Notes and Comment Blog

Balance, baaaaaalance

Jul 9th, 2014 3:48 pm | By

I’ve spent one half of today arguing with people who think I’m too ideologically pure and the other half arguing with people who think I’m not ideologically pure enough.

I can’t decide if that’s hilarious or annoying.



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

Can I sidewalk counsel people on their way to…?

Jul 9th, 2014 11:49 am | By

I got an idea from Katha Pollitt on Twitter – she’s making suggestions for sidewalk counseling. Like:

Can i sidewalk counsel women on their way to Mormon temple? Stay away from that sexist place where 12 year old boys have more power than you.

Let’s play.

Can I sidewalk counsel people on their way to a yoga place? Hey, don’t go in there, you can’t twist yourself into a pretzel like that!

Can I sidewalk counsel people on their way to a rock concert? Stay away from that place, you’ll damage your hearing!

Can I sidewalk counsel people on their way to get a haircut? Don’t waste your money in there, get a friend to cut it for you!

Can I sidewalk counsel people on their way to a basketball game? Go home, those people are way taller than you!

Can i sidewalk counsel people on their way into McDonalds? ARE YOU KIDDING, you don’t want to eat that shit!

Your turn.

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

Canya fixit?

Jul 9th, 2014 11:39 am | By

CFI urges:

Help Fix What Hobby Lobby Broke: Tell Your U.S. Senators to Protect Women’s Access to Birth Control

Yes do that, even if you think this is just window-dressing by the Democrats.

Trying to repair the damage done by the Court, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) today introduced the “Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act of 2014.” The bill states that employers cannot refuse to cover any health coverage – including contraceptive coverage – promised to employees and their dependents under federal law. It includes the exemption for houses of worship and the accommodation for religious non-profits already put into place by the Obama administration.

We at the Center for Inquiry believe that the Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby requires lawmakers to address the root cause of the problem: that RFRA may now be interpreted to grant for-profit corporations broad religiously based exemptions, such as from anti-discrimination laws. But we also believe that this bill is a necessary short-term fix which willensure millions of women do not lose access to birth control simply because of their bosses’ religious beliefs.

Women must have the ability to make their own reproductive choices without interference from religious members of society who believe their beliefs trump other individuals’ personal freedoms.

We urge you to write or call your U.S. Senators immediately and tell them to support the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act of 2014.


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

No longer tenable

Jul 9th, 2014 11:03 am | By

The Advocate has more on the organizations dropping their support for the current version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Following the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s announcement this morning that it would no longer support the current version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the American Civil Liberties Union announced this afternoon that it would also drop its support for the bill.

The announcement was also cosigned by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Transgender Law Center. A joint statement from the groups says that the current version of the bill, allowing religiously affiliated employers the ability to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity, has “long been a source of significant concern to us,” but the Supreme Court’s decision on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby has made it clear that religious exemption provisions are “no longer tenable.”

Because if you open that door a crack, the religious boffins will smash it wide open and then take it off the hinges and batter you to death with it.

The organizations say that after decades of introducing multiple versions of a bill to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, the country is due for a suitable one. They say that if this bill were to be passed and signed into law in its current state, it would still leave many LGBT workers without workplace protections.

“Moreover, it actually might lessen non-discrimination protections now provided for LGBT people by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and very likely would generate confusion rather than clarity in federal law,” they wrote Tuesday. “Finally, such a discrimination provision in federal law likely would invite states and municipalities to follow the unequal federal lead.”

And for that matter it also gives it a kind of imprimatur, a stamp of approval. It tells citizens that discrimination is bad except when goddy people do it, and then it’s ok.

“Federal legislation to protect LGBT people from workplace discrimination is way beyond overdue, but Congress has no place giving religiously affiliated employers a license to discriminate against LGBT workers,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. ”We can no longer support a bill that treats LGBT discrimination as different and somehow more legitimate than other forms of discrimination.”

And religious discrimination as somehow more legitimate than secular discrimination.

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

ACLU Withdraws Support for ENDA

Jul 9th, 2014 10:34 am | By

In a press release today:

WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today announced that it is withdrawing its support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in a statement also signed by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Transgender Law Center. The ACLU objects to a provision in the bill that would allow religiously affiliated employers to continue to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Federal legislation to protect LGBT people from workplace discrimination is way beyond overdue, but Congress has no place giving religiously affiliated employers a license to discriminate against LGBT workers,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. “We can no longer support a bill that treats LGBT discrimination as different and somehow more legitimate than other forms of discrimination.”

President Obama has announced his intention to sign an executive order that would ban discrimination against LGBT people employed by federal contractors. The ACLU opposes any inclusion of a discrimination exemption in this executive order.

The full statement announcing the withdrawal of support can be found here:

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

Even if they worked for businesses that had religious objections

Jul 8th, 2014 5:51 pm | By

The NY Times reports on this new bill, which (of course) preserves all the exemptions Obama already gave away to the god-botherers.

Democrats in Congress said Tuesday that they had developed legislation to override the Supreme Court decision on contraceptives. The bill would ensure that women had access to insurance coverage for birth control even if they worked for businesses that had religious objections.

The bill, put together in consultation with the Obama administration, would require for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby Stores to provide and pay for contraceptive coverage, along with other preventive health services, under the Affordable Care Act.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said the legislation was high on his agenda.

“The one thing we’re going to do during this work period, sooner rather than later, is to ensure that women’s lives are not determined by virtue of five white men,” Mr. Reid said Tuesday. “This Hobby Lobby decision is outrageous, and we’re going to do something about it. People are going to have to walk down here and vote, and if they vote with the five men on the Supreme Court, I think they’re going to be treated unfavorably come November with the elections.”

I don’t. I hope he’s right, but I’m not optimistic. We do love our religious fanaticism here.

[Senator] Murray’s bill criticizes the court’s majority opinion and declares that “employers may not discriminate against their female employees” in the coverage of preventive health services.

To this end, it says that an employer “shall not deny coverage of a specific health care item or service” where coverage is required under any provision of federal law. This requirement, it says, shall apply to employers notwithstanding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

I hate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Hate it hate it hate it. That’s not a very thoughtful commentary, but it’s late in the day and about 100 degrees here at this desk (ok no it’s not, it’s 76, but that’s hot).

Representative Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado and a co-author of the House version, said: “Our main concern is making sure that women are not denied contraceptives while we sit around trying to figure out what to do. The bill is an interim solution, to make sure women can get birth control while we look at broader issues, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

Yes! Look at it!! Look at it and then tear it up into a million billion pieces and feed it to the dog!


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

Oh dear, did you hurt your hand?

Jul 8th, 2014 4:38 pm | By

The National Women’s Law Center has a great, fierce analysis of the biases of the Evil Five in the Hobby Lobby ruling on its blog. Summary: Y U ignore women, Evil Five?

The majority opinion in Hobby Lobby erases women from the picture altogether. In a decision that is squarely about women’s health and equality, the male justices in the majority refuse to acknowledge the centrality of women. And in evidencing greater concern for protecting corporations from discrimination than in protecting women from discrimination, the majority opinion creates a hierarchy of discrimination where women are at the bottom (if they even merit consideration at all).

To begin with, Justice Alito’s opinion for the majority barely mentions women. As the Washington Post reported, the opinion uses the word “women” or “woman” a mere 13 times in 49 pages. Closer reading of the majority decision makes clear that seven of those mentions were either because the majority was refuting Justice Ginsburg (and her use of “women”); summarizing the government’s position (and its use of “women”) or describing the birth control coverage requirement (a simple recitation of fact).

Well you see it wasn’t about us, it was about the owners of Hobby Lobby, and the owners of corporations in general (let’s face it, most of them aren’t women), and the bosses of religions (also nearly all men), and the boss of the whole thing (definitely male). Women are peripheral to almost everything. They’re tiny little creatures way off in the corner somewhere, who don’t count.

That leaves precisely six instances in which the majority — on its own — mentioned the word “women.” There are two possible explanations. Both are troubling.

One is that the majority purposely, as a legal and literary strategy, left out “women” — the better to hide the actual women whose rights are at stake behind asserted concerns about religious freedom. Alternately, it was unintentional, but nevertheless the result of an unacknowledged but deep-seated and culturally-reinforced worldview that just does not take women into account.

It could also have been a combination of both, I think. The strategy of leaving them out would have seemed more obviously absurd if it weren’t already so normal to leave women out of everything as it is (and then look around brightly and observe that it’s all more of a guy thing).

I’m very tired of the deep-seated and culturally-reinforced worldview that just does not take women into account.

The justices in the majority are very concerned about discrimination, but only when it appears to harm for-profit corporations. The majority opinion paints a picture of for-profit corporations that are trying to operate according to religious beliefs, but are threatened by discrimination at every turn. Focusing on the need to protect these corporations allows the majority to ignore the other harm that is at issue in the case: discrimination against women.

If birth control does not really promote public health, then it doesn’t matter if taking the benefit from these female employees means more unintended pregnancies. If requiring insurance plans to cover birth control isn’t acknowledged to close gender gaps in health care, then it doesn’t matter if only female employees lose a health insurance benefit that they earned with their work. If gender equality is not a real result of birth control access, then there is no need to consider whether women are forced to give up educational or career opportunities. If birth control is not directly linked to a woman’s health and the course of her life, then sex discrimination deserves no attention by the majority. And so it gets none.

The bottom line for the majority is that when discrimination against women is tied to their reproductive health, it is different from other forms of discrimination and consequently less important. In this case, it is certainly less important to the majority than protecting for-profit corporations — which the majority decided, for the first time, can exercise religion — from asserted religious discrimination. That justifies the decision’s final conclusion: it is not just acceptable but legally required that the religious beliefs of bosses are allowed to trump a woman’s health and access to the health care she needs.

It’s a bit like rushing to comfort the guy who bruised his knuckles punching a woman in the face, while ignoring the woman on the ground with blood pouring out of her nose.

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

S.1696, The Women’s Health Protection Act

Jul 8th, 2014 3:25 pm | By

All right! Let’s do this thing.

There’s a hearing in Washington next week:

S.1696, The Women’s Health Protection Act: Removing Barriers to Constitutionally Protected Reproductive Rights

Full CommitteeDate: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 Add to my Calendar  

Time: 10:00 AM

Location: Dirksen 226 

Presiding: Senator Blumenthal

We need this.

There’s a petition. Sign and share. Tell your Representative and Senators (if you’re in the US).

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

Gandhi! That’s Gandhi!

Jul 8th, 2014 2:44 pm | By

Yet more reason to loathe Penn Jillette.

Penn Jillette says that people are “burying the lede” in the alleged incident that led to SiriusXM’s decision to fire “Opie and Anthony” host Anthony Cumia. He also argued that he’s never seen any evidence that suggests Cumia is racist as many of his critics have alleged.

“We are burying the lede of this story, which is that Anthony, who has a reputation for being a bit of a hot head, is carrying, comes up gets hit in the face and does not hurt the person back,” Jillette said during his “Penn’s Sunday School” podcast this weekend.

“That is incredible. If I am in the position where I cross somebody who is carrying a gun and who can defend themselves and hurt me, and their choice is to write angry stuff on Twitter instead of fighting me back — wonderful. Gandhi! That’s Gandhi! … That is Martin Luther King,” he continued.

It is? Just refraining from killing people when you’re pissed off is Gandhi and Martin Luther King? I don’t think so; I think it takes more than that. 

Cumia was fired last week over racially-charged tweets he wrote after an incident where a black woman allegedly punched him several times after she ended up in a photo snapped by the radio host. He claims he was carrying a firearm at the time of the alleged assault but exercised restraint. So far, we only have one side of the story — Cumia’s.

In a “livid” state after the incident, Cumia took to Twitter and called the woman a “cunt” and a “savage.” He also alleged there is a serious violence problem within the black community. He later deleted the controversial tweets and explained on Monday that they “were being picked apart & used, out of ANY context, to fuck me over.”

But he’s Gandhi Luther King, because he didn’t shoot anyone that we know of.

PZ gives some samples of Cumia’s Gandhi Luther Kingness:

Savage violent animal fucks prey on white people. Easy targets. This CUNT has no clue how lucky she was. She belted me 10 times. I had a gun

No,an ANIMAL BITCH used it’s instinctual violence on me. I restrained myself from putting it to sleep

It’s a jungle out in our cities after midnight. Violent savages own the streets. They all came 2 defend this pig. I had to yell like at dogs

Yup that’s Penn Jillette’s Gandhi Luther King guy. Free market booya.

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

Women need more time

Jul 8th, 2014 12:00 pm | By

Missouri governor Jay Nixon has vetoed a stupid malevolent control-the-women anti-abortion bill.

Setting up an election-year showdown with the Legislature, Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed on Wednesday a bill that would have required a 72-hour waiting period for abortions in Missouri.

Nixon said the bill’s lack of an exception for victims of rape and incest was a “glaring omission” that was “wholly insensitive to women who find themselves in horrific circumstances.”

But even if the bill had contained such an exception, he would have vetoed it, Nixon said in unusually sharp criticism of an abortion bill.

Tripling the current 24-hour waiting period “serves no demonstrable purpose other than to create emotional and financial hardships for women who have undoubtedly already spent considerable time wrestling with perhaps the most difficult decision they may ever have to make,” the governor, a Democrat, said in his veto message.

Because guess what, women know how to think, all by themselves. They don’t need legislators trying to force them to think; they can do it on their own.

But not all legislators get that.

The Republican-controlled Missouri House and Senate approved the longer waiting period by large margins in May. Supporters said that women need more time to consider their decision and that it would reduce the number of abortions.

If women “need” more time to consider their decision (more than what?) then they will take more time. You don’t meet people’s needs by forcing things on them. How do the supporters even know women “need” more time? How do they know how much time women have already taken? What makes them think stalling is in any way about what women need? As Nixon says, it’s just a way to push women around and take revenge on them for existing.

Senate bill handler Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, vowed to seek an override at the veto session in September.

Abortion “is an irreversible and permanent decision, and taking the time to think about the consequences is not unreasonable or a burden,” Sater said in a statement.

How the hell does David Sater know that women have not taken the time to think? How does he know he needs to force them to think? How does he know that’s any of his business?

He doesn’t. It’s just goddy bullying.

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

They should not think that they are exempted from this because they are followers of other faiths

Jul 8th, 2014 11:37 am | By

Saudi Arabia is also (surprise surprise) harsh and bossy about Ramadan even for people who have the bad taste to be not Muslim.

The Interior Ministry has warned that it would deport non-Muslim expatriates found eating and drinking in public during Ramadan.

“Non-Muslim expatriates should respect the feelings of Muslims by not eating, drinking or smoking in public places such as streets and workplaces. They should not think that they are exempted from this because they are followers of other faiths,” the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry reminded workers that their contracts stipulate that they should respect Islam’s rituals and practices, including the month of fasting.

The ministry warned that it would deport those who break the law. It stressed that employers and companies should inform their foreign workers about the penalties for violating the sanctity of the holy month, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

So foreign workers in one of the hottest places on earth are ordered to risk death by dehydration and heat stroke because of a stupid (and very dangerous) religious demand imposed by a “prophet” 1400 years ago when people didn’t understand much about physiology. Fabulous. Humane, sensible, compassionate, reasonable – everything good. Allah is merciful.

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

Zia’s toxic traditions plague Pakistan to this day

Jul 8th, 2014 10:46 am | By

Travel tip – never visit Pakistan during Ramadan. Sahar Majid explains why.

In 1981, Zia issued an ordinance officially prohibiting public eating and drinking during Ramadan’s fasting hours. The dictate also forced public restaurants and eateries to close. Anyone breaking this rule could face three months in jail and a fine of about $5. (Luckily, the ordinance exempts food service in hospitals, schools, airports, and train and bus stations.)

Eating and drinking – so if you’re visiting Pakistan during Ramadan you can’t even walk around with a bottle of water and drink from it when you get thirsty.

Zia’s toxic traditions plague Pakistan to this day. His Ehtram-e-Ramzan (“reverence for Ramadan”) ordinance remains in effect because no subsequent government has dared go against it for fear of angering religious scholars and parties. While the law is not enforced as strictly throughout the country as it once was, there have been arrests for violating its provisions in recent years.

There’s a lesson for us – once you let theocracy in, it’s very hard to get rid of it. I’m looking at you, SCOTUS 5.

The practice of fasting is meant to instill a sense of tolerance, compassion, and empathy. If you are fasting but unable to behave well – if you refrain from eating and drinking all day, but not from backbiting, lying, bickering, and other misbehavior – it is not worth the effort.

Simply starving will not get you into the good books of the angels. It might help you lose a few pounds, but you can do that by eating less and exercising.

It is good for your body, mind, and soul if you are devoted to pleasing God and will go to any length for that purpose.

No, it is not – it is not good for the body. Fasting is not good for the body, and going without water is terrible for the body. Inserting the word “god” into it does nothing to change that.

But she ends well.

As for me, I don’t fast. I believe religion is a matter between me and my God, and I don’t need to observe fasting just to prove myself pious.

As far as pleasing God is concerned, I think he will be pleased if you take care of his people. And, by the way, you can do that each day of the entire year – not just for one month!

That. If only more people thought of pleasing god in those terms! Instead they do the opposite.

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

It’s not “political correctness”

Jul 8th, 2014 9:26 am | By

Cross-posted from Facebook.

Memo to people who say things.

If you compare someone behaving badly to “a teenage girl” and you get a reaction to the sexism – the right answer is not to call that “PC”.

It’s not “political correctness” (in the pejorative sense) to try to get people to refrain from automatic mindless disparagement of girls&women.

It’s not trivia. It’s not fussiness or pedantry. It’s not a gotcha. It’s not “call-out culture.” It’s not language-policing. It’s not authoritarian.

It’s a long (long long long) term effort to shape a world where girls DON’T grow up constantly being told, directly and indirectly, that they are fundamentally stupider, weaker, more spoiled and whiny, and just overall more annoying and bad and inferior than that other sex.

Why would this not be an important and worthwhile goal? Why would we want to keep half of humanity in a permanent state of attributed inferiority?

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

FGM in Egypt

Jul 8th, 2014 8:19 am | By

Dalia Farouk at The Cairo Post reports a bad trend in Egypt:

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is increasing in rural areas in Egypt according to Women and Development Association (WDA) Alexandria governorate head Aida Nour al-Din, Youm7 reported Friday.

Din said that FGM is also common in urban areas due to some religious beliefs that it is a “religious obligation and must be done.”

She also said a 2008 study indicated 86 percent of divorce cases were due to FGM and its negative impact on marital intercourse.

Weird, isn’t it. You’d think people would be able to figure it out eventually. “Let’s see, how to make sure women won’t slut around – I know, mangle their genitals so that sex won’t be any kind of fun whatsoever at all. Perfect. Oh, wait a second…”

Gynecologist Eman Mahmoud told The Cairo Post in a phone interview Friday that FGM has a negative psychological impact that “lasts for years after performing the practice and losing part of the body.”

She added that FGM results in a loss of sex drive for women because they often feel pain during intercourse and because sensory nerves in the genitalia are often removed or damaged during FGM.

Well yes – on the one hand it hurts, and on the other hand there’s no compensatory pleasure. Bit of a down side.

But despite the practice’s prevalence in Egypt, 11 governorates announced Friday they had teamed up with an anti-FGM initiative organized by the Union Against Harmful Practices to Women and Children to combat the practice, Youm7 reported.

Also, back in June the Adam Foundation for Humanitarian Development (AFHD) launched its “Girl of the Nile” campaign to discourage FGM by publicizing Al-Azhar fatwas issued against the practice.

Good luck to them.


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

“Are you a tech girl? Are you a web diva?”

Jul 7th, 2014 6:37 pm | By

Not a good way to recruit women? Act as if they all like pink frilly pink frills all over everything.

To start, there were the pitches from college engineering programs in curly purple typeface accented by flowery images. She started to notice that many websites for budding female engineers are pink. Then there was the flyer for an after-school program hanging in a hallway of her high school. Printed on purple polka-dot paper, it read, “Are you a tech girl? Are you a web diva?”

The soon-to-be high school senior aspires to become an engineer of some sort. She has absolutely no interest, however, in a career as a “web diva.”

“It seems so degrading,” Wheat said. “If you’re a girl interested in building websites, you’re a ‘web diva.’ If you’re a boy, you’re a web developer.”

Well it’s because you’re a girl, which is not normal. Real, normal people are engineers. Girls who go into engineering are engineeressettes.

Wheat had discovered what Elizabeth Losh, a digital culture scholar at UC San Diego, calls “ridiculous, pink, sparkly techno-princess land.”

Pink websites and polka-dotted flyers are what happens when an entire field overcorrects.

Recruit women! Make the environment welcoming to women, by all means. But vanishingly few women want to live inside a Pepto-Bismol bottle.

…as Wheat sees it, the problem with techno-princess land is that it attempts to combat the stereotype that technology is a guy thing with stereotypes of what women want.

The overflow of pink in her inbox moved the Virginia teen to pen an opinion piece, which was recently a runner-up in a New York Times teen editorial contest.

“It says that the only way you can be interested in technology is if it is girly,” said Wheat. “I’m very girly. My room is purple. I have floral bedding. I think I’ll probably be a very feminine engineer. I just don’t like the idea of being pigeonholed.”

But pigeons are so sweet and girly and adorable.

At a recent Bay Area tech mixer put on by Girl Geek Dinners, the tech company that chose the decor elected to replace office lightbulbs with pink and purple ones, bathing the entire event in a fuchsia glow. An open bar was covered with a pink sequined runner. Guests were encouraged to take a Cosmo-style personality quiz revealing their nerd girl personas and given slap-bracelets and strawberry lip balm at the door.



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

The most religious and most conservative first-world nation

Jul 7th, 2014 5:59 pm | By

Lisa Bloom explains lucidly in the Washington Post what is so radical about the Hobby Lobby ruling.

The U.S. is the most religious and most conservative first-world nation, and believers have tried to opt out of our laws for centuries. For the most part, courts haven’t allowed it. May Christian Scientists forego lifesaving medical treatment for their children? No. May Native Americans ingest illegal peyote as part of their religious ceremonies? No. May the Amish refuse to pay Social Security taxes that violate their sincere religious beliefs? No.

The simple general rule has always been that you are free to practice Protestantism or Wicca or Zoroastrianism or any belief of your choice, provided your religious practice does not harm others. You may swing your arm just until it reaches my shoulder, as the old legal epigram goes. Nor may you impose your religion on me, thank you very much. And whether you’re Hindu or Muslim or Baha’i, you must follow general U.S. laws, including paying a wide array of taxes and fees, and more recently, buying certain kinds of insurance, like auto and health insurance.

To interrupt for a second – actually in most states, Christian Scientists may forego lifesaving medical treatment for their children, as may any other religious fanatic. I think it’s 30-something states that have religious exemptions.

Pause to look it up.

Damn, it’s 38 states.

Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have religious exemptions in their civil codes on child abuse or neglect, largely because of a federal government policy from 1974 to 1983 requiring states to pass such exemptions in order to get federal funding for child protection work. The states are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Additionally, Tennessee exempts caretakers who withhold medical care from being adjudicated as negligent if they rely instead on non-medical “remedial treatment” that is “legally recognized or legally permitted.”

As Bloom says – we are the most religious and most conservative first-world nation. Back to Bloom’s article.

Probably every American, religious or not, can point to services provided by moneys we are required to pay that we despise on moral or religious grounds. For my part, as an ethical vegan, government subsidies to hideously cruel factory farms tops the list of most vile uses of my tax dollars. Can I opt out? No, just as a religious Jew can’t say no to his tax contribution to the pork industry and a Quaker can’t hold back tax payments for wars. We can lobby to change the laws. But once they’re passed, we must all follow them. We can’t have 300 million different legal exceptions for the 300 million Americans who’d like to pick and choose which laws comport with our personal beliefs.

The Hobby Lobby decision’s first radical move is in its wide departure from these core American principles. For the first time in the Court’s history, it ruled that a law requiring one to merely vicariously enable another to take an action contrary to one’s religious beliefs violates religious freedom.

I know this is not new, but I still just marvel (and cringe) at how farfetched it is, how 17th century in its intrusiveness, how illegitimate, how great a triumph for the evil bishops.

Let’s take a moment to remember what was entirely forgotten in the Hobby Lobby majority opinion: that birth control is vital to women’s health and equality, even our very lives. The United States has one of the highest rates of unplanned pregnancies in the developed world, in part because we have not had universal coverage of birth control as is the case in much of Europe, which — shocker — has far fewer unwanted pregnancies. Unintended pregnancy rates for poor American women are high and have shot up in the last two decades, as the prices for contraception for those without health coverage make it unattainable.

Oh well now there’s another item for that list I drew up a few weeks ago, the list of ways we differ for the worse from other developed countries –  a high rate of unplanned pregnancies. Maybe theocrats think that’s a good thing, because it’s a Sign that god’s will can shove aside what any given woman may have wanted.

In wide swaths of America, abortion is so unavailable we may as well be living in the nineteenth century. 87 percent of U.S. counties lack any abortion provider. For many poor American women, an unplanned pregnancy means a surprise baby, full stop.

All medically approved forms of birth control are far safer for women’s health than childbirth, as is abortion, a safe and simple medical procedure when performed by a doctor. Childbirth, in contrast, can be dangerous for poor American women. Most of us are unaware of the shocking fact that a U.S. woman’s chance of dying in childbirth is high and on the rise. We rank 60th in the world in maternal mortality rates, worse than China with its hundreds of millions of rural poor.

That one I did include on the list.

There’s a lot more. I find myself wanting to read all the lawyers these days. Well, all the secular lawyers.

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

Gay shoes

Jul 7th, 2014 4:32 pm | By

The world cup is abomination, according to a Russian Orthodox priest, because the players wear gay shoes. Gay shoes I tell you!

It’s true, I’ve noticed it myself – bright green, bright orange, bright blue – they’re a treat to watch, plus they make it easier to keep track of the players’ feet. But of course it’s true that they’re also bright bright gay, no getting around that.

Writing in his column on Russian People’s Line, Priest Alexander Shumsky claimed that players are promoting a “gay rainbow” by wearing green, pink, yellow and blue shoes.

He said: “Wearing pink or blue shoes, [the players] might as well wear women’s panties or a bra.”

Oh, I’m a lumberjack, and I’m okay,
I sleep all night and I work all day.

etc etc


I chop down trees, I wear high heels,
Suspenders and a bra.
I wish I’d been a girlie
Just like my dear papa.

“The liberal ideology of globalism clearly wants to oppose Christianity with football. I’m sure of it.

“Therefore I am glad that the Russian players have failed and, by the grace of God, no longer participate in this homosexual abomination.”

Russia exited the competition in the group stages, failing to win any of their three matches.

And then they phoned up the bishop and asked him to explain their failure to win any of their three matches as a divine gift from god designed to rescue them from the faggoty peril of bright green shoes.

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

What are you doing right?

Jul 7th, 2014 4:03 pm | By

Here’s a question for UK readers, and anyone else with an informed opinion (or just plain information) – why is the abortion issue so huge here and non-existent there?

I want to know so that whatever it is that you’re doing, we can do it too.

You don’t seem to have anything like an equivalent of the USCCB. You don’t seem to have monster bishops running everything. You have Anglican bishops meddling with things, I know that, but they’re mere mouse squeaks in comparison. What’s the deal with your Catholic bishops? Why are they so quiet?

Why aren’t there abortion protesters and “counselors” outside all NHS facilities that perform abortions? Why aren’t people always yammering about it? Why is it such a non-issue?

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

A tendency to have “philosophical idols”

Jul 7th, 2014 12:47 pm | By


Rebecca Schuman at Slate on academics who treat their graduate students as a sex pool.

Some things in academia never change. Even in an age when the feminists apparently control everything, it seems that the practice of older (usually male) scholars sleeping with much younger (usually female) graduate students is alive and … well, I wouldn’t say “well.” With two such relationships making recent news in the discipline of philosophy alone, for some of the older generation of male professors (again, mostly male), the grad students are still a dating pool—and vice versa. This is not just icky—it is highly damaging to the profession.

Philosophy! Again! What is it with these guys?

It’s not just a matter of two consenting adults’ hearts wanting what they want. Because not only are these relationships almost always an unacceptable abuse of power, they also affect the dynamics of departments, entire fields, and the very act of academic mentorship altogether.

So why does it still happen (other than the fact that people enjoy having sex)? It happens because in many academic disciplines—such as, of course, philosophy,which already enjoys a reputation for misconduct—there is a tendency for beginning scholars to have “philosophical idols,” as explained to me by Meena Krishnamurthy, an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba. (Just count the times this author uses the word “hero.”)

Oh gawd. Ok. You know where else that happens? Locally – among the atheists and secularists (and skeptics). There’s a huge amount of fandom and hero-worship. That’s why I was so disagreeable to the “Global Secular Council” when it gave birth to itself: it was the unabashed presentation of the same 8 or 10 faces we’d been seeing for 8 or 10 years, and the unabashedly worshipful language. Not healthy, people! Remember “thought leaders”?

[pauses to see if it's still there - it's still there]

The world’s greatest thinkers are already making the case for rationalism, but as free agents their impact on international discourse is hindered. We coordinate the thought leaders of our movement, providing an arena where compelling information from a secular perspective can be organized, published, and disseminated.

Our team of social and political thought leaders compiles the knowledge and data that uphold our worldwide community, providing substance and fresh leverage to we who think scientifically, as we lobby for government and societal change in the United States and around the globe.

Don’t talk like that. Don’t don’t don’t.

Take this example from Carla Fehr, associate director of the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession Site Visit Program, which conducted the recent visit to the University of Colorado–Boulder that resulted in the ouster of the chair and the freezing of graduate admissions. Let’s say, Fehr proposes, a woman whose adviser has a reputation for dalliances with students goes out on the job market. “People ask, with a wink and a nod, what it was like getting that letter of recommendation.” If, the next year, she leaves his letter out, she’s then “asked why the famous professor was not writing for her. Her professor’s behavior,” Fehr explains, has “put her in a position where she just couldn’t win.”

It was nice for him though. Isn’t that the important thing?

So what, if anything, can be done? Institutional policies that forbid such relationships? Many universities have these already, and they rarely seems to matter. Off-site visits, such as the one Carla Fehr engineered? As satisfying as it was to see CU–Boulder duly spanked, that resulted in an infuriating amount of rank-closing and defensiveness. Sure, every now and then, a Colin McGinn type does something high-profile enough to cost him his job—but that’s rare. Usually the “consequences” are little more than behind-the-back whispers and the occasional passive-aggressive slight. (One of my mentors in grad school once stuck a very prominent scholar—who had just left his wife for a 28-year-old graduate student—in a near-unattended 8 a.m. conference slot.)

Indeed, most of the time, an accomplished senior scholar can get away with almost any poor sexual decision with a student, and still be respected in the field. Colin McGinn himself is giving a keynote at a high-profile philosophy conference in a few weeks.

Well that’s insulting. And it kind of confirms what I just said – it was fun for him and that’s the important thing.

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

Guest post: The allergy to science starts earlier than university

Jul 7th, 2014 12:22 pm | By

Orignally a comment by jesse on Back to reporter school.

Working journalist here.

I’ll say this kind of stuff is needed because, as quixote noted, the issue is really that a lot of communications people don’t do science in their coursework, except for the minimum.

More to the point, the allergy to science starts earlier than university, usually, and comes from the fact that in the US the requirements for high school historically went: 4 years of English, 3 history, 2 math and 2 science as the minimum to graduate. This has changed a bit, but it reflects some rather old-fashioned needs. (It used to be that a lot of engineering-related stuff got covered in shop, before those classes turned into dumping grounds). Most communications majors weren’t interested in science to begin with.

Anyhow, the requirements for journalists were historically to do with how to find information. I know that sounds odd in the Internet age, but we learned a lot about what documents to go for and where to get them, how to file a FOIA req and who to ask and how to parse stuff in situations where you have to assume that everyone is lying to you or is telling you something for self-interested reasons. (Also, most of the good stuff isn’t online).

But finding information is one thing; knowing what to do with it is another. That’s a tougher skill to teach and learn. (And it’s why I and other old-er school people resist certain technologies a bit. Knowledge, information and wisdom are not synonyms).

This is some of the source of the false balance problem. I mentioned this once to a gathering of science writers — I asked how many people had ever covered other beats. Most had not. I told them that the big difference in reporting on science, and why I like it, is I no longer have to assume that everyone is a liar. In politics or covering cops that’s a kind of undercurrent you have to deal with. (A sense of humor about it helps, but if you ever wondered why many of us sound jaded, this is why). Most reporters for big mainstream outlets are generalists, and you get told “Hey, cover this!” and you say “You know, I don’t know anything about…” and you get told “DO it.”

So when you come at it after covering stuff in which there is no peer review, where all you have is say, a budget document and three politicians all telling you it means different things, or when you cover cops and have to assume that nobody is telling you the truth, that infects what you do when you cover the sciences. I am not saying we assume scientists are liars (consciously, anyway) — just that you get used to certain forms and mental habits out of necessity even when they aren’t applicable to some situations.

I have a science background, so I was able to get away from that a bit. But more than one editor told me to get “an opposing view” on some stories. I had to explain that no, science doesn’t work that way…

On the bright side most reporters do this because we love learning, which is why people with no knowledge are willing to tackle writing about something. There’s not many other jobs where you can say you know something now that you didn’t earlier in the day. And you get to tell everyone about it. So this is a group that will be very receptive I think.

Learning how science actually works is a big step in the right direction. Many reporters don’t, or have only a cursory knowledge. So kudos to the BBC.


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