Notes and Comment Blog

Allowed in spite of the threats

Oct 16th, 2014 1:03 pm | By

Anita Sarkeesian explained to the Salt Lake Tribune what she has already explained to everyone else: that she decided not to give the talk at Utah State not because of the threats but because the response was inadequate.

In a phone interview from San Francisco, Anita Sarkeesian said she canceled Wednesday’s lecture not because of three death threats — one of which promised “the deadliest school shooting in American history” — but because firearms would be allowed in spite of the threats.

“That was it for me,” said Sarkeesian, who has kept multiple speaking engagements in the face of death threats, including one last week at Geek Girl Con in Seattle. “If they allowed weapons into the auditorium, that was too big a risk.”

She also pledged never to speak at a Utah school until firearms are prohibited on Utah’s campuses and called for other lecturers to join her in boycotting the state.

If Utah is safe only for uncontroversial speakers, then what good is that? Especially considering how very “controversial” women’s rights still are.

After the mass shooting threat was sent to the school late Monday, a second threat arrived Tuesday. That one, USU spokesman Tim Vitale confirmed, claimed affiliation with the controversial and sometimes violent online video gamers’ movement known as GamerGate. Initially purported to be a dispute over the ethics of a female game designer’s relationship with a gaming journalist, GamerGate exploded into a flurry of rape and death threats against feminists in the games industry. The hashtag #GamerGate evolved to identify not a controversy, but a loose group of gamers claiming a variety of objectives, from improving the image of gamers to policing games journalism to killing feminists who call for less abusive representations of women in video games. Escalating threats over the past two months have driven multiple female game developers and critics from their homes.

So all that makes the timing of this tweet very…unsavory.

Respect & much love to gamers for standing up to SJW bullies. You’ve been kind yet fierce, and you’ve set an important precedent

Late Wednesday evening, long after the threats against Sarkeesian and the connection with GamerGate were being reported all over the place.

I don’t know of a single “SJW” who has sent death threats to anyone.

Back to the Salt Lake Tribune.

USU police consulted with the FBI’s cyberterrorism task force and behavioral analysis unit and determined that the threats against Sarkeesian would not prevent a safe lecture, even with firearms allowed.

“Given that she had received many of the same sorts of threats and none of the threats had materialized into anything specific, that was part of the context of the investigation,” Vitale said. “That led us to believe that the threat was not imminent or real.”

Good thinking. By the same token, if you jump off a tall building, you pass the 90th floor, then the 80th, then the 70th, and you’re still whole, so it will be the same all the way down.

Sarkeesian said the threats were specific, with one claiming, “I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs.”

“It’s unacceptable that the school is unable or unwilling to screen for firearms at a lecture on their campus, especially when a specific terrorist threat had been made against the speaker,” she said.

USU always has allowed guns at campus events, including speeches by U.S. Supreme Court JusticeAntonin Scalia in 2008 and actor and activist Danny Glover, whose commencement address in 2010 was targeted by hate mail but nothing rising to the level of a death threat, Vitale said.

Thus they felt completely justified in shrugging off death threats. Oh well, nobody was threatening to shoot them, so I guess that makes sense.


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

Whose freedom?

Oct 16th, 2014 11:16 am | By

Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon ponders the fact that gun rights are allowed to trump public safety.

It’s about living in a country in which the right to carry around a weapon takes priority over the privilege of being able to stand up in a crowd and not worry about being murdered.

That’s the United States – where public speaking is dangerous but carrying a gun is cherished and protected.

On Tuesday, the University announced that it intended to still hold the event, despite the warning that “feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge, for my sake and the sake of all the others they’ve wronged.” University spokesman Tim Vitale told the Standard Examiner that the school had consulted with federal, local and state law enforcement and determined it was safe to go on with the appearance, noting that “They determined the threat seems to be consistent with ones [Sarkeesian] has received at other places around the nation. The threat we received is not out of the norm for [her.]” Yep, just your typical, run of the mill, everyday let’s-kill-the-feminists thing. Your basic vow of a “Montreal Massacre-style attack,” a promise that “I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe. This will be the deadliest school shooting in American history and I’m giving you a chance to stop it… One way or another, I’m going to make sure they die… She is going to die screaming like the craven little whore that she is if you let her come to USU…. I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America” letter. As you do. The school promised additional security around the event, and “not allowing large bags or backpacks inside.”

What it did not do, however, and the reason Sarkeesian ultimately canceled, was actually commit to stopping people from bringing in guns.

The school did more than not commit to stopping people from bringing in guns; it said it wouldn’t stop people from bringing in guns, because the law wouldn’t allow it. The school made it clear that guns would not be banned or stopped or detained at the event.

So what will it take, Williams asks, for something to be done about this? We don’t know, because what there’s already been hasn’t done the job.

You know how long it’s been since a man with a gun and a desire to punish women went out and killed a bunch of people near a school? Less than five months. Less than five months since Elliot Rodger murdered six people and injured thirteen others. Isla Vista. Aurora. Sandy Hook. Welcome to America.

It’s one thing to accept and understand that plenty of reasonable and responsible people own guns and that is their constitutional right. It is another to be so outrageously afraid of legitimate and sane restrictions that you have a situation in which it is entirely permissible to carry a loaded weapon into an event that carries a threat that the people attending it will “die screaming.”

Why should the freedom to carry a gun everywhere trump the freedom to speak up in public?

I would really like to know.

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

Utah State University didn’t even tell her

Oct 16th, 2014 9:28 am | By

Good grief. I didn’t know this part: Anita Sarkeesian tweeted 16 hours ago:

Feminist Frequency @femfreq · 16h
USU acted irresponsibly. They did not even inform me of the threat. I learned about it via news stories on Twitter after I landed in Utah.

Holy shit. They can’t ban guns at her event, and they didn’t inform her of the threat.

I’m reeling.

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

Starkly one-sided

Oct 15th, 2014 5:04 pm | By

Some Harvard Law School professors don’t like Harvard’s recently installed sexual harassment policy. The Harvard Crimson reports:

“Harvard has adopted procedures for deciding cases of alleged sexual misconduct which lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process, are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused, and are in no way required by Title IX law or regulation,” the professors—21 men and seven women—wrote.

Hmm. 21 men and 7 women. Hmm.


The authors also attacked the University for language in the policy stipulating that any instance of sexual conduct that occurs “when a person is so impaired or incapacitated as to be incapable of requesting or inviting the conduct” will be deemed “unwelcome.” The professors characterized this procedure as “starkly one-sided…and entirely inadequate to address the complex issues involved in these unfortunate situations.”

Starkly one-sided? It should be evenly balanced between an incapacitated person and a non-incapacitated one? Isn’t that a bit like saying a law against assault is starkly one-sided? Of course a regulation or law against having sex with a person too impaired or incapacitated to consent is going to be “one-sided,” because that’s the point.

But hey, don’t forget, “if you want to be in a position to testify and jail a man, don’t get drunk.”

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

Pride, anger and a domineering spirit

Oct 15th, 2014 4:45 pm | By

Mark Driscoll has resigned as pastor and elder and grand poobah of Mars Hill Church.

Religion News Service has his resignation letter.

I readily acknowledge I am an imperfect messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many things I have confessed and repented of, privately and publicly, as you are well aware. Specifically, I have confessed to past pride, anger and a domineering spirit.

As I shared with our church in August, “God has broken me many times in recent years by showing me where I have fallen short, and while my journey, at age 43, is far from over, I believe He has brought me a long way from some days I am not very proud of, and is making me more like Him every day.”

You know…if you want to be a reasonably good person, especially a good person by the standards of 2014, you need more than one book, and more than one admirable person. You need to find inspiration and models in more than one place. Life is complicated, being reasonably good is complicated, the world is complicated – so just focusing on Jesus all the time is not adequate. At all.

Prior to and during this process there have been no charges of criminal activity, immorality or heresy, any of which could clearly be grounds for disqualification from pastoral ministry. Other issues, such as aspects of my personality and leadership style, have proven to be divisive within the Mars Hill context, and I do not want to be the source of anything that might detract from our church’s mission to lead people to a personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

So he’s leaving.

But it’s sad and dispiriting that people think it’s at all adequate to get all your guidance and advice and inspiration about trying to do a good job of being a human from a church.


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

Yes, Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz writing a book

Oct 15th, 2014 4:14 pm | By

Yup, that’s what he says, at 5:45:

That’s why I’m writing a book with Maajid Nawaz, that’s why I give money to his organization.

Well all right then. That could do some good. It will boost Maajid’s visibility, and it will probably inform Sam Harris.


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

Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz

Oct 15th, 2014 4:09 pm | By

Well this is a new angle – although so far I’ve found only angry Islamist sources for it, but they say it’s in a segment on CNN. The claim is that Sam Harris is writing a book with Maajid Nawaz, and that he gives money to the Quilliam Foundation. If that’s true, well, that’s good news.

Here’s the awful 5pillarz on the subject:

The prominent Islamophobe Sam Harris has revealed that he is writing a book with Maajid Nawaz and that he’s giving money to the Quilliam Foundation.

Harris made the admission during an interview with CNN which can be seen HERE after 5 mins 45 secs

It’s not an “admission” because it’s not a bad thing to do. It’s a good thing to do. The people at 5pillarz are dreadful.

The Quilliam Foundation, a supposed counter-extremism think-tank,  is regularly given a platform by the mainstream media to demonise Islam and Muslims and is rejected by vast swathes of the British Muslim community.

Bullshit. Quilliam doesn’t demonize Muslims, and part of the reason some Muslims reject it is because people like those behind 5pillarz tell lies about it.

Now to watch that video.


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

We recognize no such thing

Oct 15th, 2014 11:36 am | By

The UK’s National Union of Students recently refused to condemn IS because to do so would be Islamophobic. Or rather, “””Islamophobic””” – one set of scare quotes isn’t sarcastic enough.

Hand-wringing delegates at the NUS blocked a vote to show solidarity with Iraqi Kurds and condemn Islamic State militants because they say it’s “Islamophobic”.

The bill called for the Union – which claims to represent UK students – to support unity between Muslims, condemn the bloody terror of ISIS (also known as the Islamic State), and support a boycott on people who fund the militants.

But the motion offended Black Students Officer Malia Bouattia, who said: “We recognise that condemnation of ISIS appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamaphobia.

“This rhetoric exacerbates the issue at hand and in essence is a further attack on those we aim to defend.”

Progressive Muslim friends of mine are unsurprised to learn that it’s Bouattia who said that ridiculous thing. She doesn’t like progressive Muslims, either.

Birmingham student Bouattia says she plans to put forward another motion in the next meeting to condemn ISIS that “will in no way pander to Western imperialistic intervention or the demonisation of Muslim peoples.”

ISIS has wreaked misery in Syria and Iraq, slaughtering thousands of Kurds and other Iraqis, raping and kidnapping women, beheading innocent victims including British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines.

Baffled delegates pointed out the motion specifically expressed “no confidence or trust in the US military intervention”.

Roza Salih, a student of Kurdish descent, had worked on the resolution for the NUS to condemn the Islamic State and to campaign for democracy in Iraq.

Also significant is the fact that the vast majority of the victims of IS are Muslims.


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

A massive job that will have no end

Oct 15th, 2014 10:55 am | By

Terry Sanderson has an enthusiastic, inspired post on Maryam’s conference on Secularism last weekend. He says it wasn’t like any other conference on secularism he’s ever been to.

It was a truly international event that made everyone there feel that they were engaged in a momentous worldwide call for change. It was just a start, but the passion generated was the kind that can move mountains.

To start with, there was a majority of women among the 250 delegates. They had come from all over the world, bringing with them some horrific stories of suffering at the hands of religion.

Many speakers from Muslim backgrounds told of the persecution and discrimination and the sometimes heroic resistance to it. Wherever there is theocracy it seems there is also resistance. Individuals and groups, very often women, very often religious themselves, who are seeking to create a secular space where they and their communities can be free to make their own choices and exercise their own beliefs.

It was right that women were the dominant presence at this conference, for it is women who are the most numerous victims of theocratic regimes.

He was worried about the safety of some people who spoke, and inspired by their courage.

One speaker, told us she experienced some nerves before her speech – on women, religion and the religious-right. The last time Magdulien Abaida spoke at a conference in Benghazi it was interrupted by members of Islamist militia group who subsequently abducted her from her hotel room.

We were told of the people who had been murdered, tortured, silenced and had their rights removed just to enable religious hegemony to continue.

Some women recounted the way that men, in the name of their faith, sought to control every moment of female lives – what women eat, when they eat, what they wear, who they can love, how they can love them – even how they go to the toilet.

Secularism is one crucial approach to ending such arrangements.

Our job is to persuade people of the value and brilliance of secularism so that they will embrace it when they are asked.

This is a massive job that will have no end, but we should promote the adoption of secularism wherever we can. Whether that is in our national governments, our local authorities or our shared institutions.

Religious leaders will never give up their power willingly. The people have to politely show them the door and tell them to return to their churches and mosques and temples and to stay there.

Only then will the terrible suffering that women have to endure under religious rule be alleviated. At some time in the future all women will be able to participate in the world on an equal basis as men, and secularism is what will make that happen.

Not secularism alone, no. As we keep seeing, there are other influences that motivate people to stop women participating in the world on an equal basis with men, influences that are nothing to do with theocracy or religion. But secularism would certainly be one huge step in the right direction.

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

Just one side

Oct 15th, 2014 10:27 am | By

Soraya Nadia McDonald at the Washington Post reports on the threatening of Anita Sarkeesian.

As escalating threats of death and rape marked Sarkeesian’s tenure as a video game vlogger, she’s been adamant about not allowing them to silence her.

The Utah State threat is just the latest one in the ongoing saga of Gamergate, an increasingly nasty culture war between video-game critics like Sarkeesian and a mob of gamers.

I really wish she hadn’t put it that way. It’s not true. Sarkeesian isn’t “increasingly nasty” and she isn’t engaging in any kind of war. It’s not a war, it’s a terror campaign. It’s not “both sides,” it’s one side. Talking about trope in video games is not waging war, it’s not nasty, it’s not threatening, it’s not doing anything wrong.

There aren’t two sides here. It’s not always the case that there are two (comparable) sides.

Typically, Sarkeesian does not back out of events because of threats — last month, someone threatened to bomb the Game Developers Choice Awards if they honored Sarkeesian. They proceeded anyway, under caution — and Tuesday night she clarified her reasoning for canceling the event at Utah State.

This instance was different because of Utah’s concealed carry law: Anyone in the state, including college students, can carry a concealed weapon as long as they have a permit for the gun.

“To be clear: I didn’t cancel my USU talk because of terrorist threats,” she tweeted. “I canceled because I didn’t feel the security measures were adequate.”

According to university spokesman Tim Vitale, the university formulated a security plan when they knew Sarkeesian was coming, prior to her arrival. “We were going to not allow bags in at all,” Vitale said. Once the threat was sent, “We added officers, both uniform and undercover, and we were going to empty the room and sweep the room [for bombs].”

However, the university didn’t plan to use metal detectors or institute a temporary gun ban restricted to the confines of the lecture space. Utah State is a publicly-funded university.

When Sarkeesian arrived in Utah, campus police Capt. Steve Milne “explained by state law if someone has a legal concealed carry permit, that they were allowed by law to have that,” Vitale said. “In the end, it caused her to decide to cancel the event.”

Of course it did. When your hosts tell you they won’t be screening for guns or taking guns away if they find them, then it makes sense to decide not to go.

And so the bullies get what they want.

The Gamergate crowd responded to news stories reporting Sarkeesian alerted authorities with accusations that she was fabricating threats to serve herself and her message. She wasn’t, and law enforcement confirmed they were investigating the threats against Sarkeesian, which prompted the involvement of the FBI.

Wu was also accused of making up the threats against her, which has become a tactic to discredit the very women who are being targeted.

“I am a professional developer,” Wu told Kotaku. “The quickest way I could think of to end my career and destroy my credibility would be making something like this up and getting arrested for filing a false police report.”

But it doesn’t cost the bullies anything to make those accusations, just as it doesn’t cost them anything to make threats.

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

Stay out of Utah

Oct 15th, 2014 9:43 am | By

CFI’s legal honcho Nick Little gave me the link to Utah’s gun law.

(5) Unless specifically authorized by the Legislature by statute, a local authority or state entity may not enact, establish, or enforce any ordinance, regulation, rule, or policy pertaining to firearms that in any way inhibits or restricts the possession or use of firearms on either public or private property.

(6) As used in this section:

(a) “firearm” has the same meaning as defined in Section 76-10-501; and

(b) “local authority or state entity” includes public school districts, public schools, and state institutions of higher education.

See that there? PUBLIC SCHOOLS and STATE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES are forbidden to restrict the possession or use of firearms on either public or private property in any way.

And if all these local authorities are forbidden to restrict the use of guns…doesn’t that mean people are allowed to shoot other people, pets, car windshields, windows, tires?

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

Well obviously people can bring guns to Sarkeesian’s talk

Oct 15th, 2014 9:01 am | By

As you probably already know, yesterday evening Utah State made a statement saying that Anita Sarkeesian had canceled her talk scheduled today October 15. Here’s why:

Oct. 14, 7 p.m.
Anita Sarkeesian has canceled her scheduled speech for tomorrow following a discussion with Utah State University police regarding an email threat that was sent to Utah State University. During the discussion, Sarkeesian asked if weapons will be permitted at the speaking venue. Sarkeesian was informed that, in accordance with the State of Utah law regarding the carrying of firearms, if a person has a valid concealed firearm permit and is carrying a weapon, they are permitted to have it at the venue.

I’m just fucking stunned.

So that’s it – we can’t have freedom of speech or association – we feminist women, we anyone who says something that bullies don’t like. We can’t have it because bullies will announce they’re going to shoot us and other feminists if we go to X place and talk, and because the officials at X place won’t take the most basic and obvious step to protect us.

That’s really brilliant, isn’t it. Now they’ll just do that for everything. No feminist will be able to appear in public ever again.

I’ll quote again from their statement 3 hours earlier, at 4 p.m., where they said they would take every step.

Sarkeesian’s talk will go ahead as scheduled, and we are taking every precaution to ensure the safety of our students. Prior to the threat, Utah State University police were already making preparations for security as the speaker had received similar threats in the past. Enhanced security measures will now be in place, which include prohibiting backpacks and any large bags.

The safety and protection of students and staff is paramount at Utah State, and we will take every precaution to ensure that attendees will have the opportunity to hear Sarkeesian, a national speaker, tell her perspective about an important topic. As an institution of higher education, it is important that we provide our students with rich learning experiences from a variety of sources.

They will prohibit backpacks and large bags, but they will not prohibit guns. Guns will be allowed. People will be permitted to bring guns to the talk. Guns are ok, guns are fine, it’s only backpacks and bags that are a problem. It might be possible to suffocate someone with a backpack or a bag.

Will the government be issuing us with targets to wear?

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

Relief for Texas

Oct 14th, 2014 6:26 pm | By

But one piece of good news – that is (as so often) one undoing of a piece of bad news. The Supreme Court blocked Texas’s horrible admitting privileges law, allowing 13 clinics to re-open.

The court’s order, staying a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit that the law could go into effect, will allow more than a dozen of the clinics to resume operation, according to the group that challenged the law, the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The action will allow 13 abortion clinics that closed after the appeals court decision to reopen, said Nancy Northup, president of the center. “We’re absolutely thrilled.”

The group told the justices that “if the stay entered by the 5th Circuit is not vacated, the clinics forced to remain closed during the appeals process will likely never reopen.”

The court’s decision is not a judgment on the Texas law, but whether the law’s new restrictions should be delayed while the legal battle continued.

So it’s not a permanent undoing of a bit of bad news, but it will be a relief to a lot of women in Texas for now.

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

Not a joke

Oct 14th, 2014 6:11 pm | By

This is the terrorist email:

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

It’s anti-feminist terrorism now

Oct 14th, 2014 6:07 pm | By

Ok can we stop talking about online harassment as just some big joke, or as drama or rage-blogging or doing it for the clicks or any other dismissive bullshit now?

From the Standard Examiner:

Utah State University plans to move forward with an event featuring a prominent Canadian-American author, blogger and feminist, despite threats of terror, a spokesman said Tuesday evening.

The decision came after several staff members received an anonymous email terror threat on Tuesday morning from someone claiming to be a student proposing “the deadliest school shooting in American history” if it didn’t cancel the Wednesday lecture.

The email author wrote that “feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge, for my sake and the sake of all the others they’ve wronged.”

They’re going ahead with the event, but with extra security.

The email was sent to Ann Austin, director of the Center for Women and Gender Studies, along with several others, according to a spokesman for the center.

Sarkeesian is the author of the video blog “Feminist Frequency” and the video series Tropes vs.Women in Video Games, which analyzes how women are depicted in pop culture. Sarkeesian will be speaking at 11:30 a.m. in the Taggart Student Center Auditorium.

The email was a warning to all staff and students at USU if Sarkeesian’s talk wasn’t canceled “a Montreal Massacre style attack will be carried out” against those in attendance, students, staff and the women’s center.

“I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs,” the email continues. The threat is “giving (USU) a chance to stop it.”

The threats increase throughout the letter, saying at one point that even if security is increased it won’t save anyone and feminists on campus won’t be able to defend themselves.

“One way or another, I’m going to make sure they die,” it said.

Sarkeesian poses “everything wrong with the feminist woman” and that is why she is being targeted, the email states. “She is going to die screaming like the craven little whore that she is if you let her come to USU.”

Can we stop fucking around and say this shit is unacceptable now? Can we? Can we stop pretending it’s just “disagreement” or “dissent” or “free speech”? Can we?

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

To be a bit disingenuous

Oct 14th, 2014 5:41 pm | By

Part of the point of #AnApostatesExperience was to provide a counter to the pablum put out by Reza Aslan. Heina talks about how unhelpful Reza Aslan is to ex-Muslims.

I read his No god But God when I was experiencing doubts but trying to stay Muslim. Even then, I found his trumping up of some highly uncommon “liberal”/”progressive” interpretations of Islam to be a bit disingenuous.

His views hardly represent any significant percentage of Muslims, let alone many. I [am] very much in favor of promoting reformist voices but not when they pretend the situation is anything other than it is or obscure the truth in any way.

Quite. The reformist Muslims I know are very realistic about the situation as it is and how difficult it is for them to be heard.

The lack of consideration of ex-Muslims from left-wing types is why many ex-Muslims find ourselves in a very uncomfortable position. It’s not as if we don’t see the xenophobia and racism behind much of the professed right-wing sympathy for us. At the same time, at least there is overt sympathy of any kind there. It doesn’t hurt that there is also money to hire bodyguards for when things get out of hand and power that can amplify our voices.

I made a conscious choice to avoid going neo-con, but I honestly don’t feel too angry that there are ex-Muslims in genuine danger who go that way. I feel more angry about those atheists who are the first to step up with criticisms of Christian apologia but give Reza Aslan a free pass. Where else can ex-Muslims go when we are forgotten by white liberal/progressive types?

Be where ex-Muslims can go.


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

How ugly is she?

Oct 14th, 2014 3:23 pm | By

Sexism? What sexism? I don’t see any sexism. There’s no such thing as sexism.

A New Hampshire Republican has sparked outrage after he called a Democratic congresswoman “ugly as sin” and claimed she would lose to her female Republican opponent because she’s more “attractive.”

New Hampshire state GOP Rep. Steve Vaillancourt wrote an incredibly sexist blog post last week in which he compared current Democratic US Rep. Anne McLane Kuster to opponent Marilinda Garcia. Specifically, he attacked Kuster’s appearance while creepily praising Garcia’s.

So let’s go straight to the blog post.

Vaillancourt starts with a warning, “to avoid the PC police sending out  a warrant for my arrest.” Haha. See what he did there? Haha. The guy’s a wit.

Then he gets down to business, which is to call one candidate ugly and the other one attractive.

How attractive is Marilinda Garcia? You know how opposition ad makers usually go out of their way to find a photo of the opponent not looking his or her best. Well…Democrats and Annie Kuster supporters can’t seem to find a photo of Marilinda Garcia looking bad at all.

As for Annie….oh as for Annie…and before I continue, I offer that caution, caution, caution, gain.

Let’s be honest. Does anyone not believe that Congressman Annie Kuster is as ugly as sin? And I hope I haven’t offended sin.

If looks really matter and if this race is at all close, give a decided edge to Marilinda Garcia.

How ugly is Annie Kuster? Again avert your eyes if you don’t want to hear it, but I actually thought of Annie Kuster last weekend when I was in Montreal. Not far from the Second Cup Coffee Shop I at which I was sipping and writing is a bar called Mados. It’s on the section of St. Catherine Street which is blocked off for pedestrians only in the summer; it’s near the Jacques Cartier Bridge. Thus, tens of thousands of Montrealers and visitors walk by Mados on their way to the fireworks displays on summer nights.

On almost any given night, standing for all to see in front of Mados is a rather attractive drag queen. People stop to pose for pictures with this Mado drag queen; other drag queens gather round because, you see, Mados is a drag queen bar…not that there’s anything wrong with that. Long live Victor Victoria; long live La Cage Aux Folles.

By now you probably know why I think of Annie Kuster whenever I walk by Mados; sad to say, but the drag queens are more atrractive than Annie Kuster….not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I’ve promised myself for years not to use this anecdote, but after seeing the story about the seven to ten point boost for the attractive, the story has political relevance.

Annie Kuster looks more like a drag queen than most men in drag.


Politics in America.

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

Because he was an Iraqi Kurd, not an American

Oct 14th, 2014 2:53 pm | By

Peter Ford at the Christian Science Monitor excoriates the hypocrisy of Western journalists’ failing to report on the murder of Muhanad Akidi.

But you have likely never heard of Mr. Akidi. Why not? Because he was an Iraqi Kurd, not an American.

It is hard not to detect more than a whiff of hypocrisy here, in a part of the world where the United States is often accused of hypocrisy.

And the whiff is particularly rank when it comes from the media, which should hold itself to higher standards.

Only two online news outlets reported Akidi’s murder by Tuesday evening: The Russian news agency RIA Novosti and a small Belgian newspaper published in Flemish, De Standaard.

Akidi is the first Iraqi reporter whose death at the hands of IS has been officially confirmed, though a cameraman for a local TV station, Raad al-Azzawi, was killed last Friday according to his relatives, after refusing to work for IS in Tikrit.

Akidi was kidnapped by IS two months ago and there has been no mention of him in the foreign press at all.

Granted, he is just one of many Iraqi civilians caught up in this conflict. In September alone, over 1,100 Iraqis died of acts of terrorism or violence, according to the United Nations. Journalists aren’t special, in this sense. Iraq’s minorities – Christians, Yazidis, Kurds – can attest to the vengeful slaughter perpetrated by IS.

Moreover, the murders of Mr. Sotloff and Mr. Foley, who were abducted in Syria, not Iraq, were videotaped and uploaded for propaganda purposes, precisely because they were Americans and their deaths would shock and appall a Western audience. Their profession appears to have been less important than their nationality; IS has now started butchering Western aid workers.

It’s a long time since I covered the Middle East. But I am quite sure that many people there have just the same suspicions of Western intentions today as they ever did – that America and its allies only get involved to protect their own interests, not those of the locals.

A cynical journalist might say that is only to be expected. But even the most cynical journalist might hope that the Western “mainstream media” as we are often sneeringly called, would pay a little more attention to the locals.

We should do what we can to remind them.


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

Muhanad Akidi and Raad al-Azzawi

Oct 14th, 2014 2:34 pm | By

I saw this on Twitter yesterday but couldn’t find any news sources at all, so I delayed posting about it. Now there are news sources, such as the International Business Times.

Tributes have been pouring in for Kurdish journalist Muhanad Akidi, who was reportedly murdered by IS militants yesterday [13 October].

His death was confirmed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party, who said he was executed at the Ghazlani military base.

This photo was on Twitter yesterday too.

Kurdish journalist killed

News of the journalist’s death comes just days after reports that Iraqi cameraman Raad al-Azzawi was publicly executed near Tikrit.

The 37-year-old is believed to have been executed with a single shot, alongside his brother and two other civilians in the small village of Samra on Friday. It is thought they had refused to declare their support for Islamic State and work for the extremist group.

One of al-Azzawi’s relatives later said: “They came to his home and took him and his brother. He did nothing wrong; his only crime was to be a cameraman. He was just doing his job.”

IS doesn’t confine its murders to people who do something wrong.

Social media users have been circulating photos of Akidi and al-Azzawi, specifically calling for them to be remembered like western journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were beheaded.

Indeed. Remember.

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

The view from nowhere

Oct 14th, 2014 11:42 am | By

John Walker points out in a post on #GamerGate that there’s no escape from being political. Claiming to be not political is political; there is no not-political ground to stand on. (Unless you have always lived alone on a desert island, but then how did you get there?)

There’s a new game out, called Koala Fighters XVII. It’s a game about an elite squadron of fighter pilots, who are taking on the menace of the invading koala hordes. In it, throughout, are cutscenes showing bare-breasted women being kidnapped by the evil koalas, threatened with torture and death, to be rescued by the amazing gang of pilot men.

The game is, obviously, brilliantly well made, featuring some of the best koala shooting action ever seen in a game. However, when reviewing this game, gaming site Poltaku comments on how the nudity and sexual stereotypes are disappointing. Meanwhile, Sensible Gaming Reviews, leaving the politics out of games coverage, doesn’t say anything of the sort, not seeing the feature necessary to mention. GameBros4Ever, meanwhile, reviews the game and comments on how brilliantly the breasts are animated, and how great it was to feel like a powerful man in the cockpit of the plane.

All three reviews are inherently political. Choosing to mention this specific feature of the game is a political decision, whether to condemn or celebrate. And crucially, choosing not to mention it is a political decision too. Not thinking it worth mentioning, also, is born of a political position on the matter. Indifference to something of importance to others is, of course, a political position. You cannot “leave the politics out of games coverage”. Politics are inherent. What is instead meant by this demand is, by its nature, “Leave politics I don’t adhere to out of games coverage.”

If you live among people and partake of what your society provides, you don’t have the option of being not political.

Wanting games coverage that doesn’t take issue with, for example, sexualised images of women (or men) is wanting coverage of a specific political leaning. It’s a desire for a specific political position to be taken in games coverage. Which is fine! But it’s not, in any way, leaving politics out of it.

The defense of the status quo is political. The stance of “change nothing” is political. Dismissal of criticism is just as political as the criticism dismissed.

There is an attempt to avoid this reality from GG by attempts to invoke the even deeper fallacy of “objectivity”. I’ve written at length on why objectivity is literally impossible for a human being, and further how deeply unhelpful it would be in games coverage. It’s immediately obvious that one cannot review a game objectively – one can only attempt to describe a game’s intended features while unavoidably infecting such an attempt with conscious or unconscious subjectivity. And describing a game’s intended features is the job of the publisher, and is already taken care of in descriptions of games on any gaming store. Objectivity is obviously not desired, but instead the term is used to suggest a politically “neutral” position on very specific subject areas. Attempts at neutral politics are obviously impossible, but more to the point, remains political.

And of course the pretence that it’s about neutrality is patent nonsense. By requiring neutrality on those specific subjects, such as anything regarding the representation of any group of people, it is a tacit endorsement of the opposing political position. The desire to mute criticism of the representation of women in a game is a tacit endorsement of the representation of women in the game. And again, of course, anyone is absolutely entitled to endorse that representation if it is their position. But it’s a position.

This is similar to the claim beloved by self-styled “skeptics” that emotion is an alien contaminant in any kind of discussion or disagreement, and that proper skeptics rely on reason and evidence and nothing else – especially not emotion. They say this with much rage and vehemence.


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