it be from lack of access to healthcare, gender-based violence, hunger, or climate devastation, inequality is quite literally killing thousands of our own on a daily basis.

Oxfam’s new bombshell report, Inequality Kills, lays out in stark detail just how much economic inequality has grown over the past two years of the pandemic and the negative, real-world consequences of the growth.

Below are some of the biggest takeaways from it:

Over the course of the past two years of the pandemic, the world’s ten richest men doubled their collective fortunes – from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion – at the same time that incomes for 99% of humanity fell. And if these ten men had 99% of their wealth taxed? They would still be richer than 99% of the planet. Billionaires have had the greatest surge in wealth – $5 trillion – during the pandemic than any other period of time in modern history.

Inequality contributes to the death of at least 21,000 people around the world every day – or one person every four seconds. Whether it be from lack of access to healthcare, gender-based violence, hunger, or climate devastation, inequality is quite literally killing thousands of our own on a daily basis.

Women, racial minorities, and those in developing countries have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, which has set gender pay parity back 36 years – from 99 years to 135 years. Women lost $800 billion in earnings in 2020 because there are 13 million fewer women in the workforce now than before the pandemic.

In terms of the life expectancy of Black Americans, 3.4 million of them would be alive today if their life expectancy was the same as White Americans, an appalling drop-off from the already-unacceptable 2.1 million estimate before the pandemic.

Inequality between developed and developing countries is rising for the first time in decades, which has led to a situation where deaths from COVID-19 in poor countries roughly double those in rich ones.

Oxfam has called upon government leaders to take immediate action to reduce inequality around the world. How? By taxing the rich. They recommend that world leaders and legislative bodies waste no time in implementing more progressive tax systems to tax the rich and the spoils that they’ve amassed during the pandemic. Funds could then be redistributed and used to lift the position of those worst off in society.

As Abigail Disney says in her foreword for the report, “Systemic issues require systemic solutions, not piecemeal attempts at treating symptoms rather than the disease itself. The answer to these complicated problems is ironically simple: taxes. Mandatory, inescapable, ambitious tax reform on an international level— this is the only way to fix what is broken.”

According to Oxfam’s own estimates, a simple, one-off 99% tax on the fortunes that the ten richest men have made during the pandemic could be used to make enough vaccines for the world and provide funds for universal healthcare, social protection, climate adaptation, and gender-based violence prevention in over 80 countries. (Don’t worry about the rich men – they’d still have $8 billion to spare.). (The Patriotic Millionaires, 20 Jan 2022)

The pandemic has set gender pay parity back 36 years – from 99 years to 135 years. Women lost $800 billion in earnings in 2020 because there are 13 million fewer women in the workforce now than before the pandemic.

The pandemic has significantly hurt Black Americans’ life expectancy. 3.4 million Black Americans would be alive today if their life expectancy was the same as White Americans, an appalling drop-off from the already-unacceptable 2.1 million estimate before the pandemic.

Inequality between developed and developing countries is rising for the first time in decades, which has led to a situation where deaths from COVID-19 in poor countries roughly double those in rich ones.

These findings are extremely alarming. We already knew from the 2022 World Inequality Report that inequality got worse during the pandemic, but this Oxfam report spells out in the starkest of terms just how worse it really got.

In light of these findings, Oxfam has called upon government leaders to take immediate action to reduce inequality around the world. How? By taxing the rich. Like us, they recommend that world leaders and legislative bodies waste no time in implementing more progressive tax systems to tax the rich and lift the position of those worst off in society.

As Abigail Disney says in her foreword for the report, “Systemic issues require systemic solutions, not piecemeal attempts at treating symptoms rather than the disease itself. The answer to these complicated problems is ironically simple: taxes. Mandatory, inescapable, ambitious tax reform on an international level— this is the only way to fix what is broken.”

According to Oxfam’s own estimates, a simple, one-off 99% tax on the fortunes that the ten richest men have made during the pandemic could be used to make enough vaccines for the world and provide funds for universal healthcare, social protection, climate adaptation, and gender-based violence prevention in over 80 countries. (Don’t worry about the rich men – they’d still have $8 billion to spare.)

Leaders from around the world are meeting this week for the World Economic Forum’s online “Davos Agenda.” We sincerely hope that they find time in between their various navel-gazing panels and self-congratulating Q&A sessions to discuss the findings of the Oxfam report, the growing gap between the rich and the rest around the world, and the obvious solution: taxing the rich. (Oxfam report publicized by The Patriotic Millionaires, 20 Jan 2022)

My comment: I think Epicurus would have supported the taxing of the super-rich, whose wealth skews the lives and views of so many. Much of the dis-function of societies everywhere is caused by poverty and attendant anxiety.

Doomsday glacier

Scientists say a critical ice shelf in Antarctica could break apart within the next three to five years, leading to large sea-level rises.

Satellite images presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union suggest the ice keeping together the Thwaites glacier in western Antarctica could soon shatter. The glacier is known as the “Doomsday glacier” because if it collapsed, it could raise sea levels by several feet, inundating coastal communities and low-lying island nations. (Source: The Guardian, Jan 2022).

My comment: And here we are, worrying about the attempted American right- wing coup and to what extent we can rely on the military being loyal to their oaths of loyalty to the Constitution. And as millions are threatened with a climatic disaster, no doubt the usual suspects will dismiss the doomsday glacier as a scam and tell us that it’s just a way of changing the subject.

Epicureanism in shorthand (sort of)

Epicureanism was never meant to be a dry academic philosophy. In fact, it is best kept away from academia, where, as usual with philosophy, long words render it dull, if not incomprehensible. Rather, it is a vital way of living which seeks to free men and women from a life of unhappiness, fear and anxiety. It is a missionary philosophy for the practical-minded with common sense.

While Epicureans have written scholarly works, they have always been most interested in explaining Epicureanism in a manner simple enough for anyone to understand and remember. The following counsels are a basic guide to Epicurean living:

– Don’t fear God. Don’t worry about death. Don’t fear pain. Live simply. Pursue pleasure wisely. Make friends and be a good friend. Be honest in your business and private life. Avoid envy, fame and political ambition.

I would add some others:
– Be polite and considerate; Try to see the other point of view; meet others half way. Take the smooth and pleasant road, as free from stress and conflict as possible. But don’t be put upon!

Euthanasia

“Euthanasia is the last taboo. We can change gender, two men can have a baby, two women can have a baby, and abortion is legal (just!). But a person with an incurable disease who wants to end her or his life cannot do so in most countries.” (Letter to the Guardian Weekly from Elizabeth Keating, Orcemont, France).

My comment: Had I an incurable disease I would hate to think that my wife was having to spend the latter years of her precious life, stuck in the house, caring for me, maybe long into the future. She is surely entitled to her own natural span of life and to enjoy it. My total incapacity would be as brutal and upsetting for her as it would be for me.

It would be a wonderful final act of love for her to concur with my wishes and have me painlessly put out of my misery (legally, I hope), and with happy memories and no regrets.

No measuring the depth of his stupidity….

US anti-vaxxers are now urging people to drink their own urine to fight coronavirus! Over the weekend, Christopher Key, the leader of an anti-Covid-19 vaccine group called the “Vaccine Police”, posted videos online extolling the health benefits of what he described as “urine therapy”. According to the wizard of wee, there is “tons and tons of research … [and] peer-reviewed published papers on urine”; so if you do your own pee-search you will discover it is God’s own antidote to Covid-19. “This vaccine is the worst bioweapon I have ever seen,” Key said. “I drink my own urine!”

That is not the only questionable thing he does. Key was recently arrested for refusing to wear a mask and filming proceedings during a court hearing. The reason he was in court? He was arrested in April for refusing to wear a mask at a Whole Foods store. In August he made headlines for suggesting that pharmacists should be executed for administering coronavirus vaccines; in December he also set off on a road trip across the US with a fake badge and firearms, in a mission to arrest a Democratic governor over vaccine mandates. Very busy man, our Mr Key! I cannot help thinking that if his name was Mohammed his shenanigans would have had him locked up in Guantánamo Bay by now.

Key’s “urine therapy” is far from the only experimental – and highly dubious – Covid “cure” to be promoted during the pandemic. We all remember the former US president’s comments on the benefits of injecting bleach. Last year saw a prolonged bout of Ivermectin-mania. Now, along with urine, the right seems to be fixated on Viagra and colloidal silver. Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, who has repeatedly questioned the efficacy and safety of Covid vaccines, recently dedicated a portion of his show to hyping the potential of Viagra as a potential cure. Carlson seized on the story of a British nurse reportedly recovering from a Covid-19 coma, after being given a dose of Viagra, to sing the little blue pill’s praises. “Is there anything [Viagra] doesn’t cure?” Carlson joked. Yes, I am afraid it doesn’t appear to cure stupidity.(The Guardian 22 Jan 2022).

My comment: the above speaks for itself. Debating these people is pointless.

Epicureanism – the main beliefs

From time to time I post a short list of the main teachings of Epicurus:

1. The “Summum Bonum” or “Reason for Living” is happiness or pleasure. Happiness is peace of mind and body. It is tranquillity or undisturbedness (ataraxia), the quiet of a mind free from fear (or anxiety) and a body content with natural satisfactions.

2. Mental pleasure is better than bodily pleasure.

3. Mental pain (anxiety) is worse than bodily pain.

4. Quality of pleasure is more important than quantity of pleasure.

5. Fear causes mental disturbance.

6. Do not fear the gods: They do not concern themselves with human problems; nor do they reward or punish.

7. Do not fear death: Life is feeling or sensation; when life ends, there is no feeling (no pain); death does not hurt.

8. Do not fear physical nature: Nature is indifferent; the universe is but the motion and the mingling of atoms.

9. Exercise prudence: Although every pleasure in itself is good and every pain is evil, some pains should be endured for the sake of future pleasure and some pleasures should be forgone since they may lead to future pain.

10. Live simply and prudently (with self-control and moderation). Seek simple pleasures, those that satisfy natural and necessary desires. By nature we need food, drink, clothing, shelter, prudence (reason), and friendship.

11. Seeking luxuries (extravagant food, excessive drink, sexual love, and the like) creates anxiety in our minds and disturbance in our bodies.

12. Avoid excess of all kinds; simple pleasures (with a gentle motion of atoms) are preferable to painful excesses (with a violent motion of atoms).

13. Make friends: They provide security and pleasant conversation.

14. Avoid disturbing people. Stay in the Garden with your friends.

15. Make agreements with others (laws), so that you will not disturb one another.

16. There is no right or wrong (justice or injustice) outside of these agreements. Agreements (and justice therefore) differ from community to community. [cultural relativism]

17. Live justly (obey the laws), so that you will not have the anxiety of wondering if you will be caught and punished.

18. When you are old, think about the good times you have had. That will make up for bodily pain.

19. When you are young, think about the good that lies ahead. Do not fear the future. We can control some things, but we cannot control everything.

20. Dread (anxiety or fear) is worse than present bodily suffering. Present suffering soon passes; anxiety lasts a long time.

21. When enough security against other people is achieved, if one has enough power and material wealth as a base, then one can have the safety of a quiet life in solitude apart from the crowd.

(Compiled by Gordon L. Ziniewicz from Principal Doctrines, XIV)

Love comes within the purview of Epicureanism

Love

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediment; love is not love
which alters when it alteration finds
Or bends with the remover to remove.
Oh, no. It is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken.
It is the star to every wandering bark
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass comes.
Love alters not with his brief days and weeks
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and against me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare

My comment: There is nothing as magical, heart-warming, precious, reassuring and joyful as love. This sonnet came to mind watching thousands get sick and die of covid, unnecessarily, and owing to a lack of love and respect for others.

Fear of the future

More than half (57%) of child psychiatrists in England are seeing children and young people distressed by the climate emergency, as experts warn that eco-anxiety is growing among under-25s.

Although not yet considered a diagnosable condition, levels of “chronic fear of environmental doom” are likely to be underestimated, while international research has found anxiety is “profoundly affecting huge numbers of young people around the world”. (The Guardian 7 Oct 2021)

My comment: Who can blame young people? The media, almost daily, carries reports of massive floods, hurricanes or unseasonable temperatures – and these are still small beer compared with what people will face by mid-Century. What an individual can do about this seems petty and unimportant in the scale of things. My wife and I were discussing the other day the need for our car, used sparingly and certainly not every day. But the the alternatives are few and inconvenient. We discussed panels on the roof, but a massive tree obscures the sunshine. We eat less meat and are as frugal as possible. But we walk everywhere possible. Good for you, too.

Handwriting

Scrap handwriting?

A-level and GCSE exams should be typed on computers because prolonged periods of handwriting can be “tiring” for students, a headteacher has said. Keith Metcalfe, the head of the £9,000 per term Malvern College, has called on exam boards to drop compulsory handwritten exams for GCSEs and A-levels in favour of typed papers. He said the move would “improve fairness and accessibility for all”, adding that handwriting “has largely disappeared everywhere” and is “very antiquated”. ( The Guardian 23 Dec 2021)

My reaction: Are you serious? “Prolonged periods of handwriting can be “tiring” for students?”. Poor diddums! Your forebears have been writing exam essays etc for centuries! What Grandfather did without complaint you can do. Stop cosseting students!