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Apr 02 2014

The Reading List, 4/2/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

Around FtB

The Wider Web

Apr 01 2014

I Like My Politicians

No, this isn’t an April Fools joke. I’m genuinely pleased with the representation I have at the local, state, and national level. Perfectly pleased? Of course not. But disappointments are pretty rare.

Take, for example, the recent release of the Secular Coalition for America report cards for the House and the Senate.

Representative Keith Ellison: A

Senator Al Franken: A

Senator Amy Klobuchar: B

I am not generally as fond of pro-business Democrat Klobuchar as I am of my more progressive elected representatives, but in this case, it only took not sponsoring a bill to go from an A to a B. There was less nonsense overall in the Senate last year.

How did I get so lucky? Well, some of it is the “luck” of living in an arty city with a huge queer population where everyone bikes everywhere as many months of the year as possible. That really only explains Ellison, though. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 01 2014

Rebecca Watson Interview at Skeptech

You might have heard me mention (oh, once or twice before) that this weekend is Skeptech. It’s a cool conference with a great set of speakers. They could still very much use some funds to make this an ongoing concern. But I’ve told you all that.

What I haven’t mentioned is that I’m playing a role on stage as well. I haven’t mentioned it because we weren’t sure it was going to happen. Rebecca Watson has graciously agreed, however, to get up early Saturday morning so we can fit one more session into the schedule. (We promised her really good coffee from Open Book, just down the road.) So the morning’s opening remarks will start at 9, and as soon as they’re done, I will interview Rebecca to get her tips on single-handedly destroying a movement.

Here are a few of the topics I expect to ask her about:

  • How did she manage to limit American Atheists to running two special capital campaigns of $100,000 and $50,000 with a 1-for-1 match, down from the multimillion-dollar campaigns with triple matches they were running just a few years ago?
  • How did she undermine the Secular Student Alliance so thoroughly that they’ve been forced to rely on unpaid, untrained interns for key positions?
  • How did she so thoroughly sap and demoralize the Center for Inquiry that they’ve stopped taking on new, important projects?
  • How did she work with Meetup.com to halt the spread of new atheist groups in the U.S.?
  • When will she be rerunning her special seminar on community dismantling that we heard such rave reviews on from D.J. Grothe, Michael Shermer, Ben Radford, and Lawrence Krauss?

So get up early on Saturday and bring your coffee. You won’t want to miss this event.

Apr 01 2014

Contraception Is a Health Issue

As is entirely unsurprising, the news out of Bartlesville today was squirmy. St. John’s Health, which is the company that owns Jane Phillips Medical Center and that was recently acquired by Ascension Health, put out an unsigned statement that read in its entirety:

Consistent with Catholic health care organizations, St. John Health System operates in accordance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, and therefore does not approve or support contraceptive practices. However, only physicians (not institutions) are licensed to practice medicine and make medical judgments. While our physicians agree to abide by the Directives, they also have the ability to prescribe medications, including hormonal medications, in accordance with their independent professional medical judgment. This includes informing patients when they are operating under their own professional medical judgment and not on behalf of St. John Health System.

What does that mean? It means their “ethical directives” are in conflict with the law. This one in particular:

5. Catholic health care services must adopt these Directives as policy, require adherence to them within the institution as a condition for medical privileges and employment, and provide appropriate instruction regarding the Directives for administration, medical and nursing staff, and other personnel.

It means they really, really don’t want to consider reproductive health to be a medical issue. They want it to be considered only an ethical issue unless and until a pregnant person’s life is directly on the line or they can hand-wave away contraception as treatment for something else.

That doesn’t work, though. Deciding when and whether to get pregnant is an issue of physical health, of mental health, of economic health–frequently for an entire family. Prescribing contraception, administering contraception, inserting contraception, and performing surgical interventions that obviate the need for additional contraception are all health care, even if they’re done for no other purpose than birth control. They are all subject to professional medical judgment.

No church should be interfering with this medical judgment in any way. Basing their decisions on what they posit will happen once you’re dead is not health care. Your immortal soul is not on any medical school exam and with good reason.

The good news is that there are ways to push back on this stuff. I’m still doing a bunch of reading, but I’ll bring you more soon. In the meantime, know that the first step–sometimes the only step needed–is to raise a fuss. Folks in Bartlesville did that, both with the original report, and by organizing. If Ascension Health continues to try to substitute “ethical directives” for good medical care on contraception, it’s not going to happen quietly. And they’ll have help.

In the meantime, those OB-GYNs will go on and do what their professional medical judgment tells them to do, which is what they were doing already.

Mar 31 2014

Mock the Movie: Space Cowboy Edition

When I think of directors who’ve done great Akira Kurosawa adaptations, I always think of Roger Corman. Don’t you? After all, who could ever forget Battle Beyond the Stars?

This one is free on YouTube. The link should automatically skip to the start of the movie. If it doesn’t, the movie starts at 3:40. Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 30 2014

How Ethical Are These Directives?

Since I put up yesterday’s post about the Catholic hospital telling nearly all of the OB-GYNs in town that they can no longer prescribe birth control, I’ve been told that this is, in fact, illegal. Ophelia confirms that the Freedom From Religion Foundation and American Atheists are both looking into this matter. Step one, which is hard to do on a Sunday, is to confirm that Ascension Health really intended to give Bartlesville OB-GYNs this message and intends to stand by this now that it’s received some publicity–that it’s neither a miscommunication nor a “miscommunication”. I’ll update here or in a separate post as I hear more.

Meanwhile, via Mano (and Pteryxx) comes the news of a probably doomed lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops over the same Ethical And Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services (pdf) that is in play in the Ascension Health situation. The impetus for the lawsuit is a case very much like Savita Halappanavar’s but not resulting in death. In this case, however, the patient was not even given enough information to ask for her miscarrying fetus to be aborted to protect her health.

While the article at ProPublica indicates that the lawsuit may not hold up, it also highlights how big a problem we’re looking at.

The ACLU and women’s groups have been voicing concern since the 1990s about the growing role of Catholic health care operations around the country and what they see as the resulting threats posed to women’s reproductive rights. Those complaints have grown louder in recent years as Catholic facilities have moved aggressively to merge with secular hospitals and reports have surfaced about the challenges – some say contortions — that doctors and nurses have sometimes had to face to comply with church teachings on abortion, birth control, and end-of-life care while fulfilling their duty to patients.

Catholic hospitals now account for about 16 percent of hospital beds in the U.S. And in eight states — including Washington, Oregon, Iowa, and Missouri — they control more than 30 percent of beds. Ten of the 25 largest health-care networks in the country are Catholic-sponsored.

That’s an awful lot of people subject to those Ethical And Religious Directives, and frequently without another reasonable choice. An awful lot of those beds are in more isolated communities like Bartlesville, making the next-nearest hospital both far away and likely to itself be a Catholic hospital. That makes this statement from the Ethical And Religious Directives even more absurd.

When the health care professional and the patient use institutional Catholic health care, they also accept its public commitment to the Church’s understanding of and witness to the dignity of the human person.

People don’t have other real options, and they’re not being asked to affirmatively make an educated choice about this matter. It’s being aggressively pushed on them and spread to more and more hospitals. Their acceptance comes not by choice but by declaration of the bishops.

So what are people “accepting” when their local hospital gets bought out or merged? Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 30 2014

The Reading List, 3/30/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

Around FtB

The Wider Web

Mar 29 2014

A Town Without Contraception

I used to live in Bartlesville, OK. It was just a short stop–six weeks–in the year of living in four towns. It’s a good thing we didn’t stay for a lot of reasons, but now I have one more.

Confidential sources told the Examiner-Enterprise this week that a meeting was held Wednesday to inform local doctors of gynecology and obstetrics that they can no longer prescribe contraceptives of any kind — if they are to be used as birth control.

How could this happen? Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 29 2014

Saturday Storytime: Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade

Still reading off Rachel Swirsky’s Campbell recommendation list because wow. Benjanun Sriduangkaew has published mostly in anthologies, so this is one of your few opportunities to read her online, though more are coming soon.

Grass crackles and hisses. She draws the blade, its petals unfurling razor mouths, and recognizes that this weapon is personal to her. All generals have them: a bestiary of blades and a gathering of guns, used to an edge and oiled to a sheen. She maintained a smaller collection than most; this was one she always kept at her side.

The grass is stilled, coils of circuits and muscles and fangs, petroleum stains on Lunha’s sword. She fires a shot into its vitals to be certain. A detonation of soundless light.

Her datasphere snaps online. Augmens bring one of the walls into sharp focus, an output panel. At the moment, audio alone.

“We had to make sure you were physically competent.” A voice keyed to a register of neutrality, inflection and otherwise; she cannot tell accent, preferred presentation, or much else. “It is our pleasure to welcome you back, General Lunha.”

“My connection is restricted. Why is this?”

“There have been some changes to data handling at your tier of command. We’ll send you the new protocols shortly. It is routine. You’ll want a briefing.”

“Yes.” Lunha attempts to brute-force access, finds herself without grid privileges that ought to have been hers by right.

“Your loyalty to the Hegemony has never been questioned.”

“Thus I’ve proven,” said Lunha, who in life served it for sixty years from cadet to general.

“We will not question it now.” The panel shimmers into a tactical map. “This world would offer its riches and might to our enemies. Neutralize it and the woman who lures it away from Hegemonic peace. Peruse her dossier at your leisure.”

The traitor planet is Tiansong, the Lake of Bridges, which in life was Lunha’s homeworld.

Their leader is Xinjia of Pale Cascade, who in life was Lunha’s bride.

Keep reading.

Mar 28 2014

“Wicked Gods”, Eilís Leyne on Atheists Talk

This show had originally been scheduled for several weeks ago. It had to be rescheduled to this weekend.

Wicked Gods is a thriller with an extra mystery attached for good measure. The novel itself evokes the complexity of Dan Brown, though with better writing. From the publisher’s description:

When her seismic exposé of religious abuses lands on the best-seller list, Professor Mira Veron becomes a darling of the literati and a target for religious extremists and culture-warriors alike. With her soon-to-be-ex-husband scheming to undermine her, her opportunistic agent attempting to cash in on her name, and a seductive born-again assassin tracking her every move, she meets up with a publishing tycoon who is guarding a volatile secret.

Veron is drawn into an underground network by the promise of cataclysmic religious revelations only to watch as her new associates mysteriously die, one by one. Under siege by forces seen and unseen, she embarks on a desperate quest for answers. Now she must choose between defending her work and defending her life.

If that isn’t enough mystery for you, Eilís Leyne is a pseudonym. About the author:

Eilís Leyne is the pen name of an author whose non-fiction works have appeared in more than a dozen publications, including the Christian Science Monitor and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Having written two well-received non-fiction books, Wicked Gods is her debut novel.

Join us on Sunday as we talk to our mystery guest about her new book.

Related Links:

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