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.


Apr 1st, 2015 10:13 am | By

The disgust at the prosecution and sentencing of Purvi Patel has spread to the UK. The Independent has a story:

Her lawyers say Patel, who is from a conservative Hindu family, had concealed her pregnancy from her parents and panicked when she realised she was in labour. Patel lived with and cared for her parents and infirm grandparents in a house in South Bend, Indiana.

Patel maintained that the foetus was stillborn but the prosecution argued that she gave birth to a live foetus that died within a few seconds.

“I assumed because the baby was dead there was nothing to do,” the South Bend Tribune quoted her as saying during a police interview. “I’ve never been in this situation. I’ve never been pregnant before.”

The prosecution said the fetus (or baby) died within a few seconds? I didn’t know that part. In that case wtf was she supposed to do? Perform a miracle?

Patel is the second woman to be charged with feticide in the US, but the first to receive a prison sentence. She was prosecuted under state laws that are otherwise intended at targeting illegal abortion providers and prosecuting crimes against pregnant women, Al Jazeera reports.

Women’s rights activists have condemned her conviction and the subsequent sentence.  They say the law is being used to prosecute women who miscarry, have stillbirths or try to terminate their own pregnancies.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service described Patel’s case as “tragic” and warned it could set a dangerous precedent for other pregnant women.  A spokesperson told The Independent: “Purvi Patel is sadly the latest victim of the creeping criminalisation of pregnant women’s behaviour in America.”

Creeping Saudi-ization.


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

Not another hour in prison

Mar 31st, 2015 6:03 pm | By

A piece of good news.

Petition Update · VICTORY FOR GHONCHEH #FreeGhoncheh ·

Iman Ghavami

London, United Kingdom

Iman Ghavami

London, United Kingdom
Mar 31, 2015 — I have big news for you.

Today I can tell you that Ghoncheh is free! As we were celebrating Iranian New year, Iranian Government wiped out the rest of my sister’s sentence. Ghoncheh will not have to spend another day, another hour in prison.

This is amazing news and I wanted you to hear from me directly. You stood by us during those difficult months. You gave my family courage and hope. The uncertainty of autumn and the dark clouds of winter have gone. And the sun once again is shining for my family. Spring is here.

My mum has finally become her old happy self and has found peace again. My mum and I will not forget your generous support and thank you sincerely. Together we brought Ghoncheh home. Ghoncheh also asked me to thank you all for your support.

This has been the best spring for my family. Hopefully this spring brings happiness and peace to all Iranians and all of you.


I have no idea if the petition had anything to do with it or not, but who cares; it’s good news.

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

The tightrope

Mar 31st, 2015 4:58 pm | By

About those low numbers of women in STEM fields. It’s a pipeline problem, right – more recruiting will fix it? Or it’s not a problem at all, it’s just what women choose, because they want to Spend More Time With The Kids. Right?

Not according to Joan C. Williams.

Several new studies add to the growing body of evidence that documents the role of gender bias in driving women out of science careers. A 2012 randomized, double-blind study gave science faculty at research-intensive universities the application materials of a fictitious student randomly assigned a male or female name, and found that both male and female faculty rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hirable than the woman with identical application materials. A 2014 study found that both men and women were twice as likely to hire a man for a job that required math.

That can’t be right, because that’s political correctness run mad. All sane people know that there is no gender bias any more. Just ask Christina Hoff Sommers, she’ll tell you.

We conducted in-depth interviews with 60 female scientists and surveyed 557 female scientists, both with help from the Association for Women in Science. These studies provide an important picture of how gender bias plays out in everyday workplace interactions. My previous research has shown that there are four major patterns of bias women face at work. This new study emphasizes that women of color experience these to different degrees, and in different ways. Black women also face a fifth type of bias.

Pattern 1: Prove-it-Again. Two-thirds of the women interviewed, and two-thirds of the women surveyed, reported having to prove themselves over and over again – their successes discounted, their expertise questioned. “People just assume you’re not going to be able to cut it,” a statistician told us, in a typical comment. Black women were considerably more likely than other women to report having to deal with this type of bias; three-fourths of black women did. (And few Asian-American women felt that the stereotype of Asian-Americans as good at science helped them; that stereotype may well chiefly benefit Asian-American men.)

Guess what the next one is. We were just talking about it. It’s that too quiet-too loud thing. That you can’t win; that you’re too girly and too ungirly both at once.

Pattern 2: The Tightrope. Women need to behave in masculine ways in order to be seen as competent—but women are expected to be feminine. So women find themselves walking a tightrope between being seen as too feminine to be competent, and too masculine to be likable. More than a third (34.1%) of scientists surveyed reported feeling pressure to play a traditionally feminine role, with Asian Americans (40.9%) more likely than other groups of women to report this. About half of the scientists we surveyed (53.0%) reported backlash for displaying stereotypically “masculine” behaviors like speaking their minds directly or being decisive.

“I’ve gotten remarks like, ‘I didn’t expect someone Indian…and female to be like this,” said a micro-biologist. An astrophysicist told us she’d had to “damp down” her ambition and “become as amiable as possible,” going as far as to hide prizes and media attention. On the other hand, if women are assertive, direct, outspoken, or competitive, they may face dislike or even ostracism. “I’m pretty aggressive,” said a Latina bioengineer. “I find that both men and women…are going to immediately call [you a] witch. I’d use another word but it would be rude.”

I get that a lot.

And there are other patterns, including ones that especially affect women of color.

It’s so tempting the attribute the paucity of women in STEM to pipeline problems or personal choices. But it’s time to listen to women scientists: they think the issue’s gender bias, and an increasing amount of research supports that view.

Or, they could just listen to Christina Hoff Sommers.

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

What mean “social justice warrior”??

Mar 31st, 2015 4:06 pm | By

Brian Leiter has only just discovered the term “social justice warrior,” and has had its meaning explained to him by someone with what looks to me like an incomplete (or tendentious) understanding of it.

Functionally defined, “SJW” designates someone who monitors cyberspace for slights or miscues that reveal bias, and then exploits the various tools of social media to shame the offender, express outrage, and summon the digital mob, whilst achieving for themselves a righteous fame that ties their identities and their actions to the heroes and achievements of the civil rights movement, the landmark moments of which preceded their adulthood.  SJWs divide the world, GWB-like, into the evildoers (“shitlords”) and the oppressed, with the possible, but problematic remainder, being allies, whose status is ever tenuous and usually collapses into shitlord. SJWs do not distinguish between major and minor offenses — unintentionally using “transgender-ed” instead of “transgender” is as unforgivable as any other act of oppression — nor do they distinguish repeat and systematic from first-time offenders.  They employ a principle of interpretation that is something like the opposite of charity. (If the utterance gives offense under one interpretation, that interpretation is correct.) It is a harsh “justice”.

Well, no. There are people who fit that description, certainly, but that is not the primary meaning of SJW.

Leiter quotes a reader pointing out the inadequacy of the above definition in an addendum:

I wanted to send you a quick note with regard to your most recent post on “social justice warriors”. Whilst I am entirely sympathetic to your criticisms of the online mobs, vague identity politics, etc. I thought that seeing as you hadn’t heard the term before you might want to be made aware that it originated and still continues to be used almost exclusively (to the best of my knowledge) as a pejorative by so-called ‘Men’s Rights Activists’ (read: genuinely horrible and regressive misogynists) to describe anyone with a liberal or progressive disposition. Without impugning your correspondent, I am immediately suspicious when the term is used as it suggests (and originated from) an entirely different and also toxic version of identity politics. I think the most mainstream use of the term so far has been in the ‘Gamergate’ movement, which many (myself included) think was a thinly veiled attempt by the same misogynists to create an aura of legitimacy around their sending of rape and death threats to relatively benign (if sometimes mistaken) critics of video game tropes/culture.

And so on. A useful corrective, I think, but Leiter pretty much brushes it off by saying (basically) that he still likes the first definition. There are more correctives in an open thread, along with some endorsements of the more tendentious first explanation.

With regard to “Social Justice Warrior”:

The term was coined with something like the interpretation that Brian’s correspondent indicated. It still has this use, but I think is now somewhat disfavored among honest participants in the debate, due to semantic poisoning.

What semantic poisoning? There was (and still is) this internet thing called ‘gamergate’. Supposedly it was about ethics in video game journalism, but mostly it was entitled male gamers sending death threats/ rape threats/ persistent harassment to women who criticized the rampant misogyny both in the companies that make video games, and in the content of those games. “Social Justice Warrior” as used by the gamergaters, came to be a pejorative for “feminist/ lgbt activist/ anyone who actually cares about actual social justice.” Google ‘Anita Sarkeesian” + “social justice warrior” and you will find how nasty the people who use the “SJW” label are. Google ‘Anita Sarkeesian’ and you might learn how little that term applies, if you are using it with the original meaning.

I personally think “SJW” is more of a taunt than a criticism, and its current use seems mostly to be to bully women and to justify bullying them. If someone has bad arguments, you can just point them out. It’s not ideal, in my opinion, to use terminology that (nowadays) most clearly aligns you with 4chan and the gamergaters.

In other words, if in doubt…don’t use it. It’s the same as that endless argument over “cunt” and how it’s used in the UK and why should we listen to Americans on the subject and yadda yadda yadda. I don’t see the point of defending epithets unless you’re very sure your particular treasured epithet is not more loaded than you realize. (And sometimes not even then, because some people can be very sure of things that are 100% obviously wrong.)

Leiter, rather surprisingly, completely missed the point.

BL COMMENT: The definition my correspondent offered had nothing to do with these usages.

Yes but that’s the point. That definition was incomplete at best, and the point is, the term has a lot more baggage, of a different kind, than the correspondent explained.

Another commenter tried to help.

My own impression is that the term “social justice warrior” followed a trajectory similar to “politically correct”, although much more rapidly.

As readers here are no doubt aware, PC was originally coined by the left to mock a certain type of ultra-doctrinaire Marxist back in the 70s, and by the late 80s the term was being used in earnest by conservatives to attack leftist thought.

Similarly, my impression is that SJW was coined by progressives during the early days of social media as a term of (mild) mockery. It referred to someone on twitter/tumblr, usually young, who had just discovered activism last week and was REALLY REALLY SERIOUS ABOUT IT EVERYONE!!! The term was subsequently adopted by the right as a genuine insult aimed at online progressives. Although this story is complicated by the fact that progressives have “reclaimed” the term and now unironically self-identify as SJWs in a way they didn’t before.

Do they? I don’t. For a start, why would I call myself any kind of “warrior” unironically?

Yet another tried:

From my experience, “social justice warrior” has nothing like limited meaning the correspondent describes (someone who cannot distinguish between minor and major offenses, participates in cybermobs etc.) but is actually used against anyone who advocates on issues like racism and sexism to disparage their concerns. (Which I think is really exactly what the term suggests) I have never, ever heard the term “Social Justice Warrior” used by anyone that thinks social justice issues are real and to be taken seriously, and it’s very often directed against anyone who brings up any social justice concerns at all.

One of the easiest ways to get called a SJW is to disagree with a racist or sexist joke online. I’m not talking about calling a mob in response to a slightly sexist joke, I’m talking about voicing disagreement with blatant racism and sexism that’s “just a joke.” I’ve been called a SJW a handful of times, every time because of something along these lines.

BL COMMENT: Given the evidence already adduced in this thread about the myriad uses, I don’t understand how the preceding can be seriously asserted. The term obviously has different meanings as used by different people. This is a familiar phenomenon in language.

Right…so if some people used “nigger” to mean “congenial amusing comrade” would it make sense to adopt the word oneself to mean that? No, it wouldn’t, because it would almost certainly be misunderstood. This too is a familiar phenomenon in language.

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


Mar 31st, 2015 3:12 pm | By

News Asia reports on the water shortage in Taiwan.

Taiwan will further tighten water supply as the island is suffering from its worst ever drought. Starting April 1, Taiwan will cut water supply in the northern Xinbei and Taoyuan cities for two days a week. Nearly 3 million people are expected to be affected.

Taiwanese Premier Mao Chi Kuo said: “Based on what the Central Weather Bureau has told me, this is probably the worst drought in Taiwan’s history.” Taiwan started a second phase of water rationing in February by restricting supply to industrial users by 5% in nine cities and counties.

But the efforts have failed to ease the drought as water levels for major reservoirs across the island continue to hit new lows. For instance, Shihmen Reservoir – a key to water supply in northern Taiwan – now has less than 44 million tons of water, which could run out in 40 days without rain.

Drought is really frightening. Drought means crop failures, and crop failures mean famine and war. Drought also means death from not enough water to drink.

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

They were just kidding

Mar 31st, 2015 12:26 pm | By

Lynn Paltrow on the implications of the conviction of Purvi Patel.

The prosecution and verdict in this case demonstrate that, despite their claims to the contrary, the real result of the anti-abortion movement —if not the intended goal—is to punish women for terminating pregnancies.

The anti-choice movement’s long-term strategy goes beyond just limiting access to abortion. It also includes passing feticide laws that recognize fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses as having a separate legal status and creates special penalties for causing them harm.1

As historian and legal scholar Reva B. Siegel has documented, many “pro-life” activists promote anti-abortion measures as “women-protective,” ensuring “women’s informed consent, women’s health, women’s welfare, and women’s freedom.”2 Feticide laws fall into this category: They are presented as a means of protecting both pregnant women and their “unborn” children, and they have overwhelmingly been introduced in the wake of violence against pregnant women. No Indiana law, including its feticide law, has ever been proposed and enacted that claimed it could or should be used as a basis for prosecuting and incarcerating women who have abortions. 3

And yet, that’s exactly what happened.

The feticide charge was based on the claim that Patel “did knowingly terminate a human pregnancy, to wit: her own pregnancy, by ingesting medication,” and that this conduct was not a legal abortion performed in accordance with Indiana abortion law.6

To many observers, it was a shocking new application of Indiana’s feticide law, which was intended to criminalize “knowing or intentional termination of another’s pregnancy.”7 Turning this law into one that can be used to punish a woman who herself has an abortion is an extraordinary expansion of the scope and intention of the state’s law. Nevertheless, a jury convicted Patel on both the feticide and neglect charges; she now faces as many as 70 years in prison.

Even though abortion is legal.

The outcome of this case is noteworthy and alarming for another reason as well. It directly contradicts the repeated claims of anti-abortion leaders that their efforts will not lead to punishing women. Several years ago, 17 anti-choice leaders participated in an online symposium hosted by the conservative magazine National Review, addressing the question of whether there should be “jail time for women who seek abortions.”23 Overwhelmingly the writers assured readers that this was not their goal and moreover, that it would never happen.24 One of the contributors, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the national anti-choice group Susan B. Anthony List, argued that fears of women being prosecuted and jailed were just a pro-choice tactic to malign abortion opponents. 25

It will never happen. It will never never happen. Except when it does.


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

What happened next should frighten everyone

Mar 31st, 2015 11:37 am | By

Dr Jen Gunter discusses the Purvi Patel case from the point of view of an OB who wouldn’t dream of calling the police on a patient and is appalled that some would and do.

For those unfamiliar with the case Ms. Patel received no prenatal care and was an unknown gestational age when she delivered at home. She thought she had delivered very prematurely and that the baby was stillborn. Not knowing what to do, ill from bleeding, and psychologically affected from delivering unassisted in her bathroom she deposited what she thought was a pre-viable stillbirth in the trash.

Ms. Patel continued bleeding and so sought care at the hospital and what happened next should frighten everyone. After determining she had been pregnant the medical staff called the police and one of the OB/GYNs, Dr. McGuire, abandoned her to search with the police. Because that’s what doctors do, leave patients and play junior CSI. When the body was found Dr. McGuire told the officers he believed the fetus was 30 weeks, even though he had no qualification to make that determination. These actions starting the ball rolling as a potential homicide.

Dr. McGuire, a pro-life OB/GYN, was of course wrong. The autopsy indicted 23-24 weeks which is borderline viability and a gestational age when parents can make the decision to resuscitate or not. That didn’t matter to the prosecutor who either thought 6-7 weeks made little difference (it make all the difference in the world) or didn’t care.

The medical team handed Patel’s records over the the police while she was in surgery. The police were there to confront her almost as soon as she woke up.

I’ve had the police show up several times to interview inpatients and when I felt the patient wasn’t capable I told the police they would have to wait or come back or discuss the matter with the hospital’s legal counsel. My authority to make this determination was never questioned. If I wouldn’t let my patient drive a car then she isn’t medically fit to speak with the police. I can’t even fathom turning over medical records. That’s why there are court orders and hospital lawyers and medical correspondence departments.

But there’s little patients can do if the medical staff decides to violate their privacy. They can sue, but it might be from a prison cell.

This violation of privacy and zealotry towards viewing pregnancy loss as a crime should worry every woman of reproductive age with a uterus. There are cases of police traipsing though hospital rooms of women who have delivered 21 week stillbirths in toilets (that is typically what happens) all because the medical personnel had suspicions. Christine Taylor, early in her second trimester (before viability) fell down the stairs and later confided to her nurse at the hospital that she was ambivalent about the pregnancy. Her nurse called a doctor who called the police. She was jailed for two days. Bei Bei Shua tried to kill herself due to profound depression while pregnant in the third trimester, her baby died three days after delivery and she was charged with murder. All because her social worker called the police before she even delivered.

Because the fetus is everything and the woman is a presumed criminal.

In cases like these it’s the hospital personnel going out of their way to involve the police and hand over information. If a doctor, or a nurse, or a social worker says this is a crime the police aren’t going to question it. Once the police and prosecutor get it into their head someone need to be punished the legal locomotive loses its brakes and apparently even incorrect accusations and medical facts can’t stop it.

Oh well, it’s only women.

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

Guest post: How does a rain soaked island have a drought if there isn’t climate change?

Mar 31st, 2015 10:15 am | By

Originally a comment by left0ver1under in The withdrawing room.

I make it a point to avoid rants, profanities, insults and “aggressive words”, but there are times when some people deserve to be called blankety-blanks and smacked across the face with frying pans.

Today in the news here in Taiwan, it was reported that the main reservoir in Tainan is down to 38% of capacity, and was only that full because of recent rainfall. And the main reservoir in Taipei is low enough that the government has issued severe water restrictions. (Unfortunately, the restrictions are being delayed because of a holiday.) It’s gotten so bad that people – including me – are actively wishing for Supertyphoon Maysak to hit the island. It’s already 30C on most days and dryer than I’ve seen in nine years of living here.

The fact that there’s a typhoon in late March/early April should be a clue, but not to the clueless. It’s the fourth typhoon in this area of the Pacific Ocean since January 1. I spoke recently to the parents of my employer (they’re both over 60) and they tell me they’ve never seen a typhoon past December, never mind four after the new year. Typhoon Tembin in 2012 did a figure four, crossing Taiwan east to west, going south, then crossing a second time south to north. No one had ever heard of that happening anywhere on Earth, not just here.

How exactly does a rain soaked island like this have a drought if there isn’t climate change? It doesn’t help that last typhoon season (August to November) Taiwan did not have a single day of government ordered closure of schools and businesses due to rain. Typhoons are annoying because of the damage they cause, but they are a big part of filling the water table on this island.

Climate change deniers suck.

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

Reaping the whirlwind

Mar 31st, 2015 9:53 am | By

Poor Saudi Arabia. The BBC reports it doesn’t want Daesh luring away its people or bursting in to attack the Saud family itself. But how is it to go about resisting it when they have so much in common?

According to the Ministry of Interior, some 2,600 Saudis have joined extremist groups in Syria since 2011, around 600 of whom have returned. Last year alone, 400 were arrested in relation to IS activities inside the Kingdom.

“Extremist groups” – but the government of Saudi Arabia is an extremist group. There’s nothing mild or average about Saudi Arabia.

It is a relatively low number, says Interior Ministry spokesman General Mansour Sultan al-Turki, but still a matter of deep concern.

“Whoever made [IS] made it for purposes and one of those purposes is really to attack Saudi Arabia,” he says.

“They know that our borders are very well-protected so their idea is to do their best through propaganda, like inspire young Saudis to carry out any terrorist act on their behalf.”

But Saudi Arabia carries out terrorist attacks on its own citizens. It beheads some of them, it whips some of them.

Last year Riyadh made it a crime to join IS. And it mobilised Saudi clerics, who now condemn the group as un-Islamic.

But that has not included any soul-searching of their own ultraconservative creed, one that advocates harsh Islamic punishments which have been taken to extremes by IS.

Precisely. If even the BBC admits it, it’s not much of a secret any more.

The recent sentencing of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam prompted Western comparisons between the ideologies of Saudi Arabia and Islamic State.

“This is the basic problem we have with media like yourselves in mixing apples and oranges,” countered the former intelligence chief Prince Turki al Faisal.

“Fahash is a terrorist group, it has no legal system,” he said, using an Arabic word for obscene that rhymes with Daesh.

“The kingdom is a state, it has a judicial system that traces its history even longer than English common law.”

Yes. Saudi Arabia is a state, and it has a judicial system. But it’s an absolutist totalitarian theocratic state, with a theocratic judicial system. It has the formal trappings, but the laws and practices are fascistic. And Daesh of course calls itself a state, indeed a meta-state, a caliphate. If you asked it it would no doubt assure you it has a judicial system. The outcomes are much the same.

Saudi Arabia’s puritanical version of Islam does share a strain of religious intolerance that IS has used to justify its killings of Shia and non-Muslims, says Jane Kinninmont, a London-based Middle East analyst.

“The tendency to declare other Muslims as ‘kafir’ or non-Muslim, that’s something you see advocated by some officially sanctioned and tolerated Muslim clerics in Saudi Arabia,” she says.

Damn right. And all those Saudi-funded madrassas? You think none of their graduates have joined Daesh? It is to laugh. Saudi Arabia has spent billions in oil money to spread Islamist fanaticism around the globe, and now it’s quaking in its boots because Daesh is on its border. This is the world you built, you fucks.

The Kingdom’s frontline with IS, its northern border with Iraq, is demarcated with a double fence that undulates across a vast windswept desert, monitored by high-tech surveillance cameras.

Members of Islamic State did clash with a border patrol early this year, killing three guards. But the threat is more internal than external.

And the Saudis are not questioning whether their ideology is in any way to blame.

It’s good to see the BBC finally notice.

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

Wisdom literature

Mar 30th, 2015 4:40 pm | By

Hm. Time for some Stupid Posters, because I have seen some and I wouldn’t want them to go to waste.

You can see them yourself if you visit the Facebook page of someone who calls himself David Avocado Wolfe. Yes, he really does. He says he’s a  public figure, too. Well I don’t believe that.

Piffle. Not common sense at all. Think of all the African and Middle Eastern and Indian and Chinese foods the names of which I can’t pronounce properly – that’s hardly a reason not to eat them.

Nope. That’s not true.

“Pushes off the body’s dirty electricity”?


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

Attention must be paid

Mar 30th, 2015 4:17 pm | By

CFI has a statement on the horrific murder of Washiqur Rahman.

Barely a month following the brutal murder of our friend, freethought writer Avijit Roy in Bangladesh, and the near-killing of his wife Rafida Bonya Ahmed, atheist blogger Washiqur Rahman has been killed by a group of Islamic extremists in Dhaka. A young man at age 27, Rahman was far less well-known than Dr. Roy, but his public expressions of admiration for Roy, and his courageous criticism of religion were sufficiently threatening to these extremist thugs that they tried to silence him as they silenced Dr. Roy.

But they will find that just as was the case with the murder of Dr. Roy, the power of the ideals and principles Washiqur Rahman championed will now only become a more potent force, and the hateful and backward ideology of his killers will be exposed to the world. Violent Islamic extremists think they will scare their critics into silence and submission, but their barbarity will only serve to strengthen the unity and resolve of those who believe in the fundamental right to free expression — which includes the right to criticize, question, and reject religion.

The rest.

The American Humanist Association also has a statement.

The American Humanist Association mourns the tragic death of Bangladeshi blogger, Oyasiqur (Washiqur) Rhaman, who was brutally murdered in Dhaka, Bangladesh, for advocating freethought and progressivism.

Rhaman was described by his friends and fellow bloggers as a humanist and atheist. On social media, he criticized religious extremism and expressed solidarity with Avijit Roy, another humanist blogger and Bangladeshi-American who was killed only a few weeks ago for espousing secular views. The vicious nature of these two murders underscores the oppression and harassment faced by humanists around the world. The American Humanist Association reaffirms its commitment to free speech and to ending the prejudice against humanists and other nonbelievers by advancing secular values and human rights and opposing blasphemy laws.

In the wake of these appalling tragedies, the American Humanist Association is continuing to demand that U.S. Senators and Representatives hold hearings on the global persecution of humanists and other nontheists by religious fundamentalists. A copy of the letter sent to legislators can be viewed here.

Image result for Washiqur Rahman

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

The killers don’t speak for Bangladesh

Mar 30th, 2015 3:50 pm | By

Some people protested

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Student associations protested.

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

Not a religion of peace??

Mar 30th, 2015 3:27 pm | By

The Huffington Post has a video from a few days ago on “Muslim women” saying why Ayaan Hirsi Ali is all wrong about Islam. Quel shock. From the abstract:

Activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been extremely vocal in her critique of Islam. In her new book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, she details her issues with its teachings and even declares “Islam is not a religion of peace.”

*gasp* You don’t mean it! She even says Islam is not a religion of peace???! How can she possibly think such a thing, given all the peace spread by Islam right now? Think of those three peace-loving men who chopped Washiqur Rahman to death a few hours ago.

I get that people don’t want to pick on Muslims but let’s be reasonable, ok? Of course Islam is not a religion of peace.

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

He pays the rent, it’s his place, he can do whatever he wants to

Mar 30th, 2015 2:57 pm | By

An Indiana business owner went on the radio to say he’d gotten an early start on the discriminating against people even before the governor signed Indiana’s RFRA into law.

The business owner, who would not give his name or the name of his business, said he had told some LGBT “people” that equipment was broken in his restaurant and he couldn’t serve them even though it wasn’t and other people were already eating at the tables. “So, yes, I have discriminated,” he told RadioNOW 100.9 hosts. The hosts were surprised the owner said he was okay with discriminating.

“Well, I feel okay with it because it’s my place of business, I pay the rent, I’ve built it with all my money and my doing. It’s my place; I can do whatever I want with it,” he said. “They can have their lifestyle and do their own thing in their own place or with people that want to be with them.”

So he can keep out the Nigras and the Jews and the wetbacks and anyone else he doesn’t like, because this is god’s country.

Georgia. Nineteen other states, including nearby Kentucky and Illinois, have adopted religious liberty laws.

These laws try to codify some of what was established when the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case last year.

Let’s keep this up. Maybe soon we too can be talking about the latest atheist blogger who’s been murdered by fanatics wielding meat cleavers.

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

Guest post: Give me a scenario

Mar 30th, 2015 2:12 pm | By

Originally a comment by themadtapper on As when you find a trout in the milk.

“It’s not about discriminating against gay customers, it’s about protecting religious liberty!”

Ok, so give me an example of what kind of scenario this law is supposed to help in.

“Well, maybe a florist doesn’t want to provide flowers for a gay wedding.”

So, the scenario in which this law, which totally isn’t about discrimination, is supposed to help in is a scenario where someone wants to turn away a gay customer?

“No! The florist just doesn’t want to participate in something that’s against their religion!”

So the scenario isn’t about discrimination or turning away gay customers, it’s about not having to participate in commerce with gay people?

“No! It’s about not having to participate in gay weddings!”

But the only way they’re connected to the wedding at all is by selling things to the gay people having a wedding.

“Exactly, and they don’t want to do that!”

So, they don’t want to do commerce with gay people that are having weddings and want to be able to turn them away?

“Dammit man, it’s like you’re not even listening to me!”

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

Purvi Patel

Mar 30th, 2015 12:25 pm | By

Still in Indiana – Purvi Patel was sentenced today. Think Progress has details.

Purvi Patel was arrested in 2013 after she went to the emergency room to seek medical treatment for heavy bleeding. After initially denying that she had been pregnant, she eventually told the staff that she had a premature delivery at home, believed the fetus was not alive, and placed it in a bag in a dumpster on her way to the hospital. Her doctors called the cops, who questioned Patel while she was still in the hospital, searched her cell phone records, and recovered the fetus.

Patel maintains that she did not abandon a living baby. “I assumed because the baby was dead there was nothing to do,” Patel later told law enforcement officials. “I’ve never been in this situation. I’ve never been pregnant before.”

Her lawyers said the pregnancy resulted from a sexual relationship with a married co-worker, and Patel didn’t want her conservative Hindu parents — who raised her under the assumption that she shouldn’t have sex outside of marriage — to know about it. They also said Patel didn’t realize how far along her pregnancy was, and was shocked to see what the fetus looked like when she experienced the premature delivery.

State officials, meanwhile, contend they have evidence to suggest Patel attempted an illegal abortion after purchasing abortion-inducing drugs online. They say she intentionally tried to end her pregnancy — even though a toxicologist testified there was no trace of the drugs in her bloodstream — and then abandoned her living child after the termination was unsuccessful.

In February, an Indiana jury deliberated for less than five hours before finding Patel guilty of both charges brought against her: one for “fetal murder of an unborn child” and one for “neglect of a dependent.”




How is it possible to convict someone of two charges which contradict each other? How could she have neglected a dependent she had already murdered? Or murdered an unborn child if it lived to become a dependent?

Indiana’s “feticide” law, the statute that allowed state officials to bring the charge of murder against Patel, was not intended to be applied to women themselves. It was originally enacted as a way to crack down on illegal abortion providers. However, Paltrow pointed out that Patel’s case fits into a chilling trend: Even though abortion opponents say that the mounting legal restrictions against the procedure are not supposed to target women, it’s becoming clear that some women are winding up behind bars anyway.

Maybe especially so when they’re not pale and middle-class and prosperous? Just a hunch.

She was sentenced this morning.

Purvi Patel was sentenced Monday to 41 years in prison on charges of feticide and felony neglect of a dependent after an Indiana jury in early February found her guilty of the charges. She was ordered to serve 20 years in prison after receiving a 30-year sentence on the felony neglect charge, with an additional ten years suspended.

Patel received a six-year sentence on the feticide charge, but that will be served concurrently with the 20-year sentence. She will spend five years on probation when she is released from prison.

God bless America.

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

As when you find a trout in the milk

Mar 30th, 2015 11:48 am | By

Garrett Epps at the Atlantic explains how the Indiana RFRA is different from (and worse than) the Federal one and all but two state ones.

[T]he Indiana statute has two features the federal RFRA—and most state RFRAs—do not. First, the Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business to assert a right to “the free exercise of religion.” The federal RFRA doesn’t contain such language, and neither does any of the state RFRAs except South Carolina’s; in fact, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, explicitly exclude for-profit businesses from the protection of their RFRAs.

The new Indiana statute also contains this odd language: “A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” (My italics.) Neither the federal RFRA, nor 18 of the 19 state statutes cited by the Post, says anything like this; only the Texas RFRA, passed in 1999, contains similar language.

The extras matter. They’re there for a reason.

Of all the state “religious freedom” laws I have read, this new statute hints most strongly that it is there to be used as a means of excluding gays and same-sex couples from accessing employment, housing, and public accommodations on the same terms as other people. True, there is no actual language that says, All businesses wishing to discriminate in employment, housing, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation, please check this “religious objection” box. But, as Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”

So—is the fuss over the Indiana law overblown?


The statute shows every sign of having been carefully designed to put new obstacles in the path of equality; and it has been publicly sold with deceptive claims that it is “nothing new.”

Being required to serve those we dislike is a painful price to pay for the privilege of running a business; but the pain exclusion inflicts on its victims, and on society, are far worse than the discomfort the faithful may suffer at having to open their businesses to all.

I have seen people passionately arguing that business owners have an absolute right to run their businesses as they see fit and that that totally does include refusing to serve people for whatever reason they feel like. Nope. If you open the door, you open the door. If you don’t want to serve all who walk in the door, then don’t open the door.

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

Dear aspiring men

Mar 30th, 2015 11:14 am | By

Hamza Tzortzis of 5pillars and gender segregation at university events fame tells men to “man up” and be Chivalrous toward the Ladies.

Dear aspiring men,

Whoever you are, wherever you are, and whatever you believe in, it is time we used that one gender difference that has not yet been disputed amongst our “feminist” and “liberal” sisters – your strength and physical appearance.

Nice start, isn’t it, expressing contempt for feminist and liberal women. I feel so much safer now.

The picture helps too.

Hamza Tzortzis’ message to “aspiring men” #ManUpUK

Oh right – that’s unmistakably a woman being protected and not a woman being held captive. No question. It’s obvious.

It has come to my attention that women in the UK are feeling less safe.

Here is one way of trying to solve this endemic problem. The next time you witness any form of verbal or physical abuse in public, stand up and put that coward to shame!

Here’s an example of what you can do or say:

“Excuse me sir… I have a zero tolerance policy towards any form of abuse against vulnerable people. Please stop what you are doing or I will use every lawful means necessary to put a stop to it.”

That’s the ticket – make a big point of saying women are weak and fragile, by way of helping them out with your strength and physical appearance.

Morality is on your side, the law is on your side, and more importantly – God is on your side!

Protect our women, by being men – real men!

If you “man up”, then you will help revive a long lost universal tradition of chivalry and protecting women.

Here are some more helpful tips. When travelling at night or during the day, try sitting or standing close to areas where you may think there are vulnerable people. This will allow you to guard that area until you have to move on towards the rest of your journey.

Yup yup yup. All women are vulnerable people, and also, it’s a brilliant idea to seek them out and then get close to them, in order to [wink wink nudge nudge] “guard” the area.

On the other hand this sounds like a lot of trouble for men, plus it might turn out to be dangerous for them, so really wouldn’t it be simpler and safer and better all around for women to just stay home?

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

In the latest of a series

Mar 30th, 2015 10:34 am | By

The Guardian on the slaughter of Washiqur Rahman.

A blogger known for his atheist views has been stabbed to death in Bangladesh, in the latest of a series of attacks on independent writers in the developing south Asian nation.

Not stabbed, no. That sounds comparatively gentle – compared to what they actually did to him. He was chopped, not stabbed. He was chopped in the eyes, and the chin, and the neck.

Local police chief Wahidul Islam told Agence France-Presse the victim had been “brutally hacked to death this morning with big knives just 500 yards [460 metres] from his home at Dhaka’s Begunbari area”.

That’s the word: hacked. Not stabbed.

The suspects have so far been identified only as Zikrullah, said to be a student at a religious school near the city of Chittagong, and Ariful Islam, who police say was studying at the Darul Ulum religious school in Dhaka. Police are hunting a third man.

“Those who killed him differed on his ideologies about religion. He was not an atheist. He was a believer. But the way he followed religion was different from the way radical groups insist,” Biplob Kumar Sarkar, deputy commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan police, told the Guardian.

However, Tamanna Setu, a friend of Rahman said: “He used to write a satirical column on facebook about against believers. He was an atheist. His killing has to be connected to his writing.”

Ibrahim Khalil, a fellow blogger who knew Rahman through events they organised, said Rahman was a “progressive” who wrote against religious extremism and repression of ethnic minorities.

“I can say he was a very humble man,” Khalil said.

The Dhaka Tribune reported that the dead man was a member of eight Facebook group pages including Atheist Bangladesh.

Rahman, who worked at a travel agency as an IT manager, is the third such blogger to have been murdered in the Muslim-majority country in the past two years.

How to silence a whole country.

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

A humanist and a true wit

Mar 30th, 2015 10:00 am | By

The IHEU on the brutal murder of Washiqur Rahman in Dhaka a few hours ago.

Washiqur Rahman’s Facebook banner declares “#IamAvijit”, after the leading secular and humanist blogger, Avijit Roy, who was murdered a month ago in Bangladesh.

Washiqur babu

This morning Washiqur Rahman himself was killedin similar circumstances: a machete attack by assailants on the streets of Dhaka. The brutal attack took place close to Rahman’s home. Police have reportedly taken two men into custody who were detained at the scene.

Bob Churchill, Director of Communications at the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) comments: “We are deeply saddened that yet another rationalist voice has been so brutally silenced in this vile backlash against atheist bloggers. Our thoughts are with Washiqur’s family and we stand in solidarity with the many individual thinkers and writers from Bangladesh who exercise their right to discuss religion — Islam in particular — frankly and critically. This is a human right, freedom of expression, and it should be respected and protected in Bangladesh, as it should be respected and protected everywhere.”

Asif Mohiuddin, who was also the victim of a machete attack in 2013, but survived and now lives abroad, described Washiqur on his Facebook page as a “humanist” and a true wit. He told the IHEU: “He was a good friend. We spent hours over tea discussing blogs a few years ago. He had a great sense of humor, his satires were amazing. I named him the George Carlin of Bangladesh! Personally he was very polite, a nice human being. He wanted with all his heart, a true secular country, where everyone can practice their freedom.”

They go on to give extracts from Washiqur’s writing. Read them.


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