“Abortion Rights Opponents”

Posted January 27, 2017 by Casey Johnson
Categories: Off the top of my head, Politics

Tags: , , ,

I heard the March for Life referred to as “abortion rights opponents”, which I thought was intentionally unfortunate language, on NPR. I think it is important for “pro-life” citizens to be able to defend the argument of rights.

We aren’t opponents of rights; we are defenders of the correct prioritization of rights. Correctly stated, in the language of rights, what distinguishes us is that we believe a zygote, embryo or fetus is a human being (and is, therefore, entitled to the rights thereof).

Even the secular philosophers on whose work the Declaration of Independence, Federalist Papers, and ultimately, the Constitution of the United States of America was based understood that some rights are more fundamental than others. It should be noted, therefore, that none of the following discussion is religious in nature, but constitutional and secular. In the language of rights, you might classify abortion rights as property rights, healthcare rights, or the right to the “pursuit of happiness”. None of those are perfect fits, but few things truly are. Those are important rights that all human beings have that the United States federal government is constitutionally required to honor and protect. Well, except for when they come in conflict with a more fundamental right of another human being (in this case, the right to life).

Up to this point, we haven’t yet distinguished between the two sides of the abortion debate. So we agree with the “other side” about rights and we are, therefore, not opponents of any kind of rights.

Now, the disagreement comes in the application of the higher right of life to the zygote, embryo or fetus. At some point the zygote, embryo or fetus becomes a human being. For some, that is the moment that the sperm and egg form a zygote. For others, perhaps, it is when the embryo implants on the wall of the uterus. For others, perhaps, it is when a heartbeat begins or when brainwaves are present. For some, it is when the fetus is viable outside the mother’s womb. For others, it is not until the head of the fetus emerges from the birth canal.

The first kind of people object to “emergency contraceptive” pills as being tantamount to abortion, as well as all elective abortion. (I’ll use the term “all elective” to indicate that some people allow for “exceptions” when abortion is acceptable, though I find it an intellectually lacking position*.) The second kind of people oppose abortion, but allow for emergency contraceptive pills. The next three kinds would place developmental or gestational calendar limits on abortion, and the final group believes that abortion is a woman’s right all the way up until birth.

There may be other distinctions that some make (for example, some groups consider the act of intercourse to be that time and, therefore, object to most forms of birth control), but that should be more than sufficient for this discussion.

At whatever point you deem that zygote, embryo, or fetus to become a human being, that is the point at which you ascribe it the right to life, assess its right to life as of greater consequence than the mother’s rights to (however you want to classify abortion), and determine abortion to be immoral (or unethical, or unconstitutional, or a violation of rights).

Again, up to this point, the discussion is entirely secular; now we will make the first statement that may be tied to religion: we are people who believe that a zygote, embryo or fetus is a human being.

Maybe we should call ourselves “Zygote/Embryo/Fetus Human Status Advocates” or something like that.


*It becomes an impossible distinction when the mother is in a position of danger to her life due to the embryo or fetus. I don’t think that government can correctly distinguish on this tragic quandary and would prefer that it not do so. (At that point, it becomes a decision between the mother and the doctors, I suppose. Perhaps others may advise, but they ought to do so very, very cautiously.)

Propaganda, Russia, and the election

Posted December 18, 2016 by Casey Johnson
Categories: Politics

People don’t seem to be processing Russia’s influence on the presidential election correctly. Nobody—not the CIA, not the FBI, not the Obama Administration, and not even the mainstream media—is saying that votes were miscounted or excluded by Russian interference. The election was legitimate and the results are legitimate.

Nobody—not John Podesta, not the Democratic National Committee, not the Clinton campaign—is saying that anything the Russians released via WikiLeaks is fabricated or inaccurate. The Russians exposed a selection of real information that just made Hillary look bad. And, to be honest, that wasn’t hard to do and, since it was all true, she probably deserved it.

In short, the Russians did nothing more than dozens of American media outlets were doing—on both sides—for much of the past year: giving a one-sided look at politics and politicians. The Kremlin is exceptionally good at this, having 100 years of practice. It’s called propaganda, something that the American public and a chunk of the mainstream media don’t seem to have properly grasped yet, although Obama did use the correct terminology in his press conference yesterday.

Americans, not Russians, were the ones who refused to care how ridiculous and dangerous Trump is because (so they believe) Hillary’s evil can’t even be measured. Ask your Republican friend who voted for Trump to rank the following three beings from bad to worst: Hillary Clinton, Vladimir Putin, Satan.

I’ll spare a moment for a true story. I mentioned my belief that a lot of Republicans would have voted for “Lucifer Satan (Republican)” before they’d have voted for Hillary Clinton to a politically engaged coworker. (A college-educated (graduate degree!), regular church-going, suburban white male; the exact demographic that was supposed to represent the registered Republicans who were refusing to support Trump.) The idea immediately took his attention and he reacted with palpable energy. His body language confirmed my belief, but his verbal answer is worth the trouble of typing out: he told me that he thinks that Hillary Clinton is Satan. Maybe he qualified it with a “basically”.

Before you assume I’m crazy (or my coworker) ask your own family, friends and coworkers. Maybe it’s too late, maybe the emotion of electing Trump and defeating Hillary has died down enough to give way to more rational consideration for these Republicans. I suspect, though, that you can repeat my result. Your Trump-voting Republican friends, the ones who supported Cruz, Rubio and Carson in the primaries, rate Hillary Clinton as worse than at least one of Vladimir Putin and Satan.

Maybe some readers will surmise that it was the Russians who made Hillary Clinton look like Satan to these Republicans. I consider myself closely plugged in to this and I am confident in telling you that you’re wrong. It was not Putin and the Kremlin who did the hard work. It was the propaganda of another set of “Rush-ians”, an all-American group of media and entertainment personalities starting with Rush Limbaugh 25 years ago and spreading to his many knock-offs and imitators in the last 5-8 years. The Rush-ian propaganda did infinitely more to influence the election than did Kremlin propaganda. (There are many layers to that influence; more than I have space for here and now.)

The Russians are just feeding themselves placebos trying to feel powerful in American politics. The problems with our democracy are ours and ours alone. We created the problems, we built them up and reinforced them, we focused on them until everything else disappeared, we campaigned on them, and we voted based on the problems.

If you regret your vote because now you realize that the Russians were meddling… I mean, their meddling was widely reported before the election, so… and I’m willing to wager that there aren’t very many of you, not enough to swing the election, so… if you regret your vote now it’s your own fault and not the Russians. You were a fool.

We are fools and that’s all there is to it. We elected Donald Trump to be President of the United States.


The Propaganda of Jobs and Bathrooms

Posted November 29, 2016 by Casey Johnson
Categories: Off the top of my head, Politics

Tags: ,

(This post is not about the transgender rights movement and it is not about economic policy regarding job growth. This post is about propaganda.)

There are a lot of people just blindly taking some of the propaganda that Trump is spreading. Here’s one that I’ve seen/heard more than once since the election: Democrats don’t care about jobs, they only care about things that don’t matter, like what bathroom you use.

Wait a second.

If there’s one party that has cared too much recently about which bathroom you’re using (by attempting to pitch the entire transgender rights movement around the fear of a man going into a women’s bathroom and doing harm), it’s the Republicans. The social conservatives, to be more precise. Now I’m supposed to believe that Republicans aren’t focused on bathrooms (“things that don’t matter”!!) because the critical need is to create jobs. So North Carolina Republicans are going to take HB2 off the books since a few companies have opposed the bill and may have already or may soon move jobs out of the state, major events that provide hospitality/tourism jobs may not be held in North Carolina, and companies may re-evaluate plans to expand (new jobs!) in/into North Carolina? Oh, they’re not. Interesting.

Listen, there’s a lot more nuance to both the transgender/bathroom debate and to economic policy that promotes job growth (and, specifically, why the intersection between the two probably isn’t particularly significant) than that quick assessment affords. But don’t let that blind you to the ridiculousness that the propaganda machine is pushing. Democrats are not the (only) ones obsessed with bathrooms and Republicans aren’t prioritizing “jobs” over bathrooms. It’s just one very simple example of propaganda that is overtaking America and Americans’ susceptibility to it. Stay alert; don’t be sucked in. Critically examine what you read and hear.

Send-Off Match #2: Turkey

Posted June 1, 2014 by Casey Johnson
Categories: US Soccer, World Cup 2014 Brazil

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Timmy Chandler’s body language is negative; he just always looks exhausted. It’s strange because he consistently follows up making the next important sprint or recovery. Brad Davis and Julian Green left Chandler alone a lot in two-on-one situations. It’s hard to tell if it’s always just failure to track back or sometimes inherent in the “diamond” approach (this is a known weakness of the concept). Chandler was personally and solely responsible on the Turkey goal.

That there was only a single Turkey goal was a minor miracle worked by a combination of great American goalkeeping and sloppy Turkish finishing. I think the majority of chances were created by inherent weakness of the “diamond” midfield: no defensive help for Timmy Chandler and only one man (Jermaine Jones) to cover the middle of the field defensively. By connecting three passes in the middle of the field and pushing two midfielders into the attack, Turkey were easily able to find open midfielders in dangerous positions–this is something that our World Cup opponents will easily replicate to generate chances and, inevitably, goals.

Fabian Johnson’s goal was wonderful: the incisive run with the ball, a great one-two combination with Bradley, a fabulous final pass from Bradley and a technically perfect shot and finish from Johnson. WOW!

Mix looked sharp for the second consecutive match. Bradley instinctively drops deep for tactical solidity and this is a necessary adjustment to cover the inherent weaknesses of the “diamond”. DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks settled down and finally looked confident and tenable. Fabian Johnson was very, very good, especially providing dangerous attacking contributions from wide. That’s a critical function of the fullback in JK’s ridiculous “diamond”. Dempsey was good, but missed a few opportunities to create chances with loose first touches. Jozy was absolutely everywhere and did everything right except score a goal. There are no fitness questions for Dempsey and Jozy. Julian Green was totally ineffective; even JK must be questioning his decision to have Green and Davis instead of Landon Donovan!

It’s official: the starting defense includes Fabian Johnson on the right and Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler in the middle. This is evident in that the first half of both matches was that combination. In the second halves each Cameron and Besler got a “chemistry” building run with the other’s backup. The Nigeria match will perhaps be decisive between DaMarcus Beasley and Timmy Chandler on the left.

Jozy and Clint will start together and appear primed for an excellent World Cup.

It’s still quite a mystery who will start and in what configuration in the midfield. It appears that Jones and Bradley will start in the middle with Jones sitting deep and Bradley pressing high. Zusi has started both matches on the right and subbed out in each. Mix Diskerud has looked sharp and solid replacing Zusi both times making combinations with fullbacks, midfielders, and forwards. Mix covers a lot more ground since last summer’s Gold Cup and has become a viable option in a two-way midfield role. Brad Davis and Alejandro Bedoya seem to be the contenders to start on the left, but I have to wonder if Mix’s performances might impress Klinsmann enough to consider shifting the midfield around to include Zusi, Bradley, and Mix between Jermaine Jones and the forwards.

Thoughts on the Azerbaijan Match

Posted May 28, 2014 by Casey Johnson
Categories: US Soccer, World Cup 2014 Brazil

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Well… the offense was totally out of synch. Was that just Dempsey missing at the last minute, or is there more to it? The movement off the ball was not crisp, resulting in poor ball movement and lots of dribbling instead of quick passing. This is partly attributable to Azerbaijan’s deep defense but could be a first indication of a serious problem: a static offense with no instigator. Most of our guys were passing the ball and standing still, receiving the ball standing still, thinking only of the next pass instead of two or three ahead… Mix was a striking player because of his movement.

There’s a lot of “chemistry” yet to be built in this team. The relationships between fullbacks and wide midfielders, among the midfield, between the forwards, and through the center of the field all need work towards better movement, interplay, and passing.

Here’s a good add to my rants about Donovan: Dempsey pulls up lame with a leg muscle injury in warmups. Who do you want JK putting into his place: Wondo, Aron, or Landon. For me it’s Landon all the way. I won’t argue too much to those who say “Aron”. I could even be talked into Mix.

I was impressed with the fitness and the effort level towards the end of the match. That was a huge factor in eventually scoring twice.

Since when does the USA use zonal marking for corner kicks?… I don’t foresee this turning out well.

Mix was really good, coming inside and outside, rushing into attack and tracking back to defend, moving, passing, moving again and, finally, finishing off the opening goal. Johannsson was strong on the ball and too static off of it. The whole offense was really static and didn’t have crisp movement off the ball (and, therefore, crisp ball movement).

I thought Yedlin was still pretty lost and I’m sure Wondo has to be killing himself for missing those chances. Those are the misses of 2011-12 Wondo instead of the goals of 2013-14 Wondo.

Michael Bradley was actually fairly disappointing in his newly minted role as creative hub midfielder. Maybe he needs to swap shoes back to the CTRs; those Magistas were misfiring all kinds of touches, passes, and even shots.

Brad Davis was poor, both in the run of play and in set pieces, until suddenly he dropped a corner kick square on Aron’s head at the front post… and how on earth did Aron get so wide open?!?

Let’s just say that Chandler didn’t take Beasley’s job. Actually, Beasley seemed improved in both positioning and one-on-one defending (but let’s see how it is when the level of competition ramps up).

Jozy just couldn’t get the ball in good areas. I think a big part of that is the lack of movement between the ball at Zusi, Jones, and Besler’s feet and Jozy. There was too much medium range long-ball-ish-ness. How deep is the mitigation consideration for Dempsey’s absence?

Jermaine Jones! He looked svelte and fit, staying active all over the pitch for the entire 90 minutes. The USA controlled the game, at least for possession and territory, thanks in a large part to Jones. He certainly did nothing to give Beckerman hope of overtaking him and I’m quite happy for that.

Send-Off Match #1: Azerbaijan

Posted May 27, 2014 by Casey Johnson
Categories: US Soccer, World Cup 2014 Brazil

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Here are some things to consider while watching tonight’s match. I’m late with the post, so I already know the lineup.

Watch for Jermaine Jones comfort level and tactical and positional discipline at the back end of the “diamond”. Jermaine doesn’t particularly relish sitting deep, but his skill set should flourish here… if he can maintain his focus and stay disciplined. If the diamond is going to work in the World Cup, Jermaine has to be an absolute beast, cover huge ground, and never get caught out of position.

How will the supporting midfielders play and do they have the tactical chops to deal with the “diamond”? Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya are set to start in unfamiliar positions for them. Each is accustomed to a more attacking and wider role both with club and past appearances for country. I was completely convinced that Zusi would be on the left and Bedoya on the right because they’ve done it that way in the past when both played together, but I was wrong. It will be interesting to see how involved each is and how well each supports Jones in defense and Bradley in attack.

Is Fabian Johnson the answer at right fullback? He should be good here since he played the second half of the Bundesliga season here. The second half of the issue, though, is whether Beasley can continue to squeak by and improve at left back or if reinforcements (most likely in the form of Johnson) will be required there, leading to a false start for the team’s right fullback situation.

Can Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler provide the magic combination of proficiency and chemistry without making mistakes? Each is very talented in his own right and the two are skilled in possession, which should help Jermaine Jones build up from the back while Michael Bradley pushes forward. The question, to me, is aerial dominance. Neither seems like the Clarence Goodson-Omar Gonzalez type of aerial dominator to me, but will the combination serve effectively or will the defense be vulnerable to crosses and headers?

Finally, will Jozy finish his chances (and how many can Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley create for him)? JUST PLAY JOZY!

Details on the Implications of Abandoning Landon

Posted May 25, 2014 by Casey Johnson
Categories: US Soccer, World Cup 2014 Brazil

Tags: , , , ,

First, there are a handful of things that Landon does that nobody on the team can replicate. Second, this may betray JK’s tactical intentions and, perhaps, indicate a worrisome level of inflexibility.

Landon Donovan may have lost a half a step. Some in MLS think he has, others don’t. Some tape seems to show on thing, some other highlights, the opposite. Regardless, Landon still has some qualities that place him among the most dangerous and useful attackers in America and perhaps in the world. Landon’s movement patterns and anticipation runs off the ball are still “there”, and “there” in a way that no American before or now can match. Landon still has the first touch and vision of a world class attacker. Landon Donovan can still deliver a free kick, whether on goal or onto a teammate’s run-and-jump at a very high-caliber international level. Landon is still the best and most reliable penalty kick taker available to the US team.

There have been a lot of statistics thrown out there for and against Landon. Most “chances created” (whatever that means) in 2013 for the Yanks? Landon. Most goals in 2013? Landon. Most assists in 2013? Landon. Landon has more than twice as many goals and assists for the USA in just one year post-sabbatical than in a year and a half under JK pre-sabbatical. Oh, yeah, Landon has more career goals than anyone else in US history. And more assists than the entire team combined. Landon’s MLS production has steadily decreased since the day Beckham left LA in 2012. Landon’s distance covered and top speed have never returned to their pre-sabbatical levels. What you believe and how you add it up may have more to do with your personal and intuitional feelings than any facts or realities. There’s one thing I can guarantee you: every opposing coach considered Landon Donovan, not Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, or Jozy Altidore, the most dangerous “must stop” player for the USA. With that threat out of the way, both coaches and defenders will be more confident and able to focus their energy on Clint Dempsey.

Another interesting bit to discern from the roster, especially from Landon’s exclusion: JK has settled on the “diamond” 4-4-2 and has dispatched any flexibility he may have had. With Clint Dempsey inked in as the “free” forward, there is no place for Landon in the “diamond”. The 4-2-3-1 formation from qualifying or the 4-3-3 formation used throughout the US youth system would offer an excellent fit for Landon on either wing, but JK has thick-skulled-ly refused to entertain those ideas, considering players only for the position they would play in the “diamond” formation. Therefore Landon Donovan is only a forward and Fabian Johnson is only a fullback, etc., etc. That tactical inflexibility will come back to bite JK in the butt. As fun as it is to dream of how the “new” formation will work wonders, it is only realistic to understand that the team must be flexible to make a good World Cup run.

Quick: in the 81st minute against Ghana with the score level at one each, a tricky Clint Dempsey turn has made a fool of a Ghanaian defender who, in a panic, has fouled Clint to give the US a penalty. Who takes the penalty, or, well, who do you most want to take the penalty? Clint Dempsey, the notoriously poor penalty kick taker who pegged the goalie and missed the frame entirely in his last to penalty kicks for the US? Graham Zusi, who yanked his penalty in the MLS Cup wide? Jozy Altidore, who hasn’t seen a ball hit net in a competitive match since Edward Snowden’s security clearance was in good standing? I mean, we all know Clint will take it because Clint is Clint. But who do you want to see with it? Landon Donovan.

How about this: desperately needing a late goal to tie Germany and advance on goal differential, Michael Bradley takes and Clint Dempsey give-and-go, using space opened by a Jozy Altidore cross-field run, and slots Chris Wondolowski in on goal. Wondo takes a touch to line up his shot but, at the last minute, Mats Hummels comes flying in to deflect Wondo’s goal-bound shot. “I hate to bring this up, but Landon scores that chance ten out of ten times” chimes in Twellman while Zusi lines up the corner kick. Bars all across America are too loud with agony to hear the TV, but nobody needed to hear it to know it.

Consider another situation: in a tight group, the US winds up tied with Ghana and Portugal on 4 points (a win and a tie). Even goal differential cannot separate the teams and the tiebreaker comes down to goals scored. The US, thanks to Jozy’s lack of confidence and opponents’ strategy of choking out Clint Dempsey by surrounding him with defenders and fouling him, has a mere one goal even though we’ve only conceded twice. The makeshift defense has held firm, save a truly special goal by Cristiano Ronaldo and a controversial (okay, fine, ridiculous) penalty kick. But, alas, the USA will go home early because we simply couldn’t find someone who could assist a simple tap-in or finish a chance. The man that we needed has been busy dropping dimes and punishing nets with Robbie Keane.

Why? Because JK is a diva.