Notes and Comment Blog

Marwa says: Join the Ex-Hijabi Fashion Photo Journal!

Jun 16th, 2014 7:33 am | By

You know Marwa Berro of Between a Veil and a Dark Place? (Did I tell you she was at Women in Secularism? I think I did.) She has a brilliant project: an ex-hijabi photo blog.

Featuring ex-hijabis with awesome hairstyles and tattoos and piercings. Ex-hijabis in bikinis and little black dresses and cargo pants and hiking boots. Ex-hijabis who are femme and ex-hijabis who are butch. Ex-hijabis who are women and ex-hijabis who are men. Ex-hijabis topless and legsome and all decked out and minimalistic and with long hair and buzzcuts and everything. EVERYTHING.

Basically ex-hijabis choosing how THEY want their bodies to look, because bodies are a joy and not a shame.


I’m thinking each post will feature a new  ex-hijabi with a small story on their background and feelings about the shift from a life of obscurity to one where they can model and fashion their own bodies as they please.

Read the post for more details, and spread the word.

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

Pope yells at Europe for not cranking out enough babies

Jun 15th, 2014 6:09 pm | By

Dude, look in the mirror. You didn’t have any children (that we know of), so why are you shouting at Europe for having too few of them?

Pope Francis on Sunday criticized Europe for becoming what he called “tired” because of low birth rates and the increasing numbers of young people who neither work nor study.

Mirror. Mirror.


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

Whether “social justice warrior” is supposed to be an insult

Jun 15th, 2014 6:03 pm | By

Dissident Scrapbook gives a nice clear account of the Sarah Kendzior/Jacobin magazine controversy for those who didn’t get all the details. (I’m one of those.)

It starts with an opinion piece on the Jacobin site by Amber A’Lee Frost called “Bro Bash”. The commentary is pretty simple. It says men on the Left who aren’t particularly feminist in their approach to thought, presentation, or behavior — often called “bros” or “brocialists” — should not be dismissed outright, and should also not be lumped in with outright misogyinists just for being, you know, men’s men. Frost basically argues that “bros” aren’t as bad as they’re reputed to be.

That article contains the following sentence:

And I just don’t think the diminutive label of ‘bro’ should be [used] to describe more insidious sexism, let alone violent aggression like rape threats.

Meh. I think “brocialist” is pretty apt, actually.

The controversy is over the fact that this sentence, when the piece originally appeared, contained a link to a tweet by Sarah Kendzior in which she referred to a “brocialist” who once leveled a rape threat against her. (I believe but cannot confirm that the words rape threats were hyperlinked to the tweet.) I won’t link to the original tweet, because that really upsets Kendzior, and I want to respect her wishes. But I will quote it in its entirety, something I’ve decided to do because Kendzior has personally definitely drawn far more attention to this tweet than I’ll ever be able to:

I first heard it from a brocialist sending me emails hoping for my rape. So I’m guessing yes.

(It doesn’t really matter, but the “it” in this tweet is the term social justice warrior, and the “yes” refers to whether social justice warrior is supposed to be an insult.)

Ah now that last is one of the details I didn’t get. Interesting. I had thought the feeding frenzy over that word was local to “the atheist community” and its brocialist hatred of feminism and feminists, but clearly that’s quite wrong. Interesting interesting. So it’s not just atheist assholes aka brocialists, it’s also asshole progressives and lefties aka brocialists. Good to know.

Anti-feminists hate me. I hate anti-feminists. No I’m not going to put all that aside for the sake of “the community.” Stalemate.


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

Other parents chose not to vaccinate

Jun 15th, 2014 5:50 pm | By

A San Francisco station does a better job of taking pertussis seriously in its report; it says it can be deadly for infants and children.

But then it talks to a citizen.

“Hopefully people will catch it when their kids are showing symptoms and they’ll get treated right away and keep them away from other people,” said Katie Kresnak, [whose three children attend school in the district.

All of Kresnak’s three children have current Tdap shots, but she says other parents chose not to vaccinate.

“It’s frustrating to me, but of course people have their own reasons for doing things like that and I have to respect that, but its times like this that put other people at risk so that is a little frustrating,” said Kresnak.

No. No you really don’t have to respect that, and you shouldn’t. There is no such imperative, and in fact you shouldn’t because people have bad reasons and they are endangering their own children and other people’s.

(Ok one possible not-unreasonable motivation for not vaccinating or for delaying it is if one child had a bad reaction. We were told about one such case yesterday and that’s understandable. It’s ok to respect that, while still urging vaccination. But that’s it.)


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

It’s not just “a persistent cough”

Jun 15th, 2014 5:00 pm | By

Well, here’s a terrible bit of reporting on the whooping cough epidemic in California from local CBS News.

Infants and young children are most vulnerable to whooping cough.

Symptoms vary by age but include a cough and runny nose for one or two weeks. The cough then worsens and children may experience rapid coughing spells that end with a “whooping” sound.

In infants, symptoms may not include an apparent cough, but could include episodes in which the child’s face turns red or purple.

In adults, symptoms may include a persistent cough for several weeks.

And that’s it. Sounds pretty harmless, doesn’t it – the cough gets worse and makes a funny sound, and/or the child might turn red or purple in the face. What CBS doesn’t say is that the rapid coughing means the child can’t inhale. The cough pushes the breath out and it keeps going and it’s rapid, so the person coughing can’t breathe in. That’s bad! It’s like drowning; it’s like being suffocated or strangled; it’s terrible and can be lethal. That “whooping” sound that seems so amusing is the desperate noise the cougher makes as she finally drags in a breath with the little strength she has left. It doesn’t sound anything like a whoop to me, it’s a roughly voiced gasp rather than a whoop.

Why would they describe the disease so incompletely and misleadingly?

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

Edwina doesn’t know the total number of rooms in Surry Hill

Jun 15th, 2014 3:44 pm | By

The New Republic published an article about Surry Hill in 2006. I’m reading it. I’m reading it and wondering what the HELL anyone was thinking suggesting Edwina Rogers to head the SCA – let alone actually approving her.

The piece of land it’s on was originally zoned for nine houses.

Edwina doesn’t know the total number of rooms in Surry Hill, but an elevator services the house’s three floors. Upstairs, Edwina’s bathroom (one of eight) features a small fireplace by the tub. But she is proudest of her home’s dazzling—and eclectic—art collection. “We do a lot of lobbying for foreign governments. I just can’t imagine any country we haven’t gotten a piece from,” she explains. Sashaying from room to room like a docent, she points out the eight-foot steel-plated pantry door from Rajasthan, the light fixtures from Venice, and the four Taiwanese stone statues, each weighing 300 pounds, embedded in her dining room wall. (The floor had to be reinforced with steel to support them.) Her most delicate pieces are housed in their own “art gallery”—a white-walled room where ancient figurines, pottery, and pieces of jewelry lay on cream-colored stands under Plexiglas. “We hired the company that does the Smithsonian’s display cases,” Edwina explains.

Let me put this crudely. She’s too god damn rich to run an organization such as the Secular Coalition for America. I realize it’s not a left-wing organization or an anti-poverty organization or a socialist organization, but all the same, it is an organization that intends to improve things, that is progressive, that wants and needs to appeal to large numbers of ordinary people as opposed to the richest .01%. It’s not intelligent to put someone that grotesquely over-moneyed in the job of running an organization of that kind. It’s alienating. It’s alienating before you even get to how the Rogerses got so fucking rich.

Within Republican circles, Surry Hill is an iconic placea Shangri-la for those who toil on Capitol Hill and along K Street. (“Have you seen Surry Hill?” Republicans are apt to say. “You’ve got to go.”) It’s also a testament to the rewards awaiting ambitious conservatives in modern Washington, where unprecedented wealth is being made from the business of politics. Just ask the Rogerses, who have ridden a boom in Washington lobbying during the last decade. Edwina, a former Republican Hill staffer and Bush White House aide, worked at the Washington Group, chaired by former GOP Representative Susan Molinari, whose clients have included Boeing and the government of Bangladesh. Ed, a former aide in the Reagan and first Bush White Houses and a regular on shows like MSNBC’S “Hardball,” co-founded the powerhouse lobbying firm of Barbour Griffith & Rogers in 1991. Last year, the firmwhose clients include Eli Lilly, Verizon, Lorillard Tobacco Company, and the governments of India and Qatarreported revenue of $19 million. Built from these lobbying riches in 2002, Surry Hill is the psychic center of McLean. And McLean, in turn, has become the psychic center of the Washington Republican establishment.

You know what? It shouldn’t be possible for unprecedented wealth to be made from the business of politics. Politics shouldn’t be a fucking business – it shouldn’t be for sale. It shouldn’t be corrupt.

McLean covers just 18 square miles and has a population of 40,000. But it is packed with the people who impeached Bill Clinton, elected George W. Bush, launched the Iraq war, and have now learned to make millions from their association with government. Some are famouspeople like Bill Kristol and Colin Powell, Scooter Libby and Newt Gingrich, several current and former Republican senators, and Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Dick Cheney once owned a McLean townhouseuntil he sold it to Bush’s 2000 campaign manager, Joe Allbaugh. Less well-known are the countless lobbyists, lawyers, and businessmen whose names rarely turn up in The Washington Post and who like it that waypeople like super-lobbyist Ken Duberstein, Ronald Reagan’s former chief of staff; Frank Carlucci, former chair of the Carlyle Group, the notorious global private equity firm with close ties to the Bush family; and Dwight Schar, a construction mogul who is currently finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.

These are people who get rich by screwing over the population.

…it’s not merely political power that has accumulated in GOP circles over the last decade-plus. It’s also money. The modern Republican brand of corporate conservatism, embodied in the capital by Tom DeLay’s K Street Project, cultivated a climate of unprecedented accessand therefore profitfor lobbyists. If the Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham scandals didn’t tell you everything you need to know, consider some statistics: Between 2000 and 2005, the number of registered Washington lobbyists doubled to about 35,000and overall spending on lobbying grew by 30 percent, to $2.1 billion. A well-connected congressional aide can easily win a $300,000 starting salary on K Street.When John Boehner became House majority leader last winter, watchdog groups pointed out that a whopping 14 of his former aides had gone on to K Street lobbying jobs. Meanwhile, where it was once considered tacky for former members of Congress to lobby, they now routinely cash in their access and know-how for seven-figure earnings. In Washington, the spirit of public service has been overtaken by the profit motive.

And that’s where the people who chose the next Executive Director of the SCA found Edwina Rogers – not just a Republican lobbyist, but a grotesquely rich Republican lobbyist who got rich via Republican lobbying.


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

Look at the fabulous ponyskin toilet cover

Jun 15th, 2014 11:57 am | By

Here’s a thrilling item from 2008 – somebody called Mario Correa pays a visit to Surry* Hill, the 18,000 square foot house of DC “Superlobbyists” Edwina and Ed Rogers. Inside the palatial residence with hot and cold running champagne, Edwina Rogers shows the host how she wraps speaker gifts for a conference she’s having: she wraps them in money. Isn’t that fun and exciting? Oh yes it’s very fun and exciting.

*No, I don’t know why they misspell Surrey.

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

Scalia in the wilderness

Jun 15th, 2014 11:39 am | By

Dahlia Lithwick considers the question of why it’s taboo to discuss whether or not Supreme Court Justices’ rulings and views are shaped by their religions.

In a country historically averse to political debates about competing faiths, nowhere is frank discussion of religion more taboo than at the U.S. Supreme Court. “Religion is the third rail of Supreme Court politics. It’s not something that’s talked about in polite company,” as Jeff Shesol, the author of a book about the New Deal Court, put it. He was speaking with NPR’s Nina Totenberg in 2010, when John Paul Stevens was looking at retirement and, for the first time in American history, there was the prospect of six Catholics, three Jews, and no Protestants on the highest court in the land—a watershed almost too “radioactive,” Totenberg remarked, even to note. And beware of venturing any further than that, as the University of Chicago Law School’s Geoffrey Stone did in a controversial 2007 blog post suggesting that the Supreme Court’s five conservatives likely derived their abortion views from Catholic doctrine: Scalia—a devout Catholic, and the current Court’s longest-serving conservative—announced a boycott of the school until Stone leaves the faculty.

That is both totally unreasonable, and dangerous. Scalia is a dogmatic Catholic, so why would that fact not influence his views on abortion? What is he, magic? If we can’t even discuss the issue, how can justices be confirmed or rejected on reasonable grounds?

The problem of engaging religion openly at the high court extends beyond the unspoken agreement not to talk about the justices’ religions. The Court itself has opted not to probe the intensity or validity of a plaintiff’s religious conviction, in part thanks to Scalia’s reasoning. Get too deep into second-guessing matters of spiritual belief, he noted in his landmark 1990 opinion denying peyote-using Native Americans an exemption from everyday drug laws, and there’s no getting out: “What principle of law or logic can be brought to bear to contradict a believer’s assertion that a particular act is ‘central’ to his personal faith?” Neutral laws must hold sway, or every religious objector becomes, in Scalia’s words, “a law unto himself.”

So then there was the Hobby Lobby case, when nobody questioned the religious beliefs that were in play.

Certainly the justices on the left wing of the Court and the Obama administration didn’t: whatever science, medical consensus, or neutral law may say on the subject of abortion-causing drugs and devices, the government wasn’t about to challenge Hobby Lobby’s belief that particular forms of birth control cause abortions (or to note that the business, even if inadvertently, once covered the same contraceptive methods its owners abhor). Nor was Scalia, who this time—in a dramatic about-face from his 1990 position—clearly supported the religious objectors. In fact, in the course of grilling the lawyers, he blurted out what sounded like agreement with the plaintiffs’ claims that these items were abortifacients. The spectacle was enough to make one wonder, quietly: Peyote didn’t sway him, but what about his own brand of piety?

So a new biography of Scalia by Bruce Allen Murphy is helpful because Murphy doesn’t shrink from probing that issue.

Murphy does not shrink from adjudicating Scalia’s dueling public claims: that separating faith from public life is impossible and, at the same time, that he himself has done just that on the Court. Murphy’s conclusion—at once obvious and subversive—is that Justice Scalia is very much the product of his deeply held Catholic faith. The pristine border between faith and jurisprudence is largely myth and aspiration.

Or just plain self-serving bullshit? That’s my suspicion anyway.

Scalia claims that his originalist methodology insulates him from letting his religion influence his rulings. It’s just the words on the page, folks. Murphy doesn’t buy it.

Murphy carefully lays out the flaws in Scalia’s claim that simply channeling history is a neutral enterprise. Scalia vaunts his departures from Church doctrine, as evidenced, for instance, in a 2002 vote in favor of capital punishment—a stand at odds with Pope John Paul II’s opposition to the death penalty in “Evangelium Vitae.” Writing in the journal First Things, Scalia cited that position as proof that legal rules alone guide him. Yet what really goaded him, Murphy persuasively argues, was that the pope shifted his position on capital punishment, just as proponents of living constitutionalism have done at the Supreme Court. This is not, in Murphy’s view, a value-neutral position. Whether Scalia acknowledges it publicly or not, he is channeling a fundamentalist reading of the Bible—Leviticus in particular.

He’s isolated himself on the Court as a result, becoming a Jeremiah “hollering alone in the wilderness.”

Yet perhaps Murphy misses the moral of his own story. Scalia is in fact leaving a very powerful mark, as precisely the lone, uncompromising figure his latest biographer portrays so astutely. The Hobby Lobby case serves as a reminder of a profound shift on the Court over the 24 years since Scalia evoked the specter of the religious objector as “a law unto himself.” That may have been his nightmare in 1990, but in so many ways it is Scalia’s legacy in 2014. Scalia represents the living embodiment of the besieged religious dissenter, the “Christian as cretin,” in his parlance, the man who believes that the only remaining front in the American war for civil rights is the battle to defend religion. Two decades ago, nobody could have imagined that five members of the Court would align themselves with that posture.

But in the years since Samuel Alito joined the Court in 2006, replacing the centrist Sandra Day O’Connor, the five conservatives on the bench have shown less and less solicitude for the rights of women, workers, voters, minorities, the elderly, the environment, the poor, and most criminal defendants—and they have shown growing and seemingly boundless patience for religious objectors. The Court is currently hearing, and will continue to hear, passionate challenges to a secular society from religious dissenters seeking not just the right to deny contraception to their workers, but the right to pray at town-council meetings and—somewhere down the line, it seems likely—the right to deny services to same-sex couples. Murphy may be correct that Scalia is a court of one. But in the religious-rights revival now in progress in America, one is perhaps all that is needed.

Gruseome, isn’t it.

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

Guest post by Bruce Everett: Ideology is not just for other people

Jun 15th, 2014 11:09 am | By

Dear “non political” people, entering into the lobbying arena to advocate for “non-ideological” policies,

When complaining that people only disagree with you because of their own “political ideology”; it’d be good if you could at least grasp the existence of the horizon of your spectacularly large bias blind spots. (Also, if you could ditch the vanity, which you also seem to have a problem with, that’d be great, thanks).

Just because you can’t spot a number of the inferred values, unspoken assumptions, knowledge gaps, political preferences and statistical biases presented by your lobbying actions, doesn’t mean they aren’t out there in the open for everyone else to see and/or discuss.

And pretending that your interlocutors are trying to put their “sacred cows” out of range of criticism, when they shift the focus to parts of your arguments that you aren’t addressing; please cut that shit out. Your interlocutors don’t want to talk about those “sacred cows” because they aren’t relevant in the context of the discussion they want to have, nor in the context of any discussion they may ever be interested in. We’re not dealing with “sacred cows”, we’re dealing with red herrings; your red herrings.

What is relevant, is dependent upon what it is exactly that is being discussed, and raises the question of who in a democracy, decides upon what is being discussed.

Here’s the kicker. When you get involved in lobbying government, your campaign and your organisation, and anything anyone can find out about it, are all topics of discussion for the public. The people you’re whining about, those with the “sacred cows” who are “silencing” you with mere criticism; they often don’t have the platform that you do – they don’t place their interests out there for the public the way that lobbyists do, because they can’t.

Instead, their interests are usually expressed in the smaller, more personal spaces that rightfully, they hold greater sway over, either by way of rights to privacy, or editorial control, or other equivalents. They decide in their personal space, what gets discussed, and hence ultimately, what is relevant in that setting.

You aren’t the editor of their blogs. You don’t get to demand what gets discussed in their personal, non-lobbyist space; it is their right to set the context of their own discussions, and it’s not your entitlement to expect otherwise.

They aren’t loyal foot-soldiers for self-appointed “thought leaders”; they are citizens.

Conversely, when you lobby governments, the public gets to take their interests, and their contexts, to the table, to discuss your “non-politics” accordingly – all without ceding control to you if they’re not using your political organs. That’s part and parcel of the business of lobbying in a democracy, irrespective of whether or not you are in fact, “non political”.

Yes, discursively this is one sided. You know what else is one-sided? The disparity in resources behind lobbyists and bloggers. Suck it up, lobbyists.

There are only a few ways, generally, that a lobbyist can act in this situation, and each carries its own set of implications.

Being a professor does not make you an elitist, and it never has. Lobbying without accountability, while expecting bloggers, journalists and private citizens to be just as, if not more open to being persuaded about what’s up for debate, does.

You can go down this road, but people rightly get to call you an elitist for doing so, and your complaints about this can be reasonably laughed at. In this case, you’re comedy material. Learn to live with it.

Alternatively, if you don’t like the realities of lobbying in a democracy (and I’ve noticed that you like calling yourself democratic), you can always go back to the academy where you rightly have a captive audience; your students. The electorate should value insight and intelligence, but the electorate is not, nor are its journalists, bloggers or activists, a captive audience.

Nor is the electorate your classroom, nor is it something that should remain passive when you use substantial lobbying influence to seek something from government.

If you don’t understand how your lobbying fits into a democracy, irrespective of what tack you take, you’re incompetent as a lobbyist, and quite possibly as a public intellectual as well. This in addition to potentially being an elitist jerk.

With all due respect,


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


Jun 14th, 2014 5:07 pm | By

This one is even worse. Again: warning. The cough goes on and on and on and on and she cannot get her breath.

I’ve done that gasp a few times as an adult, just from a regular cough with a cold – that dragging thing where you desperately try to haul in the air by force, and you make that sound. It’s awful. A tiny child doing it all day every day for months…deargod.

Updating to add: she’s fine now. She’d had all her shots, but got it anyway – but probably a milder dose. (That’s a milder dose? Oy.)

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

What whooping cough looks like

Jun 14th, 2014 4:46 pm | By

Warning: hard to take.

Nevertheless should be widely shown so that people will know THEY NEED TO GET THEIR CHILDREN  VACCINATED.

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

No minors or pregnant women

Jun 14th, 2014 3:41 pm | By

Wait wait, before you buy tickets for Braco in New York, I missed something I should have warned you about.


Please note for ALL GAZING EVENTS: Must be 18 years of age or over to attend and pregnant women are not allowed to attend after their third month of pregnancy due to the intensity of the experience for some. People with illnesses are advised to follow the recommendation of their doctor before and after attending a gazing session.

It is recommended to bring a photo of your child or a person needing help who cannot attend, as this method has been proven to be equally effective and the most balanced way for some to receive help who cannot attend.

Pregnant women might find themselves giving birth to an angel, or Gandhi, or a wreath of flowers, or some other terribly embarrassing and inconvenient thing.

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

Amazing transformations happen

Jun 14th, 2014 3:05 pm | By

Thanks to Josh, who was invited to partake and will not be taking up the invitation, I have learned about a person called Braco, who gazes. Braco’s gaze is said to do magical things.

Braco’s gaze touches his visitors with peace, silence and hope. Amazing transformations happen, and many find new power, vitality and a zest for life resulting from their experience. Braco does not teach, talk or diagnose to give treatments—he simply gazes in silence and offers his gift to visitors—independent from religion, ideology, race, color and culture.

Cool gig, don’t you think? He does nothing – he teaches not, neither does he talk, and he doesn’t diagnose either. I conclude he also doesn’t dance, or turn somersaults, or pivot on his thumb, or do contortionist moves like lifting his feet over his head and then walking on them. I deduce he doesn’t whistle, or sing, or read poetry, or whip up a nice poulet basquaise, or ice skate, or watch tv while you watch him watching tv. He just gazes.

And apparently people give him money to do that!

Watch out though. Be careful. There’s a warning on his website.

Warning: Fraud by Braco Impersonators

It has recently come to our attention that somebody created a Braco Facebook Page, pretending to be Braco himself and contacted people. Please know that Braco never personally contacts people or communicates with people directly. He does not give any interviews and he does not speak in public.

Omigod someone is fraudulently pretending to be Braco and perhaps fraudulently gazing at people!

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

The bishops renewed their obsessions

Jun 14th, 2014 11:50 am | By

The AP reported the other day on the meeting of the US Conference of Catholic bishops.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops meeting Wednesday renewed their focus on abortion and gay marriage under Pope Francis.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to make only limited revisions to a guide they publish every presidential election year on church teaching, voting and public policy. The bishops also reaffirmed their fight for broader religious exemptions to laws recognizing gay marriage and a requirement in the Affordable Care Act that employers provide health insurance covering birth control.

That’s what they do. That’s what they’re preoccupied with. That’s what they care about. That’s their raison d’être. Not love, not compassion, not making a better world – just peering at people’s sex lives and doing their best to control them and fuck them up. They fuck you up, your Catholic bishops.

Francis has said the church has been alienating Catholics by focusing more on divisive social issues than on mercy and compassion.

The bishops’ document on political responsibility, titled “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” has been published every four years since 1976, and has become a point of contention within the church over which issues voters should consider most important: abortion or social justice. The bishops voted Wednesday to incorporate Francis’ teachings into the document, but rejected a complete rewrite in favor of limited changes instead.

“The question of abortion will remain as very important,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Texas, after the vote at the national assembly in New Orleans. “There are pillars to the house and it is one of the pillars.”

Says a high official of the institution that for decades tortured children and let them die of neglect and worse.

The bishops also voted to renew their committee on religious liberty, which has led their campaign for broader protection for religious charities and for individual business owners with religious objections to birth control, same-sex marriage and other issues.

It’s not “religious liberty” – it’s religious control and domination for them, at the expense of everyone who has no desire to be controlled and dominated by the Catholic church. What about our religious liberty, eh? That should include liberty from the control and domination of Catholic bishops.


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

Pope says have children, dammit

Jun 14th, 2014 11:18 am | By

RNS reports via the Washington Post -

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Monday (June 2) warned married couples against substituting cats and dogs for children — a move that he said leads to the “bitterness of loneliness” in old age.

Fraaaaaaaaaaaaaanciiiiiiiiiiiis – aren’t you forgetting something? You’re substituting a bunch of celibate priests for children, so who are you to tell other people to have children instead of dogs?!

Also, it’s none of your business. It wouldn’t be any of your business even if you had 18 children, which for all I know you do, given the funny ways of your funny church. It’s none of your business; your church doesn’t get to tell us what to do any more. Even Catholics don’t have to obey you; you can’t burn them for disobeying any more. You should mind your own business.

He was blessing some married couples in the Vatican chapel next to his bedsitter.

But he went a step further and strongly criticized those couples who choose not to have children, saying they had been influenced by a culture of “well-being” that says life is better without kids.

“You can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be carefree,” the pope said.

“It might be better — more comfortable — to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog. Is this true or not? Have you seen it?

“Then, in the end this marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness.”

Or not, and also, having children is not automatically a hedge against loneliness or solitude in old age. Also, as I mentioned, you don’t (at least officially) have any yourself, and that’s the policy and indeed the rule of your horrible tyrannical church, so shut up.

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

Vaccination history lesson

Jun 14th, 2014 10:32 am | By

You know who developed the whooping cough vaccine? No neither did I until I looked it up. Pearl Kendrick.

In 1893, when Pearl Kendrick was a three-year-old growing up in Wheaton, Illinois, she was struck with a case of whooping cough – known as pertussis to scientists, named after the bacteria (Bordetella pertussis) that causes it. Four and one-half decades later she would have her revenge, developing the first effective vaccine to combat the ravenous disease.

Measles, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria, polio… These are all dreadful diseases, but none claimed as many young lives in the United States in the 1920s as whooping cough.

At its height, whooping cough claimed over 6,000 lives each year in the United States. Remarkably, during the 1940s, it was responsible for the deaths of more infants than polio, measles, tuberculosis, and all other childhood diseases combined. Chicago officials were so alarmed they required infected children, following a two-week quarantine period, to be accompanied by an attendant and to wear a yellow armband with the words “Whooping Cough” written in large black letters on it.

Kendrick got a PhD in microbiology at Johns Hopkins and developed an effective vaccine.

And guess what else.

In 1936, in desperate need of additional funds to continue her work, Kendrick invited First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to spend the day at her laboratory. Mrs. Roosevelt may have found a kindred spirit in Kendrick, as the First Lady had begun to investigate the practice of using orphans in vaccine research. This practice appalled Kendrick, and she instead used the strong ties she built with the residents of Grand Rapids to find willing volunteers for her research. Mrs. Roosevelt spent a full thirteen hours with Kendrick that day – she later helped find the funding to add several workers to Kendrick’s staff.

No using orphans in vaccine research! Recruit willing volunteers instead!

This allowed Kendrick and Eldering to continue a large-scale trial they had begun in 1934, which eventually involved over 5,800 children. The results were stellar, with the children who received the active vaccine demonstrating a strong immunity. Kendrick also settled the issue of quarantine times, which were being hotly debated, with some isolation periods being as short as two weeks. Her research revealed children were infectious through three weeks but, after five weeks, over 90 percent were non-contagious. Michigan adopted her standard and set a 35 day quarantine.

By 1943, Kendrick’s and Eldering’s vaccine was in routine use throughout the United States, and by the early 1960s the rate of incidence of whooping cough had plummeted to less than 5 percent of the 1934 rate. In 1942, motivated by their concern of “lessening discomfort of the child,” Kendrick and Eldering combined three vaccines into a single shot, the Diphtheria, Pertussis, and Tetanus (DPT) vaccine which became the standard vaccine nationwide.

So that’s Pearl Kendrick.

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

Rushing backward

Jun 14th, 2014 9:59 am | By

California is being hit with a massive epidemic of whooping cough. Of whooping cough – one of those diseases for which there’s been an effective vaccine for more than 70 years.

California is being hit hard with a whooping cough epidemic, according to the state’s public health department, with 800 cases reported in the past two weeks alone.

The agency says that there were 3,458 whooping cough cases reported between January 1 and June 10, well ahead of the number of cases reported for all of 2013.

This is a problem of “epidemic proportions,” the department said. And the number of actual cases may be even higher, because past studies have shown that for every case of whooping cough that is reported, there are 10 more that are not officially counted.

Nice job, anti-vaxxers.

California has historically had higher vaccination rates than other states, but a recent study found large clusters of parents who did not vaccinate their children close to areas with a large number of whooping cough cases during the 2010 California outbreak.

The current outbreak is too new for scientists to know if there is a similar pattern.

Whooping cough cases have spread rapidly in the United States this year, with a 24% increase nationally in the number of cases, compared to January through April of last year, according to the CDC.

Other states are reporting similar problems. The Mobile County Health Department in Alabama, for example, recently noted an “alarming” rise of cases locally, with 18 cases in May and June. That’s more than all the reported cases in Mobile for 2013, health officials say.

Herd immunity? What’s that?

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

Harness an atomic rocket to it

Jun 14th, 2014 9:37 am | By

Rachel Holmes in the Guardian names 10 feminist classics. In her introduction to the list she makes the important point that feminism is far from new or exclusively modern.

Gender-based inequality remains the greatest global injustice and the struggle against it spans millennia and continents. These books make us more impatient for change, but they may also be turned to in dark hours when it feels change might never come. Feminism is no impulse or outcome of modernity. As these books show, it has been around for centuries. We don’t need to re-invent the wheel, or number what “wave” we are now riding; we need to harness an atomic rocket to it.

Yes to that.

The list itself is woefully deficient because it doesn’t include Does God Hate Women?

Kidding, kidding.

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

Guest post: on “meeting their needs”

Jun 13th, 2014 6:12 pm | By

Originally a comment by Robert Smythson on Meeting the needs.

“At the end of the day we have a school that has 90 to 95% Muslim children, we meet their needs”.

This statement is really the key to the whole issue. I’ve lurked here for a fair old time, but I hope I might be able to contribute something, having taught workshops at one of the “Trojan horse” schools in Birmingham.

I found that in a nominally secular school where the majority of pupils are Muslim, the efforts made to “meet their needs” created a culture which accepts these “needs” as normal and this had conspicuous effects on the relationship between male and female pupils. When we “meet the needs” of children who have been brought up to believe that it is normal that man have hegemony over women, then we simply allow them to act out their poisonous beliefs.

The boys did not mix with the girls, though there was no segregation practiced by the staff.

The boys paid no attention to the female staff.

The girls only talked amongst themselves.

The girls would not proffer answers to questions.

The boys regulated the girls’ behaviour by shouting them down.

Allegedly there was a problem with girls disappearing at “marriageable” age.

If you accommodate the hijab in such a school, then it becomes abnormal not to wear it if you are a Muslim girl.

It doesn’t even take a great uniformity of belief amongst the pupils; just that enough over-indulged boys are allowed to set the tone and cow the rest into living their way. The girls are silent on the matter, so who knows or cares what they think. The children operated in their own, self imposed, self policed culture. No outside pressure from islamists is needed (and may indeed be fictitious). They have been raised to believe this is the way things should be; and have never been challenged by staff who attempt in good faith to accept and accommodate their needs.
I’d be very reluctant to blame the staff for this. They work in an extremely difficult environment and struggle generally heroically against a tide of low expectation, little support, inadequate facilities and insufficient money. I can’t imagine any of them would feel it was their place to tell the assembled school that most of their deeply held beliefs were both crazy and wrong.
(Hence, actually, the conflicting narratives from staff and the government can be resolved by realising that even if the staff were doing great things in terms of raising attainment, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t operating in a culture in which the nastier elements of conservative religion thrive.)
If you think this is only Muslim problem: look to the revelations about faith-based institutions in Ireland. This can happen anywhere the most misogynistic elements of religion are allowed to go unchallenged – they become normal.

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

The view when you face the other way

Jun 13th, 2014 5:51 pm | By

Bess’s house. You can see her name at the top.

You have to click on it to get the real effect of course.

Hardwick2Credit GoogleEarth

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