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.


Good-bye Dear Muslima

Aug 6th, 2014 10:48 am | By

Richard D has a new post on the issue of comparisons and rankings. He makes the very reasonable point that it cuts both ways – saying Problem X is comparatively minor can be bad, and saying Problem X is horrific can be bad. Then he says something that made me lean right forward until I almost bumped into the screen. The last two paragraphs:

But let’s think about it. Who exactly is doing the belittling here?

Suppose I had said what my critics apparently wanted me to say, namely that my experience in the squash court was among the worst things that ever happened to me? I could imagine the following explosive retort from another pedophile victim: “WHAT? You cannot be SERIOUS. When I was a child, I was painfully raped by my father, week after week for years and I was too terrified to tell anyone. How DARE you go on about your 30 seconds of discomfort and momentary embarrassment with a teacher who, unlike my father, meant nothing to you. How DARE you big up your paltry 30 seconds, thereby BELITTLING my five years of painful misery and betrayal? Check your privilege, Dawkins, and take a look at what REAL child abuse looks like.”

Well, I hope nobody would actually say that. There should be no rivalry in victimhood, and I’m sorry I once said something similar to American women complaining of harassment, inviting them to contemplate the suffering of Muslim women by comparison. But maybe you get the point? If we wish to insist (in the face of judicial practice everywhere) that all examples of a sexual crime are exactly equally bad, perhaps we need to look more carefully at exactly who is belittling what.

Did you see it? I’ll separate it out, in case you missed it.

There should be no rivalry in victimhood, and I’m sorry I once said something similar to American women complaining of harassment, inviting them to contemplate the suffering of Muslim women by comparison.

There it is.

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



What this approach fails to recognize

Aug 6th, 2014 10:25 am | By

Amanda Hess at Slate points out what a terrible, non-existent job Twitter does of preventing users from harassing people.

When CNBC invited Twitter users to ask questions of Twitter CEO Dick Costolo last month, thousands of people chimed in with queries like, “Why is reporting spam easy, but reporting death and rape threats hard?” and “Why are rape threats not a violation of your ToS?” According to CNBC, more than 28 percent of the 8,464 questions submitted to the network concerned harassment and abuse on Twitter. But when Costolo appeared on CNBC’s Closing Bell, he didn’t address the problem of online threats. 

Sure enough, that sounds exactly like Twitter. It never does address the problem of online threats. 

The company’s typical response to complaints about abusive and harassing behavior on Twitter is to advise users to fend for themselves. The networktells abused individuals to shut up (“abusive users often lose interest once they realize that you will not respond”), unfollow, block, and—in extreme cases—get off Twitter, pick up the phone, and call the police. Twitter opts to ban abusive users from its network only when they issue “direct, specific threats of violence against others.” That’s a criminal standard stricter than the code you’d encounter at any workplace, school campus, or neighborhood bar.

And the result is that Twitter is a playground for people who enjoy harassing others.

What this approach fails to recognize is that online harassment is a social problem (one that disproportionately affects the same folks who are marginalized offline, like minority groups, LGBT people, and women), and making the Internet a safe and equitable place to communicate requires a social solution. 

But of course their goal isn’t to make the Internet a safe and equitable place to communicate. It’s to get as many people as possible using Twitter as much as possible. Obsessive harassers are great for that.

She talks about the Blockbot and other blocking apps, and points out the limitations.

But without Twitter’s cooperation, these developers are still focusing on selected users instead of addressing the problem on a site-wide level. Sharing my block list with my followers might alert a few people to a few bad apples, but all that will accomplish is offering a handful of people the option to block some vile tweets from view. This is, ultimately, in service of Twitter’s preferred solution—that users ignore abuse, pretend stalkers don’t exist, avert their eyes from harassment, and don’t bother Twitter HQ.

These apps won’t actually inspire Twitter to shut down the serial abusers who use their Twitter accounts to harass and threaten women. They won’t help attract serious legal attention to their crimes. And they won’t compel Twitter to instruct its brilliant developers to imagine new sitewide solutions for the problem, or else lend its considerable resources toward educating government officials and law enforcement officers about the abuses its users are suffering on its network. Right now, Twitter doesn’t even have the basics down: University of Maryland law professor Danielle Citron, writing about a recent lawsuit filed against Facebook for ignoring revenge porn on its site, suggests that social networks can begin to serve harassed users by hiring more employees to sift through complaints instead of assigning the task to robots; prioritizing reports of threats over reports of spam; notifying users of the outcome of their complaints; and—above all—actually communicating with users on this issue.

Damn right.

 

 

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



Terrifying

Aug 6th, 2014 9:21 am | By

A photo Taslima just posted on Twitter, saying “Why wouldn’t Bangladesh boats sink?”

Embedded image permalink

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



Women do most of the farming

Aug 6th, 2014 8:50 am | By

Women do most of the farming in developing countries, but they don’t own the means of production. The Guardian reports on a UN FAO report.

In many households men control the production and marketing of crops as well as household finances. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that if women had the same access to these resources as men they could increase agricultural yields by 20-30%, enough to lift between 100 and 150 million people out of hunger.

Our report, Women’s empowerment pathways: roadblocks and successes found we need to consider the following points.

Context-specific action plans

In order to empower women economically, the underlying causes of income inequalities must be addressed. Due to the immense variation between culture, religion, and infrastructure which can exist even in areas only a few miles apart, strategies to empower women farmers cannot be one size fits all. Implementation must be informed by country-level, context and culturally-specific assessments to determine the needs of women farmers on a community, regional and country level in order to tailor approaches which will address underlying causes of inequality while ensuring women’s wellbeing. This should be informed by a broader gender strategy which establishes long-term goals and guides the intervention.

It often amazes me what a lot of plain waste there is in gender arrangements.

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



Guest post: Under any rationale, no matter how flimsy

Aug 5th, 2014 4:50 pm | By

Originally a comment by newenlightenment on In a fair world he would get it.

They ruined her a while back: Kissinger was at Hirsi Ali and Niall Ferguson’s wedding. (Admittedly by his invitation, not hers.) Particularly galling when you consider that Christopher Hitchens was on his deathbed at the time, had been a close friend and defender of Hirsi Ali, and his greatest work was in exposing Kissinger’s war crimes to the world. Hirsi Ali’s actions are a total betrayal, not only of human rights, but of basic human decency.

Hirsi Ali also claimed that the welfare state was responsible for the murder of Theo Van Gogh, since ‘the killer was on welfare, if he had had to look for work to support himself, he would not have had the time to plan the murder’ – a statement so wingnut it makes James Delingpole look almost logical.

Hirsi Ali may have been just as bad before she joined AIE, in Infidel she claimed that as an MP she had advocated ‘dramatically cutting unemployment benefits and abolition of the minimum wage’ to eliminate a supposed poverty trap where Muslim migrants were able to earn more on benefits than by working, and thus could avoid mingling with unbelievers. Even if one accepts the facts of this claim, abolition of the minimum wage would make no sense, one does not ‘make work pay’ by cutting wages! If Hirsi Ali had argued for cutting unemployment benefits and raising the minimum wage she might at least have made sense on her own terms, but as it is, she merely exposed the right-wing agenda she determined to promote, under any rationale, no matter how flimsy.

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



Simply Reckless

Aug 5th, 2014 4:38 pm | By

Let’s take a look at the American Enterprise Institute. Let’s see what SourceWatch has to say.

Controversies and Claims

Minimum Wage Hikes “Simply Reckless”

AEI scholars caution against legislation raising the minimum wage “for the sake of low-wage workers,” claiming that mandating a higher wage increases the cost of employment and will therefore leave fewer jobs. In one article, AEI resident scholar Michael R. Strain called Seattle’s initiative to increase the city’s wage requirements “simply reckless.”[16]

Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform “Disastrously Wrong Response”

AEI has spoken out against the financial system regulations created under the Dodd-Frank Act. In an article, AEI scholar Peter J. Wallison claimed that the 2008 financial crisis, which led to the legislation, “was not caused by insufficient regulation, let alone by an inherently unstable financial system. It was caused by government housing policies…” Wallison wrote, “The Dodd-Frank Act was a disastrously wrong response,” claiming it created uncertainty and removed the incentive for financial institutions to take risk.[17]

No surprises there, only the familiar disgust.

Casting Doubt on Global Warming

In February 2007, The Guardian (UK) reported that AEI was offering scientists and economists $10,000 each, “to undermine a major climate change report” from the United NationsIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). AEI asked for “articles that emphasise the shortcomings” of the IPCC report, which “is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science.” AEI visiting scholar Kenneth Green made the $10,000 offer “to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere,” in a letter describing the IPCC as “resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent.”[19]

The Guardian reported further that AEI “has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil, and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI’s board of trustees,” added The Guardian.[19]

Since the time of that report, AEI has continued to receive money from Exxon Mobil — a total of at least $1,520,000.[20]

That’s pretty shameless. It’s almost as if AEI is not a think tank at all, but just a paid servant of the oil industry – only for some reason it’s seen as a think tank, so its output is treated not as PR fluff but as think-tankery.

AEI and the head of its energy studies department, Benjamin Zycher, have faced criticism for distorting scientific findings on global warming from Jeffrey Sachs, a leading environmental studies scholar, Columbia University professor, economist, and UN advisor. Zycher had once criticized Sachs for misconstruing the IPCC conclusions on global warming; however, Sachs responded, “It is Zycher who distorts, misrepresents, or simply ignores the IPCC conclusions.”[21]

Sachs went on to write:

“It is time for Zycher and, indeed, the American Enterprise Institute, to come clean. The AEI, despite its roster of distinguished academics, has failed to be constructive in the climate debate.

A roster of distinguished academics who have been bought by ExxonMobil.

Defending Big Tobacco

In 1980, AEI for the sum of $25,000 produced a study in support of the tobacco industry titled, Cost-Benefit Analysis of Regulation: Consumer Products. The study was designed to counteract “social cost” arguments against smoking by broadening the social cost issue to include other consumer products such as alcohol and saccharin. The social cost arguments against smoking hold that smoking burdens society with additional costs from on-the-job absenteeism, medical costs, cleaning costs and fires.[24] The report was part of the global tobacco industry’s 1980s Social Costs/Social Values Project, carried out to refute emerging social cost arguments against smoking.

NGO Watch

In June 2003, AEI and another right-wing group, the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, launched a new websiteNGOWatch.org/NGOwatch.org to expose the funding, operations and agendas of international NGOs, and particularly their alleged efforts to constrain U.S. freedom of action in international affairs and influence the behavior of corporations abroad.[25] AEI claimed that “The extraordinary growth of advocacy NGOs in liberal democracies has the potential to undermine the sovereignty of constitutional democracies, as well as the effectiveness of credible NGOs.”[26]Ralph Nader responded, “What they are condemning, with vague, ironic regulatory nostrums proposed against dissenting citizen groups, is democracy itself.” [27]

Altogether not a very admirable organization.

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



Londoners and near-byers

Aug 5th, 2014 2:41 pm | By

Don’t forget this, people in London and vicinity – and Edinburgh and Stockholm if you’re up for making a trip at the last minute – Bernard Hurley’s talk on “How to Make Enemies and Alienate People – the Philosophy of Offensive and Inappropriate Language.”

It’s at the Exmouth Arms, 1 Starcross Street, NW1 2HR London.

The growth of social media has given an unprecedented opportunity for those who wish to gratuitously offend to actually do so but it has also given an opportunity for those who wish to take offence at mere criticism to express such offence. It’s clear that someone who uses offensive language is doing more than just conveying information, but what exactly are they doing? The job of the philosopher is to clarify, rather than to prescribe and it seems to me that there is urgent need for clarification today. However there has been very little discussion about how offensive language fits into the Philosophy of Language. Drawing on some ideas of Michael Dummett, I shall make some suggestion about how such language might work.

This lecture is part of the 2014 Kant’s Cave Lecture series. As is usual at these lectures there will be plenty of time for discussion afterwards.

http://pfalondon.org/kant.html

I wish I were in London right now so that I could go.

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



The downfall of a skeptoid

Aug 5th, 2014 11:47 am | By

Rebecca tells us that Brian Dunning has been sentenced at last – 15 months in the slammer.

This is great news for the skeptic community at large, since it may be a long enough sentence for Dunning to fade from memory and stop publicly representing the very people who are supposedly trying to stop people from defrauding others.

It’s not a good look, is it, having a big Name skeptic turn out to have been committing fraud on a large scale.

Meanwhile, this case had brought to light an actual skeptical activist who appears to be smart, hilarious, and actually effective at stopping frauds: Assistant United States Attorney David R. Callaway. In the government’s sentencing recommendation to the court last week, Callaway* argued beautifully against the idea that Dunning deserves to be insulated from the consequences of his actions, saying that “There is no “Get out of Trauma Free” card for white-collar criminals or, unfortunately, their families.”

Callaway points to Dunning’s “celebrity” in the skeptical community as a further reason to punish him harshly (emphasis mine):

The enhanced deterrence value of a prison term would be all the greater in Mr. Dunning’s case, as he is at least somewhat of a “public figure” by virtue of his podcast, “Skeptoid: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena,” which he claims has a weekly audience of 179,000 listeners.

I keep pointing out that skepticism isn’t enough. It’s a useful tool, but it’s very far from being a complete or adequate worldview, let alone any kind of moral compass.

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



Religious freedom functions like a giant get-out-of-reality-free card

Aug 5th, 2014 11:20 am | By

Katha Pollitt at The Nation says pleasingly harsh things about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

RFRA, which required laws infringing on religious convictions to meet the “strict scrutiny” test, was overkill. There were other ways to protect Native Americans’ right to use peyote in religious ceremonies. The church could have asked the State Legislature for an exemption; after all, during Prohibition, the Catholic Church was allowed to use wine in the Mass. Or—but now I’m really dreaming—workers could have been given legal protection from losing their jobs for minor lawbreaking outside the workplace. I mean, peyote! Come on. But no, for some reason, there had to be a sweeping, feel-good, come-to-Jesus moment uniting left and right.

“The power of God is such,” said President Clinton, “that even in the legislative process, miracles can happen.” Gag me with a spoon.

What were progressives thinking? Maybe in 1993, religion looked like a stronger progressive force than it turned out to be, or maybe freedom of religion looked like a politically neutral good thing.

I know what I was thinking: I was thinking it was a horrible law. I have never in my life thought that religion was any kind of progressive force. Freedom of religion as normally understood looked like a politically neutral good thing, but not the absurdly expansive version that RFRA imposed.

For some, RFRA doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t apply to state law. In April, Mississippi became the nineteenth state to enact its own RFRA, which essentially legalizes discrimination against LGBT people by individuals as well as businesses, as long as the haters remember to attribute their views to God. Instead of protecting LGBT people from discrimination—a business refusing to serve them, for example—Mississippi will be siding with the bigots, just like old times. Last year, the state passed the Student Religious Liberties Act, which gives pupils the right to express themselves freely on matters of faith without consequences. Johnny can tell his classmate Jane that she’ll burn in hell because she’s a lesbian and write all his biology papers on Adam and Eve and their dinosaur pets, and the school can’t say a word about it. That would be intolerant.

Anybody who didn’t know all along that this would be the implication wasn’t paying enough attention. (It wasn’t long after that that I read Stephen Carter’s dreadful book about the horrors of secularism, and I thought that was a huge crock of shit too.)

Even if religion were not the basically conservative social force it is in American life, expanding the religious freedom of individuals or corporations is simply not a good way to make public policy.

Why? Because religion doesn’t have a reliable or intersubjective grasp on reality.

It’s great, though, when you don’t have an actual argument to support your position. The right uses religion because that’s all it’s got: the secular arguments against LGBT rights are in history’s dustbin…Religious freedom functions like a giant get-out-of-reality-free card: your belief cannot be judged, because it’s a belief.

My point exactly. It’s the realm of the arbitrary, and that’s no good for making public policy.

 

 

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



You can’t “own it” if it’s not yours to begin with

Aug 5th, 2014 10:24 am | By

David Futrelle points out another example of this horrible illegitimate trick of making up nasty quotations and attributing them to The Enemy.

A Voice for Men’s “social media director” Janet Bloomfield is proving to be quite the innovator in the world of public relations. You may recall her cheeky approach to publicizing the recent AVFM conference, which involved awarding herself “whore points” for calling critics of AVFM “whores.”

Now she’s moved on to straight-up libel, making up fake quotes in order to make feminist writer Jessica Valenti look bad, and then bragging about it on her blog.

That. No. That’s wrong; that’s a bad, dishonest, unfair, shitty thing to do.

This whole sordid episode began several days ago when Valenti, on vacation, decided to send a message to “all the misogynist whiners in my feed today” in the form of a photo of her on a beach wearing a t-shirt saying “I bathe in male tears.”

The AVFM social media attack squad seized on this at once, with Bloomfield telling her followers, wrongly, that the picture had been posted in response to a question about male suicide. When Valenti corrected her on this point, Bloomfield offered a half-assed apology (“My bad”).

Then Bloomfield, demonstrating just how insincere her apology had been, decided to up the ante, concocting four “quotes” from thin air and attributing them to Valenti.

What a crappy thing to do.

JanetBloomfield @JudgyBitch1

“The goal of feminism is to put men under the boots of women for several thousand years. And then let’s see what happens.”
@JessicaValenti

Let us destroy men’s happiness. Their love of children, of family, of women. Because fuck them”
@JessicaValenti

“Men take what women make and claim it as their own.Men don’t love childrenThey kill them in a heartbeat to hurt a woman” – @JessicaValenti

“Men in their hearts hate women. It doesn’t matter how much we love them. They hate us”” – @JessicaValenti #WomenAgainstFeminism

And what was the result? People took those tweets at face value, and harassed Valenti because of them. Of course they did. And what did Bloomfield do? She bragged about it on her blog.

Let me give you some context.  I’ve written about Jess before and she writes charming pieces like abortion shouldn’t be rare and is generally a really despicable person who hates half of humanity and blames all her problems and all the world’s problems on them.

So when Jess posted that picture, I needed to goad her into replying to me directly so I wouldn’t violate Twitter’s spamming rules. I used Poe’s Law to attribute a few false but utterly plausible quotes to her, and sure enough, she replied.

Jess is not terribly smart.

Now Twitter is a little outraged at Jess’ callous indifference to the suffering of men and boys and she is catching a bit of hell. Predictably, she is having a big victim party and sulking.  It was just a joke, after all.

Staggering, isn’t it. “I used Poe’s Law to attribute a few false but utterly plausible quotes to her” – that just amounts to saying “I publicly libeled her.” And then what follows - Twitter is a little outraged at Valenti for saying things she never said, and some of the shittier people on Twitter are harassing her as a result. Haha victim haha sulking haha all I did was say she said things she never said. Haha.

Also notice the nickname. Now where have I seen that before…

Jess is not having a good day, and it looks like it will be getting worse before it gets better.

Much worse.

Awwww. Too bad, Jess. Sucks to be a grown-up and have to own your shit, doesn’t it?

But it’s not her shit. She doesn’t “have to own” it because it doesn’t belong to her. It’s Janet Bloomfield’s shit. It’s Janet Bloomfield who lied about Valenti and then gloated about it. That’s the morality of antifeminism.

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



In a fair world he would get it

Aug 5th, 2014 9:30 am | By

Oh, no. Salon reports:

During an interview published on Friday by Israel HaYom, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israeli daily, public intellectual and author Ayan Hirsi Ali claimed that Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for waging the ongoing military campaign by the IDF against Hamas militants in Gaza.

Asked whom she admired, Ali — who once called Islam a “nihilistic cult of death” — included Netanyahu on a list featuring her husband, Harvard professor Niall Ferguson, as well as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Princeton professor Bernard Lewis. Ali said she admired Netanyahu “[b]ecause he is under so much pressure, from so many sources, and yet he does what is best for the people of Israel, he does his duty.”

“I really think he should get the Nobel Peace Prize,” Ali added. “In a fair world he would get it.”

Kissinger. She singles out Kissinger for admiration. Along with saying Netanyahu should get the peace prize.

Well that’s it. AEI has ruined her.

 

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



A substantial weakening of Catholic identity

Aug 4th, 2014 6:09 pm | By

Another squalid rant from the people behind “The Sycamore Project,” whose one and only concern in life appears to be making everything more and more and more Catholic.

The Vagina Monologues controversy was an unmistakable signal that something fundamental had changed within the University.

In a series of open letters several distinguished faculty members have cited the faculty’s determined support of the play, together with Father Jenkins’ consequent change of mind, as evidence of a substantial weakening of Catholic identity.

It is not only the radical clash of the play with Catholic teaching and culture that is implicated, but also the absence of any evident engagement by the University with the Church’s central document on academic freedom in a Catholic institution, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, or with the forceful objections of Bishop John M. D’Arcy. As Dr. John C. Cavadini, the Chair of the Theology Department, put it, “It is as though the mere mention of a relationship with the Church has become so alien to our way of thinking and so offensive to our quest for a disembodied ‘excellence’ that it has become impolite to mention it at all.”

We describe elsewhere how this disjuncture between University and Church was conspicuously underscored last year when fifty bishops moved their conference off the campus after they learned hat the play might be performed later in the year. The breach has now been greatly widened by the Obama episode, with 83 Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops seconding Bishop John M. D’Arcy’s condemnation of Notre Dame’s action in honoring, to the applause of most of the faculty, the Church’s principle adversary on abortion and embryonic stem cell research issues.

They’re upset that the university won’t bow to their demands that it hire lots more Catholic faculty.

As in the case of The Vagina Monologues where faculty protest prevailed, it seems reasonable to infer that the reason for setting the goal too low was faculty resistance to anything more demanding. But if the purpose in setting the goal this low was to accommodate the faculty, it evidently did not succeed. Even this was too much for the Faculty Senate, whose statement of April 9, 2008, discloses the full measure of faculty resistance. The statement is animated principally by a driving ambition for recognition of Notre Dame as a top-tier research university.

Purporting to “speak for the entire faculty” on the basis of a canvass, the Senate advanced the following jarring recommendation: “The University should not compromise its academic aspirations in its efforts to maintain its Catholic identity.” Although the Mission Statement declares that the University’s Catholic identity “depends upon” the presence of a “predominant number” of Catholic faculty, the Senate asserts that the “number of Catholic faculty” is “not the primary determinant” and that all that is needed is a “significant presence” of Catholics. Accordingly, the Senate asserts, the Administration “should not impose numerical targets.”

This single-minded focus on secular criteria in hiring comes as no surprise. In a 2003 survey by Baylor scholars of faculty members at four universities with religious ties, 57% of Notre Dame faculty members affirmed that the University should hire faculty on the basis of “academic promise or prominence regardless of religious beliefs or commitments.”

They say that as if it’s a bad thing – because they think it is.

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



At last!

Aug 4th, 2014 5:53 pm | By

Oh look! Hiba is here at last! We’ve been waiting for months and months. (It was because the redesign took time, and it made no sense to do the work of adding new blogs only to have to re-do them soon after. It wasn’t any other kind of reason.)

And hello, readers! I’m excited and delighted to be a new Freethought Blogger! Too many wonderful writers I’m too excited to work alongside to count, especially the ex-Muslims. May I say how wonderful and wise it is that the secular community is expanding to give space to valuable ex-Muslim voices. It’s been a long journey to get here. For those of you who know me from the original Between A Veil and a Dark Place I welcome you and salute you for staying with me this long! You may know me either under the name Marwa Berro (my pen name for a good chunk of my blogging) or Hiba Krisht (my real name, which I recently began to reveal in media appearances, the first of which was this interview in VICE). I am in fact both people, and the same person. I am going by Hiba now and hopefully will successfully merge the 2 identities soon. Others might have seen me appear fleetingly in guest posts or mentions on Ophelia’sKaveh’s, and Alex’s blogs among others. My presence on FtB will be fleeting no more!

There’s a lot more, go read every word.

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



Saving the soul of Notre Dame

Aug 4th, 2014 4:16 pm | By

Wo. There’s a thing called Project Sycamore. Its project is to rescue Notre Dame University from the dreaded

brace yourselves

secularism.

It explains about the project in more detail on the secularization page.

The University should not compromise its academic aspirations in its efforts to maintain its Catholic identity.

Notre Dame Faculty Senate
April 9, 2008

The fading of the Catholic presence on the Notre Dame faculty is the most important issue bearing on the increasing secularization of the school.

Accordingly, we discuss it in detail elsewhere on this web site, where we list the most important sources upon which we base our analysis. Here, we provide a brief overview:

History demonstrates that the secularization of a religious college or university is the product of the secularization of the faculty. While the outward signs of religious practice typically continue well after the faculty has been transformed, in the end only traces of that religious identity remain.

At Notre Dame, this process of faculty secularization is well underway. Indeed, the shrinking of the Catholic proportion of the faculty has proceeded so far that Notre Dame can no longer lay claim to the robust Catholic character of its past and to which it continues to aspire. While Notre Dame’s Mission Statement declares that the school’s Catholic identity “depends upon” the presence of a solid majority of Catholics on the faculty, only a slender majority of the today’s faculty call themselves Catholic. And when that number is reduced to account for merely nominal and dissenting Catholics, it slumps well below 50%.

It is this attenuation of the Catholic character of the faculty that accounts for such symptoms of secularization as The Vagina Monologues, the annual homosexual/lesbian film festival, the promotion by a women’s faculty organization of a host of pro-abortion organizations and the hiring of more lesbians and homosexuals, and the other signs of secularization that we identify in this web site. Prominent now among these signs is the enthusiastic support accorded by a large majority of the faculty to the University’s honoring of President Obama at the price of a major disjuncture between Church and Notre Dame and the disaffection of countless numbers of alumni and other Catholics everywhere.

It kind of looks to me as if they’re confusing “Catholic identity” with “Republican identity” or perhaps “homophobic identity.”

The future of Notre Dame as a Catholic institution, then, depends upon a decisive reversal of the hiring policy of recent decades. The barrier is the faculty, to which hiring has in recent years been largely committed, for a solid majority believe hiring should be based primarily, if not exclusively, on secular values. As the Faculty Senate put it last year: “The University should not compromise its academic aspirations in its efforts to maintain its Catholic identity.” Those “aspirations” now include securing the recognition of Notre Dame by secular academe as a top tier research institution, a goal that is, in the short term, in undeniable tension with according priority to securing the University’s Catholic identity.

So they’re saying the university should not try to get the best scholars, but instead should get the most Catholic scholars.

Now that sounds authentically Catholic.

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



Because of Notre Dame’s adherence to Catholic teaching

Aug 4th, 2014 3:27 pm | By

MSNBC considers the future under the shadow of Hobby Lobby.

Laura Grieneisen and Liz Miller have a lot in common. Both are graduate students in biology at the University of Notre Dame, where they share an office, a lab, and a research focus. Their work on bacteria in baboons takes them to Kenya for months on end.

Each wants to prevent pregnancy. Each was told by her doctor that her long stretches in the field would make her an excellent candidate for an intrauterine device, or the IUD.

That’s where their paths diverged.

Grieneisen was able to stay on her parents’ plan under the Affordable Care Act through age 26, so she got her IUD at no extra charge, just before turning 27 in July.

But Miller is 29, and gets her health care through the university. Her on-campus doctor was barred from even prescribing the IUD, she said, because of Notre Dame’s adherence to Catholic teaching against contraception.

The doctor sent her off-campus for the prescription, but even then, Notre Dame’s insurance wouldn’t cover it.

Because the Vatican.

Talk about a non-argument. That makes “I’m offended” look downright Socratic.

The accommodation should have taken care of that; Notre Dame should have signed the opt-out so that the insurer will cover the cost. But nooooooo.

…that accommodation hasn’t satisfied Notre Dame – or over 100 other nonprofit institutions suing the administration. They claim that signing the opt-out form also violates their religious liberty, because eventually, contraception is dispensed.

On July 3, a majority of Supreme Court justices apparently took that argument seriously, telling evangelical Wheaton College, one of the plaintiffs suing the government, that it didn’t have to sign the disputed opt-out form while the lawsuit proceeded. That infuriated the female justices, who pointed out that days earlier, in the Hobby Lobby decision, the majority had called that accommodation “a system that seeks to respect the religious liberty of religious nonprofit corporations while ensuring that the employees of these entities have precisely the same access to all FDA-approved contraceptives as employees of companies whose owners have no religious objections to providing such coverage.”

It’s almost as if the majority simply lied in the ruling, isn’t it.

Both Miller and Grieneisen chose Notre Dame to conduct advanced research with world class professors in their field. But the fight over birth control has disillusioned them, and they’ve begun warning prospective students about the lack of contraceptive coverage.

It’s almost as if Notre Dame wants to drive all the women away, isn’t it.

Medical students at Notre Dame and Johns Hopkins wrote an editorial in the Baltimore Sun in support of contraceptive coverage.

“We strongly disagree with any employer — religious or otherwise — that would refuse to provide full insurance coverage, including contraception, for its employees,” the authors, including Washington, wrote. “As physicians in training, we see contraception as an essential component of effective primary care, not as a political line item in Washington or the Vatican.”

That’s well said.

 

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



Never said it

Aug 4th, 2014 12:41 pm | By

And on the other hand, there’s yet more of the fake meme bullshit directed at Dawkins himself. That is not ok.

dawkins2

@RichardDawkins Curious if this is your actual quote as there is a debate among friends as to its accuracy. Thank you

The quotation in the photo reads:

People are brainwashed into believing that human procreation is some kind of altruistic ideal full of love and kindness. When really it is nothing but a selfish, narcissistic urge in a vain and stupid attempt to perpetuate ones [sic] genes.

His reply on Twitter was:

I never said it, or anything like it. I just Googled it and found it on an anonymous FB page. How did it get attached to me?

More dirty pool, that’s how.

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



What Hitchens said

Aug 4th, 2014 12:28 pm | By

I find myself having to disagree with something Richard Dawkins said on Twitter, again.

dawkins

In reverse order, so in chronological order:

Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins · 6h
‘If someone tells me that I’ve hurt their feelings, I say, “Well I’m still waiting to hear what your point is”.’ Christopher Hitchens.

‘I’m very depressed how in this country you can be told “That’s offensive” as though those two words constitute an argument.’ C. Hitchens.

@mharrelson79 I have no wish, nor did he have, to hurt people’s feelings. He simply meant feelings don’t constitute a logical argument.

The last tweet, which was in reply to the question “do you, personally, respond with such a disregard of someone’s feelings? Or are you making an intellectual point?”, shows what’s wrong with those tweets. They don’t work as stand-alone tweets with no context; in that form they just look like saying “be shitty to everyone.” That’s not good advice.

And it doesn’t come across any better when Hitchens says it. A kind Facebook friend found the source for me; it’s this video, starting at 6:20 with an audience question asking how do you separate attacking ideas and attacking people. Hitchens’s response comes across as brutal, frankly.

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlU6xgXgnCI

I hope that wasn’t true of him in real life. I hope if his daughter told him that, for example, he didn’t reply with “Well I’m still waiting to hear what your point is.”

Now it’s possible that he meant “If someone tells me that I’ve hurt their feelings when I’ve been talking about a large institution or custom that is not personal to them” – then it at least makes sense. But that isn’t what he said, and it’s not what the tweet said.

I think we have every right to say harsh things about religion, clerics, sects. But I do not think we should be defending unapologetic verbal brutality across the board.

 

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



The impossible dream

Aug 4th, 2014 11:01 am | By

Oh yes, this is a permanent wish / gripe / dissent of mine – Robert Reich’s suggestion that we Just Imagine If People Were Paid What Their Work Is Really Worth to Society. Well yes. Teachers, farmers, people who clean hospitals and hotels and schools, bus drivers, garbage collectors, as opposed to people who massage money or market harmful shit or sell cigarettes.

What someone is paid has little or no relationship to what their work is worth to society.

Does anyone seriously believe hedge-fund mogul Steven A. Cohen is worth the  $2.3 billion he raked in last year, despite being slapped with a $1.8 billion fine after his firm pleaded guilty to insider trading?

On the other hand, what’s the worth to society of social workers who put in long and difficult hours dealing with patients suffering from mental illness or substance abuse? Probably higher than their average pay of  $18.14 an hour, which translates into less than $38,000 a year.

How much does society gain from personal-care aides who assist the elderly, convalescents, and persons with disabilities? Likely more than their average pay of  $9.67 an hour, or just over $20,000 a year.

What’s the social worth of hospital orderlies who feed, bathe, dress, and move patients, and empty their ben pans? Surely higher than their median wage of  $11.63 an hour, or $24,190 a year.

Exactly.

Most financiers, corporate lawyers, lobbyists, and management consultants are competing with other financiers, lawyers, lobbyists, and management consultants in zero-sum games that take money out of one set of pockets and put it into another.

They’re paid gigantic amounts because winning these games can generate far bigger sums, while losing them can be extremely costly.

It’s said that by moving money to where it can make more money, these games make the economy more efficient.

In fact, the games amount to a mammoth waste of societal resources.

They demand ever more cunning innovations but they create no social value. High-frequency traders who win by a thousandth of a second can reap a fortune, but society as a whole is no better off.

Meanwhile, the games consume the energies of loads of talented people who might otherwise be making real contributions to society — if not by tending to human needs or enriching our culture then by curing diseases or devising new technological breakthroughs, or helping solve some of our most intractable social problems.

Not to mention the fact that the competitive money-massagers caused the entire global economy to tank while making a few massagers grotesquely rich. Not a fabulous arrangement, if you ask me.

Reich suggests canceling the college debts of people who go into useful but underpaid fields. A very tiny band-aid.

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



The withdrawing room 2

Aug 4th, 2014 10:35 am | By

Time explains today’s Google doodle celebrating the 180th birthday of John Venn.

Correlation has never looked this cute. Google created an interactive illustration in honor of the 180th birthday of logician and philosopher John Venn — best known, of course, for inventing the circles known as the Venn diagram. The doodle allows you to choose from five different subjects (mammals and sea life, for example) along with five descriptors (thrives in cold, has wings, etc.) and then see the resulting correlation. 

I’ve been playing with it, with much amusement.

Venn’s 180th.

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



An increase of 158 in 4 days

Aug 4th, 2014 10:20 am | By

The WHO reports new numbers on the Ebola outbreak.

The World Health Organization says the death toll from the worst outbreak of Ebola on record has reached 887.

That’s an increase of 158 since the global health body released figures on July 31.

WHO said in a statement on Monday that there now have been more than 1,600 cases of Ebola since the disease emerged in Guinea earlier this year.

According to WHO, there now have been a total of 358 deaths in Guinea, 255 deaths in Liberia, 273 deaths in Sierra Leone and one in Nigeria.

The news comes as Nigeria announced Monday that it now had confirmed a second case in Africa’s most populous nation. Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said the case is a doctor who had helped treat Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American man who died July 25 days after arriving in Nigeria from Liberia.

Three other people who treated Sawyer are showing symptoms, and are being tested.

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