Friday, February 26, 2021

The Startling Revelation Of How A Secret Alliance Protected Democracy & Brought Down Trump

Header for lead story in TIME (Feb. 15-22) on shadow campaign that took out Trump

The name "Mike Podhorzer" may not roll off the tongue or ring any bells, but it was evidently at the center of a massive alliance that basically prevented Trump and his seditionist minions from stealing the 2020 election.   This according to a lengthy investigative piece by Molly Ball appearing in TIME magazine (Feb. 15-23, pp. 42-51).  

Podhorzer had earned his stripes for nearly a quarter century as a senior adviser to the president of the AFL-CIO.  As noted by TIME columnist Molly Ball: "Among Democratic insiders he was known as the wizard behind some of the biggest advances in political technology in recent decades."   

This served him in good stead when it became clear last year that Trump  was desperately trying to disrupt the 2020 election.   Then he realized that "the usual tools of data, analytics and polling would not be sufficient" to the task of stopping a president after power at any cost.

In this case being unprepared for two equally appalling outcomes: 1) Trump losing and refusing to concede, and 2) Trump winning the Electoral College by corrupting the voting process in key states.

This realization propelled Podhorzer into "scenario planning"   around the potential for a contested election. Fortunately, with some further investigation he found others - allies- eager to join forces.  These included the Fight Back Table - a coalition of resistance forces, and other liberal activists who would be assembled at the local and national levels into the Democracy Defense Coalition.

The latter would basically be a "bipartisan election crisis task force".    This included a group of former elected officials assigned to research emergency powers they feared Trump might exploit. 

Though many liberal activists saw Trump clearly as a dangerous dictator in the making, Podhorzer was determined to avoid any hysteria or hyperbole, This proved critical when other powerful allies came on board, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and corporate business leaders. 

By March 3 Podhorzer had drafted a 3-page confidential memo titled: ''Threats to the 2020 Election".  Therein he noted: "Trump has made it clear this will not be a fair election and that he will reject anything but his own re-election as 'fake'.  


"On Nov. 3, should the media report otherwise, he will use the right wing information system to establish his narrative and incite his supporters to protest." The memo then laid out four categories of challenges: attacks on voters, attacks on election administration, attacks on Trump's political opponents, and 'efforts to reverse the results of the election'"

The memo was masterful in being able to foresee, and hence respond to, every ploy Trump and his surrogates might use to undermine the election and hurl Trump into another disastrous 4 years.   This memo is what galvanized the massive alliance to stop him cold.

When the pandemic erupted at the height of thee primary season and the method of mail voting became a rational option- Podhorzer also foresaw Trump's attacks on it.    He also saw what limited access to such voting did such as in the Ohio primary where in-person voting had to be terminated leading to minuscule turnout.

With a November meltdown now obvious if Trump and his minions challenged mail voting, it became time for all hands on deck. Thus, Podhorzer - working from his D.C. apartment - commenced Zoom meets "for hours a day with his contacts across the progressive universe."   The groups included: Planned Parenthood, Greenpeace,  resistance groups like Indivisible and MoveOn,  progressive data geeks and strategists, representatives of donors and foundations, racial justice activists and others.

By April, Podhorzer was hosting a weekly 2 1/2 hour Zoom structured around a series of rapid -fire 5 minute presentations on everything from which ads were working, to messaging to legal strategy.   These gathering, which attracted hundreds "created a rare shared base of knowledge for the fractious progressive movement".  All the parties seemed to grasp it was time to put petty differences aside and come together for the good of the nation.   Thus, the meetings "became the galactic center for a constellation of operatives across the left who shared overlapping goals but didn't usually work in concert."

The realization soon dawned that liberals-progressives alone would not be sufficient to the task of protecting the election.  Thus, as 2020 progressed it stretched to congress, the nation's statehouses and reached across the aisle to Trump-skeptical Republicans.

The first practical impediment was the bulky election infrastructure and it became clear money was needed to support a switch to mail ballots for many states - especially as the pandemic ramped up.  To this end the CARES Act helped, providing $400 m in grants to state election administrators.  Alas, this was some five times less than what Dems had asked for and would not be enough to re-align all the election systems.  Fortunately, private philanthropy stepped up with an assortment of foundations contributing tens of millions to  states seeking to implement absentee voting.

The concentrated effort helped 37 states and the District of Columbia bolster mail voting, and this went hand in hand with a massive education program. Since if people -voters didn't take advantage it was all for naught.    Coincident with the pro-mail voting campaign the other effort spearheaded by Podhorzer's group was battling disinformation - much of it spread by Trump  and his underlings- that mail ballots encouraged fraud.  Thus it was essential voters understood that despite what Trump was barking that: a) mail-in votes were not susceptible to fraud and b) it would be totally normal if some states weren't finished counting votes by election night.

At the same time, Democratic lawyers were battling a historic tide of pre-election litigation to suppress voting - especially mail voting.  In the words of Wendy Weiser, a voting rights expert at the Brennan Center for Justice: "The litigation brought by the Trump campaign was of a piece with the broader campaign to sow doubt about mail voting while making novel claims using theories that no court has ever accepted."

Thus did the alliance truly grasp the dimensions of the Trump full court press to overturn the election in his favor - basically extirpating hundreds of years of peaceful transfer of power.

Included in the armament of the Trump election destroyers was the tidal wave of lies and paranoid election conspiracy theories - or what I prefer to call ideations.  (Since the term "theory" has a proper scientific definition which should not be conflated with wild paranoid imaginings such as pushed by QAnon etc.)   Enter now Linda Quinn - a veteran progressive operative who co-founded Catalist -  the organization behind a secret project to track disinformation online and devise ways to effectively combat it.   The information on the sources of disinfo-   which otherwise would have spread unnoticed-  could then be found out and relayed to campaigners as well as the media to expose. 

  The biggest find from Quinn's research?  Engaging with toxic content only made it worse.  In her own words (ibid.):  "The more engagement something gets, the more the platforms boost it. The algorithm read it as 'Oh this is popular so people want more of it.'"

The solution, instead, was to pressure platforms like Twitter and Facebook to enforce their own rules- both by removing content or accounts that spread disinformation.   Thus did Quinn's research give ammunition to advocates pushing social media platforms to take a harder line, especially to do with election-related falsehoods.

 All of the aforementioned efforts culminated with election night. Predictably it began with Democrats despairing as Trump snatched a trio of early states: Ohio, Florida and Texas.   But Podhorzer was "unperturbed"  given the "returns were exactly in line with his modeling".  

That is, yes, Trump would get an early electoral lead, but it would wither away as the mail ballots (mainly from Democratic voters)  came in later.   So he knew in his heart that "so long as the votes were counted Trump would lose."

By 11 p.m. - according to the TIME account: "The liberal alliance gathered for a  Zoom call"  and "many were freaking out."  But cooler heads prevailed once Podhorzer showed them that 'victory was at hand".  Indeed, while he was soothing frayed nerves FOX News called Arizona for Biden.

Most importantly, the public education program had worked and further, the media had its head screwed on straight for once.  The respective anchors - even on FOX- were counseling caution and emphasizing accurate vote counts. 

The next issue for the Zoom meet was when exactly street protests might be needed.  Every manjack had to be mindful that "protests that devolved into street clashes would give Trump a pretext to send in federal agents" or even declare martial law.  So it became critical for all the activist groups to keep their powder dry and their heads clear.  Thus "the word went out: stand down."

Podhorzer credited the activists for their restraint so there wasn't a single Antifa vs. Proud Boys incident and "the Trump campaign didn't have a backup plan."

The final piece of the alliance strategy was presented on Nov. 6 when the groups were notified to "prepare for a weekend of celebration".   Thus, the message was:

"Counter their disinfo with our confidence nd get ready to celebrate. Declare and fortify our win."   Thus, the voters not the candidates would be the protagonists of the story.   The planned day of celebration just happened to coincide with the election being formally called on Nov. 7. 

"The votes had been counted. Trump had lost.  But the battle was not over."

The remaining page and a half of the article explains the further war Podhorzer had to wage to secure the win against Trump's lies, depredations and disruptions.  Ms. Ball also makes it abundantly clear this shadow campaign was not a conspiracy in the nefarious sense, but rather in the positive sense of defending our institutions from lies and sedition.  

As it turned out there were numerous perilous moments, interludes, when democracy might have been turned on its head.   But those in Trump's target sights - such as three Pennsylvania state lawmakers and the Georgia Secretary of State (Brad Raffensberger) - managed to find their courage when they needed to and resisted Trump's pressure to negate results. As the article ends:  

"Democracy won in the end.  The will of the people prevailed.  But it's crazy in retrospect that this is what it took to put on an election in the United States of America."

The will of the people prevailed this time, barely, but will it again?   Bear in mind the orange pestilence plans to make an appearance Sunday at CPAC, announcing his 2024 political aspirations. The 'vampire' that should have had a stake driven through its heart - had the Senate Repukes all voted to convict- remains alive  and well and an abiding threat to our nation.

See Also:


The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) kicks off on Thursday, seven weeks and one day after Donald Trump sent a murderous mob to rampage through the Capitol in a final, violence-soaked bid to overturn the presidential election. The annual confab — which has become the central event of the year for Republican politics — not only has no distance from the events of Jan. 6, it is basically shaping up to be a celebration of both the man and the movement that inspired a fascist insurrection.

It's not just that Trump is going to be the headline speaker on Sunday, allowing the same man whose mob tried to kill members of Congress and his own vice president to soak in conservative adulation. It's also that the speaker's list is heavily populated by other major right-wing figures — including Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — who spent the past few months stoking the Big Lie that led to the insurrection.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Some Basic Applications Of Differential Equations

(1)  A sled and its occupants weigh 1,000 lbs. It is coasting down a  5o 45’ incline. The force of friction is 40.2 lbs. and the air resistance (drag) is at any given time 2 times the velocity in feet per second. Find an expression for the velocity after t seconds from rest and the specific velocity after 10 secs.

Recall: Weight = mass x g

And take g (acceleration of gravity) to be 32.17 f/s/s

The force exerted by the pull of gravity is vertically downward (see if you can sketch a free body diagram with forces acting)  and we may write:

F = mg sin q  = 1000 sin 5o 45’  

= 100.2  

The total force acting is therefore:

 F = 100.2 - 40.2 - 2v = 60 - 2v  

WHY is this? We have two negative contributions (40.2 and 2v) on the LHS because the force of friction and drag both act opposite to the direction of motion. '2v' because the drag is stated as 'twice the velocity'.   The starting DE becomes:  

(1000)/ g (dv/dt) =       60- 2v

Re-arranging to separate variables:

dv / (30 - v)  =  (32.17) dt/ 500  = 0.06434 dt

For which the solution is obtained by integration, i.e.

ò v o  dv/ (30 – v) = ò t o  (0.06434) dt


ln (30 - v)  - ln 30 =  -0.06434 t

Taking natural logs of each side:

(30 - v)/ 30 =  e –0.06434t

v   =  30 (1 -  e –0.06434t  )

After 10 seconds:  v = 30 (1 -   e –0.6434 ) = 30 (1 -0.5255) 

= 30 (0.4745)

v(10) = 14.24 feet/sec

(2)  A 100 gallon tank is full of pure water. Let pure water run into the tank at the rate of 2 gals/ min. and a brine solution containing 1/2 lb. of salt run in at the rate of 2 gals/min. The mixture flows out of the tank through an outlet tube at the rate of 4 gals/min. Assuming perfect mixing, what is the amount of salt in the tank after t minutes?


Let s be the amount of salt in the tank in pounds at time t. Then:

s/ 100 = concentration of salt (i.e. as a proportion of total gallons of pure water in tank initially)

Then: ds/ dt = net rate of change =  (rate of gain in lbs/min -   rate of loss in lbs/min)

We can further write:

ds/dt = 1 -  4s/ 100 = 1 - s/25

Writing the basic differential equation to solve: ds/ (25 - s) = 

dt/ 25

This requires integrating both sides:

ò s o  ds/ (25 – s) =   ò t o  dt/25

Note the integration is taken from 0 to s on the left side and from 0 to t on the right. This leads to:

ln(25 – s)  - ln (25) = - t/25

And finally:

s =  25 (1 – e –t/25)

Let's take a time t = 25 minutes, what do we get?

 s =  25 (1 – e –25 /25)=  25 (1 – e -1) = 25 (1 – 0.3678) = 25(0.6322) = 15.8 lbs.

(3 )Stretched spring: A 1 kg mass which naturally stretches a spring 5 cm is pulled down 5 cm farther and released. Find the equation of motion, its period and frequency.

Solution:  Note that: 5 cm = 0.05 m,

To get k, the spring constant, note: F = ma = -kx

A 1 kg mass exerts a downward force F = 10 N on the spring  (assuming g = 10 ms-2). Since:

F = ma = mg = (1 kg) (10 ms-2) = 10 kgms-2  =  10 N

So: k = 10N/ 0.05m =  200 N/m

i.e. if 10N stretches the spring 0.05m then 200N stretches it 1 m

The equation of motion is then:  mx” +  kx  = mg

Or, since m = 1 kg and mg = 10 N:    x” +  200 x  = 10

Then the general solution is:

x = c1 sin (10)t + c2 cos (10) t + 0.05

At t = 0, x = 10 cm (5cm + 5cm) = 0.1m and:
0.10= 0 + c2 cos (0) + 0.05 = c2 + 0.05

Or: c2 = 0.10 – 0.05 = 0.05

Further: x’ = 0 at t = 0 so that (remember your 1st derivatives of sine, cos!)
0 = 10 c1 cos 10(0) – 10 c2sin (10) (0) = 10 c1 cos (10)

or: c1 = 0

Therefore: x = 0.05 cos (10)t + 0.05

The period T = 2 p/w =     2 p/ (10) = p/ 5  s

The frequency f = 1/T = 1/ (p/ 5) =  5/ p   

 (4) Consider the L-C-R series circuit shown.

 Here C is a capacitor (which can store charge Q), R is a resistor, and L is an inductance. The effect of inductance is to oppose any change in current and contributes to a voltage drop L (dI/dt). The capacitor meanwhile exhibits a voltage drop of V = C/Q. By Kirchoff’s law (the total p.d. is the sum of the drops around the loop) it must be true that:

L dI/dt + RI  + Q/C  - E = 0

Where E is the electromotive force. But note that the current I is the rate of change of charge Q, so that: I = dQ/dt

Then: dI/dt = d2Q/dt2

So we need to rewrite the differential equation as:

L (d2Q/dt2 )  + R (dQ/dt) + Q/C = E
We know how to form auxiliary equations so we write this one:

LCm2 + (RC) m + 1 = 0

Let a = (LC), b = (RC) and c = 1 then use the quadratic formula:
{-b + Ö (b2 – 4ac)}/ 2a
To obtain: m = {- RC +  Ö (R2 C2  – 4LC)}/ 2LC

The form of the complementary function will then depend on the form of the discriminant, (R2 C2  – 4LC).  The particular integral depends on E, i.e. if E = const. than Q = CE is a particular solution.

Problems for the Math Maven:
1) A  5 lb. weight hangs vertically on a spring whose spring constant k = 10. The weight is pulled 6 inches farther down and released. Find the equation of motion, its period and the frequency. What would the units be for k?
2)  For the circuit shown, consider the special case of NO capacitor. Then the differential equation of interest becomes:  L (dI/dt) + RI = E

Find the solution if we let E = Eo sin wt.

3)     A ball weighing 0.75  lb. is thrown vertically upward from a point 6 ft above the surface of the Earth, with an initial velocity of 20 ft/ sec. As it rises it is acted upon by air resistance which is numerically equal to v /64 in pounds.  Where v is the velocity in ft. per second.  How high will the ball rise?

Boebert's Multiple Misfires - Including Veiled Threats With Her Weapons Arsenal- Has Sane Coloradans Wondering What's Next


               High school dropout  Rep. Lauren Boebert sporting her weapons collection in a conference meet last week.   

"It is unimaginable that we had somebody in the White House fueling these sentiments that the election was stolen.  Now we have individuals looking out for their own partisan, craven political interests, to try to tap into Trump's base for financing, for support.  And they continue to be dishonest with their constituents by lending credence to a lot of these conspiracy theories.  

Again, these are individuals who don't put the interests of the country first and foremost. They're putting their own interests first and trying to capitalize on this wave Donald Trump had created and ride it to carry out their own personal agendas, irrespective of the impact on our national security.   Think of what we heard today that there was an active plot to blow up the Capitol of the United States government. That should send chills down the spine of every American."  - Former CIA Director John Brennan, today on 'Deadline White House'

In the time newly- elected high school dropout Lauren Boebert has been in congress, she's already received a warning from the D.C. police chief  for appearing to violate the city’s gun laws, used her first floor objection speech to cast doubt on the 2020 election, voted to overturn the results of that election, falsely claimed rioters at the U.S. Capitol were not conservatives, saw protests at all of her Colorado offices and was censored by Twitter for falsely accusing the Democratic National Committee of rigging elections.

This is the unhinged, semi-educated twerp that a subset of Colorado's more mentally challenged voters have succeeded in putting into the Capitol.  A human train wreck who even got shamed by a Republican colleague who criticized her for tweeting during the Capitol insurrection. 

In the latest Boebert dustup, she appeared last Thursday in a House Zoom meeting with an array of weapons - includng AR-15s- as a backdrop. (See image)  Chris Hayes on ALL In, as well his two guests, wasted no time in tagging this dangerous dingbat with actually making overt threats.  As Hayes noted:  "She tweeted defiantly that her weapons were 'not in storage' but 'ready for use'. Apparently she leaves them out because she believes she may need to fire multiple rounds of ammo at someone who enters  her den."

Hayes expatiated on this defiant threat  -  comparing it to earlier similar images, e.g. of Osama bin Laden posing with multiple weapons behind him, as well - noting the underlying, unspoken meme is one of violence and insurrection.  In the case of Boebert and her gun-packing peers like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Hayes nailed it:

"A movement or faction that puts the celebration of guns front and center in its political aesthetic is a movement that's engaging in something other than the normal rhetoric of elected democratic politics.  Y9u can't escape the meaning of it. It communicates that they're committed to - or at least the possibility of - violent overthrow of the government and the existing order.

And now in the Republican party these images have become common and unremarkable.  Remember Marjorie Taylor Greene posed with this gun in her campaign ads, aiming it at four democratic members of congress:

Her implied message seems to be, like Boebert's, is if you try to take away our guns we'll start shooting."

Not yet done with these two bimbo imps, Hayes then makes solid historical points re: the 2nd amendment and the GOP's fantasies of its reach, noting:  

"Over decades the Right has built up this entire ideology around the second  amendment. Rooted in this ridiculous idea that the U.S. government itself denied itself  a monopoly on the legitimate use of force-  because the founders had gone through a revolution themselves.  

 History just doesn't bear that out, it's not true. Not now and not during the Whiskey Rebellion way back in 1794 when President George Washington got into his old uniform, got on  horse and sent in troops to violently suppress a violent tax protest.  

Many Republicans are now signaling  they retain the right to use violence to overthrow the government at any time. That is actually the core of part of their political principles related to the second amendment.  And they're willing to brandish that claim as a threat in pursuit of their political aims.  And it's not just some abstract, academic thing.  Right now the threat of violence and menace hangs over our collective political life. From the Michigan state house last spring, invaded by men who planned to kidnap the governor, to the violent insurrectionists on January 6th.  Some of whom vowed to kill any lawmakers who wouldn't do their bidding."

In the same segment Hayes then asked his two guests - Shannon Watts and David Jolly - what the message was in Boebert's twisted image.  Watts wasted no time in saying the message is "Intimidation.  She's not saying these are here for my  freedom. NO, they are there to threaten our freedomAnd that's alarming because just over a month ago in the insurrection, they had enough weapons and ammo to shoot every member of the House and Senate five times."   

Former Rep. David Jolly was even more blunt about Boebert's message, pointing out:  

"What we're seeing with today's Republicans like Boebert is a direct correlation between the image and a target. With Majorie Taylor Greene it's the Squad, with Boebert its this defense against big government and on January 6th we saw a wllingness to tackle that government.  That is the danger of the Republican party in moving from the party of less government to one willing to undermine and kneecap the government - while leaders of the Republican party embrace this imagery of the second amendment.   That's why it's so dangerous because it gets us to a country where the Oklahoma City bombing happened."

So the message from Hayes and his guests is not that Boebert's image is innocuous - but that it's intended to send a serious,  dire threat, i.e. of future insurrections and violence if she and her cohort don't get their way. But how many are paying attention?

Moving on to a more prosaic incident,   Boebert’s campaign has publicly acknowledged that a prior campaign finance report — which raised ethical red flags and led to multiple requests for investigation — was inaccurate. Still, the campaign defended a large payment to the congresswoman.

On Feb. 2, The Denver Post reported that Boebert, a Republican from Silt, was paid more than $22,000 in mileage reimbursements from her campaign account.  For  freshman congress critter this is an unusually large amount that had several ethics experts raising questions. To fix ideas, to justify the reimbursement, Boebert would have had to drive 38,712 miles last year during a pandemic that limited travel for several months.  It simply doesn't add up.

Most of that money was paid on Nov. 11, when Boebert received $21,200 from her campaign coffers for mileage, according to her campaign’s original report, filed in December.

On Monday, Boebert’s campaign filed an amended report to the Federal Election Commission, reiterating that she received $21,200 on Nov. 11 but claiming it was a "reimbursement for mileage, travel expenses and hotel stays". Mileage accounted for $17,280 of the reimbursements, the campaign says.   Typical of her grandstanding spiel when opposing the states' certification of Biden's election win on January 6th, this time she had the following unctuous babble ready, in the wake of being caught out:

“I represent one of the largest districts in the country and was proud to have driven to every nook and cranny in it to help win my election,”

Well, yeah, but that's a lot of nooks and crannies, to rack up a distance almost one sixth of the distance to the Moon!

 Boebert added:  “The reimbursement was for appropriate travel expenses, as reflected in the filing. We were happy to provide further detail. Nothing changes the reimbursable amount or the campaign’s operating expenses.”

Boebert called the controversy “much ado about nothing” and said it was generated by Reps. Ilhan Omar and Maxine Waters to distract. 

In the weeks before amending her campaign finance report, Boebert tried various ways to defend her mileage reimbursements. She told radio station KHOW on Feb. 10 that she “absolutely” has documentation that showed she had driven the miles she was reimbursed for.  (Up to now she's not provided it.)

Michelle Kuppersmith, executive director of the watchdog group Campaign for Accountability, said Boebert’s amended report does not affect their FEC complaint that was filed Feb. 8, noting:

 “These expenses should have been disclosed in her December 3, 2020, report. Either she didn’t keep the required mileage logs, or her treasurer didn’t ask for documentation before he reimbursed her for all of these expenses. The Boebert campaign has proven that its FEC reports are unreliable, so the FEC should properly audit the campaign to determine where else they may have failed to comply with the law.”

None of these miscues and misfires ought to be cause for astonishment, given this Glock-toting goofball's lack of professionalism.   After all we are dealing with a high school dropout who likely never took a senior year Government class.  Given this we ought not be amazed at the parade of Boebert's follies, foibles and misfires.  How should we say?  It comes with the 'territory'.   The terrifying part is that even a loser bimbo can be a useful idiot. A dangerous part of a dedicated agenda to destroy what's left of this nation by helping to sustain and spread Trump's scurrilous lies.

See Also:

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Gene Editing With CRISPR To Get Junior Einsteins and Super Athletes? Not A Good Idea.


What enormous marvels might await our species if it becomes the only one to master CRISPR gene editing technology.    In the words of  Walter Isaacson in a WSJ Review piece ('What Gene Editing Can Do For Humankind',  Feb. 20-21, p.. B1):  

"After more than 3 billion years of evolution of life on this planet one species (us) has developed the talent and the temerity to seize control of its own genetic future.  We seem to have crossed the threshold into a brave new world, summoning up images of Adam and Eve biting into the apple, or Prometheus snatching fire from the gods. 

Well, maybe.  And as Isaacson goes on to point out there is much good that can come from such CRISPR editing.  CRISPR - let's recall - stands for  "clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats"  and serves as the immune system of bacteria.  Basically it's been used by them to fight off viruses for over 3 billion years.  To wit, in their DNA bacteria have the capability of producing clustered, repeated sequences (CRISPRs) that can recognize and then chop up viruses that attack them.  

Recognizing this capability in bacteria, creative humans then decided to see if the technique could also be applied to rectifying errors in the human genome.  For example, to edit out serious mutations such as produce sickle cell anemia.  In fact, as Isaacson observes:

"Victoria Gray, a Mississippi woman, was effectively cured last year by removing some of her stem cells and editing them with CRISPR."  

In such beneficial and humane applications, there seems to be a consensus that it is morally and ethically judicious to render such help using the technology.  The problems arise when - as Isaacson asks:

"Why not go further and allow parents to enhance their children, giving them higher IQs, stronger muscles, greater height and a preferred hue of skin and hair"

  The problem with this in the realm of social justice as well as bioethics ought to be clear:  If CRISPR is used to help offspring attain societally recognized superior traits or attributes then it means another - even more malignant- form of inequality is triggered.  In this case "legacy genetics" now added to the advantage of legacy admissions (i.e. to elite universities) for the already entitled top 1 percent.  Can an already divided, polarized society such as ours afford this luxury of genetically superior preference?  I doubt it.  

Let's also be clear that such genetic engineering for the purpose of social or class advantage would also be astonishingly expensive.  As Isaacson observes, even normal CRISPR interventions - as in the case of Victoria Gray- can run up to $1 million or more.  Done in the form of exercising personal choice to reap a social advantage it could cost millions.  Only the very wealthiest would be able to afford such editing compounding the existing inequality.  As Isaacson notes (ibid.): 

"Permitting parents to  buy the best genes for their children would exacerbate inequality. The social bond that arises from the American creed that 'all people are created equal' would be severed if we turn financial inequality into genetic inequality."

This objection is sound, but perhaps for some -  like Harvard's gene editing pioneer George Church - too subjective.  It was Church after all who evidently opined (ibid.): 

"I don't see why giving a kid blue eyes or adding 15 I.Q. points is truly a threat to public health or morality."   

 However, Isaacson has an answer to that worth considering (ibid.): 

"It took nature millions of years to weave together three billion base pairs of DNA into a complex- and often imperfect- way to permit all the wondrous diversity in our species. Are we right to think we should now edit that genome to eliminate what we see as imperfections? Will we lose our diversity? Our humility and empathy?"  

But he himself appears to subsequently come around to accepting the idea of "stealing fire from the gods" like Prometheus  as he writes:

 "I now see the promise of CRISPR more clearly than the peril....After millions of centuries during which evolution happened 'naturally' humans now can hack the code of life and engineer our own genetic futures."   

But it is still wise to exercise extreme caution, especially for the probability of unintended consequences or nasty side effects. One can still recall the 2017 case of Chinese geneticists who attempted to use a technique called CRISPR/Cas9 to "fix" the HBB gene which causes the blood disorder  beta-thalassemia .   

The work was done on 86 very early embryos that weren't viable (to minimize ethical concerns) but only 28 were successfully edited.  The others were found to have unintended mutations in their DNA.  The chief scientist, He Jiankui, sought to create the world's first genetically-edited infants.  Instead his experiment was condemned as irresponsible and dangerous.  

In large part this was because the many ways in which CRISPR/ Cas9 can affect cells remains poorly understood. (He was later found guilty of conducting illegal medical practices and sentenced to 3 years in a Chinese prison)  In the words of Duke University gene researcher Nita Farahany the experiment was "too soon to be applying CRISPR to reproductive genetics."  

But her warning also needs to be sounded for any future efforts - say to engineer super Olympic athletes or say 6' 9"  380 lb. nose tackles with 4.8 speed and able to press 2,000 lbs.   The lesson of hubris and in this case human species hubris - and how it has the potential to bring about our species fall -  is worth contemplating.  As opposed to yammering that just because we could do it -  like bringing back the extinct Wooly Mammoth from its recovered DNA-  we  ought to do it.   

Here is where we need to slow down and defer to the insights of Einstein ('Ideas and Opinions')  and many others, i.e that there exists a human tendency for our technology to outpace ethical considerations - indeed outpace our ethical development.    In nearly all cases this outpacing prefigures catastrophic results.  We need to heed the clear and dangerous imbalance in the case of applying CRISPR techniques for individual gain or advantage as well.