Progress, and Regression

  • Progress: This afternoon the US has landed a spacecraft, albeit unmanned, on the Moon, for the first time in over 50 years;
  • Regression: the religious mindset behind the Alabama IVF decision; more examples of the ambitions of the Christian nationalists;
  • Heather Cox Richardson on these issues;
  • WaPo on the lucrative world of Covid misinformation;
  • And Crowded House: “Catherine Wheels”, an early example of Neil Finn’s beautiful pendant melodies.


CNN, this afternoon: Odysseus becomes first US spacecraft to land on moon in over 50 years

NY Times, 22 Feb 2024: U.S. Lands Spacecraft on Moon for First Time Since 1972



There is something deeply presumptuous in the religious mindset that apparently wipes out the ability to reason from relevant premises and draw appropriate conclusions. Or is there something about “ineffable will of God” or whatever in the Declaration or Constitution? Well, maybe there is in Alabama.

NY Times, Opinion, Charles M. Blow, 21 Feb 2024: Alabama’s I.V.F. Ruling Shows Our Slide Toward Theocracy

If you don’t think this country is sliding toward theocracy, you’re not paying attention.

The drumbeat of incidents moving us ever closer to the seemingly inescapable future is so steady and frequent that we’ve developed outrage fatigue — we’ve grown numb.

For instance, on Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are children and that destruction of those embryos, even by accident, is subject to the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. In his concurring opinion, the chief justice, Tom Parker, wrote, “Even before birth, all human beings bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory.”

The idea is absurd and unscientific. It is instead tied to a religious crusade to downgrade the personhood of women by conferring personhood on frozen embryos.

Blow gives other examples of how Trump supporters “believe he has been singularly chosen by God to advance their theocratic aims.”

To those advancing these ideas, the will of God counts more than the will of the American people, even when Americans object or disagree.

If they need to reference God, they’re admitting they have no legal rationale. And they’re violating the Constitution.


And they’re not bothered by consistent thinking.

Slate, John Culhane, 21 Feb 2024: There’s an Enormous, Impossible-to-Resolve Contradiction in Alabama’s Anti-IVF Ruling

The issue concerns wrongful deaths.

A short history of wrongful death laws will help situate this discussion. These laws have always occupied a strange place in tort law. For reasons that remain speculative and unclear, until the latter part of the 19th century the civil law provided no remedy against a defendant whose wrongful conduct caused the death of another person. Causing serious injury, by contrast, could lead to a negligence claim, and a substantial award of damages, in favor of the injured plaintiff. You read that right: It was better, financially speaking, to cause someone’s death than to cause them serious injury.

Some years ago I read a news story, which it’s still hard to believe, that said in Japan, or China, motorists who hit pedestrians would deliberate back over and kill them, since the financial penalties for killing a person accidentally were less than life-long payments to support an invalid. It might have been a spoof article, but the situation here seems to be analogous.

This argument is pretty technical, so I’ll quote one more sample.

But until this Alabama decision, no court had permitted a wrongful death claim in the case of a negligently destroyed frozen embryo, even though the theory has been tried in other states. No conclusion other than rejecting liability is tenable. Consider the facts in the very case the court decided. As the court summed up the defendant’s position during oral argument, the three sets of parents had contracted as follows: to “destroy any embryos that had remained frozen longer than five years,” or to donate them to researchers whose projects would “result in the destruction of the embryos,” or to allow any “abnormal embryos” to be experimented on and then “discarded.” This language, by the way, comes from the majority decision, not from the dissent. But the majority allowed the case to move forward anyway, saying that these issues could be resolved at a later point in the litigation.

That makes no sense at all. …



Right Wing Watch, 21 Feb 2024: Oklahoma State Sen. Dusty Deevers Is Taking His Christian Nationalism To Its Logical Conclusion

Joe.My.God, 22 Feb 2024: CPAC Extremist: We’re Here To Overthrow Democracy Completely And Finish The Job Started On January 6th

CNN, Oliver Darcy, 22 Feb 2024: Fox News hyped the bogus FBI informant claims against Biden. Now it’s refusing to walk them back

PolitiFact, 22 Feb 2024: Donald Trump’s fine in the New York fraud case “is a form of Navalny, it is a form of communism or fascism.”

(Trump just lumps these words together without rhyme or reason; to his followers, those things are all bad, while He is good.)


On those accusations against the Biden family. And the IVF issue.

Heather Cox Richardson, 21 Feb 2024: February 21, 2024

The centerpiece of Republicans’ case for impeaching Democratic president Joe Biden is the allegation that he and his son Hunter each accepted a $5 million bribe from Ukrainian oil and gas company Burisma when Biden Sr. was vice president. But in the last week, that accusation has revealed quite a different problem, one that implicates Republicans.

The theme that the Republicans’ opponents were dangerous socialists out to destroy the country became the centerpiece of Republican rhetoric. From President Ronald Reagan’s welfare queen, who was scamming the system and thus taxpayers, through talk radio host Rush Limbaugh’s “feminazis,” to Trump’s claim that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” the party has defined itself as “true America” standing against enemies.

And if you believe you are fighting for the right, it only makes sense to do whatever it takes to win.

And, regarding the Christian nationalist movement,

What that might look like became clear this week when the Alabama Supreme Court decided in a wrongful death suit resulting from the accidental destruction of embryos that were part of an in vitro fertilization (IVF) process, in which doctors artificially fertilize eggs outside the womb and then transfer them into a person, that fertilized human eggs have the same status as children. Chief Justice Tom Parker declared in a concurring opinion that the people of Alabama have adopted the “theologically based view” that “life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God.”

About 2% of U.S. births are a product of IVF. Today the largest healthcare system in Alabama has announced it is halting its IVF program out of fear of prosecution.

Reworking the nation to impose Christian nationalism requires minority rule, which aligns with the ideology of authoritarianism, enabling Trump and those who share his views to praise someone like Vladimir Putin. And, it seems, to accept his help winning elections.


Washington Post, Lauren Weber, 21 Feb 2024: Tax records reveal the lucrative world of covid misinformation

As I’ve said, and others have said, there are some genuinely crazy people out there who spread conspiracy theories because they’re irrational and they really believe them… But there are other people who spread such ideas maliciously. Because they make money at it. The article here names names.

Four major nonprofits that rose to prominence during the coronavirus pandemic by capitalizing on the spread of medical misinformation collectively gained more than $118 million between 2020 and 2022, enabling the organizations to deepen their influence in statehouses, courtrooms and communities across the country, a Washington Post analysis of tax records shows.

Children’s Health Defense, an anti-vaccine group founded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., received $23.5 million in contributions, grants and other revenue in 2022 alone — eight times what it collected the year before the pandemic began — allowing it to expand its state-based lobbying operations to cover half the country. Another influential anti-vaccine group, Informed Consent Action Network, nearly quadrupled its revenue during that time to about $13.4 million in 2022, giving it the resources to finance lawsuits seeking to roll back vaccine requirements as Americans’ faith in vaccines drops.

Two other groups, Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance and America’s Frontline Doctors, went from receiving $1 million combined when they formed in 2020 to collecting more than $21 million combined in 2022, according to the latest tax filings available for the groups.


From Crowded House’s fourth album, Together Alone, “Catherine Wheels”. This has the longest, so far, pendant melody, as I’ve described them, which became more frequent on Neil Finn’s solo albums. The main song is beautiful; and so is the pendant. And in this case, the pendant is almost as long as the primary song.

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