Notes and Comment Blog

Boko haram and murder halal

Jul 6th, 2013 11:16 am | By

Horrifying news from Nigeria – Mamudo, in Yobe state, in the north. At least 29 students and a teacher killed in an attack on a school; some of the victims were burned alive.

A reporter from the Associated Press found chaotic scenes at the hospital in nearby Potiskum, where traumatised parents struggled to identify their children among the charred bodies and gunshot victims.

Survivors said suspected militants arrived with containers full of fuel and set fire to the school.

Some pupils were burned alive, others were shot as they tried to flee.

Another message from a god of hatred, no doubt.

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

Lights out! Party’s over!

Jul 6th, 2013 11:03 am | By

Jesus and Mo gloat about the absence of evidence for evolution.


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

Cardinal Dolan caught lying about the church funds

Jul 6th, 2013 10:27 am | By

Timothy Dolan again. Remember Timothy Dolan? Former archbishop of Milwaukee? Now archbishop of New York? Also a cardinal?

The Timothy Dolan who whined and complained, in March 2010, about the unfair and meany way journalists would keep reporting on the Catholic church’s habit of protecting priests who rape children. He seems to have removed that post from his archepiscopal blog now, but the Internet archive still has it.

So Friday’s headline, only the most recent, stings us again:  “Doctor Asserts Church Ignored Abuse Warnings,” as the psychiatrist who treated the criminal, Dr. Werner Huth, blames the Church for not heeding his recommendations.

What adds to our anger over the nauseating abuse and the awful misjudgment in reassigning such a dangerous man, though, is the glaring fact that we never see similar headlines that would actually be “news”:  How about these, for example?

–    “Doctor Asserts He Ignored Abuse Warnings,” since Dr. Huth admits in the article that he, in fact, told the archdiocese the abusing priest could be reassigned under certain restrictions, a prescription today recognized as terribly wrong;

–    “Doctor Asserts Public Schools Ignored Abuse Warnings,” since the data of Dr. Carol Shakeshaft concludes that the number of cases of abuse of minors by teachers, coaches, counsellors, and staff in government schools is much, much worse than by priests;

–    “Doctor Asserts Judges (or Police, Lawyers, District Attorneys, Therapists, Parole Officers) Ignored Abuse Warnings,” since we now know the sober fact that no one in the healing and law enforcement professions knew back then the depth of the scourge of abuse, or the now-taken-for-granted conclusion that abusers of young people can never safely work closely with them again.

What causes us Catholics to bristle is not only the latest revelations of sickening sexual abuse by priests, and blindness on the part of some who wrongly reassigned them — such stories, unending though they appear to be, are fair enough, — but also that the sexual abuse of minors is presented as a tragedy unique to the Church alone.

No, it isn’t, but even if it were, you self-justifying piece of crap, that would be because of the way you presume to inhabit the moral high ground and to tell everyone else what to do. The point is that your claims to moral elevation are disgusting and contemptible, and your attempts to boss everyone and to meddle with politics while enjoying tax-exempt status are an outrage.

And you haven’t learned a god damn thing.

Files released by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Monday reveal that in 2007, Cardinal Timothy F. Dolan, then the archbishop there, requested permission from the Vatican to move nearly $57 million into a cemetery trust fund to protect the assets from victims of clergy sexual abuse who were demanding compensation.

That’s our morally elevated cardinal and archbishop – maneuvering to protect the church’s vast – and tax-exempt – bank account from the claims of people who were raped by that church’s employees. Cynical, callous, and selfish – that’s your man Cardinal Dolan.

Cardinal Dolan, now the archbishop of New York, has emphatically denied seeking to shield church funds as the archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002 to 2009. He reiterated in a statement Monday that these were “old and discredited attacks.”

However, the files contain a 2007 letter to the Vatican in which he explains that by transferring the assets, “I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.” The Vatican approved the request in five weeks, the files show.

So he’s a liar as well.

The release of more than 6,000 pages of documents on Monday was hailed by victims and their advocates as a vindication and a historic step toward transparency and accountability. They were well aware that the archives would bring unusually intense scrutiny to the country’s most high-profile prelate, Cardinal Dolan, who as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the archbishop of New York has sought to help the church turn the corner on the era of scandal.

Cardinal Dolan has been regarded by many Catholics as part of the solution. In public appearances, he has expressed personal outrage at the harm done to children, apologized profusely and pledged to help the church and the victims heal.

But the documents lift the curtain on his role as a workaday church functionary concerned with safeguarding assets, persuading abusive priests to leave voluntarily in exchange for continued stipends and benefits, and complying with Rome’s sluggish canonical procedures for dismissing uncooperative priests who he had long concluded were remorseless and a serious risk to children. In one case, the Vatican took five years to remove a convicted sex offender from the priesthood.

Can we stop treating these people as moral authorities? Like, right now?

In 2007, the year Cardinal Dolan asked to transfer the funds, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a decision that in effect lifted an unusual law that had long shielded the church from sexual abuse lawsuits. When he was later accused of trying to shield church funds, Cardinal Dolan said on his blog in New York that it was “malarkey” and “groundless gossip.” Archbishop Listecki and former Auxiliary Bishop Sklba invoked a theme that many other church officials have used in the past to explain their conduct: that their missteps reflected a broader lack of awareness about child sexual abuse in society.

Archbishop Listecki wrote that he did not want to make excuses, but that church officials had relied on the advice of doctors and therapists who were “seemingly more concerned about ‘Father’ than about the children.” He said the documents would reveal “the progression and evolution of thinking on this topic.”

However, the Rev. James Connell, a priest in the Milwaukee Archdiocese who helped to form a group called Catholic Whistleblowers, said in an interview that he did not find this claim credible.

“I was in high school in the 1950s,” he said, “and I learned about statutory rape in high school. An adult having sexual activity with a minor is a crime. We knew about it then, so you can’t claim that social thought changed.”

Besides which, the whole point of the Catholic church and its claims to moral authority and right to boss everyone – the whole point, I say – is that it’s timeless and absolute. It’s not supposed to be dependent on things like learning about statutory rape in high school! IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE DIVINE FUCKING REVELATION. If baby Jesus forgot to tell them that fucking little children in secret and threatening them so that they’ll keep the secret is not a nice thing to do – WHAT ELSE DID BABY JESUS FORGET TO TELL THEM?

They are not the moral bosses of us. They are benighted, ignorant, reactionary, misogynist party bureaucrats who protect themselves and each other at the expense of everyone else.


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

Whose life?

Jul 6th, 2013 9:17 am | By

There’s an anti-abortion rally going on in Dublin, a rally the organizers have the nerve to call “pro-life.” Pro whose life, you disgusting creeps? Not pro Savita Halappanavar’s life. Not pro the life of the children she wanted and planned to live to have in the future.

Thousands of people are taking part in a ‘Rally for Life’ in Dublin city centre this afternoon.

Earlier, Archbishops Diarmuid Martin and Éamon Martin concelebrated mass in St Saviour’s Church in Dominick Street in advance of the rally.

Dr Martin told the congregation that every human life was sacred from the “moment of conception” until natural death.

The rally will pass through the city centre from Parnell Square to Leinster House.

Among the speakers will be Declan Ganly who is expected to call on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to put the Protection of lIfe During Pregnancy Bill 2013 to a vote of the people.

In hopes that the people will vote no, don’t protect [the woman's] life during pregnancy, let her die the way Savita died.

The church is shameless.

Pro-life groups from all over the country were represented at the march with an initial gathering stretching across two sides of Parnell Square but that number was expected to grow at the rally in Kildare Street – outside the Dail

There was a large garda presence. A small pro-choice  counter demonstration was taking place at  the spire on O’Connell Street.

Earlier Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said  in a homily  at Mass in Church of St. Dominick, Dublin that the Christian message is a message which respects life and respects every human life, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death and at every moment in-between.

“It respects the life of the unborn; it cherishes and wishes to protect the lives of mothers and mothers to be,’ the Archbishop said.

No it doesn’t. The archbishop told a lie there.

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

Council of Ex-Muslims of France launches tomorrow

Jul 5th, 2013 6:07 pm | By

Le 1er juillet 1766, le jeune Chevalier de la Barre (1745 –1766) fut torturé et mis à mort, son corps ensuite brulé sur un bucher en compagnie du  Dictionnaire Philosophique de Voltaire: son seul crime fut d’avoir refusé de soulever son chapeau au passage d’une procession religieuse.

Aujourd’hui, d’innombrables Jean-François Lefevre de la Barre sont menacés, torturés, emprisonnés, mis à mort pour apostasie, blaspheme, hérésie et pour refus de se plier aux dictats islamistes.

En commémoration de l’assassinat de La Barre et en solidarité avec les nombreux hommes et femmes qui, comme lui, refusent et résistent aujourd’hui, nous annonçons le lancement d’une nouvelle organisation: le Conseil des ex-Musulmans de France, qui aura lieu le samedi 6 juillet 2013, de 14 à 17h à la Maison des Ensembles, 3-5 rue d’Aligre, Paris 75012. ( Salle au premier étage, à côté des locaux de Femmes Solidaires et de Clara Magazine).

Le bloggeur palestinien Waleed Al-Husseini, la cinéaste tunisienne Nadia El-Fani, la journaliste laïque Caroline Fourest, la sociologue algérienne Marieme Helie Lucas, la fondatrice du Conseil des ex-Musulmans de Grande Bretagne Maryam Namazie et beaucoup d’autres seront parmi les intervenants…

Le Conseil des ex-Musulmans de France se donne les objectifs suivants:

Nous réclamons les droits universels, l’égalité totale, et nous nous opposons à toute tolérance envers des croyances inhumaines, envers toute discrimination et tout mauvais traitement, infligés au nom du respect de la religion et de la culture.

2. La liberté de critiquer les religions. L’interdiction de toute restriction à la liberté inconditionnelle de critique et d’expression, sous couleur du caractère sacré  de la religion.

3. La liberté de religion et d’athéisme

4. La séparation de la religion d’avec l’Etat, le système éducatif, et le système légal.

5. L’interdiction des coutumes, règles, cérémonies ou activités religieuses qui sont incompatibles avec ou violents les droits et libertés des peuples

6. La prohibition de toute coutume culturelle ou  religieuse qui freine ou s’oppose à l’autonomie des femmes, à leur volonté et à l’égalité. La prohibition de la ségrégation des sexes.

7. La prohibition de toute interférence par quelque autorité, familiale ou parentale, ou par les autorités officielles dans la vie privée  des femmes et des hommes et dans leur relations personnelles émotionnelles et sexuelles, et leur sexualité.

8. La protection des enfants contre toute manipulation et abus  par la religion et les institutions religieuses

9. L’interdiction de toute forme de soutien financier, matériel ou moral accordé par l’Etat ou les institutions de l’Etat aux religions, aux activités religieuses et à leurs institutions.

10. L’interdiction de toute forme de menaces et d’intimidations religieuses.

Nous comptons sur votre présence et votre soutien,

Waleed Al-Husseini, bloggeur palestinien

Maryam Namazie, Conseil des ex-Musulmans de Grande Bretagne

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

Sisters: don’t leave it to the men

Jul 5th, 2013 5:23 pm | By

One of my favorite talks at Empowering Women Through Secularism: Elida Radig.

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

No written penal code

Jul 5th, 2013 4:48 pm | By

Human Rights Watch has more on Wajeha al-Huwaider.

A Saudi court convicted two Saudi women’s rights activists on June 15, 2013, for inciting a woman against her husband. Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Oyouni were each sentenced to 10 months in prison and two-year travel bans.

Al-Huwaider, a member of the Human Rights Watch Middle East advisory committee, told Human Rights Watch that she believes authorities pursued this case to punish her for unrelated women’s rights activism over the last 10 years. Al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni said they intend to appeal their convictions.

“Saudi authorities are using the courts to send a message that they won’t tolerate any attempt to alleviate the dismal status of women’s rights in the kingdom,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Saudi authorities should immediately drop this case and stop harassing Saudi women who call for reform.”

Al-Huwaider told Human Rights Watch that her and al-Oyouni’s involvement with the Canadian woman began in 2009, when she received messages from Johanne Durocher, the woman’s mother, who is in Canada, pleading for activists to help her daughter, Natalie Morin. Morin is married to a Saudi citizen, Sa’eed al-Shahrani, and lives with him and their three children in the Eastern Province city of Dammam.

Durocher told them that al-Shahrani, a former police officer, was abusing Morin by locking her in their house and denying her adequate food and water. Durocher had helped draw international media attention to the case in 2009 by lobbying Canadian government officials to intervene and organizing protests over the case in Canada.

Al-Huwaider said that she and al-Oyouni organized several trips by other activists to deliver food and supplies to the woman, but that they did not attempt to visit Morin until the afternoon of June 6, 2011, when they received distressed messages from Morin herself. The messages said that Morin’s husband had left for a week-long visit to see relatives in another town and that her supplies of food and water were running out. When al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni approached the house to offer assistance they were confronted by police who were apparently waiting for them to arrive. The officers immediately arrested them and took them to a Damman police station for questioning.

Saudi makes it easy for the judges by letting them make up the laws as they go.

In Saudi Arabia, which has no written penal code, judges and prosecutors have wide latitude to arbitrarily define certain acts as criminal behavior and then argue that defendants committed these “crimes.” The charge against al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni is “inciting a woman against her husband.”

Heads they win, tails she loses.

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


Jul 5th, 2013 2:32 pm | By

As expected, there’s fighting in Cairo. The Islamists were never going to shrug and say ok, were they.

Tensions in Cairo escalated after Egyptian troops opened fire on crowds that had gathered outside the Republican Guard headquarters, where Mr Morsi is believed to be held.

Three people were killed and dozens more wounded, including the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen whose head was grazed by shotgun pellets.

Tens of thousands of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood – to whom Mr Morsi belongs – had massed outside Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque throughout the day.

By evening, the crowd had filled nearby streets and the Brotherhood’s supreme leader, Mohammed Badie, told the crowd: “We shall stay in the squares until we bring President Morsi back to power.”

It was never going to work – a democratic election that elected people who reject democracy and elections. It’s the terrible flaw that democracy has: it works only as long as everyone plays by the rules. When everyone doesn’t, it becomes a choice between the military and some other kind of brute force.

Jeremy Bowen explains the obvious for us.

This country’s citizens tend to respect, even venerate, the armed forces. But its intervention in politics, and its removal of President Morsi, has alienated a big section of the community.

Two Egypts exist side-by-side.

One is made of men and women, supporters of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, who are as angry as Mohammed Ramadan. They are furious that what they see as the democratic will of the people has been flouted, and they are in no mood to accept meekly what has been done to them.

Men “and women”…I doubt that part. I doubt that many women are included in that angry group. It’s just a form of words.

For all the talk of rebooting Egypt’s political system, the fact is that its experiment with democracy has failed dismally.

The leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political party, together the biggest political and social movement in the country, have been rounded up and locked away in a way that happened often in the years before 2011.

The army’s intervention does not of itself do anything to tackle Egypt’s huge economic problems. The country is deeply divided.

It is not a good beginning for a new era.

No, it’s not, but neither was the election of the MB (and the Salafis). That was already a massive failure of Egypt’s experiment with democracy.


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

By the window

Jul 5th, 2013 11:32 am | By

Marie-Thérèse took this photo of Maureen and PZ in conversation last Saturday in Dublin.


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

Not a pincushion

Jul 5th, 2013 11:19 am | By

Athlete has bad headaches, goes to “therapist” who decides that sticking a needle in her chest will fix her headaches. Lung collapses, athlete’s life is trashed. This is called “traditional Chinese medicine.”

The therapist accidentally pierced Ms. Ribble-Orr’s left lung during acupuncture treatment that was later deemed unnecessary and ill-advised, causing the organ to collapse and leaving it permanently damaged. An Ontario court has just upheld the one-year disciplinary suspension imposed on therapist Scott Spurrell, rejecting his appeal in a case that highlights a rare but well-documented side effect of acupuncture.

Mr. Spurrell, who learned the ancient Chinese art on weekends at a local university, had no reason to stick the needle in his patient’s chest, and had wrongly advised Ms. Ribble-Orr that the chest pain and other symptoms she reported later were likely just from a muscle spasm, a discipline tribunal ruled.

It’s time for people to stop calling acupuncture things like “the ancient Chinese art” and other such honorifics. It’s just sticking needles in people for no medical reason. It’s bad and stupid and calling it an ancient art doesn’t make it any less so.

Acupuncture involves inserting solid needles into the body at specific points to encourage natural healing, improve mood and relieve pain, among other benefits, according to the Acupuncture Foundation of Canada Institute. Proponents tout it as a safe, drug-free alternative to traditional medicine, one that is used by close to one in 10 Canadians, a 2007 Alberta study suggested.

A Danish analysis of randomized clinical trials in 2009, however, concluded that acupuncture offered only a slight, clinically irrelevant benefit over placebo acupuncture for pain.

How “safe” can it really be when it involves sticking needles into people? “Safe” is things like murmuring incantations, it’s not sticking needles into people.


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

Wajeha Al-Huwaider

Jul 5th, 2013 10:09 am | By

Katha Pollitt reports on a horror story from Saudi Arabia.

After proceedings that stretched out over nearly a year and violated many legal  norms, Wajeha Al-Huwaider, the prominent Saudi Human rights activist and  co-organizer of protests against the ban on women drivers, has been sentenced to  ten months in prison, along with her colleague Fawzia Al-Oyouni. (I interviewed  Al-Huwaider here.) After they serve their terms, both will be banned from travel for two years.

What did they do? They tried to help a Canadian woman whose Saudi husband is holding her hostage.

They were accused of kidnapping and trying to help Nathalie Morin, a  Canadian woman married to a Saudi, flee the country in June 2011. Morin, who has  said her husband locks her in the house and is abusive, has been trying for  eight years to leave Saudi Arabia with her three children. (There’s a  so-far-unsuccessful campaign, spearheaded by her mother, to get the Canadian  government to intervene.) Al-Huwaider says they were responding to a frantic  text message from Morin, who said her husband had gone away for a week and left  her locked in the house without enough food or drinkable water. When they  arrived at the house with groceries, they were arrested.

The two activists were found not guilty of kidnapping, but the judge convicted them of “Takhbib”—inciting a woman against her husband.

So in Saudi Arabia husbands are allowed to imprison their wives and children without enough water and food? And women who try to rescue such wives and children get ten months in jail? Interesting.

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

The deeply exemption

Jul 4th, 2013 4:12 pm | By

Yesterday the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a couple for homicide – or, as NBC News put it, the conviction of a ”deeply religious Wisconsin couple who prayed over their dying daughter rather than seek medical help.” Not fanatically religious or irrationally religious or stupidly and dangerously religious but “deeply” religious. Let’s give them extra deference and admiration for the profundity of their unreasonable magical thinking even as we report that their “deep” religion caused them to let their daughter die of an easily treatable condition.

Kara Neumann, 11, of Weston, Wis., died March 23, 2008 — Easter Sunday — of complications of untreated juvenile onset diabetes.

According to the case records, Kara had been showing symptoms of exhaustion and dehydration for more than a week, but her parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann, refused to take her to a pediatrician, and decided to respond to her illness with prayer, not medicine.

How deep. Or rather, how inexcusably stupid and self-indulgent and whimsical. They might as well cut their children’s arms and legs off to make a nice dinner, in the expectation that praying will make the bleeding stop and the arms and legs reappear.

The Neumanns don’t belong to any particular church, but they identify as Pentecostals, according to factual findings in the court record, none of which the Neumanns disputed. Some Pentecostals — but by no means all — believe that prayer and strong religious belief can cure all illnesses, a tradition that helped give rise to famous “faith healers” like Oral Roberts and Benny Hinn.

They have no right to believe that. They might as well believe a power saw is the best implement for combing their children’s hair. If your beliefs are lethal to other people you have to stop coddling them. You don’t get to believe that you can push your child out of a tenth floor window because God will catch her.

As Kara weakened, the Neumanns asked family and friends to pray for her, too. The day before his daughter died, Dale Neumann posted a message on a Christian listserv with the subject line “Help our daughter needs emergency prayer!!!”

“We need agreement in prayer over our youngest daughter, who is very weak and pale at the moment with hardly any strength,” the message said.

He posted a message on a Christian listserv, did he. So technology is ok for him. Technology is ok when it gives him an extra tool with which to mess around with idiotic “beliefs” – but when it comes to his daughter’s health and life, why, no, only magical incantations will do.

Dale Neumann testified that he knew Kara was sick but never thought she might die. In fact, he testified that he thought that Jesus would bring her back from the dead, as he did with Lazarus in the Gospel of John.

Wisconsin is among 17 states that allow religious defenses against felony charges of crimes against children, according to records compiled by Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, a nonprofit activist group that opposes religious exceptions to child health and safety laws.

Shame on you Wisconsin, and the other sixteen states along with you.

“If we were to adopt the parents’ reasoning, no prayer-treating parent would know what point is beyond ‘a substantial risk of death’ until the child actually stopped breathing and died,” Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote.

Steven Miller, Dale Neumann’s attorney, criticized Wednesday’s decision as having “essentially gutted the faith healing privilege under the child abuse statute.”

The what??! There shouldn’t be such a thing as a faith healing privilege – it’s insane! You can’t abuse your children except you can if faith. Wrong! Bad idea. Bad, bad, bad idea.


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

No, choose door number 3

Jul 4th, 2013 11:59 am | By

Well great. Which is least worst, military rule or Islamist theocracy?

Couldn’t Egypt manage a third possibility?

Egypt’s military has moved against the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood a day after deposing President Mohammed Morsi.

Mr Morsi is in detention, as well as senior figures in the Islamist group of which he is a member. Hundreds more are being sought.

The top judge of Egypt’s constitutional court, Adly Mahmud Mansour, has been sworn in as interim leader.

Let’s hope they can figure it out soon.

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

Comedy just wants to be free

Jul 4th, 2013 11:45 am | By

So there’s this comedy writer Kurt Metzger, who’s on the staff at Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer. You know the next line already.

Lindy West and Sady Doyle, two outspoken critics of rape humor in comedy, are accusing Metzger of an online harassment campaign that started more than a month ago. Doyle is taking the evidence straight to Amy Schumer and Comedy Central.

Are they sure it’s harassment? Couldn’t it just be…you know…comedy?

Doyle and West both drew Metzger’s attention after they voiced their opinions on the ongoing debate about rape jokes within the comic community—a persistent issue since last year’s Daniel Tosh controversy.

The bloggers claim Metzger is targeting them and other feminists by making impersonator accounts on various social media platforms and filling them with obscene Photoshops of the women he’s mocking.

Well there you go – just as I thought, it’s not harassment, it’s pure comedy gold. What could be funnier than impersonator accounts and obscene Photoshops of women you don’t like? And obviously that kind of thing is totally harmless no matter what.

Even if the true creator of the sockpuppet account is never exposed, the level of Metzger’s vitriol may give a boost to feminism’s argument within the comedy community. While Metzger argued on Facebook, “Don’t worry about jokes. Rapists don’t hide behind rape jokes,” the domestic violence in his past—not to mention the threats in his current language—illustrate in a grim way the very real connection between “jokes” and actual assault. Ironically, Metzger is a textbook example of the academic study he mocked and dismissed—the one that explored how men who enjoy jokes about sexual violence are more likely to commit sexual violence. Metzger’s admissions, truthful or not, are horrifying enough: He stated that some women “deserve a beating,” then he copped to choking his girlfriend because she didn’t “fear” him enough.

Yes but that’s because his girlfriend deserved it. Jeez – people are so dense.





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

Not Sig, not Andy, but Keith

Jul 3rd, 2013 2:37 pm | By

Oh by the way did I mention that I’m back? I am, I’m back. It was a looooooooong trip. Jane and Michael picked me up at 11:15 yesterday (Tuesday) morning and I got home at 7:30 the next morning Dublin time. That’s 20 hours. Lordy.

I had a bit of good luck though, that made it a little shorter than it might have been. I looked on the board at JFK to find my gate and saw that there was an earlier flight in half an hour. Ooh, could I get them to put me on that one? Could I get there in time? It was a long shot, especially when I found I had to take a shuttle bus that trundled around the airport pausing to wait while planes oozed by – but I got there in time, and there were apparently seats open. There’s a $50 charge, they told me. Oh, never mind then, I said. Ok so they put me on it anyway. I guess they just try the $50 thing in case they get someone easy, or too rich to care. I figured I would get the most miserable seat on the whole plane, so imagine my surprise to get an F seat, and my even greater surprise to find that row 35 has a partition behind it and massive leg room in front with a pull-out leg-rest. Best seat ever.

Just as I stepped onto the plane I had a violent gasping can’t-breathe tears pouring sweaty coughing fit. That was a lot of fun. But then to make up for it I saw Captain Keith Colburn of the Wizard, from the absurd but oddly fascinating Discovery show Deadliest Catch, among the toffs in first class. Very amusing.

We crossed the mountains and turned south just at and after sunset (from the plane’s height), and the view of Puget Sound and the islands was spectacular. Best view ever.

So that’s not too bad. Best seat ever, best sighting of a crab captain from Deadliest Catch ever, best aerial view of sunset over Puget Sound ever.


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

Only one of many routes

Jul 3rd, 2013 12:13 pm | By

Anne Ferris TD, Vice Chair of the Oireachtas Committee for Justice, Defence and Equality, has a scorching article on the Magdalene laundries. If you read it it will make you feel angry.

In 1955 Halliday Sutherland was doing research for a book on Ireland and managed to visit a Magdalene laundry in Galway.

The day before he visited the laundry in Galway, Dr Sutherland visited the Mother and Baby home in Tuam. He noted that the accepted practice was that unmarried mothers in the Tuam home ‘agreed’ to provide a year of unpaid domestic service to the nuns, and that in addition to this servitude, the home received State support, via Galway County Council, to the tune of £1 per child or mother per week.

A year of slavery.

Sutherland was told that any child not adopted by the age of seven was sent to work in one of Ireland’s notorious Industrial Schools, no doubt a factor in the decisions of the thousands of Irish women who ‘agreed’ to the export of their children for Catholic adoptions abroad. Women who were re-admitted to the Tuam Mother and Baby Home on a second occasion were automatically sent to work at the Magdalene Home Laundry in Galway.  By directing the women to the laundry and the children to the industrial schools the State saved money and the Church made money.

And women were treated like dirt.

Today, thanks to the Magdalene survivors groups we know what the women suffered and that the Mother and Baby homes were only one of many routes by which the Church and State incarcerated women in the Magdalene laundries and similarly operated religious institutions.  This is why in February of this year, after successive governments failed to engage meaningfully with the Magdalene survivors, the current Taoiseach made a formal apology to the women on behalf of the State.

This week the Government announced a redress fund for the survivors. It remains to be seen if the amount and means of payment will prove sufficient to compensate for the State’s role in this tragedy. No sum of money can take away the pain that these women have endured.  In my capacity of Vice Chair of the Oireachtas Committee for Justice, Defence and Equality I personally undertake to closely monitor the progress of any necessary legislation designed to effect the speedy and appropriate distribution of redress to the women concerned. But there can be absolutely no ambiguity regarding the financial contribution to be made by the Church. There is now no hiding from the enormity of what these women suffered in the so called ‘care’ of these religious institutions.

One of the times I walked through Stephen’s Green I studied the pictorial map in hopes of finding the rest rooms. (Apparently there aren’t any. Ok Dublin that’s weird. It’s a busy, popular place.) I spotted a memorial to the Magdalene women. Oh, gotta see that, I thought, so I went looking for it. It turned out to be a little plaque on a bench. Calling that a “memorial” just renews the insult. It’s kind of like the nun who, when the brother of one inmate rescued her after years, tried to give the inmate 2/6 as payment. Half a crown! As payment for years of backbreaking work!

On the day in 1955 that Dr Halliday Sutherland visited the Galway Magdalene he met some of its seventy-three unpaid manual workers who lifted and toiled in the heat and wet doing laundry work for businesses, institutions and homes in Galway.  One woman told him she had been there for 25 years. He asked another if she liked the laundry.  She answered “yes” but according to Sutherland she did not look him in the eye. Later, he said, a nun told him that she was a bold girl.

“On Sundays they’re allowed to use cosmetics”, the sister-in-charge told him.

But…“Are the girls free?” asked Sutherland.

“Yes” said the nun.

“Can a girl leave whenever she chooses?

“No, we are not as lenient as all that.” said the Mother Superior.

That’s for sure.



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

This extremely restrictive Bill

Jul 3rd, 2013 11:24 am | By

The Irish abortion bill passed, 138 to 24.

It’s very limited though. Don’t go getting any ideas about a general right to decide about your own life.

Mr Kenny issued a stern defence of the legislation in his own speech to the Dáil, saying it was not possible to remove the suicide clause. He also rejected demands for a time limit to be applied to when a termination can take place.

“To those who fear that this Bill is the first step towards a liberal abortion regime in Ireland, I say clearly that this extremely restrictive Bill is the only proposal that will be brought forward by this Government on this issue,” he said.

What about those who fear that this bill is a great deal too restrictive?

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

Rebecca Goldstein on mattering, the gender issue and everything

Jul 3rd, 2013 11:01 am | By

The videos are flooding in now!

Rebecca Goldstein’s amazing talk at Women in Secularism 2 is one.

It starts with a bang.

I probably agonized over this talk more than any other talk in my entire career.

The source of my agony is this: do I, for the first time in my life, publicly address the gender issue. My MO has always been to try to behave as if my being a female doesn’t matter insofar as my professional life is concerned.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do that? The trouble is, other people don’t try to behave as if our being female doesn’t matter as far as our work is concerned.

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

Bishops versus life

Jul 1st, 2013 10:31 pm | By

Here’s my talk at the Atheist Ireland conference on Saturday. That was before I developed a cold and started coughing every 3 seconds!

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


Jul 1st, 2013 4:52 am | By

Big Dublin-explore this morning.. Where did I go, you don’t ask. Let’s see…

Through the back gate to Trinity College to the far (west) side, to College Green and Dame Street and Lord Edward Street. (Funny the way the streets get a new name every few yards or meters). Along the north side of Christ Church cathedral, down the hill to the Liffey, along the south bank to the next bridge and across, along the north bank to the next bridge and cross back, up to St Audouen’s church, to the castle for a look at the courtyard, to the spectacular St George’s Street shopping arcade…

To a modern version of that near Stephen’s Green, like Joseph Paxton but with bigger clocks. (Clocks, I said. There’s a gigantic clock on the third floor, with two different faces. I want it.

To Stephen’s Green, to Iveagh Gardens, through Stephen’s Green (yes, again) past Merrion Square to here.

Now for chapter 2. This pesky cold is making me want to laze, but I can laze on the plane, so


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