I’ve been ruminating about the new draconian Texas anti-abortion law we discussed recently. I’m deeply disturbed by it, and its potential for damage to young mothers & fathers. Not every act of fornication should result in progeny1 which is the long term plan of these Christian Taliban zealots.
Birth control should be free as well, I expect the Christian Taliban to start exerting pressure on this next.
Quoting from Lawrence Tribe:
If you suspect that a Texan is seeking to obtain an abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy, not only will you be able to sue the provider to try to stop it, but if you succeed, you’ll also be entitled to compensation. (And what’s known as the litigation privilege would likely protect you from a defamation claim even if you’re wrong.)
I have not yet made the time to read S.B. 8 closely, but can reports be made anonymously? If so, every liberal minded person in the entire world should file a report naming some conservative woman, or the wife and daughters of a conservative man.
If reports cannot be made anonymously, there still must be a concerted effort to gum up the works, to throw a wrench in the gears so that the machinery of repression cannot move freely. Brave and dedicated women2 could claim to have abortions, whether or not they did, and report each other. If hundreds of thousands or even millions of women are being investigated by Ken Paxton’s Uterus Police™, they won’t be able to process them all.
We cannot let this madness continue.
Planned Parenthood could use your donation too:
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a new abortion ban into law
Sometimes referred to as the “heartbeat bill,” SB 8 is one of the most extreme abortion bans in the U.S. It would ban abortion in Texas at approximately six weeks — before most people even know they’re pregnant — with no exceptions for rape, sexual abuse, incest, and fetal anomaly diagnoses. For people with a regular menstrual cycle, that’s just two weeks after a missed period.
Abortion is still safe and legal throughout Texas and in all 50 states. Our health centers are open for patients to get the care they need, including medication and surgical abortion. Texas’ new abortion ban (SB 8) 8 is set to go into effect September 1, 2021, but we are now in court to challenge this extreme law.
Maybe the lawsuits will nip this vile legislative cruelty before it spreads across the nation, but we need a Plan B too…
and yes, speaking from personal experience, I am glad I came of age in a time after Roe v. Wade was settled law but before this current crop of zealots became powerful enough to impose their will on a reluctant public [↩]
In 1992, there was no MSNBC or Fox News, no Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok. Also, there weren’t many, if any, mainstream news organizations online. The Times didn’t start online publication until 1996, and then it was not the truly transformative force it would become.
I’ve been ruminating about 1992 lately1 – it was different from the current era in so many ways. Every paper I wrote for school was either long hand or on a typewriter. Nobody I knew owned a computer, nor a cellphone. Film cameras were the only kind of camera people owned. We had never heard of text messages, or websites, the list goes on and on. Such a radical shift in such a short period of time. Mostly for the better, but not always.
HIPAA, also known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, and its subsequently added Privacy Rule include provisions to protect a person’s identifying health information from being shared without their knowledge or consent. The law, though, only applies to specific health-related entities, such as insurance providers, health-care clearinghouses, health-care providers and their business associates.
That means that even if your friend, favorite restaurant or grocery store were to publicly share private details about your health, they would not be in violation of HIPAA because they aren’t one of the “covered entities,” Gatter said.
There are other federal and state confidentiality laws that may require employers and schools to protect your privacy. And, experts emphasized, there is nothing in HIPAA that bars asking people about their health — including vaccination status — or requiring proof that the information is accurate.
“It’s not really a prohibition on asking, it’s a prohibition against sharing,” said Kayte Spector-Bagdady, an associate director at the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan. The law, she added, “doesn’t mean you never have to tell anyone about your health information.”
HIPAA has become one of the “most misunderstood statutes in existence,” said Glenn Cohen, a Harvard Law School professor who is an expert on health law and bioethics. “People think it does a lot more than it’s actually doing.”
The misconceptions about the law likely stem from people widely using it in conversation as a “shorthand for privacy,” said Joshua Sharfstein, a public health professor at Johns Hopkins University. If someone is asked a question about their health that they view as intrusive, he said, they might say, “I can’t tell you because of HIPAA,” when what they actually mean is that they consider the information private.
Many people also seem to have a problem spelling HIPAA properly, and as one Twitter aficionado opined, perhaps this is a sign of long-haul COVID-19?
A little more than two weeks ago, the Chicago City Council took a bite at third-party delivery-service fees, imposing a 15% cap on fees that sometimes reached 30% previously.
Tuesday… DoorDash announced the imposition of a “Chicago fee,” a $1.50 charge added to all orders placed at city restaurants.
The new fee is charged to customers, not restaurants, so is not affected by the Chicago ordinance.
Customers ordering through DoorDash saw a $1.50 “Chicago fee” added to their orders. By clicking on that fee, the following explanation appeared:
Chicago has temporarily capped the fees that we may charge local restaurants. To continue to offer you convenient delivery while ensuring that Dashers are active and earning, you will now see a charge added to Chicago orders.”
A kind of fcku you to Chicago diners, I would say.
Chicago Alderman Scott Waguespack agrees with me:
“This disgraceful fee is an outright attempt to pass this IPO of $3 billion,” he said. “Just pile on more fees and pass their IPO; that’s the only thing I can think of.”
Calling it a Chicago fee might also cause customers to think the charge is a city charge, Waguespack said.
“They might think it’s the city dinging them for an extra $1.50,” Waguespack said. “It doesn’t say ‘DoorDash fee,’ it says ‘Chicago fee.’ I think that’s their intention — to stick it to the city.
“It’s that kind of vulture capitalism mentality — we can do it, so we’re going to do it,” Waguespack said. “The billions of dollars (via the IPO, if successful) isn’t enough; they have to take this too.”
Especially in light of:
The sudden onset of the pandemic in March sent the restaurant industry into a death spiral. Working in a notoriously low-margin business, many couldn’t withstand weeks of limited or no indoor dining. As a result, about one in six restaurants nationwide has closed permanently, and as of September nearly three million restaurant workers had lost their jobs.
Under pressure to pay rent and retain workers, some restaurants turned more of their attention to delivery, particularly from app-based companies like DoorDash, UberEats and Grubhub. Few restaurants that hadn’t done delivery in the past had the time or money to create their own delivery service, which typically brings in less money than dining rooms, where customers are more apt to order more profitable items like appetizers, desserts or a second round of drinks.
These restaurants have quickly found that the apps, with their high fees and strong-arm tactics, may be a temporary lifeline, but not a savior. Fees of 30 percent or higher per order cut eateries’ razor-thin margins to the bone. And a stimulus package that would bolster the industry has stalled in Congress, even as states and municipalities enact new limits on both indoor and outdoor dining.
…the fees are also funding a consolidation among the four largest players that together represent an estimated 99 percent of delivery market share and which will give them greater pricing power.
Though still unprofitable, Uber this month completed its acquisition of Postmates in a $2.7 billion deal. And DoorDash, also a money loser, is going public this week with hopes of raising more than $3 billion from investors. DoorDash’s I.P.O. will net already wealthy investors billions in profits, particularly galling as restaurants wither.
Dan Raskin, an owner of Manny’s Deli in Chicago, said his greatest frustration was the companies’ unwillingness to share customer information with him. That means he cannot verify their claims that they are bringing him new customers. Worse, they appear to be using that data to create competing virtual restaurants — which have no dining rooms, offer multiple cuisines from one location and operate only on the apps.
America didn’t have to have so many people die, as the example of Hong Kong proves…
This is the new normal in Hong Kong — both very different from before the virus and very different from an American-style lockdown.
Subway workers clean handrails frequently. Restaurants are open, with tables spaced five feet apart. Diners are often given a small paper bag in which to put their mask — so it doesn’t infect the table, or vice versa
Entrance to Hong Kong is limited mostly to residents, all of whom are tested and quarantined, even if the test is negative. And residents wear masks despite 90-degree heat. “They’re so hot,” Adrienne says. “But it feels second nature to me at this point.”
The most important point: Hong Kong’s strategy is working extremely well.
It hasn’t reported a new homegrown case in more than two weeks. Over all, only about 1,000 people — out of 7.5 million — have tested positive. Only four have died.
Via NYT newsletter.
Meanwhile, in one US area roughly the same population size as Hong Kong:
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced 2,122 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 176 additional deaths.…Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 65,962 cases, including 2,838 deaths, in 97 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have processed 13,139 specimens for a total of 346,286.
If only the US had competent leadership, and a president who trusted science and data, and we had ramped up testing back in February (or even January!)
Pliny’s eyewitness account of the 79 A.D. Vesuvius eruption tells us what happened, but the archeological remains conjure with agonizing intimacy the lives of those who perished.
[Pliny the Younger] wrote long letters to Trajan, asking whether he should do this or that. The letters took two months to arrive in Rome, and the answers took two months to get back. Reading them, you sense that Trajan often wished Pliny would just go ahead and make whatever decision seemed reasonable.
We do hear about some celebrated crimes: Agrippina, the Emperor Claudius’ wife, poisoning him in order to secure the succession for her son, Nero; Nero then killing Agrippina and also kicking his pregnant wife, Poppaea, to death. (That’s after he arranged for the poisoning of his stepbrother, Brittanicus.) Then, there’s Domitian, going off with, they say, whatever implement he had at hand, to terminate his niece Julia’s pregnancy, engendered by him. This, Dunn writes, inspired a locally popular ditty: “Julia freed her fertile uterus by many / an abortion and shed clots which resembled their uncle.” (Julia died from the procedure.) Next to such reports, the regular rubouts, as in the notorious Year of the Four Emperors, in 69 A.D.—Nero, to avoid execution, stabbed himself in the throat and was replaced by Galba, who was assassinated after seven months by the Praetorian Guard and succeeded by Otho, who ruled for three months before, faced with a rebellion, he committed suicide, yielding his place to Vitellius (soon murdered by the soldiers of Vespasian, but let’s stop there)—look like business as usual. Or they would seem so if they didn’t involve those little Cosa Nostra touches, such as a victim’s being found with his penis cut off and stuffed in his mouth.
I think I was 17 when I first read some Roman history, in a freshman level survey class at UT. I was amazed at how gossipy Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelve Caesars was. Such a contrast with the neutral tones of typical history textbooks, especially the ones that I had read in high school. Still fascinating…
As part of a longer article about “Steel rain” cluster artillery, John Ismay writes:
The Army’s first generation of artillery cluster shells was born out of the service’s bitter experience facing human wave attacks in the Korean War. A top-secret postwar program at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey raced to create a new generation of weapons it called COFRAM, for Controlled Fragmentation Munition. The idea was to design artillery shells that broke open in midair, dispensing little grenades that exploded in more uniformly sized pieces than earlier munitions did. The key, they found, was to score the inside walls of the grenade body in a crosshatch type of design. (The M67 fragmentation hand grenade still in use today is a direct descendant of the COFRAM program.) By blanketing large areas with smaller munitions, they hoped human wave attacks could be defeated.
These COFRAM munitions stayed largely under wraps until early 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson panicked over the possibility of North Vietnamese forces overrunning the Marine base at Khe Sanh. The president discussed the possibility of using small nuclear weapons with Pentagon leadership to defend the base, but his commander in Vietnam, Gen. William Westmoreland, suggested that nukes would not be necessary.
I can’t say I’ve ever read that particular factoid before – that LBJ was prepared to drop a nuclear bomb on Vietnam! I’d heard of rumors of Nixon considering this, but never Johnson. Perhaps I just missed this in all the history I’ve read. Still concerning.
Cannabis is legal for adults to consume in Illinois as of this morning. Amazing. I’d visited Amsterdam for a week in early 1990s, so I knew it was theoretically possible for governments to allow citizens the freedom to chose whether to consume plants, but I did not think it would happen in America in my lifetime. Happy to be proven wrong.
The Chicago Tribune reports:
Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton purchases edible gummies as Sunnyside Lakeview opens in the first minutes of legal recreational marijuana in Illinois.
Dispensary employees at Rise took orders from customers outside in line to speed up the process. There were outdoor heaters, and free coffee hats and gold bead medallions.
The dispensary also hired a steel drum player to play outside, adding a little “Red Red Wine” to the proceedings.
and this is among the good outcomes to Democrats winning elections:
On the day before recreational cannabis becomes legal in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced he was pardoning more than 11,000 people who had been convicted of low-level marijuana crimes.
“When Illinois’ first adult use cannabis shops open their doors tomorrow, we must all remember that the purpose of this legislation is not to immediately make cannabis widely available or to maximize product on the shelves, that’s not the main purpose, that will come with time,” Pritzker said to a crowd at Trinity United Church of Christ on the Far South Side. “But instead the defining purpose of legalization is to maximize equity for generations to come.”
The 11,017 people pardoned by Pritzker will receive notification about their cases, all of which are from outside Cook County, by mail. The pardon means convictions involving less than 30 grams of marijuana will be automatically expunged.
Pritzker and other elected officials said they believe Illinois is the first state to include a process for those previously convicted of marijuana offenses to seek relief upon legalization of cannabis.
They began lining up at 2 a.m. in the cold, with fold-up chairs and blankets in tow. By 6 a.m., when Dispensary33 in Andersonville opened, the line, composed of people from all corners of the city and beyond, stretched for more than five blocks.
Trevor Seyller of Lakeview was first in line to buy legal recreational weed as it went on sale for the first time in Illinois. He waited four hours in temperatures below freezing for “the fun of it” — and for history.
“It’s been a long time coming, this is an historic moment,” Seyller said.
Charlie Wells drove three hours from Madison, Wis. to be among the first few in the line. He said he skipped celebrating New Year’s Eve to take part in the state’s legalization of recreational marijuana.
“It’s the end of prohibition and it’s a lot safer than drinking,” Wells said. “I’m here because my state doesn’t have it yet.”
Dispensary33 — named for 1933, the year the prohibition on alcohol was lifted — is located at 5001 N. Clark St. To help patrons battle the cold, Dispensary33 put out a few propane heating lamps along the Argyle Street.
Personally, had plans to go join the party and photograph people in line, but decided to wait until tomorrow or even next week to visit a dispensary. My days of being an all day smoker are long gone. Don’t get me wrong, I plan on purchasing something from a dispensary in the near future, but I didn’t feel enthusiastic enough to brave the below-freezing weather to be first in line or anything. By spring, the supply shortage should be addressed, presumedly.
Kudos to Illinois! Time to queue up the Reefer songs!
I was lucky enough to be born in the international melting pot of Toronto, blessed to spent formative years in liberal university town Austin, and Chicago.1
I’ve met and become friends with immigrants and first generation Americans from every continent: Asia, Africa, North/South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Oceania (well, maybe not Antartica). In my experience, immigrants are not seeking to steal our precious bodily fluids, replace us in the workplace, or murder us in our sleep. Politicians who demonize immigrants are assuming their constituents don’t have human interactions with immigrants, or they’ll have a realization that people are just people.
Sort of like the cliche of the anti-LGBT politician who changes his harsh tune when his daughter comes out as gay.
note: cleaning out some never-published, half-written blog posts that have been saved in MarsEdit for a while [↩]
One day after Google CEO Sundar Pichai was questioned on data privacy during a House hearing, a group of 15 Democratic senators has proposed a new bill for protecting personal information online.
The Data Care Act, proposed by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and more than a dozen co-sponsors, including Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), would create new rules around how companies that collect user data can handle that information.
Under the act, data collectors would be required to “reasonably secure” identifying information, to not use that information in a harmful way, and to give notice to consumers about breaches of sensitive information. The requirement extends to third parties, if the data collectors share or sell that data with another entity, and the plan would also give the FTC new authority to fine companies that act deceptively with users’ data.
“Anytime you see anybody drive over (to) a vacant lot in a limo, you know it’s no good.”
When you’re a reporter trying to bring a complicated story to life, quotes like that — wry, sharply worded, evocative of a much larger scenario — are pure gold.
And in the promising, new Chicago-focused podcast “The City,” chronicling the battle over vacant lots in North Lawndale that became illegal dumping sites in the 1990s, lead reporter and narrator Robin Amer recognizes that quote for the gem that it is.
It comes from Gladys Woodson, one of the residents who tried to fight the illegal dumps, a story that would lead to FBI surveillance, court cases and a picture window into city corruption during the early years of the reign of the second Mayor Daley, the podcast asserts.
The first episode of “The City” debuts Monday, under the auspices of USA Today and available there and on iTunes, Stitcher and the like. In it, the host promises the first season’s Chicago illegal dump story will be one of “corruption, apathy and greed,” a story dark enough to stun even hardened city dwellers.
A measure that could dramatically expand access to medical marijuana in Illinois — making it available as an opioid painkiller replacement and easing the application process for all who qualify — was signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday.
The new law is a response to the epidemic of overdose deaths from narcotics, which killed almost 2,000 people in the state in 2016 and an estimated 72,000 people nationwide last year. It would allow doctors to authorize medical marijuana for any patient who has or would qualify for a prescription for opioids like OxyContin, Percocet or Vicodin.
No longer will any applicants have to be fingerprinted and undergo criminal background checks. And those who complete an online application with a doctor’s authorization will get a provisional registration to buy medical cannabis while they wait for state officials to make a final review of their request.
[Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health] said the elimination of background checks and fingerprinting for applicants goes into effect immediately, and all patients may now get provisional approval to buy medical marijuana immediately upon receiving a receipt for payment from the state health department.
But it will take the state until Dec. 1 to implement all the new rules for the program, and will take until early next year to develop a new system to monitor the program to make sure that opioid replacement patients don’t go to multiple dispensaries and don’t buy marijuana for more than 90 days at a time. The 90-day period can be renewed by patients’ doctors.
Patients who qualify for medical marijuana for something other than opioid replacement can maintain their authorization for three years.
And Rauner, being Rauner, changed the period of this access from 1 year to 90 days.
Legalize Marijuana: Cook County
Also, this seems like an important distinction for the upcoming election:
The pilot medical cannabis program is due to expire in July 2020. But state lawmakers have proposed legalizing recreational marijuana next year for those over age 18. The Democratic candidate for governor, J.B. Pritzker, supports the measure, while Rauner opposes it.
Ash and smoke are choking Seattle’s air for the second week in a row, as wildfires smolder in the Cascades and in British Columbia. The air quality in Seattle this week has been worse than in Beijing, one of the world’s most notoriously polluted cities.
As of Wednesday morning, the Air Quality Index in Seattle was at 190, a rating classified as “unhealthy.” In parts of the city, the index rose as high as 220, which is “very unhealthy.” Other parts of Puget Sound, like Port Angeles, Washington — 80 miles from Seattle — saw the AQI rise to 205 this week.
To put it in perspective, an AQI of 150 is roughly equal to smoking seven cigarettes in a day. People breathing air this unhealthy should avoid being outside and exerting themselves, particularly people with heart and lung problems, the elderly, and children.
And yet one of the two major political parties in the US is adamant that nothing can or even should be done to ameliorate the effects of climate change. A vote for the GOP is a vote for this kind of apocalyptic condition to worsen.
Fires are a natural occurrence in many woodlands and are essential to a healthy ecosystem. But the growing scale and destruction from these fires stems from human activity.
What kinds of human activity? According to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, environmental terrorists.
“[Fires] have been getting worse,” Zinke said in an interview with Breitbart News Saturday. “We have longer seasons, hotter conditions, but what’s driving it is the fuel load. And we have been held hostage by these environmental terrorist groups that have not allowed public access, that refuse to allow the harvest of timber.”
I asked the Interior Department who these terrorists are and they pointed me toward Zinke’s August 8 editorial in USA Today, where he said that radical environmentalists “make outdated and unscientific arguments, void of facts, because they cannot defend the merits of their policy preferences year after year as our forests and homes burn to the ground.”
Environmentalism is a recurring scapegoat in the Trump administration. Earlier this month, Trump blamed “bad environmental laws” for amplifying wildfires.
But researchers say this ire is pointed in the wrong direction. And in Zinke’s zeal to blame conservationists for deadly fires, he conspicuously sidestepped larger human-caused factors driving the current rash of wildfires, including climate change.
Nick Heer writes about a topic near and dear to our brains, albeit from the web developer side: why do websites load so slowly? And why is our personal data being sold without our informed consent?
The average internet connection in the United States is about six times as fast as it was just ten years ago, but instead of making it faster to browse the same types of websites, we’re simply occupying that extra bandwidth with more stuff. Some of this stuff is amazing: in 2006, Apple added movies to the iTunes Store that were 640 × 480 pixels, but you can now stream movies in HD resolution and (pretend) 4K. These much higher speeds also allow us to see more detailed photos, and that’s very nice.
But a lot of the stuff we’re seeing is a pile-up of garbage on seemingly every major website that does nothing to make visitors happier — if anything, much of this stuff is deeply irritating and morally indefensible.
Take that CNN article, for example. Here’s what it contained when I loaded it:
Eleven web fonts, totalling 414 KB
Four stylesheets, totalling 315 KB
Twenty-nine XML HTTP requests, totalling about 500 KB
Approximately one hundred scripts, totalling several megabytes — though it’s hard to pin down the number and actual size because some of the scripts are “beacons” that load after the page is technically finished downloading.
The vast majority of these resources are not directly related to the information on the page, and I’m including advertising. Many of the scripts that were loaded are purely for surveillance purposes: self-hosted analytics, of which there are several examples; various third-party analytics firms like Salesforce, Chartbeat, and Optimizely; and social network sharing widgets. They churn through CPU cycles and cause my six-year-old computer to cry out in pain and fury. I’m not asking much of it; I have opened a text-based document on the web.
An actual solution recognizes that this bullshit is inexcusable. It is making the web a cumulatively awful place to be. Behind closed doors, those in the advertising and marketing industry can be pretty lucid about how much they also hate surveillance scripts and how awful they find these methods, while simultaneously encouraging their use. Meanwhile, users are increasingly taking matters into their own hands — the use of ad blockers is rising across the board, many of which also block tracking scripts and other disrespectful behaviours. Users are making that choice.
They shouldn’t have to. Better choices should be made by web developers to not ship this bullshit in the first place. We wouldn’t tolerate such intrusive behaviour more generally; why are we expected to find it acceptable on the web?
An honest web is one in which the overwhelming majority of the code and assets downloaded to a user’s computer are used in a page’s visual presentation, with nearly all the remainder used to define the semantic structure and associated metadata on the page. Bullshit — in the form of CPU-sucking surveillance, unnecessarily-interruptive elements, and behaviours that nobody responsible for a website would themselves find appealing as a visitor — is unwelcome and intolerable.
All that “surveillance” stuff and related files are an abomination, and pleases no-one. I’ve heard anecdotal reports that even marketing savvy companies don’t frequently use all the data that is collected on their behalf. So who wants it? Unclear to me. I guess the third party data collection industry is happy to vacuum up this data because they can subsequently re-sell our information to the highest bidder, but that’s not a good enough reason to continue making web pages cumbersome.