The “Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health” Edition
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S2: Hello and welcome to the Slate Political Gabfest for December 2nd, 2021. The Dobbs vs. Jackson Edition. I’m David Plotz of City Cast. I’m here in Washington, DC, Emily Bazelon of the New York Times Magazine and Yale University Law School. Hello, Emily in New Haven.
S1: Hey, I’m enjoying the fact that John Dickerson who you’re about to introduce, maybe I’ll introduce him. He works for CBS News. He has a party hat on.
S2: Oh, I was thinking he looks like he’s in a penitentiary, right? Like little hats that people in penitentiary used to wear. Yeah, strikes.
S3: And although I also associate this with sort of chefs hat, it’s a striped. It’s a it’s a headband. Yeah. Hmm. Yeah. That I was wearing on my head.
S2: We’re a little bit giddy because we’re going to be together in a room later today for the first time in forever. We’re gathering in New York to do our conundrum show, but you’ll hear that later this week. We will talk about the most consequential abortion case in at least 20 years, probably in our lifetime was argued this week the Supreme Court. We will talk about that and we’ll have Ross Douthat of the New York Times as a guest to join us then. The emergence of Omicron and the increasingly avoidable. Maybe or maybe increasingly less avoidable tragedy of the pandemic and the politics of the pandemic, which are just so awful at this moment. Then Chris Cuomo was suspended by CNN for his extensive efforts to protect his brother, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and his lying about those efforts. We will talk about, you know, when when do you protect your brother? Should a brother be protected? Plus, we will have cocktail chatter. We are joined by Gabfest regular New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, who wrote this week about why he opposes abortion. We’re going to talk about the most important abortion case in decades, which was argued at the court on Wednesday. So Emily, can you talk about Dobbs versus Jackson? What was being argued? What’s a reasonable summary of how the argument went? And then we’ll get into it.
S1: This case is about a challenge to a law that the state of Mississippi passed that nearly bans abortion after 15 weeks, with very few exceptions. Well, we heard at oral argument were the three liberal justices making the strongest case they could for respecting precedent. Justice Sotomayor, in particular, talked about the political stench that would surround the court if they are seen as just flipping on this because recent justices have more conservative views on abortion. The current law is you cannot ban abortion before a fetus is viable. There were deeply conservative justices who’s made it clear that they think that Roe is egregious, a terrible precedent, a stain on the constitution that should be overturned. Chief Justice Roberts was kind of all by himself and looking for some kind of middle ground. It seemed like he wanted the court to find that viability was no longer a strict line that states could restrict abortion before viability. But it wasn’t clear that anyone else was on board for whatever compromise he was after or what standard he would come up with. And then you had Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Barrett. Justice Kavanaugh seemed to be in line with overturning Roe, or at least he compared it to other stigmatized decisions of the past, like Plessy versus Ferguson in 1896, in which the court enshrined the principle of separate but equal. Of course, the court overturned that and brown vs. board, and so it was as if Justice Kavanaugh was putting forward a kind of best hits list of overturning precedent and suggesting that Roe should join that list. And Justice Barrett surprised me the most. She asked why safe haven laws were not enough to kind of protect women’s rights and autonomy. She was talking about laws that have made it slightly easier for women to give babies up for adoption. And she revisited this question of adoption a couple of times and seemed to be suggesting that as long as women didn’t have to actually raise the children, they would bear that they didn’t necessarily need a right to abortion. I have to say I found that pretty shocking.
S2: Ross, which of the arguments that someone who is who’s I, I think I can say, is more sympathetic to the the move to ban abortion, or at least make it much more difficult. Which of the arguments did you find effective or where did you where did you sense that the conservative justices were? We’re hearing something they liked.
S4: I mean. Well, first, I basically agree with Emily that out of the conservative justices, it was only Roberts with, I think, not surprisingly, an assist from Elena Kagan trying to sort of prod towards the question of whether there’s a standard besides viability, basically that the court the court could come down on. I think the challenge and you could see this in especially the solicitor general and the lawyer for the abortion clinic. Is that viability is an extremely workable standard in the sense that it’s clear, it’s clear, I mean, there’s there is ambiguity, obviously like of exactly when a baby becomes viable in the womb. But you know, we can say for certain that a 12 week old fetus is not viable and a 32 week old fetus is viable. Right. So the law likes clarity for understandable reasons. The challenge is that philosophically, in any version of, you know, arguments about abortion, whether it’s sort of the pro-choice position or the pro-life position or the various gradations in between viability isn’t really a great place to draw a line because the you know, the thing that makes the most important thing that makes a fetus viable outside the womb, I believe, is lung development. And almost nobody thinks that you can found personhood on on the state of someone’s lung development. So if you take a sort of maximalist pro-choice position that says basically the problem is the state is forcing women to be pregnant and stay pregnant, if that’s the interest that doesn’t disappear, the moment the fetus has lungs hit a certain developmental milestone, right? And alternatively, you could say, you know, we’re going to ground personhood in some kind of stage of brain development. But the most plausible candidates for drawing that line are much closer to 10 to 12 weeks, which and it’s a much, much more hairline than viability. So I think in that kind of argument, the conflict between the laws search for a clear line and the philosophical debates, the very different places that the philosophical debate comes down. You can see, honestly, the problem with having this be sort of legislated by judges, right, that the judges are being asked to do work that is functionally philosophical rather than constitutional. And Anthony Kennedy really enjoyed that part of the Supreme Court job. But I don’t think it would be surprising that conservative justices would have a hard time, even Roberts sort of working their way to a place where they’re saying, OK, we are going to reject this sort of legally clear but philosophically dubious line in favor of a philosophically clear but legally more complicated line that just doesn’t fit into the conservative perspective on what Supreme Court justices are supposed to be doing.
S3: Is that when Kavanaugh was seeking to talk about precedent and compare it to Plessy and basically say this was wrongly decided, originally there is no right to privacy in the Fourteenth Amendment, and therefore we don’t have to adjudicate all the questions you just mentioned. It shouldn’t, shouldn’t have been decided. Therefore, we must get rid of it and send it back to the states. Yeah, I
S4: did. I mean, I thought. Kavanaugh, though, was also following picking up on the arguments that Breyer especially leaned into at the start. Right? Like if the strongest case being made from the bench is not that Roe was rightly decided originally, which I suspect that Breyer himself doesn’t quite believe. Not that he wouldn’t favor a right to abortion, but that I suspect he doesn’t believe in the specific arguments that were made in Roe. But if you’re not arguing that Roe is rightly decided from the beginning, if you’re leaning all the way on stare decisis, then you just very quickly get into the question of Plessy versus Ferguson. Bowers versus Hardwick came up right. These the instances where the court has clearly reversed itself. So you you end up talking about them sort of by necessity. I think if the argument is on the grounds of, you know, when to stare decisis hold
S1: Bowers versus Hardwick is the decision about sodomy laws, where the court first said that states could outlaw sodomy, even though it was pretty clearly discriminating against gay people and then later reversed that decision. So there are these philosophical versus legal questions about where you draw the line. I mean, do you think that the court should draw the line earlier? I think a lot of people who think access to abortion as important would be willing to have a line that was before viability if they thought it would settle the political dispute, right? I mean, this is something well, Saletan has written about for Slate for years, and I think you could imagine a position and this is the way a lot of European countries work, where nominally there is an earlier line. So France and Germany nominally say that women have a right to abortion up until 12 weeks, but then there are lots of exceptions. And so in fact, people who are delayed beyond that time period who need to get abortions for urgent reasons, they get abortions. And that is true in other countries in Europe, too, that there is a lot of access. There’s also insurance that pays for abortion and birth control and just sort of a whole public health apparatus that supports all of this. But we don’t have anything like that in the United States, and so the argument from the pro-choice side yesterday and I understand it is that to fully support women’s autonomy, viability is important because that’s the moment when a baby can live outside the womb on its own before the point of viability. The fetus is wholly dependent on the woman’s body. And so that’s the line we’ve come up with. And I so I feel like there’s this problem between a more potentially pragmatic solution and these absolutes that we talk ourselves into.
S4: Yeah, I mean, I guess on the second point, yes, there is some change in the fetus from babies sort of potential capacities, obviously, and viability. But it’s not as if the instant a fetus becomes viable. The pregnant woman who previously wanted the abortion is going to induce labor and put the baby in a nick. You right? Like, it’s not. I mean, the baby is still going to stay inside the unwilling woman past viability, I guess. I just I don’t I understand the sort of intuitive argument that like it is, you know, this is the moment when it can live outside the woman, but it doesn’t actually live outside the woman. So it’s still, I think, from again, from the sort of the pro-choice logic where forced pregnancy, this has forced pregnancy and it’s wrong. I don’t think it actually gets away from the problem on the compromised question. I mean, I I disagree a little bit about the landscape in Europe. I think it is actually in not so much in the Netherlands and Scandinavia, but in France and Germany and Italy. It is reasonably difficult to get an abortion. Put it this way, there are impediments to getting an abortion after 10 to 12 weeks that I think were they implemented in New York state tomorrow? Most liberals would be up in arms about. Right. So there are actual impediments you have to, you know, go through various processes. And in Germany, women in France end up sometimes going to the Netherlands for late term abortions. So I don’t I don’t think the European settlement is something that would be perfectly satisfactory to the two most of the pro-choice side.
S1: But wait, but do you agree, though, that it’s important that it’s embedded in this public health system in which people have insurance, they have much more access to long acting birth control, that there’s this whole support for women’s reproductive rights in medicine and health care that changes the calculus. Right. And we’re not talking about putting that into place here before the court overrules.
S4: We’re not. Yeah, we’re not talking. There is a there’s public funding for you can get an abortion and, you know, publicly funded and in France, for instance. Yeah, and that’s not that’s not going to happen in the U.S. I mean, I think the well, I guess I’m curious what you think about this is the US going to have a national settlement on abortion, right? If the court say the court strikes down Roe and returns the issue to the states, obviously Congress can also legislate on abortion. There’ll be a lot of pressure to do so. But could you imagine a like? I do think that a basically a abortion is illegal after 10 to 12 weeks and legal before. That is sort of the place of compromise that if you just use public opinion, you would end up with. And I think you can see that even in red states like Texas, these are the heartbeat. Bills are not absolute bans on abortion, but
S1: there is more like six weeks than 10 or 12.
S4: There are more. Right. But but what I’m saying is, even even in conservative states, you aren’t. I mean, I’ll again, I’ll be curious to see what happens, but you don’t have attempts at the at the full ban. You still have some kind of gesture of compromise. But can you imagine Congress like the bills that Democrats want, would just codify Roe v. Wade? Right? Why? I just don’t know whether you can imagine Congress legislating its way to compromise or whether you really do end up with a real patchwork of abortion laws nationally.
S3: Well, can any Democrat vote for anything that is less than the codification of Roe in the Senate? And can any Republican, regardless of what the general public opinion is about abortion in the state? It’s hard to believe that that a Republican senator would chance voting against the opinion of the primary voters, which will be which is more which this will become partisan ized in a way, even that the pew polling on on on abortion doesn’t really capture at the moment seems hard for a Republican to vote.
S2: Yeah, but there’s no there’s no legislative. No, yeah,
S1: there’s no legislative solution coming from Congress at any
S4: time, not in the next.
S1: Right. So yes, I think there will be an
S3: even in a post Roe
S1: world states. Sorry, John what?
S3: Well, I was just going to say in a post, even in a poster of war, you’re not going to find 60 votes, correct?
S2: Can I go back to a point of yours for a second Emily, which is just that the European comparison in this in this public health framework, one of the things that I find so frustrating with all of this is that there is there’s so little work by the abortion opponents on these things, which make it easier to have a child and for two to once you’ve had this child, which is so difficult to have and which you maybe don’t want to have that the same politically, the party that is that is, you know, insisting that you, this child is yours and you need to raise it is doing such little work to make it easier to raise a child of helping that child out of poverty, of making it easier for that. The older child, the elder sibling of that child, to have a decent life for you, for the mother of this child, to be able to have a job and and and be able to have know that there’s affordable child care. And so I find it very frustrating when there’s this push among some of the amicus briefs to talk about what how Wonderful Life is for women in America and how things have improved. And this failure to acknowledge that as a nation, we are so poor at taking care of these children that everyone says they want to be born.
S1: Yes, I mean, for me, this is just the fundamental like deep frustration. And this is why I’m afraid that the Supreme Court decision is going to unleash just a lot of human suffering by people who are already born. And we know this. We have research about this that women who are turned away from abortions have poorer health. Five years later, they have poorer economic outcomes and their kids suffer, too don’t do as well in school. There are all these knock on effects, and they’re in some ways is something incredibly idealistic about the idea of restricting or ending abortion, right? It’s the idea that you can expand this concept of humanity to include all of these unborn potential human lives and that we can treat them equally to. And there is something beautiful about that idea. It’s just so far removed from our reality in which we don’t provide decent conditions for living for all the people who are already here. And so I just have this terrible fear of what this is going to unleash for real people, especially poor women in the parts of the country where it is going to be very hard to get an abortion through the existing main route of going to clinics and people are going to have children that they’re not prepared to have. And that is going to lead to poor outcomes for the children they already have. And for them and and I, I find the order is off right. If we were going to fix those problems, if we were to give people all the resources they need to raise their children the way they want to raise them, then you could countenance abortion restrictions, maybe. But we’re not going to do it that way. And you know, Mississippi, these Republican led states are going to be the last in line for those kinds of changes.
S4: So a couple of things. One is that, you know, the weird thing about the history of the pro-life movement is that at its start, it was primarily a Catholic movement, and many of the people involved in it were associated with the Democratic Party and were sort of, for that reason, very much in favor of a lot of the kind of, you know, welfare state expansions that you guys are talking about. And for a lot of complicated reasons, having to do with shifting coalitions and the politics of the 1970s, the pro-life movement ended up allied to the more libertarian political party, the Republican Party and allied to the evangelical movement, which became more pro-life but remained for reasons that honestly go back to the Reformation, more skeptical of of government power. And that does create this, this dynamic where, you know, I think if you looked if you just sort of polled pro-life activists, people who are deeply involved in the movement on their views, on government spending on new mothers and things like that, they would look more liberal than maybe some liberals would expect. But they are part of a political coalition that has tended to oppose things like Medicaid expansions and so on. I sort of think some of that changes probably a little. A bit in, in fact, you can see versions of it changing already around the same time that Texas passed or implemented its six week abortion ban. The Republican governor of Texas signed a bipartisan bill expanding Medicaid for four new mothers, keeping them on Medicaid longer, which I’m sure still does not go as far as sort of an ideal program would, but is a shift that I think in part reflects the shifting politics of abortion. And you have within the Republican Party, a small group of legislators from Mitt Romney to Marco Rubio, who are very interested in family policy in different ways. They don’t set the agenda for the party, but they do exist. So I would be a little more hopeful that this sort of complex post Roe world would generate, at least in some red states, some real experiments and family policy that would be good and positive. And I guess the other thing is, yeah, I mean, I I agree with you, Emily, that there is a sort of utopian side to the pro-life movement that tends to be true of social reform movements in general. But you know that. I mean, the new mother who who doesn’t get it, who considered an abortion and doesn’t get an abortion, is likely to be in more financial difficulties five years later. I’m sure that that’s true. The child who’s not doing that well in school is, you know, is alive and would be dead.
S2: Otherwise, I think Emily said. My older
S1: brother the
S2: other day, the older sibling.
S4: OK, so the younger sibling who would presumably also not be doing as well as in school is alive and rather than dead. And it’s just hard from the pro-life perspective to say that that interest has to wait until the perfection of the American welfare state.
S2: I would like to close by offering each of our to our two panelists here. John, you’re out of it, given what you heard at the Supreme Court. I would like each of you to say what you think is the sort of best possible outcome for your forgiveness, given what you hope to happen would be from this case. Ross Towey you go first, Emily you got the last word.
S4: I mean, I’m more interested in Emily as mine is. I do think Roe and Casey were wrongly decided and I think, you know, I think there’s a lot of room for plausible democratic compromise on abortion, but I think it needs to be democratic. So, you know, I yeah, I would. I think the the proper outcome is still ultimately overturning Roe and Casey.
S2: I’m honestly for the states and then it goes to the bunch of the states and the states decide each state decides.
S4: Yeah, I mean, I think I think we need for some of the reasons that our came up in our our last exchange. I think ultimately you probably would want a national settlement on abortion given the nationalization of our politics. But I think we don’t know enough about what different approaches to a more pro-life policy look like. And so I would be perfectly content to have things legislated in the states for a while. And I’m really curious what Emily thinks the ideal of sort of more liberal form of abortion jurisprudence should be.
S1: Well, before I answer that, so can states ban abortion? Can they have heartbeat bills? And can they also ban telemedicine so that you can’t seek abortion from other states that have more liberal rules?
S4: You mean, in this case, I don’t. I don’t know what. I don’t know what the implications of this ruling for that.
S1: Well, in your but in your ideal jurisprudence, like what would states be allowed to do? What would you want states to do if you were setting state policy? How would you set it
S4: if I were setting state policy? I would be very cautious initially about trying to do things like telemedicine bans. I mean, I think I said this in the Times piece, but I think that the, you know, the the strength of the pro-choice argument lies in its stress on the idea that you don’t want, that there’s a certain kind of abortion regulation that requires a kind of police state approach like where you’re scrutinizing suspicious miscarriages and things like that. And I am against that. I’m not sure where, like, I’m not sure where telemedicine kind of things fall in that in that territory. But I think my my initial goal would be for states to be able to, you know, not not have abortion clinics within state limits.
S1: So there are 19 states that now have telemedicine bans, and Texas at least is banning mailing the abortion pill into the state. So that’s the legislative branch
S4: that would be there. Yeah, yeah.
S1: So I mean, my answer to this question is that I wish I could think of a way that women could be free and equal in the world and not have a robust right to abortion because abortion is so divisive. But I just can’t see it. I don’t see how you force people to be pregnant and they can be free and equal in our society. And that I agree with Justice Ginsburg should have been the basis for Roe all along. And for me, it makes a lot of sense that access to abortion is a constitutional right for those reasons, whether there could be some kind of pragmatic compromise, more along the lines of what some European countries do, where states are allowed to give more interest to the rights of the fetus. You know, during the second trimester, and that would be a way of settling the terrible political fights we’ve had over this, and there would be exceptions for women, but they would have to go get permission from doctors or panels at hospitals. Like if I thought that was a political settlement, I would be willing to move in that direction, especially if it came with things like public health funding for abortion, which is present in those European countries and seems just so crucial to me, along with access to long acting contraception and good sex ed, because those are the reliable ways in which we reduce the number of abortions, if that is the goal, which it seems like should be a shared goal. So I guess that’s the world that I wished we live in. It’s some combination of our constitutional right and some kind of pragmatic solution that recognizes the politics. But I fear that we are going to take steps away from that kind of reality, and we are going to have this polarized country in which we still have abortion up until viability and blue states like where I live and women in red states are going to be out of luck and it is a big country. So asking people to travel to clinics is a huge ask. And the hope that I have in this lies in the abortion pills, which have increasing research showing how safe and effective they are. And what I fear Ross is the kind of police state that you were just talking about in which women are going to be ordering those pills over the mail. And if states are serious about stopping them, they are going to be opening the mail and putting those women in jail. That’s where this ends. If you really want to ban abortion and that I find really, really disturbing.
S2: Ross Douthat is a columnist, The New York Times. Emily Bazelon is a writer at The New York Times. You subscribe to The New York Times America, you get this amazing content.
S4: Heard good things about Slate, though.
S2: Two Ross Thank you. Absolutely. Slate Plus members. This week’s bonus segment is going to be the Gabfest Gift Guide, what we love and want to share the best things that we’ve seen that that we think. Maybe your loved ones would like to go to Slate.com Source Gabfest Plus to become a member today. The Omicron variant, which I could swear as a Robert Ludlum book I read as a teenager is jittering the world. The new variant appears to have qualities that might, might, might make it very infectious and that might, might, might make it resistant to current vaccines. Might, maybe might. Maybe, and it arrives at a really bad moment because the fight at the pandemic has descended to a new low here in the US, with Trump appointed judges blocking Biden vaccine mandates and red states now effectively campaigning. Leaders of red states effectively campaigning and even paying people not to get vaccinated. So Emily, let’s start with you. How scared of Omicron are you?
S1: Personally, personally, I’m not that scared because I’m pretty healthy and I’m pretty good at denialism about COVID and many other things, but I am scared about the impact it’s going to have on opening back up on the economy, on my kids in terms of what they can do in the world and on other people who have many more health risks and could get. It seems like the question is particularly whether Omicron is as or more infectious as Delta and then whether it’s more virulent and we just have no idea. But the fact that it’s spike proteins are so different from the other strains of coronavirus suggests that it might be less affected by the vaccine, and that is just an incredibly depressing prospect that we’re going to go back to not having the kind of immunity that we’ve had in the last at least several months, at least some people in the world.
S2: So John, you’re really great thinking and talking about uncertainty, and this is a moment of deep uncertainty around this virus who will know a lot more, presumably next week and more even than the week after that and so on. But time is time as both friend and enemy here, because it also means it has more time to insinuate itself and more time for people to panic, or more time for people to work themselves up into a froth of some sort. Do you think at this moment there is a such a thing as a correct policy response or even a correct personal response? Like, how are we supposed to deal with this uncertainty?
S3: I think there is a correct policy and personal response. Unfortunately, not everybody is embracing it, and the reason we know it’s a correct one is because we’ve been testing this for a while, which is hope for the best prepare for the worst. Now, that doesn’t mean shut everything down. Nobody’s suggesting that. But one thing we’ve learned in the all of the big. So there have been seven named variants. There’ve been lots and lots and lots of variants. But Omicron, which I also understand can be pronounced, I think, in England or in Europe as Omicron and that that’s OK to do so. Just don’t correct anybody if you hear them say them that way. But it’s we’ve we’ve recognized that when you see the tip of ice out of the water, that it might mean that there is an iceberg under there. So let’s not steer the ship into the into that little piece of iceberg that’s showing. And as Emily said, we’ve got to wait probably a couple of weeks. The Omicron is worrying everybody for scientific reasons that it’s gotten over 27 of these spike protein mutations, and Delta had it only 10. So attacks are three big questions. Does it breakthrough vaccines? Is it more contagious and does it make you sicker? All of those questions are up in the air. And so what we’ve learned is when you see that the virus is always ahead of us. And so when you see a little bit of it, be concerned that there’s a huge galloping amount of virus out there we have to worry about. And then if you’re wrong? Great. You know you, we can go back and and so that should be the way people are reacting. The problem is they’re we’re seeing overreaction. And then of course, we’re seeing ridiculous things said by people who are anti max mask and anti-vaccination, which creates this awful thing, which is in this two weeks, we’re waiting to find out what the real deal is. The conversation in the absence of data sinks to its worst level
S2: Emily one possible case to be made about this this variant is that this represents a deep failure of the world that the world. You should know. We knew that the epidemiologist knew that the more we get vaccines out into the world, the less likely it is that the vaccine the virus is spreading wildly all over the world because there’s just less place for it to spread. More people are vaccinated and there’s less likelihood of mutations that that make this an ever deadlier or more infectious disease. And there has been a really lackluster effort to get viruses to the rest of the world. Vaccines, excuse me. There’s been a really very lusty effort to get viruses to the rest of the world. The virus is doing a great job, but there’s been a very lackluster effort to get vaccines to the rest of the world. And is that is that on our head?
S1: Yes. Although I think it’s also important to recognize that South Africa just turned away a whole bunch of extra doses and some of the other South African countries where Omicron was first detected have also just had a real problem with uptake. They are having the same problems of misinformation and vaccine skepticism that we are having. And so I’m reluctant to turn this into the sort of simple vaccine hoarding rich countries versus screwed over poor countries, though I think there is that is potentially part of the story. And the other thing is, we don’t actually know where it originated yet, for sure. We know that it was first detected. But that may just be that the South African doctors were especially vigilant about sequencing. And so I feel like this whole part of the story. While I very much rue the way in which we have not evenly distributed vaccines, I’m not exactly sure it’s going to line up neatly as the kind of easy morality tale.
S3: That’s exactly right. Based on everything I’ve read is that it’s not a shortage of vaccines, it’s a shortage of vaccinations, which is in Africa, in part the result of generations of abuse and and disinformation by authorities with respect to medical treatments and or the withholding of medical treatments with respect to AIDS. And there was reporting, I think Thursday that in the Netherlands, they found two cases of Omicron before the South African plains on which they thought it came had even landed. So that’s what suggests that it may not necessarily come from Africa, which nevertheless, part of this is a reminder that and it’s extraordinary that we have to remind people of this. But I guess with 45 million Americans unvaccinated, it has to keep happening, but that there are consequences to not getting vaccinated that go beyond your own body if it’s not enough to convince you within your own community that it that other people can get sick. There is a warning that has been since the beginning, which is the more of this virus that bounces around the world and particularly in places where people have low immunity. One of the theories is that one person had COVID and had an immunosuppressed body and that it basically hung out in their body, getting more and more of these mutant spike proteins. So that in other words, Africa, which has a low uptake, is a place where not only do these mutations happen, but they can become more complex like this one.
S2: So this particular scare comes at a time when here in the U.S., we have really terrible pandemic politics that that there is this now complete out and out culture war, or I guess it’s a public health war. The culture war manifesting as a public health war where most of the apparatus of the Republican Party and a lot of states is oriented against stopping mandates for vaccines, stopping mandates for masking and judges who have now blocked Biden’s vaccine mandates in different ways. It’s a very, very bad situation. And to me, one of the weird things is that people are rooting against their own. Self-interest in a way that you have a group of Americans who want the economy to be worse, who want people to be sick or who are happy enough for the vaccine to be a failure because it it scores political points. And I think and I will say that I think there is a element of that that that Democrats practice during 2020, which is that they were gleeful that Trump’s mishandled the pandemic so badly because it made it more likely he would be politically defeated. But the idea that people in this country in general are putting their own health and their own economic well-being behind the sort of psychic benefit of their political party, doing well is so incredibly depressing. I can’t even get my head around it.
S1: So I’m sure that strain is there. But I also I’m not sure how prevalent I think it is. I think there’s also just this sense of restiveness and impatience with the restrictions and this feeling, you know, all along, I think the hardest part
S2: vaccines are not vaccines are not restrictions.
S1: I you’re right, totally. I agree. And I find the most puzzling part of this like to me, the vaccines are like the ticket to freedom. Like, if we all had them, then we could just march on together. So I find that very hard to. I understand the reasons for skepticism and distrust, but in the end, I find it very difficult. That said, I think the impatience in the restiveness is this sense of like, don’t tell me what to do. This pandemic has been exaggerated from the beginning. I don’t share this view. So I want to separate myself from it. But I think all along the pandemic, it’s serious enough that it has killed many, many people. And as a society, we’ve had to respond to it with fairly drastic measures, but it is not killing a huge percentage of people who get the virus. And so if you want to say like this is just like the flu. Don’t worry about it, depending on the age group you’re in, especially post lots of people being vaccinated. That may even be true, and I think there has always been this difficulty of having a prolonged emergency response given the like. If it had been ten times more serious, that would have been absolutely terrible in terms of human suffering. But it would have been, I think, more clarifying and more unifying politically. So I think that is part of it, just this sense that people are sick of the restrictions. They don’t want to hear about this anymore. And I also don’t they find that not getting vaccinated part of the reaction to be inexplicable. But it’s all tied up in some sense of like too much, too much more than just scoring political like, I’m sure there are people who are scoring political points. I think most people are not taking it in through that lens.
S3: I think the rest of it, as you describe, is certainly exists. But I think you do have members of Congress and parts of the Conservative, and I don’t even conservative isn’t the right word. We need to sort of parts of the partisan media establishment making the claim. And this goes beyond restiveness, making the claim that Omicron is a confection of the Democratic Party.
S1: And this guest, the political class, is doing that.
S3: Yeah. And so this is and I know this is bait. I know they’re doing it because they’re baiting the press and they’re baiting Democrats. But I think it’s worth addressing for two reasons. One. This is a public health matter. And if we’re going to have an endemic situation, a clarity of information, as David’s first question, the ability of us to notice, OK, something might be coming. Let’s prepare because we know if by the time it hits us and it’s in our lap, it’s too late. So getting this right and responding to these strains is really important because we’re going to have to do it a lot. And the other reason to think talk about this is that this act of arguing that Omicron was created by the DNC as one person on Fox said, is such an act of ignorance, it achieves a kind of sublime stupidity that it is so stupid that it achieves that kind of perfection. And this is why it is dangerously stupid. First of all, politically, the idea is loony. The protracted nature of COVID is what’s hurting Democrats politically. So if anything, the political motivation would be for Democrats to pretend that this doesn’t exist. You may remember what happens when a political party and its leader pretend a virus doesn’t exist, so we know why they don’t want to do that. But politically, this idea that this is a confection to Democrats doesn’t make any sense. Second, the time between the initial discovery and nearly universal worldwide reaction to it, which is to say doctors all over the world saw this, and we’re worried about it for the same reason was nearly instantaneous. So experts across the world, this isn’t just some hack in Cook County coming up with some idea that’s out there, that this is going to help them politically again, it doesn’t help them politically. And so it’s just so frustrating that it’s used. It’s not just that restiveness, it’s that it’s being used in this obviously stupid and ignorant way, which only creates worse conditions. And we’re going to have to keep dealing with these kinds of variants, and it only makes us dumber as a culture. Yeah.
S2: I want to I want to close by posing something to you guys, first of all, I do want to say Emily, I think I think your point about restiveness is dead on, except I I think that really applies to math schools. I think the idea that it’s been conflated to include vaccines is is a particularly pernicious and wicked thing that’s been done by people for mostly fairly either ignorant or malevolent reasons. And I don’t. I am 100 percent with the people who are like, I’m tired of wearing a mask. I’m tired of my kid not going to school. I’m tired of not being able to do this and that I get that. But the the idea that those same people are like, well, and also I don’t think people should have to have vaccines, which are the route out is is a different matter. But that’s not the point. I want to connect this to our previous discussion, which is that there is some kind of sick irony of people talking about this narrow sense of liberty. That they have this narrow idea of liberty, liberties to freedom, to be able to do whatever you want with your own body, in this case, also your child’s body by refusing to get your child vaccinated. Forbid, you know you, you choose to not give them vaccine and cause your self harm, society harm and your child harm. And it stands STOs starkly against the insistence by almost the same people when it comes to abortion that you can’t do what you want with your own body when it comes to reproductive rights or with this, this this child that they say is there, that you can’t harm that child there. It’s like the right to harm your child exists in one place, the right to harm this. This embryo, which people who are anti-abortion believe as a child does not exist in this other place. And it’s just it’s a it’s an example of the kind of the hypocrisies that we all live with all the time
S3: is one of the answers to that David connected to what Emily was saying earlier, which is that the way those who would like to restrict abortion rights see it is that. Millions of of babies have been killed as a result of abortion. COVID 19 is not virulent enough is Emily was saying to suggest you’re going to have millions of deaths with if your kids aren’t vaccinated or if you’re not vaccinated, so the stakes aren’t as high in those two instances.
S2: Well, except for the
S1: kids you’ve got about the old people, though, that’s a problem.
S2: There are 800000 dead in America and there are millions of dead. And so they’re wrong. It’s a matter. They’re there,
S3: literally. Well, how many people have how many abortions of there have been more than 800000 in the history of abortion, about
S1: probably about 800000. We’re at about eight hundred thousand a year, right?
S3: So how about in the history of abortion?
S1: Oh, I mean, tens of millions.
S3: So that’s why I think they would see tens of millions as being more than 800000.
S1: Right, which, of course, though, requires equivalent making an equivalency between a born child and a potential human being.
S3: But they see, but obviously to be clear, but yes, we’re but we’re speaking in voice that David David’s question is is asked in voice. So if you if you assume their position, this is how they would see they how they wouldn’t see an inconsistency.
S2: But I don’t know. I mean, I guess than you. But this the same people are now standing up against mandates for measles, mumps, rubella diseases which have collectively killed way, way, way, way, way more people than abortion has. And also, I would note that COVID doesn’t just kill people in United States, it kills people all over the world. Anyway, we’ve combine two topics here. Chris Cuomo, brother of sexually harassing ousted New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, was suspended indefinitely this week by CNN when new documents gathered as part of the investigation of Cuomo now released showed how deeply involved he was in helping his brother try to suppress and play down harassment allegations and possibly discredit people making those allegations. Cuomo Chris Cuomo, excuse me, had lied publicly and also lied, apparently to his bosses at CNN when he said he had not consulted with aides to the governor. He hadn’t used his own journalistic connections to dig up dirt on accusers and various other matters. So what can a brother do in this position? What should a brother do? Should what should Chris Cuomo have done? I mean, I do think it’s like when you add up the the some of his behavior, it’s it’s grotesque, and he probably should lose his perch at CNN. But you obviously also don’t expect him to. He should not be the chief investigator of his brother. What should he do?
S1: I feel like this is really simple. If he wanted to help his brother, he should have resigned his position. He absolutely should not come back and be a host on CNN. And he lied. He lied to his bosses and he lied on the air. He said he had not tried to attack any of the women who are accusing Cuomo. Not true. He said he had not called other members of the press to try to chase down the stories they were writing. Not true. This is simple. If you want to help your brother go get off the television screen, stop pretending to be a neutral anchor with any kind of journalistic integrity. And go do that. That’s the choice.
S2: Well, you pretend to be a neutral anchor.
S3: That was so well said. We need to just that. Emily is exactly right. I think we just stop at nothing. I mean, it just it was so good. I hesitate to even talk, but I just
S2: so I see. Here’s the then I get into an argument where you guys can just crush me, which is, I don’t. I think what he did with his brother was totally wrong and he should lose his job. Sure, I agree with that. But I’m not with the people who say he should never have talked about his brother or, you know, had his brother on during COVID or lionized his brother.
S1: His views are clear. They are like, So you should explain. And I finish my side. Remind listeners of what you speak.
S2: Can I finish? Can I finish the sentence? I started, I guess. Yeah. Yes. So during COVID three, Chris Cuomo had his brother, Andrew, then the governor, on to talk about New York’s response to COVID, which Andrew Cuomo then came on and and was a very effective communicator, apparently did not tell the truth particularly effusively when he was on. He certainly was not as good a responder to COVID as he made himself out to seem. And they, the two of them bantered, and it was very it was a ratings manner for CNN and also the sense that, oh yes, we’re seeing here’s we’re seeing how a politician can respond well. And I think that’s just totally fine. I thought that was fine. It’s not. If he were the if CNN and the CNN shows were The New York Times, The Associated Press, it would not be fine. Basically, it’s a it’s a news network. It’s also an entertainment network. And the thing that I want to make clear is that the biases that Chris Cuomo has are very evident when it comes to his brother. And so if he’s talking to his brother on the air or talking about his brother on the air, it is a million percent clear he is in the tank for his brother and that whatever he is saying, you should take with a huge grain of salt. And it is where, whereas I think where the danger is for somebody like Chris Cuomo or anyone is like all the biases that listeners are not even aware of and don’t know about. They don’t know that you’re close friends with this person you’re talking about. Whereas with his brother, it’s like everyone knows it’s his brothers. Of course he’s going to have this now. The problem to me with what he did relate to the harassment is that it was all done in secret behind the scenes and that he lied about it. But the fact that he talks to his brother and that he hopes his brother on the air seems A-OK to me.
S3: Well, a couple of things. We’re now on very different territory and turf where where in the sense of of Chris Cuomo, we are in St No. Four or five or six. So but just to keep everybody focused, Emily is dead on with the the first claim, nobody was forcing Chris Cuomo to go on the air. His love for his brother is wonderful and admirable, and I would do anything for my brother, but I would either, you know, resign or take a leave or whatever or having been caught. I would say, OK, I did this for my brother. I broke the rules and goodbye to me. The reason this is such a problem is that I think what you say David is defensible about having his brother on the air. But then what? What CNN does in doing that is it blurs the lines between, Hey, what’s an entertainment? He’s not a real journalist. He’s an advocate for his brother. And isn’t this? Fine. And then the next minute, he is the voice of truth, calling out the people because he is the maintainer of the bright, clear standards. The only difference between a real news organization and all the other crap we have that’s called the media is that if you don’t follow the standards and don’t stick to the rules, you get fired. And so when everybody is saying, Oh, the media, you know, what often happens in media criticism is they take the farthest, most distant thing that can be claimed. A part of the media that has no standards at all takes something they do and says the media did this. And the pushback is, no, it didn’t. That was some random thing off on the side. When you talk about the press, there are a set of standards that you can get fired if you don’t maintain. And if you don’t do that, you no longer are a news organization. And that isn’t just a problem for CNN, it’s a problem for all of us. And one of the central questions of our time is the the dissolution of standards in politics and everything else. And there’s a clear standard here that has been and that has been crossed not only the lying on the air, but the lying to the lying to bosses.
S2: Well, but I mean,
S1: yes, wait, I now can I say something? I mean, I agree that these are lesser sins, but I think looking back, they it looks worse in a way that was kind of predictable. So I don’t at all agree that CNN is not held to the same standards as the A.P. or the New York Times. Like, I don’t get that like because it’s television. They define themselves as a news organization. And so I think that John is right about the kind of stench that they create to borrow a word that Justice Sotomayor used effectively this week for the rest of us. And I also think the problem I agree with you, David. I’d much rather have the biases out in the open. The problem was the airtime that Andrew Cuomo got that other governors did not get. And if you think about how ineffective his response to coronavirus proved to be in retrospect, the idea that he was the one who got to seem like the entertaining but also like, you know, I’ve got your back governor for many more minutes on national television than anyone else seems like especially bad luck. It wasn’t even an accurate portrayal, and it pumped up someone who was, like not requiring accurate reporting from nursing homes and putting people at risk in these ways that we could not see at the time. So I don’t give them a free pass on that.
S2: Yes, I guess as well. Right. So CNN is so CNN knows when you hire CNN hires Chris Cuomo because they know that Chris Cuomo brings access to democratic elites and brings us particular access to his brother, who was then the governor. Come on.
S1: All of the access to democratic elites is like hardly a difficult thing to come by on television. I don’t see them like refusing to go on. And also the idea that, you know, they hired Chris Cuomo so that like he could do funny interviews with Andrew Cuomo. Like, if that’s true, that’s a really bad reason to hire someone as a news anchor.
S3: I don’t think that’s why they would have hired him.
S2: I also think I also think that’s silly, but that CNN. I don’t watch CNN. I have never, to my knowledge, I have never watched Chris Cuomo on the air. So honestly, I don’t know what his show was like. I don’t know whether it’s masquerading as a straight news show or something else. I just don’t. I my in my own head. It’s like, Oh, it’s sort of like Chris Hayes or Rachel Maddow. It’s like that. And so that’s a different that is a different genre of show than than the old Bernard Shaw, which is what probably the last time I watch CNN was when Bernard Shaw was on. And whatever the news, the news shows that they had been. And and I guess my view is that news organizations are complicated and they do they do some some of what they do. And this is true of your own beloved New York Times and presumably your own beloved CBS John is some of what they do is really straight news, and a lot of what they do is like personal, fluffier, like, you know, more informed by by your own human experience and allows allows that into the coverage. And not everything that that the New York Times does like holds to an absolute standard of, you know of that, that the news story on a one has like there’s lots of stuff in the magazine, personal essays like like op ed that you just are not held to that same standard. And so I don’t see why Chris Cuomo couldn’t be that for saying well, but because again, not watching it, I don’t know.
S3: Well, because what you’re saying is essentially on the media diet plate, you can have a little, you know, lovely little gumdrop on the side. This is making the gumdrop the central part of the meal. What are two of the biggest three of the biggest issues we face right now? The first is COVID 19. And as Emily suggests, and I think rightly, my only point was that it’s number five in the immediate set of issues facing him. But at the time, the New York response to COVID 19 was a was a big deal. And by having these chatty conversations on the air, it gives outsized volume and power to the chatty ness. And and the kind of affirmation of what he’s doing when there were tougher questions to be asked, so on the central question of the time, there is that imbalance on COVID, then the other is workplace sexual harassment by people in power. One of the other great stories of our time also punted on that this is not some thing you allow on the other side of the plate. Central question other is the dissolution of standards in our world where basically Donald Trump can say, come in and say, you know, the standard you want to hold me to. They don’t matter because nobody keeps the standards when it comes a question of between keeping the standards and making a profit. All these people who are criticizing me in the media and saying, I’m not living up to a standard, guess what they do when the rubber meets the road, they screw the standards and they keep the money. So don’t hold me to these bullshit standards because they don’t do it themselves. Three of the most major issues of the day central made it the center of the plate all totally undermined, corroded and corrupted by this.
S2: That was great. That was great.
S1: That was totally great. And the idea that CNN, which holds itself out as a reputable news organization, has given Fox and other outlets. And, you know, former President Trump clips in which Chris Cuomo is outright lying to his audience like 100 percent lying. That is like bad. That is just really bad for, you know, any kind of efforts to show that there is a distinction between media organizations that yes are flawed, yes, have different kinds of rules for different sections of the newspaper or whatever, but do correct mistakes and do not lie outright to their audience like that is a big problem that that happened.
S3: And I would just one other thing is there are the slippage is that we all make as part of being human and for which we should all be, you know, generous and forgiving in our interpretations. This was this continued long after and was done. This is a this is much more an act of repeated commission rather than a momentary slip up.
S2: Yes. And just to be clear, for the record, I do not in any sense defend what he did around his brother’s sexual harassment. That was great, you guys. That was so good. I’m so glad. I’m so glad it was there to fish
S1: in a barrel of oil. Shoot the.
S2: Let us go to cocktail chatter when you are sitting with your disgraced sibling, oh, neither of you has a disgraced sibling. None of us as a disgraced sibling. But if you were, if you if you had a disgraced sibling, you were having a drink with them, what would you chatter about to them to cheer them up? Emily.
S1: I want to recommend an episode of On the media from December 1st. Brooke Gladstone, the host of On the Media Did I Thought, a great episode about Hanukkah? It’s called a different Hanukkah story. They started with some clips of Jon Stewart, including one where he’s talking to Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart is just very good at bemoaning the deficiencies of various Jewish holidays in a very, I find sweet and poignant way. And mostly, this segment consists of an interview with Rabbi Jim Cornette, who is my rabbi, a rabbi, a gal who I’ve known for many years. And Jim talks about how the origin story of Hanukkah is really about a civil war among Jews. That is not how it has come down to us in the slightest. We think of it as being about this miracle of the oil burning for eight nights instead of one, and then also a defeat of the Assyrians led by King Antiochus. But in fact, there was this real internecine struggle going on among Jews at the time, which lasted for decades and ended poorly. And Jim wrote a piece for Slate years ago about this civil war aspect of Hanukkah. And I loved hearing him talk about it and make it really relevant to various challenges around the world today. So I really recommend this episode of On the Media. It’s called a different Hanukkah story, and thank you to my sister Dana for telling me about it.
S2: Isn’t it the case in Emily? I’ve forgotten this. I remember I used to know this history that that in the Civil War, I was definitely on the side of the hellions. I was definitely not on the side of the Maccabees that the people who won are the kind of anti modern anti-technology anti.
S1: The people are one where the zealots and the assimilationist loss. Yes. Yeah. At the time, in fairness, they were being asked to really just like entirely give up being Jewish in a way that we are not. So maybe you would have not actually been down for that, but I don’t know. I wouldn’t have been down for that.
S2: Well, we find ourselves on these two sides of the Gabfest Jewish Civil War once again. John. What is your chatter?
S3: I have a double double chatter. One is that I’m just getting my get wading into an essay in the Harper’s called The Third Force on Stupidity and Transcended by Garret. I think it’s Keizer and it’s about the unstoppable force of stupidity and ignorance in its various different forms and how it’s different today than the way we might have thought of it before and what we have to how we have to think about it. So I’m not done with it yet, but I think it looks intriguing and I’m very much in favor of articles that things these days that I may not agree with, but that that that excites a lot of fermentation in thinking and in myself. So it looks like it’s in that category. The other thing is news you can use and this is not in the nature of a complaint. I think one of our duties in the time of COVID is to is to stow a lot of our complaints at the challenges that happen. And obviously, airline industry has been severely challenged and they’re now going to be even more so by Omicron. However, some long ago made airline plans. This has now happened to me several times. The airlines will change your your reservation and they will change in a number of ways. One, they will book you a new plane on a new day. Two, They will book you a plane that was leaving at nine to leave at five a.m. three as it happened. In my case, they will take a direct flight and turn it into a four stop galley whimper in which you fly basically all over the country to get to your destination. And my point here is it’s not that they do this, which is inconvenient, but it’s that they don’t exactly. You would think if they’re going to make you get up at four o’clock in the morning and make you fly through three other airports, they would send you in a note with some sense of alarm. And basically it’ll just slip into your email. It might even go to your spam folder. So if you’ve got holiday travel plans, just check and make sure they are what you think they are because there’s a chance they may not be. And then you can try to rectify the situation, which just to set your expectations at the right level may not be so easy and may require a couple of days on the phone on hold. Just check your spam folder and your and your reservations and make sure before you do your holiday travel that everything’s the way you think it should be.
S2: My chatter is about this amazing set of notes that was entered into evidence in the Elizabeth Holmes trial. And if you guys saw, Oh my
S1: god, I’m so glad you’re talking
S3: about the boyfriend.
S2: Yeah, so so it’s not the schedule, but the schedule. And then these so. So Elizabeth Holmes on trial, one of her defenses in the Theranos. Fraud case is that she was under the thumb of her boyfriend, a guy named Sunny Balcony, and entered into evidence, I suppose it must have been by the Holmes folks, maybe by the prosecutors, is a schedule that Holmes made for herself, which also included a set of directives for her own behavior that she claims Belafonte gave to her. They were about instructions for how she should behave. The schedules, like her getting up at four and, you know, rise. And thank God, most things are not logical. And then she has meditation that she has working out, and then she has to change. Shower, shave, perfect. That’s from five to six Towey in the morning. But the part that’s just so sad and weird are these instructions to herself, which again, she says, are about wanting the instructions to her. I do everything I say, word for word. I am never a minute late. I show no excitement. Calm, direct, pointed, non-emotional. I am not impulsive. I do not react. I know the outcome of every encounter. I do not hesitate. I constantly make decisions and change them as needed. I give immediate feedback, not emotionally. I speak rarely when I do crisp and concise. My hands are always in my pockets or gesturing. I am fully present. I don’t know. I mean, I just it’s just sad. They’re just sad. Just they’re sad. If she wrote them for herself, they’re even sadder. She is following the instructions of someone who’s got got her and in his thrall, and they’re written their handwritten. These are clearly things that she was internalizing by writing them to herself. But wow,
S3: disturbing if your hands aren’t in your pocket or otherwise gesturing. What are you doing with them? Are you like? I don’t know. Leading Bridgette. Oh yeah.
S1: Biting your fingernails.
S2: Yeah, just like, Oh, there you go.
S3: Got it! OK. Hey, Emily, may I ask you a question from a legal standpoint, which is, can has this kind of a defense ever been successful? The in the thrall of defense
S1: abused women who commit violence have succeeded. Right? But this is different than that. I mean, I don’t know in the history of time, maybe someone has succeeded with this. It seems difficult for a fully informed adult to be claiming so little personal responsibility and agency.
S2: I think the idea I haven’t been following this. My guess is just as someone who understands a tiny bit about corporate governance as they both held positions in the company. And if the allegation is there’s a corporate fraud and she’s saying he’s actually making the decisions in the company, therefore he is responsible for these fraudulent decisions that have been made. Not not I, even though I am the CEO. Yeah, but I’m not
S1: shading into like he had control over me. Abusive boyfriend like, right? Spend. Golly.
S2: Yes. Listeners, lots of great chatters from you this week. Please keep them coming by tweeting them to us at at Slate Gabfest or emailing them to us. Some of you don’t have Twitter accounts. Lucky you, lucky, lucky you. Email them to us at Gabfest at Slate.com and something that your chattering about work of culture. A historical episode. And our listener chatter this week comes from Chuck Piehl.
S5: Hi Gabfest listeners. I’m Chuck Piehl from Mankato, Minnesota. My listener chatter comes from an editorial in the Mankato Free Press, a regional newspaper in southern Minnesota. As a historian, I have found valuable sources using the selective Freedom of Information requests. But now school districts in our state are being overwhelmed with spurious and politically motivated public records requests from right wing activist groups. These require broad computer word searches of hundreds of thousands of documents looking for dozens of hot button key words and phrases, including anti-racism, whiteness and even the title of a Howard Zinn book. Such harassing tactics require countless hours of staff and computer time with the clear goal of intimidating educators. But these tactics also make a mockery of legitimate, targeted information requests from the press, advocacy groups and scholars who know the value of truly open records.
S1: Good point. Abusing Freedom of Information Act. Really bad idea.
S2: That is our show for today. The Gabfest is produced by Jocelyn Frank, our researchers. Bridgette Dunlap Gabriel Ross is Editorial Director of Slate Audio. Jim Thomas, managing producer of Slate Audio, and Alicia Montgomery is executive producer of Slate Podcast. Please follow us on Twitter at at Slate Gabfest and Tweet Chat or to us there, or email us chatter at Gabfest and Slate.com for Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson David Plotz. Thanks for listening! We’ll talk to you next week. Hello, Flight-Plus, how are you? It’s Black Friday, dirty Thursday, Wolf, or when on
S2: sanctimonious Saturday, whatever it is, but it’s a day and it’s Gabfest Thursday, I guess, is what it is. So we are going to do our Gabfest gift guide. What is it that we think that you should be getting for your loved ones? Go. Anyone? I’ve got a I got a list, but no. You go go. OK. Need a great book? A food book? Gastro obscura? I know it’s self-interested here, but this it’s a guide to the world’s food wonders. It’s amazing with an amazing, amazing book. It is like I recommended the Atlas Obscura book a few years ago. I know a lot of you bought it. The gastro obscure book. Same same beautiful, fascinating, endless hours of daylight frame. Some family photos frame photos for somebody John.
S3: I jump on that frame, yes, but also know the what I always worry about when you give a frame is it’s like, I do you like the frame? Where’s it going to go? But what I’ve found interesting recently is the pictures you can get printed on like box. So it’s not in the frame, but it’s in a sturdy kind of box material. That way, you can either put it on a desk, you can put on a wall. It has more versatility to it, but I’m with you in the general idea.
S2: OK, but give somebody some nobody. Nobody doesn’t want to have a photo of a loved one around a smartphone holder for a bike.
S1: Oh, that is a good idea.
S2: So you don’t like there are people like me who occasionally will, like, be looking at directions. I might, as I’m biking is not is not safe. It’s unsafe. I here’s a one very modern one lots of people like, you know, don’t have a subscription to a streaming platform where there’s a show they really want to watch. Get someone a subscription to a streaming platform like, you know, or get them if they have the subscription and there’s an ad free one, get them the ad free version so they don’t have ads on Hulu or something. It’s it’s just like people like streaming, watching stuff on streaming, and they sometimes they don’t have HBO Max or Paramount Plus or whatever
S3: it is or
S1: for that matter.
S2: Yeah, sure, sure.
S3: This is all very good. I really like the idea of the of the the streaming service gift because sometimes it’s a low sort of cost, low barrier thing and sometimes people are like, what do I need that streaming service for? And then once you’ve given it to them, they think, Oh my God, look at all this stuff I can watch and do. Yeah. The other thing I like that have been successful, but you have to tell the people you’re sending them to that you’re doing it is subscription little food items. So like a T a month or a coffee a month or an olive oil a month, or I believe we gave my brother a butter a month trying to butter him up.
S2: I saw that I almost got that for someone this year.
S3: Here’s the thing he didn’t know we gave it to him. So he was so he was just me. And, you know, doesn’t
S2: he live in Atlanta, too? It’s like a million degrees.
S3: When you get random food items arriving, you know, it’s worth being a little skeptical. So I don’t know what they did with the butter. Maybe they’ve got just a freezer full of butter, and now they can unleash the lipids anyway.
S1: I love that because then if you do remember to tell the person the gift is coming, they can keep thinking of you all year.
S3: Yeah, oh yeah, no, it’s a concept. Meet my my in-laws. Give us a Harry and David’s fruit once a month and you get it and then time passes and you forget. And then all of a sudden boom pears show up. There it is.
S1: Yeah, yeah, a month is good. Once a month, I to go more on the bike theme bike lights, little bike lights that strap on that snap on level. Those can never have too many of them, because if you leave them on your bike and you live in New Haven, someone will take them. So then you’re going to need another one. But that’s OK. You just lit up someone else’s bike. So anyway, I recommend them and hats and mittens and socks, especially hats and mittens, right? Everyone gloves. I lose so many pairs of mittens and gloves every year or they get holes. I don’t feel badly about buying new ones because it’s you just have to have more than one in rotation and the same with hats.
S3: I feel this is the scarves, the same with umbrellas. Nobody really buys themself a truly good umbrella. But there’s nothing better than a truly good umbrella
S1: until you lose it, though that’s like sunglasses. You have to decide whether you’re just going to like, take the hit.
S2: All right, a couple more food ones the King Arthur Flour, King Arthur.
S1: Oh good, I can catalog. They have recipes also.
S2: Yeah, and you can put you by people like just like six or seven little things from there. Yes, the best by a basket of King Arthur Baked Goods is amazing.
S1: I really like their scone like prepared scones where you just like only have to add a few other things. I recommend those David. And the soft pretzel mix is really good and it takes a little while. But it’s cool, I swear. You’re looking so skeptical.
S2: I don’t really like soft pretzels.
S1: Oh, really, that’s. And you clearly did not grow up in Philadelphia.
S2: I did not. Another food thing is I got a handheld, sous-vide or an immersion sous vide device, which I use all the time and I love it. It’s really easy. They’re not that expensive and it’s an immersion. What sous-vide?
S3: So you as, by the way, if you’re Oh, thank you. Yeah. And then VIDEO
S2: Yeah, heats the water and you have something cooking in that water, which it holds it at a particular temperature so you can cook meat. And it just is amazing. It’s about I only make steak sweet these days, but
S3: then I can acquire them the vacuum meat. I mean,
S2: you don’t have to back it, but you don’t need a vacuum. You can do it yourself without a vacuum. You can just get all the water out of it, and it works like 98 percent as well. It’s very good. Yeah. Don’t don’t do it if you
S1: don’t make steak ever at all. Do you? Still, you can
S2: do it for chicken. You can do it for fish. You can do it for any. And it’s not very good for vegetables. So if you’re vegetarian, it’s probably not. What is the
S3: benefit of this movie
S2: approach? So it does it like allows you to cook something without drying it out? Yeah, mostly. So you you cook a chicken breast. You know, it has to get to, I don’t know, a chicken breast has to get to. Don’t hold me accountable like 150. Do you get it to 150? And then it’s cooked. It’s fully cooked. You’ve lost none of the juice of it. And then you can like, sear it. You can do something else with it, but it’s already fully cooked and you can only you can do it very quickly or you can steer a steak. The steak is already fully cooked and you just hear it and you’ve got a beautiful sear, but it’s then it’s the perfect temperature.
S3: And the idea is that it doesn’t get waterlogged because it’s in this correct. Hey, do you like pencils? Do you have a friend who likes pencils? They don’t buy pencils, but a nice box of pencils from Blackwing. You know it would be. It’s like a little thing to have on the table when you need to write a note.
S2: Did those new pencils John that you buy the fancy pencils? So what I found with modern pencils, which really I hate, is the erasers don’t work, the eraser suck.
S3: These have those abrasive razors.
S2: If it has a great eraser, I mean, these are flat. The great, we’ll look at those flat paintbrush erasers on the buzzer.
S3: Yeah, so this is my collection.
S3: This is my collection of pencils which all need to be sharp and they’re in front
S2: of this pencil. You’re holding $13000 worth of pencils.
S3: I have. I have. Oh boy, do I love pencils? I mean, a real pencil. I mean, a real pencil moment.
S2: All right. Anyone else? Before we go by Slate Plus.