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.

Voting is for solid citizens with plenty of $$

Oct 28th, 2014 2:55 pm | By

More background. The Washington Post in July on how voting has changed since Shelby County v. Holder.

What did Shelby County v Holder do?

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was unconstitutional. Section 4 lays out the formulas for how the Justice Department enforces Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 requires that the states identified with a history of discrimination  obtain approval from the federal government before they can make changes to their election law. Section 4 formulas as of 2013 mandatedthat “Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia in their entirety; and parts of California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, and South Dakota” ask for preclearance for electoral law changes. After Shelby County v. Holder, these states are free to make changes to election law or district maps without approval from the Justice Department.

Because Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia are all completely ok on the whole racially-targeted obstacles to voting thing now.

Or not.

Has Congress made any moves on amending the Voting Rights Act?

If Congress wants to keep it, they need to update the framework that decides which states require the Justice Department to sign off on election law changes. A year later, Congress hasn’t decided whether they want to keep it yet. The proposed amendment to the Voting Rights Act is stuck in legislative purgatory.

Of course it is. The Republicans have a stranglehold on Congress, and the Republicans don’t consider it in their interest to make it less arduous for black and Hispanic voters to get all the way to the booth with the ballot in it.

There have been some state changes helpful to voters, and some not so much.

There have been changes that shift early voting and voter registration times, and new voter-ID requirements. The opponents of these laws say that their only effect will be limiting the right to vote — mostly among low-income and minority voters who may not own government identification or have enough flexibility with their employment to vote on Election Day.

So it’s a lightly-disguised property qualification. What could possibly be wrong with that?!

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

No mere historical artifact

Oct 28th, 2014 12:27 pm | By

From October 18, the New York Times story on the stealthy SCOTUS ruling allowing Texas’s Jim Crowesque voter ID law in the next election.

The Supreme Courton Saturday allowed Texas to use its strict voter identification law in the November election. The court’s order,issued just after 5 a.m., was unsigned and contained no reasoning.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a six-page dissent saying the court’s action “risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.”

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined the dissent.

It has a history, that kind of thing. It’s not an accident, it’s not just some random idea that occurred to the Texas legislators one day out of the blue. There’s a long post-Civil War post-Reconstruction history of coming up with ways to make it much more difficult for black people to vote. There were those “tests” that for some strange reason were not administered to white people, that asked questions so arcane and difficult that no one would know the answer. There were the poll taxes. There were the KKK cruising the roads that led from the plantations to the polling places.

Those requirements, Justice Ginsburg wrote, “may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5 percent of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification.”

“A sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or Hispanic,” she added, adding that “racial discrimination in elections in Texas is no mere historical artifact.”

This kind of tap dancing was made illegal by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, but then there was that other Supreme Court ruling last year…

The Texas law was at first blocked under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, which required some states and localities with a history of discrimination to obtain federal permission before changing voting procedure. After the Supreme Court in 2013 effectively struck down Section 5 in Shelby County v. Holder, an Alabama case, Texas officials announced that they would start enforcing the ID law.

Amid squeals of joy and triumph.

The law has been challenged by an array of individuals, civil rights groups and the Obama administration.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. released a statement Saturday criticizing the outcome.

“It is a major step backward to let stand a law that a federal court, after a lengthy trial, has determined was designed to discriminate,” he said. “It is true we are close to an election, but the outcome here that would be least confusing to voters is the one that allowed the most people to vote lawfully.”

The least confusing to voters and the least…you know…racist. The least discriminatory. The least oh hai here’s an extra obstacle in the way of your voting because we have cars and you don’t, you rabble.

After a two-week trial in September, Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Federal District Court in Corpus Christi struck down the law on Oct. 9 in a 147-page opinion. She said it had been adopted “with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose,” created “an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote” and amounted to a poll tax.

Two days later, Judge Ramos entered an injunction blocking the law in the current election. The question for the justices was what to do about that injunction while appeals proceed.

Greg Abbott, the state attorney general and the Republican candidate for governor, told the Supreme Court that Judge Ramos had acted too closely to the election and had “unsettled a status quo that had prevailed for 15 months and governed numerous elections without a hitch.”

Yeah! “We had successfully and without a hitch made life more difficult for voters who don’t have passports and driver’s licenses so what the hell is this Judge Ramos doing messing that up?”

Welcome back the poll tax.

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

When most Texans were sleeping

Oct 27th, 2014 6:09 pm | By

This is a news item I missed, and it’s making steam come out of my ears. An estimated 600,000 Texas voters – the population of a big city! – though registered to vote, won’t be able to because they cannot meet photo-identification requirements set out in the state’s new voter-ID law, SB14 . It’s the strictest voter ID law in the country and you know why those fuckers in Texas passed it.

It was justified by Governor Rick Perry and the Republican chiefs in the state legislature as a means of combatting electoral fraud in a state where in the past 10 years some 20m votes have been cast, yet only two cases of voter impersonation have been prosecuted to conviction.

Earlier this month a federal district judge, Nelva Gonzales Ramos, struck down the law, slamming it as a cynical ploy on the part of Republicans to fend off the growing strength of the minority electorate in Texas by “suppressing the overwhelmingly Democratic votes of African Americans and Latinos”. She linked SB14 to a long history of racial discrimination in state elections spanning back generations, and declared the new law to be an unconstitutional poll tax.

There used to be a law against that – the Voting Rights Act – but I guess it doesn’t apply in Texas.

But last week, in the early hours of 18 October, when most Texans were sleeping, the US supreme court snuck out a one-line judgment that allowed the voter ID restrictions to be applied this election cycle. Without any explanation, a majority of the justices effectively threw Eric Kennie and many thousands of others like him – particularly black, Hispanic and low-income Texans – into a state of democratic limbo.

“This is the first time the courts have allowed a law that actually keeps people from voting to go into effect, even though a judge found it was passed for the purpose of making it harder for minorities to vote,” said Wendy Weiser, head of the democracy programme at the Brennan Centre for Justice.

Steam. Ears.

The Guardian has heartbreaking stories to illustrate how this affects people. I’m out of time, so read the stories.

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

June 11-15, 2015

Oct 27th, 2014 11:14 am | By

CFI has announced its next big (CFI-CSI mashup) conference next June.

Critical thinking is not an end in itself. It is a means to effect positive change, to transform our world for the better. At “Reason for Change,” the Center for Inquiry’s 2015 international conference, we’ll bring the skeptic and humanist communities together to do just that.

Important point. Critical thinking can feel like an end in itself, at least for awhile, because it’s interesting. But in reality? It’s not, just as atheism is not.

And we’ll do it in a place that many consider to be “home” to the skeptic and humanist movements: Western New York and CFI’s headquarters in Buffalo. Fittingly, 2015 will be the 35th anniversary of Free Inquiry and the 39th anniversary (last party before 40!) of Skeptical Inquirer, the two foundational publications that helped start it all.

This conference will be truly special. It will be both a celebration of our accomplishments and a robust examination of the challenges we still face. It will be an invaluable opportunity to connect and collaborate with thinkers, activists, researchers, and other luminaries from around the world.

I’ll be there, so if you’re there too, let’s schmooze.


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

Four players would hold a victim on the floor

Oct 27th, 2014 10:44 am | By

Many of the people in Sayreville – parents and students alike – don’t get it. There’s a lot of “it was just hazing” “it was no big deal” “why do you hate football?” “you ruined everything and we hate you” in response to the fact that reasonable people frown on sexual assault even when it’s football player seniors doing it to freshmen. The BBC takes a rather horrified look.

Four players would hold a victim on the floor while two were on lookout, one parent told after their son confided in them. One player would signal the start of the process with a howl, then turn off the lights and assault the freshman.

Two victims interviewed by the New York Times, including one who said he was digitally penetrated from behind, said they were wearing football pants at the time and didn’t consider what happened to be that serious.

Stories of older members of the team pinning down freshmen team-mates and assaulting them in a dark locker room as others cheered initially shocked the community. But after superintendent of schools Richard Labbe cancelled the rest of the team’s season, many students and parents defended the programme and criticised what they saw as a punishment that extended to players who were not involved.

“If freshman thought we hated them before, we sure as hell hate them now,” one 16-year-old student wrote on Twitter shortly after the season was cancelled.

This is a school we’re talking about. A school. Not a professional football team but a school. A “football season” should be – at most – a recreational extra, not a core entitlement, let alone THE core entitlement. If it turns out the football team is fucked up, then it’s not a bad idea to suspend operations until things are improved. That’s not punishing anyone.

During a school board meeting, according to Sports Illustrated, dozens of players and parents protested against the decision to cancel the season.

“They were talking about a butt being grabbed,” one player’s mother, Madeline Thillet, said. “That’s about it. No one was hurt. No one died.”

That’s an extremely warped attitude. Bullying and assault should not be treated as acceptable provided no one died. Football shouldn’t be treated as more important than decent behavior.

Gary Phillips of the Journal News, a newspaper in the Lower Hudson River Valley of New York, says he has a problem with how many people have been referring to what happened as hazing at all. He writes that hazing is a part of team culture, but it is too often an excuse to bully or cause suffering.

What happened in Sayreville was not hazing, he says. What happened had nothing to do with initiation or building camaraderie.

“By calling sexual abuse hazing, society grants those perpetrators a free pass and downplays the brutality of their actions,” he writes. “What is actually a very serious crime is passed off as a ‘rite of passage’ ritual that went too far.”

Exactly. We all really really need to stop doing that. We need to stop normalizing abusive behavior by giving it fun playful names.

Michael Kasdan says there’s another word for what happened.

“It’s rape,” he writes for the Good Men Project. “Yes, it occurred as part of a football team hazing program, and it is boys acting against other boys, but – if the allegations are true – it is rape just the same.”

Kasdan says that what happened in Sayreville was abuse, with the sexual aspect being another way to assert dominance.

While the stories are disturbing, they are far from uncommon, says Robert Silverman of the Daily Beast. It’s a part of a larger issue across the country and at all levels of the sport.

He says that there is a direct connection between the stories in Sayreville, bullying in the Miami Dolphins locker room, the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case and the Pennsylvania State University child sex abuse scandal. In all of these cases, the perpetrators had been told that they weren’t beholden to the regular rules that all other members of society have to follow.

And what Ray Rice did to Janay Palmer, AND to the people who think it’s funny to dress up as Ray Rice for Halloween and drag around a blow-up doll dressed to look like Janay Palmer. This stuff is all connected and it’s all sick.

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

Ebola nudges malaria out of the frame

Oct 27th, 2014 10:20 am | By

Ebola is terrible but malaria is also terrible. Both are killers. The BBC reports on worries that Ebola might displace efforts to prevent malaria.

Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, who heads the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership, said after visiting west Africa: “Understandably, all the health workers’ attention is on Ebola.”

Children’s wards which used to be full of malaria patients were becoming “ghost areas,” she added.

In 2012, malaria killed 7,000 people in the three countries worst hit by Ebola.

4,000 deaths in Sierra Leone in 2012, around 2,000 deaths in Liberia, circa 1,000 in Guinea.

Now the three countries are wrestling with the Ebola virus and Dr Nafo-Traoré said she feared that recent gains in preventing malaria could be threatened by the crisis.

She said: “These countries have previously been really hit by malaria. But five years ago, it was even worse – the deaths were double.

“We all agree that no child should die from malaria, because we have the tools to prevent and treat it.

“But now, understandably, all the health workers’ attention is on Ebola.”

Health workers are busy with Ebola, so the malaria wards are empty because there are no health workers to staff them. That means no one knows how many people are dying of malaria.

RBM is a partnership of more than 500 organisations. It was formed 16 years ago to co-ordinate global efforts against malaria.

It says Guinea and Sierra Leone met key targets last year for distributing bed nets – a crucial weapon for protecting children from mosquitoes which spread malaria.

Bed nets. Wouldn’t it be nice if those homeopaths who are there meddling with the Ebola outbreak instead simply distributed bed nets? That would actually accomplish something.

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

Because men punching women is hilarious?

Oct 26th, 2014 5:39 pm | By

The title tells you all you need to know.

For The Love Of God, People, Do Not Dress Up As Ray Rice For Halloween

No, really, don’t.

A Reddit user who asked to remain anonymous posted the following image on Sunday night, explaining that his “friend came to the party as Ray Rice.

” It shows a man with the running back’s jersey dragging a blow up doll on the floor.

Not. fucking. funny.

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


Oct 26th, 2014 5:24 pm | By

Via LGBT Muslims

5 female allies in the Muslim world.

One in Somalia:

In 1998, on a rainy morning in Mogadishu, Halimo Jim’ale was visited by her older sister Hadiyo Jim’ale. When her sister came out to her, it changed her world. Jim’ale threw herself into learning more about human sexuality and how her religion dealt with it, especially the issue of female homosexuality.

Naturally, she was met with a lot of negative information. Well, today she leads a local chapter of Queer Somalis, a support group, teaching young queer people who come to her the information she so desperately needed when her own sister had come out to her. Despite living in a country where homosexuality is legal*, and where she could be persecuted as a propagandist for something highly controversial, Jim’ale says her “life is all about taking risks,” adding, “I know with my work someone else will have a better journey than my sister did, perhaps finding themselves sooner.”

*Probably a typo for illegal

One in India:

In 1996, Shabana Azmi shocked the Muslim community when she played the lead role in Deepa Mehta’s Fire, which you could say was the first “real” lesbian film in India, where she portrayed a woman who falls in love with her brother-in-law’s wife. Azmi took the role to support visibility for gay people because she believes “when one speaks about human rights, and one talks about minorities’ rights, that must also extend to the gay community,” as she told Himal magazine. In 2013, when India went back to criminalizing gays, she released a statement in which she said she was “shocked by the judgment. I had actually started believing that gay rights are given in our so-called modern democratic society,” adding that upholding “article 377 is undemocratic, and a violation of human rights.

Three more where those came from.


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

One for The Watchers

Oct 26th, 2014 5:18 pm | By

This idea that I’ve done a 180 on postmodernism? Complete bullshit. I don’t know where you get this stuff, unless it’s just a turd drawn up from the bottomless well of loathing. I’ve moved on to other subjects most of the time now, but I haven’t in the least changed my mind. I don’t suddenly disagree with anything I wrote in Why Truth Matters.

Are you thinking that feminism is somehow postmodernist? Again, complete bullshit. There are postmodernism-flavored brands of feminism, but I’m no more a fan of them than I ever was. I haven’t morphed into a fan of Sandra Harding or “women’s ways of knowing.”

You don’t know what you’re talking about.

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

More on the homeopaths rushing to help

Oct 26th, 2014 5:04 pm | By

Pepijn van Erp has an informative post about the “heroic” homeopaths getting in the way of helping doctors and nurses dealing with the Ebola outbreak.

Now there seem to be at least four who are trying to put their illusionary treatments to work in Western Africa. On the website ‘Spirit, Science & Healing’ homeopath and Huffington Post columnist Larry Malerba wrote a message on 21 october: ‘Update: Team in Liberia Using Homeopathy for Ebola.’

Of course this astonishing news was picked up on Twitter and Facebook, resulting in many reactions of disbelief. The message was removed soon after. But to make things disappear from the Web is quite hard. Further digging into this story learns that we probably should take this endeavour very seriously indeed.


Four homeopathic doctors,  dr. Richard Hiltner (US), dr. Edouard Broussalian (Switzerland), dr. Medha Durge (India) and dr. Ortrud Lindemann (Germany), are part of this team. It might look like a big bluff when you read it at first. Who can imagine that these people might actually get access to ebola patients and will be allowed to ‘treat’ them with sugar pills and drops?

Broussalian was a familiar name to me, he had been conducting some ‘research’ during a cholera epidemic on Haiti. This story is documented in ‘Spectrum of Homeopathy‘ (Nr 2. 2011) a magazine by publisher Narayana Verlag from Germany. His methods are extremely dubious. Broussalian and his team were apparently allowed to help treat the cholera patients. Those patients were treated with regular methods, mainly a drip.  But Broussalian also gave them the homeopatic remedy Phosphorus 200C from a spray flacon. In their strange working minds the homeopaths addressed all success of the recovery of the patients to this remedy instead of to the regular treatment.

So anyone can cure people. Just go to a hospital and stand near some real doctors and nurses really treating people, and when the people get better, just say it was because you were standing there. Magic!

At the end of the article is this ominous sentence:

At the end of our stay, we were no longer providing new patients with an infusion, but immediately gave them the phosphorus spray.

There is nothing in the article on the recovery of these patients, most likely Broussalian had already left. Let’s hope that they got a drip anyway after he left, and in time.

Oh gawd. Surely nobody would be fatuous enough to fail to provide the drip.

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

GamerGate doesn’t represent us

Oct 26th, 2014 3:40 pm | By

Another petition – this one telling advertisers that GamerGate doesn’t represent us and please don’t let it steamroll you.

Gamergate Does Not Represent Us – Support Media Outlets Against Coordinated Silencing Efforts

Petition by
Gamer Geeks for Diversity in Arts Through Feminism

Dear advertisers,

Recently, a group of people associated with “gamergate” have targeted news and media outlets by contacting advertisers en mass. Despite this group’s insistence that their focus is journalistic ethics, the outlets that have been named in their campaign have been named due to publishing articles discussing sexism and harassment within the gaming community.

We, as people who buy and play games, are not offended or afraid of having a discussion within our community concerning sexism and harassment. We are aware that there is a small portion of gaming enthusiasts who have become highly defensive in response to these discussions and have decided to lash out.

This picture is a screenshot from a larger tactics document associated with gamergate, in which a person contacting the advertisers of targeted media outlets is encouraged to be “an annoying little shit”.

We would like you, the advertisers, who have been “pestered” by this group to know, that this group does not represent us.

Gaming, as a pastime and an art form, is a significant cultural phenomena. Many of us are deeply invested in playing, discussing and developing games.

Despite gamergate rhetorically supporting free speech and freedom of expression, their movement has contributed significantly to a hostile and toxic environment.

We stand against these bully-tactics and lend advertisers and media outlets our support. We stand with journalists, reviewers, and editorial writers in hopes that they can continue to express their views and participate in much-needed conversations within our community free of coercion and intimidation.

Russ Dyer, Kraft Foods, Public Relations
Brian Mast, eHealthInsurance, Director of Public Relations
Sande Drew, eHealthInsurance, Sr Media Consultant
Keith Dailey, Kroger, Director of Media Relations
Robert A Varettoni, Verizon, Exec. Director of Media Relations
Raymond McConville, Verizon, Media Relations Manager
Danielle McNally, Motorola, America Public Relations Specialist
Motorola Media Inquiries, Media Relations Dept
Holly Anderson, State Farm, Media Relations Specialist (Illinois-HQ)
Rachael Rislinger, State Farm, Media Relations Specialist (New York)
Edelman – Samsung PR, Public Relations
Danielle Meister, Samsung, US Media Relations and Corp. Communications
Scott Sloat, Sprint, Sr. Vice President – Corp. Communications
Jeff Hallock, Sprint, Chief Marketing Officer
Tristan Rosenfeldt, Electronic Arts, Communications Exec.
Kyle Ryley, Electronic Arts, Marketing & Communications Intern
Nancy Hubbel, Toyota Motor Co., Scion Product Communications Manager
Antoinette Arianna, Toyota Motor Co., Public Relations/Media Contact – New York
Jessica Johnston, Citizen Paine, Media Relations Contact, Old Spice
Kate DiCarlo, Procter & Gamble, Communications Manager

Sign that thang.

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

The homeopaths are on the ground

Oct 26th, 2014 12:40 pm | By

I wish this were a parody, but it isn’t – it comes from the real actual National Center for Homeopathy - which is at least a website indistinguishable from a real website devoted to homeopathy. It wants to tell us about homeopathy and Ebola. Yes really, Ebola. It’s here to help.

The Ebola epidemic raging through West Africa has become a humanitarian crisis of great proportion. Homeopaths worldwide have been mobilizing their efforts toward gaining entrance in those countries affected, in order to provide homeopathic medical intervention to those individuals stricken with Ebola.

The overriding goal is to investigate Ebola firsthand, and thereby determine which remedy or remedies are best for treating this disease.

There is already investigation of that, with good results. Medical results. A drug with active ingredients.

Homeopathy has had a longstanding record in our over 200 year history in the successful treatment of a wide variety of epidemic diseases, including hemorrhagic fevers, some of which are in many ways very similar to Ebola.

Including hemorrhagic fevers? I can’t help noticing there’s no documentation of that claim. I can’t help suspecting it’s not even a little bit true.

In our tradition of working with epidemics, homeopaths attempt to determine a central or core remedy that proves effective for most individuals who have contracted the disease, which is named the “genus epidemicus.” This remedy is derived from culling symptoms from many cases, and finding the very few, or preferably, the single remedy which best matches the natural disease expression of the epidemic under consideration.

As opposed to what everyone else does, which is to find a different remedy for each individual who has contracted the disease?

While there is ample reason to expect that such a remedy can be found for Ebola, to date our homeopathic world community has not yet determined what that remedy or remedies might be. Once such a remedy is found and administered empirically to patients, if it is shown to be effective, we will have in our hands both a treatment for Ebola victims and, very likely, an effective remedy to help prevent or dramatically diminish the spread of the disease to those exposed or at risk of contracting it (homeoprophylaxis). Discovering such a remedy and applying it successfully for Ebola is still unproven, though completely in line with our historical experience with epidemic diseases, both for their treatment and prevention.

Not if the “our” in that last sentence refers to homeopaths it isn’t. Homeopaths haven’t found any remedies for any epidemic diseases. How could they?

The good news is that a small international team of experienced and heroic homeopaths have arrived in West Africa, and are currently on the ground working hard to examine patients, work out the “genus epidemicus,” and initiate clinical trials. This work is being done alongside the current conventional supportive measures and treatments already in place. We applaud and congratulate this team’s dedication and courage in joining the front lines in treating Ebola with homeopathy. The answer to whether homeopathic medicine has an important role in the Ebola epidemic could be forthcoming quite soon.

Oh, brilliant – a bunch of homeopaths getting in the way of the real doctors and nurses and ambulance staff and everyone else. What a terrible thing to do, and to congratulate each other on.

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

It’s actually about ethics

Oct 26th, 2014 11:34 am | By

A couple more of those.

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

More billions for the Waltons

Oct 25th, 2014 6:07 pm | By

Maek you think.

Jobs With Justice

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

Erdoğan canceled the concert

Oct 25th, 2014 5:43 pm | By

Fazil Say has written an open letter to Turkey’s President Erdoğan about his government’s oppression of the arts and artists.

Mr President, Culture Minister and other authorities,

I am writing this letter to you from Peking. I have a concert in China tonight. I have my own pieces in the programme. My three pieces were removed from the programme in Ankara and it was criticized severely, I heard.

It is just not nice.

I have a few words to tell you. I hope you read this and try to understand this man.

Do you know when you can be powerful? When you present east and west, and their combination at its best.

This is why the Istanbul Symphony you cancelled in Ankara has been performed all around the world. Tokyo Symphony Orchestra performed it last week.

Istanbul Symphony is a piece that played with reed flute, zither, frame drum and double drum (Turkish instruments) in the front rank with 80 people in the orchestra. It presents Istanbul with music. It does not have lyrics. More than 50 orchestra have taken this piece to their repertoire worldwide since its introduction in 2010.

It’s music. Music. What’s Erdoğan doing cancelling a piece of music?

Come and change your repressive mindset which rises rage and confusion throughout the world. Do not be destructive. Let people of Ankara listen to it. Let everyone love what they like. Support it.

Fazıl Say has 56 music works. Nothing changes for Fazıl Say just because three of them were banned in Ankara. The world condemns this repressive mindset of yours, that is all. No one feels any better in Turkey because a musician is banned. You do not feel better. Change this. The only loser is the one who ordered this.

Do not be afraid to bestow your hand.

Even, say ‘Let’s bring this work to cities without orchestras.’ Offer your hand. Do not worry, it will be valued.

The world’s most expensive productions are made even in Qatar. Still, it creates a crooked social fabric if different lifestyles are exposed to fear and threat. Neither oppressor, nor oppressed can be happy.

Let Turkey compete with world in music.

Do not shut down operas, theatres, orchestras. Let people see it if they want to. Let people decide what is what.

Increase the budgets for them to do better and compete with world. Let them do whatever they want. We live in 21st century in a free world. Make it positive. Make the world say ‘Good art is performed in Turkey.’

Do not fear art and artists. It is not a military force before you. It is just musicians, actors, dancers… Man… Simple citizens…

We have faced off against each other in years. We could never get along well with this government. It has brought cencorship and cancellation of other concerts. It has always been considered odd. No one was happy.

Put the crew that created a festival in Antalya back to its post. We created festival with our effort, ideas and creativity. It is our right.

Offer more opportunities to this crew. Say ‘Let’s create other festivals in other cities.’ Tell them to improve together. Do not fear this.

It’s music. Erdoğan doesn’t want to come across as another Taliban does he? Or does he.

It does not make a difference neither for me, nor somebody else when you cancel three or four concerts of mine.

It is only astonishing and humiliating.

Is this what you want? Has this country not lost enough with such mistakes for decades?

Turkey has a few world famous musicians. And it is not earned with just luck. They win competitions and prizes, and come to this point with years of hard work and thousands of concerts in hundreds of cities and it is just not so easy to reach that point.

Please, try to understand for once in your life.

Fazıl Say

Will Erdoğan pay attention to this letter?

I doubt it.

H/t Torcant

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

Actually it’s about ethics

Oct 25th, 2014 5:19 pm | By

It’s always a good idea to see what Scalzi has been tweeting and retweeting lately.

Embedded image permalink

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

Guest post: What advertising is really selling

Oct 25th, 2014 4:37 pm | By

Originally a comment by latsot on Floating above the ugly fray of politics.

The world of advertising is a strange one. Ah fuck it, I’m going to pull a made-up law out of my arse. Let’s call it Fortran’s Law: any sufficiently long-lived advertising campaign will forget what it’s actually advertising and why it even exists in the first place.

Here in the UK we have animated meerkats selling insurance.

It started as a pun (compare the market/compare the meerkat) but turned into a sort of soap opera about the lives and loves of these fucking meerkats. At the end, the TV ad says “oh, and you might want to buy some insurance or something.” The campaign has somehow got away from the people selling the actual insurance. For some reason, insurance advertising is particularly insane. The Gocompare campaign is based on the supposed backstory of a fake opera singer. “Backstory” doesn’t really do it justice. The advertising company has made up an entire insurance-based town in Wales for EXACTLY NO REASON. It’s the fake town the fake opera singer came from and we’re supposed to care about… well, not even the fake residents of the fake town based on the fake backstory of the fake opera singer. We’re supposed to care about the fake *tourists* fakely visiting this place. We’re supposed to identify with them, presumably. While we’re delving into stupid, the fake opera singer is actually a real opera singer.

As long as I’m ranting, I’ll take a little more time to get to my point. There’s another insurance ad – I think they’ve taken it off air now – where there’s a runaway car. It is (for unclear reasons) rolling down a hill smashing into other cars and posing a danger to pedestrians. But the guy with LV insurance doesn’t care about that. He has – for some reason – a magic button on his keyring. He presses that button and his car heals itself. He gives the camera a smug smile and goes back into his house, despite the fact that the runaway car is presumably still causing mayhem.

So, finally to my point. Advertising is usually about selling advertising services to companies, not about selling products to people. Generally, advertisers do every single thing they can to avoid mentioning the actual product. They’re selling a perceived lifestyle or inventing a goal that people will probably think they want to achieve, entirely regardless of whether the product will help that to happen or whether they actually wanted to achieve that goal in the first place. Those companies actually selling things are clearly bamboozled by advertisers. They seem to care more about their brand being recognised than anyone knowing what they actually sell. Do advertisers advertise? I doubt they need to.

In this context, it’s easy to see why companies like Intel and Mercedes react badly to issues that matter. They’ve – they as a corporation – have been trained to believe that the only thing that matters is the brand. Not, you know, what they actually do. I think the marketing department of Mercedes (which must have hundreds of people) have forgotten that they’re selling cars. I think Intel has forgotten that its customers are manufacturers…. or they’re trying to keep us terrified that we might have a slightly worse processor or graphics card than someone else.

This is the environment in which huge corporations endorse sexist bullshit advertising and clumsily not-pologise their way out of it. They’ve forgotten what they’re selling and who they’re selling it to.

We shouldn’t stand for this. If there’s anything we should be skeptical of, it’s people telling us what we should want.

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

Not all footballers are homophobic

Oct 25th, 2014 4:10 pm | By

Arsenal did the right thing.

FA Cup winners Arsenal, Paddy Power, Stonewall and the Gay Football Supporters’ Network have again teamed up to help tackle one of the toughest challenges in sport: homophobia in football.

Rainbow coloured boot laces have been dispatched to every single professional player in the UK, including youth and women’s teams, alongside deliveries to all MPs and leading political figures. And we are urging them to show their support by lacing up over the 13th/ 14th September – Rainbow Lace weekend. Fans and grass-root players will also be asked to tweet their support using the official hashtag: #RainbowLaces.


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

14 times more

Oct 25th, 2014 4:05 pm | By

Newsweek did an analysis of GamerGate to determine whether it was really about a perceived lack of ethics among video games journalists, or a campaign of harassment against women who make, write about and enjoy video games, masquerading as a movement of gamers upset about a perceived lack of ethics among games journalists. Newsweek concluded it’s the latter.

The claim that GamerGate is not a campaign to harass women—but rather advocacy for better journalism—has had some pull. This claim was used to harass Intel into pulling ads from popular gaming website Gamasutra after journalist Leigh Alexander wrote an essay there critiquing the gaming world. “‘Game culture’ as we know it is kind of embarrassing—it’s not even culture,” Alexander wrote in August. “It’s just buying things, spackling over memes and in-jokes repeatedly, and getting mad on the Internet.”

She urged game developers to pay less attention to the demands of gamers. Instead, gamers pressured advertisers to pull their dollars from the site.

And it worked: Intel pulled its dollars from Gamasutra.

The same tactic was used to pressure Adobe to cancel its sponsorship of Gawker Media. Mercedes-Benz USA also temporarily pulled ads from Gawker Media after a reporter there made mocking tweets about gamers. The move has cost Gawker Media CEO Nick Denton and company “thousands of dollars already, and potentially…thousands more, if not millions,” according to Max Read, Gawker’s editor-in-chief.

GamerGate is largely playing out on Twitter, and if the movement is about ethics in games journalism, logic says the majority of tweets on the #GamerGate hashtag should be directed at games journalists and their employers and not at game developers.

But are they? Are they? Are they?

Newsweek askedBrandWatch, a social media analytics company, to dig through 25 percent of the more than 2 million tweets about GamerGate since September 1 to discover how often Twitter users tweeted at or about the major players in the debate, and whether those tweets were positive, negative or neutral.

In the following graphic, compare how often GamerGaters tweet at Zoe Quinn, a developer, and Nathan Grayson, a Kotaku games journalist. In August, GamerGaters accused Grayson of giving Quinn’s game Depression Quest favorable reviews because Grayson and Quinn had been in a relationship. The relationship was fact, those ‘favorable reviews’ were fiction. Grayson only wrote about Quinn once, for a story on a failed reality show, and that was before they were in a relationship, according to Stephen Totilo, the editor-in-chief of Kotaku and Grayson’s boss.

The graphic is pretty striking.

Twitter users have tweeted at Quinn using the #GamerGate hashtag 10,400 times since September 1. Grayson has received 732 tweets with the same hashtag during the same period. If GamerGate is about ethics among journalists, why is the female developer receiving 14 times as many outraged tweets as the male journalist?

Why? Because females are 14 times more annoying.


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

They cheered

Oct 25th, 2014 12:38 pm | By

Ashley Miller had a horrible, upsetting experience yesterday evening. It should have been a great experience:

As a filmmaker, intersectional scholar, and a huge fan and supporter of the original trailer and campaign for “Dear White People,” I was ecstatic to be able to go see the film here in Columbia, SC.  The film itself didn’t disappoint.  Clearly influenced by Wes Anderson in cinematography, but wholly unique in tone, it was a brilliantly funny, biting, and moving film.  The acting, the directing, the cinematography were all superb, even before you take into account the origin story and budget of the film.

But there was a problem, a big big problem.

Spoilers alert.

Just as the trailers were ending and the movie starting, a hundred people started pouring into the theater.  This was the Morehouse College Football Team, here in Columbia to play Benedict College tomorrow.  Morehouse is an all-male historically black college in Atlanta not too far from my own undergraduate institution of Emory.  It is the alma mater of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  As the movie started, I was excited that this many people were in the theater to see the movie.  It was a short-lived excitement.

There are three main plots in “Dear White People,” and one of them focuses on a black gay kid named Lionel, played by “Everybody Hates Chris” star Tyler James Williams, who doesn’t fit in with any group — not with gay kids, not with white kids, and not with black kids, who have historically treated him with homophobia and cruelty.  His story is about the toxic effect of homophobia in the black community.  In addition to the heterosexual romances involving all the other characters, there is also a budding romance between Lionel and another man.  The initial hints at this romance did not win the Morehouse College Football Team’s approval.  They started saying homophobic things every time Lionel was onscreen.  When Lionel had a same-sex kiss, the team went into a frenzy — everyone turned on their phones and said they weren’t looking, they started yelling, “What kind of movie is this?”  Several of them walked out, others started yelling at anyone on their team for looking at the screen when the kiss happened, “Man, you looked at that, I saw you!”  “What is this gay shit?”  “Some of y’all didn’t turn your heads away!”

And then it got worse, much worse.

Lionel has a major heroic moment toward the end of the film in which he breaks up a racist party being held by an entitled white jerk, who is, more or less, the antagonist of the film, and who verbally and sexually harassed Lionel over his sexuality throughout the film.  The racist white guy tackles Lionel and pins him down.  In retaliation, Lionel kisses him (this freaked out the audience again), but the racist white guy responds by punching Lionel repeatedly in the face.

They cheered.  This room full of black men who attend Dr. King’s alma mater.  They cheered for the racist white guy because the black man he was being allowed to beat without repercussion was a faggot.

Go read Ashley’s full account, and the comments, which include some from Morehouse students who were there, and a professor at Morehouse.

You know what I keep saying about football culture? Yeah.


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