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.

Majority viciously attacking small numbers of dissent

May 28th, 2015 6:09 pm | By

Speaking of the Charlie Hebdo protests…a few days ago Joyce Carol Oates retweeted a string of remarks by Dan Therriault, then made some of her own.

The first:

Dan Therriault ‏@dantherriault May 22
With PEN dissent, I suspect more writers would have separated themselves from Hebdo content if those few who dissented were not so vilified.

Majority viciously attacking small numbers of dissent used to stop more dissent, to threaten quiet others & maintain their majority opinion.

This devaluing of dissent in the US bleeds into everything, the media questioning authority, political parties, attacking corporate culture.

But it’s truly disheartening to see writers pulled along the cultural move to the right to attack fellow writers for their rational dissent.

That’s so annoying.

Just because it’s a minority does not mean it’s right or reasonable. Calling it dissent doesn’t make it right, or reasonable, or fair, or factually accurate.

Disagreeing with the stupid things said by the anti-Charlie people is not the same thing as devaluing dissent. Charlie Hebdo is all about dissent!

Again this just reflects ignorance of what Charlie Hebdo is – it’s hardly the voice of the oblivious comfortable majority!

Defending Charlie Hebdo is not part of “the cultural move to the right.”

Now for Oates.

Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates May 22
@dantherriault “Move to the right” signaled by attack of dissenters as “fellow travelers” in echo of Joseph McCarthy’s crude smears.

PEN controversy might have been dealt with rationally–writer-friends Paul Auster & Russell Banks, for instance, wrote only private letters

& their (opposing) positions very clearly stated; but not made public, unfortunately. & at once, name-calling, threats, etc. poisoned scene.

It did not help that American writers/ commentators really knew little of French tradition in which Charlie Hebdo-like satire is revered.

Isolated caricatures, presented by our media to arouse/ inflame (?) reactions, were interpreted in American terms, not French terms.

It is said that poetry is what is left out when poems are translated & perhaps satire is not translatable either. We “see” only in context.

None of that is any kind of reason to kill the staff of Charlie a second time.

This whole conversation is one of those irregular verb items – we’re the rational dissenting minority, they’re the dissent-hating right-wing majority.

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

Nobody’s mind seemed to change

May 28th, 2015 5:06 pm | By

Paul Berman starts his long and brilliant article on the Charlie Hebdo-PEN protests by noting that both sides agreed on the values; it was the facts that were contested.

The protesters, most of them, wanted the world to know that, in regard to press freedoms, their commitments were absolute. Willingly they would defend the right even of Nazis to say whatever terrible things Nazis might say, as the ACLU once did in Illinois. But they honestly believed that Charlie Hebdo is a reactionary magazine, racist against blacks and bigoted against Muslims, obsessively anti-Islamic, intent on bullying the immigrant masses in France. A dreadful magazine. Nazi-like, even—therefore, a magazine not even remotely worthy of an award from PEN. On these points the protesters were adamant. Only, why?

A modest heap of useful information about racism in France and the distinctly non-Nazi political nature of Charlie Hebdo and its cartoons did accumulate during the course of the affair, and the modest heap ought normally to have changed a few minds. Nobody’s mind seemed to change, however.

I noticed that. I didn’t understand it and still don’t. Was it just wounded ego in all cases? They just couldn’t admit they’d gotten their facts wrong? They could make a big public fuss but couldn’t bring themselves to undo the damage even when told how wrong they were on the facts?

I attended the PEN Gala and listened to the speeches and found myself wishing that my friends among the protesters, having boasted to the entire universe of their boycott, had sneaked in, anyway. They would have watched the leaders of PEN bestow the award on Charlie Hebdo’s surviving staffers, and this would have of course been galling, given what they believed about the magazine. They would have heard Charlie Hebdo’s editor utter his incisive mot, “Being shocked is part of democratic debate. Being shot is not,” which was impressive and true and maybe immortal, yet would have left them unmoved because it did not speak to their objection. But what would they have made of the speech by Dominique Sopo, who is the president of an organization called SOS Racisme? SOS Racisme is the liveliest and most prominent civil-rights organization in France, and its president’s speech was the liveliest moment of the controversy.

But apparently they remain unmoved even by Dominique Sopo and Alain Mabanckou. They still think they know better.

SOS Racisme’s slogan was “Touches pas à mon pote,” or, “Don’t touch my buddy,” which charmingly expressed and still expresses the anti-racist ideal. With this slogan the organization enjoyed a major success. “Touches pas à mon pote” has entered the French language. SOS Racisme succeeded for a while in getting young Arabs and North African Jews in some of the immigrant districts to work together in neighborhood committees, and these activities inspired admiration in still other neighborhoods. The people who attended the PEN Gala heard a few echoes of those achievements in Sopo’s speech, in the easy way he condemned several different kinds of bigotry at once—bigotry against Arabs, Muslims, blacks, Jews, and Roma, quite as if a prejudice against one were a prejudice against all. You think it is easy to express an across-the-board liberalism of that sort in our day and age? And sound other than wimpy? I have always admired the oratory of the French left.

I do think it’s easy, actually…but then I’m a universalist, so maybe I would.

SOS Racisme nonetheless counts for something in France. It is the single loudest voice of anti-racism. It is a glory of the democratic left. And it was a dramatic thing to see SOS Racisme’s president speak up for Charlie Hebdo at the PEN Gala—for the Charlie staffers who, as he took pains to explain, have always been his comrades, allies in one campaign after another, always, always. Anybody who gives a little thought to Sopo’s analysis ought to be able to understand something about Charlie Hebdo’s world-view, too, which amounts to something more than equal-opportunity mockery. To satirize the National Front, as Charlie Hebdo has done relentlessly—this has been more than a good idea, politically speaking. To satirize the Islamists—likewise. Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons have more than once drawn a distinction between the political Islamists, with their frightful ideas, and a French Islam that is perfectly consistent with the most progressive of principles and the well-being of the immigrant neighborhoods

But the protesters thought they knew better – despite being told that they didn’t.

Yes, what would the protesting writers at PEN have made of any of this, if only their own boycott had not prevented them from hearing Sopo make his argument? Or if they had conducted a bit more research into Charlie Hebdo and its politics? They would not have enjoyed hearing Sopo deliver one remark in particular. “It is very important that we do not kill those who died a second time,” said the president of SOS Racisme. This meant: “You Americans who know nothing about the struggles of us immigrants and children of immigrants in France, you Americans who consider Charlie Hebdo to be unworthy of an award from PEN—you Americans should stop slandering our murdered comrades.” In sum, “Touches pas à mon pote.” I suppose the protesters would have shrugged this off, as they shrugged off the remarks of everyone else who tried to reason with them.

Exactly. They didn’t engage at all.

Only, why? Is it really true that, in the ranks of PEN, one person after another is blinded by a provincial ignorance of everything not American, beginning with France’s language and ending with its cartoons?

Well maybe that’s why they couldn’t engage and couldn’t admit – because then they would have to admit how provincial and ignorant they had been, and that’s not fun. But if they hadn’t been so provincial and ignorant in the first place…

But Berman goes on to say that’s not it. They’re not that ignorant; they do have French friends; they are too connected to be that ignorant. He thinks it’s part of the ongoing, ten-years-old cartoon panic.

Someone might reply by saying: “Still, isn’t it true that the Muslim community feels outraged and injured by the cartoons and by Charlie Hebdo itself? Even if the excellent people at SOS Racisme wish it were otherwise, mightn’t this be the case?” To which I respond with the commonsense observation that, in the immigrant neighborhoods of France, a battle has been going on for many years, pitting the Islamists against the democrats and secularists, and the Islamists have used their victories to proclaim themselves the voice of a community that does not exist, and to denounce everyone else as racist traitors to Islam. But why should we line up on the Islamists’ side?

Why indeed. This is something I’ve been arguing about for more than ten years – what a gruesome and destructive mistake it is to take Islamists for the only “authentic” Muslims and ignore the liberal secularist Muslims as if they were traitors to their people.

He tells us of two terrific Algerian writers, too richly to excerpt; I urge you to read the whole article. Just the conclusion of that section:

I picture my protesting friends at PEN turning the pages of these books by Algerian novelists and saying to themselves: “My God, it’s dreadful! Salman Rushdie appears not to be an isolated figure, after all. Here are novelists who make fun of religion. And of Islam, which, as we know, only a racist would do. They are worse than the cartoonists. They think terrorism is a problem not only for governments but for novelists. These novelists are the sons of Albert Camus. How ghastly! Boualem Sansal thinks Islamism is barbarism! Kemal Daoud says, ‘I am Charlie!’ Why, these people, who happen to be the leading writers of modern Algeria, must be dangerous reactionaries of the worst sort! They are challenging the terrorists, instead of appeasing them, as any decent person would do! If these novelists ever dare come to New York, we will picket them.”

In the third section he says something I felt very strongly too.

The American writers’ protest against Charlie Hebdo has been remarkable on one additional count, and that is its dosage of personal cruelty. It was no small thing to observe a couple of survivors of the Charlie massacre make their way to New York, a mere four months after the slaughter, and be greeted with jeers and a boycott. A supremely chilly heart is needed to mount such a protest. And yet, a couple of hundred warm-hearted American writers lent their names to the chilly protest.

Yes. That was horrific. I squirmed with shame.

The spectacle of their doing so was, of course, a humiliation for New York—for the New York that once upon a time underwent its own Islamist attack and received an outpouring of warmth and sympathy from French people, whose motto of the day, “Nous sommes tous américains,” was the progenitor of “Je suis Charlie.” Still, the protesters never meant to humiliate New York. Nor did they mean to display solidarity for the immigrants of France. Less than two weeks before the Charlie staffers were boycotted at the PEN Gala, Marine le Pen, the leader of the National Front in France, attended a gala of her own in New York, the Time Magazine “100 Gala,” and here would have been the moment to show a little solidarity, if anybody were inclined to do so. But it was the Charlie staffers, and not Marine le Pen, whose arrival in New York stirred a protest.

Ouch. I didn’t know that.

It’s a sad and depressing and squalid episode.

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


May 28th, 2015 11:47 am | By

Josh Marhsall at Talking Points Memo:

In Touch Weekly is reporting that in 2007, when Josh Dugger was 19[,] he sued the Arkansas Department of Human Services to prevent them from making a finding against him or possibly to prevent on-going monitoring of his interactions with his sisters.

I’m writing this here in the Editor’s Blog because In Touch Weekly‘s reporting on this seems thinly sourced and, let’s be honest, In Touch Weekly is not where we normally go for industry standard reporting.

They had documents for the previous stories, but this one is just “as told to.”

According to this report, when local police decided that no crime had been committed within the three year statute of limitations, they nonetheless referred the case to Arkansas’s Families in Need of Services agency. The FNS has a different charge – not criminal culpability but protecting the welfare of children in the state. In other words, the statute of limitations wouldn’t be relevant to their ability or charge to monitor Josh Duggar since he was still living in the Duggar home with his younger sisters.

So a bit less than a year after an anonymous tipster put in motion the chain of events that led to the actual police investigation in 2006, Josh Duggar apparently sued the state to block something the state DHS was doing. This was around the time that the Duggar family reality show was moving into production for its first season in 2008.

So they probably didn’t want quite that much “reality” in their “reality show” about how fabulous they are.

Josh Duggar was apparently successful in his legal action. According to the report, the records of the lawsuit as well as the documentation which the suit was over are both sealed.

Maybe he too will be invited to speak at TAM.

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

Guest post: In a way ordinary empathetic identification doesn’t explain

May 28th, 2015 11:01 am | By

Guest post by Josh Spokes.

I have some thoughts on femininity, women, and my relationship to these as a gay man. For months I’ve stewed on this topic wondering how to express it. This may or may not be an elegant exposition. It’s also full of “I” statements, which is tedious and unfortunate. I know no other way to make it clear my subject is my own impressions, not generalizing statements about what other people ought to do or be motivated by.


1. As a man I’m never going to grok what it is to live as a woman. Please know that nothing I write is meant to suggest or imply that.

2. This is not a cookie-seeking project; I’m not going for Best Man Feminist merit badges.

Violence against and denigration of women has always been viscerally emotional for me. It affects me in nearly the same way that my horror of homophobia and anti-gay violence does. Misogyny so upsets me that I worry I sometimes look like that guy who’s SUPER INTO FEMINISM in a way that’s annoying or invites skepticism.

Conversely, I trust women and feel emotional connections to them far more easily than I ever will with most men. (Those of you men who are my friends or lovers don’t need to get anxious about this, ‘kay? I love you and trust you, but you are an exception). Given a choice during an end of the world scenario, I’d choose to survive the apocalypse with all women before I’d even think of wanting men around. I’m completely serious about that. It has been that way since I can remember being a person with thoughts. Men have always been a danger to be carefully watched, tiptoed around, and never to be behind one’s back. Yes, one of the obvious roots of this was growing up in a house with a wife/child beater and rapist.

But that is not nearly all of it. From the point of sentience I gravitated toward things “for girls.” Girls’ games. Fashion. Jewelry, make-up. Female-driven literature. Girl heroines in stories were far more likely to make me think, “I get that, I so understand that” than the boy heroes I was supposed to like. Grumpy, cynical Harriet the Spy? When I say I identified with her, it’s not strong enough. I really got her.

My fantasy game-playing always had me as a female character. I was Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie. Or Malificent from Sleeping Beauty. Or a witch. Or a genie. Yes, there was a decided bias toward villainous and magical characters. At the time I thought it was just because they were so obviously fabulous and had better clothes, which is true. Looking back I suspect it was an unconscious identification with a character who was smart, passionate, but constricted by a society that characterized everything interesting about her as a threat to be neutralized.

I was tormented with the idea that I was born a mistake. That I was “supposed to be a girl.” There was literally no framework for me to understand gender in any other way. I didn’t think I wanted to be a girl (although I still don’t know exactly what that meant), but I was sure I wasn’t right and something was seriously broken.

Though I came out as a gay man at a very young age and used bravado as an effective tactic, I was haunted for a long time by the belief that there was something ontologically wrong with me.

This is the toxicity of gender.

As you guessed, I was read as an effeminate boy, starting before I went to kindergarten. You can fill in the many instances of gender policing and attempts to circumscribe my activities.

The price was ostracization, vicious bullying, beatings, whisper campaigns, teachers with barely a passing interest in sticking up for me because what did I expect being such a little queen. Almost all of it from men and boys. The sexual threats implied in the violence were clear, even if they were never spoken. I knew from the beginning that men had slotted me into the category of bitch, that which is slapped around, used, degraded, and raped if too uppity. In short, I read as “girl/woman” in this misogynistic system. In some ways, even a bit worse, because I willingly liked “girl things.” Didn’t even have the sense to be ashamed of it.

Girls and women were usually safe havens for me. With rare exceptions, I wasn’t afraid of girls. I didn’t fear they’d hold me down and laugh while beating the shit out of me. I didn’t fear they’d drag me into a public space to mock and degrade me, confident that their peers would support them or say nothing. Which EVERY macho boy got away with EVERY time with NO consequences. They were right to be utterly confident. They were usually socially rewarded for their bullying, including by teachers.

All this is not an exercise in “working out demons” or any navel-gazing bullshit like that. It’s meant to explain the conclusion I came to recently about my motivations. While I’m not and never will be a woman, I do think I have a closer grasp of what that experience can be like than the average man. Certainly more so than the average straight man. Does this seem reasonable?

This is why feminism matters so much to me. This is why I get shouty and screamy and angry and over the top at the ceaseless misogyny and degradation of women that goes on everywhere, all the time. Because I feel it. Not the way women do, but closer to that than most men will grasp. It’s also me, my kind—-anyone not working overtime to disavow any feminine-coded interests—who is meant to be frightened and put in place by this behavior.

When the women I know and love describe what they go through, it hits me in the gut in a way ordinary empathetic identification doesn’t explain.

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


May 28th, 2015 10:12 am | By

And this is part of the unsavory mix:


Emery Emery @emeryemeryii May 20
Excited that @michaelshermer has been added to the #TAM2015 lineup. Never give in to unsubstantiated slander.

“Never give in to unsubstantiated slander” here must mean ignore multiple accounts by women of various forms of skeevy behavior, including non-consensual sex. It must mean ignore corroboration by witnesses. It must mean ignore what James Randi said himself. It must mean ignore all of that as “unsubstantiated,” in order to include the subject of all those accounts. Ignore what all those women say, because they don’t count; only the Important Thought-Leader Men count.

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

The old boys-will-be-boys canard

May 28th, 2015 9:51 am | By

In Duggar-world, girls and women “tempt” men and boys, and “defraud” them with their sexual allure. In the real world…girls and women “tempt” men and boys, because they’re sluts and boys just wanna have fun.

Amanda Marcotte has the story.

20 middle and high school aged boys have been accused of participating in an electronic “trading card” ring involving nude photos of female students. Reading the coverage of it, it becomes immediately clear how these boys got their overblown sense of entitlement: Their parents and community have rushed forward to support the boys for their invasion of privacy —and have demanded, instead, that the girls be criminalized for being such alluring little temptresses.

One mother, eager to shift the blame, told the local news station, “The girls are just as responsible as the boys,” and that “The girls know that the boys trade them and it’s kind of a game that the girls want to be involved in.” She did not offer evidence of this supposed consent. Instead, she seems to be hiding behind the old boys-will-be-boys canard and implying that being sexual with one person means losing your right to decline sexual contact with others.

The Duggars, James Randi, the parents in New Jersey – it’s all the same old shit. Boys just can’t help using photos of naked girls as trading cards, because they’re boys, and they were drunk, and hey at least they weren’t violent.

This, of course, is what feminists refer to as “rape culture,” where male entitlement to women’s bodies is normalized while women’s ownership over their own bodies is shamed.

Marcotte goes on to say that the goal shouldn’t be to punish the boys harshly, but to intervene to make it clear to them that consent is all-important – and that this can be done.

As Irin Carmon reported for Salon in 2013, unlike adult sex offenders who often have ingrained and hard-to-fix personality issues, juvenile sex offenders are surprisingly easy to rehabilitate. More than 95 percent of juvenile sex offenders who get caught don’t reoffend. It’s not exactly a boys-will-be-boys problem, but it is true that a lot of young men who do this are simply experimenting with the social messages they get that glamorize non-consent and treat sexual aggression and misogyny as “manly”—and most will reject those messages in adulthood, especially if they receive early interventions.

The consequences don’t need to be severe to be a deterrent. Mild punishments, combined with consent education, can accomplish the goal of preventing the crime without provoking fears of “ruining” the lives of boys who cross the line.

Now while we’re at it can we somehow intervene in the culture as a whole, to kill with fire that message that sexual aggression and misogyny are “manly” and rebellious and funny and cool?

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

“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women”

May 28th, 2015 9:19 am | By

What was it that James Randi said about Michael Shermer? Oh yes…

Shermer’s reputation really does precede him, and it predates the recent wave of attention given to sex crimes and sexual harassment. I reached the movement’s grand old man, 86-year-old James Randi, by telephone, at his house in Florida. Randi is no longer involved in his foundation’s daily operations, but he remains its chair, and he is a legend of the movement, famously not fooled by anybody. He seems not to be naïve about Shermer — although he’s not so troubled by him, either.

“Shermer has been a bad boy on occasion — I do know that,” Randi told me. “I have told him that if I get many more complaints from people I have reason to believe, that I am going to have to limit his attendance at the conference.

“His reply,” Randi continued, “is he had a bit too much to drink and he doesn’t remember. I don’t know — I’ve never been drunk in my life. It’s an unfortunate thing … I haven’t seen him doing that. But I get the word from people in the organization that he has to be under better control. If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately. I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Shermer has just been added to the lineup at this year’s TAM.

I have friends who bought non-refundable plane tickets and booked hotel rooms on the understanding that Shermer was not on the roster at this year’s TAM. They are not happy.

But hey, no biggy. He never got violent.

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

Official Statue of Mansplaining

May 27th, 2015 6:07 pm | By

Oh look, there’s another one.

Emily Skaja ‏@emily_skaja
Official Statue of Mansplaining. Class of 1950 Lecture Hall, Purdue.

Embedded image permalink

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

Mansplaining: The Statue

May 27th, 2015 6:04 pm | By

No doubt you’ve all seen this by now –

Cathy de la Cruz ‏@SadDiego
A friend spotted this in Texas: #Mansplaining The Statue.

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But look closely if you haven’t already. It’s not just that he’s looming, it’s not just that he has her pinned, it’s not just that he’s talking and she’s gazing upward wondering why he won’t stop – it’s that she’s radically out of proportion to him. She’s from another species, or rather, a different set of dolls. You know how when you were a kid you had dolls that were different sizes? And sometimes when you wanted to have a large cast you would make them interact despite the size disparity? It’s like that. She is weirdly, grotesquely smaller than he is.

Never mind. I’m sure their children will be fine.

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

No accident

May 27th, 2015 5:48 pm | By

More on that how we got here subject. From last month, Emily Badger on how Baltimore got to be the way it is. It wasn’t accidental; it wasn’t just people making choices in accordance with good libertarian principle; it was systematic and deliberate and done by one set of people to another set of people who had less power.

Just a few years ago, Wells Fargo agreed to pay millions of dollars to Baltimore and its residents to settle a landmark lawsuit brought by the city claiming the bank unfairly steered minorities who wanted to own homes into subprime mortgages. Before that, there was the crack epidemic of the 1990s and the rise of mass incarceration and the decline of good industrial jobs in the 1980s.

And before that? From 1951 to 1971, 80 to 90 percent of the 25,000 families displaced in Baltimore to build new highways, schools and housing projects were black. Their neighborhoods, already disinvested and deemed dispensable, were sliced into pieces, the parks where their children played bulldozed.

And before that — now if we go way back — there was redlining, the earlier corollary to subprime lending in which banks refused to lend at all in neighborhoods that federally backed officials had identified as having “undesirable racial concentrations.”

No buying a house for you. That’s what you get for being so damn undesirable.

It’s an irony, a fundamental urban inequality, created over the years by active decisions and government policies that have undermined the same people and sapped them of their ability to rebuild, that have again and again dismantled the same communities, each time making them socially, economically, and politically weaker.

That link goes to an article by Richard Rothstein, the great source on all this.

These cycles are not unique to Baltimore, which is also why the unrest in Baltimore this week feels more like a movement that’s bound to spread than the mere outburst of a few “thugs.” These cycles have gained such momentum that the difference in life expectancy between the wealthiest and poorest neighborhoods is 13 years in Atlanta, and  16 years in Chicago, and 20 years in Richmond.

Not unique at all. I read Rothstein on Ferguson and I can see Seattle, and presumably every other big city in the country.

We don’t acknowledge that we created slums and perpetuated poverty. We don’t acknowledge that people who are poor were denied the chance to build wealth. And we don’t acknowledge that the problems we attribute to poor neighborhoods reflect generations of decisions made by people who have never lived there.

It would be nice if there were more efforts to undo all that, rather than just shoving more and more people into prisons.

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

Laws such as those on blasphemy, obscenity and sedition

May 27th, 2015 5:12 pm | By

India has been suppressing free speech since Modi was elected.

Human rights activists have called on India to reform or repeal laws that threaten free expression in the world’s largest democracy and muzzle charities such as environmental group Greenpeace.

Some laws are not only silencing marginal voices but are also fuelling graft, a report by PEN International, a London-based group of writers promoting freedom of speech, and the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto said.

Win-win – shut down weirdos and make sure the money keeps flowing.

Other laws in India such as those on blasphemy, obscenity and sedition have allowed groups or individuals to silence one another, said the report.

For example, Aseem Trivedi, a prominent anti-corruption campaigner, was arrested in Mumbai in 2012 under sedition laws after a complaint was lodged against him for publishing a series of cartoons that satirised India’s national symbols.

Remember the attack on Wendy Doniger’s book? India doesn’t have a great record on this.

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

In a country where it is highly dangerous to criticise Islam

May 27th, 2015 4:35 pm | By

From Reporters Without Borders:

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) supports the launch of the online cartoon magazine Black and White: Strokes of Resistance (B&W) by the Indian cartoonist Aseem Trivedi and hails his campaign for the release of the jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, which is highlighted in the first issue.

In January this year, Trivedi announced he planned to launch a magazine of cartoons in tribute to Charlie Hebdo. His first campaign is in support of Badawi…

What a good project.

Trivedi is waging his fight for freedom of expression and information in a country where it is highly dangerous to criticise Islam. The subject of religion remains sensitive for journalists and bloggers.Some religious groups come out with threats and aggressive condemnations, which their members then attempt to carry out arbitrarily while the authorities turn a blind eye.

The number of journalists killed has declined considerably, but self-censorship and the prevailing climate of insecurity and impunity are a cause for concern. The launch of Black & White is a breath of hope and a message to all enemies of freedom, which must be passed on.

After a break of two years, Trivedi resumed cartooning in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo killings, in the belief that the attack made his art more powerful.

My aim is to use cartooning as a tool of activism,” he told Reporters Without Borders. “Through B&W, I want to campaign for the issues related to free speech, justice, equality and other human rights through my art.

That’s a truly outstanding idea.

In the first issue, I’m highlighting the case of Raif Badawi. I’ve published the first 25 cartoons from ’A Cartoon Against Every Lash’, a series of 50 cartoons in support of Raif. I see Raif as a new symbol of free speech, facing a lot of torture and injustice for his freedom of expression.

He is a real crusader, as he is fighting in the hardest circumstances. And it’s our responsibility to help him in this fight of freedom. We couldn’t do anything to save the victims of Charlie Hebdo attack. But we can help Raif, surviving through the injustice.

Reporters Without Borders launched a petition for Badawi’s release that was handed in to the Saudi embassy in Paris on 15 January. So far it has gathered more than 45,000 signatures. RSF has also organized a series of pro-Badawi demonstrations outside the Saudi embassy in Paris since January.

Click here to see the first issue of Black and White:

Click here to visit Aseem Trivedi’s website:

Thank you Reporters Without Borders and thank you Aseem Trivedi.

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

Senior catholic figures have gathered to discuss family issues

May 27th, 2015 12:05 pm | By

Another cardinal shares his wisdom with us.

A leading Vatican cardinal has given an interview in which he says parents should not allow their children to have contact with gay people who engage in ‘wrong, evil’ and ‘intrinsically disordered’ relationships.

This is how religion fucks people up. They obsess over completely wrong, empty, arbitrary, meaningless categories of “wrong” while ignoring or protecting or promoting actual harms. There just isn’t anything “wrong” or “evil” or “intrinsically disordered” about same-sex relationships. There just isn’t. There never has been. It’s a made-up thing.

Also? I know I’ve said this a million times – but the cardinal is a high-up in an organization that has been protecting people who rape children for many decades – probably its entire history, in fact.

It also has a recent history of stealing unmarried women’s babies to sell, and lying to the women about what happened to those babies. There’s “evil” if you like.

Cardinal Raymond Burke’s comments come during Pope Francis’ Synod of the Family in Rome, in which senior catholic figures have gathered from around the world to discuss family issues, including same-sex marriage.

Why? What business is it of theirs? What do they know about it?

Now, Burke – the former Archbishop of St Louis who now has the title of Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura – has indicated that he feels children should be kept away from gay couples.

Playing the role of ecclesiastical agony uncle, Burke was asked by the website LifeSiteNews, ‘How should Catholic parents deal with a difficult situation like this? When planning a Christmas family gathering with grandchildren present, parents are asked by their son, who is in a homosexual relationship, if he can come and bring home with him his homosexual partner.’

‘This is a very delicate question, made more delicate by the aggressiveness of the homosexual agenda,’ replied Burke.

Ah yes, so unlike the mild timidity of the Catholic agenda. All the Catholic church wants is to tell everyone to obey its stupid arbitrary life-hating rules.

‘If homosexual relationships are intrinsically disordered, which indeed they are … then what would it mean to grandchildren to have present at a family gathering a family member who is living [in] a disordered relationship with another person?

‘If it were another kind of relationship – something that was profoundly disordered and harmful – we wouldn’t expose our children to that relationship, to the direct experience of it.

Stupid, ignorant, empty-of-meaning garbage.

‘And neither should we do it in the context of a family member who not only suffers from same-sex attraction, but who has chosen to live out that attraction, to act upon it, committing acts which are always and everywhere wrong, evil.’

Even worse. Bordering on genocidal. The stuff he says is evil, not the people he says it about or their relationships or their sexual activities.

He might be a decent human being if he weren’t a Catholic cardinal.

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

Biblical principles

May 27th, 2015 11:28 am | By

Vyckie was on CNN last night, so now more people know something about Quiverfull.


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

It’s that simple

May 27th, 2015 11:11 am | By

Jesus and Mo on kicking the hornets’ nest.

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

A beautiful example, an example to follow

May 27th, 2015 10:47 am | By

Mick Hartley shares the Times’s reporting on Tom Holland’s talk at the Hay Festival on Tuesday:

Historian Tom Holland gave the inaugural Christopher Hitchens Lecture at the Hay Festival yesterday. From the Times (£):

The taboo of not speaking about the prophet Muhammad has to be broken to deradicalise jihadists, an acclaimed author, historian and film-maker said yesterday.

Tom Holland, who produced Islam: the Untold Story for Channel 4, said that the “moral perfection” of Muhammad had to be questioned and that to do so required non-Muslims to break the “unspoken blasphemy taboo that has taken hold in the West”.

Holland, who was giving the inaugural Christopher Hitchens Lecture at the Hay Festival, said that in the past 30 years the “one thing that people seem to have learnt is that to question the moral perfection of Muhammad is akin to poking a hornets’ nest with a stick”.

Muslims seem to take more offence at insults to Muhammad than at insults directed at God, he said.

Holland said that this silence from non-Muslims allowed Islamic State to draw inspiration from the Prophet’s example, despite Muhammad’s actions remaining largely unexamined.

It’s a very very dangerous idea – possibly the worst idea humans could collectively have. It short-circuits careful thinking about ethical issues, and that’s the very thing we must not do.

He added that the “sanction for what they do is within the various biographies and traditions associated with the Prophet . . . when beheading an infidel seems to have been enshrined within what every jihadi aspires to do, it is surely not irrelevant that Muhammad owned a sword that can be translated as the ‘cleaver of vertebrae’.

“Not examining these claims [about Muhammad] leaves free those who want to put the most hostile spin on it. Jihadists cannot possibly be deradicalised unless the prophet is deradicalised as well,” he said.

Holland said that it was dangerous of politicians to argue that atrocities committed by Muslims were nothing to do with Islam. He said the British government’s deradicalisation policy was based on this. “Jihadists see themselves as models of righteous behaviour doing God’s will. They see themselves as following the example of Muhammad,” he said. “The Koran is absolutely explicit about this, ‘In the messenger of God you have a beautiful example, an example to follow’.”

It’s almost as if “the messenger of God” wrote those words himself…

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

Alirou reached out and touched his father on the ground

May 27th, 2015 10:11 am | By

The Sunday Times (South Africa) tells of how Boko Haram is making life hell for the people it doesn’t murder.

In a makeshift hut sheltered from a stinging desert wind, Adama Issaika holds her infant daughter close. Three months ago, she stood helpless as gunmen from the Islamist group Boko Haram lined up her husband and relatives against a mosque and shot them dead.

“My littlest boy, Alirou, reached out and touched his father on the ground,” she recalled.

One of thousands of Nigerians who piled into crude canoes to escape across Lake Chad to neighboring Chad, Issaika is caught in West Africa’s vice of anguish.

That’s how.

Destitute in the best of times, Chad has been inundated by Nigerians escaping Boko Haram as well as economically strangled by the results of the group’s actions. The United Nations estimates that at least 500,000 people face severe malnutrition because of reduced trade with Nigeria.

And that’s how.

Sylvestre Bebang, district medical officer in Mao, about an hour from the lake, stood in searing heat one recent day and assessed the situation. He said 90% of the province’s reserve food stocks had been depleted in the first quarter of the year and he and his colleagues are now forced to turn away mothers with their children.

“We estimated that 229 children will need treatment for malnutrition each month,” Bebang said. “In April, we screened more than 1,000 children.”

And that.

A walk through the Saturday market in the town of Baga Sola produced other examples of hardship. Zari Gayi said she is now forced to sell a handful of tomatoes, onions and mangos to support her four children because her husband, who used to operate a ferry on the lake, is out of work. On a good day, she pulls in the equivalent of $5.

When Issaika, whose husband was killed, lived in Tounbounyashi, a small Nigerian coastal village near Baga, life was relatively good. She sold fabric while her husband fished and the family lived reasonably comfortably off rice, chicken, yams and fish.

She said that in February, when Boko Haram militants rounded up the community and demanded Baga’s chief be handed over, she hid her eldest daughter, 15-year-old Samsia.

“I heard stories of them taking teenage girls,” she said cradling her youngest girl, Yati, 18 months old.

As wild, dusty wind rocked her shack, Issaika recounted how Boko Haram militants threatened to “slaughter you all as punishment for fleeing Baga.” She added, “People were very scared, one man begged and joined Boko Haram and he was not killed.”

It’s like a plague or a massive earthquake, only worse, because there’s human malevolence behind it.

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

Thou art forbidden

May 27th, 2015 9:34 am | By

Bangladesh has banned an Islamist group.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said Monday that the Ansarullah Bangla Team had been banned in response to a request by the police because it has threatened and killed bloggers, writers and activists. Junior Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said the decision was warranted under Bangladesh’s antiterrorism law. Since February, three bloggers who criticized radical Islam have been killed, including Avijit Roy,42, an American citizen of Bangladeshi origin.

And as the horse disappears over the horizon, the blot on the barn door slides firmly home.


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

When the shoe pincheth

May 27th, 2015 8:53 am | By

The Vatican’s “secretary of state” is sad about the Irish vote.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin says the church needs to do a better job of forcing its warped and antiquated views on every human being.

“The Church must take account of this reality, but in the sense of reinforcing its commitment to evangelization,” he said.

“I think that you cannot just talk of a defeat for Christian principles, but of a defeat for humanity.

“The family remains at the centre and we have to do everything to defend it and promote it.”

Where to begin.

This “family” bullshit is very modern; the Catholic church has certainly not put “the family” at the center throughout its history; on the contrary. “It is better to marry than to burn” is not what you’d call a hearty endorsement of family life.

And then, if the family is so very central, why is the entirety of the core church hierarchy officially anti-family? Mandatory celibacy also is not a robust endorsement of family life.

And then, equal marriage promotes families and family life, it doesn’t dent or destroy them.

In Italy, the government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is preparing to present legislation that would allow civil unions between gay couples.

The Irish referendum has also boosted calls in Germany, which allow same-sex civil unions, to go further and legalise same-sex marriage.

Pressure has started to grow in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which opposes any change.

“One would think that what the Catholic Irish can do, we can do too,” CDU parliamentarian Jens Spahn told the German Die Welt newspaper.

Suck it up, Cardinal Parolin.

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

Guest post: The tribal apologetics

May 26th, 2015 5:24 pm | By

Guest post by Bruce Gorton.

There are relatively few things which anger me more than child abuse.

When I read about Josh Duggar’s abuse of his own sisters, my blood ran cold.

When I read Christians defending it, by saying he was “playing doctor” with his sisters, my blood ran colder.

When I read Christians commenting about how atheists are full of hate, and have nothing but spite for Christians in response to it, my blood stopped running.

It had turned to ice.

Let me be clear here, I am not disgusted because Josh Duggar is a Christian; I am disgusted because he molested his own sisters.

And fourteen is old enough to know better.

I am disgusted because of the tribal apologetics trying to defend his actions at the expense of his sisters.

And they are tribal apologetics, had Josh been named Mohammed there would be no such talk of playing “doctor.”

There is a deep double standard there, wherein it suddenly becomes something other than child abuse the second it becomes your tribe.

That is the thing I most despise about conservatives in general – the idea that the evils of others are harmless in ourselves.

That is why I cannot side with people who try to minimise sexual harassment within atheism, why I cannot side with the US on torture, why I could not side with Richard Dawkins’ statements on pedophilia, why I consider myself neither multi nor mono-cultural.

I am anti-culture, because I do not believe that tribal allegiance matters one whit, what matters is not my culture or even my ideas, but our humanity.

There are some things we should hate, and Christians who would sacrifice their own children to their cultural identity are squarely in that bracket.

And I do not say this because I am an atheist; I say this because I was abused by one of my siblings growing up.

It was not sexual abuse, it is true, it was a sustained campaign of violence and intimidation.

But it was abuse, and I will not excuse those who look the other way because they want to feel forgiving of the pains inflicted on others.

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