Thursday, August 31, 2023

Women who give birth after IVF may be 66% more likely to suffer a STROKE a year later, major study suggests

This is a rather misleading study. For a start, it considers only events within one year after birth. It can tell us nothing about women who have had IVF earlier in their lives

Secondly, the controls used were naive. Demographics seemed well controlled for but what about psychological factors? The women who had a stroke may have been chronically anxious and it was the anxiety that caused the stroke and not the IVF

Thirdly, the effect observed was derisorily small. 8 episodes among 100,000 women tells us that the effect was very rare and improbable so hardly worth noticing when considering risk of IVF

Journal abstract appended

Women who give birth after having fertility treatment are more likely to suffer a stroke than those who conceived naturally, a study suggests.

Researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey, who tracked 30million pregnancies found women who conceived using fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI), among others, were 66 percent more likely to experience a stroke within a year of giving birth.

They were twice as likely to suffer the deadlier form of a stroke, a hemorrhagic stroke, when there is a bleed in the brain, and 55 percent more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke, caused by a blood clot cutting off blood supply to part of the brain.

Stroke is the number one cause of death among pregnant women, said to be due to the strain pregnancy puts on the body. About 30 out of every 100,000 women who give birth suffer a stroke up to one year after delivery.

It was not immediately clear why women who received fertility treatments were at higher risk, but the researchers said it could be because of the hormone treatments women undergoing the procedures must take, as well as a higher risk for these women that the placenta does not implant properly.

Risk of Stroke Hospitalization After Infertility Treatment

Devika Sachdev et al.

Question Is receipt of infertility treatment associated with stroke hospitalization?

Findings In this cohort study of 31 339 991 pregnant individuals who delivered between 2010 and 2018, compared with those who did not receive infertility treatment, those who received infertility treatment had an increased risk of stroke hospitalization within 12 months of delivery, with the risk of hospitalization for hemorrhagic stroke being substantially greater than that for ischemic stroke.

Meaning These findings suggest that infertility treatment is associated with an increased risk of stroke hospitalization within 12 months of delivery; therefore, optimal screening for risk and timely follow-up should be considered to mitigate factors associated with stroke in the antepartum and postpartum periods.

Importance Stroke accounts for 7% of pregnancy-related deaths in the US. As the use of infertility treatment is increasing, many studies have sought to characterize the association of infertility treatment with the risk of stroke with mixed results.

Objective To evaluate the risk of hospitalization from hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes in patients who underwent infertility treatment.

Design, Setting, and Participants This population-based, retrospective cohort study used data abstracted from the Nationwide Readmissions Database, which stores data from all-payer hospital inpatient stays from 28 states across the US, from 2010 and 2018. Eligible participants included individuals aged 15 to 54 who had a hospital delivery from January to November in a given calendar year, and any subsequent hospitalizations from January to December in the same calendar year of delivery during the study period. Statistical analysis was performed between November 2022 and April 2023.

Exposure Hospital delivery after infertility treatment (ie, intrauterine insemination, assisted reproductive technology, fertility preservation procedures, or use of a gestational carrier) or after spontaneous conception.

Main Outcomes and Measures The primary outcome was hospitalization for nonfatal stroke (either ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke) within the first calendar year after delivery. Secondary outcomes included risk of stroke hospitalization at less than 30 days, less than 60 days, less than 90 days, and less than 180 days post partum.

Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to estimate associations, which were expressed as hazard ratios (HRs), adjusted for confounders. Effect size estimates were corrected for biases due to exposure misclassification, selection, and unmeasured confounding through a probabilistic bias analysis.

Results Of 31 339 991 patients, 287 813 (0.9%; median [IQR] age, 32.1 [28.5-35.8] years) underwent infertility treatment and 31 052 178 (99.1%; median [IQR] age, 27.7 [23.1-32.0] years) delivered after spontaneous conception. The rate of stroke hospitalization within 12 months of delivery was 37 hospitalizations per 100 000 people (105 patients) among those who received infertility treatment and 29 hospitalizations per 100 000 people (9027 patients) among those who delivered after spontaneous conception (rate difference, 8 hospitalizations per 100 000 people; 95% CI, −6 to 21 hospitalizations per 100 000 people; HR, 1.66; 95% CI, 1.17 to 2.35). The risk of hospitalization for hemorrhagic stroke (adjusted HR, 2.02; 95% CI, 1.13 to 3.61) was greater than that for ischemic stroke (adjusted HR, 1.55; 95% CI, 1.01 to 2.39). The risk of stroke hospitalization increased as the time between delivery and hospitalization for stroke increased, particularly for hemorrhagic strokes. In general, these associations became larger for hemorrhagic stroke and smaller for ischemic stroke following correction for biases.

Conclusions and Relevance In this cohort study, infertility treatment was associated with an increased risk of stroke-related hospitalization within 12 months of delivery; this risk was evident as early as 30 days after delivery. Timely follow-up in the immediate days post partum and continued long-term follow-up should be considered to mitigate stroke risk.


Woke U.S. Diplomacy: Not 100% Popular Around the Globe, nor at Home

The Biden administration is fraying relations with some allies and generating pushback from Congress by spending millions of taxpayer dollars to promote the woke ideology abroad that has stirred controversy at home since President Biden took office.

In a "national security memorandum" shortly after his swearing-in, Biden ordered all federal agencies with dealings abroad not only to protect LGBT rights in the face of discrimination and violence but to actively advance them. His State Department has said one of its goals is to “embed intersectional equity principles into diversifying public diplomacy and communications strategies” in relations with other nations.

U.S. ambassadors around the world have translated those words into action, championing LGTB rights in countries that oppose them; funding performances that feature drag queens; and holding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) seminars.

The State Department would not provide a list of initiatives and programs connected to these goals or how much money it is spending. Recent reports estimate nearly $5 million has been spent abroad on LGBT programs alone, and U.S. senators including Republican J.D. Vance of Ohio are holding up appointments of new ambassadors over concerns about exporting “woke” ideology.

Vance criticized what he called the “injecting” of “personal politics” into the U.S. foreign service, saying: “You can call it ‘extreme left,’ ‘woke.’ To me it’s leaning toward cultural progressivism in a way that alienates half of our country and, frankly, it probably alienates about 80 percent of the countries these guys are going to represent us in front of.”

American LGBT and black advocacy groups concerned with foreign policy and diplomacy declined to respond to RealClearInvestigations’ inquiries about the State Department programs. The groups are Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) and the Thursday Luncheon Group, which was founded “to increase the participation of African Americans in the formulation, articulation, and implementation of United States foreign policy.”

Among the State Department initiatives are a $10,000 grant to a Portuguese LGBT activist group to finance a film festival featuring drag performances, incest, and pederasty. It also provided $20,000 to support a series of drag shows in Ecuador.

A $300,000 State Department grant to Botswana aimed “to promote greater social acceptance of LGBTQI+ persons, including among influential religious groups and traditional groups” who preach or teach that homosexuality is immoral: Roman Catholics, most evangelical Christians, Muslims, and Orthodox Jews. Earlier this year, Republican scrutiny pressured the State Department to cancel drag shows it had been hosting on U.S. military bases.

Conservative governments, including those of predominantly Muslim nations, are similarly negative. Kuwait, for example, sharply criticized the acting chargé d'affaires of the U.S. embassy for promoting Pride month in June via official channels on Twitter. In an official statement, Kuwait’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stressed to the U.S. “the need for the embassy to respect the laws and regulations in force in the State of Kuwait,” where public morality laws ban same-sex sexual activity.

In Hungary, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó clashed with U.S. Ambassador David Pressman, who is openly gay and publicly criticized the Hungarian government over LGBT issues. “[I]f he wishes to use his stay in Hungary to criticize the actions of a government elected by a clear majority of the Hungarian people and legitimized by the Hungarian people,” the foreign minister said, “he will have a very difficult job in working effectively to improve cooperation between the two countries.”

Elsewhere, the U.S. ambassador to Poland, Mark Brzezinski, and some 30 staffers participated in Warsaw’s Pride parade, despite Poland’s constitutional ban on both same-sex marriage and civil unions. In South Korea, where same-sex marriage is illegal, the U.S. Ambassador, Philip S. Goldberg, promoted Pride month and spoke at a “Queer Culture” event in Seoul.

The U.S. embassy to the Holy See posted its Pride flag on social media, disregarding the Catholic Church’s longstanding position against homosexuality. Criticized for, in the words of Republican Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio, “flying flags that are hostile to the doctrine of the Catholic Church,” Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the State Department’s top DEI officer, defended the decision, saying the embassy did not need to coordinate with or seek the Vatican’s permission: “We are a sovereign nation and we make our own decisions.”

According to a tally by RealClearInvestigations, 118 U.S. embassies tweeted or retweeted posts celebrating Pride Month in June.

But the promotion of LGBT ideology is only one part of the State Department’s broader push for DEI abroad. When State Department DEI officers managed a Pride event at the U.S. embassy in Trinidad and Tobago, Ambassador Candace Bond said one of the conference’s goals was to establish “an inclusive DEI framework within their [Trinidad’s] organizations.” To that end, the State Department funded a three-day DEI training program.


There's a New Player in the Government's Censorship Game

The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) is in the crosshairs of the House Judiciary Committee and Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government after reportedly working with the Biden administration to censor political and other speech online. CCDH describes itself as an "international organization disrupting the production and spread of hate & misinformation."

"The Committee on the Judiciary is conducting oversight of how and to what extent the Executive Branch has coerced and colluded with companies and other intermediaries to censor speech. To develop effective legislation, such as the possible enactment of new statutory limits on the Executive Branch’s ability to work with social media platforms and other companies to restrict the circulation of content and deplatform users, the Committee must first understand the nature of how the Executive Branch coerced and colluded with companies and other intermediates to censor speech. To this end, the Committee asked that the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) produce communications with the Executive Branch relating to the moderation of content online," a letter from Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan to CCDH states.

"In addition, we also asked for communications between companies including social media companies and the CCDH, to understand, among other things, the extent to which content moderation occurred as a result of the government’s influence. In response, your counsel has informed the Committee that CCDH will not comply voluntarily with our requests," Jordan continues.

So far, CCDH has refused to voluntarily comply with Committee requests for documentation. As a result, the group has been subpoenaed.


Australia: Tyrannical childcare regulator blasted

Determined to make childcare unaffordable

A HUNTER child care service facing up to $50,000 in fines for failing to comply with "inequitable and impractical" Department of Education regulations has hit back, and won.

St Nicholas Early Education services, which operates 33 out-of-school-hours OOSH services for children at Catholic schools in the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese, as well as 12 early childhood learning centres, caters to about 5,200 children.

The service was taken to task over allegations it failed to properly manage children with asthma at six of its OOSH centres in Abermain, Branxton, Lochinvar, Maitland, Rutherford and Scone.

However, Supreme Court Justice Des Fagan criticised the department for inflicting "impractical burdens" on St Nicholas rather than adopting a sector-wide standard.

He described the laws regulating the industry as a "superstructure of minute regulation" which comes at "significant cost, and with considerable burden and absorption of resources - for government, for approved providers, and for the users of their services".

"The burden of heavy regulation is illustrated in this case by evidence of the manner in which authorised officers of the secretary have scrutinised the operation of some of the plaintiff's centres and by the documentary evidence of the plaintiff's painstaking and protracted efforts to reason with departmental offices about the impracticability of their enforcement directions," Justice Fagan said.

As it was, the centres operated on a not-for-profit basis, and there was evidence before the court that many of the clients of the business are "families wherein both parents work".

"There is a strong inference that the scope for the plaintiff to increase its charges, in order to cover additional operating expenses including the cost of complying with statutory requirements and departmental directions, is very constrained," he said.

In this case, the department was seeking for St Nicholas to keep on the premises asthma-related drugs which were only required to be taken once per day, at home.

"It appears unsatisfactory, to say the least, that medically untrained personnel should, in the name of the secretary, formally allege on medical grounds that an offence has been committed ... carrying a $50,000 fine, and issue a statutory notice for which non-compliance attracts a $30,000 fine ... (when) 'online research' was considered (upon review) sufficient to show that by following parental instructions, which accorded with the nature of the medication, the plaintiff (St Nicholas) took 'every reasonable precaution' as required by the Law," Justice fagan said.

"It is difficult to see why the inspector and (department) should not have been sufficiently trained either to refrain from making medical judgments beyond their expertise or to make the online inquiry themselves, before imposing upon an authorised provider the risk and burden of dealing with a compliance notice that was unjustified in this material particular."

The department's requirements were outside of accepted industry practise, medical advice and community standards.

Being forced to approach parents for updated asthma plans in an effort to appease the department, St Nicholas reported that four families withdrew their child's asthma plans saying they had outgrown them, and two families left the service citing the requirement of a new asthma plan where it was not a requirement at other services.

"A significant number of parents have expressed concerns around the cost and availability of accessing their GP/specialist to request a further update to the plan and whether this accessibility issue will threaten the ability of their child/children to continue attending care," the department's legal counsel said.

"Out of the responses received, less than 14 per cent have been able to provide updated plans that [meet] the requirements [the department] have outlined. We believe this to be further evidence that the department's current approach with the approved provider's services is outside of accepted industry practice, medical advice and community standards."

Justice Fagan ordered the department to pay St Nicholas's costs, saying the money it had spent on its approach to enforcement could probably have funded "an appropriately qualified medical specialist" to advise on standardised directions to all approved operators, taking into account the autonomy of parents to choose the extent to which they will authorise or require childcare staff to administer medication.

"The department's relationship with this provider has been one of enforcement, penalisation and legal disputation rather than guidance and support," he said.




Wednesday, August 30, 2023

City Can’t Ban Farmer From Market for Views on Same-Sex Marriage, Judge Rules

The original 2017 decision by East Lansing to exclude farmers Steve and Bridget Tennes and their Country Mill Farms from the market “constituted a burden on plaintiffs’ religious beliefs,” District Judge Paul Maloney ruled last week, citing Supreme Court precedent.

Tennes and his wife, who are Catholic, “were forced to choose between following their religious beliefs and a government benefit for which they were otherwise qualified,” Maloney, of the District Court for the Western District of Michigan, wrote in his Aug. 21 opinion.

“He serves and welcomes everyone to his stand [at the farmers market]. No one is ever turned away,” lawyer John Bursch, a senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, said of Tennes, The Associated Press reported.

“The District Court’s decision rightly protects Steve’s freedom to operate his business according to his convictions,” said Kate Anderson, another senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom who argued before the court in July 2021 on behalf of the Tenneses and their farm. “Country Mill has continued to participate in the farmers market without issue during this litigation.”

East Lansing first barred Country Mill Farms from its farmers market in 2017 after the Tenneses posted on Facebook in August 2016: “Due to our religious beliefs, we do not participate in the celebration of a same-sex union.” The post was in response to a question about the family farm’s services as a wedding venue.

Jay Richards, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Life, Religion, and Family, praised the Michigan court ruling in an email to The Daily Signal, Heritage’s multimedia news organization.

“The District Court made exactly the right judgment,” Richards, also the think tank’s William Simon senior research fellow in religious liberty and civil society, said. “East Lansing was using the cover of ‘nondiscrimination’ not to protect its citizens, but, to, well, to discriminate against religious believers with whom it disagrees.”

As The Daily Signal previously reported, the Tenneses filed a federal lawsuit in May 2017 against East Lansing over its decision to ban them from selling produce at the farmers market even though their farm is 22 miles outside the city in a different jurisdiction.

That September, The Daily Signal reported, Maloney ordered East Lansing to reinstate the couple at the farmers market while the lawsuit over their refusal to host same-sex weddings made its way through court. At the time, the couple hosted traditional weddings at their farm.

Heritage’s Richards echoed the sentiment of the Tenneses’ lawyer.

“Mr. Tennes serves everyone, but not to participate in activities that violate his religious and moral convictions,” Richards said. “Americans shouldn’t have to surrender their free exercise of religion when they enter the market. It’s nice to see that this U.S. District Court agrees.”

The Tenneses told The Daily Signal in a 2017 interview that East Lansing’s farmers market is the largest market where they sell.

“Since June 1, [2017,] we’ve already missed three and a half months of being able to attend East Lansing Farmer’s Market, where we’ve served everyone for the last seven years,” Steve Tennes told The Daily Signal that September.

The Tenneses said they never before had faced a discrimination complaint of any kind.

The city initially responded to the couple’s lawsuit by filing a motion to dismiss the case, which Maloney denied while allowing Country Mill Farms to continue to sell at the farmers market as the case continued.


South Carolina Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Post-Heartbeat Abortions

In June 2022, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the U.S. Supreme Court said what we can all read for ourselves, that the U.S. Constitution “does not confer a right to abortion.”

That shifted the venue for those who want to eliminate any legal protection for the unborn to state courts and state constitutions. In January, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that a ban on most abortions after detection of a “fetal heartbeat” violated the South Carolina Constitution.

That court has now examined a slightly modified statute and, this time, found it constitutional.

The Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act of 2021 allowed abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat only in cases of “fetal anomaly,” when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, or when the abortion was “necessary … to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent a serious risk of a substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.”

Planned Parenthood went to state court, arguing that the law violated the state constitution.

The South Carolina Constitution does not explicitly protect a right to abortion and uses the word “privacy” only once. Article I, Section 10 provides: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures and unreasonable invasions of privacy shall not be violated.”

That’s an unusual provision. Some state constitutions, such as in Alaska, California, and Montana, protect a stand-alone “right of personal privacy.” South Carolina and Illinois, however, connect privacy directly to the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures—language similar to the Fourth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. The Illinois Supreme Court held in 2013 that, in this context, “privacy” did not include abortion.

The South Carolina Supreme Court now had its chance to address the issue.

The court’s first decision in Planned Parenthood v. South Carolina (Planned Parenthood I), however, was so fractured that only its 3-2 judgment that the abortion ban was unconstitutional seemed clear. Each of the justices in the majority offered different reasons for that conclusion, and the two dissenters each wrote their own opinion explaining their position.

Two justices, for example, plucked “privacy” from its search-and-seizure context and said that it included a right to abortion. Justice John Few disagreed with that conclusion, but still voted to find the law unconstitutional. He focused on the possibility that women might not know they are pregnant, and therefore would be unable to make an informed abortion decision until after a fetal heartbeat can be detected and the opportunity to choose abortion no longer exists.

That, Few wrote, made the law “arbitrary.”

The Legislature went back to the drawing board, attempting to address the issue that concerned him. The basic ban on most abortions after a detectable fetal heartbeat remained, but a revised section describing the Legislature’s findings and the statute’s purposes put less emphasis on the woman’s informed choice and more on how the Legislature balanced “a woman’s interest in autonomy and privacy” against “the interest of the unborn to live.”

In a 4-1 decision (Planned Parenthood II), the court concluded that “the balance struck by the legislature was [not] unreasonable as a matter of law” and, therefore, upheld the revised statute.

While pro-life advocates are cheering this result, this decision has its own serious flaws. The most important constitutional question was whether the reference to “privacy” in Article I, Section 10, was limited to the search-and-seizure context or, freed from that context, included a right to abortion.

The court in Planned Parenthood I did not clearly answer that question. Few and the two dissenters rejected the idea that “privacy” could be pulled out of its context and given a broader meaning, but it was not a formal holding of the court.

Planned Parenthood II is even more confusing on this important point. The court “reaffirm[ed] our finding from Planned Parenthood I that there is no fundamental constitutional right to abortion under Article I, Section 10.” Just two sentences later, the court said that “in the interest of unity, we shall assume only for purposes of our analysis and decision today that the privacy provision reaches beyond the search-and-seizure context to include bodily autonomy.”

Wait, what?

In Planned Parenthood I, Few “rejected” the idea that “privacy” in Article I, Section 10, applies beyond search and seizure. Similarly, Justice George James wrote in dissent that “a citizen’s right to be free from unreasonable invasions of privacy does not extend beyond the context of searches and seizures.”

Yet Few and James both signed onto the majority opinion in Planned Parenthood II, asserting that “the privacy provision reaches beyond the search-and-seizure context.”

Reaffirming a precedent means, by definition, that the previous decision affects the later one. But “assuming” that a holding applies only to the present case means that it does not affect later ones. This is made all the more confusing when both decisions address the same point of law—and come to different conclusions. All “in the interest of unity,” no less.

The confusion continues. In his Planned Parenthood I dissent, Justice John Kittredge wrote that the reference to privacy “is part of the search-and-seizure clause and is not a standalone provision.” There is, he wrote, “no language in Article I, Section 10 of the South Carolina Constitution that supports an interpretation of a privacy right that would encompass a right to abortion.”

In his Planned Parenthood II majority opinion, however, Kittredge wrote that (at least for this one decision) “the privacy provision reaches beyond the search-and-seizure context to include bodily autonomy.” Whew!

In a disturbing sign of the times, most news reports on Planned Parenthood II—from ABC, The Associated Press, Axios, Detroit News, The Hill, the Los Angeles Times, NBC, PBS, Politico, U.S. News & World Report, and many others—made sure everyone knew the court was “all-male,” but didn’t bother explaining why that fact was relevant.

By leaving that innuendo hanging, the media contribute to the public’s misperception that courts decide cases based on personal opinions and politics (or in this case, gender), rather than law.

Courts decide cases in two parts: the judgment, which identifies the winner, and the opinion, which explains the judgment. Both are important. The judgment decides the case before the court; the opinion can influence cases beyond that one.

Especially when a case involves a volatile issue, such as abortion, courts have a duty not only to find the right answer, but to explain it so that the public can better understand and evaluate what the judicial branch is doing.


More Courts Uphold Bans on ‘Gender-Affirming’ Care for Minors. Is Supreme Court Next Stop?

Activist judges who believe the propaganda on “lifesaving” “gender-affirming” care for minors are weeping into their lattes this month as a second federal appellate court has just upheld a duly enacted state law banning these practices for children.

A few short weeks after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld Tennessee’s law banning “gender-affirming” care for minors in the state, the 11th Circuit followed suit and upheld Alabama’s law prohibiting the same.

In an opinion for the unanimous three-judge panel written by Judge Barbara Lagoa, the court overturned a lower court order that had enjoined a portion of Alabama’s Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act.

The act makes it a felony, punishable to up to 10 years in prison, to administer “gender-affirming care” to minors—including chemical castration and radically transformative body modification procedures.

The state’s appeal from the lower court’s decision halting the law centered specifically on section 4(a)(1)-(3), the portion of the law banning the administration of puberty blockers or “cross-sex hormones.”

But as the 6th Circuit did in its decision upholding the Tennessee law, the 11th Circuit wasted no time in both overturning the lower court decision and going so far as to hold that the lower court had abused its discretion in applying the wrong standard of judicial review.

Lagoa wrote, “The plaintiffs have not presented any authority that support the existence of a constitutional right to ‘treat [one’s] children with transitioning medications subject to medically accepted standards.’ Nor have they shown that [the law] classifies on the basis of sex or any other protected characteristic. Accordingly, section 4(a)(1)-(3) is subject only to rational basis review.”

There are three standards for judicial review when a court must determine the constitutionality of a particular law: the rational basis test, the intermediate scrutiny test, and the strict scrutiny test.

The intermediate and strict scrutiny tests are more restrictive standards of review than rational basis, and more difficult for a state to satisfy. Rational basis, however, is used when no fundamental right (such as free speech, voting, or religion) or suspect classification (such as race or national origin) is at issue. Under this standard, the state must simply show that the law is rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest.

This standard, the 11th Circuit held, was easily satisfied by the state of Alabama, and the state’s regulation of the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormone treatments for minors was to be afforded a “strong presumption of validity.”

The court continued with a discussion of whether the right to treat one’s children with puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones could be found within the more general 14th Amendment right to direct the upbringing of one’s children—as plaintiffs had claimed.

The court found it did not.

Citing the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision of last June, the court noted that in order to determine whether a claimed right is one of the “substantive rights” guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, “Courts must look to whether the right is ‘deeply rooted in [our] history and tradition’ and ‘essential to our Nation’s scheme of ordered liberty.’” But, it continued, “the use of these medications in general—let alone for children—almost certainly is not ‘deeply rooted’ in our nation’s history and tradition.”

Because the judges were being asked to break new ground in the field of substantive due process under the 14th Amendment, the court wrote that it was bound to exercise the “utmost care.” This, Lagoa wrote, the lower court had not done.

In fact, she pointed out that the lower court had “grounded its ruling in an unprecedented interpretation of parents’ fundamental right to make decisions concerning the ‘upbringing’ and ‘care, custody, and control’ of one’s children,” and then applied the wrong judicial review standard of this new “right,” to boot.

As far as the plaintiffs’ argument that the Alabama law was subject to intermediate scrutiny because it made sex-based classifications (relative to “gender nonconformity”), the court was unconvinced.

While the lower court had applied the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision, Bostock v. Clayton County, to equate “gender nonconformity” with “sex,” the appellate court disagreed, noting that the Alabama law treated both sexes equally. Because it “classifie[d] on the bases of age and procedure, not sex or gender nonconformity, [it was] therefore not subject to any heightened scrutiny.”

The court also slapped down the lower court’s application of Bostock—a case with a limited holding, and one that solely concerned the prohibition against sex discrimination in employment found in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Lagoa wrote, “The Equal Protection Clause contains none of the text that the Court interpreted in Bostock. It provides simply that ‘[n]o State shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.’”

She added, “Because Bostock therefore concerned a different law (with materially different language) and a different factual context, it bears minimal relevance to the instant case.”

Within a few short days of the 11th Circuit’s decision, a Missouri state court upheld that state’s own SAFE (Save Adolescents from Experimentation) Act—the first trial court victory to date in cases interpreting laws that ban the mutilation of children in the name of “gender-affirming” care.

In declining the plaintiffs’ request to halt the law, Judge Stephen R. Ohmer ruled, “The science and medical evidence is conflicting and unclear” and that “the evidence raises more questions than answers.”

Nearly simultaneously, however, a Texas state court halted the operation of that state’s “transgender” medical procedures ban. The state immediately filed an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, which temporarily halts the trial court’s ruling. The Texas attorney general’s office responded to the trial court’s decision by saying that it would “continue to enforce the laws duly enacted by the Texas Legislature and uphold the values of the people of Texas.”

Still pending before a federal trial court in Florida is a challenge to that state’s “gender-affirming” medicine ban for minors as adopted by the Florida boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine. That case should now be relatively easy to decide since that ban is nearly identical to the Alabama law that the 11th Circuit just upheld.

In a previous case, Adams v. St. Johns County School Board, the 11th Circuit determined (again in an opinion written by Lagoa) that a school’s sex-segregated bathroom policy was not a violation of the Constitution because, just as the Alabama law does, it treated all students equally, regardless of sex.

This is good news for the state of Florida as officials chart a path forward in defending their “gender-affirming” medical ban.

With 22 states having enacted restrictions on “transgender” medical interventions for minors, and with courts in different states and different federal circuits reaching different conclusions in terms of upholding or overturning such laws, the battle to protect the minds and bodies of adolescent children seems ultimately destined for the Supreme Court.


Australia: Wrongly jailed father successfully sues judge for false imprisonment in landmark case

Salvatore Vasta finally went too far with eccentric judgments. He comes from an interesting family of ultimately Sicilian origin. His father, Angelo Vasta, was born in my home town of Innisfail and was also a prominent senior judge -- but was so tainted with apparent corruption that he was removed from office by by an act of parliament. An extraordinary family

A father who was wrongly jailed by a judge for an alleged contempt of court in a family law case has been awarded more than $300,000 in damages after he took the rare step of suing the judge personally.

In a landmark decision on Wednesday, Federal Court Justice Michael Wigney held Federal Circuit and Family Court Judge Salvatore Vasta could not rely on a judicial immunity and was personally liable for the man’s false imprisonment. The Commonwealth and the state of Queensland were also held liable.

The father of two, given the pseudonym Mr Stradford, was awarded a total of $309,450 in damages.

Vasta alone was ordered to pay $50,000 of the total sum in exemplary damages for false imprisonment and deprivation of liberty. Exemplary damages, which are punitive rather than compensatory, are awarded in rare cases.

Each of Vasta, the Commonwealth and the state of Queensland were ordered to pay a combined $59,450 of the total to cover Stradford’s personal injury and loss of earning capacity.

Vasta and the Commonwealth were also ordered to pay $35,000 for false imprisonment and deprivation of liberty, while Vasta and the state of Queensland were ordered to pay $165,000 for false imprisonment.

Stradford launched proceedings against Vasta, the Commonwealth and the state of Queensland in the Federal Court in 2020 after the Full Court of the Family Court overturned Vasta’s 2018 order imprisoning him in that state.

The Full Court said in a scathing judgment in 2019 that it would be “an affront to justice” to leave in place the declaration that Stradford had committed a contempt of court and the order imprisoning him for a maximum of 12 months.

“What occurred here ... constituted a gross miscarriage of justice,” the Full Court said at the time. It said Vasta had no power to make the declaration or order and no factual basis for doing so.

Vasta has been the subject of a series of excoriating appeal judgments, and is facing a second lawsuit brought by another man he jailed for an alleged contempt of court. That case was paused pending the outcome of the Stradford case.

The Federal Court heard Vasta told Stradford, whose former wife strenuously opposed him going to jail, to “bring your toothbrush” after he allegedly failed to hand over all his financial records in the family law case.

Neither Stradford nor his former wife had lawyers acting for them in the property dispute and the man insisted he had “in good faith tried to provide every aspect of my financial life”.

“Don’t tell me ‘I tried’,” Vasta told the man. “Rubbish ... I didn’t come down in the last shower.

“And that’s the strange thing, is you really don’t think that the court ever will jail you for contempt. You’re about to find that lesson is going to be a very hard one for you to learn.”

Stradford was held for seven days in police custody and prison, during which he said he was bashed in prison, became suicidal and woke up to his cellmate strangling him. He was eventually released from custody after obtaining a stay to prevent the order jailing him taking effect pending his court challenge.

Under the doctrine of judicial immunity, judges cannot ordinarily be sued for decisions they make, and Vasta sought to rely on this immunity in the Stradford case.

Wigney found this immunity did not protect Vasta. He said Vasta had engaged in a “gross and obvious irregularity of procedure” and denied Stradford “any modicum” of natural justice or procedural fairness.

Vasta was a Federal Circuit Court judge at the time he imprisoned Stradford and is now a judge of the Federal Circuit and Family Court, after the two courts were merged.




Tuesday, August 29, 2023

NIH Seeks to Change Its Mission Statement to Avoid Perception of Perpetuation of "Ableist" Beliefs

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), America’s apex biomedical research institute, and largest funder of medical-related research worldwide, just recently issued a Request for Information (RFI), to change or update its mission statement to be more mindful of sensitivities associated with disabled communities. Current language in the agency’s mission statement looked to perpetuate ‘ableist’ beliefs.

The largest public funder of biomedical and behavioral research in the world, NIH seeks to translate scientific discoveries into better health for the U.S., as well as the rest of the world's population.

This RFI will inform NIH's efforts to update its mission statement to ensure that it reflects the NIH mission as accurately as possible. Language and words matter more than ever in America in this day and age.

This call for change stems from the commitment in 2021 to the matter via the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) Working Group on Diversity, Subgroup on Individuals with Disabilities.

The call for this RFI originates from a report published in December 2022 containing several recommendations, including the updating of the NIH mission statement. The NIH reports that the ACD adopted the Working Group’s recommendations, sending them to the NIH Director.

According to that report, “One immediate action for the NIH to support disability inclusion is to remove the language of ‘reducing disability’ from the NIH mission statement. The current mission statement could be interpreted as perpetuating ableist beliefs that disabled people are flawed and need to be ‘fixed’.”

Clearly, the NIH leadership has taken the observations seriously.

The NIH’s current mission statement is “to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.”

Seemingly harmless language, but sensitivity associated with the topic means interpretations can vary significantly.

America’s apex research institute sought to look into the mission statement, particularly mindful of the inclusion of the phrase “reduce [...] disability,” with an aim to update, better reflecting what the agency describes as “the current and future vision for the agency.”

NIH leadership and teams of subject matter experts spent considerable time, energy and resources to generate a proposed revised NIH mission statement.

A public agency under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the NIH issues an RFT seeking the elicitation of feedback on a proposed update to the agency’s mission statement


Democrats And The Hitler Lie

Since the year 2000 (and possibly before, but definitely after), Democrats have been engaged in the despicable game of calling everyone they view as a threat or obstacle to their agenda “Hitler,” “Hitler-like,” “Worse than Hitler,” etc., etc. They do this because it’s easy, without concern that it’s insulting to Hitler’s victims or a complete lie, a bastardization of history. What is that last part about? Well, I’ll explain.

Hitler was a fascist, obviously, and a totalitarian. Somewhere along the line, these characteristics have become ascribed to the political right, or as they love to say nowadays, “The extreme right.” But it’s not true, not even close. There is no such thing as a “right-wing strongman.” Simply put, every single dictator is of the left. Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Castro, Mussolini, Marcos, Chavez, Kim, Amin, and everyone else you can think of are people of the political left, plain and simple.

I know this cuts against everything you’ve heard in the media, and if you’re under 40, it probably goes against everything you were taught in school. But, to put it mildly, you were lied to.

First off, socialism, fascism, and communism are all very similar – they advocate different ways for the government to grow and “give” people things. Communists provided people with everything they deemed the people needed, for example, and everyone had to “contribute” by working for essentially slave wages. There was a thin veil of economic transactions, but the government all ultimately controlled them. Fascism and socialism are the same way, just slightly different methodologies.

They also all have tens of millions of dead bodies in their wake – the elimination of opposition is a cornerstone of all of them. Those who weren’t killed were imprisoned because why not? They had to go, but some people would cause more problems as dead martyrs than living but inaccessible ones.

Yes, these groups fought amongst each other, but really only for control. They all believed themselves to be the true heirs to Marx and wanted to be the ones to lead the people to Utopia. The irony of them killing each other over this was utterly lost on them.

So, now we get to the real point at which the argument is made about how all of these evil ideologies are of the left, and it’s pretty simple.

Progressive is the left, conservative is the right, OK? Progressives want a bigger government that does more, and with a bigger government doing more individual liberty necessarily shrinks. Conservatives want smaller government, limited by the Constitution, and more individual liberty. It stands to reason that the further you go down the progressive direction, the bigger and stronger the government gets, just the opposite for the conservative side.

The natural end of the road for progressives is absolute power, a totalitarian regime imposing its will on the people, whether they like it or not. It’s a disaster, always, and the average person suffers greatly, but they suffer equally. It’s equity on display. Of course, that suffering never makes it to the top – as Soviet citizens starved, Stalin and his pals were fat. While North Koreans ate dirt, every leader in the Kim family was obese. It holds for almost all of them.

Now, the logical end for the conservative side of the horizon is anarchy. The further you go down the right, the smaller the government becomes and the more personal liberty there is. The end of that is no government at all, the opposite of the left.

But to hear the Democrat/MSNBC brain trust tell it, as you work your way down the right side, as government power shrinks, there is a magical point at which it somehow spikes back up to be all-powerful, and that’s where Hitler and every other of these monsters somehow lived. It doesn’t make any sense, but they also know people have been conditioned by a horrible left-wing public education system not to understand politics or history and to believe what they hear from “journalists” on TV, so it sticks. It only sticks with stupid people, but there are enough of them to fuel a movement.

When you point out that the Nazis were literally the “National Socialist German Workers Party,” they don’t get how nothing about that is conservative. That they advocated for a great many of the policies Democrats did and do doesn’t matter either. The concepts of “equity” (meaning the same outcome, not the same opportunity – finish line vs. level playing field) and critical race theory being used as means of division and control are lost on them. They simply obey.

The left, everywhere it exists in the world, demands obedience; they insist on conformity of thought. You wear whatever you want, screw whoever you want, but you’d better think only what is acceptable or else. It is the new slavery, and people don’t even realize it.

The public is too busy being told war is peace, crime is harmony, men are women, and more. That so many people swallow this insanity unquestioningly is a testament to just how far those cancerous ideologies have metastasized into our culture and how deeply we have to cut them out.

That fight starts by acknowledging the reality that Hitler and every other of history’s greatest monsters in the modern world were wholly and firmly on the left. Once you open yourself up to that, you see what Joe Biden and this current crop of Democrats are attempting to do (not just to Donald Trump but to everyone who stands in their way – how many times has Ron DeSantis been called Hitler already or Tim Scott an Uncle Tom?) in a completely different, but accurate light.


Who Best Avoided the COVID Religion?

One of the greatest contributions that the United States gave to the world was and is religious freedom. In 2020, that freedom was taken away from all religions in the United States. We’ve not yet come to terms with this awful reality and what it means for the future of faith.

The lockdowns were a major blow to religious institutions and practice. Every major survey shows that attendance at weekly religious services is down from pre-lockdown times.

“The share of all U.S. adults who say they typically attend religious services at least once a month is down modestly but measurably (by 3 percentage points, from 33 percent to 30 percent) over that span,” Pew writes. “And one-in-five Americans say they now attend in person less often than they did before the pandemic.”

I’ve had this confirmed by many friends who report that the religious houses of their choice seem to show far less participation. This very likely translates to a decline in financial support, too. Once people got out of the habit of participating in a physical church, the ritual was broken, and now we see the spreading of indifference. This surely isn't a good sign.

But that picture is complicated by a strange feature: The religious congregations that resisted COVID-19 controls and shutdowns have likely earned trust and loyalty from their members. Indeed, this weekend I happened to attend the debut of a new opera where attendance was dominated by what are called “traditionalist” Catholics. Talking with people after, I was thrilled to learn just how many of their congregations never closed down.

A priest friend of mine in the Midwest tells the story of Easter 2020, when most every church in the country was closed. That’s an outrage, by the way. It’s a devastating commentary on the Catholic bishops that they uttered no protest against this. It’s a black mark against an entire generation of church leadership.

My priest friend, however, stood up to his own bishop and said he would sooner resign his post as pastor than lock his own parishioners out of church on Holy Week.

“You are bluffing,” the bishop said. “Try me,” the priest answered.

The bishop couldn't afford to take the chance of losing this man because his parish had a very large school and was thriving. So the meeting ended with the bishop neither giving permission nor refusing it. The parish allowed parishioners to come in the back entrance where the media wasn't on the lookout, and they kept the lights in the building very low so as not to attract government officials.

Services went on. The parishioners haven't forgotten this act of bravery, and they increased their participation and financial support in gratitude. The priest was tested and showed that he took seriously the Gospel message. He wasn't going to throw away the words of Jesus that wherever two or three gather in his name, there is God.

There is nothing in the Gospels about social distancing, much less mRNA jabs as a moral imperative.

Jesus ate with the lepers, but Dr. Anthony Fauci told us not to get near each other because of a virus circulating with a 99 percent and higher survival rate, even while he was banning therapeutics and killing people with ventilators and toxic pharmaceuticals.

Those who trusted Jesus over Dr. Fauci have earned the respect of their congregations. But there is even more to it than that.

There is something about a very strong religious faith that protected people against government propaganda in those times. They could see straight through the lies even as more secular people in general went for the government-pushed baloney.

Think back to those times. Who resisted? Certainly the traditional Catholics did, more than a few of them devoted to the older form of liturgy with Latin and all the smells and bells. They teach a stricter doctrine about sin and salvation than you get from the watered-down version in modern parish life. Those people were certainly among the resistance to government decrees.

It was the same with Jewish congregations. The typical Reform, Conservative, and Modern Orthodox temples and synagogues shut down and went to Zoom. This infuriated people and alienated them from their places of worship. But in many communities called “ultra-Orthodox,” or Hasidic among others, there was indefatigable resistance.

Indeed, both the governor and mayor of New York dared blame these faithful Jews for the spreading of disease. The New York Times agreed completely, despite how this claim revived one of the more grotesque smears of the Jews from the Middle Ages.

The Amish never paid the slightest attention to the disease frenzy that shut down the rest of society. In the Anabaptist tradition, which also includes the Mennonites, there is no real distinction among the community, the way of life, and the functioning of the place of worship. It's all in unity in both belief and practice. And so there simply was never a chance that these people would stop worshiping God in the way their tradition demands.

It was all true of many break-off sects of the so-called Mormons. Outside the confines of the official church that is forever seeking respectability of the media and secular elites, these communities continued right on with their practices. And why not? Their whole lives are defined by the choice to believe and live in a certain way. Some hysterical screaming from D.C. and the media elites isn't going to shake them from something much more fundamental: the relationship of their members to their God.

The evangelicals were a bit slow to catch on to the scam that was the lockdowns, but they figured it out, too, many by the summer of 2020, and they started holding weddings and funerals. Regular weekly services returned, to the howls of the media hounds, but they didn’t care. Once they had shaken off their fears, they were ready to get back to their religious obligations.

Tellingly, it was the more secular areas of the country that stayed closed longer. And the mainline Protestant and Catholic churches proved themselves all too willing to go along with the demands that they shut down services because of Dr. Fauci’s diktats.

For most of 2020 and 2021, many of these churches simply kept their doors closed or forcibly masked their parishioners. Horribly, some of them even went along with the vaccine mandate, not only for staff but for parishioners, too.

“Nationwide, a number of churches and synagogues are implementing vaccine mandates,” the Deseret News wrote in September 2021. “Some are requiring not just clergy and staff to get vaccinated but even congregants. Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal church in San Francisco, California, is enforcing such an all encompassing mandate — complete with ushers who will politely turn away those without proof of vaccination.”

I’m not saying that such churches deserve to go out of business, but ... actually, such churches deserve to go out of business.

What have we learned? People who take their faith seriously have proven that they are more immune to the lies of the secular elites than those who barely go through the motions. It’s the hardcore among them who put God ahead of government, their teachings ahead of the media, and their personal convictions ahead of the biomedical elite and their bogus claims.

In other words, it was faith itself that enabled people to follow real science better than those who outsourced their hearts and salvation to pharmaceutical companies and government bureaucrats. In still other words, it was the people of firm religious conviction who proved to be better practitioners of both science and human values.

Think about what that means in terms of the history of science and faith. For centuries, we’ve been told that only a faithless rationalism provides a guide to truth, while faith is merely a superstitious distraction. There are perhaps some valid historical reasons for this bias—certainly the union of church and state wasn't good for religion or civic community—but the truth is more complicated.

The past three years have shown that this claim might be completely inverted. It's faith that allows people clarity to see through government propaganda and inspires people with moral conviction to do what is right regardless of what a totalitarian government happens to be preaching at any one time.

In the end, it was Dr. Fauci and the whole COVID regime that was the superstitious distraction, while robust and traditional religion provided the best guide to light and truth.


London Police chief to BAN officers from backing woke causes: Sir Mark Rowley won't allow cops to take the knee, fly the rainbow flag or tack eco badges on uniforms - but wearing poppies for Remembrance is 'perfectly proper'

Met Police officers will be banned from supporting 'woke' causes while on duty, Britain's most senior policeman has warned.

Sir Mark Rowley says officers won't be allowed to take the knee, fly rainbow flags or wear badges that support environmental causes, The Telegraph reported.

However, the police commissioner said it is 'perfectly proper' for officers to wear remembrance poppies, Help for Heroes wristbands and the police memorial badge.

Sir Mark told the newspaper he is 'fairly narrow-minded' on the issue, adding that there are 'very few causes policing should be attached to'.

He argued that while many officers may 'personally support' the so-called woke causes, the force 'explicitly supporting' any of the causes is 'quite tricky' because officers need to be impartial.

Sir Mark told the Telegraph that there are 'not a lot' of causes the force should align with because of the 'danger' doing so poses.

The police chief argued that it is 'not woke' to engage with community members to 'understand what worries them' but claims policing as a whole should not align itself with causes.

'The danger is that once you say, "we are going to align ourselves to a cause because 90 per cent of the population support it", what about the 10 per cent?' he said.

Sir Mark said that modern activism is challenging because of the differing directions that protest groups can take.

Many groups have 'very sensible majority membership', he argued, but says that there are also members with extremist views and 'you can't legislate that from outside it'.

He warned that it could be 'pretty fatal' for the force if people if don't believe that officers operate 'without fear or favour'.

Sir Mark's latest ruling comes after he recently banned officers from sporting the 'thin blue line' badge which had been created as a way to honour and remember those who died in the line of duty.

The ban came after the symbol was linked to white nationalism in the US. According to the newspaper, Sir Mark defended the band by saying if he did not 'take a firm line' on what officers could and could not wear.

His view on the issue differs significantly from that of his predecessor, Dame Cressida Dick, who had said it was at each individual officer's discretion if they wanted to take a knee in support of Black Lives Matter.

Under her command officers were initially allowed to take a knee even when they were policing protests - however Dame Cressida later claimed she ordered officers not do so.

She also allowed a police vehicle to be decorated in a rainbow colour scheme to show support for the LGBTQ community.

The Met was also criticised in 2019 after officers were seen dancing and skateboarding with Extinction Rebellion demonstrators at a protest they were meant to be policing. The behavior was later branded as 'unacceptable'.




Monday, August 28, 2023

The hugely inflated egos of older women

For various reasons I have been keeping an eye on internet dating sites over the last 3 years. And it has never ceased to astound me to see how highly older women praise themselves on such sites. They seem to see themselves as perfect examples of what a desirable female partner should be. They have a great list of praiseworthy descriptions of themselves. What they describe has no correspondence to actual women of that age whom I know. They are flawless.

I am moved to comment on it by a particularly egregious example of it that I have just encountered on a dating site. It is by a 68 year old Australian woman. I have no idea who she is and certainly do not want to know. She writes::

"I’m quite resilient, confident and strong. Lateral/logical thinking, I can be perceptive, creative & problem-solving. Often quirky and sometimes left-field. Witty, absurd, off-beat comedy is cool. Capable, sometimes passionate/sassy/playful & often resourceful.

Notably, I have a soft side where compassion, equality & fairness are highly regarded. I'd like to think I'm otherwise generally agreeable albeit discerning. Open-minded & kind to others, including myself is what I strive to be, along with a good listener. Young-at-heart, fun-loving & not so typical for my age, also describes me.

I’ve a long social sciences career. I mostly live a healthy life, grow food plants & walk or cycle to keep fit & energised. Versatile in interests with a wide range, e.g. art, science, architecture, culture & a great many music types, especially some techno, house & alternative. Ask me more if you like music. Like to experiment with & am currently studying photography at uni, which I really enjoy for a sense of purpose. As I'm curious, like learning & being adventurous, I’ve had my fair share of exploring cultures & remote localities. Have swum with piranhas! Also like city haunts, e.g. funky laneways & quirky places. Would love to share further fun experiences with you, with or without the piranhas! My ultimate goal is for a supportive, committed relationship"

How could any man find love from someone as deeply in love with herself as that? Who could offer a range of virtues big enough to complement that? Just how did she get so wonderful? She presumably means to impress by her self-description but an inflated ego is the last thing that impresses favourably. Humility is much more attractive.

The sad thing is that she presumably believes every word of what she has written about herself. That being so, she would be insufferable company and ultimately very boring. Only a lapdog would suit her as a partner. I wish her the joy of such a partner. Any normal man would run a mile from her.

As women's looks decline, it is understandable that they would want to promote themselves as having other virtues, but, when such promotion degenerates into unbridled self-congratulation, it becomes simply nauseous


A Foolish Generation

How moral relativism, technology, and lockdowns have shaped the behavior of our culture.

No rules, no right and wrong, live your truth, the "me generation": these are all apt descriptions of our modern culture's moral values. Moral relativism along with the infiltration of technology and the boredom of the COVID lockdowns have metastasized into a genuinely heartless generation.

The motto of the era is "you do you," and that is leading to all sorts of chaos. As Federalist writer Maureen Mullarkey points out, we can mark our own cultural decline by the influx of amoral celebrities as the leaders of public voices and by the lack of public intellectuals.

She also throws out this disturbing stat: "The word 'influencer' is no longer an ordinary noun; it has become a career goal. To some 26 percent of today's young people, it eclipses occupational choices that require training and formal qualifications like a college degree. The thrill of online affirmation, measured in followers, crowds out time-honored pride in useful work."

Mullarkey accurately traces the start of this descent into cultural decline with the advent of screens. When this writer was training to be an elementary school teacher, it was common knowledge that screens, particularly personal screens like phones and tablets, were not good for children's brain development. The overstimulation of the blue light alone is rewiring their brains. Now, though, it's not talked about as much because there is a big push in education and really in all spheres of life to modernize with personal screens.

But alas, it is a Faustian bargain, and the trade-off of books for screens is taking its terrible toll.

Besides the warped world of life on screens and through social media, another disturbing aspect appears through our modern notion of dating and relationships. There is the whole kerfuffle of online dating that is more often used for a one-night stand than for finding a serious long-term relationship.

Part of the problem goes back to the moral relativism so celebrated in our culture. It prohibits more serious people from feeling like they can be honest about what they want. It manipulates both men and women into settling for a lifestyle that they really don't want but culture says they should celebrate (hookup culture, ghosting, living with someone before marriage, and other risky behaviors).

No one is happy in the long term, and everyone pursing this is ultimately so lonely. The lack of taking love and relationships seriously is another factor messing with this foolish generation.

Podcaster Matt Walsh in a show this week addressed another interesting aspect that has been exacerbated by the lockdowns: the lack of etiquette people show during performances.

During the COVID pandemic, people got used to doing everything for their social media accounts, including all sorts of behavior that, in a kinder time, would have gotten them kicked out or arrested. These range from the rude (scrolling on their phones during a performance or movie) to disruptive (throwing things at performers on stage). These people are so addicted to their screens and so addicted to propping up their own social media profile that they are willing to do just about anything for clicks.

No such thing as bad publicity, right? Wrong.

The attitude of self-centeredness is not unique to our generation, though the technology certainly is. There is nothing new under the sun. In the Bible, the book of Judges cites over and over again the struggles that God's chosen people had with following him. They were constantly doing "what was right in their own eyes." Pastor John MacArthur called this period of Bible history "an age of absolute moral chaos."

Our foolish generation must abandon moral relativism — which enables and glorifies all atrocity and evil — lest they follow it to its logical, disastrous conclusion. The cure in Judges was total repentance and turning back toward God. That is also the cure for today's moral decay. Let's pray that miracle happens.


Whose Medical Freedom? 11th Circuit Shoots Down Gender Affirming Care for Children

Yesterday wasn’t a good day for transgender advocates in the State of Alabama. A state law that went into effect last April in Alabama banned gender affirming care for children, which includes the use of puberty blockers, hormones or surgery. Legal battles ensued. The plaintiffs in this case, five parents of trans-identified children, a physician and a child psychologist sued and were able to secure a preliminary injunction from Judge Liles C. Buke, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. That ruling effective at least temporarily, afforded the ability of the plaintiffs to continue with gender affirming care in the state. However, on appeal, judges with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit overturned the injunction, effectively enforcing the law as is. In Alabama, parents and physicians and other licensed providers may not direct children to gender affirming care if it involves prescriptions for puberty blockers, hormones or surgery.

Statement by the plaintiffs

Appalled by the decision at the appellate level, groups in support of the plaintiffs and generally, advocating for the rights of transgender people included nonprofits such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and Human Rights Campaign which issued a statement objecting to the ruling.

“Every federal district court that has heard the evidence presented in these cases has come to the same conclusion: these medical treatments are safe, effective and lifesaving for some youth, and there is no legitimate reason to ban them."

The pro-gender affirming care for minors contingent continued making a fundamental medical freedom case:

“We believe that at the end of the day, our nation’s courts will protect these vulnerable youth and block these harmful laws, which serve no purpose other than to prevent parents from obtaining the medical care their children need. Parents, not the government, are best situated to make these medical decisions for their children. These laws are a shocking example of government overreach and a jarring intrusion into private family decisions. This case is far from over, and we will continue to aggressively seek legal protection for these families.”

What’s the state law at issue?

The Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, is a state law establishing gender affirming care for children as a felony. It’s no longer lawful for parents and doctors to direct children to prescriptions such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy or surgery for that matter.

This law extends into the schools. For example, under the Alabama law, school officials may not retain for dissemination select gender-identity information of children secret from their parents.

Governor Kay Ivey signed the legislation into law in April 2022, immediately driving a deeper wedge between conservatives and liberals across the generally conservative state. Drawing opposition in courts, lawsuits ensued, including the present litigation.

Who are the plaintiffs of this case?

The plaintiffs are represented by a group of people including the parents of five transgender identified youth, a doctor and child psychologist.

What is the plaintiff’s argument?

Their argument is that the new Alabama law outright violated the rights of people to direct the medical care of their children, which is a classical medical freedom argument. Additionally, because some puberty blockers and hormones are prescribed to minors for indications such as endocrine disorders, the plaintiffs also contend that because the law excluded gender dysphoria, this represented a fundamental discrimination based on sex.

Did the lower court buy the plaintiff’s argument?

Yes, at least in part. The court issued a preliminary injunction in May of this year, halting enforcement of the law. Specifically, while upholding parts of the law, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama Judge Liles C. Buke issued the injunction regardless. Judge Liles, a Donald Trump appointee, wrote:

“Because the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit have made clear that parents have a fundamental right to direct the medical care of their children subject to accepted medical standards; and discrimination based on gender-nonconformity equates to sex discrimination, the court finds that there is a substantial likelihood that [the medication portion] of the act is unconstitutional and, thus, enjoins defendants from enforcing that portion of the act pending trial.”

So, the state appealed to the U.S. 11th Circuit—how did the appellate judges rule?

The appellate panel included three Trump appointees including Judges Barbara Lagoa, Andrew Brasher and Jean-Paul “JP” Boulee sitting by designation.”

A member of the conservative-leaning Federalist Society--Barbara Lagoa for the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit determined that the provision was only subject to the rational basis review, not a heightened standard of scrutiny as embraced by Judge Liles.

Judge Lagoa wrote:

“The plaintiffs have not presented any authority that supports the existence of a constitutional right to treat [one’s] children with transitioning medications subject to medically accepted standards.”

Importantly, Judge Lagoa continued on precedents identified by the lower court’s judge, “Those decisions applying the fundamental parental right in the context of medical decision-making do not establish that parents have a derivative fundamental right to obtain a particular medical treatment for their children as long as a critical mass of medical professionals approve. Moreover, all of the cases dealing with the fundamental parental right reflect the common thread that states properly may limit the authority of parents where it appears that parental decisions will jeopardize the health or safety of the child or have a potential for significant social burdens.”

Concurring with his colleague on the circuit court bench as well as recording his own opinion addressing the equal protection claim, yet another Trump appointee Judge Andrew Brasher wrote that “Alabama’s statute does not treat one sex differently than the other.” He continued, “It does not use sex as a proxy for some more germane classification. And it is not based on a sex stereotype. Instead, I think the law is best read to classify — not based on sex — but as between minors who want puberty blockers and hormones to treat ‘a discordance between [their] sex and sense of gender identity,’ and those minors who want these drugs to treat a different condition.”

What did the winning side have to say?

Attorney General for Alabama, Steve Marshall, went on the record with a statement yesterday:

“The Eleventh Circuit reinforced that the state has the authority to safeguard the physical and psychological wellbeing of minors, even if the United States Attorney General and radical interest groups disapprove.”

Marshall continued, “Alabama takes this responsibility seriously by forbidding doctors from prescribing minors sex-modification procedures that have permanent and often irreversible effects. This is a significant victory for our country, for children and for common sense.”


Big Tech, led by Elon Musk, appears to be easing up on fighting "disinformation"

Social media companies are receding from their role as watchdogs against political misinformation, abandoning their most aggressive efforts to police online falsehoods in a trend expected to profoundly affect the 2024 US presidential election.

An array of circumstances is fuelling the retreat. Mass layoffs at Meta and other major tech companies have gutted teams dedicated to promoting accurate information online.

An aggressive legal battle over claims that the Biden administration pressured social media platforms to silence certain speech has blocked a key path to detecting election interference.

And X CEO Elon Musk has reset industry standards, rolling back strict rules against misinformation on the site formerly known as Twitter. In a sign of Musk’s influence, Meta briefly considered a plan last year to ban all political advertising on Facebook. The company shelved it after Musk announced plans to transform rival Twitter into a haven for free speech, according to two people familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive matters.

The retrenchment comes just months ahead of the 2024 primaries, as GOP front-runner Donald Trump continues to rally supporters with false claims that election fraud drove his 2020 loss to President Joe Biden.

Multiple investigations into the election have revealed no evidence of fraud, and Trump now faces federal criminal charges connected to his efforts to overturn the election. Still, YouTube, X and Meta have stopped labelling or removing posts that repeat Trump’s claims, even as voters increasingly get their news on social media.

Trump capitalised on those relaxed standards in his recent interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, hosted by X. The former president punctuated the conversation, which streamed on Wednesday night during the first Republican primary debate of the 2024 campaign, with false claims that the 2020 election was “rigged” and that the Democrats had “cheated” in order to elect Biden.

On Thursday night (Friday AEST), Trump posted on X for the first time since he was kicked off the site, then known as Twitter, following the January 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol. Musk reinstated his account in November. The former president posted his mug shot from Fulton County, Ga., where he was booked Thursday on charges connected to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. “NEVER SURRENDER!” read the caption.

The evolution of the companies’ practices was described by more than a dozen current and former employees, many of them speaking on the condition of anonymity to offer sensitive details. The new approach marks a sharp shift from the 2020 election, when social media companies expanded their efforts to police disinformation. The companies feared a repeat of 2016, when Russian trolls interfered in the US presidential campaign, turning the platforms into tools of political manipulation and division.

These pared-down commitments emerge as covert influence campaigns from Russia and China have grown more aggressive, and advances in generative artificial intelligence have created new tools for misleading voters.

Experts in disinformation say the dynamic headed into 2024 calls for more aggressive efforts to combat it, not less.

“Musk has taken the bar and put it on the floor,” said Emily Bell, a professor at the Tow Centre for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, where she studies the relationship between tech platforms and news publishers. For the 2024 presidential election, misinformation around races is “going to be even worse,” she added.

The social media platforms say they still have tools to prevent the spread of misinformation.

“We remove content that misleads voters on how to vote or encourages interference in the democratic process,” YouTube spokesperson Ivy Choi said in a statement. “Additionally, we connect people to authoritative election news and information through recommendations and information panels.”

Meta spokeswoman Erin McPike said in a statement that “protecting the US 2024 elections is one of our top priorities, and our integrity efforts continue to lead the industry.”

Yet it is already changing what some users see online. Earlier this month, the founder of a musical cruise company posted a screenshot on Facebook appearing to show Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) falsely signing a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to become police officers and sheriff’s deputies. “In Illinois American citizens will be arrested by illegals,” reads the post, which has been shared more than 26o times.

Fact-checkers at USA Today, one of dozens of media organisations Meta pays to debunk viral conspiracies, deemed the post false, and the company labelled it on Facebook as “false information.” But Meta has quietly begun offering users new controls to opt out of the fact-checking program, allowing debunked posts such as the falsified one about Pritzker to spread in participants’ news-feeds with a warning label. Conservatives have long criticised Meta’s fact-checking system, arguing it is biased against them.

Meta Global Affairs President Nick Clegg said the ability to opt out represents a new direction that empowers users and eases scrutiny over the company. “We feel we’ve moved quite dramatically in favour of giving users greater control over even quite controversial sensitive content,” Clegg said. McPike added that the new fact-checking policy comes “in response to users telling us that they want a greater ability to decide what they see”.

YouTube has also backed away from policing misleading claims, announcing in June it would no longer remove videos falsely saying the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump.

Continuing to enforce the ban would curtail political speech without “meaningfully reducing the risk of violence or other real-world harm,” the company argued in a blog post.

These shifts are a reaction from social media executives to being battered by contentious battles over content and concluding there is “no winning,” said Katie Harbath, former director of public policy at Facebook, where she managed the global elections strategy across the company.

“For Democrats, we weren’t taking down enough, and for Republicans we were taking down too much,” she said. The result was an overall sense that “after doing all this, we’re still getting yelled at . . . It’s just not worth it anymore.”




Sunday, August 27, 2023

A Lot Of Government Officials Should Be Going To Prison For The Hawaii Fires

If we had a functioning news media, there's a video that would be leading every newscast right now. It has nothing to do with a plane crash in Russia, a GOP primary debate, or even the indictment of every lawyer who's ever given Donald Trump legal advice, as important as all those topics may be. This video is about Americans — including children — who died horribly this month. It's about how their deaths could have been prevented if their government was even remotely competent.

The footage I'm talking about is an interview with a survivor of the fires in Maui. This interview was conducted not by CNN or NPR but by a real estate agent who moonlights as a citizen journalist. He spoke with a man who goes by "Fish" and survived the blaze in Lahaina. Here's what that man saw:

He says, "All the cars were lined up, but none of them were moving. ... And I was wondering what was stopping the traffic. It was a policeman."

As incredible as that account may seem, it's clear now that it's accurate. There are now multiple witnesses saying the same thing. The Associated Press reports that, as residents of one West Maui neighborhood tried to flee using the only paved road in town, "car after car was turned back toward the rapidly spreading wildfire by a barricade blocking access to Highway 30." Supposedly, authorities were worried about downed power lines. And there certainly were downed power lines. But the problem is that the other option — rather than navigating around that hazard — was to stay and die in the blaze. It seems obvious which was the better choice, and yet police tried to force the residents to stay put. Many people who listened and turned back ended up burning to death in their cars. Others were forced to jump over the seawall and tread water while inhaling smoke. The people who obeyed the authorities ended up dead, in many cases.

On the other hand, the people who ignored the authorities fared a lot better. Around 3 p.m., for example, a man named Nate Baird and his family tried to drive south out of town but found that the road was blocked by cones and crews "working on downed electric poles," according to the AP. That's when Baird decided to ignore what the work crews told him. He drove around the cones, and his family traveled for about an hour until they reached safety. The article lists several other examples of people who are alive today because they ignored barricades and authorities' instructions.

One 38-year-old woman, Kim Cuevas-Reyes, ignored authorities' instructions to turn towards the local civic center, which became an ad hoc shelter for refugees. Instead of doing that, the AP reported, "she takes a left, driving in the wrong lane to pass a stack of cars heading in the other direction." That decision saved her life. "The gridlock would have left us there when the firestorm came," the woman said. "I would have had to tell my children to jump into the ocean as well and be boiled alive by the flames, or we would have just died from smoke inhalation and roasted in the car."

It wasn't until several hours later that authorities announced that the road out of Lahaina was open for traffic. By that point, indeed, many people on that road, called Front Street, had burned to death in their cars or died of smoke inhalation.

How is it possible that authorities blocked off one of the only usable routes to safety during a wildfire? Given that officials in Hawaii were aware of the risk of wildfire for a long time, that's an excellent question. Last summer, in regulatory filings, Hawaiian Electric made it clear that the risk of deadly wildfires was real, especially during high winds. And yet, apparently, the plan for dealing with this kind of disaster didn't preclude sealing all the roads and trapping people in the middle of a wildfire.

If you think back to Hurricane Katrina, one of the biggest failures of FEMA was a lack of planning. The government ran evacuation simulations but didn't implement the necessary improvements after those simulations. So, when the hurricane struck, there was chaos. A lot of people died as a result. We're seeing that again. All these years later, the same lack of preparation is causing people to die.

The difference is that we aren't hearing much about FEMA in the aftermath of the catastrophe in Maui. Why is that? Deanne Criswell is the administrator of FEMA, the federal emergency management agency. She has the same job Michael Brown did in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans. Brown, you might remember, became a household name in the wake of that disaster — and not in a good way. When George Bush told Brown he was doing a "heckuva job," it instantly became a national scandal. Brown was so radioactive that no one was allowed to say anything nice about him.

Unlike Michael Brown, Deanne Criswell is not well-known. You probably haven't even heard her name. I didn’t know it until I looked it up. Despite the ongoing disaster in Maui, the national news media and the major political parties in Washington still hold her in high regard. Just the other day, she sat for a friendly interview on “Face the Nation”:

The burned-out cars were the most shocking thing, says the FEMA director. It was "like an apocalyptic movie." There's no scrutiny from “Face the Nation” or any media outlet about why those cars were stranded there in the first place. There wasn't a single question in that segment about why FEMA didn't have evacuation plans that might have ensured the survival of all those people.

We learned yesterday that Hawaii's top emergency response officials were on another island, supposedly learning how to respond to wildfires, on the day the blaze began in Maui. And some key federal disaster officials were apparently busy at some FEMA meetings. What explains that? Again, we have no idea because no one is asking. Reporters are busy talking to Deanne Criswell, the FEMA director, like she's some bystander visiting Maui for the first time.

This is the opposite of how the press treated Michael Brown decades ago. It's not hard to see why this might be. Deanne Criswell, unlike Michael Brown, is working for Democrats. She's also the first woman to run FEMA, so she has the whole identity politics thing going for her. It would look very bad if the first woman to run FEMA is also responsible for bungling the response to one of the worst disasters in American history. Of course, no matter how it looks, that’s exactly what happened. But the media has decided to plug its ears and close its eyes and pretend it’s not happening.

But if you do what no major media outlet is interested in doing — if you look into Criswell's past — there's a lot to discuss. As investigative journalist Nick Sortor pointed out the other day, Criswell's government biography states that "one of her most significant accomplishments was leading the coordination of [New York City's] response to the COVID-19 pandemic" when she served as the Commissioner of the New York City Emergency Management Department.

New York's handling of COVID led to more than 10,000 deaths in nursing homes — deaths that were undercounted for several months until investigative reporters noticed discrepancies in the government's data. In most countries, everyone overseeing a response like that would never work again in any capacity, much less in disaster relief. They'd go to prison for life, if anything. But Deanne Criswell was never even criticized. In fact, she got a promotion. Ten thousand deaths in nursing homes, and she gets promoted. And then, overseeing yet another failed disaster response, she gets softball questions from every news outlet.

It's astonishing, really. We've seen our public health authorities and political leaders lead us into one disaster after another. And they're not slowing down. Right now, because it's an election year and Pfizer stock is in trouble, the media is gearing up for COVID 2.0. Several major corporations and some universities are already implementing mask mandates again. Watch:

Along these lines, CNN just published an article entitled, "It may be time to break out the masks against Covid, some experts say." The report scolds Americans for not being sufficiently deferential to people with advanced degrees and positions of power. "Despite the concern among experts and some institutions, Americans don't appear to be worried enough about the recent rise in cases to change their behavior. Covid-19 was at the bottom of their list of key public health threats, according to the latest Axios [poll]."

It's not hard to see why Americans are reacting that way. The first time around, more than three years ago, the conventional wisdom was that if you wanted to survive, your best bet was to trust the experts. Then the experts said you could protest for BLM but couldn't protest against lockdowns. They admitted they were lying about herd immunity. They misled everyone on the effectiveness of the COVID shot. No one really trusts these experts anymore, for good reason.

That's encouraging, but the truth is, it's not enough. A lot of people just died in Maui because officials forcibly blockaded them. The government and the "experts" prevented these American citizens from leaving their neighborhood as a wildfire approached them. The only way to survive was not simply to doubt but to disobey. When the next lockdown comes, whether the pretext is a COVID variant, a climate emergency, or something else — that's the correct response. Do what Nate Baird did on Maui. Ignore the liars calling themselves experts. Do what you think is best for yourself and your family, and do it fast. Otherwise, quicker than you might think, you'll be trapped. By that point, like the people of Maui, you will have no way out. Because the fact is that, increasingly, we live in a country where only those who disobey will survive.


Court rules against Dr. Jordan Peterson, upholds regulatory group's requirement that he undergo 're-education' for expressing his opinions

A governing body for psychologists in Canada ordered Dr. Jordan Peterson to undergo re-education training after complete strangers took issue with views he had expressed online.

Peterson was previously in good standing with the College of Psychologists of Ontario and had no public record of any complaints. However, he made the mistake of angering strangers online with opinions at odds with leftist speech codes and dogmas.

TheBlaze previously reported that individuals whom Peterson indicated were neither clients nor familiar with his clients complained to the CPO, which then launched an investigation into the cultural commentator.

The CPO's inquiries, complaints, and reports committee concluded in November 2022 that the doctor's comments were "degrading, demeaning and unprofessional," adding that his conduct "poses moderate risks to the public" and runs the risk of "undermining public trust in the profession of psychology, and trust in the college's ability to regulate the profession in the public interest."

Peterson's offending speech included:

criticism of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Trudeau's former chief of staff, Gerald Butts, who resigned amid the liberal leader's disgraceful and damning SNC Lavalin scandal;

a suggestion that the doctor who cut off actress Elliot Page's healthy breasts was a "criminal physician"; and

a retweet of a comment made by the leader of Canada's official opposition party regarding the unnecessary severity of COVID lockdowns.

Peterson refused to undergo the regulatory board's equivalent of a Maoist struggle session or admit fault over his lawful speech.

Not long after being presented with the order from the CPO committee, Peterson penned an article in the National Post, stating, "I’m not complying. I’m not submitting to re-education. I am not admitting that my viewpoints — many of which have, by the way, been entirely justified by the facts that have emerged since the complaints were levied — were either wrong or unprofessional."

"I have done nothing to compromise those in my care; quite the contrary — I have served all my clients and the millions of people I am communicating with to the best of my ability and in good faith, and that’s that," he added.

Instead of bending the knee, he took the CPO to court, stressing that its order ran afoul of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Free only to say the right things

The Ontario Divisional Court ruled against Peterson Wednesday, concluding the CPO committee's ruling "is not disciplinary and does not prevent Dr. Peterson from expressing himself on controversial topics; it has a minimal impact on his right to freedom of expression."

The suggestion that the ruling has a "minimal impact" on Peterson's right to speak his mind appears to gloss over the fact that he now stands to lose his hard-earned license to practice clinical psychology unless he caves to the ideological parameters set by regulators.

Although he hasn't practiced in recent years, Peterson stressed earlier this year, "I deserve [my license]. I earned it. I haven't done anything to justify suspending it, and I don't want to give the hyenas their bones."

Per the ruling obtained by Canadian state media, Peterson must also pay his censors $25,000.

The panel of superior court judges — Paul Schabas, Nancy Backhouse, and John Krawchenko — appeared to agree both that Peterson's free speech was subordinate to the sensitivities of the CPO committee and those strangers filing complaints from afar and that the CPO committee had "reasonably" concluded that "Dr. Peterson's behavior raised a moderate risk of harm to the public."

Peterson responded to the ruling on Twitter, writing, "If you think that you have a right to free speech in Canada you're delusional. I will make every aspect of this public[.] ... Bring it."


Another attempt to twist clear Bible teachings about homosexuality

I enjoy studying the Reformation and its tremendous influence on Western civilization and the founding of America. So when I discovered an organization called The Reformation Project, I was organically intrigued. Their Statement of Faith looks mainstream enough. Described as “a Bible-based, Christian organization,” they espouse beliefs in the triune God, the supremacy of God as the creator, and Jesus Christ as the son of God.

But something caught my eye on a significant point. The Reformation Project declares, “We believe in The inspiration of the Bible, the Word of God.” Many Christians, myself included, believe scripture is God's inspired and inerrant word. But being inspired by the Bible is different from believing God inspires it. To what does the Bible inspire The Reformation Project?

The organization is the brainchild of Matthew Vines, who was catapulted into the establishment media in 2012 when the New York Times wrote a glowing feature about him speaking in a Manhattan church and telling the Times, “It is simply a fact that the Bible does not discuss or condemn loving, gay relationships.” Neither the King James Bible, the Geneva Bible, nor my increasingly dog-eared Reformation Study Bible discuss “loving, gay relationships.” All three, however, do address the behavior that defines such relationships.

A perusal of The Reformation Project’s Brief Biblical Case for LGBTQ Inclusion reveals some extraordinary arguments. The authorship of this document is uncertain, but it reflects a degree of rhetorical adroitness expected of one who studied philosophy at Harvard, which Vines did for two years before leaving in 2010.

This treatise takes a creative approach to rationalizing a “biblical case” for promoting LGBTQ ideology. One rationale is “the inclusion of Gentiles in the church.” Another is “the New Testament’s trajectory toward greater inclusion of eunuchs.” The author further explains that Pentateuchal proscriptions of LGBTQ behavior don’t apply to Christians because "male same-sex relations reflect culturally-bound concerns about patriarchal gender roles,” that were prevalent during the time of Moses.

Vines may have left Harvard to pursue full-time study of the Bible. Still, he seems to disregard the Apostle Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, which reads, “men who practice homosexuality,” or commit other sins, will not inherit the kingdom of God. Vines also dismisses the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans, where Paul delineates a number of “dishonorable passions,” which include, among others, “men (who) likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another.”

We see the same sentiment in the first letter to Timothy, whom Paul reminded that the law of God is laid down “for the lawless and disobedient,” including “men who practice homosexuality” and other sins. None of these New Testament passages, nor any of the Old Testament prohibitions of LGBTQ behavior, are given much credence in the works promoted by this “Bible-based” organization.

The Reformation Project argues that “Non-affirming beliefs about same-sex relationships and transgender people contribute to serious harm in LGBTQ people’s lives,” and there may be a grain of truth in that. If I defined myself by behavior that scripture tells me is wrong, I, too, would feel very bad when others notice and counsel me against it. But we don’t soothe hurt feelings by rewriting the Bible.

Individual guilt or shame over behavior that the Bible explicitly and repeatedly defines as sinful doesn’t seem like a very sound basis for reversing millennia of Christian doctrine. But The Reformation Project has a response to that too, confidently asserting that believing the Bible’s admonitions against LGBTQ ideology is analogous to clinging to disproved beliefs that Earth is at the center of the solar system.

Paul’s instructions to Timothy were to love each other in a way that “issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Paul also advised Timothy to be wary of people “desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”

The Reformation Project’s promotion of LGBTQ ideology also invokes the Sermon on the Mount, arguing “sound Christian teachings should show good fruit.” But the Gospel of Matthew records Jesus Christ saying in this sermon, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Try as I may, I can’t shake the feeling that Harvard made Matthew Vines very hungry.

All of humankind is sinful in different ways and falls short of God’s glory. That includes me and everyone I know and don’t know, gay or straight. My own sins preclude my inheritance of the kingdom of God, absent my confession and the gift of grace through faith in Christ. We cannot promote or rationalize sinfulness through novel interpretations or rewrites of the Bible.


Liberal, Feel-Good 'Driver Equity Laws' Actually Endanger the Public

Knee-jerk responses by government officials and legislators following incidents in which individuals have been killed by police can cause lasting harm to law-abiding citizens. One of these dangerous policies is something called the “Driving Equity Act,” which is now the law in Philadelphia.

The Driving Equity Act, known also as the “Driving Equality Act,” is an overreaction to isolated incidents of alleged police misconduct, and reflects a troubling trend going back nearly a decade.

For example, following the 2014 death of Michael Brown during a confrontation with police in Ferguson, Missouri, the U.S. Justice Department launched a drive against a number of local police departments that resulted in “consent decrees” – mandatory edicts that made it demonstrably more difficult for those departments to carry out their mission of protecting the public.

Several years later, the 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers sparked a nationwide backlash against law enforcement generally which led to policies that reduced or defunded law enforcement agencies, causing problems that resonate still today.

Early this year in Memphis, Tennessee, members of a “special” police unit beat Tyre Nichols to death, a tragedy that revived calls for state and local governments to defund and disband specialized anti-crime units.

Often camouflaged as “restorative justice” or “reimagined policing,” legislative and executive actions to curtail police funding and powers usually are premised on the notion that traditional police powers, including traffic stops, are inherently racially biased and thus have been abused as tools to target members of racial minorities, especially Black men. It is not, however, as if there are not ways to deal with such abuses.

At the federal level, and in every state and municipality across the country, there are regulations as well as civil and criminal laws available with which to hold accountable and punish police officers who violate a person’s civil rights. The conviction and lengthy prison sentence handed down against the Minneapolis police officer whose actions caused the death of George Floyd is the clearest example.

Holding individual officers accountable for unlawfully harming or killing an individual, however, takes time and hard work by investigators and prosecuting officials. Many government officials, especially those in liberal jurisdictions or those beholden to progressive supporters, find it easier and more politically rewarding to paint with a broader brush.

Responding to police misconduct incidents by characterizing an entire police unit, or the whole department as racist, to then justify new “progressive” policies to rein in such abuses, appears the solution of choice for many local and state legislators and executives.

Tossing aside long-standing law enforcement authorities rather than tackling specific incidents of police misbehavior, reflects the adage of throwing the baby out with the bathwater -- leaving the law-abiding public at greater risk than were a more focused, incident-based solution implemented.

There is no better example of this endangering policy than the so-called Driving Equity (or “Equality”) Act signed into municipal law by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney in late 2021.

The law took effect in March 2022 and prohibits city police from stopping vehicles for a number of alleged violations, including driving with an expired registration sticker or operating a vehicle with a missing headlight or taillight. These violations have been used for decades by police departments across the country to protect against unsafe drivers or vehicles endangering the public.

Certainly there have been incidents in which such traffic stops have served as a pretext for a stop not truly warranted, but the laws themselves are sound and do enable police to protect against unsafe vehicles, and at times lead to arrests for far more serious crimes (including murder).

No longer is this the case in Philadelphia (and perhaps soon in Memphis), thanks to Philadelphia Councilmember Isiah Thomas, who sponsored the Driving Equity Act simply because he saw “a history of oppression and institutional racism” in the city’s police department, predicated also on a previous incident in a different city involving a police shooting of a detained driver.

For Councilman Thomas and Mayor Kenney, thus handcuffing the police responsible for protecting the citizens of a major American city, is justified if it results in “reimagining” police behavior that will “reduce the likelihood of negative interactions between police officers and Black drivers.”

Police organizations including Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police (which has challenged, thus far unsuccessfully, the Driving Equity Act), common sense, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration analysis of traffic fatality rates on U.S. roadways resulting from limits on police enforcement powers, paint a far more sobering picture of such feel-good policies like Philadelphia’s.

Liberals in charge of “blue cities,” however, would rather traffic fatalities and injuries continue to rise rather than allow police to continue using tried-and-true methods to keep roadways and drivers safe for the rest of us.