Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

Guest post on “you got politics in my programming”

Apr 15th, 2014 4:37 pm | By

Originally a comment by DrMcCoy on When openness is taken as an absolute.

as few as 1.5% of open source programmers are women [...] chauvinism, assumptions of inferiority, and outrageous examples of impropriety (including sexual harassment at conferences where programmers gather) to a lack of women mentors and role models

A shame. really. :/

This is why I’m glad at least GNOME’s Outreach Program for Women exists. There should be more programs like that, though.

But the outcry on reddit and Phoronix when it was announced that the GNOME Foundation had a temporary cash flow problem. People yelling that the GNOME Foundation was wasting their money on that “useless” program and how they’re using donations to push their political agenda. There were even personal attacks against Karen M. Sandler, who initiated that program a few years ago and led it until moving on to the Software Freedom Conservancy earlier this month. And there’s people claiming that she “jumped ship” or was “pushed off”.

If those people had read the announcement, they would have seen that the actual issue was quite simpler: The GNOME Foundation doesn’t even pay most of the interns of the outreach program. Instead, the money comes from other companies, like Red Hat and Google. Unfortunately, some companies didn’t pay in a timely manner with the intern’s contract, so the GNOME Foundation had to front the money for a time. Apart from that, the outreach program seems to be ticking along rather nicely and growing.

As for Karen Sandler, while I don’t know her personally, I am following a podcast (“Free as in Freedom”) she does with Conservancy’s President Bradley M. Kuhn; and occasionally lurking in the related IRC channel; and read Bradley’s blog. And from what I gather, it looks to me like she was rather “pulled” by Bradley, than “pushed” from the GNOME Foundation. She has been a pro-bono attorney for Conservancy for years and she’s friends with Bradley, who has complained about his high workload in the past.

All this fuss about nothing, the “you got politics in my programming” (really, this is the Free Software, it was political from the beginning), the “she looks like a fat ugly feminist”, the “women just choose to not contribute”, the “don’t waste money on this sexist outreach”… It’s reallyfrustrating. :(

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

That’s absolutely shocking

Apr 15th, 2014 4:18 pm | By

Michael Nugent and a priest, Gearoid O Donchu, on RTE’s Liveline with Joe Duffy talking about whether priests should report child rapists whose rapes they learn of via the confessional. Michael starts briskly with

It’s one of these things where the Catholic church thinks their own internal rules trump the law of the land.

They go on to discuss a hypothetical in which X tells a priest in the confessional that X has poisoned the communion wine. The priests says shocking things, and Michael says how shocking they are and what this shows about the way religion corrupts morality.

It’s great stuff!

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

Only male lecturers are assigned

Apr 15th, 2014 2:47 pm | By

More gender segregation at universities and colleges, this time in Israel. (Sorry about that site – it sticks a share button on the margin where it blocks some of the text and you can’t move either the button or the text. Top notch design, there, Al-Monitor.)

Israel is trying to get more ultra-Orthodox to do some work besides poring over the Talmud, but there are complications.

The Council for Higher Education (CHE) reported to the Knesset in February 2014 that many ultra-Orthodox men would like to study in the coming academic year. However, it seems that most will not do so, because they refuse to study in institutions where men and women sit together in classrooms.

Girl cooties. Can’t go to university, can’t get higher education, because girl cooties. There is nothing worse than girl cooties. Starvation and being eaten by bears is preferable to girl cooties.

For more than a decade now, universities and colleges in Israel have offered various programs aimed at solving this problem. Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan University and the University of Haifa sponsor such projects and offer academic degrees to students of ultra-Orthodox colleges, which practice gender segregation. The students work from the campuses of those colleges, removed from the regular university faculty and students. In recent years, however, these universities have also offered such programs on their own campuses. The Israel Technology Institute and several universities opened college-preparatory study programs for men only, to which only male lecturers are assigned.

“Some of the ultra-Orthodox students will agree to continue on for their degrees in the regular mixed classrooms after a year of preparation in the college-preparatory program,” explains Orna Kupferman, the vice rector of the Hebrew University, charged with integrating ultra-Orthodox students. “Others can study in mixed settings on the condition that they have a spiritual support framework that helps them maintain their lifestyle, something that the Hebrew University offers them. True, the programs are not necessarily compatible with liberal values such as gender equality, but that is a price we are willing to pay to live in a multicultural society and enable the ultra-Orthodox to integrate into the labor market and society,” she said.

Who is “we”? What does it mean to “live in a multicultural society” where some people are systematically shunned and treated as contaminants? In what sense are the ultra-Orthodox [men] integrating into the labor market and society if they are shunning women in the process?

Some things are non-negotiable. Equality should be one of them. Treating people as contaminants should not be countenanced. Women’s right to participate should not be a bargaining chip.

…it seems that one of the key demands of ultra-Orthodox candidates for higher study is the enforcement of gender segregation in the classrooms. Among other things, this demand dictates that female lecturers will not teach male students, while male lecturers will be allowed to teach women.

See? That gives it away, doesn’t it. Male lecturers will be allowed to teach woman, because that still maintains the hierarchy, but female lecturers will not teach male students, because that would put a woman above some men, and that will not do.

People should stop paltering and bargaining with this shit. It is not ok.

According to Adina Bar-Shalom, an ultra-Orthodox activist who founded an ultra-Orthodox college and for which she will be awarded the Israel Prize this year, the non-ultra-Orthodox public puts the ultra-Orthodox in an impossible situation. She said, “On the one hand, society demands of the ultra-Orthodox population that any [male] who cannot study Torah all his life should go to work. This is a justified demand, and the ultra-Orthodox society accepts it. But … if [society at large] is not willing to allow the ultra-Orthodox public to study on its own terms, then the ultra-Orthodox will be consigned to the lowest-level jobs and to lives of poverty and squalor.”

That’s the nature of social life. To get its benefits, you may have to give up doing things on your “own terms” in every respect. Sometimes your “own terms” are the wrong terms and you just have to give them up. Other times your terms are better than the social norm, and then you should try to campaign for your terms to become the social norm. This is not one of those times.

Of course, this clash of values does not take place only in Israel. But, according to Noah Efron of Bar-Ilan University’s Science, Technology and Society Department, this dilemma does not usually play out on the background of long-standing culture wars. “The debate with the ultra-Orthodox is a continuation of the modernity and education discourse from the beginning of the 20th century,” Efron explained. “If the ultra-Orthodox want modernity, it is only for pragmatic reasons and without accepting the liberal values that go hand in hand with modernity. The truth is … that most of the secular public does not accept the ultra-Orthodox, and wants to turn them to be more like us.”

As it was in Little Rock and Birmingham, so it should be at Bar-Ilan and the University of Haifa.

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

When openness is taken as an absolute

Apr 15th, 2014 11:50 am | By

Another piece about the (cough) unwelcoming atmosphere for women online. Astra Taylor makes the connection between the libertarian worldview of many techy types and the flourishing of misogyny.

Despite being held up as a paragon of political virtue, evidence suggests that as few as 1.5% of open source programmers are women, a number far lower than the computing profession as a whole. In response, analysts have blamed everything from chauvinism, assumptions of inferiority, and outrageous examples of impropriety (including sexual harassment at conferences where programmers gather) to a lack of women mentors and role models. Yet the advocates of open-source production continue to insist that their culture exemplifies a new and ethical social order ruled by principles of equality, inclusivity, freedom, and democracy.

Unfortunately, it turns out that openness, when taken as an absolute, actually aggravates the gender gap. The peculiar brand of libertarianism in vogue within technology circles means a minority of members — a couple of outspoken misogynists, for example — can disproportionately affect the behavior and mood of the group under the cover of free speech. As Joseph Reagle, author ofGood Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia, points out, women are not supposed to complain about their treatment, but if they leave — that is, essentially are driven from — the community, that’s a decision they alone are responsible for.

Yes. That is true. One or two outspoken misogynists can poison the whole damn soup.

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

Rayhaneh Jabbari still breathes

Apr 15th, 2014 11:29 am | By

Fox News (it’s the only source for this I’ve seen) says the execution of Rayhaneh Jabbari has been postponed. She was scheduled to be killed today.

The government announced that the execution will be postponed but did not give any indication the sentence had been overturned. It also did not disclose if any future execution date had been set.

Jabbari, who has already served seven years in prison, claims Sarbandi drugged her and attempted to have physical contact with her.

Activists around the globe have been working tirelessly to prove Jabbari’s innocence and to have her death sentence revoked.

And have apparently managed to win a delay.

“She has been tortured in so many ways in prison. They may have pressured her to confess,” said Shabnam Assadollahi, an Iranian activist based in Canada.

Assadollahi and three other women, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Shadi Paveh and Mina Ahadi, launched an international campaign to shed light on Jabbari’s case

They successfully circulated a petition that gathered more than 126,700 signatures from around the world.

Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations’ special investigator on human rights also spoke up against the execution, stating that Jabbari did not receive a fair trial and that she should be re-tried because she acted out of self-defense.

Next step, a re-trial and an acquittal? Go for it, Iran.

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

A white supremacist doesn’t like being called a white supremacist

Apr 15th, 2014 10:02 am | By

There’s this from Ed Brayton:

So it looks like I’m going to be sued by a white supremacist who doesn’t like it that I’ve called him a white supremacist several times over the last few years. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail right now because I need to hire an attorney (one in Texas, unfortunately) and get some advice on how exactly what I can and can’t say publicly, but in order to do that I need to raise some funds. Here’s what I do know: I’m not going to back down from this. I’m not going to let this racist jerk intimidate me into silence. But I need your help on this one, if you can give it.

There’s a good chance you’ll get it back. This looks like a losing suit, to me.

I have no idea how much this is going to cost. It could be a few hundred dollars, it could be thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars depending on how aggressive my antagonist wants to be. I will likely be filing an anti-SLAPP claim, which will increase the upfront cost on my end but might lead to recovery of costs later on. I think that’s important to deter similar threats in the future from thugs seeking to silence their critics. So if you could pitch in on this, I would really appreciate it. We can’t let these bastards intimidate us or they win.

There’s a donation button on Ed’s post.


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

Let them eat cupcakes

Apr 15th, 2014 9:39 am | By

From the annals of Grinding the Poor:

At a time when many states and cities are working passing minimum wage increases, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) has gone in the opposite direction and signed a law banning cities from passing higher wages. The bill also bans them from enacting paid sick days or vacation requirements.

That’s…pretty extraordinary. No paid sick days for you, peasants! Pass the brioche.

The law will stymie the efforts of activists in Oklahoma City, where a labor federation has led the push on a petition to raise the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. The state’s current minimum has been set at the federal level of $7.25. In 2012, 64,000 workers in the state earned $7.25 an hour or less, making up 7.2 percent of all hourly workers, a larger share than the 4.7 percent figure for the country as a whole.

Fallin said she signed the bill out of the worry that higher local minimum wages “would drive businesses to other communities and states, and would raise prices for consumers.” She also argued that “most minimum wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry level jobs” and that “many are high school or college students living with their parents in middle-class families.” She warned that increasing the minimum wage “would require businesses to fire many of those part-time workers” and harm job creation.

That is such bullshit. No, most minimum wage workers are not young, single people working part-time jobs.

But that’s not what the typical American minimum wage worker looks like. Nearly 90 percent of workers who would be [affected] by an increase in the wage are older than 20, while the average age is 35. More than a quarter have children to support. More than half work full time, and 44 percent have at least some college education, while half a million minimum wage workers are college graduates.

Mary Fallon should read Barbara Ehrenreich’s classic Nickle and Dimed. At once.


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

Catholic hospitals exist to provide “Christ-centered health care”

Apr 14th, 2014 6:26 pm | By

Just when you think the Catholic theocrats can’t get any more disgusting, they surprise you. Catholic News Agency reports the theocratic point of view on Catholic hospitals and health care institutions refusing to provide contraception.

Following controversy over a Catholic-affiliated medical center’s rejection of contraceptive practices in Oklahoma, physicians have said that such institutions are trying to act with integrity.

“Catholic hospitals and health care providers do not prevent women from accessing what they want, they just don’t provide it themselves,” Lester Ruppersberger, a Pennsylvania physician and vice president of the Catholic Medical Association, said April 3.

“They are not lobbying against contraception, they just do not wish to be forced to violate their beliefs and ethics.”

Bollocks. When they’re the only game in town, they do indeed prevent women from getting access to what they want. You can’t just go to WalMart and buy an IUD and shove it in, you know.

He told CNA that those who do not agree with Catholic medical ethics “are not being deprived” and “do not have the right to expect or force (Catholic health systems) to provide what they cannot and will not.”

Yes they do. If you don’t want to do the job, don’t take the job. The job is the job.

Rebecca Peck, a Florida-based family physician, criticized assumptions that birth control drugs are difficult to secure.

“They are widely available, even if there is not another health care system in town.” The federal Title X Family Planning Program makes contraceptives “widely available, even free,” and the drugs can be purchased at the retail giant Wal-Mart “for about $10 a month,” she said.

Peck, a member of the Catholic Medical Association, said that contraceptives and morning-after pills do not prevent disease.

“Fertility and children are not diseases,” she told CNA April 3.

She said that contraceptive use is bad for women’s health and their relationships, noting some studies indicating an increase in breast cancer and cervical cancer risk, the risk of strokes and blood clots, and occasionally death.

Ruppersberger said that Catholics understand that contraception “violates the meaning of the marital act” by separating procreation from the unitive dimensions of marital relations.

Peck labeled as “short-sighted,” concerns that the Catholic-affiliated medical center policy will hurt the local economy by driving business elsewhere.

She said money from obstetric and pediatric services for children helps contribute to the town’s economy, as does the labor of the children after they grow up.

Therefore, it’s perfectly fine for the Catholic church to force women to have those children when they don’t want to. The Catholic church gets to decide and not the people who will have and raise the children – according to Rebecca Peck.

She said Catholic health systems “promote family life, which is the heart and soul of every town,” and that Catholic health care provides a necessary counterweight to “an increasingly secular and utilitarian society.”

Ruppersberger said Catholic hospitals exist to provide “Christ-centered health care,” which aims to apply Catholic teachings “with integrity and compassion.”

“Christ” is for church. Keep your “Christ” out of our hospitals.

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

A happy photo from Nigeria

Apr 14th, 2014 6:08 pm | By

Leo Igwe performs his first humanist wedding.


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

Sanctimony in Iowa

Apr 14th, 2014 3:53 pm | By

The governor of that state recently signed a proclamation “in the name and by the authority of the State of Iowa,” inviting “all Iowans who choose to join in thoughtful prayer and humble repentance according to II Chronicles 7:14 in favor of our state and nation to come together on July 14, 2014.”

You know, people who choose to join in prayer can do that. They don’t need the governor inviting them. The governor shouldn’t invite them, because that’s not his job; he’s a politician and administrator, not a priest or imam. Politicians should stop wrapping themselves in altar cloths.

Apparently the source for this bad adventure is some frantic group called Prayer-7-14-14. They explain the whole thing:


This is not about a single day of prayer, fasting and true repentance, but it is about a lifestyle journey of letting our hearts awaken and allowing God’s very breath to fill us.  It is understanding we have strayed from God, our first Love, and realizing the only way back is through true heart-felt repentance.  Repentance that brings change and realizing that repentance has many depths to it.  It’s about forgiving one another and not allowing the enemy to rule us through offenses.  Realizing there is diversity in unity.  It is about knowing who we are in Christ!  That He first loved us and He still loves us and is pursuing us to come back to Him.

Nonsense. Not a bit of it. We haven’t “strayed from” god; we have resisted the annoying insistence of deluded conformists that there is any “god” and gone on our way rejoicing. They might as well tell me I’ve strayed from Brenda The Transcendent Poodle and that I should let my heart awaken and allow Brenda’s breath – which reeks of dog food, by the way – to fill me. Hah. I’d rather eat some Talenti Southern Butter Pecan gelato, thanks.

There’s more.

ON 4-20-13 God spoke to me through a dream and His word…

In the dream I was writing on a red, white and blue shirt, “Something will start to churn in you today.”  I wanted to change the word to move, but I heard a voice say “NO, it is churn.” I happened to be reading through Hosea again for the third, fourth or fifth time, and I was starting at Chapter 11 that day.  When I got to verse 8, you can see below, it said His heart CHURNS  (just like in the dream)within Him and His sympathy is stirred.

I knew God was is pursuing America to turn back…

Um…[backs slowly away]

A group? Apparently it’s not even a group, it’s just one…eccentric. The governor is getting his inspiration from this?

We are in deep trouble.

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

The angry fanboys

Apr 14th, 2014 2:57 pm | By

What’s it like being a woman in comics? What’s it like being a woman in comics who writes an article criticizing a comic book cover for among other things featuring a teenage girl with breasts as big as her head? What’s it like being a woman in comics who responds to aggressive (shall we say) reactions to her criticism of a comic book cover?

About what you’d expect.

I was called a whiny bitch, a feminazi, a feminist bitch, a bitter cunt, and then the rape threats started rolling in.

You see, I’m also doing a survey about sexual harassment in comics. (If you’d like to take this survey, you can find it here.) And so as soon as the angry fanboys started looking me up after the CBR article, they discovered this survey and started answering my questions and using the open box at the end to write in all sorts of awfulness.

Because if you talk about sexism or sexual harassment then the only proper and sensible thing to do is to attack in sexist, harassing terms, by way of demonstrating that it’s wrong to talk about sexism or sexual harassment because there is no such thing.


When the survey was posted on a blog, one of the comments included “If you have a entrenched ideology then it’s nigh impossible to be objective, and according to Ms. Asselin’s Twitter tag, she’s a self described feminist.”

Let’s talk about that for a second. Feminist is not a bad word. People who think feminism is a negative often run in two very different directions – either they misunderstand what it is or are outright misogynists. Feminism is defined by as “the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.” If it’s an “entrenched ideology” to wish to be treated as an equal human along side men, then so be it.

Speaking of entrenched ideology – you know what really is an entrenched ideology? The idea that feminism is – automatically, always, necessarily – an entrenched ideology.

There are too many people, including professionals, who think it’s okay to condescend, harass, berate, etc. women in comics simply because they’ve espoused a belief that revolves around women being treated more as equals. I want women and girls to be seen as an equally promising demographic for comics as males; I want major companies with an easy opportunity to reach out to women to not feature art that is disgusting and objectifying; I want women to be hired as much as men to create comics; I want to not know so many people who have been violated in an industry I still love despite it all.

There are men in comics who understand how not to be a condescending asshole. But right now, the problem is that too many other men think that they are in a crowd of like-minded men who are super sick of this feminazi bullshit. The truth is that you are on the losing side. Women in comics aren’t going away. Even if you continue to talk to us like this. Your threats and insults do nothing more than make me want to stick around and shout even louder. So thank you for that.

Feminism isn’t going away. Also? The last thing that would make it go away is condescending assholes calling it feminazi bullshit and threatening to rape all the feminists. All that does is show how desperately it’s needed.

H/t Jen



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

If a child under the age of two screams in the night

Apr 14th, 2014 2:12 pm | By

I didn’t realize Helen Ukpabio was in London, but she is, or at least was last week, according to the Independent.

“Lady Apostle” Helen Ukpabio, founder of the controversial Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries, is believed to still be in the capital after addressing three gatherings last week.

The born-again Christian Pentecostal preacher claims to have been betrothed to Satan as a teenager before being rescued from a cult at the age of 17. She now specialises in liberating captives in “deliverance sessions” that critics claim are little more than crude exorcisms.

Among her advice to parents is the suggestion: “If a child under the age of two screams in the night, cries and is always feverish with deteriorating health, he or she is a servant of Satan.”

Spot the problem there? Of course you do. Any child under the age of two is likely to scream in the night or cry, and if you tell people their children are “servants of Satan”…you’re putting those children’s lives in danger. That’s all children under the age of two put at risk.

Campaigners say such beliefs, prevalent in some parts of the developing world, can put children’s safety at risk. They have written to [Home Secretary Theresa] May to urge that the pastor be banned from the UK after the current tour.

In the letter, the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN), the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) cite the cases of Victoria Climbié and Kristy Bamu as examples where witchcraft beliefs played a role in the  horrific torture and murder of children.

And many cases in Nigeria, home to Helen Ukpabio. Mind you, if she’s not in London she’s in Nigeria, and she’s lethal in either place. Really she should be made to stop, not to stay home. Free speech; no; fingering people as witches is lethal.

H/t Leo Igwe

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

Parental guidance

Apr 14th, 2014 1:00 pm | By


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

The uses of Richard Hoggart

Apr 14th, 2014 11:37 am | By

The Guardian on Richard Hoggart:

As news of academic Richard Hoggart’s death emerged last week, there was a sense in obituaries and appreciations that the 95-year-old was a figure from the past, the relevance of whose work, most famously his 1957 book The Uses of Literacy, had waned over time.

My intellectual development continues to be defined by his writing, and all I can say to anyone who has yet to read his work is: do it now. We still need voices like his to articulate what is wrong, right now, with an official and media language that wilfully ignores the malign effects of class and poverty.

What, you mean we’re not all raking in the profits from real estate bubbles and tech innovation and exciting new ways to package risky mortgages?

Hoggart came to prominence at a time when a number of socially mobile writers and academics were able to take advantage of changes in society to give voice to their ideas. It was precisely because he was a social interloper that he was able to forge a new discipline – contemporary cultural studies – based on the need for individuals to look more closely at the information we consume and create, and to understand what it reveals about social relations.

We need Hoggart now because we have a deceptively flattened media and cultural landscape in which everyone is meant to take a bit, and like a bit, of everything. Twitter and Instagram give the impression of everyone having an equal voice, from the out-of-work plasterer to the millionaire art dealer. A grounding in Hoggart’s work blasts through that. He reminds us that access to culture widens and narrows according to who’s got the keys – and that is always the people with education, contacts and confidence.

Not to mention money. Don’t forget money. Money can do a lot to stand in for education. Fill your house with expensive art and rugs and tchotchkes and people will assume you have education.

There are a lot of good tributes on the Letters page.

• Martin Kettle (Report, 11 August) is right to stress the importance and influence of Richard Hoggart’s work, both in his written work and in the many posts he held, including vice-chairmanship of the Arts Council, from which he was sacked by Margaret Thatcher in 1982. For Hoggart, humane reading and humane education and humane culture and society should be open to everyone, and he deeply deplored those who saw themselves as privileged, not least the patrician William Rees-Mogg who, as chairman of the Arts Council, took it for granted that his journeys from London to his Somerset home and back should be provided by an Arts Council-funded chauffeur-driven car. Not something Richard Hoggart would ever have contemplated.
Bruce Ross-Smith

• In Richard Hoggart’s obituary, you recall that he wrote of seeing his widowed mother “standing frozen, while tears start slowly down her cheeks because a sixpence has been lost … you do not easily forget”. Reading Polly Toynbee’s article (Duncan Smith’s treatment of the disabled is monstrous, 11 April), it is apparent that IDS has forgotten the effects of poverty, if he ever knew. It seems very little may have changed since the 1920s.
David Verguson

If people remembered the effects of poverty, how would they be able to fill their houses with rugs and Etruscan pottery?

H/t Maureen

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

The Jaafari Personal Status Law

Apr 13th, 2014 3:35 pm | By

Human Rights Watch to Iraq: yo, don’t legalize marriage for 9-year-olds.

Iraq’s Council of Ministers should withdraw a new draft Personal Status Law and ensure that Iraq’s legal framework protects women and girls in line with its international obligations. The pending legislation would restrict women’s rights in matters of inheritance and parental and other rights after divorce, make it easier for men to take multiple wives, and allow girls to be married from age nine.

The draft law, called the Jaafari Personal Status Law, is based on the principles of the Jaafari school of Shia religious jurisprudence, founded by Imam Jaafar al-Sadiq, the sixth Shia imam. Approved by the Council of Ministers on February 25, 2014, it must now be approved by the parliament to become law.

And what are his dates? Jaafar al-Sadiq, the sixth imam? 702-765 CE. Here’s a thought: how about not looking to imams who lived 13 centuries ago for guidance in making new laws? How about actually thinking about human beings and their needs, instead of taking instruction from a sixth or fifth or seventh imam?

The draft law would cover Iraq’s Shia citizens and residents, a majority of the population of 36 million. It includes provisions that prohibit Muslim men from marrying non-Muslims, legalizes marital rape by stating that a husband is entitled to have sex with his wife regardless of her consent, and prevents women from leaving the house without permission from their husbands. The law would automatically grant custody over any child age two or older to the father in divorce cases, lower the marriage age to nine for girls and fifteen for boys, and even allow girls younger than nine to be married with a parent’s approval.

In short it treats women and girls like inferiors and slaves with no rights.

The draft law violates the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which Iraq ratified in 1986, by giving fewer rights to women and girls on the basis of their gender. It also violates the Convention on Rights of the Child, which Iraq ratified in 1994, by legalizing child marriage, putting girls at risk of forced and early marriage and susceptible to sexual abuse, and not requiring decisions about children in divorce cases to be made in the best interests of the child.

The draft law ignores article 2 of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women by legalizing marital rape, Human Rights Watch said. The CEDAW committee, the body of international experts who review state compliance with the convention, in its February 28, 2014 review of Iraq’s reports, urged the government to “immediately withdraw the draft Jaafari personal status law.” The law also appears to violate the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by granting fewer rights to certain individuals on the basis of their religion.

Well at least Iraq ratified CEDAW. You know who has 626 million thumbs and didn’t ratify CEDAW? The US, that’s who. We’re one of only seven countries that haven’t. My god that makes me swell with pride. The others? Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Palau, and Tonga. Great, isn’t it? On the other hand we do not have a Jaafari Personal Status Law on the books, so that’s an improvement on Iraq.

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

She has to hide her truth to be able to live

Apr 13th, 2014 3:00 pm | By

BenBaz Aziz did an interview for Atheist Alliance International with a transsexual woman in Saudi Arabia…which is not one of the best places to be a trans woman. BenBaz is hoping people will share it.

9- Tell us about the discrimination by the family.

Growing up in misogynistic society, surely my family will see females are inferior to males. The idea that I will “become” as they think a female, is not acceptable. They have no idea about the difference between gender and sex . So, they think I will “shift” to female,which is the inferior sex.  From this vision, you can imagine how they are misguided about the truth.

They consider me a “disgrace”, “shame”  and wanting to challenge or to drag attention.  I have faced a lot of hate speech, violence and threats of informing authorities from the people I love the most.

I have to hide my truth to be able to live, my family would certainly kill me if they had proof I am taking hormones. I know I will mostly lose them forever, when I complete transition and live as a woman – the true reality. It is not my fault, and I didn’t ask for any of this ! I was born a girl, they assigned me incorrectly, so what can I do ?

I guess the worst part is, you live all these years in a lie, and you have to sacrifice everything and the people you loved and lived with, played with and had nice memories with. Just to get rid of this lie!!

I hope things get better for her.


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


Apr 13th, 2014 12:24 pm | By

I heard a discussion of a new movie, Calvary, on BBC Radio 4′s Saturday Review yesterday; it sounds pretty damn interesting.

The Irish Times has a review.

The predictably flawless Brendan Gleeson plays Father James Lavelle, a decent priest serving the needs of an absurdly colourful Sligo community, whose world is upended by an unexpected encounter in the confessional.

A troubled parishioner – unseen by us, but apparently known to our hero – explains that, having been abused by clerics as a child, he intends to exact revenge by killing James in one week’s time.

There is a terrible logic to his scheme. The annihilation of a guilty priest will provoke only so much rending of garments. The murder of an innocent man will, however, really hammer home how troublesome any association with the discredited Catholic Church has become.

Ok…I want to see that.

On the other hand the review goes on to say that what the rest of the movie does with that setup is a mess, so maybe I don’t want to see it. But the setup…yes, that’s interesting.

The Guardian on the other hand says it’s terrific.

In the darkness of the confession box, Father James (Brendan Gleeson) learns he is about to be killed. Behind the grille, a shadowy parishioner explains that he was abused as a child and is hellbent on revenge. Father James, as a representative of the church, has been selected to take the fall; the good priest parachuted in to deputise for the bad. His crucifixion is booked for the following Sunday, just down on the beach. The priest now has a week to put his own house in order.

Part of why the setup is interesting is because the good priests make the bad ones possible. Good people don’t belong in the Catholic church, because it’s not a good institution.



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

The cupcake as weltanschauung

Apr 13th, 2014 11:30 am | By

Is this a parody? It certainly looks like one, but…it’s not clear that that’s what the Guardian intends.

Beware of cupcake fascism, it tells us. Oh come on, that has to be a parody.

The constellation of cultural tropes that most paradigmatically manifest in the form of the cupcake are associated in particular with infantilisation. Of course, looking back to a perfect past that never existed is nothing if not the pained howl of a child who never wanted to be forced to grow up, and the cupcake and its associates market themselves by catering to these never-​never-​land adults’ tastes. These products, which treat their audience as children, and more specifically the children of the middle classes – perfect special snowflakes full of wide-​eyed wonder and possibility – succeed as expressions of a desire on behalf of consumers to always and forever be children, by telling consumers not only that this is OK, but also that it is, to a real degree, possible.

Parody. Has to be parody. But then you scroll down and come to

Something became clear to me in the aftermath of the London riots in 2011, when I sawthousands of people take to the streets with brooms at the instigation of a twitter hashtag (#riotcleanup), and “clean up” the effects of the anger of the rioters, which was already in the process of being dismissed and demonised in the media as opportunistic looting long before the police would find a way to have their killing of Mark Duggan declared “lawful”. This realisation was that if you wanted to found a fascist reich in Britain today, you could never do so on the basis of any sort of ideology of racial superiority or militaristic imagery or anything of the like. Fascism is, if nothing else, necessarily majoritarian, and nowadays racism is very niche-​appeal (just look at how laughable every EDL march is, where the anti-​fascists outnumber the alleged fascists by a ratio of more than two to one). But you could get a huge mass of people to participate in a reactionary endeavour if you dressed it up in nice, twee, cupcakey imagery, and persuaded everyone that the brutality of your ideology was in fact a form of niceness. If a fascist reich was to be established anywhere today, I believe it would necessarily have to exchange iron eagles for fluffy kittens, swap jackboots for Converse, and the epic drama of Wagnerian horns for mumbled ditties on ukuleles.

So beware of cupcakes, I guess.

But I refuse to get rid of my jackboots.

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

Hours of work will depend on our sweet will

Apr 13th, 2014 11:05 am | By

Nick Cohen has a good piece on the grinding of the poor in the UK.

…for me, the best way of summing up the division between rich and poor, and high and low, is a contract stating that “hours of work will be advised by the visitor manager and will be dependent upon the requirements for retail assistants“. The staff had no security, the contract made clear. Their employers guaranteed them no minimum income. The bosses might leave them at home from one week to the next, while still insisting that the casual workers remained available to work for them and them alone.

Who’s that – some hotel chain? Asda? The local prison?

No, it’s Brenda, aka Betty Windsor, aka her majesty.

The contract says so much because the employer in question was not some crook but the Queen – whom everyone in authority assures us is a benign sovereign who cares for every one of her subjects. Her Majesty’s exploited servants were to show tourists round Buckingham Palace’s staterooms, when and only when the monarchy thought it had no choice but to pay them.

As the recession grew, the wealthy were finding new ways of encouraging poverty by keeping the poor on zero-hours contracts whose average hourly rates were 40% below the “normal” earnings for the work. Not just oligarchs it is easy to despise as cruel foreigners, but the British monarch and head of state.

Well, be fair – she did give up the yacht.

The account of royal miserliness comes from the forthcoming Hard Times by Tom Clark, a leader writer on the GuardianI hope it sellsbecause Clark is the first author I know of who has examined the data on the great recession and shown that booms and busts are like Tolstoy’s families. All happy financial bubbles are alike but each recession is unhappy in its own way.

Many commentators, including me, expected the great crash of 2008 to produce mass unemployment as the great crash of 1929 led to the mass unemployment of the 30s. Because labour is so cheap, we have instead an English-speaking world without neat boundaries. For the majority of people, the division of time into the years of boom and the years of bust makes little sense. In America, the average worker has not had a pay rise since 1973. In Britain, median full-time pay stopped rising in 2000, then collapsed after the crash. The great recession came after 30 years of the rich leaving the rest behind. (In the past two decades, for instance, the top 1% has grabbed three-fifths of all the gains in American growth.) The majority of the population did not enjoy a boom in the past decade: just a bust in 2008. As Osborne tries to sneak an election victory in 2015 by letting the housing market soar and fall yet again, another boomless bust is coming.

There’s a solution for this problem though. Everyone should just go into the financial planning business. The pay there is HUGE so everyone will be hugely rich. Utopia here we come.



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

Where will Brandeis go to get its respect and honor back?

Apr 12th, 2014 6:29 pm | By

Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe is also annoyed about CAIR’S bullying of Honor Diaries.

‘HONOR DIARIES” might not be coming to a theater near you, at least not if CAIR gets its way. The award-winning documentary about “honor” violence against girls and women in much of the Muslim world was released last month in honor of International Women’s Day, and it didn’t take long for the Council on American Islamic Relations to slap its all-purpose “Islamophobic” label on it. The film has been shown in dozens of venues, but CAIR has raised enough of a stink to get screenings cancelled on several college campuses, including the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois.

He then talks about CAIR’s role in bullying Brandeis into insulting Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Ali was involved in making “Honor Diaries,” which goes out of its way to convey respect for moderate Islam. It spotlights nine eloquent women with roots in the Islamic world, several of whom are devout Muslims — “Islam is my spiritual journey,” says one — and all of whom are passionate about exposing the terrible abuses women and girls in many Muslim cultures suffer in the name of family honor. None thinks such horrors should be excused or neglected out of a misplaced cultural sensitivity or political correctness.

But CAIR apparently does. Why does it? And why do Brandeis and other universities listen to it? Why don’t they tell it to fuck off?

Efforts by CAIR and its ilk to squelch honest discussion of such grave human-rights issues — and to demonize as “haters” and “Islamophobes” those who do — encapsulate the very perversity “Honor Diaries” seeks to expose: valuing the honor of a community more than a woman’s life or voice. But does CAIR’s shrill protest reflect what average citizens in Muslim countries think of such a documentary? Or does the “Honor Diaries” Arabic Facebook page, with 95,000 “likes” — and climbing?

Why aren’t more progressives passionate about these issues?

I don’t know. I do what I can. I try to get the word out to them.

I put that question to Nazie Eftekhari, an immigrant from Iran and another of the women “Honor Diaries” focuses on. A successful Minnesota health care entrepreneur, Eftekhari unhesitatingly describes herself as a “bleeding-heart liberal” and a longtime Democratic Party voter, loyalist, and fund-raiser. She is as mystified as I am.

“The biggest human-rights crisis of our generation is the treatment of women in Muslim-majority countries, and we’ve applied a gag order to ourselves,” she replies with unmistakable distress. “We won’t talk about it. Where are my fellow liberals? Where are the feminists?”

Right here. Right here. But all too many of them are siding with CAIR instead, yes. It’s appalling.

In theocratic Iran today, Eftekhari says, the legal age of marriage for girls has been lowered to 9. Fathers can legally marry their adopted daughters. “How can President Obama, who has two young daughters, not be making a huge issue of this?” she wants to know. “It’s not marriage, it’s statutory rape.”

Eftekhari can’t understand why so many progressive voices fall silent on an issue she thinks they should be raising the loudest. She has only contempt for anyone who thinks it progressive to snub those — like Ayaan Hirsi Ali — who so bravely speak out: “Ali needs no degree or honor from Brandeis; she is a guiding light for the women who respect and honor her. But where will Brandeis go to get its respect and honor back?”

It will always have CAIR.

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