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.

Au pied du chameau

Aug 12th, 2012 10:13 am | By

I know a new thing now, a thing I didn’t know before. I know that there’s something – something bad – called “camel toe.” I know what it is. I know it via the tweets of Another Angry Woman @stavvers and this post that she linked to, The Miracle Bajingo Shoehorn.

A staggering 55% of women, irrespective of age, size or weight,  experience camel toe at some point.

Many women have even gone to extreme lengths to rectify the camel toe  problem, resorting to expensive and risky surgery.

Now thanks to the Smooth Groove camel toe remedy, all women can get on with  their lives without having to worry about how they look.

After all, being a woman is hard enough and having a Smooth  Groove in your underwear drawer will make it just that little bit  easier!

Well thank God, is all I can say. Thank God someone is looking out for women  in a positive, empowering, Occupy My Walls kind of way. Because being a  woman is some seriously tough shit.

There’s the threat of sexual violence, the fashion industry imposing an  impossible standard of beauty, fighting for equal compensation and opportunity  in the workplace and trying to keep your giant, sloppy vagina from unravelling  in your pants like a loose bragioli.

See the original post; there’s a video and graphics and all. It’s hilarious.

I suspect the background is Olympics commentary. The enraged tweets of stavvers are also hilarious.

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

And who shall ‘scape whipping?

Aug 11th, 2012 4:50 pm | By

A great post by Alyson Miers (whom I met at WiS in May) on bullying and imperfect victims.

There’s this meme -

 See Alyson’s response to that.

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

Next year in Austin

Aug 11th, 2012 4:17 pm | By

This is good. American Atheists announces that Anthony Grayling is the keynote speaker for their 2013 national convention.

Yay! I’m going to be there too, and Anthony’s a friend.


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

What you think it means

Aug 11th, 2012 3:49 pm | By

Ok this is a good one. From a comment on Jen’s post on blunderfoot.

“Freethought” means you use reason and logic to come to a conclusion, and not believing everything anyone says — even a close friend — at face value.

Hahahahahahahahaha yes right that’s what freethought means. A close friend tells you she has a headache and you interrogate her for an hour trying to get her to demonstrate that fact beyond a reasonable doubt.

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

The BBC explains

Aug 11th, 2012 12:42 pm | By

Wow. Have some BBC pseudohistory and pseudogenetics about Y blak guize can runn fast.

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

David Rakoff

Aug 11th, 2012 12:25 pm | By

I’m kind of crushed that David Rakoff went and died. Fresh Air played a couple of interviews with him yesterday. They’re good.

On whether or not he had a happy childhood.

I had a beautiful childhood and a lovely childhood. I just didn’t like being a child. I didn’t like the rank injustice of not being listened to. I didn’t like the lack of autonomy. I didn’t like my chubby little hands that couldn’t manipulate the world of objects in the way that I wanted them to. Being a child, for me, was an exercise in impotent powerlessness.

Oh yes. That’s why youth is wasted on the young, as Shaw pointed out. (Was it Shaw? I think so.) I hated the lack of autonomy. I hated that and loved every new little increment of it that I got. I think that’s why I always missed living in the country during the five years that we lived in town (when I was between 3 and 8) – a small child can’t just wander around in town. Mind you, I overestimated how much of that I could do in the country, and wandered away at age 3 to be picked up and returned by some adult in a car. I also tried to make a break for it in town, but I got caught pretty quickly. I was a wandering child – I loved wandering more than most things.

This plays into my adult feminism: one of the oppressions of women I hate most is the array of obstacles to women wandering freely and unmolested. I don’t want to be locked up in a house or a burqa, and I don’t want people telling me what to do with my face when I’m wandering. I want my freedom.

I just wasn’t — and I was never terribly good at that kind of no-holds-barred fun. … I’ve essentially made a career on not being good at no-holds-barred fun. But, you know, I [was] just never sort of like, hey, yes, let’s go play. I was always more sort of like, does everybody know where the fire exit is? And let’s make sure there’s enough oxygen in this elevator. … As a grownup it’s much easier to work — to navigate the world with that, because then you can just go home to your own apartment.

Hahahahaha yes exactly. That was another bad thing about being a child: not having your own apartment.

And I was never like, hey, yes, let’s go play either. I had four boy cousins and I would play roughly with them but then I would be all wiped out and crabby. It didn’t suit me. My way of “playing” was to pretend to be someone else – usually someone who was wandering around the countryside, or else building versions of “my own apartment” in the barn or the bushes or under a tree.

This was supposed to be about David Rakoff and it’s turned out to be about my childhood. Ah well.

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

Bullies, is it?

Aug 10th, 2012 5:38 pm | By

What about this then? From “Coffee Loving Skeptic” on Facebook.

Photo: Freethoughtblogs isn't a religion.<br />
It's a personal relationship with PeeZus.

Via Alex Gabriel.

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

Collateral damage

Aug 10th, 2012 5:10 pm | By

Lots of crazed reactions to Thunderf00t’s misuse of the FTB mailing list, although they’re a minority. There are frank falsehoods saying we tried to get Michael Payton fired, and there is shock-horror that we reacted to his tweets dismissing all of FTB.

That’s just nuts. To repeat – there are about 40 people blogging at FTB. Not all of them are polemicists or controversialists, not all of them are irritable, not all of them agree about everything – in fact none of them agree about everything.

It’s not fair to shit on the innocent just because one dislikes a few of the Freethought bloggers. It’s not even fair to shit on the innocent just because one hates a few of the Freethought bloggers with feverish passion and undying tenacity. It’s not some noble campaign against bullying, it’s just stupid narrow-focus spite. (I mean really. Is Freethought blogs seriously such a major source of evil that it merits hours of monitoring and tweeting and exclaiming every single day?)

It’s unfair to the innocent, it’s clumsy, it’s illiberal, it’s dirty.

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

It’s OK, we’re on the 10th floor

Aug 10th, 2012 3:25 pm | By

Alom Shaha notices an excess of timidity about discussing Islam.

“We can’t publish this, we’ll get firebombed.” Apparently this was the response from one of the staff at Biteback Publishing, the UK publishers of my book, The Young Atheist’s Handbook, when it was first presented to them. Thankfully, Iain Dale, the managing director, laughed at the idea, saying, “it’s OK, we’re on the 10th floor” and went on to publish the book anyway.

It’s not just staff at Biteback who may have been concerned about publishing my book — according to a senior editor at one of the largest international publishers, who claimed to be personally keen to give me a deal, she was unable to convince her colleagues to agree because a “number of people” in the company would be “uncomfortable” about it. She then went on to explain that by “uncomfortable” she really meant “afraid”.

Yes, I’ve been there. Remember that? More than three years ago? The sudden delay in the imminent publication of Does God Hate Women?

About this non-ecumenical book that Jeremy and I wrote, that is due out at the end of this week. Yes, what about it, you’re thinking, all agog. For reasons which I will explain another day, the publisher became nervous about it last Friday. The publisher phoned us on Friday, and talked of changes, or delays, or would we like to drop a chapters. We would not like to drop a chapter, and if we had liked to drop a chapter, the time to discuss that would have been several months ago, not now, a week before the book is supposed to appear. The publisher sent the can-we-drop-it chapter to an ecumenicist to get his opinion.

There was a reason for the publisher’s sudden nervousness.

An academic book about religious attitudes to women is to be published this week despite concerns it could cause a backlash among Muslims because it criticises the prophet Muhammad for taking a nine-year-old girl as his third wife…This weekend, the publisher, Continuum, said it had received “outside opinion” on the book’s cultural and religious content following suggestions that it might cause offence.

Suggestions that came from the reporter who wrote the article reporting the suggestions. Really: that’s what happened.

And there was pretty much no outrage about the book once it was published. There was an irritated little Facebook group for awhile, but that’s it. Alom hasn’t had even that.

I’ve encountered the idea that Muslims will be offended by my book from numerous people — from the publishers who looked at my proposal to the people who have interviewed me since publication and even from some friends. The only people who have not suggested that the book might be offensive to Muslims are Muslims themselves. Not a single Muslim has come forward to say that he or she has been offended by my book. The most strongly worded email I’ve received is one that expressed pity that I had “lost the one truth path” and the hope that “Allah would guide [me] back to it”.

Publishers should ease off on the nerves, it seems to me.

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

Putting the knife in

Aug 10th, 2012 12:19 pm | By

We all know that Twitter is a gift to people who enjoy saying horrible things to people they dislike or disagree with. Think Jessica Ahlquist; think #mencallmethings. Even Olympic athletes get the treatment.

A 17-year-old boy arrested as part of an investigation into Twitter messages sent to the diver Tom Daley after he and team-mate Pete Waterfield missed out on a medal on Monday has been issued with a harassment warning….

The teenager was held at a guesthouse in Weymouth, Dorset, hours after Daley retweeted messages he had been sent soon after finishing fourth in the 10m men’s synchronised platform diving event. Daley, 18, retweeted a message that said: “You let your dad down i hope you know that.” The diver added: “After giving it my all … you get idiots sending me this …”

Daley’s father, Rob, died from cancer last year…

Speaking before the Olympics, Daley told the BBC: “Winning a medal would make all the struggles that I’ve had worthwhile. It’s been my dream since a very young age to compete at an Olympics. I’m doing it for myself and my dad. It was both our dreams from a very young age. I always wanted to do it and Dad was so supportive of everything. It would make it extra special to do it for him.”

Ugly, isn’t it.

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

Take one for the team

Aug 10th, 2012 12:05 pm | By

A runner broke his leg during an Olympic relay race and went on running to the end.

“As soon as I took the first step past the 200m mark, I felt it break.” Manteo told the USA Track and Field website.

“I didn’t want to let the three guys or the team down, so I just ran on it.”

Mitchell still managed to finish the opening lap in 46.1 seconds as the US team, also featuring Joshua Mance, Tony McQuay and Bryshon Nellum, went on to set a qualifying time of two minutes, 58.87 seconds.

“It hurt so bad,” the 25-year-old added. “I’m pretty amazed that I still split [close to] 45 seconds on a broken leg.”

USA Track and Field chief executive Max Siegel said: “Manteo has become an inspiration and a hero for his team-mates.”

That’s horribly irresponsible.

Update: I meant that what Siegel said is irresponsible, not what the runner did. I suppose once the runner had done it, onlookers kind of had to acknowledge the heroics…but still, I think it was irresponsible. You know all those kids who go back in the game after being hit on the head? Really bad idea.

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


Aug 10th, 2012 9:56 am | By

Gee, I was thinking about other things this morning – the column I have to finish for TPM, the column I have to proofread for the Freeth, stuff I have to do in the physical world, those cherries that need sorting, that book I was reading – but then I glanced at the stats and noticed an influx via Thunderfoot, so I looked at the title – and then it all came back to me. Oh right; that.

Ed explains it all. PZ does. Jason adds technical details.

The bare bones: ten minutes after he was removed from the mailing list he put himself back on it, and he passed on some of the messages he read. It’s sleazy stuff.

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

How not to creep

Aug 9th, 2012 6:19 pm | By

John Scalzi has a good post on how not to be creepy, especially (I take it) if you’re a geek.

There are ten rules.

4. Acknowledge that other people do not exist just for your amusement/interest/desire/use. Yes, I know. You know that. But oddly enough, there’s a difference between knowing it, and actually believing it — or understanding what it means in a larger social context. People go to conventions and social gatherings to meet other people, but not necessarily (or even remotely likely) for the purpose of meeting you.

It’s funny, in a way, reading the rules, because I think I must be the inside out of the kind of person who needs to be told all those things. I always simply assume people are not wherever it is for the purpose of meeting me, and that meeting me won’t change that, so I kind of do the opposite of rules 5-10, which are about not touching and not crowding and not boxing in and not trying to be funny and not following and not staying around when people want you to leave. I avoid, and stand far away, and say nothing, and leave.

I exaggerate, but that is my instinct, and my default mode.



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


Aug 9th, 2012 4:09 pm | By

I’m not ignoring you. It’s just that I have two deadlines tomorrow – and they’re both in the UK so really that means they’re today. One for The Freethinker, the other for TPM.

The first is done. The second isn’t.

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

Police made her father sign a “pledge”

Aug 9th, 2012 10:44 am | By

And then there are those strange coincidences – like when a woman complains to the police that her father and brother beat her, and they are arrested but then released on bail, and three days later the father takes her body to a clinic where a doctor issues a death certificate. Spooky, isn’t it.

The men, from al-Samu near Hebron, were detained for four days, but a court released them on bail on July 18.

Randa’s brother has told south Hebron prosecutor Mohammad Gaboon that on his release he returned home and beat Randa on her face and chest. “She lost her conscious and I left the room at that time,” he said.

On July 21, Randa’s father took her body to a clinic, where a doctor issued a death certificate.

And the family hastily buried her, without a funeral.

Several months before her death, Randa had sought police protection from her father and her brother, said Farid al-Atrash, the regional director of the Independent Commission for Human Rights told Ma’an.

In January, she filed complaints with the family protection unit and at police stations in al-Samu, where she lived, and Yatta, a nearby town. Police made her father sign a “pledge” to stop beating her.

The beatings continued and Randa approached the Independent Commission of Human Rights on Feb. 4.

“We called the family protection department to find her a safe house, but family protection said that her father and brother promised to find her a job,” al-Atrash said.

Oh well in that case – obviously she’s perfectly safe staying with them.

Randa was living with her family after her husband threw her out, Hiyan Qaqour, a lawyer for the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling told Ma’an.

Aged 28, Randa was forced to marry a 78-year-old man from Beersheba, in Israel, her mother told Ma’an.

They were married for six years and he regularly beat her, the lawyer said. Randa complained to Israeli police, who arrested him. On her husband’s release, he sent her back to her family in as-Samu in the southern West Bank, Qaqour added.

Got it. Shit life, and shit death. Treated like shit by her birth family, and the man she was forced to “marry,” and the institutions around her.

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

Children were born

Aug 9th, 2012 10:00 am | By

Some ways of living are better than others. Some basic constituents of a good life are fresh air, freedom of movement, access to the wider world. Ways of living that provide more of those basic constituents are generally better than those that don’t.

Living underground, for instance. Not ideal.

MOSCOW – A self-proclaimed prophet had a vision from God: He would build an Islamic caliphate under the earth.

The digging began about a decade ago, and 70 followers moved into an eight-level subterranean honeycomb of cramped cells with no light, heat or ventilation.

Children were born. They, too, lived in the cold underground cells for many years — until authorities raided the compound last week and freed 27 sons and daughters of the sect.

Ages 1 to 17, the children rarely saw the light of day and had never left the property, attended school or been seen by a doctor, officials said Wednesday.

Human moles, in other words. Not ideal. Not one of the better ways of living. Not responsible parenthood.



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

Not even a hint

Aug 8th, 2012 3:58 pm | By

Are the Saudis proud of their women athletes? They are not. They consider them a dirty secret.

Across the world, word that Saudi Arabia would send women athletes to the Olympics for the first time immediately rocketed to the top of websites and broadcasts. In Saudi Arabia’s official media: Not even a hint.

They don’t want the sluts to get big ideas.

“It does not change the fact that Saudi women are not free to move and to choose,” said political analyst Mona Abass in neighboring Bahrain. “The Saudis may use it to boost their image, but it changes little.”

Even the two athletes selected to compete under the Saudi flag — 800-meter runner Sarah Attar from Pepperdine University in California and Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani in judo — live outside the kingdom and carry almost no influence as sports figures.

They sent only two women; both women live outside the country; Saudi Arabia kept the whole thing a secret.

So actually, nothing changed.


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

How to cope with eternal bliss

Aug 8th, 2012 2:55 pm | By

A great new Jesus and Mo. The title article on Jesus’s magazine particularly amuses me.


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

Sport will lead to corrupt morals

Aug 8th, 2012 2:15 pm | By

Saudi Arabia finally gave in to pressure and “allowed” Saudi women – a whole entire two of them – to compete in the Olympics, but it really really hated doing it.

The ministry of education bans physical education for girls. The rationale behind the ban ranges from claims that sport will lead to corrupt morals and lesbianism, to it being masculine and damaging for female health and psyche.

The main rationale, though, is that introducing physical education is a slippery slope that will eventually lead it to becoming common to see Saudi women practise and compete in sports publicly in front of men. In a country where all state schools mandate fully covering the face , the thought of Saudi women running in a conservative tracksuit with the face showing is simply too much for many to handle.

Saudi Arabia thinks everything is damaging for female health and psyche, apart from being fucked and bearing children. It’s as if women were both fragile as crystal and infectious as Ebola, while still being tragically necessary because fucking and reproduction.

Imagine not being allowed to do any kind of sport. Imagine not being allowed to go outside unless you’re buried in a bag and have a male relative along. Imagine not being allowed to go into banks, shops, restaurants because women are banned.

Once it was announced that two women would be joining the Saudi delegation, many  criticised the minister of sports, Prince Nawaf al-Faisal, for allowing it. However, the inclusion of women proceeded, and when those opposing the move saw that they could not get the minister to retract, they changed strategy and focused on the female athletes instead.

Photos of Sarah Attar on the running track from her university website in California emerged on Twitter and Facebook with her face, arms and legs blurred so that all a person can see is that it is a woman in shorts. These photos were captioned with statements of how this goes against the minister’s promise to ensure that Saudi women would participate in hijab.

As if the Saudi minister of sport gets to promise that a girl in California will wear what he says she’ll wear. As if it were the world’s business what she wears.

Meanwhile, judo competitor Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani‘s father received insults that included racial abuse and comments questioning his manhood, his honour and even his citizenship.

Both women were featured under an Arabic Twitter hashtag that translates as “Olympic whores“.

Aren’t people lovely.


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

Uncomfortable with activist women

Aug 8th, 2012 10:14 am | By

Michael Idov attends the closing arguments in the Pussy Riot trial.

…the hometown opinion on Pussy Riot is mixed at best. Even the liberal response has involved language like “They should let these chicks go with a slap on the ass.” Despite the rapid Westernization of the city elites, the rise of the vaunted “creative class” and the widespread distrust of the state-coddled Orthodox Church, Russians remain distinctly uncomfortable with activist women.

Pride parades remain banned in Moscow, while opposition leaders freely use the Russian word for “faggot” in public. The idea that liberalism is partly about upholding someone else’s liberty — including their right to do something that’s personally offensive to you — is an exotic and untested notion in Russia.

This allows Russian commentators to say or write things like “these women disgust me, they should rot in jail” without noticing the clear line between opinion and law that separates the first thought from the second.

It seems such a conspicuous line to fail to notice, doesn’t it. Is there a crime of “disgusting someone” on the books in Russia?

A case that should pivot on a specific legal question (“Does a violation of church protocol rise to the level of religious hatred?”) instead hangs entirely on emotions, including those of Patriarch Kirill I and President Vladimir V. Putin, that the judge and the prosecution appear to be trying to divine. The debate about the trial has also been full of pointless syllogisms: What if it was your daughter up there? What if they tried doing this in a mosque? What if someone came into your house and defecated on the carpet?

Snort. Pointless indeed. A public space like a church is not the same as “your house” and swearing is not the same as defecation. No carpet was damaged in the singing of Pussy Riot’s song.

Of course, if the defendants decided to convey over-the-top remorse (by falling to their knees, crying, etc.), then public opinion and even their legal fortunes would almost certainly turn. But Ms. Alyokhina, Ms. Samutsevich and Ms. Tolokonnikova remain cool, smiling and remote — a “Western” and “unfeminine” attitude. When you’re a woman in Russia, nothing but tears will do.

Policing the woman’s face again.



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