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This Is Our Fault.

When I was in Jr. High School in Gaithersburg, MD a classmate walked up behind me and held a knife to my throat during a multi-class science lab experiment.

He said he was going to kill me because of something one of his friends told him I had said about him. I had not said it.

Three teachers pretended not to see this happening because they didn’t want to get involved in an altercation with this known troublemaker.

I managed to survive the encounter.

When we were brought before the school principal, this kid was told to dispose of his illegal switchblade knife and was suspended for two days.

My parents were not informed by the school, they did not find out until I told them.

That’s when we got the police involved for aggravated assault charges.

At different points during their investigation this kid tried to kill his mother, himself, and at least one cop. He would spend several years receiving mandatory inpatient psychiatric care.

Meanwhile, his friends decided to jump me one day after school for “ratting on him.”

I did not win that fight.

I also did not lose it.

As a result, the school administration thought my own use of extreme violence in self defense — thanks to martial arts training — against multiple attackers who were close friends with someone who had already tried to kill me warranted the necessity of me receiving psychiatric counseling in order to be allowed to stay in school.

To this day, 4 decades later, I still cannot sit comfortably with my back to a room and ever vigilant threat assessment is automatic.

Thankfully, this — and extreme discomfort wearing a tie with the knot pressing on my throat — is the extent of my PTSD from these attacks which I endured in the 7th grade.

Today, we train preschool kids to look for their emergency exits on playground areas and to not only know, but practice, what to do when bullets start flying on campus.

There is no point in their public lives from that moment on that they are not dealing with the same situational combat awareness stress that makes it difficult for war-time vets to readjust to normal day-to-day life when returning home.

This is our fault.

Because we refuse to reasonably regulate the right to bear arms.

If that boy had a gun instead of a knife, I would have died in a 7th grade science class.

And now we also add the trauma of complete strangers attempting to harm them through anti-public safety protocols — refusing vaccines, social distancing, and masks — during a pandemic health crisis as they cough and sneeze on grocery produce and in small spaces with recycled air. They assault retail and food service workers and flight attendants for trying to enforce the rules. They stand outside elementary schools and scream profanities and threats at educators and kids who are just trying to survive the day.

It’s a miracle any of these kids remain functional.

Some days, I think it’s a miracle I do, and I had it much easier than these kids today.

It’s All So Simple; Really, But Simple Ain’t Always Easy.

Over the past few weeks a lot of different news has been breaking, and the press and the people responsible for it want us all to view each instance as a separate, isolated, and unrelated occurrence, they are not. We have to put some pieces together to put them all in context with each other. If we do that, Things get pretty clear, and the solutions present themselves.

First, lets review a bit of well documented history, that is undisputed by anyone reputable enough to put forth any dispute of merit.

Several years back, multiple foreign interests saw a celebrity conman as a useful idiot they could put in power to serve their interests. They pursued several methods of doing so, ego stoking, funneling money through the NRA, employing a social media troll farm for influence, using hackers to attack our political party offices and election systems, and more. The son of a Supreme Court Justice Antony Kennedy funneled roughly a billion dollars of their money through Deutsche Bank loans that no legitimate bank officer would approve. And, they were successful beyond their wildest dreams.

Their useful idiot became the President of the United States, despite losing the general election by a considerable margin. He spent the next four years stoking racial hatred and political violence. He filled three seats on the Supreme Court with religious zealot personal loyalists with a combination of multiple ethics complaints and inexperience on the bench. One of those seats belonged to Justice Kennedy, who retired early just so this man could appoint his replacement while the Republican party controlled the approval process. He then went on to become personal responsible for more the deaths of more than half a million Americans by seizing on an opportunity to weaponize a global pandemic he thought would be limited to more urban, liberal areas, and controlled before it could spread. His inner circle of kleptrocrats used that opportunity to make a ton of money in illegal and/or unethical investments as they mishandled the national response and created an economic crises. Eventually, though, their misinformation efforts and anti-science, anti-knowledge campaigns backfired, and the virus started taking an even heavier toll on their own support base as vaccines became available. Then when it became clear he wasn’t going to be re-elected, he attempted to lead a violent overthrow of our Congressional system, and seize power for himself. He failed, but he succeeded in further dividing the country with violence, racism, and bigotry. In the process, the Republican senate made a mockery of not just one, but two impeachment trials to protect him.

Now we have a Supreme Court, one third of which was appointed by a violent insurrectionist, rewriting long established and settled law, starting with abortion rights.

During his tenure, the Republicans in state governments around the country have been passing hundreds of voter suppression laws and laws rolling back civil rights, social services, and more.

Republicans are hoping the compromised Supreme Court will uphold their efforts.

Then, after winning back the Presidency, as well as the House and Senate majorities, Democrats wasted nearly a year before pursing real investigations of those that planned and instigated the insurrection attempt, especially those still serving as Congressional peers. They held off on the trials of insurrectionists and cut deals that allowed them to plead out to non-felony charges to avoid more serious punishment, including the, at least temporary, loss of their own voting rights.

Worse yet, the allowed two of their own Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona, to hold the ability to achieve justice and make good on promises of progress hostage for their own personal gain.

The real solutions are simple, and should be bipartisan, if one party wasn’t actively trying to weaponize willful ignorance and hateful bigotry in order to entrench us all in corporate feudalism.

But, simple isn’t always easy.

Here are the things that need to be done now:

Close Ranks and Unify

The Democrat Party leadership needs to steamroll Manchin and Sinema, by taking some lessons of the Republicans to heart.

Schumer and Durbin need to tell them to get in line and do away with the filibuster in order to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For The People Act.

If the two refuse, then Schumer should strip them of all their Committee seats, severely hindering their power to influence legislation in development. They should eliminate all party support for their re-elections and divert it to candidates who will primary them and vote with the party on these vital issues.

Many people think that the threat of doing so will force them to switch parties, but this won’t happen. Neither of them will switch because doing so puts McConnell back in the Majority Leadership seat and eliminates both or their personal gain leverage as they become the 51st or 52nd member of the Republican majority and of no use at all to McConnell in passing or obstructing anything. They are two self centered and self serving to willingly render themselves irrelevant.

Get them in line and pass the bills required to make sure everything else being accomplished right now remains a lasting accomplishment, and not just a brief respite in the eye of the storm.

Fix The Court

Biden assembled nearly 3 dozen experts to form a commission in response to demands from Democrats to restore what they called ideological “balance” on the currently tainted court. They offered him a 300 page research paper that offers no specific recommendations.

So, here are my recommendations for what must be done:

Change the number of Supreme Court Justices is so there is a one to one ratio of Justices to US Appellate Court Districts.

That number is currently 13. Set term limits to be two times the number of judges, so 26 years.

Appoint one new judge every two years to replace the longest serving judge. If a judge dies or retires early, the President would then nominate, with Congressional approval, a temporary replacement to fill the seat until it would have come up in rotation, at which time the temporary nominee could be reconfirmed for their own term or replaced as scheduled.

This would prevent any one administration from being able to hold an imbalanced sway over the court for generations to follow.

Achieve Accountability

Censure and eject all those who participated in the planning and execution of the January 6th insurrection from both the House and Senate, and any governmental/state agency that they are currently working within.

Hold trials for all those who participated in the planning and execution of that insurrection, on the proper felony charges. Expedite the trials.

Disqualify all of them that are currently running for state and federal offices across the nation from ever holding political office again.

There is established legal precedent for all of the above.

Move On

For years now, we have been fighting against a small group of kleptocrats put in power by an adversarial foreign government to undermine democracy, dismantle the US government, and erode our international influence. And they have weaponized uninformed outrage, racism, religious bigotry, and misogyny to accomplish it.

If you take the time to look at all they have done, with that in mind, every single decision they have made over the last several years makes perfect sense.

Only by accomplishing the things outlined above can we begin to address our collective moral injury as a nation and society and begin to heal from the damage they have caused.

This is how we address the ongoing #StochasticTerrorism of the Republican party and begin to course correct our #Culturalinertia.

It’s Been A Busy Week

Four days ago, for a variety of reasons, I posted a farewell message to my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/timsnews) after nine years of dedicating my blood, sweat, and tears to keeping it going well, and doing so with no real compensation.

There were several private personal issues that played into the decision of how I need to allocate my time and effort going forward, but those were all secondary to the fact that at the beginning of 2016, this page was reaching nearly half a million individual users a day.   Now, with nearly twice as many followers as then, it barely reaches 5,000 a week.  This is a direct result of Facebook’s (now Meta’s) algorithms intentionally quashing the voice of progressive and/or humanist advocates.

As a result of all of this, and other changes to how the Facebook user interface works, the page has evolved a few times over the years, going from a place of user engaged discussion and debate of meaningful issues, to me just posting brief commentary on specific news links, and the few people that still engaged doing so simply by clicking a generalized emoticon reaction button instead of processing their thoughts on the issue for a meaningful response.

Since posting that message, quite a few people who have never openly engaged before let me know publicly and privately how much the page has meant to them, that meant a lot.

Also, several extremely major news stories broke each validating much of my efforts here over the last few years.

Trump’s Chief of Staff published a new book exposing that Trump tested positive for COVID 3 days prior to his live debate with Biden in 2020.  Meaning that he was “patient zero” for the Super Spreader event celebrating his appointment of Amy Cohen Barrett to the Supreme Court and several other events that week, all of which he attended unmasked while hugging the guests.  It also shows that his crowding Biden’s personal space during the debate was an intentional and malicious effort attempting to infect Biden.  And every one of his immediate family members and staff, unmasked in the audience, were doing something similar.   After backlash from Trump, the author, said in a news interview that his own book was “Fake News.”

A former ranking member of the DOJ choose to plead the 5th in front of a Congressional committee rather than answer questions that would expose his own criminal involvement in the January 6th insurrection.   This has been handed over to the current AG for Contempt of Congress charges.

Meanwhile a Supreme Court bench sent the signal that it fully intends to strip women of what remaining personal health autonomy they already have, and in the process set the new precedent for states to completely disregard any and all federal laws and regulations they choose.

You might remember Trump in his debate with Hillary Clinton declaring that he would fill the bench with judges that would overturn Roe v. Wade.   And here we are.

Despite the fact that during his confirmation to the Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh convinced Sen. Susan Collins that he thought a woman’s right to an abortion was “settled law” calling the court cases affirming it “precedent on precedent” that could not be casually overturned.  And during her own confirmation, Amy Coney Barrett told senators that laws could not be undone simply by personal beliefs, including her own.

In both cases Senators like Susan Collins choose to believe their lies under oath, rather than see the reality of their previous rulings and opinions and op-ed papers, and Trump’s stated intent and confirm them anyway.

As a result, we now have a Supreme Court bench, one third of which, was appointed by a man who attempted to lead a violent overthrow of our government, actively reinterpreting Constitutional law and legal precedent from a fascist White Nationalist perspective.

The legal team Trump assembled to wage his “Stop the Steal” court battles has turned on each other so deeply that they’re publicly exposing each others crimes, and all are now under investigation.  They also lost a major ruling in Michigan as a result of these frivolous lawsuits.   And outlets like Fox News and NewsMax are tearing themselves apart trying to figure out who they’re supposed to support and who they’re supposed to attack.

During this brief four day span, we also learned that the mother of the latest school shooting wrote an open later in 2016 to Trump thanking him for giving her the right to bear arms.  The weapon the boy used was only purchased by the father four days before the methodical and deliberate massacre.   This was a direct result of the incessant #StochasticTerrorism efforts from Trump and his supporters.  The young man is now being charged as an adult with murder and terrorism charges.  His parents are both being charged with involuntary manslaughter as well.

And over the years, each and every one of those things was predicted by the posts on this page, and then discussed again as they were happening in real time.   This, along with your heartfelt responses, further validated my work and effort here and helped me come to a realization.

I started the Facebook page and this blog site for me, they were a place for me to process my thoughts on important and difficult issues, which over the years evolved into an attempt to combat willful ignorance by keeping myself and others informed.   One of the key ways I found to do that was to expose the aspects of our #culturalinertia that were holding us back as a society offering suggestions on how we need to shift them in the proper direction.   At the same time writing about it and informing others became a form of personal therapy to work through my own “Moral Injury.”  If you don’t know what that is, you should.   I strongly believe that we as a collective society are all suffering from this shared PTSD.   Learn more here:  https://www.ptsd.va.gov/…/cooccurring/moral_injury.asp=

So, I realize now, I need to keep doing my writing and sharing it with anyone that I can reach, which means instead of shutting the page down, it is time for it to evolve once again.

I will keep this page open, along with my Twitter page @timelytopics.  Of late, I have been over-posting to Facebook and under-posting to Twitter.  To solve both those issues, instead of posting so many different news articles with their own separate lead in comments, I will be writing a couple cumulative blog entries on this WordPress page https://tims-news.com/ and posting the links to these social media accounts, you can follow on whichever of the three platforms you prefer.

These blog entries will be more similar in structure to the postings I have shared with you recently from Dr. Heather Cox Richardson, and I will allow more of my personal writing voice to be present in my commentary on the issues (as all of my blog posts have done) than my postings here normally have contained.  Expect to find a lot more humor and sarcasm embedded that those of you that don’t know me personally are accustomed to from me.

If you appreciate the work and effort, and are willing to make a donation to cover the expenses of the news subscriptions I use to keep the information here flowing, you can do so at either PayPal: paypal.me/timelytopics or Venmo: timelytopics@gmail.com

Space, The Final Frontier

Space has been in the news quite a bit recently as the world’s richest men vie for control of the future of space travel.

Jeff Bezos already wants to open an office park offering wealthy executives the most expensive business commute in history and an exclusive place to shop for things that have to be shipped up from Earth on the same transports. His ultimate goal is for this “Orbital Reef” business park to replace the International Space Station (ISS).

Elon Musk wants to avoid paying taxes that would be used by the current Presidential administration to improve life here on Earth, especially in the United States, because he wants to use that money instead to “get humanity to Mars and preserve the light of consciousness.”

Major nations that used to control the world’s access to space are already outsourcing their space travel and satellite repair and maintenance needs to the companies run by these men. Just this month Russia announced it will be contracting SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to transport Russian cosmonauts between Earth and the current ISS until their participation on the station comes to an end. Meanwhile, the companies run by Bezos and Musk are embroiled in legal battle over providing contract services to the United States’ NASA.

Private companies like Verizon are already lining up to pay these companies to place their own communication satellites into orbit, a service that used to be handled by NASA.

All this has been happening, while China has reportedly launched a new satellite that analysts say can be used as a weapon capable of grabbing and crushing they do not control.

Throughout these developments, we have heard remarkably little from former President Trump’s overhyped U.S. Space Force.

Various news sources have been busy reporting on multiple different aspects of all of this, but there remain a few aspects and connections to other news that they all seem to be trying hard to avoid exploring.

The details hidden in those gaps; though, are innately obvious to those who have followed science fiction stories, novels, and movies over the years.

To us, it is not at all surprising that there has been a strong resurgence of dangerous fascist right-wing Nationalism as we are on the verge of both true space travel capabilities and the beginning of true multinational climate disasters.

As contention for dwindling non-renewable resources escalate, control of the territories that still have reserves of such resources will be guaranteed global superiority, if they can successfully defend them.

Later, when the resources have been depleted the only option for survival will be escape.

At that point the nation or corporation that control access to space travel and the ability to create food and water in space will also control the policy, priorities, and governance of any future the human race may have beyond Earth.

Nations and borders on any individual planet are rendered meaningless when commerce and survival become dependent upon space travel, even more so when it extends beyond orbital spaceships to interplanetary or interstellar travel.

While the culmination of this is not likely to come about in my lifetime, it is entirely possible that these issues will reach their critical peaks within the lifetime of my own children.

A Field Guide to Changing the #Culturalinertia – Part 3

I am long overdue with the release of this third part in our Field Guide to Changing the #Culturalinertia. Follow these links to find parts One and Two. It wasn’t from a lack of trying. I had an essay planned for release in January of this year following the victory of Georgia’s Democrats in securing their national Senatorial seats and also securing what should have been a true Democrat majority in the Senate.

That article was going to address the historical origins of systemic and societal racism in America, how it is perpetuated, and how we could and should have been using a democratic control of both the legislative and executive branches of our federal government for whatever time that control could be maintained. It was going to begin with Abraham Lincoln’s misguided decision to embrace confederate leadership and their “Lost Cause” efforts for the sake of “compromise” instead of allowing them to languish in defeat. Thus began the trend of allowing treasonous generals and politicians into congressional leadership, naming military bases after those same treasonous people, the establishment of Jim Crow laws and sundown towns, the creation of the DoJ to protect civil rights and deal with the KKK terrorists cells and the subsequent subversion of the federal law enforcement agency to be used as tool against any progressive progress made on behalf of People of Color, culminating in today’s school to prison pipeline feeding mass incarceration for privatized prison labor profiteering.

It was a lengthy article that I have deleted and rewritten several times since then because it was scheduled to be released on January 7th, 2021. However, the day prior, a large group of White Nationalists answered the incessant Stochastic Terrorism calls of Donald Trump, leading Republicans, and nearly all conservative media outlets to attempt a murderous insurrection to interfere with the certification of a presidential election and overthrow the legislative branch of our government while planning to assassinate both the Republican vice president and several of our elected Democrat members of Congress along with a few Republican members like Mitt Romney of whom they disapproved.

Every day for weeks after that there were new pertinent additions to be made and the essay morphed into a dissertation.

One of the most telling being that despite the win in Georgia, the Democrats had not truly obtained a Senate majority. Because two right wing conservatives had been elected by their states as Democrats; Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona. Through their refusal to help end the filibuster process, which was originally created as a tool for conservatives to fight against civil rights reforms and is still being used primarily for that same purpose, they have thwarted nearly all major important efforts of the Biden administration without the need of real effort at opposition by the Republicans.

Every time I thought my revisions were done and it was time to release it, new developments would immediately arise within the obvious injustice of the lack of consequences not only for those who perpetrated the offenses but also for those who incited them to it for their own political profiteering purposes.

After months of revisions and rewrites, I have come to an important realization regarding the never ending fight for equity of opportunity and justice. There are a few common recurring points for each side of the political debate on every issue throughout every examination of this fight at every stage of history.

Throughout American history the nation’s conservatives have been working to undermine or eliminate all progressive reforms, all attempts at multicultural equity of justice, and all attempts to establish and secure social safety and security. They strive to maintain gerrymandering, systemic oppression, redlining, and inequality based on gender, ethnicity, and religion.

They feign ignorance to divert the debate to petty points instead of real solutions. They fund and cite pseudoscience to present as real science. They resort to overt lies, which they now call “alternative facts,” gaslighting, cherry picking data, and as many other logical fallacies as they an get away with to control the framing narrative of debate. They have started a civil war and an insurrection, both based on White Nationalist racism.

At the same time, throughout all of American history, the nations liberals and progressives have worked on the assumption that reaching some form of bipartisan compromise with them is vital on every single issue.

That latter, more than anything else, is the true fatal failure of our current system.

The entire political platform of modern Republicans is to maximize suffering and death. It is the reason they fight against all efforts to establish social security, SNaP, CHiP, health care assistance, housing assistance, public health safety, environmental protections, consumer protections, worker safety regulations. It is why they constantly raise taxes on average people while eliminating them for the ultra wealthy and large corporations. They have even courted the assistance of adversarial foreign governments to accomplish it.

So, the next step in our Field Guide to Changing the Cultural Inertia is to stop seeking ways to compromise with those who harbor evil intent.

Until we have made that step, we are letting the terrorists set the terms of our future.

Time For The Hard Questions

Multiple states are passing new abortion laws in an attempt to pressure the Supreme Court to overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling and they are also passing other “trigger laws” which cannot legally be enacted now but are scheduled to take effect 30 days after that ruling is overturned.  Texas never even repealed its abortion law that Roe v. Wade was about, it is still on the books and will take effect immediately upon reversal of the Supreme Court decision. There are several others states that are in a similar situation.

Below we will attempt to engage in some critical thinking with some thought exercise discussion prompts.  In order to help with this, we will need to make a few important stipulations.  First, we will refer to the two major stances as Pro-Choice and Anti-Choice, because those are the true essential stances.  Those who adhere to a Pro-Choice stance are not Anti-Life and are not Pro-Abortion, with few exceptions they would advocate for a choice of carrying to term but would consider abortion a viable option as one of those choices based on a variety of factors. The extent of those factors is open to debate within this group.  Those who adhere to an Anti-Choice stance do so often by professing it is a Pro-Life stance, some are open to exemptions from their ban on abortions for rape, incest, developmental disorders, and/or health concerns for the mother or unborn fetus, many others are not open to any exemptions at all.  I urge you as we focus on the legal and scientific aspects of this, as well as the religious doctrine and moral arguments, to try to leave your emotional triggers and logical fallacy arguments at the door.

The Constitutional Issues

The primary holding of the Supreme Court’s ruling was:

“A person may choose to have an abortion until a fetus becomes viable, based on the right to privacy contained in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Viability means the ability to live outside the womb, which usually happens between 24 and 28 weeks after conception.”

https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/410/113/”

That due process clause is section 1 of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which states:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxiv

Based upon this, we can see that the Constitutional rights of personhood begin at birth on American soil or naturalization as an American citizen for an immigrant.

Many of these Anti-Choice laws being created and passed are extending the rights of personhood to the fetus prior to birth; in many cases even before the actual brain or heart of the fetus has developed into a functional form.

For this to be legal, it would require another Constitutional amendment moving the point of personhood protections to prior to birth. 

This raises some questions that must be clarified under the law.

  1. At what point do the rights of the fetus and its health concerns overrule the rights of the pregnant woman?
  2. Would the fetus of all pregnant women have to be counted as a person during census taking and all legal decisions based upon census totals once personhood rights are established?
  3. Do parents get a child tax credit/refund if filing prior to birth once personhood rights are established?
  4. Is the fetus counted towards family SNaP nutrition benefits, housing assistance, and other social safety net programs once personhood rights are established?

Non-Constitutional Legalities

Pennsylvania just advanced multiple bills in their legislature that will, if passed, require women who miscarry to file a fetal death certificate with the state authorities and open those same women up to imprisonment for a miscarriage.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a controversial bill that bans nearly all abortions into law Wednesday evening.

It’s considered the most restrictive abortion law in the United States. The law makes it a crime for doctors to perform abortions at any stage of a pregnancy, unless a woman’s life is threatened or there is a lethal fetal anomaly.

Under the new law, doctors in the state face felony jail time up to 99 years if convicted. But a woman would not be held criminally liable for having an abortion.

Texas Governor Abbott took a slightly different approach, signing this week another of the nation’s strictest abortion measures, banning procedures as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Instead of having the government enforce the law, the bill turns the reins over to private citizens — who are newly empowered as unofficial agents of the state — to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps someone get an abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. The person bringing the suit would not have to be connected to someone who had an abortion or to a provider to sue.  It does not include any exemption for rape, incest, or health concerns.  

Under this law, the pregnant woman seeking an abortion cannot be punished, but any “concerned citizen” can sue any family or doctor that helps someone receive one.  Any unfriendly vindictive neighbor or coworker, any religious zealot, can file such a lawsuit.  Even a rapist or sexual abuser within a family could legitimately bring such a suit.

The entire purpose of all of these laws is to further punish women who have already been traumatized by abuse or miscarriage, for their “failure” as an incubator.

This is going to lead to a huge increase in suicides among pregnant women and girls who see no other way out of an already impossible situation due to familial, health, and economic concerns after finding out they are pregnant.

The Science Issues

Most women do not know they are pregnant until they have missed at least one of their menstrual cycles, for those who already experience an irregular cycle it may even be more.  So, these plans pushing bans on abortion to as early as six weeks are pushing the window for a decision prior to the point where many women will even know they are pregnant and far before they will know about pregnancy related health conditions or fetal development problems.

The argument for the six week ban is based on the point at which what is called a fetal heartbeat can be heard on a fetal heart monitor.  But this isn’t an accurate assessment of development.  At this stage what can be heard is a throbbing pulsation of blood through fetal tissue that has not yet developed its own heart and is far from developing its own brain, let alone human cognition.

British researchers analyzed scans of the hearts of healthy fetuses in the womb and found that the heart has four clearly defined chambers in the eighth week of pregnancy, but does not have fully organized muscle tissue until the 20th week.

This is much later than expected, according to the study published Feb. 20 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface Focus.

Previous studies of early heart development in humans have been largely based on other mammals — such as mice or pigs — as well as adult hearts and samples from dead people.

The data being collected by the University of Leeds-led team is being used to create a computerized simulation of fetal heart development. This will help improve understanding about normal heart development in the womb, and could lead to new ways to detect and treat some fetal heart problems early in pregnancy, according to the researchers.

Human fetuses have a regular heartbeat beginning at about 22 days of pregnancy, which is one reason why the researchers were surprised to find that there is little organization of human heart cells until 20 weeks of pregnancy.

“Fetal hearts in other mammals such as pigs, which we have been using as models, show such an organization even early in gestation, with a smooth change in cell orientation going through the heart wall. But what we actually found is that such organization was not detectable in the human fetus before 20 weeks.” 

https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=167987

The Supreme Court decision mentioned above based their determination for the cutoff for legal abortions on the medical viability of the fetus, or its possibility of survival.  Even at that point, and with the medical advancements in the nearly five decades since, survival is far less likely prior to 24 weeks, the majority of those delivered extremely premature do not survive, and the majority of those that do survive have long term — often lifelong — developmental issues requiring extensive and expensive care. 

Medical advances mean that we are getting better at treating preterm babies but the chances of survival still depend on gestational age (week of pregnancy) at time of birth.

  • Less than 22 weeks is close to zero chance of survival
  • 22 weeks is around 10%
  • 24 weeks is around 60%
  • 27 weeks is around 89%
  • 31 weeks is around 95%
  • 34 weeks is equivalent to a baby born at full term.

The Religious Issues

The United States is supposed to be a nation fundamentally based upon the Freedom of Religion. The ideal being that you are free to practice whatever religious beliefs you hold as long as the practice of them brings no harm to people with other beliefs; and they are too. This means you can worship the Aztec gods if you choose to, but you cannot go take a prisoner and offer them up in a ritual sacrifice. It also means you can’t stone someone in public because they have committed what your religion considers a sin.

Those that are atheist or agnostic do not hold the same religious objections as those who are and their decision either way has no bearing upon others at all.

But the religious concept of the beginning of life varies greatly from religion to religion. For example, the Jewish believe that life begins with the first breath. This is why Israel has legalized abortion for years within their nation’s universal health care. Since it is funded by the government, the argument could be made that American military fund assistance to Israel helps subsidize it They were even exempted from Trump’s presidential ban on foreign aid to countries that allow such procedures within their government’s health care programs.

What happens under these laws if a Jewish doctor performs an abortion for a pregnant Jewish woman or girl and then claims the religious exemptions that the Supreme Court has recently been upholding to avoid punishment?

The Catholic church has long had a stance against abortion as well as against all forms of birth control that might prevent a birth or conception.

However, the anti-Choice movement of American Evangelicals is far more recent. The most prominent myth about the origin of their embrace of the movement is that it was in response to the aforementioned Supreme Court ruling. But this simply isn’t true.

“In fact, the Southern Baptist Convention, they actually passed resolutions in 1971, 1974 and 1976 – after Roe v. Wade – affirming the idea that women should have access to abortion for a variety of reasons and that the government should play a limited role in that matter, which surprised us. The experts we talked to said white evangelicals at that time saw abortion as largely a Catholic issue. [The real answer is} in short, desegregation. Two years before Roe v. Wade, in 1971, there was a Supreme Court case [Green v. Connally] that began to pull white evangelicals into politics.”

https://www.npr.org/2019/06/20/734303135/throughline-traces-evangelicals-history-on-the-abortion-issue

For those that don’t realize it, Southern Baptists have a long history of racism and segregation, which the leadership has in recent years denounced, but the church members have been slow to embrace that rejection.

In fact, it was Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, who saw the Roe v. Wade ruling as an opportunity to get the racism of the White Evangelicals politically energized by allowing them a lynchpin single issue voter stance that would mask their racist motivations against racial desegregation in a time when the federal government was openly expanding civil rights for people of color.

“The new political philosophy must be defined by us [conservatives] in moral terms, packaged in non-religious language, and propagated throughout the country by our new coalition,” Weyrich wrote in the mid-1970s. “When political power is achieved, the moral majority will have the opportunity to re-create this great nation.” Weyrich believed that the political possibilities of such a coalition were unlimited. “The leadership, moral philosophy, and workable vehicle are at hand just waiting to be blended and activated,” he wrote. “If the moral majority acts, results could well exceed our wildest dreams.” But this hypothetical “moral majority” needed a catalyst—a standard around which to rally. For nearly two decades, Weyrich, by his own account, had been trying out different issues, hoping one might pique evangelical interest: pornography, prayer in schools, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, even abortion. 

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/religious-right-real-origins-107133

This requires us to ask:

If this religious belief is not a deeply held matter of religious doctrine for your religion, but a political construct of White Nationalism and White Supremacy, how exactly can anyone who is not inherently racist continue to adhere to it as a religious objection?

For those whose objections stem from a professed Pro-Life belief, we can see the fallacy for anyone who does not also support pro-life stances for the already living.

A Pro-Life religious stance claiming that it is a mortal sin to take a life, would also require opposing war and the death penalty, as well as advocating for doing everything possible to make sure all the living had access to at least a bare minimum of health care, food, and shelter for all people, regardless of their own religious beliefs or ethnicity. Then there is also the consideration of unplugging someone who is on life support and brain dead, how is the argument different for a fetus that has not yet developed a functioning brain?

The Moral Implications

All of the above requires us to examine our moral stances and justifications, whether we consider ourselves to be Pro-Choice or Anti-Choice.

At what point of development should a fetus be considered a legal citizen with the constitutional protections of personhood? Is it when there is a fetal heart beat, a real heart beat, a developed brain, the first actual breath?

At that point, do the rights and concerns for protecting that fetus outweigh or override the rights and concerns of protecting the pregnant woman carrying it?

Since the fetus is both unaware and unable to make informed medical decisions for itself, should each pregnant mother apply for full medical conservatorship of their fetus in order to circumvent the laws.

What rights should the biological father have in such a decision, especially if the pregnancy was the result of rape or forced incest?

What if the parents have different religious beliefs; whose take priority? Is the answer a matter of who will have to carry the pregnancy or is it a matter of giving one religion a higher legal standing and precedent over others?

Shouldn’t the punishments for incest, rape, and sexual assault be far more severe than the punishment for an abortion resulting from such an attack?

Any claims that a woman or girl who has been impregnated should be forced to carry to term and put the baby up for adoption ignores the the health and economic issues that may make that impossible and the roughly 100,000 to 125,000 children in orphanages and foster care each year that do not get adopted for various reasons. Shouldn’t we find a way to properly take care of them before adding to their ranks?

These are not the only questions, and none of them are simple, but they must be answered.

Until they are, these laws are nothing but a war on women and often one that is deeply entrenched in a history of racial hatred and oppression.

Are you certain?

For the first few years of life, people learn by trial and error as they experience the world around them.

We use our five primary senses to determine what is safe, what gives comfort, what we like, what we dislike, and what we fear.

Through pattern recognition we apply this accumulated knowledge to make educated guesses to determine where other things we encounter will fit into our accumulated, but limited, individual experience.

In this way we are much like every other animal species on the planet that has the ability to retain memory.

However, once we learn to communicate with others of our species this methodology of learning is set aside by almost all of us, for almost all learning needs.

From that point on, we are social learners.

We learn from our parental role models, our siblings, our other family members, our friends (who learned the same way we did), our teachers, our entertainers, our scientists, and authors, etc…

We continue to accept knowledge — even when it is inaccurate — from those for whom we have built trust.  And, we reject knowledge — even when it is accurate — from those for whom we have not developed trust.

As a result nearly every belief you hold as an adult human; whether scientific, cultural, religious, or other; has been implanted and shaped by the learning and opinions of others.

Even when we say we are doing research on an issue, most of us are not running double blind studies to test our theories.  We are instead scouring the available research findings and opinions of others and filtering through it to find something that rings true to us based upon our previous accumulated knowledge.

The great part of this is that we are capable of learning from the experiences of others without having to have had each and every one of those experiences ourselves. 

This is how humanity has been able, and will continue, to advance.

The worst part about this is that it is how implicit bias is passed.  That along with the tendency of social learners to develop conformity bias within our families, communities and professions, also means we often filter out truth because it doesn’t fit our experience and developed biases.

Once one of our trusted social groups has collectively embraced an idea, nobody wants to be the person who raises their voice in challenge. 

This is how the pseudo-sciences that perpetuate racism and gender bias persist across generations.

This is how misinformation and disinformation of demagogues becomes embraced by masses of people.

Our collective embrace of the Internet, specifically social media, as an instantaneous global learning tool has exposed the best and the worst of our social learning habits.

Anyone attempting to change the world, or even the hearts and minds, of a few people within it, needs to understand it takes more than being right to break through the barriers of implicit and conformity biases.

The irony is that humans are uniquely capable of reason, but our ability to reason is inherently flawed due to our methodology of learning, and that methodology is the primary reason we have advanced beyond other species.

So, we are presented, here, with a new #Culturalinertia challenge.

As you engage with the modern news, which is increasingly opinion analysis of current events, rather than a strict reporting of those events, ask yourself some questions?

Do I trust this source of information?

Why or why not?

Is that trust or lack of it why I believe or disbelieve the information presented, or am I able to separate that trust issue in order to truly evaluate the information without bias?

Now, apply this same logic to how you evaluate and accept or reject the narratives of others telling us of their own personal experiences with various forms of injustice and discrimination, or mental health and addiction challenges.

Learn to recognize how your own biases interfere with your learning and developed beliefs and then you will start to be able to push through the conformity bias of the groups you engage with to make real, meaningful change.

For anyone wanting to learn more about this, I would direct you to the work of Cailin O’Connor and James Owen Weatherall and their book “The Misinformation Age: How False Beliefs Spread.”

Creating A Better Normal

As part of our ongoing exploration of recognizing where our #CulturalInertia is holding us back and determining what needs to be done to break free, today we need to take a look at some important steps to avoid returning to a broken normal and create a better normal to move forward with as we come out of the pandemic that has exposed many of the flaws with our old normal.

Let’s start by taking a look at what we know now was broken about our old normal:

The United States has the greatest availability of advanced medical treatment in the world, and the least accessibility to it for the majority of its citizens of the modernized nations.

Many more jobs than we thought can be done as effectively, possibly even more effectively, while working remotely.

Jobs we thought were essential for the survival of our citizenry and economy turned out to not be as essential as we thought, and those in jobs our society undervalues and mistreats turned out to be vital to our day to day survival as a nation and as a people.

Tying the availability of health care access to employment turned out to be disastrous in the midst of a public health crisis that led to an economic crisis as many businesses abandoned their workers and thereby eliminated their ability to afford care.

Our nation has far more abandoned and empty houses than it has homeless people, and yet we refuse to house those homeless. We could house every single homeless family and still have millions of abandoned homes left over for migrant refugees attempting to find a path to citizenship.

Our schools, whether in person or remote, are designed as a one size fits all teaching methodology that forces all kids to conform to standardized criteria rather than teaching critical thought and real life skills. This is the result of years of corporate lobbying to churn out a workforce rather than enhance the evolution of a culture.

Teachers are underpayed and undervalued by a society that demeans their work with comments like “those who can’t do, teach” and a constant assault on educated expertise as elitist. As a result the best teachers burn out quickly to the detriment of those they teach.

Workers are terrified of losing access to health care and other vital necessities due to increasing automation of their job functions, because employers don’t have to pay computers and robots overtime or health benefits or provide them with sick leave and paid vacation. Computers and robots don’t file workman’s comp claims and hostile work environment lawsuits.

That’s just a quick overview of some the major problems with our old normal.

So, what might a new normal look like?

Let’s take a look at a few things.

Imagine the true freedom created for the people of “The Land Of The Free” if we could make this thought exercise a reality.

Embrace work automation. Allow and encourage every single job that can be automated to be.

End all corporate tax avoidance loopholes and increase the tax rate for businesses that draw over a few million net profit per year.

Create a single payer universal health care program that separates health care from employment, freeing corporations from having to provide and fund health insurance packages for their employees as well as eliminating the insurance premiums that consumers pay just to be insured, the vast majority of which funds the insurance companies business model, not the actual health care.

The health insurance industry could still thrive as a supplemental insurance covering voluntary procedures outside the scope of the government subsidized care.

Establish an income tax free minimum living wage universal income for all adults.

All people would then be free to pursue their own actual interests with their time and money. The vast majority would seek out training and work in the fields that actually interested them to supplement their income, instead of just choosing to work anywhere that would give them the paycheck and health care to survive long enough to work more.

Any income above and beyond the universal minimum living wage would be taxable.

Primary education could return to a focus on developing critical thinking and life skills, rather than churning out a economic workforce. A renewed focus on STEAM education; Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math; instead of the artless approach of STEM, thus renewing the nurturing of creativity across all fields of study. It could even proceed at an individualized pace instead of a uniform pace measured by one sized fits all testing.

Make state funded colleges tuition free for those who want to pursue a higher education. Private colleges could still charge whatever they wanted, but would need to find ways to further enhance their curriculum and experience to entice students from the state colleges to give those students a higher return on their investment.

Companies would have to compete for quality employees in those positions that could not effectively be automating, providing opportunities for those with a focused interest and ability in such fields to advance both themselves and their employers while increasing their available income for their families.

Imagine the productivity and creative advancement of such a society.

One where every one who was working actually wanted to be there and was appreciated and rewarded well for being there.

One where the arts and entertainment were advanced by nurturing the creativity of those drawn to them and they had the time and ability to seek the training to enhance their skillsets.

One where people were freed to focus on raising their kids instead of depending on schools to do so while they toil away at seemingly meaningless and thankless work just to survive.

One where the impoverished were not forced to choose which necessities of life to live without each month, or turning to crimes of necessity, just to survive.

Every individual that wanted to could become a sole proprietor of a small business for others interested in the goods or services they were interested in creating to purchase. If successful they’d supplement their income, if not, there would be no harm done to anyone and they’d still survive to pursue their other interests if they failed.

One where a representative government of the people, empowered by the people, would focus on being for the people that empowered it.

We could once again establish a socially democratic republic based on regulated capitalism with a conscience, protecting consumers, the environment, and the volunteer workforce needed to keep it all running smoothly.

Of course there would be people content to live upon the minimum universal income, but they would be doing so by choice, not necessity, and they would still be contributors to the national economy as consumers of the goods and services created by those choosing to do so.

Programs like SNaP, CHiP, and other social safety net services would become obsolete because those needs would be taken care of other ways.

All other programs subsidizing shortcomings in corporate wages could be eliminated.

At this point we truly would be the land of the free.

Nobody would owe their soul to the company store.

Imagine the wonders that such a society could create where everyone was free to pursue their interests and achieve their full potential.

Imagine how we would advance the culture of not just our nation, but the world, with the work product of people in such an unburdened society.

What Really Happened?

Texas conservatives isolated the state from the national power grid in the 1930s, after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Power Act, which charged the Federal Power Commission with regulating interstate electricity sales.

In the years since they have deregulated and privatized the power grid.

The failure we are experiencing this week is now being blamed by those same conservatives on renewable energy as they disingenuously campaign against the Green New Deal while people are freezing and life support medical equipment sits powerless.

The reality is that wind energy supplies less than 10% of the Texas power grid and the majority of the equipment failure has been fossil fuel powered equipment, mostly natural gas.

Texas is one of the largest producers and consumers of fossil fuels in the nation and world and the privatized power companies have aggressively resisted renewable energy.

Meanwhile, those homes and businesses with solar panel power support have fared the best throughout these outages.

We had similar failures (although not of this magnitude) in 1989 and 2011. Investigations of both determined the cause to be that power companies refused to spend the money on proper maintenance and winterization of the equipment. The same has already been reported for this year’s failure.

Add to this that the state runs the full power grid to supply energy demand in the summer due to air conditioning usage, and then takes large segments offline for the winter to conserve energy (because fossil fuels aren’t a renewable resource). Despite a week’s worth of warning of the impending arctic weather conditions, they never brought the dormant equipment back online.

They now claim that the energy demand exceeded production capability of the artificially limited production by the improperly maintained equipment. And as people are freezing and dying and absorbing the cost of destroyed perishables (if they can find an open business to replace them) the power companies are already talking about raising the rates to further profiteer off the disaster their own malevolent incompetence created.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, ERCOT, is a nonprofit that operates the state’s electrical grid and manages the flow of electric power to more than 26 million customers across the state — about 90% of the state’s electric load, according to its website. Only the El Paso region is on the national grid, and they are the only region in Texas that swiftly recovered from the weather related issues.

Despite claims that the reasoning is Texas’ long standing policy of feigned federal independence and isolationism, one third of the supposedly non-profit organization that controls the power grid is either out of state or international, and the majority of the remainder are heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry and profiteer personally off the organizational decisions.

I hope that those Texans who survive this state wide disaster of mismanagement, corruption, and malevolent unregulated capitalism, remember it, and the lies that Governor Abbott and his Lt. Governor and AG are telling about it as it is occurring when their reelection campaigns are running.

It would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic and pathetic that the state’s Republican leadership is loudly demanding investigation of the problems their own policies have created.

This is your call to action, as soon as you have thawed out enough to act.

Georgia demoted McConnell; what comes next?

Joe Biden will begin his presidency with a legislative majority in both the House and Senate for the first two years of his presidency.

Democrats need to take a lesson from the Republicans who have proven themselves wholly unfit to govern, and use that majority to its full effect to put out a full and complete repudiation of McConnell and Trump’s legislative policy.

First priority, after correcting the COVID Vaccination rollout, should be appointing an Attorney General who will investigate and prosecute the crimes committed by the Trump administration.

Second priority should be addressing their assault on the judicial branch of government through impeachment, where possible, of his appointments and by adding seats to the Supreme Court bench to eliminate the Republican majority and the power of the three Trump appointed Justices.

While all that is happening, rebuilding the CDC, reconnecting with the WHO and UN, treating white supremacy militias as domestic terrorism cells, releasing the caged immigrants and returning their abducted kids back to them, rejoining the Paris Accords, police reform, and ending funding to the border wall should all be taken care of.

Improving the ACA and working toward a single payer health care system needs to begin. 

A national minimum wage that provides a living wage, tied to inflation rates needs to be established.

And, the government needs to make a massive commitment to national infrastructure including job training and placement programs to create and fill the jobs necessary, not just to repair and maintain the current infrastructure, but to also upgrade it for the future.

Biden may not be the progressive I wanted, but he is an improvement over Trump, he will assemble a competent cabinet and empower them to lead without heavy handed micromanagement, and he will sign the bills put in front of him by a Democrat majority congress.

This means he will be as progressive as the Congress we, as voters, give him.

So, while we expect him to get to work on repairing the damage of the McConnell/Trump era, we need to get to work on the 2022 midterm elections to provide him an even stronger congressional support system to write the policies and create the budgets we want signed by the President.

The incredible work to drive record breaking voter registration and turnout to defeat Trump and flip the Senate was just the first step, not the end game. Don’t sacrifice the momentum. This is our opportunity to truly start checking and correcting our #Culturalinertia.