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“I Don’t Care If the Federal Government Is Telling Me To Buy My Employees Jack Daniels or Birth Control…”

July 23, 2014

“…What gives them the right to tell me that I have to do that?” Startling egomania aside, or comments about how the government tells everyone what to do, so begins a tirade by Michael Potter who objects to the birth control mandate. With this tirade, it doesn’t sound as if Michael Potter’s “religious” exemption has anything to do with religion whatsoever, and more to do with doing what Michael Potter wants in true egomaniac fashion. This concept of the depth of religious authenticity in the religious exemption has not gone unnoticed by other commentators:

In at least one of those cases, the sincerity of the employer’s religious objections is open to question. That shows why allowing a broad “religious” exemption from a federal law can be atrociously bad policy.

So comments an LA Times writer that goes on to question the decision to allow a religious exemption to follow a federal law a blatant “legal” policy. Unfortunately, good ole Michigan makes headlines again with asinine comments making headlines with Eden Foods head, Michael Potter, issuing an anti-government tirade that has followed him:

The most interesting case, however, was brought by Eden Foods, a Michigan “natural foods” firm. Its Catholic owner, Michael Potter, claimed in his lawsuit that “participating in, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting contraception, abortion, and abortifacients” offends his “deeply held religious beliefs.”

The appeals court that rejected his motion for an injunction against the mandate was skeptical. Potter’s real position, it suggested, resembled more “a laissez-faire, anti-government screed.” The evidence came from an interview Potter gave last year to Irin Carmon of Salon, in which he stated:

“I don’t care if the federal government is telling me to buy my employees Jack Daniel’s or birth control. What gives them the right to tell me that I have to do that? That’s my issue, that’s what I object to, and that’s the beginning and end of the story.”

This hint that Potter had merely swaddled an anti-government rant within a “religious” blanket illustrates the main problem with Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in Hobby Lobby: it takes claims of religious scruples for granted.

Thank you, Michael Potter, of Michigan, of course, for making all Michigan business people sound like Minutemen Militia supporters carrying our swashbuckling armories with us.

For a court that is supposedly separate from religion, the mainstays of the Federal Supreme Court sure worship at the altar of religion any time it seems convenient to thwart a federal law they just applauded a mere few months ago. Please see my post on the virtual senility of this the Federal Supreme Court in this…

The problem with offering a religious exemption from federal law, aside from the fact that there generally is no religious exemption from federal law, see examples such as: no religious exemption for committing murder, no religious exemption from paying taxes, no religious exemption from dealing drugs  or importing illegal aliens as a professional smuggler…etc., ad nauseum. Really, there is no religious exemption for following federal law, so why did the Federal Supreme Court just create one? Is this a smack back at Obamacare? If it were, then the court could have simply found the law unconstitutional on religious grounds. It’s a sloppiness in legal approach that is so troubling, and this religious blanket approach pretty much negates the federal law if one so much as claims any sort of religious belief:

There’s no evidence in the record of Tuesday’s cases that the lower courts conducted any inquiry into the sincerity of the business owners’ religious claims or beliefs. Alito’s majority opinion Monday certainly didn’t offer any guidelines for validating what he established as a qualification for exemption from the ACA mandate.

In a case involving the Gilardi family, owners of an Ohio produce firm, Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the Washington, D.C., circuit appeals court wrote in a 2-1 decision overturning the mandate that “this case is not about the sincerity of the Gilardis’ religious beliefs, nor does it concern the theology behind Catholic precepts on contraception. The former is unchallenged, while the latter is unchallengeable.”

But why should that be? If the only requisite for an exemption from this important mandate is a religious claim, why should it not be subject to challenge? Otherwise, how do we limit the exemption only to those with genuinely religious scruples?

Here is the problem with a federal court involving itself in religious disputes: now the United States Federal Supreme Court has become the gatekeeper for religious exemptions, the arbiter of religious beliefs. How ridiculous is that??

It’s frightening that our highest federal court in the nation has taken to determining the extent of religious beliefs in this country and their breadth into our most personal lives, the sexuality of women, the performance of a business, the payment of healthcare. Can anyone deny evidence of a Christian Sharia law in the highest Federal Supreme Court of the United States? Perhaps the Federal Supreme Court will next require virginity tests for marriage because of religious beliefs? Purport the mass expansion of female genital mutilation, because this, too, is argued to be a religious belief. Look next for the Federal Supreme Court of the United States to task itself with taking on morality of women in deeper breadth and detail, because our highest court has spoken from the pulpit.

Discrimination is Unchristian–Religious Corporations Want to Control Women

July 17, 2014

In an op-ed proving that Christian women have more sense than their conservative male counterparts, Katheryn Pogin effectively delineates how Christian principles actually promote equal treatment of all people, a definite teaching of Christ, arguing that discriminating against others is a distinctly unchristian enterprise. Hobby Lobby’s “win” in the Supreme Court, that it doesn’t have to provide birth control, by a court who agreed that the law they declared Constitutional is now unconstitutional less than a year later, is definitely confusing. At best, the Federal Supreme Court looks wishy-washy, undecided, weak; at worst the Federal Supreme Court looks confused, aging, as if the institution itself is incapable of understanding its own rulings and so must refute them nine months after it issues them. We appear to have a Federal Supreme Court in the throes of advanced Alzheimer’s disease.

One might assume that the Christian-right would applaud this age-onset version of judicial dementia, applaud that corporations are still allowed to control women’s sexual behavior, act as voyeur and observe sexual practices amongst women and approve or deny them, as if in paternalistic pursuit of a teenager. (Not, that I would argue, that is appropriate either, just amply socially representative.)

Kathryn Pogin eviscerates the idea that corporations playing God in the game of morals is a Christian endeavor:

Make no mistake: This is no victory for the freedom to exercise Christian principles. Though employers like Hobby Lobby are now free to deny women access to contraceptives through their employer-subsidized health plans on the basis of religious objection, they will be violating their own purported Christian principles if they do. While Christians are not compelled by their faith to engage in religious practices that impose upon the freedoms of others, they are compelled — by their belief that all persons, men and women, are created in the image of God — to oppose discrimination.

Pogin also points out that these corporations, with the Federal Supreme Court’s senile blessing, act as a means of economic coercion to control women’s sexuality, their behavior, on a level that supersedes that of any other form of institutionalized moral codes:

This suggests that the legal challenges are not merely aimed at allowing corporations to abstain from facilitating behavior they deem immoral but instead are seeking to effectively prevent women from engaging in that “immoral” behavior by keeping financial barriers for women, and administrative barriers for the government, in place.

This is economic coercion. Opponents to the contraceptive mandate have insisted that women remain free to purchase whatever health care services they choose, but this is woefully insensitive to the reality that low-income women and families face. For these women, there is a very large difference between what is available to them for purchase in principle and in effect.

In essence, our Federal Supreme Court has just approved the first version of Sharia law, enabling the larger society to issue an opinion and control women’s sexuality through a religious mandate. If the United States government is truly separate from its religious arm, truly secular, it should not concern itself with religion, period.

Hobby Lobby makes money off of contraceptives in its investments, investing in companies that manufacture birth control products, but then claims that contraceptives are morally offensive to its employees. How is it Christian to be duplicitous? Pogin asserts that this is not Christian behavior:

This kind of economic coercion is distinctly at odds with Christian principles. There is only one incident described in the Christian scriptures where Jesus is represented as employing coercive force, and it was not used to prevent people from engaging in sin. It was used, instead, to prevent people from dishonoring God by exploiting religious practice for personal gain. The gospels describe Jesus’ reaction to those who sought to profit from the Passover pilgrimage to the temple as fierce: “And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’” This is where corporations that claim their operations constitute religious practice of the Christian faith ought to take note.

Hobby Lobby offered coverage for some of the contraceptives it now claims its religious faith forbids it to have any association with, until shortly after the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom asked it if it would be interested in filing suit. The company continues to profit from investments in the manufacturers of the “objectionable” contraceptives through the401(k) plan it offers its employees. Recently, Hobby Lobby has faced legal trouble for false advertising. It has built a fortune, in large part, by selling goods manufactured in China, infamous for its poor labor conditions and related human rights violations. These are the practices of a corporation that will emphasize the Christian faith of its owners when convenient and profitable, but set that faith aside when it would be costly to do otherwise.

The principles of Christianity were not founded on economic principle, but on the belief that equality under God was the most guiding principle. It seems that so-called Christian companies have forgotten that guiding premise of Christ’s teachings and have replace their almighty God with the almighty dollar.

English: Picture Of Ortho Tri-Cyclen oral cont...

English: Picture Of Ortho Tri-Cyclen oral contraceptives with Ortho Dialpak dispensers (photo taken by self). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Internet Shapes Peoples’ Preference for Faces?

July 11, 2014

In a new study some deem provocative, it appears that the internet may “shape” our culture’s preference for facial shapes. People having access to the internet were compared with people having no access to the internet to determine which facial shapes they found attractive. People with access to the internet claimed to prefer wider male faces and narrower female faces. People without access to the internet claimed to prefer exactly the opposite, narrower male faces and wider female faces.

The article was laced with the normal gender gobble-dee-gook speak about what constitutes “feminine” facial features, read narrow, and what constitutes “male” features, read, wider. Since so much of visual beauty preferences are determined by a cultural narrative, it’s amazing that the researchers failed to reveal any cultural narrative regarding these so-called preferences, determining instead that the internet shapes our preference for concepts regarding what is male or female. How boring.

“One possibility for the difference is the level of media exposure: people with internet access are more exposed to the media (adverts or websites), which promotes the beauty ideals of muscly men and thin feminine women,” study co-author Carlota Bartres, apsychology Ph.D. student at the lab, said in a written statement. People with internet access were also more likely to have a TV in their homes, further exposing them to influence from the media. While the study shows only a correlation between internet access and our preferences, its results match up with previous research showing that exposure to images of thin women in the media is associated with “internalization of the thin ideal.” That’s according to Dr. Renee Engeln, a psychologist and director of The Body and Media Labat Northwestern University, who was not involved in the study. “In other words, the more we see these types of images (whether on the Internet or in magazines or television shows), the more we tend to buy into the notion that thinness is a key indicator of beauty in women,” Engeln told the Huffington Post in an email.

While I do agree that “adverts” can cause problems about what we feel is appropriate for women and men for physical beauty, it could have just as easily been influenced by things like the Super Bowl worship and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Notice there is no reference to a female agenda with a title like “cowBOYS.” You mean having football fluffers might be an issue with gender norms in our society? I don’t see how treating like objectified penile fluffers who literally stand on the sidelines and jump could possibly influence gender norm ideals–do you??

Television is much more of a dominating force than internet. How many people could watch the Super Bowl if not for television? Television execs reach a wider audience with a televised production than they could ever hope to with a live production and a limited number of viewers. More to the point, it’s not the internet that determines cultural preferences; its the culture that sets preferences, to some extent the religions that dominate that cultural preference.

Shows like Duck Dynasty have no trouble exploiting their teenage girls with things like “fashion design” jobs, when something like biology, college, math professorship and such exists. Add in the ranks of shows like with the 3-ring religious circus of Duggars who profess to breed women to further breed more of their breed. Women in the Duggar clan are purported to be nothing more than broodmares, and those women with brains need not apply. Brains are apparently not necessary to birth.

One could look at the Kardashian family, busy selling its youngest members to the nearest swimsuit purveyor to better show off a young Kardashian ass that has yet to age.  Perhaps we could look at the Mormon family in Utah, wherein the women who purport to be wives engage in nothing more strenuous than housework and discussions on religion and how they lack the freedom to have women marry other women. (Methinks they have much in common with the LGBT community, should they realize it.) In light of all of these television shows, one must not forget

“Real Housewives,” whose only claim to fame is being a housewife and glorying in their lack of mental development outside of anything resembling a marriage or link to a man. Perhaps we could look at the former Jon and Kate Plus 8 wherein the female figure resembles an overwhelmed and angry woman suddenly dealing with 8 kids and apparently an unspoken desire for her own spotlight, which appeared in later episodes when she was sans husband. The fickle public doesn’t like a single mom with 8 kids apparently.

We can’t leave out of this equation beastly television sitcoms with the historical gender bias in the title, as in old school shows like “Father Knows Best” and “Leave It to Beaver.” Even “Bewitched,” with a purportedly female lead, attempted to figure out how to place a witch in the glory of Stepford suburbia.

It’s not just internet that’s to blame. Without internet, we might not have as much of a pulse on these preferences, but they are just reflections of the society gender stereotypes reinforced by television media.

If we didn’t have internet, we might not get specific about gender bias, may not be able to publicize it, just as if we couldn’t publicize the Super Bowl. But hell, if no one liked the Super Bowl male butt fest, would anyone watch it? Nope. The machine would shut down, and the industry would die out. What may take it out of the running sooner than anything else is that men may finally figure out that they don’t want to accept money to become brain dead from concussive injuries, but that seems a bit precocious at the moment. One can only hope that it will happen. Until then, it’s ridiculous, if not irresponsible to claim that the internet shapes a gender preference when a culture shapes that and the internet just makes us aware of it.

Consider this chilling statement from music pop star, Kesha, and see if, after all, it’s the internet or the industry that uses women that promotes shape preferences, facial shapes, body shapes, whatever… Note that Kesha penned this quote after exiting rehab from issues caused by cultural norms about shapes acceptable for women: 

“The music industry has set unrealistic expectations for what a body is supposed to look like, and I started becoming overly critical of my own body because of that. I felt like people were always lurking, trying to take pictures of me with the intention of putting them up online or printing them in magazines and making me look terrible.”

“I felt like a liar, telling people to love themselves as they are, while I was being hateful to myself and really hurting my body. I wanted to control things that weren’t in my power, but I was controlling the wrong things. I convinced myself that being sick, being skinny was part of my job. It felt safer somehow.”

Let’s not talk internet, People, let’s talk cultural norms. 

Giving Birth “In the Wild” and on Television! Lifetime Series

June 20, 2014

Want to go give birth outside unattended? Want to have a video record of it? Maybe you could be on Lifetime’s new series, Born in the Wild. I don’t know what bothers people more, that women might not need medical intervention to give birth or that it happens outdoors. People!  Don’t you all know that women have to have doctors to have babies??? Have you no sense of propriety?

A Lifetime exec says the network has set out to document something people are already doing. It’s not as if “we’re dropping people in the woods and saying ‘go have the baby,’” he says. “These are all people who have already had babies in hospitals who had unsatisfying experiences and who are choosing to have different experiences.” AtSalon, Mary Elizabeth Williams isn’t impressed by the “completely insane” concept or by Lifetime’s press release describing childbirth as the “craziest experience” of a woman’s life. “I’m not going to get whipped up over whether a woman wants to give birth in a hospital or a swimming pool or on a pile of leaves, but I do find the premise of having an entire film crew around to document and televise the experience does somewhat undercut the whole ‘in the wild’ thing a bit,” she writes. “And I definitely find Lifetime’s branding of childbirth as an insistently ‘crazy’ event spectacularly offensive.”

Outdoors? Sans doctors? Surely we are reverting to cave men? Or wait, women? Or caves? How could we survive? Hmm, maybe most of us did. The last 50 years have nothing on humanity’s history, right? Never mind that these women don’t want to have babies in hospitals. Never mind that childbirth is an inherently risky event and the US has one of the highest rates of childbirth complications and lowest rates of fetal maternal health in developed countries as it is. Who knows, maybe childbirth in the wild will improve things. After all, from where we are now, the US can only go up.

Speed Used to Treat Menopause–The New Introduction of Amphetamines Instead of Estrogen Replacement

May 9, 2014

Sounds like an ad for a drug company or a woman’s menopausal dream? Amphetamine prescriptions instead of estrogen scripts for signs of confusion associated with menopause?

One researcher says that she measured women’s self-monitoring responses after being prescribe amphetamines to “help” with menopause symptoms, and the women reported improvement:

Epperson, a clinician, tells The Daily Beast that she began her research after noticing that more women were coming to her practice with worries about the early onset of dementia. As it turned out, their problems with memory, concentration and ability to focus at work usually weren’t actual dementia, but side effects of low estrogen levels associated with menopause.

Most menopausal women are treated with hormones but they aren’t effective for all women and aren’t even an option for those with certain medical conditions. That’s where Epperson says stimulants might be able to step in.

“[Estrogen’s] decline during the menopausal years, we believe, can play a role in the simultaneous decline in executive function that many women experience during the menopause transition. More specifically, estrogen plays a role in dopamine levels and the brain’s normal dopaminergic tone. We theorize that this process can result in symptoms similar to those experienced by people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,” Epperson said in statement released before the presentation.

Epperson conducted the double-blind crossover study of 32 “successful” women (participants had an average of 16 years of education and an IQ of 113) between the ages of 48 and 60 with no history of ADHD, who reported diminished ability to focus and multi-task in their early post-menopausal years. Over four weeks, half of the women were given LDX and the other half a placebo, then measured on self reports of functioning in five areas: organization and motivation for work; concentration and attention; alertness, effort and processing speed; managing affective interference (letting emotions inhibit performance); and working memory and recall. The women who received LDX treatment, the preliminary evidence shows, had a significant reduction in the severity of all symptoms but one (the over-attention to emotion, which wasn’t a major complaint to begin with), but especially in the domain of organization and motivation for work. The women with the most severe symptoms experienced the most striking improvement; still others showed no improvement al all.

Another person claims that these are flashbacks to the use of amphetamine prescriptions for stay-at-home-moms used during the 1950′s who were overwhelmed or underhappy with their lives or gender roles.

“When I hear about this type of approach—taking common life changes where one might feel a little more distractible, or having trouble with memory when one gets older—and applying amphetamines, it makes me have a flash back,” Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, tells The Daily Beast.

“When amphetamines were introduced, it was to help stay-at-home women who were feeling down about themselves and their lives,” Cohen says.

As Cohen recounts and Nicolas Rasmussen details in his book On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamine, since their initial release in 1937, amphetamines have been used to improve the performance of American soldiers in WWII, stave off depression and weight gain in 1950’s housewives, and eventually to treat narcolepsy and Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood (or ADHD as we now know it).

So where does this hype for speed prescriptions come from for treating menopause? From the drug manufacturer of course:

The prescription of stimulants would also be inappropriate for women with hypertension (stimulants can increase blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature) or a history of addiction, Epperson told The Daily Beast. She also noted that LDX maker, Shire—a company that has provided grant and/or research support, according to her disclosure—said the study wasn’t large enough to say the drug is a suitable treatment for all menopausal women, just these menopausal women in the study.

Oh look!  The drug manufacturer found in its own study that it paid for that amphetamines really do help women with menopause!  And with that little manufacturer-paid-for-study, women in menopause have also been labeled as having cognitive dysfunction. Anyone else having flashbacks to “mommy’s little helper” propaganda? Perhaps the advice now is to take one little dose of speed and call me when you get addicted?

Speed or amphetamines are addictive, highly addictive, and part of the reason they are so addictive is that they make the brain feel like everything is better as a function of their action.

Pharmaceutical companies pushed these drugs—promising to put the pep back in your step—but prescriptions fell after the addictive potential of the stimulants became clear, and they were added to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of “controlled substances” as a Schedule II, meaning they have a high potential for abuse and dependence.

“Once you sop taking it you feel like something’s missing,” Cohen says.“It might not be an addiction where you’re racing around trying to find your next hit, but it can cause dependence, and in some cases, addiction.”

As for the UPenn study, though it hasn’t been released yet, Cohen is dubious.

“It’s absurd to draw any conclusions from a few dozen women who self report being more productive after taking Speed. That’s what this drug does, it makes people feel better, so of course your self assessment of your capabilities would increase,” he says.

Addiction in menopause? Increased cancer risks? When will people realize that when it comes to menopause women might be better off left alone?

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I Wish I Was Mark…

April 26, 2014

Last Friday night I was standing outside waiting for AAA and you stopped in front because you thought I was someone else. You said Mark? I said Sorry I’m not Mark. You apologized and like a moron I said No Problem and you drove away after a few seconds. I wish I was Mark and I wish I said something or anything else. You had a red 2 door Honda or Toyota or something like that.–2014 Missed Connections

I found this gem that I had been storing away and just had to share: “I wish I was Mark…” I love it. Makes me smile every time.

“We will not accept any religious demands in school menus,” Le Pen told RTL radio. “There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere, that’s the law.”

April 22, 2014

People in France have been discussing the influence of the influx of practicing Muslims for a number of years now, and that discussion has moved to a form of action: banning religious-based lunches.

“We will not accept any religious demands in school menus,” Le Pen told RTL radio. “There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere, that’s the law.”

While even this Huffington Post article portrays this move on the part of the French government as being “anti-immigrant,” the media is missing the point that forcing secular schools to comply with religious demands of a one faction or another is a form of practicing a that religion.

Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen said on Friday it would prevent schools from offering special lunches to Muslim pupils in the 11 towns it won in local elections, saying such arrangements were contrary to France’s secular values.

France’s republic has a strict secular tradition enforceable by law, but faith-related demands have risen in recent years, especially from the country’s five-million-strong Muslim minority, the largest in Europe.

Just because faith-based demands arise, doesn’t mean that France’s government is then required to adhere to them. Isn’t this a true test of separating religion from government?

Officials claim that the cost of the meals that were offered just seemed wasted:

The mayor of Arveyres, Benoit Gheysens told AFP the move was being taken because of the cost of providing alternative meals, many of which went to waste.

Often children who did not take the substitute dinner complained as well and left the pork. It distressed the staff to see how much food was wasted,’ Gheysens said.

While no one measured how much children ate or didn’t eat, it seems to be a futile exercise to try to please all children with public lunches.


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