Notes and Comment Blog

Designs by a wonderfully acid British cartoonist

Nov 24th, 2013 10:25 am | By

Nick Cohen has a piece in the Observer on censorship at UK universities. He starts, as he should, with Chris and Abhishek.

On the morning of 3 October, Chris Moos and Abhishek Phadnis put on joke T-shirts, of the kind students wear the world over, and went to man the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society stall at the London School of Economics freshers’ fair. The bullying the university authorities visited upon them for the next 36 hours should provoke the most important free speech court case to hit British universities in years. It certainly deserves to.

Damn right.

Both the left and the right complain about censorship, both engage in it, Nick points out.

The Moos and Phadnis case cuts through the hubbub of charge and counter-charge. It shows that  authoritarians of all stripes share the same vices, and not just because you know without needing to wait for their careers to “progress” that today’s repressive student union politicians will be tomorrow’s repressive human resources managers and Labour home secretaries.

The students wore Jesus and Mo T-shirts with designs by a wonderfully acid British cartoonist, who wisely never discloses his real name. Jesus and Mo are holding a banner that says:  “Stop drawing holy prophets in a disrespectful manner NOW!” Mo also has a placard that reads: “Religion is NOT funny” and is saying: “If this doesn’t work, I say we start BURNING stuff.”

Are you offended? Really? Oh dear that’s a pity, because if you cannot take a satirical reference to real religious censorship, your fragile sensibilities should be your problem and no one else’s.

To fill out the claim a bit more: there is such a thing as religious censorship; it’s active and widespread in the world right now; the cartoon skewers it neatly and economically; it’s a thing worth skewering, and skewering it causes real harm to no one. (What about religious censors?! Spare a thought for them. The cartoon might convince some people that what they do is not a good thing to do. Yes, it might. That form of “harm” is a risk of doing things that are not good things to do.)

The political hacks of LSE’s student union, who are studying at a university that Sidney and Beatrice Webb founded in 1894 to promote “modern” education on “socialist lines,” knew nothing of basic principles. They decided that the modern and socialist thing to do was silence freethinkers.

Student union officials told them to “lose the T-shirts” and pulled atheist literature from the stall. When the young atheists asked why they should submit to this impertinent demand, the hacks replied that the T-shirts were “of course, offensive”. They did not say why. The LSE’s security guards arrived and threatened to expel the atheists. Wearing the T-shirts was an act of “harassment” that could “offend others”, they said.

Student union officials and security guards teaming up against the atheists. Heart-warming, ain’t it.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

An apt illustration

Nov 23rd, 2013 5:48 pm | By

Via Twitter:

Embedded image permalink


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The best country to be an atheist?

Nov 23rd, 2013 5:24 pm | By

Not Egypt, for sure. Al Jazeera talks to some.

For a time after the 2011 uprising against former president Hosni Mubarak, there was greater freedom of expression in the country, and atheists began to be more publicly assertive. Yet at the same time, the power and influence of conservative Islam grew, with the election of Mohamed Morsi as president and Islamist parliamentary candidates’ success at the ballot box.

Gabr is a member of an atheist group that meets up for drinks and goes to concerts together. When the group began in 2011, it had three or four members. Now it has close to 100, including men and women, ex-Muslims and ex-Christians.

“All of them are angry, in a way that you can’t imagine,” he said. “They insult everything.” Gabr claimed he has received threats from people on Facebook threatening to kill him with a sword. ”I don’t take these messages seriously,” he said. “For me, it is pathetic. I see them as victims.” Nevertheless, he did not want to use his real name for this article.

For atheists and those perceived to be critical of religion in Egypt, the threat of violence and persecution is real. Although atheism is not technically illegal in Egypt, its penal code criminalises “contempt of heavenly religions”, desecrating religious symbols and mocking religious rites in public.

Dang – contempt for religion is a crime in Egypt. Just think: if I were in Egypt I would be breaking the law, without even being able to help it.

According to the Pew Research Center, 74 percent of Egyptian Muslims want sharia, or Islamic law, to be recognised as the official law. Of those committed to sharia law, 86 percent favour the death penalty for those who leave Islam – although this is technically defined in the survey as those who join another faith.

And things don’t look likely to improve any time soon.

A new constitution is being drafted in the wake of Morsi’s ousting. A group of atheists recently called for this document to respect freedom of expression and to protect atheists. They called for the repeal of several articles, including Article Two, which states that Islam is the religion of the state and that sharia is the basis for legislation. However, it appears unlikely they will get the protections they are looking for.

A chilly kind of spring.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Forced under threat of expulsion

Nov 23rd, 2013 5:07 pm | By

A commenter pointed out Ghetto benches, which was a form of segregation I hadn’t heard of before.

Ghetto benches or bench Ghetto (known in Polish as getto ławkowe)[1][2] was a form of official segregation in the seating of students, introduced in Poland‘s universities beginning in 1935 at Lwow Polytechnic.[3] By 1937, when this practice became conditionally legalized, most rectors at other higher education institutions had adopted this form of segregation.[4] Under the ghetto ławkowe system, Jewish university students were forced, under threat of expulsion, to sit in a left-hand side section of the lecture halls reserved exclusively for them. This official policy of enforced segregation was often accompanied by acts of violence directed against Jewish students by members of the ONR (delegalised already after three months in 1934) and other extreme right and anti-Semitic organizations.[5]

The “bench Ghetto” marked a peak of antisemitism in Poland between the world wars.[6]

So that’s the kind of thing you’re making friends with, vice-chancellors of UK universities. God I hope you’re embarrassed.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Goodbye parish exemption

Nov 23rd, 2013 4:32 pm | By

A news release from the Freedom From Religion Foundation:

November 22, 2013

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and its co-presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker have won a significant ruling with far-reaching ramifications declaring unconstitutional the 1954 “parish exemption” uniquely benefiting “ministers of the gospel.”

“May we say hallelujah! This decision agrees with us that Congress may not reward ministers for fighting a ‘godless and anti-religious’ movement by letting them pay less income tax. The rest of us should not pay more because clergy pay less,” Gaylor and Barker commented.

U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb for the Western District of Wisconsin issued a strong, 43-page decision Friday declaring unconstitutional 26 U.S. C. § 107(2), passed by Congress in 1954. Quoting the Supreme Court, Crabb noted, “Every tax exemption constitutes subsidy.” The law allowed “ministers of the gospel” paid through a housing allowance to exclude that allowance from taxable income. Ministers may, for instance, use the untaxed income to purchase a home, and, in a practice known as “double dipping,” may then deduct interest paid on the mortgage and property taxes.

“The Court’s decision does not evince hostility to religion — nor should it even seem controversial,” commented Richard L. Bolton, FFRF’s attorney in the case. “The Court has simply recognized the reality that a tax free housing allowance available only to ministers is a significant benefit from the government unconstitutionally provided on the basis of religion.”

Crabb wrote: “Some might view a rule against preferential treatment as exhibiting hostility toward religion, but equality should never be mistaken for hostility. It is important to remember that the establishment clause protects the religious and nonreligious alike.”

Well yes indeed: hallelujah!

What was the reason for passing the exemption in 1954?

The 1954 bill’s sponsor, Rep. Peter Mack, argued ministers should be rewarded for “carrying on such a courageous fight against this [godless and anti-religious world movement].”

Oh right. The establishment clause was ignored, because Stalin.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Let’s relive Plessy v Ferguson, only Plessy’s a woman

Nov 23rd, 2013 1:29 pm | By

Helen Dale pointed out in a comment on my Facebook post that the UK Universities are paraphrasing Plessy v Ferguson, with sex switched in for race. Yeah. Plessy was decided in 1896. Brown v Board of Education overturned Plessy.

Right, let’s have a bit of Plessy v Ferguson, courtesy of Cornell.

The object of the [14th] amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but, in the nature of things, it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political, equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either. Laws permitting, and even requiring, their separation in places where they are liable to be brought into contact do not necessarily imply the inferiority of either race to the other, and have been generally, if not universally, recognized as within the competency of the state legislatures in the exercise of their police power. The most common instance of this is connected with the establishment of separate schools for white and colored children, which has been held to be a valid exercise of the legislative power even by courts of States where the political rights of the colored race have been longest and most earnestly enforced.

So the vice-chancellors of UK universities take the same view of women, in 2013, that the majority on the Court took of race in 1896. How very impressive.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Just No

Nov 23rd, 2013 1:15 pm | By

Continuing with Universities UK’s ridiculous and rebarbative approach to demands for gender segregation by “controversial” invited speakers at university debates.

In practice, a balance of interests is most likely

to be achieved if it is possible to offer attendees

both segregated and non-segregated seating

areas, although if the speaker is unwilling to

accept this, the institution will need to consider the

speaker’s reasons under equalities legislation.

They shouldn’t be attempting a “balance of interests” between equality and inequality, segregation and no segregation, apartheid and no apartheid. Would they attempt that if a “controversial” racist speaker demanded the audience be segregated by race? I certainly hope not, and I also think they absolutely would not. So why are they giving away the rights of women with such a free hand?

And if the speaker is unwilling to accept even their disgusting “balance of interests” they need to drop that particular speaker. They do not need to keep crawling on their bellies in front of him. They need to tell the speaker No at the outset, and then all this waffling will be surplus to requirements.

Note that decisions can be very fact-dependent,

and that the law applies differently in different

scenarios. For example, there is an express

prohibition in the Equality Act against segregation

on racial grounds, and there are also special

provisions in relation to single-sex sporting

events. The points above are not intended as a

substitute for seeking appropriate legal advice.

Aha so they admit it – there is an express prohibition in the Equality Act against segregation on racial grounds. Well why’s that then? Because it’s discriminatory; because it’s unequal treatment. The same applies to gender segregation. Period. Connect the fucking dots, will you please?

Other practical considerations

Who is chairing the event?

What is known about the speaker?

What reasons do the speaker and/or the

society give for the event to be segregated?

Is the event open to the public?

Is there scope for segregation to

be voluntary/optional?

Has input been sought from the institution’s

equality and diversity officer?

Is it advisable to obtain legal advice, and/or to

seek advice from the Equality Challenge Unit?

Can any steps be taken to ensure

segregation is voluntary?

If no segregation is permitted, will this

discriminate against any groups who will

now be unable to attend the event?

Are there particular issues around potential

discrimination, public order etc, including because

of the particular demographic/religious/cultural

makeup of the institution’s student body?

Is the event likely to generate media coverage?

Do the press office and senior management

team or vice-chancellor need to be informed?

They could have saved themselves so much trouble if they had just said No back at the beginning, when the speaker first made the request. No. Just No. That’s all.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Make them take it back

Nov 23rd, 2013 12:11 pm | By

Maryam has drawn up a petition.

Universities UK: Rescind endorsement of sex segregation at UK Universities

Sign that sucker!


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The part where 2+3=17

Nov 23rd, 2013 11:45 am | By

I think I found the place where Universities UK got their arithmetic wrong.

The guidance document itself is available on their website. I’m reading the pdf version. It lays out general policies and then offers some (hypothetical) case studies. Study 2 is the one about the controversial speaker who demands gender segregation. It starts on page 29.

A representative of an ultra-orthodox religious group

has been invited to speak at an event to discuss faith

in the modern world. The event is part of four different

speeches taking place over the course of a month

exploring different approaches to religion. The initial

speaker request has been approved but the speaker

has since made clear that he wishes for the event to be

segregated according to gender. The event organiser

has followed agreed processes and raised the issue

with university management. The event has been widely

advertised and interest levels are high.

There it is: that’s where the arithmetic is wrong. They forgot to say “No.”

It’s so simple, as so many mistakes in arithmetic are. They merely forgot that the right answer in cases like that is just No.

Here’s how that passage should go:

A representative of an ultra-orthodox religious group

has been invited to speak at an event to discuss faith

in the modern world. The event is part of four different

speeches taking place over the course of a month

exploring different approaches to religion. The initial

speaker request has been approved but the speaker

has since made clear that he wishes for the event to be

segregated according to gender. The event organiser in

turn made clear that this was out of the question.

End of case study. Next?

Seriously, people. What are they thinking? The speaker can go fuck himself. If you invite a speaker and the speaker then makes outrageous requests, you turn the requests down. What is there to discuss? Just say No.

But that’s not what they do in this case study. For some unexplained reason, they treat the request as something that has to be managed as opposed to something that has to be flatly rejected, and go on to talk a lot of stupid kack.

The segregation request is not yet in the public domain

but the students’ union has an active feminist society

which is likely to protest against the segregation

request. Other societies are likely to express similar

concerns. The event is also due to take place a few days

after a number of campus-based activities to coincide

with International Women’s Day.

What the hell??? What does any of that have to do with anything? Does the university normally shove women into corners except around the time of International Women’s Day? Does it need a god damn active feminist society to tell it it can’t shove women into corners? No! Basic equality of that kind is already the norm, and is not dependent on an active feminist society which is likely to protest things.

Things to consider

Legal framework – points likely to be particularly relevant

Aside from freedom of speech and the s.43 duty,

the paramount issue is to consider how equality

obligations apply, and how those interact.

For example, under the Equality Act 2010, the first

question is whether the segregation is discriminatory

on the grounds of a protected characteristic within

the definition of the Act. Segregation in the context of

the facts outlined above would only be discriminatory

on the grounds of sex if it amounts to ‘less favourable

treatment’ of either female or male attendees.

Segregation of that kind is itself “less favorable treatment.” That’s why people risked their lives – and sometimes lost them – to end racial segregation in the US a few decades ago. It’s why people did the same to end apartheid even more recently. Segregation, separation, apartheid: that is less favorable treatment.

It will therefore, for example, be necessary to consider

the seating plan for any segregation. For example,

if the segregation is to be ‘front to back’, then that

may well make it harder for the participants at the

back to ask questions or participate in debate, and

therefore is potentially discriminatory against those

attendees. This issue could be overcome assuming

the room can be segregated left and right, rather than

front and back (and also ensuring that appropriate

arrangements are made for those with disabilities).

No. No, no, no. You’re doing it wrong, because of the simple mistake three paragraphs back. You were supposed to tell the speaker “No” and that’s an end of it.

Consideration will also need to be given to whether

imposing segregation on everyone attending the

event is required (see below). If it is required, this

may amount to less favourable treatment of other

attendees because of a protected characteristic. On

the face of the case study, assuming the side-by-side

segregated seating arrangement is adopted, there

does not appear to be any discrimination on gender

grounds merely by imposing segregated seating.

Both men and women are being treated equally, as

they are both being segregated in the same way.

However, one cannot rule out the possibility that

discrimination claims will be made on other grounds.

For example, it is arguable that ‘feminism’ (bearing

in mind the views of the feminist society referred to

in the case study), or some forms of belief in freedom

of choice or freedom of association, could fall within

the definition of ‘belief’ under the Equality Act. This

would in turn mean that applying a segregated

seating policy without offering alternatives (eg a nonsegregated

seating area, again on a ‘side by side’

basis with the gender segregated areas) might be

discriminatory against those (men or women) who

hold such beliefs. However, the question of whether

such beliefs are protected under the Act is unclear

without a court ruling. Further, an act of indirect

discrimination can be ‘objectively justified’ if it is a

proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim,

meaning the institution should also have regard to

its other obligations under the Equality Act and the

s.43 duty to secure freedom of speech, for example.

Oh for christ’s sake. No. It is not just “the feminist society” that objects to gender segregation, just as it’s not only the organized groups for racial equality that object to racial segregation.

The bit about the other obligations and the duty to secure freedom of speech seems to rest on the assumption that if the speaker is told No then he will refuse to speak. That in turn seems to rest on the assumption that free speech depends on allowing invited speakers to extort any conditions they like, on pain of destroying free speech. That can’t be right. As Maryam puts it in her excellent post on this,

Clearly, this is not about people’s belief systems.

If it were so, Muslims would be unable to ride buses, the underground, enter their workplaces via entrances used by both men and women, eat in non-segregated restaurants… They wouldn’t even be able to get to the segregated meeting room since men and women would be mingling freely on the streets and halls right up to their entry into the segregated hall kindly organised by Universities UK.

gender_segregation-150x150And what next? Another set of guidelines asking unveiled women to veil so as not to “result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system.” Maybe they can ask that niqabs be handed out to unchaste and unveiled women before entry.

And now it gets even worse:

It should therefore be borne in mind – taking account

of the s.43 duty, as well as equality duties and Human

Rights Act obligations – that in these circumstances,

concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of

those opposed to segregation should not result in a

religious group being prevented from having a debate

in accordance with its belief system.

If the religious group will have the debate only on condition that women are treated as second class citizens, which is what segregation does, then the religious group doesn’t get to have the debate.

Ultimately, if imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition

to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely held

religious beliefs of the group hosting the event,

or those of the speaker, the institution should be

mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the

religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.

Those opposed to segregation are entitled to engage

in lawful protest against segregation, and could

be encouraged to hold a separate debate of the

issues, but their views do not require an institution

to stifle a religious society’s segregated debate

where the segregation accords with a genuinely-held

religious belief. The s.43 duty requires an institution

to secure freedom of speech within the law.

It is not “stifling debate” to refuse unreasonable conditions demanded for the debate. Freedom of debate is allowing the speaker to say whatever the speaker chooses to say. It is not allowing the speaker to tell the institution to discriminate among the people who attend the debate. That’s an extra, outside the debate, so refusing the speaker’s unreasonable demand is in no way to “stifle a religious society’s segregated debate.”

This is getting very long. Part 2 to follow.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Segregation fine, says Universities UK

Nov 23rd, 2013 10:36 am | By

I’m amazed by this. Really amazed. A group of university vice-chancellors in the UK has “issued guidance” saying that it’s ok for students to be segregated during debates as long as they’re beside each other not in front and behind.

Are they out of their minds??

The Telegraph reports.

Universities can segregate students during debates as long as the women are not forced to sit behind the men, university leaders have said.

Segregation at the behest of a controversial speaker is an issue which arises “all the time” and banning men and women from sitting next to each during debates is a “big issue” facing universities, Universities UK has said.

As a result they have issued guidance which suggests that segregation is likely to be acceptable as long as men and women are seated side by side and one party is not at a disadvantage.

Really? Really, university vice-chancellors? “Likely to be acceptable” to whom?

Would the university vice-chancellors say that if the categories were not women and men but Jews and Gentiles? Blacks and whites? Muslims and Hindus? Dalits and everyone else? Workers and toffs?

This business about ‘Segregation at the behest of a controversial speaker is an issue which arises “all the time”’ – oh yes? Why does it? Because there are so many reactionary theocrats working hard to spread their reactionary theocratic rules? In other words, because there are so many Islamists wanting to speak and universities inviting them to speak because they are “controversial”? Yes. So imagine a UK university invites David Irving to debate his “controversial” views, and he demands that Jews be segregated. Would the VCs say that was likely to be acceptable provided the Jews didn’t have to sit in the back? Would they entertain the suggestion for an instant? I don’t think so.

In a new guidance on external speakers, vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK says that universities face a complex balance of promoting freedom of speech without breaking equality and discrimination laws.

No they don’t. Freedom of speech doesn’t depend on allowing “controversial” speakers to demand that women be segregated.

The report adds: “Assuming the side-by-side segregated seating arrangement is adopted, there does not appear to be any discrimination on gender grounds merely by imposing segregated seating. Both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way.”

Jesus fucking Christ. Apartheid? Jim Crow laws? Ghettos? “Whites Only” signs? Not to mention the fact that these “controversial” speakers will have views about women that are unmistakably and dramatically discriminatory: that’s the main thing that makes them “controversial”!

Apart from the controversies surrounding segregation, Universities UK say that academic institutions are facing a legal minefield when organising external speakers and their guidance aims to help them find the balance.

An example of the fine balance is illustrated when the report goes on to say that if side-by-side seating was enforced without offering an alternative non-segregated seating area, it could be deemed as discriminatory against men or women who hold feminist beliefs.

It adds: “Concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system.”

Well that’s a handy way to dismiss the whole idea of universal human rights – just label the ones that cover half of humanity “feminist beliefs” and then label that a belief system on all fours with religious belief systems. Zip, job done, women relegated to second class status in the blink of an eye.

The report presents some hypothetical case studies which come up on campuses, including whether a speaker from an ultraorthodox religious group requests an audience is segregated by gender.

“These are issues that are arising all the time and these are really difficult issues,” said Universities UK chief executive Nicola Dandridge.

“What emerged from our work on this particular issue is that there is no clearly defined right or wrong here as to whether to allow or outlaw segregation. It is going to very much depend on the facts of the case.”

You made a mistake somewhere then. Go back and check your arithmetic. Find the mistake. Don’t come back until you have.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A point in pregnancy when women may be deprived of their civil and human rights

Nov 22nd, 2013 5:37 pm | By

Lynn Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin report on the frightening implications of fetal personhood.

Each year, six million women in the United States become pregnant. Approximately four million women go to term, one million have abortions, and nearly one million experience pregnancy losses, including thousands of stillbirths that occur after 28 weeks of pregnancy. All of these women are at risk when legislators attempt to establish a point in pregnancy when women may be deprived of their civil and human rights.

A stark but accurate way of putting it. If the pregnancy has civil and human rights then the woman who is pregnant loses them.

NAPW has fielded calls for help from women in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas who, late in their pregnancies, were threatened with court orders or other state action if they did not give up their rights to medical decision-making, bodily integrity, and health and submit to unnecessary cesarean surgery.

These are not idle threats. In fact, some women who have refused cesarean surgery or rejected advice to be hospitalized late in pregnancy have been taken prisoner and forced to submit to highly invasive medical and surgical procedures. The justifications for such actions have everything to do with the principles that would be established by laws banning abortions after 20 weeks. One Florida federal district court has already (wrongly) ruled that if states may outlaw abortion at some point during pregnancy and force a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, then surely the state can also force a woman to undergo major medical procedures to deliver the child she “affirmatively desires to have.”

Sure. Women get pregnant, therefore women should not have full human rights. It totally makes sense.

In an article published earlier this year in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, we document more than 400 cases involving the arrests and detentions of—and forced medical interventions on—pregnant women taking place between 1973 and 2005. Since 2005, we have documented more than 300 additional cases.

Our research finds little direct legal authority for these actions. Rather, prosecutors, hospital lawyers, and arresting officers rely on laws like the one being voted on next week in Albuquerque and those already passed in 13 states. They claim that if the state may protect the unborn by depriving pregnant women of their rights in the abortion context, consistency requires that pregnant women be deprived of their rights in all contexts, including birth and pregnancy loss.

These cases press home the need for abortion opponents and supporters alike to oppose these bans and secure society’s commitment to the fundamental principle: that a woman is a person with civil and human rights throughout her pregnancy. Before and after 20 weeks. Always.

Yes let’s agree on that.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Jim Bob does history

Nov 22nd, 2013 4:06 pm | By

Speaking of the Duggars, Jim Bob went to the values-voters summit and told the gang that the US is like Nazi Germany because abortion.

Jim Bob Duggar spent most of his speech at the Values Voter Summit imploring attendees to run for office, just like he did, in order to advance social conservative causes like an “army.”

Duggar ended the address by retelling a story about a time when Mike Huckabee and his daughter visited a concentration camp, which he used to compare the current state of the US to Nazi Germany.

“As they were walking out of that concentration camp, he said little Sarah looked up at him and she said, ‘Daddy why didn’t somebody do something?’ You know what, that’s where we are at in our nation,” Duggar said. “Do we want our children, when we’re going to tell them about how great America was, they’re going to look at you and say, ‘Why didn’t somebody do something?’”

Then a few days later he clarified what he meant.

Duggar has continued speaking the truth this week while campaigning for Republican and potential Virginia Governor Ken Cuccinelli II. As he’s had more opportunities to share his thoughts with the world, one might think Duggar had realized that perhaps he went a little far with his comparison of liberal Americans to Nazis. Unfortunately, as the Daily Press reports, Tuesday was not that day. Instead, it was the day for Duggar to specify that the true Nazis are pro-choice Americans:

“Let me clarify,” he said.

“We have since 1973 (when Roe v. Wade was decided) had 55 million abortions, so what we have going on is a baby holocaust,” Duggar said.

No, because it’s not “babies”; it’s pregnancies. It’s not a holocaust when people decide not to conceive, either. A decision not to have a child is not a holocaust of the children who would have been born if no one had decided not to conceive them.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post by R Johnston: Fetal personhood and the Thirteenth Amendment

Nov 22nd, 2013 3:07 pm | By

Guest post because I hadn’t thought of it this way (that I recall). Originally a comment on We were here first.

Any good faith reading of the Thirteenth Amendment leads to the conclusion that whatever rights a fetus may or may not have, it does not have any property rights to the uterus in which it resides.  The Thirteenth Amendment explicitly abolishes the practice of granting property rights in a person’s body to anyone or anything other than that person.

I really wish that the legal arguments in favor of abortion had been properly framed.  The right to privacy is entirely the wrong way to look at it. A woman’s uterus is nobody’s property but her own; to argue otherwise is to promote slavery.  It’s easy to see exactly how ridiculous arguments about fetal rights and fetal personhood are once you adopt the belief that women are not slaves.

Appendix: The Thirteenth Amendment:



Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.


Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Appendix 2: the document itself.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The second generation of modest dressing

Nov 22nd, 2013 2:37 pm | By

As long as we’re dropping in on the pregnancy-fetishists, let’s drop in on one of the top fetishists of them all, Michelle Duggar. What’s Michelle Duggar been up to lately you wonder? Well trying to get pregnant with kid #20 is one thing (even though she nearly died carrying kid #19 and had a miscarriage last year), and another is telling her daughters not to be slutty, aka teaching them about “modest dress.”

My daughters are the second generation of modest dressing in this family. They’ve grown up being dressed modestly, and in clothes that are definitely more feminine apparel. I’ve told my daughters this has been a joyful journey for me to learn what my Lord has called me to. This is the direction that God has led me as your mother, and you’re in the family.

Rilly? That happened? God personally told her to tell her daughters not to wear jeans because that’s not feminine apparel? (Did he tell her to use words like “apparel” instead of “clothes” to sound more elevated and magisterial? In a feminine way, of course.)

When the girls are little, they’re jumping and playing and not even thinking about modesty. It’s good because that’s the way children should be. As a parent I would have to remind them, let’s not stand upside down on your head in that chair because you want to practice being ladylike. And they look at me with this puzzled looked like, what does that mean? I’ll explain, well, it means that you sit up, put your knees together and pull your skirt down over your knees.

In other words if you stand upside down in feminine apparel then PEOPLE CAN SEE YOUR UNDERPANTS.

Underpants underpants underpants. Oooooh. Satan. Flesh. Hot. Burning. Pants pants pants. What’s under the pants. Under.pants. Underpants. Under pants.


God forbid the kids should just wear jeans or shorts and bounce around any way they feel like. Hell no. They have to be all squicked out about it right from the beginning.

Even though they have on pantaloons or leggings, I’m teaching them that it’s not very polite to sit on your head with your legs scattered all over the place. It’s not like, shame on you, it’s more like, we’re going to learn to be proper and be a little lady instead of a tomboy that climbs in the tree all day long. There’s a time and a place for all of that. I definitely give them the freedom to go catch tadpoles and climb trees because I love doing that, too, but I want them to be ladylike and modest when we’re doing it.

Well, at the dinner table, if they do headstands they might accidentally kick the food onto the floor. But other than that? Pffffff. The hell with being ladylike.

But then I don’t get my instructions from god, so I’m probably all wrong here.




(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Once you define a fetus or embryo as a person

Nov 22nd, 2013 2:14 pm | By

There will be a fetal personhood amendment on the ballot in Colorado next year, RH Reality Check reports.

Personhood Colorado has tried three times to pass some kind of fetal “personhood” amendment in Colorado, which would effectively outlaw abortions. Those previous measures failed by a margin of 3 to 1 in 2008 and 2010, and did not receive enough valid signatures to appear on the 2012 ballot.

But this year it got enough valid signatures to get on the 2014 ballot.

The so-called Brady Amendment, or Amendment 67, was initiated by Heather Surovik, who was struck by a drunk driver when she was eight months pregnant. She lost her fetus, which she had planned to name Brady. Surovik writes on her website that she wanted Brady to be legally recognized as a person so that the driver could be prosecuted on homicide charges.

“Homicide is an act that can only be perpetrated against a person,” Cathy Alderman, vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told RH Reality Check. “Once you define a fetus or embryo as a person, you pit the rights of a woman against her pregnancy. … We recognize that a pregnancy is part of a woman.”

If only everyone did.

Personhood USA is backing Amendment 67, and it is also appealing the 2012 ruling that its own personhood amendment did not have enough valid signatures, Personhood USA spokesperson Jennifer Mason told RH Reality Check.

Personhood USA’s amendment language specifically defines a “human being” as “a member of the species homo sapiens at any stage of development.” Amendment 67, on the other hand, has language about “protecting pregnant women and unborn children” which vaguely defines “unborn human beings” as a person or child.

“This amendment is unique because it recognizes the personhood of babies like Brady and doesn’t go out of its way to affirm abortion,” Mason said. When asked whether the amendment would affect access to safe abortion care, she said, “It’s a very interesting question before the legislature. … If babies in the womb are people who deserve protection, what’s the difference from other babies?”

Oh gee, yes it is interesting, especially for women who want to stop being pregnant.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

We were here first

Nov 22nd, 2013 11:41 am | By

There was a very good (and horrifying) discussion of “fetal personhood” on Fresh Air yesterday.

Should a pregnant woman whose behavior has been deemed dangerous to her fetus be legally punished or forced into medical procedures against her will? A study released earlier this year found hundreds of cases across the country where pregnant women were arrested and incarcerated, detained in mental institutions and drug treatment programs, or subject to forced medical interventions, including surgery.

The study, conducted by the group National Advocates for Pregnant Women, found 413 criminal and civil cases where law enforcement intervened in the lives of pregnant women between 1973 — the year the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade — and 2005.

Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross speaks with the group’s executive director, Lynn Paltrow, who says the legal claims used to justify some of these actions rely on the same arguments that are made in support of personhood measures that would grant the fetus full constitutional rights independent of the pregnant woman.

Paltrow was emphatic about the fact that giving fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses full constitutional rights independent of the pregnant woman means taking away the pregnant woman’s full constitutional rights.

That’s so obvious, and it’s such a horrifying thing to propose, that it’s blood-chilling to know that there are women who are campaigning for this nightmare. “Yes, please, take away the full constitutional rights of the class of people to which I myself belong!”

Yo: the fertilized egg, the embryo, the fetus, is inside the body of another human being. You can’t give it full constitutional rights without taking away the full constitutional rights of the person whose body is housing it. Her rights should trump those of the fertilized egg, the embryo, the fetus.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

“Provocative territory”

Nov 21st, 2013 6:28 pm | By

The Independent reported on that “debate” about rape at LSE that Luke Gittos of Spiked considers an important contribution to the “discussion around rape.” You can tell from the very first sentence that what we have here is not an important contribution but an opportunity for someone to be showily “provocative” and “controversial” about a crime against other people.

A leading barrister has waded into provocative territory with comments that people shouldn’t assume that in rape “the victim is utterly innocent.”

Right, just as it’s “provocative territory” to say that in murder or assault with a deadly weapon or grievous bodily harm people shouldn’t assume that “the victim is utterly innocent” – or to put it another way that the victim is a victim.

Here’s the thing about that: it doesn’t matter whether the victim is “utterly innocent” or not; the point is that people don’t get to murder or assault or batter or rape people, PERIOD. You don’t get to punish non-innocent aka guilty people by assaulting them, except in self-defense. Rape is never a form of self-defense. If a woman is about to stab you, rape isn’t the way to stop her.

Barbara Hewson attacked the “ideology of sexual victimisation” during a debate at the London School of Economics, and questioned the long-term damage rape causes.

The ideology is it. And I suppose there’s an ideology of vital victimization around murder, is there? Or in murder do we just accept that the victim is a victim, by definition?

The article in Critical Legal Thinking that Gittos so scorned had this to say about Hewson’s status as a “leading barrister”:

Prior to the LSE debate, Hewson was prob­ably best known out­side the legal world for her reg­u­lar and often pro­voc­at­ive con­tri­bu­tions to online magazine Spiked, and her pub­lic defence of another barrister’s descrip­tion of a 13-​year old child sex abuse vic­tim as ‘pred­at­ory’. Hewson has vari­ously been referred to in the media as a ‘lead­ing’ and ‘prom­in­ent’ bar­ris­ter, but Hewson does not prac­tice in crim­inal law and it is unclear what expert­ise she pos­sesses with respect to the issue of rape that led the LSE to deem her qual­i­fied to take part in this debate.

The Indy quotes some of Hewson’s contribution to the “discussion around rape”:

“The first,” she said, “is the idea that rape and sexual abuse is very widespread but largely unrecognised even by victims themselves who need to be taught to realise what’s really happened.

“Secondly, that it has long term damaging effects. Thirdly that its morally absolutely unambiguous, the victim is utterly innocent and the victimiser is utterly guilty and this is infinitesimal. And finally that claims of victimisation must always be respected, anything less is victim-blaming.”

I look forward to her contributions to “debates” about murder and assault.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The word of the year

Nov 21st, 2013 6:03 pm | By

Jezebel has a rude piece about selfies and the claim that they “empower” women and girls. It’s rude but it makes a real point.

…self-taken digital portraits are typically posted on social media, ostensibly with the intent of getting people to respond to them — that’s what social media is. In that respect, selfies aren’t expressions of pride, but rather calls for affirmation. In real life, walking up to a stranger, tilting your head downward at a 45-degree angle, duckfacing, pushing your tits together, and screaming “DO YOU THINK I’M PRETTY!” would be [a cue to] summon the authorities.

Let me put it this way: do you see men and boys tilting their heads down and duckfacing to take selfies? If not, why do you think that is?

You know who was really good at that tilting the head down and looking upward thing? Diana Spencer. She must have spent hours in front of the mirror perfecting it.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Sylvia Browne

Nov 21st, 2013 2:04 pm | By

Sylvia Browne has stopped being alive and moved on to the next phase, which she told us is a matter of being permanently 35 and living on a street full of beautiful houses of all different styles.

The obits are calling her a psychic. Not a “psychic” but a psychic. Yo, news media? She wasn’t a psychic. Nobody is.

One of the things she’ll be remembered for is telling Amanda Berry’s mother that Amanda was dead. Amanda was not dead, she was imprisoned in the horror-house of Ariel Castro, but Amanda’s heartbroken mother didn’t live to find that out.

I don’t mean this to prompt any gloating in the comments. Don’t gloat.

But, she was not a psychic. She was a “psychic” and a fraud.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Nov 21st, 2013 12:58 pm | By

Oh hey check out what my friend Taslima has been up to. She was at a gathering of Sakharov Prize laureates in Strasbourg. The guy in the middle in the president of the European parliament.

Embedded image permalink

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)