[Plura-list] Satanic Abortions vs unconstitutional abortion laws; Restore the Office of Technology Assessment; US plummets below Russia and Mexico in global misery index

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Fri Aug 7 11:25:06 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Satanic Abortions cut through unconstitutional abortion laws: Go
ahead, sue to overturn the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

* Restore the Office of Technology Assessment: In the 21st Century, it's
no longer OK to not understand technology.

* US plummets below Russia and Mexico in global misery index: Tired of

* Novartis's $678m bribery scandal: Epistemological crisis actors.

* California DMV's $50m/year data selloff: California lawmakers want to
know who's buying.

* This day in history: 2010, 2019

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming appearances, current writing
projects, current reading


🥚 Satanic Abortions cut through unconstitutional abortion laws

States across the US have enacted cruel, unconstitutional abortion laws
that require doctors to sexually assault women seeking abortions and lie
to them about the health impacts of abortion. Some laws require funerals
for foetal remains.

These laws were pushed by ALEC, the corporate-backed "legislative
exchange" that pushes "model legislation" through a network of slick
lobbyists in state-houses across the country. ALEC purports to be in
favor of "liberty" and "small government."

Enter the Satanic Temple, a federally recognized religion whose members
do not believe in Satan or supernatural phenomena. They believe "that
religion can, and should, be divorced from superstition."

The Temple has a fantastic schtick. They go to places where
christofascists have gotten laws passed that shove their weird, apostate
version of "Christianity" down everyone else's throats and point out
that the First Amendment requires nondiscrimination among faiths.

Wanna put a giant stone Ten Commandments in front of your courthouse?
Sure. But they're gonna put a giant statue of Baphomet right next to it.
The court challenges they mount aren't cheap, but they're slam dunks.
The US Constitution is pretty clear on this.

Now, in 1993, Chuck Schumer sponsored the "Religious Freedom Restoration
Act" which lets Americans sue governments over laws that "substantially
burdens a person's exercise of religion."


Religious maniacs *love* the RFRA and its progeny, like SCOTUS's Hobby
Lobby decision, which broadened the RFRA's provisions and allowed
corporations to claim exemptions from Rendering Unto Caesar where that
interfered with the owners' faith.


Guess what you get when you combine the RFRA, ALEC's restrictive
abortion laws, and the Satanic Temple?

That's right...*Satanic Abortions*.


A Satanic Abortion is a religious ritual that is totally
indistinguishable from a normal, medical abortion, except that the
participant says a few self-affirming words about her bodily autonomy.

Oh, also: the ritual absolutely forbids, as a bedrock matter of religous
conviction, any waiting periods, the withholding of medically necessary
advice, mandatory counseling, required readings, and unnecessary sonograms.

Also forbidden: mandatory fetal heartbeat listening sessions and
compulsory fetal burials.

If you want an abortion and the doctor tries this bullshit, hand them
one of these exemption letters explaining how the law doesn't apply
thanks to the RFRA.


Now, the religious right could fight this. But if they win...they
overturn the RFRA, and Hobby Lobby has to provide its employees with
contraception and all the other theocratic exemptions go poof, too.

The Temple is pretty amazing. Here's some highlights of their previous

"Publicly confronted hate groups, fought for the abolition of corporal
punishment in public schools, applied for equal representation when
religious installations are placed on public property, provided
religious exemption and legal protection against laws that
unscientifically restrict women's reproductive autonomy, exposed harmful
pseudo-scientific practitioners in mental health care, organized clubs
alongside other religious after-school clubs in schools besieged by
proselytizing organizations, and engaged in other advocacy in accordance
with our tenets."


🥚 Restore the Office of Technology Assessment

Remember back in 2018 when Mark Zuckerberg appeared before the Senate
and was asked the dumbest-ass questions you've ever heard? You know, the
"We sell ads, Senator" hearings?


Congress aren't fucking idiots on tech by accident - they were
lobotomized by Newt Gingrinch in 1995, when the "Contract With America"
killed the nonpartisan Office of Technology Assessment, which spent
peanuts producing cogent, neutral reports explaining tech to lawmakers.

But hey, no biggie. It's not like Congress needs to be well-briefed on
tech in the Twenty-First Century, right?


Well, it's OK. Congress can just get briefed by lobbyists. That'll work,


There have been years worth of bipartisan efforts to restore the OTA,
prising lose (checks notes) $6m.


Now Ralph Nader and colleagues have petitioned Nancy Pelosi to just DO
IT, unilaterally, with a "unicameral fund" (that is, with Congress's own
budget, not even bothering to ask the Senate). OTA's getting $21m now.
They need lots more. It's a bargain.


As Nader & co explain, killing OTA was "an open sesame for unscrupulous
corporations that arrested prudent ways to avert trillions in waste,
perils to Americans and other peoples abroad, and resulted in bad,
dangerous decisions that have ramifications to this day."

As Aaron Swartz said: "In the 21st Century, it's no longer OK to not
understand technology."


🥚 US plummets below Russia and Mexico in global misery index

Bloomberg's Misery Index tracks unemployment and inflation and ranks 60
countries year on year. America just tumbled 25 spots, from the 50th
least-miserable nation to the 25th, slipping below Mexico and Russia.


Writing in the New Yorker, Masha Gessen describes what happens when a
"great power" collapses: "Why America Feels Like a Post-Soviet State."


It's the nagging sense that any statistics are distorted to make the
people at the top feel good about their performance, and to give their
quackspeaking useful idiots something to shout when anyone criticizes
the system.

(think of Trump's covid "statistics")

It's the sense that, without data, and under pressure to hit meaningless
targets, our institutions CAN'T perform: think of schools reopening,
Deborah Birx toeing the party line.

It's the sense that you're being led by a Mafia boss without a Mafia and
the sense that the rich live in a completely separate system from the
rest of us, insulated from the depredations and fears that keep the rest
of us up at night.

America wasn't the only country that slipped in the misery rankings, but
its fall was much harder than other backsliders, like Iceland, Israel
and Panama.

Tired of winning yet?


🥚 Novartis's $678m bribery scandal

For years, the pharma giant Novartis ran a "speaker program" that
laundered vast payments to doctors - speaking fees, trips, top-shelf
booze, strip club nights and fancy meals - in exchange for
overprescription of its products.


This was common knowledge, but it wasn't until the Novartis sales rep
Oswald Bilotta blew the whistle in 2009 that the company faced legal
jeopardy. Now the company has settled with the SDNY for $678m  (Bilotta
could get as much as $75m of that).

Novartis's bribery was unbelievably blatant and tawdry: picking up the
catering bill for a doc's son's Bar Mitzvah? Really? You're not even
pretending it's anything but a bribe at that point.


The fine is satisfying, but honestly, the company should be shut down
and its operations nationalized, and the doctors involved should be - at
the minimum - barred from prescribing without oversight from another doc
(most of them should be struck off altogether).

This kind of corruption is why we have anti-vax, mask denial, and other
forms of epistemological crisis. Very few of us are qualified to review
the evidence in pharma research, so when our doc prescribes to us, we
are trusting the process as much as the doc.

Anti-vaxers and mask-deniers' claim goes like this: pharma, big health,
and docs only care about money. The regulators are either wilfully
ignorant or actively complicit. They would all conspire to get you to
take unnecessary or even dangerous steps if it enriched them.

*Therefore*, you should not vaccinate your kid, disbelieve the science
on covid, etc etc.

The first part isn't wrong. From the Sacklers' corruption and
profiteering on opioids to Novartis's decades of bribery, the evidence
is undeniable.

Which leaves us in an epistemological void. Either you go and master
cell biology, epidemiology, *and* statistics, or you just have to make
up your own mind about which parts of the medical consensus are genuine
and which parts are corrupt.

You're just throwing darts at that point. The fact that Novartis is
still in business, that its execs are not facing criminal sanctions,
that the docs it bribed are still writing scrips - all of that tells you
that the system is not reliable.

In the face of an unreliable system, all you've got is your gut. That is
unsustainable. At *best*, it kicks off measles epidemics in Southern
California. At worst, it makes it impossible to address the covid pandemic.

The people involved in this scandal committed literal crimes against
humanity. They should not be allowed to keep a single penny of their
wealth, and should not be allowed to make a single decision that affects
the public, ever again.


🥚 California DMV's $50m/year data selloff

California's DMV makes $50m/year selling drivers' license data, but will
not say who's buying it. California Members of Congress and state
legislators have written to the agency demanding answers.


California's DMV is hardly alone in selling the data we are compelled to
provide to it. Florida will sell your data to brokers for $0.01 - these
brokers, in turn, sell it on to just about anyone.


The letter to the California DMV asks for an accounting of the past
three years' worth of data sales, but such an accounting won't tell us
who those customers sold the data onto.



🥚 This day in history

#10yrsago The Last Musketeer: whimsical, dreamlike, delightful comic

#1yrago Monsanto ran a psy-ops war-room to discredit journalists and spy
on Neil Young

#1yrago Wisconsin commissioned an independent report on how to fix the
Foxconn deal. Result: it can't be done.

#1yrago As New York State's shareholder suit against Big Oil for climate
denial proceeds, Exxonmobil caught intimidating witnesses

#1yrago After student arrested for carrying laser-pointers, Hong Kong
protesters stage "stargazing" laser-protest

#1yrago Billions on the line as Facebook loses appeal over violating
Illinois facial recognition law


🥚 Colophon

Today's top sources: JWZ (http://www.jwz.org/blog/), Naked Capitalism
(https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/), Slashdot (https://slashdot.org/)

Currently writing:

* My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and
reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 620 words (46709 total).

Currently reading: The Deficit Myth, Stephanie Kelton

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 12),

Upcoming appearances:

* Virtual event with Christopher Brown for his novel "Failed State," Aug

* Induction into the CSFFA Hall of Fame, Aug 15,

Latest book:

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
gender, and kicking ass. Order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

Upcoming books:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

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