A Small Serving of Justice for Breonna Taylor

The decision not to indict the police officers who murdered Ms. Breonna Taylor does not surprise me. Nor does it enrage or disappoint me.

The police officers who arrived at Ms. Taylor’s house to serve a search warrant weren’t on a mission to kill Black people that night. These officers didn’t shoot at Mr. Walker and Breonna because they were racist. They got shot at and shot back. They were doing their jobs.

Like most of the police officers serving our communities, their aim was probably virtuous: to get drugs and drug peddlers off our streets. They do this job because they feel that they are helping our community.

What is wrong with this picture is what is wrong with American today and what we mean when we talk about systemic racism. It’s what the Black Lives Matter movement SHOULD be about. What we should be focusing on is the system that allowed a warrant to be served on Ms. Taylor’s home in the middle of the night rather than during polite hours while she was more likely to be aware and awake. It’s the system that couldn’t wait for her to open her door and impatiently broke it down with a battering ram. The system that couldn’t coherently answer a homeowner’s shouts for the intruders to identify themselves. The same system that is unable to hold officers accountable when they lie on incident reports.

For too long, Black people have been portrayed negatively in the media, which has led to the devaluation and criminalization of Black lives. It’s the same devaluation that encourages police to disproportionately stop and harass Black and brown people. The one that takes the word of a white person over a Black person. The one that gave birth to “driving while Black.” The one that assures Black children are disproportionately disciplined in school. It’s the system that lauds tokenism and has given rise to a wave of Black “First’s.” The same system that renders people surprised to meet a Black, female nuclear engineer.

This is not about convicting police officers for carrying out department policy. This is about CORRECTING FLAWED POLICIES. This is about building a police force that is accountable to the people they protect. Because there is no amount of non-discrimination or “racial sensitivity training” that can resolve the disproportionality with which Black people are pulled over, ticketed, arrested, searched, or brutalized by police without a cosmic shift in the way Black people are portrayed and regarded in our society.

A lot of bad decisions were made. But most of them were made BEFORE the officers ever banged on Ms. Taylor’s door. If you are going to be mad about something, be mad about that. Ms. Taylor got just about as much justice as I expected her to get. Now it’s up to us to make sure her death was not an empty one.

Stinky Science

Someone asked me why a cloth mask can stop a virus if pants cannot stop a fart. Well, well, WELL! You have asked the right woman!

The part of a fart that smells is actually not a solid. It’s a mixture of hydrogen sulfide and methane gases. So it doesn’t need to travel in a droplet or a particle. Gases can be dissolved in a water droplet, but when a water droplet evaporates from a filter, the gaseous molecule that was in that droplet would continue to travel in the air. (Whereas a viral particle, which is a solid, would be “stuck” in whatever filter the water had adhered to.)

However, gases are not very soluble. They are more soluble in a liquid when they are under pressure (like carbon dioxide in a soda). But once released from the pressure the gases quickly disassociate from the liquid and rise into the air.

Gaseous molecules are very small in comparison to a solid particle like a virus particle. Water particles are also generally larger in comparison because of a family of intermolecular forces we call van der Waals forces that cause them to glom together. If you’ve heard the term “hydrogen bonding,” that is a van der Waals force. Water has strong van der Waals forces that create surface tension. Surface tension makes water tend to form aerosols with a wide range of particle sizes. So a filter stops the aerosolized water particles, giving them time to evaporate and retaining any solid particles that were traveling in the aerosol. But gases released with the aerosols would not be trapped in the filter.

So, wear a mask y’all.

Trump’s Russia Problem

President Trump has been touring the country holding more of his campaign-style rallies, essential fuel for his all too delicate ego. I have zero time to sit down and watch him spout half truths at the mouth, what with a full time job and a toddler to nurture. But there’s this one issue – Trump’s Russia problem – that I just can’t let him get away with lying about.

Trump keeps saying that the whole Russia issue is just more of Democrats’ attempts steal the election – another of Trump’s false narratives. Trump and his son continue to hold fast to their claim that Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. only met with Putin and other agents of Russia to discuss Russian adoption.

Democrats, republicans and independents are all concerned about Russian attempts to interfere with the democratic process in the United Started and around the world. Their concern is justified. Russia does not have fair elections. Politicians, business men and others who oppose Vladimir Putin’s leadership have ended up in jail or worse. And Putin forced a change to the Russian constitution to allow himself to be re-elected again and again, ad infinitum. So no election in Russia is fair. I’d argue they have never had a fair, open election like we see in the West. And Putin is actively trying to expand his power over neighboring countries.

Concern about Russian interference in elections is a very serious issue. Because of his corrupt political dealing, Putin is the richest man in the world. He and his oligarch cronies steal money from the Russian people and launder it into Western banks to hide their corruption. That’s where Russian adoption comes in play.

Russian adoption is just a ghost term for Russian sanctions. In retaliation for the Magnitsky Act sanctions passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2012, Russia abruptly ceased all adoptions to applicants from the United States. The sanctions passed included a provision that would allow the government to freeze the assets of foreign agents suspected of serious crimes, including Putin himself. This scares Putin because he is a murderer who hides most of his money in the West. Additionally, there is now a global movement to approve the same sanction measures internationally, which would mean disaster for Putin, his wealth and his power. Putin has been raging against this reform ever since it was passed.

So collusion with Russia during the Trump election campaign is a very serious matter. A president beholden to Putin makes America weak and Putin strong. Yes, I said Putin, not Russia. If the allegations are true, Trump will have helped a dictator increase his power.

How could Putin have helped Trump get elected? (Not that he needed it.) Help Trump’s campaign by hacking the Democratic National Committee and releasing damaging emails. Help the Trump campaign by paying agents to create false news of terrible acts by Hilary Clinton. There could be many other aids Putin’s network conveyed.

And in exchange for what? You know the rules of the game: you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. I’ll help tip the balance in your favour if you will discuss lifting the sanctions that have my assets frozen.

Erm….. Russian adoption, that is…

Claim the Victory, Not the Blame

Today, Bill O’Reilly was fired by Fox News. Women everywhere are rejoicing. Finally, after decades of excuses and backdoor rug sweeping, this sexist degenerate has been held accountable for his actions.

But we should be careful not to play into the narrative that he and his friend Trump are oh, so sure to drum out. He’ll of course deny the allegations. He’ll say he is a victim of the “fake” mainstream media. He’ll say “feminazi” groups launched a witch hunt against him. And memes that place the credit for his demise on women surely play into his hands.

Women are not responsible for taking good old Billy down. Bill O’Reilly himself is responsible for that.

Yes, it is we women who ultimately fanned the fire under the feet of Fox News leadership to hold sexists accountable for the harassment they unleashed on female colleagues. It is we women, with our buying power and market influence, who put pressure on advertisers to pull their sponsorship of O’Reilly’s show. It was a woman who decided she’d had enough, that she wasn’t going to be pushed around and bullied, and decided to go public with her story.

But it is Bill O’Reilly who is the mastermind behind his downfall – his actions determining the direction his story would take. Bill O’Reilly is the composer of his very own symphony of defeat – every pitiful stanza being a testament to his disrespect for his fellow colleagues, his hatred of women, and his disregard for the truth. It is Bill O’Reilly who took Bill O’Reilly down. And he has no one to blame for his failure but himself.

Donald Trump is an Old, White, Racist

I cannot stay quiet anymore.

Donald Trump can claim to the hills how he is not a racist. But I know he is. His attempts to garner favor from Black voters have not fallen on deaf ears. I have been listening, and I do not like what I am hearing.

Those are my aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, mother and father he is talking about when he says Black communities are in the worst shape they’ve ever been in, “ever, ever, ever.” Just. No.

And his solution? Drum roll…………..more STOP AND FRISK!

Stop and frisk (Terry stops) in every Black community in America. Donald Trump thinks emphasizing Terry stops in the Black community will reduce violence. The same stop and frisk that, contrary to Trump’s claims on how well it worked, did not yield any attributable reduction in violent deaths in New York City. The same stop and frisk that was declared an unconstitutional, illegal infringement on the rights of the minorities targeted under the policy.

No matter! Donald trump knows better than the generals! The Donald knows better than the NYPD and the U.S. federal court of appeals and the Fourteenth Amendment.

Maybe that’ll be Trump’s next real estate investment – a for-profit prison to hold all the big, “bad dudes” he locks up thanks to stop and frisk.

Because it has become obvious Donald Trump knows better than Black people what is good for Black people – the view inside a jail cell.

Interjection Dissection

I hate being interrupted.

I’m not talking about someone entering the room when you’re speaking or need privacy, or the intrinsic overlap of friendly banter. I’m talking the “I-start-to-talk” about what I’m doing and the “listener” abruptly interjects with his (supposed) countering opinion without even knowing what I was going to say. I’m talking about the rude shutdown.

Maybe people don’t realize they’re doing it. Maybe he didn’t hear me start talking. Maybe his hearing is bad. Maybe he is blind and deaf and didn’t see my mouth moving either.

Nope. Nope. Nope.

I get it. I’m a young (looking) engineer. I’m pretty. I wear skirts and jewelry to work. I’m a Black woman. (WOOT!) But when did any of these attributes point to the (imaginary) place in our unwritten book of professional etiquette that says it is acceptable to disrespect me?

“Interrupting people is rude, m’kay?”

Shut up. Stop talking. Listen when someone is talking to you. You may be pleasantly surprised what comes out of the other person’s mouth.

PA Legislature Introduces Abortion Ban

A bill  was introduced today in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that would effectively ban second trimester abortions.  House Bill 1948, introduced by Representative Kathy Rapp and Rep. Bryan Barbin, Rep. Bryan Cutler was introduced late to the House Health Committee Friday and this morning was fast track to the full assembly without a public hearing.

The cosponsors of HB1948 claim the bill is intended to prevent fetal pain and reduce complications of an abortion. But in this Trojan horse bill hides an agenda to ban ALL second trimester abortions.

HB1948 contains language that would rename the most common and safest 2nd trimester abortion procedure (dilation and evacuation, or D&E) as a “dismemberment” abortion and then would ban it’s implementation. Doing this would effectively ban all 2nd trimester abortions in Pennsylvania as they are currently performed.  This part of HB1948 would limit doctors’ choices concerning first trimester procedures as well, since a D&E is not uncommon choice in the first trimester. Banning the safest available type of abortion procedure would NOT protect women from complications of abortion. On the contrary, HB1948 would increase the chance of complications after ending a pregnancy.
In addition, although the bill’s sponsors claim a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks there is inadequate scientific evidence to conclude fetal brain development is sufficient to feel pain at that stage of development. The authors may cite Dr.Kanwaljeet Anand to support their claims. However, Dr. Anand’s findings have not been corroborated by any independent research; and remain an outlier in this area of study. In fact, a preponderance of the scientific evidence leads one to exactly the opposite conclusion. The majority of the scientific research on the subject of fetal brain development has found the neural pathways required to experience pain are not formed until at least 24 weeks gestation and more likely later.
Whether a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks should be a moot point in the debate over second trimester abortion. For most women seeking an abortion after 20 weeks – that’s only 1.4 percent of all abortions performed – the abortion is needed because something has gone very wrong with the pregnancy (i.e. – it is not an elective abortion).
It is clear the cosponsors’ characterization of HB1948’s purpose is insincere at best. And rather than giving the people of Pennsylvania a thoughtful review of HB1948 and it’s very real and detrimental consequences, the Health Committee passed it to the general assembly floor for a vote without even 24-hours of consideration. This is just another attempt to slowly chip away at the right to terminate a pregnancy until that right completely disappears.
It’s time to call your state legislator and make your voice heard on House bill 1948. To contact your PA House Representative click here.

**Edited to note the D&E ban would affect first trimester procedures as well.