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.


Chuckle chuckle chuckle

May 14th, 2012 11:06 am | By

Right. Romney looks back on his high school “pranks”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urjn5CjVbak

He chuckles a good deal, in a “we all know this is no big deal” way.

He does the classic notpology – “if anyone was offended or hurt by that” then he’s totes sorry but they’re obviously oversensitive.

Hey the guy was closeted! So obviously he Romney had no idea.

You know how boys are. [indulgent chuckle]

 

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



Not entirely out of the norm

May 14th, 2012 9:40 am | By

What about Mitt Romney and his fun-loving ways at prep school? What about that time he rallied a bunch of fellow seniors to tackle a junior, hold him down, and cut his hair off?

John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.

“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney told Matthew Friedemann, his close friend in the Stevens Hall dorm, according to Friedemann’s recollection. Mitt, the teenage son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, kept complaining about Lauber’s look, Friedemann recalled.

A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

It’s a plant! This Friedemann fella is a secret friend of Obama’s.

The incident was recalled similarly by five students, who gave their accounts independently of one another. Four of them — Friedemann, now a dentist; Phillip Maxwell, a lawyer; Thomas Buford, a retired prosecutor; and David Seed, a retired principal — spoke on the record. Another former student who witnessed the incident asked not to be identified.

Oh. Probably not a plant then.

I’ve seen a lot of “he was young” commentary. But he wasn’t all that young: he was a senior in high school. By that age you’re sort of expected to control impulses to tackle people and cut off their hair. You’re also sort of expected to know how to live and let live. You’re expected to grasp that whatever your likes and dislikes may be, you don’t get to enforce them on other people with physical force.

Notice, too, that Romney collected a gang of people to tackle this one kid – who was a target for being Not Manly Enough.

Romney sounds like a high school shit. Yes, some people are high school shits and then improve – but some are just shits.

“It happened very quickly, and to this day it troubles me,” said Buford, the school’s wrestling champion, who said he joined Romney in restraining Lauber. Buford subsequently apologized to Lauber, who was “terrified,” he said. “What a senseless, stupid, idiotic thing to do.”

“It was a hack job,” recalled Maxwell, a childhood friend of Romney who was in the dorm room when the incident occurred. “It was vicious.”

“He was just easy pickin’s,” said Friedemann, then the student prefect, or student authority leader of Stevens Hall, expressing remorse about his failure to stop it.

The incident transpired in a flash, and Friedemann said Romney then led his cheering schoolmates back to his bay-windowed room in Stevens Hall.

Friedemann, guilt ridden, made a point of not talking about it with his friend and waited to see what form of discipline would befall Romney at the famously strict institution. Nothing happened.

So the others are troubled by it but Romney isn’t. The others feel remorse and Romney apparently doesn’t. That too is interesting.

His campaign is portraying him as a likable, funny guy at prep school, and that apparently fits the record. But.

But Friedemann and several people closest to Romney in those formative years say there was a sharp edge to him. In an English class, Gary Hummel, who was a closeted gay student at the time, recalled that his efforts to speak out in class were punctuated with Romney shouting, “Atta girl!” In the culture of that time and place, that was not entirely out of the norm. Hummel recalled some teachers using similar language.

It’s not entirely out of the norm in the culture of this time and place, either. “Like a girl” – still a popular insult; just ask Tom Harris MP. But the norm is never universal, and it wasn’t universal even then. Some people are thoughtful enough to realize that the norm can be stupid or vicious or both.

 

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



The state will not be mocked

May 13th, 2012 6:21 pm | By

Strange but true.

An Iranian cartoonist has been sentenced to 25 lashes for a caricature of a local MP, the semi-official Ilna news agency has reported.

Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani, MP for Arak, took offence to a cartoon published in Nameye Amir, a city newspaper in Arak.

Iran cartoonistIranian MP Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani by cartoonist Mahmoud Shokraye

 What can one say? When one is familiar with the principle that the people are allowed to criticize people such as employers and monarchs and MPs, what can one say about a cartoonist being sentenced to whipping for a mild cartoon like the above?

Shokraye was subsequently sued by the MP for having insulted him. A court in Markazi province, of which Arak is the capital, sentenced the cartoonist to 25 lashes – an unprecedented punishment for an Iranian cartoonist.

His sentence has triggered outcry among Iran’s online community with many calling on cartoonists to draw new caricatures of the MP. Many have expressed their anger on Twitter and Facebook.

Speaking to the Guardian, Nikahang Kowsar, a prominent Iranian cartoonist who fell foul of the Iranian regime after famously caricaturing a prominent cleric like a crocodile in a series of cartoons, said: “This verdict is a direct threat to each and every cartoonist working inside Iran. From now on, if this sentence is not set aside, any public official could sue the cartoonists for portraying him/her in a cartoon.”

You know what to do. If you have any cartooning talent, get out there and put it to good use.

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



A neglected form of sexism

May 13th, 2012 12:27 pm | By

We’ve had it wrong all this time – it’s not women who are kept down and held back and put in their place, it’s men. And it’s not just anonymous ranters on Reddit who say so, either.

In The Second Sexism, shortly to be published in the UK, David Benatar, head of the philosophy department at Cape Town University, argues that “more boys drop out of school, fewer men earn degrees, more men die younger, more are incarcerated” and that the issue is so under-researched it has become the prejudice that dare not speak its name.

“It’s a neglected form of sexism,” Benatar says in a telephone interview. “It’s true that in the developed world the majority of economic and political roles are occupied by males. But if you look at the bottom – for example, the prison population, the homeless population, or the number of people dropping out of school – that is overwhelmingly male. You tend to find more men at the very top but also at the very bottom.”

I suspect that’s his own particular definition of “the bottom.” I suspect there are a lot of women on the bottom too – for example, the wives and daughters of male prisoners and the homeless population and the droppers out of school. But in any case that casual admission plus brisk dismissal of the fact that most economic and political roles are occupied by males is pretty absurd.

Men are also increasingly the butt of jokes.

Riiight - that’s why Tom Harris says a protester who throws an egg and runs away is “like a girl.”

Give me a break.

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



No teaching pseudoscience please

May 13th, 2012 12:02 pm | By

A letter to the Observer notes that worries about creationism prompted the government to change the rules for free schools to prevent them from teaching pseudoscience.

However, not enough attention has been paid to two equally grave threats to science education, namely Maharishi and Steiner schools. Maharishi schools follow the educational methods of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, guru of the transcendental meditation movement, while Steiner education is based on an esoteric/occultist movement called anthroposophy, founded by Austrian mystic Rudolf Steiner (“Holistic unit will ‘tarnish’ Aberdeen University reputation“). The Maharishi school has as its specialist subject the “science of creative intelligence”, which is not based on science. It also teaches a system of herbal medicine, most of which lacks evidence of efficacy and safety. Anthroposophy is centred on beliefs in karma, reincarnation and advancing children’s connection to the spirit world.

The first Steiner academy opened in 2008, with a free school to open this September. The first Maharishi school opened last September. Both groups have interviews to open more schools in 2013. We believe that the new rules on teaching pseudoscience mean that no more of these schools should open.

Pavan Dhaliwal head of public affairs, British Humanist Association; Edzard Ernst professor of complementary medicine, Exeter University; David Colquhoun professor of pharmacology, University College London and blogger, dcscience.net; Simon Singh science writer; Andy Lewis Quackometer.net; Alan Henness zenosblog.com; Melanie Byng; Richard Byng medical academic; James Gray; Mark Hayes; David Simpson

Steiner schools are mostly under the radar, and shouldn’t be; they’re very sinister.

 

 

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



Not this again

May 13th, 2012 11:13 am | By

On the one hand, yes, religion as mostly practiced and interpreted now is illiberal and intolerant and sucky, but on the other hand, it always could be fluffier and nicer, if people would only.

But they won’t, so what’s the point of saying that?

Oh, you know…it fills the time. It’s not as hazardous as snowboarding. It’s easy.

Christianity, Islam and the other world faiths shouldn’t be completely disregarded. Many of the ethics they teach – and the faith, and in turn, the security which they offer believers – are far too valuable to ignore; what needs to change is our understanding. It is up to the intellectual religious leaders, who have the ability to engage with the intelligent as well as the uneducated, to renovate religion.

No. The items that are too valuable to ignore? Here’s the thing: they’re not inherently religious. They don’t depend on religion. We don’t need to keep religion to keep the items. We don’t decide which items are valuable and which are sucky on the basis of religious criteria; we use other criteria, as Plato pointed out such a god damn long time ago. We can make our own good things. We can transmit them, we can teach them, we can defend them, we can enshrine them in bills and declarations of human rights. We don’t need god to help. We do it better without god.

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



Another hanging

May 13th, 2012 10:12 am | By

Four men in Iran are due to be hanged very soon – as in, any time now – as their sentence has been approved by a hight court.

According to HRANA and JOOPEA, these four men will be hanged for sodomy according Shari’a law.

London based Iranian Human Rights Lawyer, Mehri Jafari said: ‘I am horrified and saddened to have heard the news about these four men. Not only with regards to the execution which is about to take place, but the fact that is beyond our control.

‘There are two important issues in this case; the location of the alleged occurrence and the interpretation of the Sharia’ law that a Hodud (strict Sharia punishment) is [im]minent.  Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad is one of the most undeveloped provinces in Iran and it is obvious that a lack of access to lawyers and fair trial can be considered a serious issue in this case. After this announcement it is very likely that the execution will be carried out soon, and the remote location makes it difficult to exert any influence on the process.’

Mehri further pleaded: ‘I hope international organisations act quickly and effectively on this specific case.’

So, spread the word.

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



Particularly hard to take in a woman

May 12th, 2012 5:43 pm | By

Richard Carrier has a great extended interview with Susan Haack.

One sample:

But I’m also sure that many of the “difficulties and annoyances” of my life in philosophy have arisen, not simply because I’m a woman, but because of other characteristics of mine—though I suspect people find some of these particularly hard to take in a woman. For one thing, I’m very independent: rather than follow philosophical fads and fashions, I pursue questions I believe are important, and tackle them in the ways that seem most likely to yield results; I am beholden to no clique or citation cartel; I put no stock in the ranking of philosophy graduate programs over which my colleagues obsess; I accept no research or travel funds from my university; I avoid publishing in journals that insist on taking all the rights to my work; etc., etc.

Read the whole thing.

 

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



Whoops

May 12th, 2012 5:36 pm | By

A student in the Department of Human Ecology at the University of Alberta had a good idea for her research project on workplace hazards: high heels. She’s required to wear them herself for her job as a server, and she’s fallen a few times while carrying trays.

It’s brilliant, isn’t it? The job of a server is to carry heavy plates or trays, so naturally the thing to do is handicap them by requiring them to wear shoes that are harder to walk in than shoes without high heels. Naturally. Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it in high heels and backward.

She talked to 35 servers; all had slipped or fallen on the job; 40% said they’d been injured as a result. 91% said they were required to wear high heels for work.

H/t Christopher Moyer.

 File:High Heels pink .jpg

 

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



The in-laws

May 12th, 2012 11:34 am | By

And then, speaking of where you’d prefer to live, there’s life with Ismail Belghar of somewhere in New South Wales.

Belghar, who has been married to his wife for 11 years, became aware she had been to the beach in late 2009 because her shoulders were slightly sunburned.

He rang his sister-in-law and said: “You slut, how dare you take my wife to the beach.”

Just before Christmas, 2009, Ms Kokden came face to face with Belghar while out shopping with her brother at the Broadway Shopping Centre.

Belghar slapped her across the face then carried her to the railing around the car park where he held her out over it.

She was freed when her brother tackled Belghar.

Family life, eh?

The court heard, because of his religious beliefs and because he thought he had absolute authority over her, Belghar felt it “abhorrent” that his wife, Hanife Kokden, had been to the beach where she “displayed her body”.

In March, Judge Ronald Solomon had granted Belghar a trial before a judge sitting alone after agreeing he may not receive a fair trial with a jury.

“The attitude of (Belghar) … is based on a religious or cultural basis. In light of the fact there has been adverse publicity regarding people who hold extreme Muslim faith beliefs in the community, I am of the view that the apprehension by (Belghar) that he may not receive a fair trial is a reasonable apprehension,” Judge Solomon said.

Nicely circular, innit. Belghar has disgusting religious beliefs, along with an opinion that he has absolute authority over his wife. He might not get a fair trial because a jury might dislike his disgusting religious and spousal beliefs. Therefore he can get a judge all to himself.

So the more disgusting your beliefs (and their resulting actions) are, the more special treatment you should get? Is that the logic?

An appeals court overruled the judge, so if that is the logic I guess the court didn’t accept it.

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



The clerics who have sucked the joy out of our lives for centuries

May 12th, 2012 11:02 am | By

Nice. Last month the Muslim Canadian Congress gave Irshad Manji a freedom of speech award – the first “Mansoor Hallaj Freedom of Speech Award.”

I like the picture.

I also like the way Tarek Fatah explained it in the Toronto Sun.

Earlier this week, the Kuwaiti parliament voted to institute the death penalty against any Muslim who is judged by Islamic clerics to have insulted God.

As medieval as this may sound to the ears of the Western non-Muslim, the threat is real and the target is the millions of Muslims, like me, who are fed up with the clerics who have sucked the joy out of our lives for centuries.

The tradition of silencing dissident Muslims by beheading them is not new; its most famous victim was beheaded in Baghdad over a 1,000 years ago and the most recent ones are the victims of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Today, at the Toronto Public Library on Palmerston Street, a group of Muslims are going to say “Enough is enough.” They will honour a 21st century Muslim reformer in the name of a 10th century Muslim rebel who died for speaking the truth. This will be their rebuke to the Kuwaiti parliament.

Where would you prefer to live? Tarek Fatah’s Toronto or Kuwait?

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



They hid behind masks & helmets while beating up ordinary people

May 12th, 2012 9:22 am | By

Actually, that Jakarta Post account of the “protest” at Irshad Manji’s bookstore talk was a good deal too minimal. Manji gives a fuller account on (ironically) Twitter.

Four years ago, I came to Indonesia and experienced a nation of tolerance, openness & pluralism. In my new book, I describe Indonesia as a model for the Muslim world. But things have changed. Last night at LKiS community center religious extremists assaulted about 150 citizens of Jogja, as well as my team. My colleague, Emily Rees, was struck with a metal bar and had to be rushed to hospital. Her arm is now in a sling. Two other attendees sustained head injuries. I have spoken with them both and, by God’s grace, they will recover. But the reputation of the criminals should never recover: They hid behind masks & helmets while beating up ordinary people & destroying property. These men are cowards. In sharp contrast, the moral courage of several citizens saved my own life. As the gangsters shouted, “WHERE IS MANJI?” citizens shielded my body with theirs. I am immeasurably grateful for and humbled by their bravery. They have proven that Indonesians can unite for human dignity. Indonesians tell me that their police and government are capitulating to the thugs.

But the people needn’t capitulate, she adds.

Anyway – bad stuff. Thugs in masks hitting people with metal bars in an effort to silence a liberal Muslim woman who has a “wrong” kind of sexuality. Bad bad bad stuff.

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



A much more conservative vibe in the capital

May 12th, 2012 9:07 am | By

Irshad Manji has been getting some unwelcome attention in Indonesia.

During a discussion and an event to launch her latest book, Allah, Liberty and Love, at Salihara in South Jakarta last Friday, she said she sensed “a much more conservative vibe” in the capital.

As if on cue, Manji had barely finished her opening talk when a police officer announced that the event had to be postponed partly due to protests from local residents and hardline groups.

Minutes later, shouts of disapproval from those claiming to be local residents were heard. The discussion was cut short formally and Manji had to be escorted out of the venue.

Manji faced more protests from various groups during her next few days in the country with the largest Muslim population in the world.

Hundreds of members of the Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI) attacked the LKiS publishing office in Yogyakarta where she was speaking about her book on Wednesday night.

Because they don’t want no stinkin’ liberty & love along with their Allah.

The Trouble with Islam Today, which addresses issues such as alleged animosity towards Jews and inferiority of women in some Muslim-dominated societies, and calls for Muslims to be more critical of their own community, was, according to Manji, driven by anger.

“That anger was real … and it needed to be expressed at least for me. But in the last 10 years as I have been engaging with people like you all over the world, my own anger has been replaced with aspiration. I now believe that we shouldn’t just expose the corruption. That we can strive for better and that we can, as the Koran tells us, change ourselves in order to change the condition of our society,” Manji said to the audience at the Salihara discussion, which was mostly composed of young people.

That’s nice, but it’s not just the Koran that tells us that.

I know Manji knows that. I know she says it to make the point that changing ourselves and the condition of society are compatible with the Koran. But still – it’s not just the Koran that tells us that.

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



Ew, girl cooties

May 11th, 2012 4:33 pm | By

In the news from Phoenix (oh god Phoenix – whose bishop is Joseph Olmsted, who tried to force a hospital to promise never again to prevent a woman from dying by aborting her doomed-anyway fetus) -

Instead of playing in a championship baseball game, Paige Sultzbach and her team won’t even make it to the dugout.

A Phoenix school that was scheduled to play the 15-year-old Mesa girl and her male teammates forfeited the game rather than face a female player.

Well that’s insulting.

Our Lady of Sorrows bowed out of Thursday night’s game against Mesa Preparatory Academy in the Arizona Charter Athletic Association championship. The game had been scheduled at Phoenix College.

Paige, who plays second base at Mesa Prep, had to sit out two previous games against Our Lady of Sorrows out of respect for its beliefs. But having her miss the championship was not an option for Mesa Prep.

Excuse me?! Out of respect for its beliefs? She sat out two games out of respect for its beliefs that women are inferior?

Can we stop doing things out of “respect” for vicious unreformed I’m-better-than-you beliefs that don’t deserve the respect you would give a gob of phlegm on the sidewalk?

“This is not a contact sport; it shouldn’t be an issue,” Pamela Sultzbach said. “It wasn’t that they were afraid they were going to hurt or injure her, it’s that (they believe) a girl’s place is not on a field.”

And they believe they have the right to insult her by ostentatiously acting on that moronic belief. They believe they have the right – and “respect”! – for trying to deprive her of the right and ability to participate in a game that she presumably likes and does well. They believe they have the right to try to make her have a smaller more impoverished life, more hemmed in by stupid nasty restrictions forced on her by a gang of Catholic men and boys. It’s revolting.

Officials at Our Lady of Sorrows declined comment. In a written statement Thursday, the school said the decision to forfeit was consistent with a policy prohibiting co-ed sports.

The statement also said the school teaches boys respect by not placing girls in athletic competition, where “proper boundaries can only be respected with difficulty.”

Our Lady of Sorrows is run by the U.S. branch of the Society of Saint Pius X. The group represents conservative, traditional priests who broke from the Catholic Church in the 1980s.

Oh, that explains it – they’re even more fascist than the church gang. Well you know what then? Nobody should agree to play them. Period. Not if they refuse to play a team that includes a Jew, or a Muslim, or a Nigerian, or a Malaysian – and the same goes for A Girl.

H/t Michael Fugate.

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



We won’t be silent

May 11th, 2012 3:46 pm | By

“If you have freedom of speech, please use your freedom to help someone else have theirs.”

Isn’t it time you spoke out?

“Think for yourself and let others enjoy that privilege too.” Voltaire.

Via Tarek Fatah

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vv7VdQNC8Yc

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



The bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth

May 11th, 2012 10:48 am | By

The Washington Post suggests that maybe the “tense relationship” between the Catholic church and the Girl Scouts is approaching a “resolution” – without really clarifying why the bishops think it’s any of their business or why anyone else does either.

Potentially at stake is whether troops can continue meeting in Catholic churches, and whether many Catholic girls, who make up a quarter of the nation’s 3 million Girl Scouts, will continue in scouting as the organization marks its 100th year.

How can the second item be at stake? The bishops can’t actually force people to do things, after all. They’re not cops. They don’t have badges or guns or clubs, and they’re not licensed by the state to enforce the laws. It’s really not within their power to tell Catholic girls what groups they can belong to. (They can tell, but it’s just noise.) They’re not the boss of Catholic girls. They’re not the boss of anyone except their own employees. They can’t stop Catholic girls continuing in scouting.

“There had been some complaints about the Scouts, and the bishops couldn’t turn a deaf ear,” said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops. “So they want to know, what’s the story?”

Couldn’t turn a deaf ear? Why not? Who says?

Critics of the Girl Scouts contend their materials shouldn’t have any links to groups like the Sierra Club, Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam, or other groups that support family planning and contraception. Other critics are unhappy that the American Girl Scouting organization is a member of an international scouting association that supports contraception access.

Oh yes? Is that right? Well I say the Girl Scouts shouldn’t have any links to the Catholic church, which attempts to mandate and impose a state of affairs in which women are stripped of any right to control their own fertility and are left helpless to avoid or postpone childbearing unless they avoid sex altogether. That’s what I say. Too bad I can’t impose my wishes on anyone.

For the past two years, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has had its Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth ask the Girl Scouts to explain their stances and materials.

Could you ask for a better list of things the Catholic church knows nothing whatever about, is self-handicapped from knowing anything about, and has no business on earth interfering with? What does it know about laity? Much less marriage? Or family life? And all it knows about youth is how to swear it to secrecy when a priest is caught raping it. Fuck its Committee, and fuck its asking.

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



A pattern

May 11th, 2012 10:00 am | By

Not just for Catholics any more. You don’t have to be Catholic to love special rules for child-raping theists. Nothin’ says lovin’ like a district attorney who lets clerics deal with child-rape in their “communities” with no pesky police involved.

In short, it’s not just Ireland and it’s not just Catholic priests. It’s also the Brooklyn district attorney and ultra-Orthodox rabbis.

An influential rabbi came last summer to the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, with a message: his ultra-Orthodox advocacy group was instructing adherent Jews that they could report allegations of child sexual abuse to district attorneys or the police only if a rabbi first determined that the suspicions were credible.       

The pronouncement was a blunt challenge to Mr. Hynes’s authority. But the district attorney “expressed no opposition or objection,” the rabbi, Chaim Dovid Zweibel, recalled.

This apparently means child sexual abuse by any “adherent Jews,” not just by clerics.

Mr. Hynes has won election six times as district attorney thanks in part to support from ultra-Orthodox rabbis, who lead growing communities in neighborhoods like Borough Park and Crown Heights. But in recent years, as allegations of child sexual abuse have shaken the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, victims’ rights groups have expressed concern that he is not vigorously pursuing these cases because of his deep ties to the rabbis.

Many of the rabbis consider sexual abuse accusations to be community matters best handled by rabbinical authorities, who often do not report their conclusions to the police.

Ah, fabulous. A tight-knit “community” of religious zealots and their unfortunate trapped dependents, who have given themselves permission to do their own policing of child rape, and gotten the district attorney to go along with this arrangement. That should work out well! Just as it does among the Amish.

There’s been a crackdown of sorts, leading to arrests – but there are still special rules.

Mr. Hynes has taken the highly unusual step of declining to publicize the names of defendants prosecuted under the program — even those convicted. At the same time, he continues to publicize allegations of child sexual abuse against defendants who are not ultra-Orthodox Jews.

This policy of shielding defendants’ names because of their religious status is not followed by the other four district attorneys in New York City, and has rarely, if ever, been adopted by prosecutors around the country.

Some sex-crime experts and former prosecutors said the policy contributed to a culture of secrecy in ultra-Orthodox communities, which made it harder to curb sexual abuse.

Well it would, wouldn’t it. Why else would the DA be doing it? You can’t keep secrets of that kind without contributing to a culture of secrecy. No one must know that Daddy raped a few kids. So nobody knows, and Daddy is more careful in future, and he rapes some more kids.

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor of constitutional law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, blamed Mr. Hynes for not speaking out against the ultra-Orthodox position that mandates that allegations must be first reported to rabbis. The position potentially flouts a state law that requires teachers, social workers and others to report allegations of sexual abuse immediately to the authorities.

She said Mr. Hynes was essentially allowing rabbis to act as gatekeepers.

“That’s exactly what the Catholic Church did, what the Latter-day Saints did, what the Jehovah’s Witnesses did,” said Ms. Hamilton, author of “Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children.”

Quite. It would be nice if secular law enforcement would refrain from helping them to do that.

 

 

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



About the questions being asked

May 11th, 2012 9:06 am | By

Another thing, on the matter of Edwina Rogers.

I was re-reading that contested part of Greta’s interview with Roy Speckhardt in a post of Chris Hallquist’s -

I don’t take your characterization as accurate that she was being evasive. I listened to her interview, and actually, the first thing I thought of was, “Gosh, you know, I’ve done a lot of media interviews, and if you do media interviews, you learn how to get your talking points across and not worry, necessarily, all the time about the questions being asked. If you want to get your own message across, this is a technique that you’ve got to learn, to get out there and put across your viewpoint.”

And I had another thought about it.

Yes, ok, it probably is a technique you have to learn, if you want to get your own message across. It’s true that we don’t want to be naive about this and just say let the best argument win, because interviewers can have agendas and it would be stupid to simply comply with what the interviewer wants no matter what. But.

But. Doing things that way rules out doing things a different way, and if you learn the technique so thoroughly or enthusiastically that it becomes the only one you know, then you become simply a talking agenda, and that seems a bad thing for the Executive Director of the SCA. It might be all right for a designated PR person for the SCA, for someone whose only job was to get a particular message across, but surely as ED Rogers has more jobs to do than just getting a particular message across. I get that that’s a big part of her job, but it’s not all of it, is it?

And it’s not a good general technique to focus like a laser on your own message and blank out all questions. That’s not a technique so much as a disability. An unchanging pre-determined message that is non-responsive to questions makes a good definition of religion, and secular thinking should be the opposite of that. Secular thinking (properly conducted) is responsive and open and cumulative and flexible. Dialogue is of the essence. Dialogue isn’t dialogue if one party just sticks to a message the whole time.

I think this is part of the broad unease about the appointment. She might be a brilliant hire as the head of PR, but not as ED.

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



What you can see on a walk

May 10th, 2012 4:43 pm | By

I took my friend Cooper to the beach yesterday afternoon.

Not that beach, but that Cooper. He’s a little over a year old.

This isn’t about him though, it’s about sea stars. It was very low tide, so I went squidging and mincing through the intertidal zone with him so that he could swim after the tennis ball, which he loves doing with a passion that never fades. I eventually noticed a sea star, and then a couple more, and then another.

One was a rather faded dry purple; maybe it was dead. The next two were a vibrant deep purple – probably Pisaster ochraeus.

 File:Seastar.JPG

The last one was red, and many-armed, and it had spinelets along each arm, that were moving. It was extraordinary. Maybe the rose sea star, Crossaster papposus.

How about that?

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



Bishops v Girl Scouts

May 10th, 2012 4:02 pm | By

It’s turning into a “you’ve got to be kidding” day. One “you’ve got to be kidding” after another.

What now? The notoriously vicious US Conference of Catholic Bishops is pitching a huge fit at the Girl Scouts.

Long a lightning rod for conservative criticism, the Girl Scouts of the USA are now facing their highest-level challenge yet: An official inquiry by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

An official inquiry? What does that even mean? What standing do the US bishops have to inquire officially into the Girl Scouts? What business are the Girl Scouts of theirs?

At issue are concerns about program materials that some Catholics find offensive, as well as assertions that the Scouts associate with other groups espousing stances that conflict with church teaching.

So what? So what so what so what? How is that any of their business? Why are they inquiring into it? Why do they think they get to tell people what to do? Why is it anything to do with them if the Scouts associate with other groups espousing stances that conflict with church teaching?

This is making me frantic, it’s so presumptuous and intrusive and theocratic. Whatever next? An official inquiry into bloggers? Atheists? Publishing? Public schools? Everything?

Why do they think they have any jurisdiction at all? Who exactly do they think they are? And who do they think we are? Their subjects?

The new inquiry will be conducted by the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. It will look into the Scouts’ “possible problematic relationships with other organizations” and various “problematic” program materials, according to a letter sent by the committee chairman, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne, Ind., to his fellow bishops.

It’s none of their business. It’s none of their business, it’s none of their business, it’s none of their business.

Girl Scout leaders hope the bishops’ apprehensions will be eased once they gather information. But there’s frustration within the iconic youth organization — known for its inclusiveness and cookie sales — that it has become such an ideological target, with the girls sometimes caught in the political crossfire.

“I know we’re a big part of the culture wars,” said the Girl Scouts’ spokeswoman, Michelle Tompkins. “People use our good name to advance their own agenda.”

“For us, there’s an overarching sadness to it,” Tompkins added. “We’re just trying to further girls’ leadership.”

I feel murderous. I want to make the USCCB a universal pariah. I want the bishops and their “conference” to be hated by every human on the planet except the pope. I want them to have to stop being bishops and get jobs picking cotton instead.

Mary Rice Hasson, a visiting fellow in Catholic studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank in Washington, accuses McCarty [executive director of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry] of “whitewashing” Girl Scout programs and policies that struck some Catholics as counter to church teaching.

“They just repeated the Girl Scouts’ denials,” Hasson said. “Families’ concerns were minimized or ignored.”

Hasson is pleased that the bishops are launching their own inquiry but is skeptical that further rifts can be avoided.

“A collision course is probably a good description of where things are headed,” she said. “The leadership of the Girl Scouts is reflexively liberal. Their board is dominated by people whose views are antithetical to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Jesus christ. They really do think they get to tell everyone what to do. They think they get to have “official inquiries” into whether or not some people are liberal and have views antithetical to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

I wonder who Mary Rice Hasson thinks she is. Doesn’t she realize she’s a woman? What’s she doing being a fellow at a think tank, and accusing people of things, and saying things? That’s not “complementary.” She’s denying The True Nature of Woman. The bishops aren’t going to let her into their club no matter how much accusing she does.

Ugh. I have a bad case of Catholicismophobia at the moment.

 

 

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