complaints, healthcare, law, money, politicians, politics, religion, social media, social welfare

Something I hadn’t thought about here on the “Road to Hell”…

I meant to write about today’s topic yesterday. It was inspired by a New York Times opinion piece I read the other day that pointed out some unintended consequences of our new post Roe v. Wade reality. But I got mired in a contentious Twitter conversation that led me astray and got me so pissed off that I donated money to the pro choice cause. Yesterday, I decided to write about that decision, instead of the new insight I gleaned from that very wise opinion piece, written by Tressie McMillam Cottom, a Black woman who is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science, the author of “Thick: And Other Essays” and a 2020 MacArthur fellow. The piece she wrote, titled “Citizens No More”, really drove home some of the ways life for women in the United States could change if we don’t nip this anti-abortion nonsense in the bud.

For a long time, I have been writing about the potential negative health consequences that could arise in the wake of making abortion illegal. What I hadn’t considered, though, is that criminalizing abortion will likely also affect women in the workplace. Tressie McMillam Cottom spelled it all out in her opinion piece. She writes:

I grew up choosing where and how I work because Roe v. Wade gave me many of the same basic rights of personhood as men, for example. Millions of women have, to different degrees, been able to do the same.

I agree. It was the same for me, my entire life. I was born months before abortion became available to all women in the United States. My whole existence, I’ve known that if I ever needed or wanted to have an abortion, I could get one. In fact, I grew up in southeastern Virginia, and I distinctly remember that Hillcrest Clinic, an abortion clinic that opened in Norfolk, Virginia the year after I was born, used to run radio ads on the station I listened to before school every day. I remember hearing the commercials about how a woman could access safe, compassionate care if she wanted to terminate a pregnancy. It was not a big deal to me, because I heard those ads all the time. I never thought twice about them.

Here’s a news clip about the Hillcrest Clinic, an abortion clinic that used to operate in Virginia when I was a young woman.

Then came the 1990s, and I remember reading in the news that abortion clinics were being bombed and doctors who performed abortions were being targeted, harassed, and in at least a couple of instances, murdered. Dr. Barnett Slepian was one abortion provider who was executed in 1998 by a gun toting anti abortion zealot. Another was Kansas physician Dr. George Tiller, who was shot in both arms years before he was finally murdered in 2009. On December 31, 1994, 22 year old John Salvi came into Hillcrest Clinic and opened fire, shattering the doors, but not injuring or killing anyone. The day prior, Salvi had stormed into two abortion clinics in Massachusetts and opened fire, killing two receptionists and wounding multiple clinic employees and volunteers. In many of the violent cases involving abortion providers being assassinated, pro-life zealots justified the killings, claiming they were “saving the unborn babies”. It seems ridiculous to me that highly trained physicians who simply wanted to help women were killed by people claiming to be “pro-life”. But life in the United States is often kind of confusing and odd, isn’t it?

I was a young woman in the 90s. Fortunately, I was not sexually active at the time, and I never had any gynecological issues, so I never needed to consider taking birth control, let alone having an abortion. But I knew that if I ever did need abortion services, and I was still living in Virginia, I could go to the Hillcrest Clinic in Norfolk.

The years went on, and lawmakers did more and more to restrict abortion access and discourage women from ending their pregnancies. They passed new laws, forcing clinics to upgrade their facilities to the point at which they were almost like hospitals. Hillcrest Clinic finally got to a point at which they could no longer operate. Ironically, it was because fewer women needed or wanted to have abortions, probably because they were getting educated about sex and had access to effective contraception. Hillcrest Clinic closed its doors in 2012, after serving the community for about 40 years.

Along came 2002. I finished graduate school and got married. Getting pregnant at a bad time was never an issue for me. But the same could not be said for my peers. I do know some women who did seek abortion care, and none of them has regretted their decision. I know they are living productive lives now, with families they formed when they were ready to be parents.

Now, with this new reality of conservatives trying desperately to force women to give birth, those choices are in jeopardy, even for women who never get pregnant. Tressie McMillam Cottom explains:

With Roe v. Wade toppled, we do not have the same rights in all labor markets. In a global market, an empowered worker is one who can migrate. With Dobbs, women cannot assume that we can safely work in Idaho the same way that we can in Oregon or Washington. I cannot negotiate wages or time off with an employer with the same risk profile as those who cannot become pregnant. An employer who offers lower pay in a state with abortion care indirectly benefits from women’s inability to take our labor on the open market across the nation. Thanks to a rogue court, women’s lives are now more determined by the accidents of our birth than they were a week ago.

Those accidents of birth include circumscribing women’s lives by making them dependent upon corporate beneficence. Some companies, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, immediately issued statements that they would offer reimbursements to employees for traveling for abortion services. The largess of Dick’s and other companies is noteworthy. But it requires women to disclose their health status to a boss they have to hope is well meaning. That says nothing of also hoping that corporate management or leadership does not change. Well-meaning employers can come and go. They also vary in how well meaning they are in terms of pledges of their employee support.

Those two paragraphs made me stop in my tracks. All along, I’d been focusing on health and happiness. It never occurred to me to consider how not being able to access abortion could affect women in the workplace, even in states where abortion access is guaranteed (for now). I also hadn’t considered that the companies who offer women help in getting abortions would also be requiring those women to discuss their private healthcare decisions with their employers. And, as the article also points out, some companies, such as Starbucks, have placed conditions on their offers of assistance. From the article:

 [Starbucks noted that] it cannot guarantee that benefit to workers in unionized stores. Union drives at Starbucks have increased worker power. Many of those workers are women and people who can become pregnant. Potentially attaching support for abortion care to non-unionized labor is a perfect example of why corporations should not be arbiters of human rights.

So basically, people who can get pregnant will have to decide what’s more important to them– access to abortion services, or worker’s rights.

I noticed in the comment section that most people were arguing about the morality of abortions. It seemed that very few had bothered to read Tressie McMillam Cottom’s opinion piece, which I thought was very sobering and kind of scary. I decided to leave a comment that people really should read her piece. If you click the link in this post, you should have free access to the link, as I am a New York Times subscriber and allowed to gift ten articles per month. If you are a person of childbearing age and can get pregnant, you might want to consider what is at stake. It will affect all women who work, unless it’s obvious that you’re beyond childbearing. Then, you’ll just experience age discrimination. 😉

I want to also bring up another alarming news article I read yesterday that complements Tressie McMillam Cottom’s piece. According to the Washington Post, some Republican lawmakers are trying to draft legislation that could block pregnant people from crossing state lines. Again, I’m gifting the link to this article, since I am also a Washington Post subscriber. From the article:

The National Association of Christian Lawmakers, an anti abortion organization led by Republican state legislators, has begun working with the authors of the Texas abortion ban to explore model legislation that would restrict people from crossing state lines for abortions, said Texas state representative Tom Oliverson (R), the charter chair of the group’s national legislative council.

“Just because you jump across a state line doesn’t mean your home state doesn’t have jurisdiction,” said Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel for the Thomas More Society. “It’s not a free abortion card when you drive across the state line.” (Figures it’s a MAN who said this. I hope he goes straight to Hell.)

I read about this development yesterday, after having yet another fruitless discussion with two older pro-life people on Twitter– a man and a woman, both of whom were conservative, and both of whom clearly never really stopped and thought about what eliminating abortion will mean to women, and American society as a whole. The first person who took me on was an obviously conservative man, who basically said that people who get pregnant by accident should be forced to gestate. He was kind enough to allow abortion for rape and incest cases. For everyone else it was, “she made her bed and now she needs to lie in it.”

I noted that he seemed to think pregnancy should be a punishment. He disagreed, arguing that birth control can prevent pregnancies, and “personal responsibility” should trump a gestating person’s right to make healthcare decisions about their own body. I tweeted to him that I didn’t think he’d really thought very long or hard about the abortion issue at all. I could have come up with a laundry list of my concerns, to include healthcare privacy and the fact that women in many states will have to prove their need for certain obstetrical procedures. Instead, I wrote that it doesn’t seem wise to me to force people to be pregnant when they don’t want to be, because it could mean that they won’t take care of their prenatal health. And fetuses would be developing in someone who might be very depressed and unwilling to seek medical care. That could then lead to babies being born with medical conditions that might have been prevented if the pregnant person had simply been more “responsible”.

I won’t even go into the huge list of reasons why this mindset isn’t fair to women. Men seem to forget that their health is never affected by pregnancy. It’s just their livelihoods that are potentially affected. What I was really thinking of, though, is that pregnant folks might soon find themselves in a different class of people, with fewer civil rights. This guy on Twitter was insisting that he didn’t think pregnancy should be a punishment, as he was also clearly pointing out that people should be forced to gestate. And, I’ll bet if I pressed him, asking him what he thought should happen to pregnant women who don’t seek appropriate medical care (which, of course, they would have to pay for), he would say the women should go to jail. Sounds pretty punishing to me. Now, granted, he didn’t actually say that during our discussion– which went on for much too long– but I’ll bet money that he would get there. Americans seem to LOVE to see people go to prison.

This isn’t an empty threat. I looked up forced prenatal care yesterday. It has happened. The link leads to one case from 2000, but there are others, and that Washington Post link I provided is about how some extremists would like to make it illegal for pregnant people to cross state lines. That sounds very punitive to me, and it would likely discourage people from seeking medical care. Another unintended consequence is that there will be some women who will stop having sex with people– particularly men– who can get them pregnant. I’ve already seen at least one Reddit thread from a man who is upset that his girlfriend is on a sex strike because of the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

In an earlier blog post, I shared Jessica Kent’s very distressing video about her experience giving birth while she was incarcerated in Arkansas. If we don’t do something about these wackos who are trying to criminalize abortion, there will be more women who experience the hell of being pregnant behind bars. It won’t be good for women OR those precious babies. And, things are already getting shitty in Texas. Yesterday, I watched this woman’s heartbreaking video about the horrible trauma she experienced, trying to take care of her miscarriage in Texas last year.

This video is absolutely horrifying. My heart breaks for her. She had a lot of trouble accessing prenatal care, too.
Sharing this again for those who missed it. This could be a reality for many more women if the pro-life zealots get their way.

The other person who engaged me yesterday was an older woman who had many of the same arguments the man did. She was very condescending to me, and kept preaching about personal responsibility. I didn’t tell her that I was SUPER responsible when I was younger. I was a virgin until two weeks after my wedding day, and was 30 years old when I finally had sex for the first time… with a man who’d had a vasectomy. I also didn’t tell her about my background.

But toward the end of our chat, she wrote that she has a four year old granddaughter who was conceived accidentally. Her granddaughter is the light of her life. And you know, that’s really lovely. I’m happy for her. I wrote that I hoped her granddaughter never needed to have an abortion, which is sometimes necessary for health reasons. And I hoped that her granddaughter wouldn’t lose some of her healthcare privacy rights, due to her sex. The woman wrote back that my concerns about healthcare privacy were “ridiculous”. All I can do is shake my head… as Randy Newman sings, “I’m dead, but I don’t know it…” I think that observation would apply to this woman’s brain.

Clever song. I think this could be the state of women’s healthcare privacy and freedom very soon.

But instead of sharing the link to Randy Newman’s song, I wrote that my concerns about privacy are NOT ridiculous, and a lot of us are very concerned about it, and with good reason. Then I bid her a good night, because I was tired of tweeting in circles and felt my time would be more productively spent cleaning the lint out of my belly button or something.

Well… I could go on. I am kind of rueing exploring Twitter, because now I get exposed to some real twits besides Bill’s ex wife. But at least it gives me another source for my blog, right? And since I mentioned Ex… here are a couple of her most recent comments. I could start a blog that focuses on the inanity of Ex’s Twitter feed. For your amusement…

My daughter is 19, a HUGE fan of yours(read your book), along with TMNT; she wants to be a voice actress more that ANYTHING! Rob, how can I encourage her? I can’t afford acting school in NY, though she was accepted! Please, any advice for a mom who just wants to support a dream?!

Omg … my eyes…. My ears… make it stop! It’s like reliving the day I sang “If” by Bread in 1981 at a school talent show with, literally, the sweetest and kindest guy in the world! Except, alas, it was never to be… still love him with all my heart!!

She once sang “The Sweetest Thing” by Juice Newton to Bill. To this day, he can’t abide that song.

So ends today’s rantings. Hope it provides food for thought.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, psychology, rants

Don’t laugh at me…

Back in 2004 or so, there was a show that used to air on ABC Family, or a similar network, that I used to watch on occasion. It was a “feel good” show called Home Delivery. The show’s formula was basically about people with hard luck stories having their dreams come true. The show featured several attractive hosts who would be there to present the fairy godmother treatment to the lucky person with a compelling sob story. I remember Home Delivery to be kind of an annoying and cloying show that appealed to hitting people in the feels. I would watch it because, frankly, I didn’t have anything better to do.

Home Delivery…

I remember one episode was about a young woman who had “severe appearance deficits”, as George Carlin might have joked. I don’t remember what the exact issues with her physical appearance were, but they were obvious and she dealt with a lot of mean behavior from others because of it. I think they may have been caused by a medical problem. In any case, I remember she loved the song “Don’t Laugh at Me” by country singer Mark Wills. I had never heard the song before I watched that episode, but I remembered Wills’ song, “I Do (Cherish You)” from a wedding at which I performed (not that song– it was played at the reception). Alas, the marriage didn’t last, and the bride has since wed twice more, though I did catch her bouquet and was married myself a couple of years later.

There’s a lot of truth to this song and many of us can relate to it…

I am one of those folks people love to laugh at, which is probably why I have such a wicked looking resting bitch face. I’ve spent many years being ridiculed, particularly by so-called loved ones. I think that may be why I developed a sharp wit… or so people have told me, anyway. There was a time in my life when I wasn’t very quick with my words. I have an older sister who used to make me cry all the time because she would belittle me. This sister, like several others in my family, is also very witty and funny, although I think she has a tendency to be kind of mean. One time, when we were on somewhat good terms, I asked her how she got to be so quick with put downs. She told me that she’d learned from an early age to cut people down before they cut her down. It got to the point at which she would slay people with a clever barb before they knew what hit them.

I noticed that another one of my sisters also has this trait. She can be deadly with her words when she wants to be, although I don’t think she’s quite as quick witted as my other sister is. The eldest sister is above everything and not particularly funny… except for the rumor that she’s somehow morphed into a Trump supporter. I feel like she’s a victim of body snatchers! This sister, like me, was a Peace Corps Volunteer. She also has a doctorate in public health, speaks several languages, and was a ballerina for years. But she’s drunk the Republican Kool-Aid. I feel like we switched places. I used to be more conservative and she was more liberal. Now, the opposite is true. I blame my brother-in-law.

That song by Mark Wills popped into my head last night. I was reading a story about how over the past COVID-19 year, people have become extremely unruly on airplanes. I think I read that in the ten years prior to the pandemic, the FAA had dealt with some 1300 complaints total. And over the past year, with the new rules and face mask mandates, there’s been a lot of rebellion. According to that article, they’ve had 1300 complaints and counting– just since FEBRUARY.

As usual, commenters were all clamoring about how we should show no mercy to the rule flouters. Throw the book at them and toss ’em in jail! Zero tolerance! Let ’em rot with the child molesters and murderers! I understand the outrage and the sentiment, but I wish people would stop for a moment and think about what they’re suggesting.

I happen to believe that jail is an overrated punishment that is mostly ineffective at best. So I commented something along the lines of “Jail isn’t the best punishment for every crime.” That’s all I wrote. I didn’t write anything about not punishing offenders. I didn’t even express any sympathy for the rule breakers, although I can kind of understand why some of them cracked. I just wrote that I don’t think putting people in jail is the best way to handle the problem.

Do you know that at last count (because I quit looking), there were at least five laughing responses to my comment? I don’t know what was so funny about it. It was a simple statement, and like I said, it’s not like I expressed a wish for the misbehaving people not to be held accountable. I just think putting people in jail for every single offense is wrong-headed and does more harm than good, particularly in a pandemic. And, perhaps because I’m extremely irritable and stressed out right now, I lashed back at a few people who decided they needed to school me with lengthy diatribes about why we can’t let the rule breakers “run roughshod”.

The first response I got was a comment about how we should just execute people so they won’t reoffend. That response was stupid, and I said so (note– I didn’t “laugh” at the guy or call HIM stupid). The next two were from women who both kind of gave off an extremely shrill and neurotic vibe. I wanted to tell them to calm down and hear me out, rather than “laughing” at me and verbally vomiting the same tired script we’ve been hearing all year about how to deal with pandemic rule breakers.

To the first commenter, I wrote that I never said we should let the rule breakers go unpunished. I said that jail isn’t the most effective way to deal with people who break the rules. The lady had said the rule flouters would “learn a lesson”, but I think if she did her research about recidivism, she’d find that a lot of people who go to jail end up reoffending. Moreover, jail sentences don’t just affect the offender. They can have a bad effect on society as a whole. Locking up people costs money to taxpayers, and makes it more difficult for the offender to support themselves and their families. A jail experience can have a devastating psychological or even physical effect on a person… or it can have no effect at all. Again, plenty of people who do time end up going back to jail.

To the second one, whose fingers pretty much vomited out the same shrill diatribe as the first commenter’s, I wrote something along the lines of “Americans are much too wedded to the idea that we have to jail everyone who does something wrong. Consequently, we have many, many incarcerated people who are being guarded by folks who, frankly, often aren’t a lot better than they are.” Then I added that it seems to me that if controlling the pandemic is a concern, locking potentially unvaccinated people up in a crowded jail is not the best approach to fixing the problem. Then I added a comment about how it’s sad that people “laugh” at anyone who isn’t parroting the same crap in the comment sections, rather than taking a moment to consider if what they’ve said makes any sense. I ended by wishing them all a good day. A couple of people “liked” that comment.

I don’t know… maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the vast majority of people aren’t thinkers. People have a knee jerk response to so many issues. Someone does something wrong? JAIL THEM! Lock ’em up and throw away the key! Let ’em ROT! To be sure, prisons and jails do serve a purpose. I think they are mostly valuable for keeping society safe from dangerous offenders, although some people who commit egregious, but non-violent, crimes probably should go to prison, too. But not everyone needs to be locked up to be taught a valuable lesson. Maybe it’s my time living in Europe that has made me feel this way, but I really do think Americans are way too enamored with the idea of throwing people away in barred warehouses. It’s sad, ineffective, and inhumane.

Empathy is a two way street. You can’t expect people to have empathy for your situation if your rabid response to them, and their concerns, is to simply lock them up and hope they rot in prison. Jail is not necessarily the best place for people to learn empathy… although I suppose it can and does happen sometimes.

Why are so many people freaking out now, because of the “strip of cloth” they are being asked to wear across their nose and mouth? Well… I think it’s because a lot of them are tired of being told that the “strip of cloth” is not a big deal. Clearly, it IS a big deal to a lot of people. Folks who would have never caused a problem on an airplane prior to the year 2020 are now acting crazy, rebelling, assaulting and cursing at flight attendants, and behaving completely out of character. I think it’s time that we acknowledged that forcing people to wear face masks for hours on end is a problem, and it’s not a sustainable practice. A more acceptable solution must be found and implemented, or these kinds of outbursts will continue. The FAA can keep fining and banning people for life from airplanes, and we can keep throwing the offenders in jail, but eventually that will cost the airline industry, and society as a whole, money that we can’t really afford to lose. Moreover, the job of enforcing the mask wearing will continue to suck and airlines will have trouble finding people to work on their planes.

I’ve found that trying to explain this concept to people is very difficult. I generally don’t try to do that in comment sections anymore, because people have become very rigid in their thinking. And they are quick to “laugh” at anyone who thinks or dares to say anything different. People will dismiss anyone who has empathy for the “anti-maskers” as crybabies, COVIDiots, spoiled brats, irresponsible and selfish, Trump supporters, or science deniers. Speaking only for myself, I can assure you that I’m none of those things. I got my first vaccine last week, and I wear the mask when I must. I will also confess that a year ago, I was afraid the masks were going to become permanent, but this year, my gut feeling is that most people plan to ditch them as soon as they can. That makes me feel somewhat better and more hopeful about the future.

Even Dr. Fauci has said that the masks could become less of a thing soon. He has said that as more people get vaccinated, we should become more liberal about indoor mask wearing. Some people may choose to wear them, and that should be perfectly fine, but the mandates forcing people to wear them will be lifted. Frankly, I believe that once that happens, the FAA will have far fewer issues with passengers attacking flight attendants on airplanes. Instead, they’ll just go back to attacking each other over reclining their seats and being too fat for economy class.

Of course… if someone gets on a plane and does something violent or genuinely puts people’s lives at risk by being disruptive, then yes; by all means, they probably should do some time behind bars. But I don’t think a “zero tolerance– straight to jail” policy is necessarily the best approach to handling every incident or altercation on an airplane. Because, as I mentioned earlier in this post, since February, the FAA has gotten over 1300 complaints about unruly passengers. We have a lot of jail and prison facilities in the United States, but at the rate people seem to want to lock people up, we’re sure to run out of space eventually.

Now… getting back to the title of this post– “don’t laugh at me”. Why was I so annoyed by the “laughing emojis”? Part of it is because, on the whole, I’m generally upset about life right now. But the laughing at me thing has been an issue my whole life. I’m the youngest of four by a lot of years, and my whole life, people have scoffed at me, laughed at me, underestimated me, not taken me seriously, and basically treated me like I’m stupid. Sometimes, I can use that perception to my advantage, but if I’m honest, it gets really old when people feel the need to resort to ridicule and insults. I’m tired of it, and have reached a point at which I’m not willing to tolerate it anymore.

There was a time when I was much more likely to take the blame in a situation in which someone mistreated me. Like, if someone chastised, ridiculed, or humiliated me, I would just feel shame and blame myself. But now that I’m older and wiser, I realize that anyone who resorts to making other people feel bad by being rude or mean to them is the one with the problem, especially if they are a perfect stranger.

Some months ago, a YouTube acquaintance/collaborator I had once respected “yelled” at me because I commented on his video in a way that he didn’t expect or appreciate. He had wanted me to simply praise his video. My comment was short, and had nothing to do with the music in his video, but was more about world events. He proceeded to go “off” on me publicly, lecturing me about the genius of Paul Simon (seriously?) and that I shouldn’t post anything on his videos that wasn’t strictly about the video or the music. I took that to mean that he only wanted positive feedback, which he would then reciprocate with a rubber stamp comment on my videos. Wow. Don’t do me any favors.

I didn’t realize that he’d had this policy. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have posted anything. Or maybe I would have just posted, “Nice job.” or something equally banal. I mistook him for a friend, though, so I didn’t simply praise him. I didn’t insult him, nor did I write anything that was extremely offensive. He’d played “American Tune” and my comment was that America wasn’t looking that great lately. My former acquaintance, who is from Scotland, took that to be a political comment, although I didn’t mention a word about politics. He ripped me a new one. I considered responding, but decided that this was the last straw in a disturbing trend. So I deleted my comment and unsubscribed from his channel. I also temporarily hid the recordings we’d done together and stopped featuring one of our duets, because I wanted to take a few days to process his response to me. They have since been restored. I figure if he wants me to take them down, he can ask.

Do you know what this guy did? He came to my channel and took the time to delete every single comment he’d ever left for me over a span of about seven or eight years. That just told me that my initial response to his public ass ripping comment was the right one. Obviously, he’s an asshole and not worth my time. He probably felt I should be grateful to him for sharing his “genius” with me on our collaborations, but actually, I feel grateful because his shitty behavior only prompted me to learn how to play guitar with more urgency. Because I don’t want to remain in a situation where I feel like I have to be nice to someone so they’ll do me a favor. The truth is, I’d overlooked some of his prior bad behavior because I enjoyed making our collaborations. We like similar music and our voices work well together. But he obviously doesn’t respect me and, I think, was either jealous or using me on some level. I should thank him, too, because last month I posted my first two videos in which I played guitar FOR MYSELF. 😀

This doesn’t mean that I think I’m better than he is, by the way. He is a more skilled musician than I am, by far. I think he’s the type of person who doesn’t want to share the credit. He’d suggest collaborations. We’d do them. I’d post them on my channel, but I noticed that he only posted ONE of our collaborations on his channel. And that collaboration got a lot of positive comments, which he brought up repeatedly in emails to me. I think if I had sucked, he wouldn’t have offered to do more collaborations. I think the truth is, we didn’t suck, but he didn’t want to share the wealth. For some reason, he felt perfectly fine in just publicly ripping on me. I didn’t retaliate by ripping on him in kind, because it was his channel and I respect his right to run it the way he wants (although he didn’t reciprocate in that instance, either). But I did vote with my feet. Obviously, my reaction to his public belittling hit a raw nerve for him to be so petty. I’m sure he’ll find someone else to sing with, while I continue to improve my guitar playing.

Last night, I asked my friends on Facebook if I was really “that funny”. It seems like everybody is laughing at me. A number of people responded. I was kind of surprised by that, since it was meant to be a general and rhetorical statement of irritation rather than a serious question. I was heartened to read some kind responses from people I think are real friends. Many of them are people I have known offline, but a couple are people who only know me from the Internet. I will say that those who took the question seriously are high value people worth my consideration and time. Those who just “laugh” at others… not so much. However, I reserve the right to laugh at people who still champion Donald Trump.

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rants, true crime

Getting out of jail early…

This morning, I read that Skylar Mack got out of jail and came back to the United States. Skylar Mack is the young American woman from Georgia who made headlines last month after violating COVID-19 quarantine rules in the Cayman Islands. She was there to see her 24 year old boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, in a jet ski race. People at the race saw her violating quarantine and turned her in to the authorities. Skylar was initially given a light punishment, but some Cayman officials decided to make an example out of her and re-sentenced her to four months in prison.

Skylar is now out of jail.

Lots of Americans were outraged by Skylar Mack’s behavior and fully supported the tougher sentence. I went on record to say that I thought it was too harsh. Cooler heads in the Cayman Islands prevailed, and Skylar got a reduced sentence of two months. And, thanks to the local custom of letting well-behaved prisoners out after they serve 60% of their sentences, Skylar and her boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, have both been released. Skylar Mack is said to be at home and very happy to be back in the United States, having survived her ordeal in a Caribbean prison.

I, for one, am glad she’s out. I hope she’s learned her lesson and will not offend again. I’m sure she won’t soon forget what she went through, and may now have more appreciation for what she has. I don’t think having her sit in jail for more time would have changed much of anything, and would only give her nightmares and personal setbacks. Life is tough enough right now, for EVERYONE.

While some people seem to think that anyone breaking COVID-19 rules is “murderous”, I, for one, think that’s a bit of virtue signaling hyperbole. COVID-19 is very contagious and potentially very dangerous, but it’s caused by a virus. Viruses are tiny, wily, and built for survival. People have to live their lives, and some folks will get sick no matter what. What Skylar Mack did was irresponsible, disrespectful, and very foolish, and she definitely deserved to be punished for it, but she’s not likely to become a habitual criminal. Doing what many 18 year olds would have done doesn’t make her a terrible person. Her life shouldn’t be ruined for breaking the rules… and thankfully, it looks like it won’t be.

I’m not a huge believer in lengthy incarceration as punishment, especially for non-violent crimes. And that’s why I’m also thinking that Lori Loughlin’s husband, Mossimo Giannulli, should also be allowed to serve the rest of his sentence for conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud at home. Giannulli was sentenced to five months in a minimum security prison for his part in a scam that got his two daughters admitted to the University of Southern California on false pretenses.

I don’t think he’s wrong to complain.

Giannulli was supposed to go to FCI-Lompoc, a minimum security federal lockup near Santa Barbara, California, after he turned himself in back in November 2020. However, after he completed his two week COVID-19 quarantine, he was moved to a small cell at the adjacent medium security penitentiary. For 56 days, he was kept in solitary confinement, only allowed out of the cell for three twenty minute breaks per week. He was finally moved to the minimum security camp on January 13th, probably because his lawyers have been making a stink and word has gotten out in the press.

Solitary confinement is a harsh punishment. It’s inappropriate, given the nature of Giannulli’s crime. He should not have been locked down like that for 56 days, especially if he was supposed to be incarcerated at a minimum security camp. I know people want to scream about privilege, but I don’t think they’ve stopped to think about what it means to be locked in a cell for 24 hours a day for weeks on end. The punishment ought to fit the crime, even if the confinement is, supposedly, for his “own protection”.

Many people think Mossimo Giannulli deserves some abuse. They cite his “white privilege” and “wealth”, as well as an attitude of entitlement, as they haughtily claim that it’s fair for him to rot in solitary confinement. I guess it’s a crime to have money, in some people’s views. It always makes me shake my head when people armchair quarterback these cases and think someone’s prison sentence isn’t harsh enough. When I’ve called people out on their high and mighty positions, asking them if that’s how they would want to be treated if they should ever get in trouble, they always tell me that they would never do what the person has done. But sometimes shit happens, and people find themselves on the wrong side of the law. I think, in a civilized society, we must temper justice with mercy.

I absolutely think it was right for Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli to have to face consequences for what they did. I don’t even think being in jail was inappropriate. But when it comes down to it, their crimes weren’t violent. Their daughters are now outed, and won’t be getting over anymore. They won’t be committing this crime again. There’s no need to force them to rot in a cell for long periods of time. I don’t think that’s appropriate for ANYONE, regardless of their race, class, or creed, when the crime isn’t one that resulted in injuries or deaths of other people. Americans are way too enamored with putting people in prison to punish them, rather than investing in humanity.

Given the fact that Giannulli has now spent two months in prison under much harsher conditions than what was agreed upon in court when he was sentenced, I don’t think he’s out of line for requesting home confinement. However, I also know that what I think and a nickel will get us nowhere. 😉

A lot of people are big believers in making examples out of others. They don’t seem to realize that someday, someone might want to make an example out of them or a loved one. Someone might think they need to be made an example out of for everyone else. Believe me, perspectives always change when the shoe is on the other foot.

I don’t condone breaking the law. I just don’t think that incarceration for long periods of time for non-violent crimes is the answer. I especially feel that way in situations when it’s a first offense or likely to be an only offense. In both Skylar Mack’s and Lori Loughlin’s and Mossimo Giannulli’s cases, the crimes were non-violent and unlikely to be repeated. If someday, Skylar Mack decides to reoffend in the Cayman Islands, I think it would make sense for her to get a harsher punishment for breaking the rules. But I highly doubt Skylar will be going anywhere anytime soon, and I doubt she’ll cause any more trouble, at least not in the Caribbean.

Likewise, Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli probably won’t get caught up in another legal situation anytime soon, at least not involving their daughters going to college. So I won’t be upset if Mossimo gets out of jail early. I think it’s appropriate, under the circumstances. And I would feel that way even if he wasn’t a rich, white guy. Incarceration isn’t a good idea during a pandemic, anyway. We’re all pretty much incarcerated as it is.

And… just because I’m happy about it– one more day to go before Trump is out of office. Yea!

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celebrities, musings

Why do we love to see people rot?

I was just sitting here thinking about what I wanted to write about today. I was looking through old posts I’ve done and toyed with the idea of visiting an old chestnut or two, themes that never wear out or get old. I could write about a pressing personal issue this morning… but I’ve learned my lesson about sharing too much of myself prematurely.

Then I remembered a snarky article I happened to read the other day about Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Gianulli. I had wanted to write about it when I first read it, but then something else came up that was more pressing and it slipped my mind. But now I need a topic, so here’s another article about Lori and Mossimo. It’s one of so many circulating right now… but it may be a little different than those other articles.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Lori and Mossimo are going to be incarcerated soon. Lori will spend two months at a medium security lockup in Victorville, California. Mossimo will likely do five months at a minimum security joint in Santa Barbara. Although the facilities where they will be incarcerated are described as kind of cushy, they’re still lockups. The experience will certainly suck, even if Lori Loughlin’s prison offers courses in calligraphy and pilates. No, she’s not going to be doing hard time, but her crime doesn’t really warrant doing hard time, does it?

For some reason, a lot of people in the United States have the idea that locking people up for as long as possible is the best thing to do when they’ve misbehaved. I’ve read a lot of comments by people who are dismayed when someone gets let of out of jail early. So many people love to parrot that old line, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” They are just fine with people being incarcerated endlessly. They don’t seem to care much about what happens to them after they’ve been locked up for awhile.

The article I read that prompted today’s post was heavy on sarcasm. I’ll grant that it was kind of a funny post. Even more than the original article, I was affected by a comment someone left pointing out the hypocrisy of readers who were jeering at Lori’s cushy jailhouse digs. The person pointed out that regular readers of that publication tended to be left leaning folks who were in favor of prison reform. And yet, there they were, laughing at the idea that someone might have access to classes and activities that promote physical, spiritual, and mental well-being.

Good points here.

And another comment:

I do wonder what people actually want in this situation. Do they want her to be tortured and put into squalid conditions? I’ve noticed there’s this weird sort of thing in this country where we want to lower the bar rather than raise it. So if a bunch of people are treated like shit, and some are treated better, the solution is then not to treat everyone better, but instead treat everyone equally bad. It’s like if you find out your co-worker makes more than you, and instead of wanting to make the same amount as him, you’d rather see his paycheck go down to match yours. Then everybody loses!

I get it, though. Some people pointed out that if Lori weren’t so rich and famous, she wouldn’t be going to a place that is so “cushy”. But… does that mean that everyone in that jail is rich and famous? Surely, there are people incarcerated there who aren’t worth millions and don’t have a pretty face. Moreover, there have been famous people from wealthy families who have gone to “real” prisons . Cameron Douglas, son of movie star Michael Douglas, did “hard time”. So has Redmond O’Neal, son of movie star Farrah Fawcett.

So people are pissed off that Lori Loughlin, who is not a violent criminal and is highly unlikely to ever repeat her crime, is going to do two months in a prison where she can practice yoga and learn new skills. I wonder if any of these folks, having been caught breaking the law (which pretty much everyone does at least once in a lifetime), would want to be sent to a shit hole where they are regularly threatened, beaten up, and fed slop. Would they want that for a friend or a loved one? If there’s a chance that a person will emerge from a corrections facility, isn’t it better that the person comes out with coping skills, good mental and physical health, and a positive self-image? Is it really better to simply focus only on punishment, rather than teaching a person the error of their ways and why they shouldn’t have done what they did? Shouldn’t we also have some regard for them as human beings?

It seems to me that instead of being pissed off that Lori and Mossimo are getting off lightly, we should be pissed off that people with fewer resources end up in worse conditions than they should. We should be angry that people get wrongly accused of crimes and wind up locked up in hellholes for years. We should be pissed off that a man who does 22 years in a California prison and comes out a better person– having actually risked his life to fight wild fires while still incarcerated– gets rounded up by ICE and sent to another lockup, destined to be deported to a country he hasn’t seen since he was two years old and doesn’t recognize him as a citizen.

Granted, no one really needs to know how to write in calligraphy. No one needs to do yoga or pilates. But these are activities that are basically healthy and wholesome and may be a better outlet for incarcerated people than hanging out with other criminals and learning how to make shivs. Moreover, not all criminals are created equally. Non-violent people should not be locked down in cells and forced to dig ditches with murderers and rapists. People who can be rehabilitated should be rehabilitated and given a chance.

Lori Loughlin doesn’t need all of the activities her prison will offer. But she is not representative of all of the people in that facility. Other people who are locked up there might not have those opportunities on the outside. Maybe a course in calligraphy is all someone needs to find a new path. I don’t think incarceration always has to be about punishment and being in hell. It should mostly be about correcting bad behavior and learning better skills. Yes, there are people out there who can’t be rehabilitated. Yes, there are dangerous people who are mad at the world and would never benefit from learning how to crochet or make origami. But I think there are fewer of them than regular folks who have made mistakes.

I don’t cheer for locking people up. I think prisons should be reserved for people who are violent or otherwise extremely dangerous. Prisons cost society a lot– taxpayer dollars as well as the lives ruined by prison records that make it impossible for some people to ever recover. And, as we discovered last week in the story about the women who had hysterectomies against their wills, there are for profit corporations that are committing real crimes against detainees.

Prisoners are people, and they have basic human rights. Lori Loughlin is rich, beautiful, wealthy, and lucky beyond most people’s wildest dreams, but that doesn’t mean she needs to be rotting in a jail cell. No one should be “rotting” away in jail. That’s not an acceptable standard for human beings.

So, I hope Lori and Mossimo do their time, learn something from it, and come back whole to their families. I strongly suspect they won’t reoffend, and especially if they do learn a new skill like “cartoon drawing”, the experience will make them better people. I suspect that most of the people bitching about the “light sentence” would not want to trade places with them, nor would they be sad if they were sentenced to a similarly “cushy” lockup. It’s still prison, people, and it is going to suck. It will be humiliating, degrading, shameful, and unpleasant. But I feel very sure that they’ve learned their lessons, and that is all that really matters.

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healthcare, politicians

“Whatever you think is best, doctor.”

I was kind of hoping this morning I’d find something amusing to write about. My last few posts have been downers. Maybe later, once I’ve had a little more time to wake up and cheer up, I’ll find something funny about the world today. Right now, I’m compelled to write about an opinion piece I read in The New York Times.

Dr. Jen Gunter is an OB-GYN who has recently written a number of pieces about her experiences as a doctor who provides abortions. I usually like what she writes about this subject, since she is very knowledgable and reasonable. This morning, I read her piece entitled “Medical School Doesn’t Teach the ‘Woman’s Life Is In Danger’ Curriculum“. As usual, Gunter made a lot of sense. She also brought up some issues with these new abortion bills that I don’t think a lot of people have considered.

In her op-ed, Dr. Gunter wrote about a case she had in 1998. She was called in to perform an abortion on a woman who was very sick and in her first trimester of pregnancy. The woman’s condition was rapidly deteriorating and the pregnancy was making her situation worse. Although her life was not in immediate danger, her caregivers feared that if she continued her pregnancy, her condition would quickly decompensate and she would need dialysis due to kidney failure.

The problem was, this was happening in Kansas, where a new restrictive abortion law was enacted that forbade abortions from being done on state government property, unless the mother’s life was in danger. The medical center where Dr. Gunter worked was on state property. While it’s very possible to manage kidney failure on dialysis, it’s not the ideal course of action. It’s better to prevent kidney damage, which would then prevent a host of other serious medical problems that would put the patient’s life in danger. The patient was not about to die, but her condition might eventually cause death if the doctor didn’t act. On the other hand, thanks to the law, if Dr. Gunter made the “wrong” decision, she could be fired or wind up in legal trouble. She could even be arrested, which would be a real problem, since malpractice insurance does not cover criminal prosecution.

The law was vague regarding what Dr. Gunter should do. She spoke to the hospital’s attorneys, who advised her to call the legislator who had written the law. So, instead of prepping her patient for surgery and taking care of her patient’s private medical issues, Dr. Gunter was forced to call up a legislator who had absolutely no clue about this wrinkle in the law because he wasn’t a medical professional. Moreover, Dr. Gunter was about to talk about this lady’s private medical situation with a man who was completely uninvolved, except for the fact that he’d written the law that was holding up Gunter’s ability to take action. To add insult to injury, he didn’t even seem to care! As Gunter launched into a description of the woman’s medical issues necessitating an abortion, the legislator interrupted her and said, “Whatever you think is best, doctor.”

The woman got her abortion and her medical condition improved. But Dr. Gunter was left fuming, since she’d had to waste precious time calling up a legislator who obviously didn’t actually care that much about this law. He hadn’t even listened to her speak for more than a minute before he basically said “whatever”. Meanwhile, this lady’s health– her very life– was in danger. What would have happened if Dr. Gunter had not taken the time to cover her ass by calling the lawmaker? What if she’d simply done the abortion and gotten arrested for breaking the law, even though she’d made the correct medical decision? What if she’d not done the abortion and her patient died? Then she might be on the hook for medical malpractice. She’d also have to deal with the guilt of knowing that she has the training to help women in these dire medical situations, but can’t act due to restrictive, misguided legislation like the “heartbeat” bills being considered and passed in places like Georgia, Ohio, and Alabama.

I wonder if the untrained politicians who are making these laws have considered the second and third order effects of forcing women to birth. One thing I think will happen, right off the bat, is that malpractice coverage will have to be expanded. Perhaps another type of insurance will be created to help physicians who are criminally charged in situations like the one Dr. Gunter describes. That will mean higher healthcare costs for everyone, since everyone practicing in a healthcare setting will need coverage.

Next, legislators will start getting phone calls at all hours from medical professionals who need clarification of the laws. Senator So and So might be enjoying a night out with his wife and have to answer a frantic phone call from a doctor who is trying to treat a pregnant woman whose pregnancy is making her health worse. And the doctor will have to listen to an untrained legislator offering his opinion.

Patient privacy will go out the window. It will have to, since physicians will have to seek advice from legal people on what they should or shouldn’t do for a patient like the one Dr. Gunter describes. Moreover, doctors, who already have a lot to do and huge loans to repay, will have to waste time with legal red tape and possibly money trying to defend themselves from legal action. A lot of them will have to go to court and may even risk being arrested simply for trying to do their jobs.

I haven’t even touched upon what will happen when sick women with health problems are forced to give birth. They will probably need more healthcare, since the pregnancy has made their condition worse. And their babies will probably need more healthcare, too– if they survive. That will mean more work for healthcare providers and higher costs for both insurance companies and uninsured people. Uninsured people will likely have more bad debt, which could ruin their ability to make major purchases like cars, education, or homes. That will affect business… well, maybe not for undertakers, who will probably get more business as more people die.

The legal system will get more business as more cases regarding abortion wind up in court. More people will go to prison, which is already a shameful big business in the United States, where in 2016, 2.2 million people were already behind bars. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing for the people who profit off of incarcerating others– privately run prisons are a thing in the United States. However, it will not be a good thing for families and individuals directly affected by having a loved one in prison. A lot of the “babies” legislators were so keen to see born could wind up with parents in prison, if they’re lucky– the cemetery if they’re not.

I can see why people are “pro-life”. A lot of folks believe it’s a matter of personal responsibility to prevent pregnancy. I happen to agree that, at least for me, it wasn’t hard to avoid getting pregnant. But I don’t represent everyone. Sometimes even when a person uses birth control– or even after they get a procedure like a vasectomy or a tubal ligation– pregnancy can still happen at the worst possible time. Sometimes birth control methods fail. Sometimes even vasectomies and tubal ligations can fail, though that is admittedly a rare situation.

And so many of them think that because they more often pay child support, they should have the right to enslave a woman by forcing her to give birth.

I’ve been paying attention to a lot of rhetoric spouted by “pro-lifers”, many of whom are men. I’ve seen a lot of men equating their duty to pay child support to a woman’s duty to give birth. First off, men aren’t the only ones who pay child support. Sometimes women pay child support. Secondly, having to pay child support is really no comparison to having your health on the line while gestating a baby. And before the baby is born, the name on the hospital’s and doctor’s bills is not that of the father’s.

I’ve seen other people, again mostly men, tossing out the statistics of when an abortion is “medically necessary”. One guy claimed it was about 4%. He did not provide the source of his statistic, but even if he had, I would be skeptical about its veracity. I don’t see how it’s possible to really know how many abortions are simply done for convenience. Everyone who seeks one has a story. Besides that, I can’t imagine any woman having an abortion for “fun” or even convenience.

I’m as big on personal responsibility as anyone is. I just think that abortion, just like any other medical procedure, should be entirely private. We don’t force people to donate organs to others, even when doing so would save another person’s life. We don’t begrudge people who defend themselves against intruders by using deadly force– one could argue that when a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life, that person has the right to use deadly force for her own self-protection. We have a big, complicated law called HIPAA that is supposed to protect our right to privacy in a medical setting. There is no reason why Dr. Gunter, an eminently qualified physician with excellent medical judgment, should have to call some legislator for permission to take care of her patients, particularly when the legislator isn’t even trained in medicine.

I’ll close with a direct quote from Dr. Gunter’s opinion piece. “Abortion is sometimes medically necessary, and women will have abortions whether they are safe and legal or not. Creating legislation that suggests otherwise does not change that truth.” Not allowing physicians to make medical decisions for their patients is a terrible idea.

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