All entries by this author

This won’t deter us from doing the job

Jan 7th, 2015 11:23 am | By

Also in the news – the Denver Post reports:

COLORADO SPRINGS —A bomb detonated at an NAACP chapter on Tuesday left little damage to the building, but the loud boom that resonated through the historic neighborhood of small homes has also sounded across the nation.

As word spread of the blast, anger and questions spread with it across social media, on Twitter through the trend #NAACPBombing, and news headlines. The national president of the NAACP, the organization that appears to have been the target of the Colorado Springs blast, said he is thankful no one was hurt.

“We remain vigilant,” Cornell Brooks, the president of the Baltimore-based organization, said in a statement.

That’s horrible too. As a matter of … Read the rest

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And if you don’t, then the future will be extremely dangerous

Jan 7th, 2015 10:26 am | By

Katha Pollitt wrote a piece in 2012 titled “Blasphemy is Good for You.”

As I write, mobs all over the world are rioting about an amateurish video portraying Muhammad as a horny buffoon. Death toll so far: at least thirty, including Christopher Stevens, US ambassador to Libya, and three embassy staffers. Not to be outdone, Pakistan’s railways minister announced he would pay $100,000 to anyone who murdered the videomaker, and added, “I call upon these countries and say: Yes, freedom of expression is there, but you should make laws regarding people insulting our Prophet. And if you don’t, then the future will be extremely dangerous.” More riots, embassy closings and a possible assassination attempt or two followed the French satirical

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We’ve got to stand up

Jan 7th, 2015 10:20 am | By

Via BBC Breaking News on the Charlie Hebdo massacre:

17:59

Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell tells BBC News channel: “We’ve got to stand up for the right to take the piss out of these monsters, these idiots, these fools, these posturing maniacs who strut around in their black gear as a kind of death cult trying to frighten us all.”

18:08

The Globe and Mail’s Mark MacKinnon took this picture at the Place de la Republique in Paris, where crowds are gathering to express solidarity with the magazine:

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Let the ink flow

Jan 7th, 2015 10:04 am | By

#JeSuisCharlie

Freedom of expression is making ink flow, not making blood flow.… Read the rest

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All those writers, thinkers, and satirists

Jan 7th, 2015 10:00 am | By

CFI has a statement on the Charlie Hebdo murders.

In response to the murders of journalists at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo by terrorists in Paris today, Center for Inquiry president and CEO Ronald A. Lindsay issued this statement:

We are heartbroken by the unthinkable and cowardly attack at the magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris today, and outraged that such a barbaric act was a response to journalists and satirists exercising their right to free expression.

As publishers of Free Inquiry, the first (and for some time, the only) U.S. publication willing to publish the cartoons of Muhammad that sparked riots in 2005 after they appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, we stand in resolute solidarity with

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L’amour plus fort que la haine

Jan 7th, 2015 9:23 am | By

Bonjour.

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Catastrophic

Jan 7th, 2015 9:02 am | By

The BBC reports:

Gunmen have shot dead 12 people at the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in an apparent militant Islamist attack.

Four of the magazine’s well-known cartoonists, including its editor, were among those killed, as well as two police officers.

This is a fucking disaster.

Witnesses said they heard the gunmen shouting “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” and “God is Great” in Arabic (“Allahu Akbar”).

The number of attackers was initially reported to be two, but French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve later said security services were hunting three “criminals”. He said that Paris had been placed on the highest alert.

Footage taken from a rooftop in Paris shows two gunmen firing shots
Charlie Hebdo

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A success rate between 5 and 10 percent

Jan 6th, 2015 5:12 pm | By

NPR did this piece on AA last March but I’m not sure I saw it then, and if I did I forgot about it, so I’m looking at it either again or for the first time.

The punchline? For 90% of people who try it, it fails.

AA and the many 12-step groups it inspired have become the country’s go-to solution for addiction in all of its forms. These recovery programs are mandated by drug courts, prescribed by doctors and widely praised by reformed addicts.

Dr. Lance Dodes sees a big problem with that. The psychiatrist has spent more than 20 years studying and treating addiction. His latest book on the subject is The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science

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The desire that social groups be organized into a hierarchy

Jan 6th, 2015 4:41 pm | By

From Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, chapter 8, Inner Demons, section on dominance:

The psychologists Jim Sidanius and Felicia Pratto have proposed that people, to varying degrees, harbor a motive they call social dominance, though a more intuitive term is tribalism: the desire that social groups be organized into a hierarchy, generally with one’s own group dominant over the others.¹ A social dominance orientation, they show, inclines people to a sweeping array of opinions and values, including patriotism, racism, fate, karma, caste, national destiny, militarism, toughness on crime, and defensiveness of existing arrangements of authority and inequality. An orientation away from social dominance, in contrast, inclines people to humanism, socialism, feminism, universal rights, progressivism, and the

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Which he has called “unsubstantiated”

Jan 6th, 2015 3:44 pm | By

Some of Bill Cosby’s accusers are fighting back.

Two women who have accused Bill Cosby of historical sex offences have joined a defamation action against the star.

The original case was filed in December by Tamara Green, who has accused Cosby of assaulting her in the 1970s.

The two new plaintiffs are Therese Serignese and Linda Traitz.

The women claim the comedian publicly called them liars through statements issued by his representatives. Cosby is facing a series of accusations, which he has called “unsubstantiated”.

The women’s lawyer, Joseph Cammarata, said the civil action allows them to have their allegations heard now criminal statutes of limitation have expired.

Ms Green, who first spoke out regarding her allegations in 2005,

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Into the secular tent

Jan 6th, 2015 12:55 pm | By

From a conversation Chris Stedman had with Phil Zuckerman about the rise in “nones” in the US and whether or not the pugnacity of people like Dawkins and Bill Maher is the chief cause:

CS: What are some of the most important things nontheists can do right now to support the growing number of nonreligious Americans? What should we prioritize?

PZ: In my opinion, the best thing atheists can do right now is to make the world a better place. That means fighting inequality, racism, sexism, homophobia, religious fundamentalism, and global warming. When life is hard—when people face suffering—religion tends to be strong; it offers comfort in the face of life’s troubles. But when life is more manageable and secure,

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Toot not thine own charitable horn

Jan 6th, 2015 12:16 pm | By

Alistair McBay suggests that charity work should be done because it’s a good thing to do, not as a way to justify arbitrary privileges.

Recently some Christian leaders in Scotland angered at secularists challenging their privileges have responded by pointing out the National Secular Society and other secular groups don’t run care homes, or operate food banks, or run adoption agencies. Secularists have been the target of this ill-informed sniping from both the Free Church of Scotland and the Church of Scotland, and Anglican and Catholic leaders have made similar attacks in the past.

It’s a familiar trope. “You rage-bloggers aren’t out there bagging up groceries for war refugees so shut up!” You can plug in any terms you … Read the rest

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In Oslo

Jan 6th, 2015 11:08 am | By

There’s an event in Oslo at the end of this month that looks extraordinary, and it seems to be somewhat under-publicized. It’s called World Woman, and the list of speakers and performers is jaw-dropping in its richness and geographic breadth. It’s organized by Deeyah Khan’s group Fuuse.

Deeyah says it will be a mehfil:

“When I was growing up, I experienced the warmth and vitality of a great South Asian cultural institution – the mehfil – a spirited, informal gathering in an intimate, salon-style setting. In these hospitable mehfils, the guests listened to music and poetry, held impassioned discussions about the significant issues affecting the world and, most importantly, celebrated and connected with each other. I remember them

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Upohar

Jan 5th, 2015 6:16 pm | By

Let’s have something beneficent for the end of the day. (Well, end of the blogging day where I am. It’s morning in other places.) NPR tells us of a woman who climbed the corporate ladder and then hopped off it to do something helpful.

When Srirupa Dasgupta came to the U.S. from India to attend college in the mid-1980s, she was determined to work in high-tech, not the restaurant industry. But today, she owns a small restaurant and catering service in Lancaster, Pa., and employs primarily refugees who might have trouble finding work elsewhere.

She did work in high tech, but then she got tired of it. She was being an executive coach, and then

in 2008 she heard Nobel

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The monarchy and the media

Jan 5th, 2015 3:04 pm | By

For more from the Annals of Inappropriate Royal Influence, we get the BBC deciding to postpone its new documentary on Charles Windsor’s efforts to spin the press, after some royal lawyers oozed up to them in the canteen and leaned heavily on their shoulders. Jessica Elgot reports in the HuffPo UK:

According to the Radio Times, the documentary, presented by former Panorama editor Steve Hewlett, was pulled from the 9pm slot on Sunday’s schedule after lawyers “known to represent senior members of the royal family” had made contact.

Reinventing The Royals is described on the corporation’s website as a “two-part series about the twenty-year battle between the monarchy and the media – the first family and the fourth

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Guest post: They were exactly who you think they were

Jan 5th, 2015 2:21 pm | By

Originally a comment by Donal O’Keeffe on They tried to out-Catholic each other.

As the author of the original article in TheJournal.ie,http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/clinically-dead-pregnant-women-highlights-repeal-the-8th-amendment-1856170-Dec2014/, I should add that the column was written in the context of Ireland’s latest – but unlikely to be its last – “right-to-life” horror story. This time the very meaning of life and the very meaning of death were twisted and reduced to the stuff of nightmares as doctors, fearing prosecution for murder, denied a brain-dead pregnant woman a natural death.

(Dearbhail McDonald, Legal Editor of the Irish Independent, covered that story in some depth here:http://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/time-to-speak-out-on-eighth-amendment-30865496.html)

The Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution was foisted on supine politicians in 1983 and voted for … Read the rest

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You never see intelligence and Charles Windsor in the same room

Jan 5th, 2015 11:43 am | By

Nick Cohen is fed up with Charles Windsor’s meddling. He starts by pointing out that however dull the current queen may be, she does have the virtue of not meddling with the government.

The palace and the politicians expect a smooth succession to the reign of Charles III, even though he is a man who has spent his life demonstrating how woefully unqualified he is to be a constitutional king. A small measure of his failure lies in the BBC’s decision to postpone and possibly ban Reinventing the Royals, which it was due to be shown tonight. I can just about understand why Prince Charles wanted to stop a documentary about the PR tactics he employed to recover

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The Sovereign Magical Charismatic Throne

Jan 5th, 2015 11:13 am | By

Parliament issued information about the absolute exemption for the royals which we commoners are allowed to read and share.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000, as amended, includes an exemption for
communications with The Queen, other members of the Royal Family and the Royal
Household, and the awarding of Honours by the Crown (section 37). Certain information
relating to the Sovereign and to the heir and second in line to the Throne is absolutely
exempt from the Act, whereas information relating to other members of the Royal Family and
the Royal Household is subject to the public interest test.

So Brenda and Choss and William are all absolutely exempt. They can plot with Boko Haram if they want to and … Read the rest

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This amendment gives Charles the green light

Jan 5th, 2015 10:44 am | By

That piece in the Independent about special exemptions for the royals from the FOIA was four years old, but it’s all the more newsworthy because the exemptions are now part of the law, so I’ve been looking into the matter.

Index on Censorship covered it in March 2011, a couple of months after the Indy article.

There was some strengthening of the royals’ exemption in 2010.

But full FoI exemption for the Royal Family was sealed by the current government. On 16 January 2011, just a week after the Ministry of Justice trumpeted to extend the scope of FoI for increased transparency of public affairs, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke announced his commencement order to bring Royal Family exemption into

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More secrecy for the royals

Jan 4th, 2015 4:56 pm | By

Update: this story is 4 years old; see comment @ 21. It’s still relevant though.

Here’s a bit of news that is surprising and also very disgusting. The UK royals are going to get a special helping of secrecy in a new amendment to their Freedom of Information act.

The Royal Family is to be granted absolute protection from public scrutiny in a controversial legal reform designed to draw a veil of secrecy over the affairs of the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William.

Letters, emails and documents relating to the monarch, her heir and the second in line to the throne will no longer be disclosed even if they are in the public interest.

Sweeping changes to the Freedom

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