Notes and Comment Blog

For apologists, the timing for dissent is never right

Nov 29th, 2015 3:07 pm | By

Yet again the BBC treats Maryam Namazie and the ExMuslims as some kind of horrid contaminant if not just plain traitors.

I was interviewed by Anne-Marie Tomchak for thirty minutes for BBC Trending on 26 November. Despite my also having referred 4 ex-Muslims, including those who maintained anonymity whilst Tweeting for#ExMuslimBecause due to fears for their safety, the programme spoke to Mobeen Azhar and Rashid Dar, two men who identified themselves as Muslims, about my segment which was highly edited for BBC World Service on 28 November.

The presenter Tomchak and the two Muslim men framed the entire discussion about apostasy and the basic human right to leave and criticise Islam without fear into one that was “hateful,” “bigoted,” “an attack on Muslims,” “Islamophobic,” “opportunistic,” “quite offensive”…

So the BBC actually thinks Muslims should not be allowed to leave Islam? It thinks Maryam and the ExMuslims are being “hateful” in saying Muslims can leave?

Why? The BBC is based in the UK. People in the UK are allowed to leave their religions (though it’s socially difficult for some, especially Muslims); that freedom is taken for granted. Why does the BBC make it its business to tell Muslims that they’re not allowed to leave their religion? Why does it treat her as some sort of criminal?

Tomchak and her “experts” insist that #ExMuslimBecause was “bad timing” due to the Paris attacks. For apologists,  the timing for dissent is never right.

Whilst we mourn our dead in Paris, we must not forget the countless others killed by ISIS and Islamists, including this very month in Lebanon, Nigeria, Mali, Iraq, Egypt, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan… as well as those executed perfectly legally via Sharia laws in Iran, Saudi Arabia… The refugee crisis is in large part due to this unbridled brutality.

In fact, if there ever was a “right” time to challenge Islam and Islamism, it is now.

And why would we not be allowed to do that in any case? It’s not the 13th century. We’re allowed to challenge ideas, ideologies, institutions. We’re allowed to challenge them and we’re allowed to abandon them. The BBC shouldn’t be saying or implying otherwise.

Maybe this example will help Tomchak and the BBC understand what they have got so very wrong (though I am not holding my breath). What they’ve done in their report on #ExMuslimBecause is similar to labelling critics of the Magdelene Laundries or Symphysiotomy as “strident,” “Catholic bashers” or “openly hostile to the Catholic Church.”

Of course there are people who do exactly that: apologists for the Catholic church and all its actions. But they tend to be cardinals or Bill Donohue; they don’t tend to be the BBC.

I know the BBC and its “Muslim community specialists” would have preferred us to raise #ExMuslimBecause in private over coffee. Regressive laws and fascist movements, however, are not pushed back over private chats but via normalising the taboo and through very public challenges and renunciations.

Every movement – from the demand to end racial apartheid, for gender equality, and LGBT rights – were battles fought in the public square. The right to apostasy and blasphemy is no different.

Remove all the BBC’s bogus accusations and one fact remains: the right to religion comes with a corresponding right to be free from religion. #ExMuslimBecause is part of the effort to bring about that hugely important change.

And the BBC should not be crapping on it.

Tahir Elçi

Nov 29th, 2015 12:00 pm | By

Human Rights Watch on the murder of Tahir Elçi:

The November 28, 2015 assassination of Tahir Elçi, one of Turkey’s most prominent human rights lawyers and defenders, is a huge loss for the human rights community and all those who seek rule of law, democracy and justice, Human Rights Watch said today.  Human Rights Watch offered sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Elçi, head of the Diyarbakir Bar Association.

“This is a very dark day for Turkey – the murder of Tahir Elçi is a devastating blow not only to human rights activists but to all who want to see justice and rule of law prevail in Turkey,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Tahir Elçi played a key role in representing victims of human rights violations and was critical of abusive tactics whether by the state or by armed groups.”

Elçi was shot in the head with a single bullet on a street in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, where he worked and lived, shortly after holding a press conference in the old city. The full circumstances of the killing are at the time of writing unclear. A police officer was also killed nearby.

Elçi’s murder comes at a dark time for human rights in Turkey. The breakdown of the government’s peace process with the Kurds over the summer has seen a spiraling cycle of violence in the southeast.

Elçi had worked since the early 1990s as a human rights lawyer, first in the southeast in Cizre, his home town, and later in Diyarbakır, the largest city in region. He worked extensively to represent families of victims of egregious human rights violations by the security forces, including enforced disappearances and unlawful killings by suspected government agents.

Over many years, he played a key role in representing victims of these crimes before the European Court of Human Rights, and worked closely with international human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. He himself was a victim of torture and arbitrary detention, amongst other abuses, facts recognized by the European Court of Human Rights before which he and his colleagues also successfully brought their own case.

Turkey is on a very bad path.

That’s the look to give

Nov 29th, 2015 11:50 am | By

Shaheen Hashmat on Facebook:

My face when someone comes to an event on forced marriage and asks why we’re not campaigning against male circumcision 😂 ‪#‎fuuseforum‬ Photo by Julie Tørrissen


Where many millions of babies die

Nov 29th, 2015 11:12 am | By

Planned Parenthood thinks the shootup at its Colorado clinic was motivated by something as opposed to being random. Planned Parenthood thinks the shooter didn’t select its clinic just as he might have selected a Burger King or Applebee’s, but rather, on purpose, because of what it is – a place where women can end pregnancies they don’t want to or aren’t able to continue.

Planned Parenthood said on Sunday that news reports that the gunman who attacked its Colorado health clinic had uttered “no more baby parts” during his arrest showed that the suspect was motivated by an anti-abortion agenda.

The remark attributed to the 57-year-old suspect, identified by police as Robert Lewis Dear, was an apparent reference to Planned Parenthood’s abortion activities and its role in delivering fetal tissue to medical researchers, a hot button issue in the 2016 race for the presidency.

“We now know the man responsible for the tragic shooting at PP’s health center in Colorado was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion,” the organization said on Twitter.

It would have been a safe guess anyway.

Of course, the police and the media can’t decide things on that basis; it’s their job to be more careful than that.

But we can; the general public can; bloggers can.

Conservatives have accused Planned Parenthood, a non-profit that provides a range of health services, including abortion, of illegally selling baby parts, an accusation it has strenuously denied.

While calling the shooting “an incredible tragedy,” Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on Sunday dismissed talk that harsh anti-abortion rhetoric may have contributed to the attack.

“What he did is domestic terrorism,” the former Arkansas governor told CNN, referring to the gunman.

“There’s no excuse for killing other people, whether it’s inside … Planned Parenthood clinics, where many millions of babies die, or whether it’s people attacking Planned Parenthood,” Huckabee said.

No. A pregnancy is not a baby, and ending a pregnancy is not killing a baby. Huckabee is justifying the shootup. If people really were killing babies inside that clinic, violence might be justified in an effort to stop the killing.

The Colorado Springs attack led Governor John Hickenlooper to call for both sides of the debate over Planned Parenthood’s activities to “tone down the rhetoric.”

Both sides? When’s the last time supporters of abortion rights killed an opponent? Besides never?


Nov 28th, 2015 9:38 am | By

So this is good news, and could be a sign of more good news – The Montreal Gazette reports that Raif Badawi’s sentence to flogging has been suspended.

A jailed Saudi blogger is having his sentence of 1,000 lashings suspended, the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs told newspaper La Liberté.

“A pardon is now underway thanks to the head of state, the king Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud,”State Secretary Yves Rossier told the Swiss newspaper.

Here’s hoping.

H/t Bjarte

A Vatican stitchup

Nov 28th, 2015 8:58 am | By

Apparently the “Vatican,” i.e. the pretend state that is actually just the Catholic church telling everyone what to do, can prosecute people for saying things. Reuters has the details:

Five people, including two Italian reporters, went on trial in the Vatican on Tuesday, to outrage from rights groups, on charges arising from publication of books in which the Holy See was portrayed as mired in mismanagement and corruption.

At the first session, dominated by procedural issues and dubbed “Kafkaesque” by one of the defendants, journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi said they had done nothing wrong and had simply fulfilled their professional duty.

“I am incredulous in finding myself here as a defendant in a country that is not mine,” Fittipaldi told the court, adding that publishing news was protected by the Italian constitution as well as European conventions and universal declarations on human rights.

Calling all journalists: do more reporting on the Vatican aka the Catholic church. Make it hot for the all-male administration of the intrusive self-protective religion. Report all the things.

While the Vatican follows a 19th-century Italian criminal code that is no longer used in Italy, the fundamental approach to criminal trials is similar to the Italian legal system of magistrates and prosecutors. Unlike Italy, the Vatican does not have jury trials.

A criminal law making it illegal to leak documents was introduced in 2013 after another leaks scandal that preceded the resignation of Pope Benedict that year.

That’s unclear. Is the law an Italian law or a Vatican law? If it’s a Vatican law, how can it apply to people who aren’t part of the Vatican? If it’s an Italian law, why is it? Why would Italy be enforcing the Vatican’s desire to keep its crimes and fuckups secret? And why would the Vatican be prosecuting? It must be a Vatican law – but I can’t see how a Vatican law would apply outside the Vatican.

A Vatican prosecutor told the court that the Holy See did not intend to muzzle freedom of the press and that the defendants were bring tried for the way the documents were leaked by the officials and obtained by the journalists.

I’m not at all sure the Vatican aka the Catholic church has any right to have secrets, given its history and the claims it makes on all of us.

Both journalists complained they had been forced to accept court-appointed lawyers and had been given documents needed for their defense only days, or hours, before the trial started.

Fittipaldi told reporters that he had not met his lawyer until the trial was about to start. The court ruled that a senior Vatican judge would have to decide if outside lawyers could represent the two but that judge was out of Rome.

How very like the Catholic church. The church and the Mafia are basically the same institution.

The human rights watchdog, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), urged the Vatican on Monday to withdraw the charges.

“Journalists must be free to report on issues of public interests and to protect their confidential sources,” the OSCE’s representative on freedom of the media, Dunham Mijatovic, said.

“I call on the authorities not to proceed with the charges and protect journalists’ rights in accordance with OSCE commitments,” she said.

The whole thing is a complete outrage. I look forward to getting home so that I can be all over it like a bad rash.

Paint by numbers

Nov 27th, 2015 2:52 pm | By

I’ve been thinking I should do a little dictionary of Social Justice Bullshit. I say “little” because there wouldn’t be much to put in it…more of a page than a dictionary. But there are some words and phrases, and they could do with some beady-eyed interrogation. Intent isn’t magic; check your privilege; my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit – you know the ones.

One word I really hate is “schooling.” Use it in a sentence, you say, so that we all know what we’re talking about. “I schooled her on the issue but she doubled down and went right on asking her terrible questions.”

You recognize it now, right? Used by “activists” entranced with their own certainty, to describe the way they disagreed with an Impure Person.

And you also see how it works, yes? It’s not that I disagree with Impure Person and we argued about it, it’s that I have the correct knowledge and Impure Person has lack of knowledge and needs me to school her.

I don’t think I’ve ever used the word that way. I certainly hope I haven’t. I have often thought people were talking about something they didn’t know enough about, like the ones who kept saying Charlie Hebdo is racist, full stop – but even when I thought that I hope I didn’t tell them I was going to “school” them.

But people who consider themselves outstandingly virtuous activists do tell each other they “schooled” the designated ignoramus of the moment, and I never see them telling each other what an asshole thing that is to say. They know they have the right take on the issue at hand, so they know that anyone who has a different take is simply wrong, end of story. There is no different take. This isn’t a world of different takes. There is what the schoolers tell you, and there is error, and those are the only two categories that exist.

You don’t have to think about it terribly long or hard to realize this way of looking at the matter is unlikely to enrich anyone’s stock of ideas. It’s more like trying to live by a recipe than it is like thinking.

Hard graft

Nov 26th, 2015 4:45 pm | By

I’m on duty today, at work, doing my job. One of my jobs. The others involve writing; this one, my main breadwinner, involves being the temporary resident human of a lovable dog. So here I am hard at work, looking out at the Pacific Ocean while the dog sleeps next to me.

We just got back from a long walk on the Pebble Beach golf course. This time I took us all the way to the Carmel end of the course, which I haven’t done before. It’s a long and spectacularly beautiful walk – yes even with golfers and golf carts and sand traps in view.

I was thinking as we walked that for many of the people playing there it’s a bucket list experience. That gives it an extra something – emotional charge, I guess. The views  – of the hills behind Carmel, Carmel Bay, Point Lobos, the ocean, the cliffs that drop from the course down to the water – could not have been more breathtaking than they were today. It was very busy, so we had to be careful not to get in the players’ way, and it felt very festive. People made a fuss over Cooper, and wished they’d brought their own dogs.

This morning we went to the beach here (Spanish Bay, a few miles from Pebble) about 6 o’clock, as the moon was low in the west and the clouds were turning pink in the east. Thundering surf, a mile of empty beach, hundreds of shorebirds skittering back and forth at the edge of the surf…it’s one of my favorite things here. Soon we’ll go back there for the sunset.

I put in a lot of hours on this job!

No escape

Nov 26th, 2015 11:00 am | By

Another reason not to run away from home to join Islamic State, besides the fact that they’re murderous woman-hating humanity-hating theocratic horrors: they’ll kill you if you try to leave.

(But really the first is far more important. The first is about countless other people you harm by joining IS; the second is only about you.)

The Times of India tells us of one teenage runaway:

A teenage girl who ran away from her Vienna home to join ISIS in Syria has reportedly been beaten to death by the group after trying to escape.

Samra Kesinovic, 17, travelled to Syria last year with her friend Sabina Selimovic, 15.

The two became a ‘poster girl’ for ISIS, also known as Islamic State, appearing on social media websites in images showing them carrying Kalashnikovs and surrounded by armed men.

But by October that year there were reports quoting friends of the two women saying Ms Kesinovic had been sickened by the killings she witnessed and wanted to come home.

I wonder what she thought the Kalashnikovs were for. Target practice?

According to local Austrian media Ms Kesinovic was murdered by the group as she tried to flee the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa.

A report last year by David Scharia, a UN counter-terrorism expert, that a 15-year-old girl of Bosnian origin from Austria who had joined ISIS had “disappeared” is now thought to refer to Ms Kesinovic.

Mr Scharia said: “We received information just recently about two 15-year-old girls, of Bosnian origin, who left Austria, where they had been living in recent years …one was killed in the fighting in Syria, the other has disappeared.”

Both Ms Kesinovic and Ms Selimovic were children of Bosnian refugees who fled to Austria in the nineties to escape the war in their country.

The chains of history. Milosevic persecuted their parents, and they ended up joining a different band of persecutors. It would be so nice if human beings could go for more than five minutes without persecuting someone.

A machine to check their purity

Nov 25th, 2015 10:27 am | By

Via Barry Duke at The Freethinker

Prayar Gopalakrishnan, above, the new head of the famous Sabarimala temple in Kerala, sparked outrage after saying that women would only be allowed to enter the temple after a machine was invented to check their ‘purity’.

According to this report, Gopalakrishnan told reporters at the Kollam Press Club:

These days there are machines that can scan bodies and check for weapons. There will be a day when a machine is invented to scan if it is the ‘right time’ for a woman to enter the temple. When that machine is invented, we will talk about letting women inside.

That’s so interesting, isn’t it? I wonder if Prayar Gopalakrishnan has any idea how he got here. I wonder if he realizes how heavily his existence depended on his mother’s reproductive equipment, including menstruation. I wonder if he has any clue at all that menstruation isn’t “impure” or “dirty” but just the shedding of the endometrial lining that would have nourished an embryo had one been implanted – an embryo like the embryo that Prayar Gopalakrishna once was. That stuff is fetus breakfast lunch and dinner, and it’s very kind of women to provide it. It is not a reason to banish women from things.

Fucking patriarchal religion.

Listing the goods

Nov 25th, 2015 10:11 am | By

Vyckie Garrison has an article at Raw Story about godless people giving thanks.

Amanda Marcotte’s is the first (the list is alphabetical by first name):

I’ve been doing Friendsgiving long before they called it that, and I’m grateful to have such wonderful, loving friends to eat a bunch of food with and to chat about our mutual obsessions without judgment. Oh, and without praying. I’m in my 30s and still have no idea what to do when people are praying.

Mine changes “thankful” to “glad”:

I don’t love the word “thankful” in this context, I suppose because it sounds too personal and who would that person be if not some version of “God”? But I’m very glad to live in a world with…sunsets, rain, music, dogs, cats, chocolate, mountains, oceans, forests, books, art – even the Internet. I’m very glad I live at a time when and in a place where women are allowed to go outside without asking anyone’s permission. I could go on this way forever.

I could, too. I’m glad the brakes worked yesterday afternoon when that massive double-semi abruptly changed lanes right in front of us (Cooper was in the back seat) on Highway 1 outside Carmel. I’m glad those 4 (or more) foxes we encountered on the golf course last night at 10:30 eventually stopped following us. I’m glad my pulse rate is gradually going back down.

People and their groups

Nov 24th, 2015 12:11 pm | By

About ISIS and Joyce Carol Oates and humanity and whether or not there’s anything good to say about groups like ISIS or the people who join ISIS…

Here’s my view. I don’t think there is anything good to say about ISIS as a group. Its purpose and actions are rooted in a theocratic loathing of human beings. Its prxis is about what you would expect from such a loathing.

But the people who make up ISIS? That’s a very different question. Some may be thoroughly horrible yet still redeemable, some may be thoroughly horrible full stop, some may be more deluded than horrible. I don’t know. There are a lot of such people, and it’s all but certain that they vary along that continuum.

But Oates’s question was about ISIS the group. ISIS the group doesn’t resemble, say, the Catholic church, which includes some wonderful people doing wonderful work, and which also includes people doing more or less useful, compassionate, etc work but with churchy strings attached, and people doing good work who also do terrible things. It’s a mixed bag. ISIS not so much. Hizbollah does some useful work along with other kinds, but ISIS, as far as I’ve ever heard, doesn’t. It conquers people and kills all the ones it doesn’t enslave. It’s not sweet.

People who join ISIS and help with its projects may be redeemable but even if they are…they have a heavy load to bear for the rest of their lives. People can change, people are seldom all one thing, but it seems safe to say that belonging to ISIS is not good for the character.


Nov 24th, 2015 8:21 am | By

So I’m here on the peninsula again so posting will probably be light for the next few days.

The Pacific ocean is just over there and it’s caaalling me.

I like my job. Both my jobs.


Nov 23rd, 2015 3:35 pm | By

I’m on the road – specifically, on a bench at the San Jose airport which seems to be the only spot next to an electrical outlet in the whole place. (Wouldn’t you think? In the heart of Silicon fucking Valley?) I’m here in the interval before the 4:05 shuttle to Monterey.

Anybody else on the road? Or just out for a walk? Tell us stories of your travels.

He said ‘in the middle of it’

Nov 23rd, 2015 8:18 am | By

The BBC tells us the Archbishop of Canterbury suddenly noticed something.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said the terror attacks in Paris made him “doubt” the presence of God.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby told BBC Songs Of Praise he had prayed, asking “where are you…” after the attacks.

Really?! The Paris attacks! And nothing before that? None of the Boko Haram attacks, which have killed thousands? Not the murders in the Emanuel AME church in Charleston? Not the genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia? Europe? Africa? He must be quite astonishingly inattentive…much like god, if his god exists.

He said his reaction to the attacks had been “first shock and horror and then a profound sadness”, heightened because he and his wife once lived in Paris.

Oh well that explains it. I suppose he and his wife never lived in Sarajevo or Auschwitz.

The archbishop said: “Saturday morning, I was out and as I was walking, I was praying and saying: ‘God, why – why is this happening? Where are you in all this?'”

“He said ‘in the middle of it’ and also in answer from Psalm 56 – ‘he stores up our tears in a bottle, none of our sufferings are lost,'” he added.

In the middle of it? So he was shooting then?

And as for that bit from Psalm WhoCares – don’t insult us.


They decided this class was their space

Nov 23rd, 2015 7:58 am | By

Sarah Ditum wrote about gender and her daughter last January.

Not all the encouragement you received has been positive. You did a term of judo, then you stopped because some boys in the class began shoving the few girls who attended. They didn’t tell you this was because you were a girl, but it was because you were a girl: they decided this class was their space, so they pushed you around till they pushed you out. “Push them back, and harder,” I wanted to say – you are going to grow up tall and powerful, and right now most boys your age are smaller than you – but fighting is only going to get you in trouble, and anyway, in a few years their violence will exceed anything you can offer.

And when all of you are grown up they will find non-violent ways of pushing you out, but push you out they will.

The YouTubers your brother watches use “pussy” as an insult. I talk to him about this, but that doesn’t stop his friends from watching, can’t excise this disgust from your social world.

Also “cunt,” “twat,” “bitch,” “ho,” etc.

It would be nice to live in a world where people just didn’t want to talk to each other that way.

All we hear of ISIS

Nov 23rd, 2015 7:32 am | By

Zany madcap Joyce Carol Oates is stirring up the hornets again.

A tweet:

Joyce Carol Oates ‏@JoyceCarolOates
All we hear of ISIS is puritanical & punitive; is there nothing celebratory & joyous? Or is query naive?

Yes, query is naïve.

Puritanism and the punishments that enforce it are what ISIS is all about. There is of course joy and celebration, when for instance they smash ancient monuments and buildings in Palmyra, or when they seize another town, or when they find more women to rape. But the joy and celebration are for the alpha males, not for anyone else, and their source is not what minimally compassionate people consider healthy. They rejoice in violence and cruelty and conquest.

Was she expecting lyric poetry? Music? Dance? Parties with food and wine? Is it news to her that there are people who hate the world and everything in it?

Cancel everything

Nov 23rd, 2015 6:58 am | By

The CBC did a story on the “no yoga for you!” situation at the University of Ottawa, so we no longer have to rely on the right-wing tabloid the Ottawa Sun.

Jen Scharf said she’s been teaching a free yoga class for the university’s Centre for Students with Disabilities, which is run by the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, for the last seven years.

It’s free, and it’s for students with disabilities…so you’d think it would be an all-around good thing, wouldn’t you?

When she checked back in with the centre in September, she said she was told by them the class wouldn’t be happening because some students and volunteers were uncomfortable with the “cultural issues” involved.

“I guess it was this cultural appropriation issue because yoga originally comes from India,” she said on Sunday. “I told them, ‘Why don’t we just change the name of the course?’ It’s simple enough, just call it mindful stretching.… We’re not going through the finer points of scripture. We’re talking about basic physical awareness and how to stretch so that you feel good.

“That went back and forth… The higher-ups at the student federation got involved, finally we got an email routed through the student federation basically saying they couldn’t get a French name and nobody wants to do it, so we’re going to cancel it for now.”

Well great. Let’s just cancel everything, to be on the safe side. If there’s ever any doubt or ambiguity, just err on the side of cancellation. Cancel all the talks, all the books, all the lectures, all the movies, all the conversations, all the ideas. They all have the potential to go wrong, so it’s better to do nothing. Nothing at all.

Cultural appropriation is when a culture that’s seen as an oppressor borrows or steals elements of a culture they’re oppressing. Scharf said there is also concern over yoga instructors who claim to be experts in the more spiritual aspects of yoga, but aren’t.

“I’m not claiming it’s anything more than a physical practice within that class,” she said. “There’s been so much positivity and so many people positively helped by this, and that’s part of the reason why I’m fighting so hard to keep it.”

She clearly doesn’t understand the “when in doubt, cancel it” principle. She thinks that because it was helping people, it should continue. We’d all better shun her.

In a French-language interview with Radio-Canada, student federation president Roméo Ahimakin said there were no direct complaints about the class, more general questions about the issues and ideas around it.

Ahimakin said they suspended the class as part of a review of all their programs to make them more interesting, accessible, inclusive and responsive to the needs of students.

Good thinking. He gets the principle. Cancel everything in order to make it more good things.

[A]t the Hindu Temple of Ottawa-Carleton, one husband and wife said they didn’t have an issue with what they’ve seen around the community and didn’t agree with the idea that non-Hindus teaching yoga is culturally insensitive.

“In Hindi ‘yog’ means to unite. To unite with who? With your true self. That’s what yoga is. Here we tend to relate it with the postures but it’s not just postures… and it has nothing to do with religion,” said Girija Waghray, who’s been teaching yoga around Ottawa for more than 10 years.

“It’s basically focusing on our health. By calming our mind, our mind becomes positive.”

Dilip Waghray said he’s been practising yoga for 50 years and while he’s uncomfortable with how it’s been commercialized in the West, he chooses to focus on the benefits it’s having.

Ah no, that’s the shortsighted “don’t cancel everything” view, which ignores the need for safety and mental purity. Benefits are just grubby material things, what we’re after is perfection and purity, which can be attained only through 100% cancellation.

She put out cookies

Nov 22nd, 2015 4:47 pm | By

Frank Bruni talks about how hard it’s been to make religion as accountable as other human institutions.

James Porter was convicted of sexually abusing 28 children in the 1960s, when he was in the Catholic priesthood. He was believed to have abused about 100 boys and girls in all, most of them in Massachusetts.

Major newspapers and television networks covered the Porter story, noting a growing number of cases of abuse by priests. Porter’s sentencing in December 1993 was preceded by two books that traced the staggering dimensions of such behavior. The first was “Lead Us Not Into Temptation,” by Jason Berry. The second was “A Gospel of Shame,” with which I’m even more familiar. I’m one of its two authors.

But despite all of that attention, Americans kept being shocked whenever a fresh tally of abusive priests was done or new predators were exposed. They clung to disbelief.

“Spotlight” is admirably blunt on this point, suggesting that the Globe staff — which, in the end, did the definitive reporting on church leaders’ complicity in the abuse — long ignored an epidemic right before their eyes.

Why? For some of the same reasons that others did. Many journalists, parents, police officers and lawyers didn’t want to think ill of men of the cloth, or they weren’t eager to get on the bad side of the church, with its fearsome authority and supposed pipeline to God. (After the coverage of the Porter case, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston announced, “We call down God’s power on the media, particularly the Globe.”)

Deference to religion is built in in most places. It’s ingrained, it’s automatic and thus unconscious. You just don’t mess with religion; priests are good by definition; oh look a squirrel.

“Spotlight” lays out the many ways in which deference to religion protected abusers and their abettors. At one point in the movie, a man who was molested as a boy tells a Globe reporter about a visit his mother got from the bishop, who was asking her not to press charges.

“What did your mother do?” the reporter asks.

“She put out freakin’ cookies,” the man says.

When the cookies finally went away, many Catholic leaders insisted that the church was being persecuted, and the crimes of priests exaggerated, by spiteful secularists.

But if anything, the church had been coddled, benefiting from the American way of giving religion a free pass and excusing religious institutions not just from taxes but from rules that apply to other organizations.

A 2006 series in The Times, “In God’s Name,” noted that since 1989, “more than 200 special arrangements, protections or exemptions for religious groups or their adherents were tucked into congressional legislation, covering topics ranging from pensions to immigration to land use.” That was before the Supreme Court, in its Hobby Lobby decision, allowed some employers to claim religion as grounds to disobey certain heath insurance mandates.

Religion is the boss of us, and don’t you forget it.

One votes one’s class interest

Nov 22nd, 2015 3:45 pm | By

Shock-horror, Bette Midler is unimpressed by Caitlyn Jenner.

Bette Midler ‏@BetteMidler Nov 19
People, #CaitlynJenner says she is STILL voting GOP in 2016. Regardless of gender identity, I guess she identifies most as “uninformed.”

Pink News has more.

This week, Jenner revealed she still plans to vote for a Republican Presidential candidate – despite most of the contenders being staunch opponents of trans and LGB rights.

Speaking to the LA Times after the Democratic Presidential debate, she said: “They didn’t convince me.”

The frontrunners for the Republican nomination are currently billionaire Donald Trump and Dr Ben Carson – a former Fox News pundit who thinks gay weddings are a Marxist plot and never wants to pee next to a transgender person.

But if one of them is nominated, Jenner will vote for him.

Seems pretty uninformed to me.