Notes and Comment Blog

No bearing on the validity of Biblical Patriarchy

Jan 8th, 2014 9:25 am | By

Libby Anne wonders if Vision Forum is collapsing altogether.

There has been no public announcement, but the Vision Forum Ministries site now includes only the resignation statements and the Vision Forum Inc. site is no longer selling anything, or even listing any products. This suggests to me that Vision Forum has collapsed entirely, and that the corporate wing is disappearing in addition to the ministry wing.

If this complete collapse is the case, as it appears, this is an extremely positive change. Vision Forum has been probably THE pillar of the Christian Patriarchy movement for the past decade, and is now gone. This is not to say that Christian Patriarchy is gone. It is not. There are still organizations like Bill Gothard’s ATI and No Greater Joy Ministries, not to mention leaders like Kevin Swanson, Doug Wilson, and R. C. Sproul Jr. Christian Patriarchy will go on, but Vision Forum was a major pillar that was extremely effective in promoting this ideology throughout the Christian homeschool community, and that pillar is now gone.

I didn’t even know it had partly collapsed, so I looked for background.

Julie Ingersoll provides background at the Huffington Post in November.

There are important and disturbing developments in the Doug Phillips scandal that has rocked the Christian home school movement. As I noted in my earlier post, Phillips’ carefully parsed initial resignation statement admitting to an “inappropriate relationship” raised more questions than it answered.

Now reports are circulating that the scandal may well have multiple levels including claims that the “relationship” was with a nanny, lasted between six and 10 years, and likely began when she was in her late teens. This would make biblical patriarchy’s emphasis on authority combined with the way in which girls are intentionally kept vulnerable, dependent and submissive, crucially important. The young woman may or may not have been technically old enough to consent in Texas, but the context of biblical patriarchy would make this an abuse of power if not a crime.

Well yes, and that’s the whole point of the enterprise. Patriarchy is the core of it. Big up men and small down women, and there’s your heaven on earth – for people who like that sort of thing.

So to that earlier post that Ingersoll linked to.

His supporters are lauding his resignation letter as appropriately contrite repentance and arguing that this has no bearing on the validity of Biblical Patriarchy. But actually it does, making this more important than another hypocritical cheating scandal.

Phillips is a key figure bringing Christian Reconstruction into the larger home school world. Building upon R.J. Rushdoony’s postmillennialism and “Biblical Philosophy of History,” he teaches home-schooling families to “exercise dominion” through 200-year plans, “multi-generational faithfulness” and “Biblical Patriarchy.”

Aka let’s throw out all those modern ideas about equality and freedom and human rights and go back to the way people lived in Palestine three thousand years ago.

Phillips’ infidelity is more than a private matter because, by design, his Biblical Patriarchy makes women vulnerable such that even with a husband repeatedly violating his marriage vows, practically speaking, a wife has no options.

The Family, in Biblical Patriarchy, is the primary institution through which God has delegated authority entirely to men. Women are to be “in submission in all things,” first to their fathers and then to husbands, chosen by fathers. The purpose of the family is the exercise of the patriarch’s dominion, especially through procreation. Women are to bear as many children as is possible. Anything short of that is deemed selfishness, accommodation with the “culture of death” and rebellion against God’s will.

Education is solely a family concern and no other institution may intervene. That they oppose even with the smallest of regulations preventing child abuse is a point pressed by Phillips’ home schooling opponents.

Education for girls within Biblical Patriarchy is focused on training them for domestic duties. Vision Forum’s catalogs, Beautiful Girlhood Collection and the All American Boy’s Adventure Catalog, stated purpose is to teach “Biblical” gender norms: meekness, submissiveness and dependency for girls; chivalry, curiosity and adventurousness for boys.

What does that look like? A recipe for molding all women into helpless dependents or slaves, and men into their permanent bosses.

What could possibly go wrong?




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

Intensely personal missives of hyper-sexualized hate.

Jan 7th, 2014 6:10 pm | By

Conor Friedersdorf gets what the problem is with the kind of harassment women are subject to online, although he didn’t at first. He didn’t until he guest-blogged for Megan McArdle.

My stint running her page while she vacationed included the keys to the blog’s inbox. Even as someone who’d previously blogged about immigration in California’s Inland Empire, fielding insults and aggressive invective as vile as any I could imagine, I was shocked by a subset of her blog’s correspondence. To this day, I don’t know if I was experiencing a typical or atypical week. Perhaps in the abstract, there isn’t any threat more extreme than the death threats I’d received and brushed off as unserious. But I read emails and comments addressed at McArdle that expanded my notion of how disturbing online vitriol could be. And it took my actually reading them for my perspective to change.  

I’d never been exposed to anything like it before.

Later, when my duties included reading email sent to Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish, I discovered that gay men, too, are subject to this sort of comment that was previously invisible to me: not just over-the-top invective, but intensely personal missives of hyper-sexualized hate.

That is exactly right. Yet he says it’s the best he can do but it’s inadequate…

That’s the best I can do to sum them up, but it’s an inadequate description. And an excerpt wouldn’t much help, because to really understand how it feels to read these missives (to the extent that someone other than the intended recipient can even begin to understand), it’s necessary to experience their regularity. Instead of a lone jerk heckling you as you walk down a major street, imagine dozens of different people channeling the same hyper-aggressive hatefulness, popping up repeatedly on random blocks for hours on end. That’s what some bloggers had to endure over the course of years to make it.

See? Isn’t that exactly what I said in response to those stupid tweets by fleetstreetfox this morning? Yes it is.

I began to ask female friends if they experienced this same phenomenon. And not only were they close to unanimous in avowing that they did—many also cited a weariness at gendered online abuse to explain why they either shuttered their personal blogs and stopped writing for the public, or shifted their journalistic efforts to a traditional format rather than the more personalized blog format. This is the very time that people like Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein were building the personal blogs from which they would become successful national pundits. One wonders how many equally talented women we missed out on reading due to misogynists hurling vile invective at rising female journalists.

Oh, no, we don’t wonder that, because we can be perfectly sure none of them were equally talented, because they are after all women.

Sorry, bitter sarcasm. But this is why I find the line about “stop whining and just do a great job” so very annoying.



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

He looked it up in a dictionary

Jan 7th, 2014 4:27 pm | By

The Daily Mail did a long piece on Twitter harassment of women last August. I generally avoid the Mail, but this article is worth it.

Some of those involved in the recent tirade against Miss Criado-Perez , two female MPs, and other high-profile women, are exposed today following our investigation into this dark sub-culture.

They are indeed; names, pictures, cities, jobs, the works.

On Monday, less than 24 hours after Miss Criado-Perez was targeted by Johnny@beware0088, she received another message: ‘Back to the kitchen, you t***.’ In subsequent tweets from the same ‘troll’, she was called a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute.’

He also made a revolting remark about her anatomy. And there was more. ‘Go and tell all your followers to go and wash all their faces with acid including you [Miss Criado-Perez] as well.’

It wasn’t hard to discover who was responsible. For the culprit tweeted using his real name: Neil Law@NeilOfficial. Law, in his 20s, is a plumber from Aberdeen. On Facebook, he is pictured partying with his arms around attractive young women, with one friend dubbing him ‘Stud Law’.

Like Carl Attard, he was utterly unrepentant when taken to task by appalled Twitter users. Asked whether he thought his behaviour was ‘normal and made him proud,’ Law insisted defiantly: ‘Yes, yes I do. And yes it does make me proud.’

It is an offence under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 punishable by up to six months in prison to send an electronic message that is ‘grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene, or menacing character’.

Gosh. That certainly is an offence that gets committed a lot.

Even though more than 3,000 people have been prosecuted over the past two years or so, the statistics cover all forms of electronic communication, including phone calls.

In reality, there have been few prosecutions for actual internet trolling. Presumably, this is why Law, a Manchester United supporter, didn’t feel compelled to hide behind a pseudonym.

But Neil Law, we can report, was in for a nasty surprise. Someone discovered, from Facebook, that he worked for Barratt Developments and reported him to his employers. He may now face the sack.

‘These are extremely serious allegations against one of our employees who has now been suspended pending a formal investigation,’ said a company spokesman. ‘Barratt has strict policies against any form of harassment or threatening behaviour and any employee that’s found contravening them would be subject to the appropriate disciplinary action.’

Serious? I thought we were supposed to just laugh it off. Even if that means we have to laugh 500 times a day, we were supposed to laugh it off. I wonder why Barratt doesn’t think so.

Wesley Meredith, 30, is an instructor at the Royal School of Military Engineering, the main training establishment for the Royal Engineers.

He lives in Brighton with his partner and young daughter. Alongside a photograph of the youngster on Facebook, he has written: ‘Proud as punch.’

Yet last week, he sent a message to the Twitter pages of The Everyday Sexism Project, a website that catalogues women’s experiences of sexism, whose founder, Laura Bates, had just appeared on Jeremy Vine’s lunchtime Radio 2 show.

The message read: ‘I’d say she [Miss Bates] needs a good rogering if you ask me.’ Meredith also sent the tweet to Vine’s radio programme…

Meredith’s partner was fully aware of the tweet, but seemed unperturbed when we called at their home on the South coast this week. Answering the door, she said he had been ‘very careful’ about the wording, and had even taken the trouble of checking the precise meaning of ‘a good rogering’ in a dictionary.

That’s nice. A woman thinks it’s fine for a man to respond to a woman’s ideas with saying she needs to be fucked. It’s not that she’s wrong, it’s that she’s defective in the “good rogering” department.

There’s a poignant little portrait of John Nimmo, too, the one who just pleaded guilty.

It’s all very edifying. Take a bow, humanity.

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

Is there anything really wrong? Really?

Jan 7th, 2014 3:41 pm | By

Madeleine Teahan (that seems like a peculiarly Proustian or edible sort of name) muses in a post at the Catholic Herald (yes, that would be the well-known, even “iconic”, religion of the same name) about gender equality and toys for girls versus boys. She wants everyone to realize that men have problems too, because sadly that fact has entirely disappeared in all the noise about princess dolls.

Is there anything really wrong with encouraging our sons to play with cars and our daughters to play with Barbie? There is a strange paradox with modern-day champions of diversity: it is that they are determined to propagate the idea that we are all exactly the same. Accepting common differences between the sexes has become taboo.

A spot of having it both ways there. The naughty champions of diversity say we are all exactly the same, when they should be saying that all girls are exactly the same and all boys are exactly the same but girls are radically different from boys and vice versa.

She’s wrong. The point isn’t that everybody is exactly the same, the point is that everybody isn’t, and therefore tastes shouldn’t be imposed (or “encouraged”) on the basis of gender. There is something wrong with assuming that all girls do and should want to play with Barbie.

Just as with femininity, traditional masculinity should be welcomed and honed, not suppressed or abolished. The fanatical emphasis on gender equality risks bulldozing men completely out of the picture, leaving them at a loss as to what role models it is socially acceptable to aspire to and how exactly they should fit into society.

Although it is often perceived as the enemy of equality between the sexes, the Church has a lot to offer men

That caused me to burst into laughter instead of reading the rest of the sentence. I just love that. “The church has a lot to offer men…” – yes, it does, especially if they’re the kind of men who want a monopoly on saying what’s what. One thing the church has to offer men of that type is the fact that it’s the last big institution that is still allowed to mandate and enforce an all-male power structure.

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

Cambridge student submits legal note to Universities UK against gender segregation

Jan 7th, 2014 12:03 pm | By

Joint statement of Southall Black Sisters, One Law for All, Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation and LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society

We are pleased to learn of the legal note submitted to Universities UK (UUK) yesterday in the name of Radha Bhatt, a student of Cambridge University, against their Guidance condoning gender segregation.

We share Radha’s apprehensions that gender segregation reinforces negative views specifically about women, undermines their right to participate in public life on equal terms with men and disproportionately impedes women from ethnic and religious minorities, whose rights to education and gender equality are already imperilled.

 Signs assigning different entrances for male and female students at Leicester University; (c) The Guardian

Radha’s legal submission makes it unmistakably clear that despite UUK’s protestations, the law could scarcely be more unequivocal on gender segregation. The practice is specifically condemned by the Equality Act as amounting to less favourable treatment of women. We hope it will be noted that this condemnation applies equally to ‘voluntary’ segregation, a notorious misnomer used to pressure students to comply with ‘Mixed’ and ‘Segregated’ zones.


The existing rights legislation recognises that gender segregation undermines the dignity of both men and women and creates a hostile, degrading and humiliating environment. We hope Radha’s representations will remind UUK of its Public Sector Equality Duty towards the imperatives of eliminating discrimination, advancing equality of opportunity and fostering good relations between those who share protected characteristics.


Abhishek Phadnis, President of the LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society commented: “The beliefs of visiting speakers are no excuse to legitimise discrimination against women or any group. We applaud Radha for her principled and courageous stand, and hope that UUK will heed her solicitors’ advice to redraft its guidance to reflect the manifest illegality of gender segregation. Following up on our rally against gender segregation, we are looking forward to continuing to work with Southall Black Sisters, One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation to ensure that the rights of all students in the UK are fully upheld at all times.”


Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters commented: “We welcome the legal advice which clearly states that UUK’s position on gender segregation in universities breaches both domestic and international human rights and discrimination law in substance and in process. We note that not a single women’s rights organisation was consulted about the guidance. Had it gone unchallenged, it would have had a profoundly detrimental impact on black and minority women who already struggle to assert their fundamental rights to education, freedom and independence. The whole sorry affair is symptomatic of a bigger battle waged by the religious right (aided and abetted by public bodies like the UUK) to control women’s minds and bodies. We must remain alert to the dangers of religious fundamentalism in all religions because its very goal is to use public spaces to gain power and to destroy the very principles of democracy and the universality of women’s human rights.”


Maryam Namazie, spokesperson for One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation said: “For too long, cultural relativists have excused discrimination against women in the name of ‘respect’ for religious beliefs. Whilst the right to belief is absolute, the right to manifest it is not. Equality must trump religious beliefs, particularly if we want to respect human beings rather than beliefs. Moreover, let’s not forget that Muslims are not a homogeneous group. Endorsing segregation of the sexes means siding with far-Right Islamists – like Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, the Islamic Education and Research Academy and the Islamic Human Rights Commission – at the expense of rights and equality of many Muslims, ex-Muslims and others. We unequivocally support Radha’s stand and will continue to fight for an end to gender segregation at universities, including via teams of sex apartheid busters and a rally on March 8th.”



You can find regular updates on our campaign here.


For further enquiries please contact:


Maryam Namazie

One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation

077 1916 6731



Pragna Patel

Southall Black Sisters




Chris Moos

LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society

074 2872 0599



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

You’d laugh at them or ignore them

Jan 7th, 2014 11:56 am | By

But then there’s the other way of reacting to threats and abuse on Twitter and elsewhere online – the way of dismissal and belittlement, the way of shrugging and laughing slightly and asking what’s the big deal.

Like someone calling herself (on Twitter) fleetstreetfox for instance. I’d never heard of her before but she used to be a columnist for the Mirror and she has over 60 thousand followers, so she’s not some tiny voice in the wilderness. What she says on the subject is horrible.

fleetstreetfox @fleetstreetfox

I think if there were really vile tweets to me I’d report them only if it sounded like the person was going to attack someone else.

That they were getting so wound up about me they were a danger to themselves or others, you know. Not nice, but wouldn’t take it seriously.

Perhaps it’s the fault of people like me that no-one takes this seriously and we all should come down on it like a ton of bricks.

I just think if someone said it to your face you’d laugh at them or ignore them. Twitter is the same as real life, the laws aren’t any diff.

It’s that last one that’s truly infuriating. This isn’t a matter of some random person at the supermarket or the bus stop or walking down the street saying something rude. If the someone who “said it to your face” is a co-worker or a neighbor or a fellow volunteer or any other category of person you encounter every day, and the someone “said it to your face” many times every day – no you would not fucking laugh at them or ignore them. Or, if the someone who “said it to your face” is part of a huge mob of people who are all saying it – indeed shouting it – to and IN your face, then no you wouldn’t fucking laugh at them or ignore them. If the two are combined – if it’s a matter of people who can say it to your face 24/7 and there’s a huge mob of them – no you would not laugh at them or ignore them.

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

86 Twitter accounts

Jan 7th, 2014 10:59 am | By

Two people – one woman and one man – have pled guilty to sending menacing messages to Caroline Criado-Perez.

Isabella Sorley, 23, of Newcastle, and John Nimmo, 25, of South Shields, admitted at Westminster Magistrates’ Court sending the messages over a public communications network.

Alison Morgan, prosecuting, said Ms Criado-Perez had received abusive messages “of one type or another” from 86 Twitter accounts including those accounts attributed to both Nimmo and Sorley.

“Caroline Criado-Perez has suffered life-changing psychological effects from the abuse which she received on Twitter,” she told the court.

“In particular, the menacing nature of the tweets sent by both defendants caused her significant fear that they would find her and carry out their threats.”

The court heard that one tweet from Sorley started with an expletive and continued: “Die you worthless piece of crap.” She was also told “go kill yourself”.

The court heard Nimmo targeted Ms Creasy with the message “The things I cud do to u (smiley face)” and called her “Dumb blond…” followed by an offensive word.

What offensive word? “Cunt” obviously. The others wouldn’t be “offensive” enough to be worth mentioning.

Following the hearing, Ms Criado-Perez told BBC Radio 4′s PM programme: “I’m really relieved that they pleaded guilty and it meant that we don’t have to drag this out any further and have a whole trial about it.

“This is a small drop in the ocean, not just in terms of the amount of abuse that I was sent, where way more people than just two were involved, but also women in general, the amount of abuse that they get online and how few people see any form of justice.”


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

PZ’s short walk to feed the fish

Jan 6th, 2014 4:02 pm | By

Short walk but it’s 30° below zero Centigrade.


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

The nightmare in Bangladesh

Jan 6th, 2014 3:48 pm | By

Via Taslima on Twitter, a news story on violence against Hindus after the elections in Bangladesh.

Hundreds of Hindu families who fled their homes following post-poll violence in different districts on Sunday are scared to return as the administration could not ensure their security.

As soon as the voting ended on Sunday afternoon, BNP and Jamaat-Shibir men looted, vandalised and burned Hindu houses in Thakurgaon, Dinajpur, Rangpur, Bogra, Lalmonirhat, Rajshahi, Chittagong and Jessore.

The raids remind many of the atrocities by the Pakistani occupation forces and their collaborators in 1971.

“We left our house in 1971 as the Pakistan army and razakars set fire to our village. And we are passing through the same ordeal in 2014,” lamented Bishwajit Sarkar of Malopara village in Abhaynagar, Jessore.

A piece in the Dhaka Tribune has more:

 …around 150 people attacked Hindus at Malopara of Chapatola village soon after the 10th parliamentary elections ended on Sunday. Crude bombs were blasted, houses were vandalised, valuables were looted and at least 12 houses were set on fire, leaving the locals panicked. Miscreants also attacked Hindus at Kornai village in Dinajpur on Sunday. They vandalised and torched houses and business establishments. The press statement also said: “The current situation of the country is threatening to undermine democracy, peace, religious tolerance and harmony. The failure of the administration to pacify the situation is obvious.”

I didn’t find anything specifically about anti-Hindu violence at the BBC but it does report terrible violence before during and after the elections with accounts by people living with it. Nabila is one:

I, and many others like myself, do not care about the elections any more.

What we care about most right now is the security of our lives.

So many people have been killed due to political violence in the last three months, many of them torched alive inside buses. What sort of people are we? Do we qualify to be called human any more?

I am a student and I have to use buses to get around as it’s the cheapest form of travel. Each time I get on a bus in my city, it is an ordeal and I spend every second of the journey worried that a petrol bomb will be hurled at the bus.

We are incredibly frightened, we can’t live like this any more.

I was born in Dhaka and I have never felt this scared in my life.

I want the situation to get better because when I finish my studies, I want to work in Bangladesh, I want to be a part of its future.

So that’s tragic.


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

These frivolous incidents

Jan 6th, 2014 12:35 pm | By

But, from a couple of months ago, a young sports writer called Jim Pagels explained at Slate that Twitter death threats are just a joke and everybody should ignore them.

Just about every week, it seems there’s a story about a celebrity, athlete, or politician receiving death threats from morons on Twitter. The media often treat these frivolous incidents like they’re a fatwa on Salman Rushdie. The latest example: New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, for performing poorly on fantasy football teams. (Fitting there be fantasy threats for a fantasy sport.)

The stories often give the impression that this is some kind of shocking event for which we should pity the “victims,” but anyone who’s spent 10 minutes online knows that these assertions are entirely toothless.

Yes! Totally! That is so true! Except of course for the ones that aren’t, and the fact that there’s no way to tell the difference. Also except for the fact that being the target of extended obsessive hatred is itself not actually toothless. Except literally. It is literally toothless, yes, but figuratively, it’s not.

In a piece in the Atlantic last year, Jen Doll wrote: “If there’s anything to be afraid of, it’s this idea that death threats are this kind of new online norm.” They are, in fact, the norm. However, I think it’s also safe to assume that these wannabe Tony Sopranos only represent the lowest trenches of society.

Ah yes “safe to assume”…but such things are more safe to assume for some people than they are for others. Also, the fact that some guy thinks it’s safe to assume something isn’t particularly compelling as a reason to assume it yourself. Also, even if the harassers and threateners do represent only “the lowest trenches of society,” so what? That’s still a lot of people.

So how do we stop this trend of pointless reporting? There really aren’t any clear solutions. There will always be a dark corner of the Internet, so you can’t stop the source. And you can’t tell websites to stop publishing these stories, because they surely generate boatloads of mindless page views. Maybe the solution is to just let the Internet continue to be the Internet, and people will eventually grow bored of this “news.” Or perhaps we should just send death tweets to the writers who report on these occurrences. It seems like they take these threats rather seriously.



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

Disproportionately lobbed at women

Jan 6th, 2014 12:18 pm | By

More on the campaign against women on the internet: Amanda Hess on Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet.

A woman doesn’t even need to occupy a professional writing perch at a prominent platform to become a target. According to a 2005 report by the Pew Research Center, which has been tracking the online lives of Americans for more than a decade, women and men have been logging on in equal numbers since 2000, but the vilest communications are still disproportionately lobbed at women. We are more likely to report being stalked and harassed on the Internet—of the 3,787 people who reported harassing incidents from 2000 to 2012 to the volunteer organization Working to Halt Online Abuse, 72.5 percent were female. Sometimes, the abuse can get physical: A Pew survey reported that five percent of women who used the Internet said “something happened online” that led them into “physical danger.” And it starts young: Teenage girls are significantly more likely to be cyberbullied than boys. Just appearing as a woman online, it seems, can be enough to inspire abuse. In 2006, researchers from the University of Maryland set up a bunch of fake online accounts and then dispatched them into chat rooms. Accounts with feminine usernames incurred an average of 100 sexually explicit or threatening messages a day. Masculine names received 3.7.

This isn’t good. It isn’t a good arrangement. It’s a barrier where there shouldn’t be a barrier. It’s an obstacle, a deterrent, a disincentive, to half the population. That should not be happening.


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

Weekends and holidays are not “days”

Jan 6th, 2014 11:21 am | By

The NY Times reports, to the surprise of no one who has been paying attention, that all these new anti-abortion measures passed by states have made abortion much harder to get. Well they would, wouldn’t they.

A three-year surge in anti-abortion measures in more than half the states has altered the landscape for abortion access, with supporters and opponents agreeing that the new restrictions are shutting some clinics, threatening others and making it far more difficult in many regions to obtain the procedure.

Right. That was the idea, wasn’t it.

The new laws range from the seemingly petty to the profound. South Dakota said that weekends and holidays could not count as part of the existing 72-hour waiting period, meaning that in some circumstances women could be forced to wait six days between their first clinic visit and an abortion.

Ok that’s one I hadn’t heard of. Brilliant. So if a woman needing an abortion has the bad luck to be unable to get an appointment until the Friday before a holiday Monday, she has to wait until the following Friday.

Laws passed last year by Arkansas and North Dakota to ban abortions early in pregnancy, once a fetal heartbeat was detected, were hailed by some as landmarks if quickly rejected by federal courts. But bans on abortion at 20 weeks, also an apparent violation of constitutional doctrine, remain in force in nine states.

In Roe and later decisions, the Supreme Court said that women have a right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb — at about 24 weeks of pregnancy with current technology — and that any state regulations must not place an “undue burden” on that right.

In 2013 alone, 22 states adopted 70 different restrictions, including late-abortion bans, doctor and clinic regulations, limits on medication abortions and bans on insurance coverage, according to a new report by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

Well, you see, the meaning of the word “undue” has changed radically over the past 40 years. Also the word “24″ and the word “right.”

A dozen states have barred most abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy, based on a theory of fetal pain that has been rejected by major medical groups. Such laws violate the viability threshold and have been struck down in three states, but proponents hope the Supreme Court will be open to a new standard.

A partial test is expected this month, when the Supreme Court announces whether it will hear Arizona’s appeal to reinstate its 20-week ban, which was overturned by federal courts.

Many legal experts expect the court to decline the case, but this would not affect the status of similar laws in effect in Texas and elsewhere. Still, those on both sides are watching closely because if the court does take it, the basis of four decades of constitutional law on abortion could be upended.

And the laws and rules and shackles and burdens that keep women down could be made tighter and heavier.

The proliferation of state restrictions is recreating a legal patchwork.

“Increasingly, access to abortion depends on where you live,” said Jennifer Dalven, director of the reproductive freedom project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

She added, “That’s what it was like pre-Roe.”

Backward. Marching marching marching backward.

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

But it’s social

Jan 6th, 2014 10:11 am | By

Andy Lewis aka le canard noir tells us the Society of Homeopaths are applying to become accredited as a voluntary professional register with the Professional Standards Authority.

Professional how? Standards of what? Professional standards in what universe? What “professional standards” are even possible for homeopathy?

I wonder if homeopaths ever get charged with malpractice.

Back to our black duck friend.

Should the PSA approve their application, it will mean that the PSA, rather than ensuring standards in health care, has become a direct threat to public health.

The PSA are calling for feedback by the 17th of January on the Society of Homeopaths before they approve them. Perhaps you might want to let them know what you think about their fitness against the stated standards.

That sounds like a good project to me.

So I take a look at the professional standards [pdf] that Andy linked to. Right at the start I see a problem -

Standards for organisations holding a voluntary register for health and social care occupations

Uh oh…

The Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care¹ oversees statutory bodies that regulate health and social care professionals in the UK. We assess their performance, conduct audits, scrutinise their decisions and report to Parliament. We also set standards for organisations holding voluntary registers for health and social care occupations and accredit those that meet them.

¹ The Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care was previously known as the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence.

Hoo-boy. I can see homeopathy making it in because of that “Social Care” addition. It could make it in as “Social Care” but then of course use the accreditation to make homeopathy seem valid as Health Care, which is to say, medical treatment. Andy gives ten compelling reasons why they shouldn’t, but concludes that they probably will anyway because

 Recently, in the House of Lords, a quesiton was asked about “whether they intend to appoint a scientist to the Professional Standards Authority”. The response from Earl Howe was frightening,

My Lords, the Government have no plans to change the membership of the council of the Professional Standards Authority. The authority is required under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to set standards for organisations holding voluntary registers for health and social care occupations, and accredits those which meet these standards. It is not required to make a judgment on the beliefs and practices of individuals registered with the organisations that it accredits.

Let that sink in. The regulator has no obligation to consider the beliefs and practices of those it wishes to regulate.

Even more shocking perhaps was the response of Baroness Pitkeathley, who just happens to be the Chair of the PSA.

Does the Minister agree that as by next March more than 75 occupations and 100,000 practitioners will be covered by the accredited voluntary register scheme, the public are much better informed and better protected than they have ever been?

It is not clear how Pitkeathley thinks that the public are going to be better informed and protected by her rubber stamping the most egregious form of quackery that we have to put up with.

What a mess.

To remind you, if you wish to make your views known about this issue, then you have until the 17th of January to send a submission to the PSA about the suitability of the Society for accreditation.

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

Singed earth

Jan 5th, 2014 6:09 pm | By

A scalding post by Janet Stemwedel, on the expectation of trust. It’s a ventriloquial sort of post, speaking in the voice of someone else. It’s variations on the theme: “you should trust me.” It’s extremely well done.

Yes, I used the cover of friendship, your loyalty and my apparent track record of not-misbehaving with hundreds of women (including you!), of being a good guy except for one single lapse of judgment (which I swore was not as bad as it sounded, because that woman who you didn’t know was trying to take me down), to ask you privately to convince a couple other people that I was still a good guy. I guess it was awkward when you discovered I’d split up the list of people who needed convincing and asked other people to do this too? And when you discovered that I described the task with one of the people I assigned to you as “getting her to put down the pitchfork”. In retrospect, that probably seemed kind of manipulative of me.

But you should trust me, I totally get how what I did was wrong, and I won’t do it again.

Sure, I haven’t actually acknowledged that lying to you and trying to manipulate you to protect my reputation and relationships was a bad thing to do. I haven’t acknowledged that it harmed you. I haven’t said sorry.

But you should trust that I am sorry and that I won’t do it again. I shouldn’t need to say it.


You may remember that yesterday I quoted a comment that Janet posted on Martin Robbins’s post:

I[t] would be a mistake to think that Bora hurt exactly three people here. Or that he has apologized to all the people he harmed.

I say this as someone he harmed, someone he has not apologized to as yet.

I wondered when I read it and then when I quoted it what the harm was. Now I know. Now we know.


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

Misreading the law in question

Jan 5th, 2014 3:52 pm | By

There are people who say that Dallas hospital is getting the law wrong.

The hospital says Texas law prohibits it from following a family directive when a pregnancy is involved, although three experts say the hospital is misreading the law in question.

There’s something very wrong with this country. On the one hand, “stand your ground” laws, so if some guy thinks a kid in a hoodie might be up to no good, he’s allowed to kill him to be on the safe side. On the other hand, technology can re-start a pregnant woman’s heart even after the brain is already stone dead and the fetus’s brain probably is too, but neither can be allowed to die the rest of the way until the woman’s body expels the fetus. No big deal about the kid in the hoodie, but ignore every right the pregnant woman ever had just in case the fetus might survive. Something definitely wrong there.

Hospital spokeswoman J.R. Labbe said she isn’t permitted to confirm that Marlise Munoz had been declared brain-dead, only that she was pregnant and hospitalized in serious condition.

“We are following the law of the state of Texas,” Labbe said. “This is not a difficult decision for us. We are following the law.”

But three experts interviewed by The Associated Press, including two who helped draft the law, said a brain-dead patient’s case wouldn’t be covered by the law.

“This patient is neither terminally nor irreversibly ill,” said Dr. Robert Fine, clinical director of the office of clinical ethics and palliative care for Baylor Health Care System. “Under Texas law, this patient is legally dead.”

Yes but fetus. The hell with Renisha McBride, shot dead for asking for help after she crashed her car, but when it comes to fetus – nothing else counts.

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

Just you wait

Jan 5th, 2014 3:20 pm | By

Katha Pollitt has a roundup of the year in feminism. Again, 12 and 13 are among my favorites.

11. After Savita Halappanavar was killed by sepsis in 2012, because her doctors refused to complete her miscarriage while the doomed fetus showed signs of life, Ireland passed a law permitting abortion to save a woman’s life. Well, it’s a start. In other Irish news, the McAleese report linked the government to the infamous church-run Magdalene laundries, where “fallen women” were imprisoned until 1996.

12. Women in Britain discovered their inner rebel. The website and hashtag Everyday Sexism laid bare the daily reality of misogyny for ordinary women. Massive grassroots efforts succeeded in putting Jane Austen on the ten-pound note, despite threats of rape and death against campaign leaders Caroline Criado-Perez and MP Stella Creasy.

13. Last year’s horrible rapes from Delhi to Steubenville sparked an ongoing wave of news coverage and feminist activism. Real change will have to wait till next year, though. This year, Jameis Winston, who evaded rape charges as many athletes do, won the Heisman Trophy.

A prediction: real change will always have to wait till next year.


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

Maintained as an unwilling incubator

Jan 5th, 2014 2:49 pm | By

Darlise Munoz of Dallas was 14 weeks pregnant when she died suddenly of what doctors think was a pulmonary embolism. Her husband found her at home; he performed CPR and called for an ambulance, and she was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.

Electric shocks and drugs started her heart again and it continued beating with mechanical support, but her brain waves were completely flat. She had gone without breathing for too long to ever recover.

But when the heartbroken family was ready to say goodbye, hospital officials said they could not legally disconnect Marlise from life support. At the time she collapsed, she was 14 weeks’ pregnant.

And because doctors could still detect a fetal heartbeat, state law says Marlise Munoz’s body — against her own and her family’s wishes — must be maintained as an unwilling incubator.

But the fetus had gone without oxygen too. The fetus’s prognosis is not good. Also, both Munozes had discussed this situation and didn’t want the dead-but-breathing-by-machine scenario.

Marlise and Erick Munoz, the parents of a young son, both worked as paramedics for the town of Crowley. Because their jobs brought them into routine contact with sudden death and suffering families, they had conversations about their end-of-life wishes.

Marlise had made it clear she would never want to be kept artificially alive with no hope of recovery.

“Being active paramedics and knowing the facts, they know that people who have this happen to them don’t come out of this very well,” said Crowley Fire Department Lt. Tim Whetstone, a member of the town’s firefighters association that has rallied around the Munoz family.

But that’s all beside the point, because the law.

Hospital authorities have declined all comment, other than to say they have no choice but to follow state law.

According to a 2012 report by the Center for Women Policy Studies, laws governing end-of-life preferences for pregnant women vary by state. Texas is one of 12 that automatically invalidates a woman’s legal prerogative if she “is diagnosed with pregnancy.”

“These are the most restrictive of the pregnancy exclusion statutes, stating that, regardless of the progression of the pregnancy, a woman must remain on life-sustaining treatment until she gives birth,” the report says.

If the bitch didn’t want that the bitch shouldn’t have gotten pregnant, right?

H/t Ewan



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

How’s Graham Murkett these days?

Jan 5th, 2014 2:22 pm | By

Some grey bloke has 17 predictions for 2014.

I especially like 12 and 13.

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


Jan 5th, 2014 10:07 am | By

From last September, a Think Progress piece about a big UN report on the roots of sexual violence.

Among the conclusions…

Unhealthy attitudes about sexuality take root at a young age. More than half of the study’s respondents who admitted they had violated someone’s consent were teenagers when they first raped someone. Most sexual crimes recorded in the study occurred when men were between the ages of 15 and 19. The authors point out this finding “reinforces the need for early rape prevention.” Sexual violence prevention advocates in the U.S. say that this type of education can begin with comprehensive sex ed. Teaching kids about the bodies from an early age helps instill a sense of self-confidence and ownership in them. Then, they’re more likely to avoid violating another person’s consent, or be more willing to speak up when someone tries to violate theirs.

Men rape because they have been taught that they have a right to claim women’s bodies. One of the fundamental concepts at the heart of “rape culture” is the idea that rape is inevitable, men can’t help themselves, and women must therefore work to protect themselves against it. Within the context of rape culture, the idea that men are entitled to sexual experiences is deeply entrenched. The UN researchers found that this attitude is pervasive among the rapists they surveyed. Among the men who acknowledged they had sexually assaulted someone else, more than 70 percent of them said they did it because of “sexual entitlement.” Forty percent said they were angry or wanted to punish the woman. About half of the men said they did not feel guilty.

It’s about attitudes. Attitudes matter. Attitudes have an influence on what happens, on what people do, on actions and agents. That’s so obvious it seems idiotic to spell it out, yet there are still a great many people who think that trying to change attitudes to, say, women, or the relations between women and men, or aggression, is terrifyingly “radical” and exactly like the Nazis and the Stasi.

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

They set her on fire

Jan 4th, 2014 6:05 pm | By

There are protests in India over the gang-rape and murder of that teenage girl in Kolkata.

Apparently the authorities are no longer talking about suicide.

She was then set on fire on December 23 and died in a state-run hospital late on New Year’s Eve, police said.

“She gave us a dying declaration in front of the health officials that she was set on fire by two persons close to the accused when she was alone at home on December 23,” local policeman Nimbala Santosh Uttamrao told AFP.

It beggars belief. They raped her and then to punish her for being raped by them, they set her on fire.


What is wrong with people?

Several hundred activists on Wednesday protested in Kolkata over the crime, which was shocking in its brutality, even after a year when sex crimes have been widely reported in India.

Meanwhile, Taslima’s serial, which might have raised some consciousness about the way women are treated in South Asia…will not be seen, because someone thought it might offend someone. Fabulous priorities.

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