Notes and Comment Blog

It’s just a bit of fun

Mar 11th, 2015 2:04 pm | By

Mo is very amused by the “Islamophobe of the year” awards; Jesus not so much.


It isn’t funny because it’s true.

Note the headline on The Guardian, too.

Author’s Patreon is here.

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

Still a hack

Mar 11th, 2015 11:18 am | By

Christina Hoff Sommers is still making videos for the American Enterprise Institute sniping at people who argue that there is sexism in video games. She made a new one on Monday, with a partial transcript.

“Is Gaming A Boy’s Club?” is the name of a school lesson plan developed by the Anti-Defamation League—ADL for short. The ADL is a well-respected organization that has fought anti-Semitism and racism for decades. As a long-time admirer of the ADL, I am baffled by its sponsorship of such a biased and dogmatic curriculum. The lesson plan advertises itself as meeting standards for inclusion in the Common Core—an influential national curriculum. The entire lesson plan is dedicated to the proposition that video games are a hotbed of sexism and misogyny, and it gives students the message that anyone who dares to suggest that games should be more inclusive can expect to be terrorized by malevolent gamers.

And that message is completely wrong and contrary to the truth because – no actually Sommers doesn’t say why. She can’t very well, can she, because the message is not wrong and contrary to the truth. Women who talk about sexism in gaming are likely to be terrorized by malevolent gamers, unless they do that talking solely in private. Sommers must be relying on some mental reservation or quibble about wording to make her claim somehow true. Maybe because not all critics can expect to be “terrorized”? Maybe she carefully chose that word because not all gamers resort to threats? Maybe she knows perfectly well that anyone who dares to suggest that games should be more inclusive can expect to be verbally harassed and abused, and chose “terrorized” for better deniability? Me, I would say “terrorized” can include verbal harassment and abuse, but then I’m the kind of person Sommers sneers at, so there you go.

Lesson materials include a video and an article by feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian—both are harsh indictments of the world of gaming. That would be fine if she were not the only assigned author. In another part of the lesson plan, the teacher places seven posters around the room—each bearing a statement about video games. Students are then told to attach Post-Its to those they agree with. Three are neutral—for example: “I have played video games” and “I have watched other people play video games.” But four are affirmations about sexism: “I have witnessed sexism in video games,” “I believe video games can perpetuate sexism.” None says anything positive about games—such as, “Gaming is an exciting activity for both women and men,” or “Sexism in video games is exaggerated.”The curriculum also includes a small group discussion on sexism and video games and “additional resources” that focus on—guess what?– harassment, misogyny, and terror in the culture of video games. The curriculum is not only obsessively one-sided—much it is false, misleading, or exaggerated. Let’s start with the very first sentence. “Video games do not have a good track record when it comes to positively including girls and women.” But on page 3 of the curriculum students learn that women now constitute 48 percent of video game players—up from 40 percent in 2010.

Note the word now. Then note the preceding phrase track record. See what she did there? The curriculum starts with “Video games do not have a good track record” and Sommers contradicts with “It’s improved.” But the fact that it has improved (assuming that’s true) doesn’t contradict anything about its track record.

What I hate most about this crusade of Sommers’s is the way it says “No no no don’t look under the surface, don’t point out things that everybody ignores, don’t say this cultural habit doesn’t have to be like this – LEAVE THE STATUS QUO ALONE.”

It was depressing to see Steven Pinker RT the Sommers video.



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


Mar 11th, 2015 10:55 am | By

Laura Bates won a press award yesterday for Everyday Sexism.

The founder of the Everyday Sexism project has won the inaugural Georgina Henry Women in Journalism Award for Innovation at the Press awards for 2014.

Laura Bates was awarded the prize at the awards event at London’s Marriott Grosvenor Square hotel on Tuesday night.

The other nominees for the award were the GroundTruth Project’s Middle East correspondent Lauren Bohn, reporter and blogger Iram Ramzan, and freelance journalist and Daily Mirror columnist Ros Wynne-Jones.

Oh looky there, one of the other nominees is Iram Ramzan – who wrote that guest post I published here just three days ago. She was the runner-up. Congratulations, Iram!

Women in Journalism launched the annual prize in honour of Henry, the former deputy editor of the Guardian and one of the founders of the campaigning group. Henry’s partner Ronan Bennett and children Molly and Finn were in attendance at Tuesday’s ceremony.

The Times won newspaper of the year at the event, with the judges praising its “searing investigation” into the Rotherham child abuse scandal.

More “orientalist reveries” I suppose.

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

Into shivers of orientalist reverie

Mar 11th, 2015 10:20 am | By

Nesrine Malik offers up a classic piece of warmed-over Edward Said at Comment is Free.

What happened is, a Lebanese tv presenter who is a woman told off a sheikh guest who is a man, and a video of the moment has gone viral (at least according to Malik it has). Malik’s point is big woop, because what she calls “Arab television news” is always like that. (There is such a thing? There’s generic Arab television news, about which one can generalize? Sounds dubious.) It’s always quarrelsome and noisy.

Moreover, Arabic TV news is predominantly staffed by women. The presenter in question, Rima Karaki, follows a long tradition of formidable female anchors that began at al-Jazeera Arabic and MBC, and it is nothing unusual to be interviewed by a woman on most channels.

I suspect that London-based Sheikh Hani Al-Siba’i’s sexism was ramped up in the reporting of the story, and I daresay he would have been as huffy and pompous if it had been a male presenter who had interrupted and cut him down to size. It didn’t hurt the mythologising of Karaki’s behaviour that she is attractive, and was wearing a headscarf.

But the headlines that followed in the western press are part of a now established genre that morphs the everyday behaviour of Arab and Muslim women as being something impressive and counterintuitive. The images of female Kurdish fighters in their fatigues sent the western media into shivers of orientalist reverie.

Oh please. The nature of IS is more than enough to explain interest in female Kurdish fighters without drivel about shivers of orientalist reverie.

It is however, consistent with a long heritage of the western gaze, spanning everything from misery-porn about Muslim women, to ostensibly serious journalism that shows life “behind the veil”. It is the creepiest of obsessions, hiding behind the pretence of concern, while actually being akin to the behaviour of a peeping tom, both in terms of the smug reaffirmation of the western consumer’s implied superior values, and as a general fixation on Arab women as exotic creatures whose value is derived solely from their imprisonment in a gilded cage. I don’t know how many photo essays from Iran and Saudi Arabia of women shaving their legs in sepia-toned images we need to see before we get it; Arab women are not frozen in 2D behind a burqa.

It could be argued that anything that humanises and shows Arab women not being beaten, enslaved, force married or honour-killed is a good thing. But when everything that is not that is treated as a novelty, one is effectively reinforcing the stereotypes by saying, “Look! Here is a woman NOT being beaten, enslaved, force married or honour killed. How about that?”

Yeah, that’s the thing to worry about, reporting on “Arab women” not being beaten, enslaved, force married or honour-killed. That’s much more urgent than worrying about actual women actually being beaten, enslaved, force married or honour-killed.

It is undeniable that there are many ways in which women all over the world are trapped in patriarchal societies. But the Arab woman as an emblem of only that is proving a difficult stereotype to shift. Not just because it is not accurate, but because it seems people do not want their world views challenged, only simply reinforced.

And her evidence for that is the virality of a video showing an “Arab woman” telling off a man. So her point is that there is no kind of reporting that could shift the stereotype. So I guess everybody should just ignore the whole subject, is that the solution?

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

Some people stoned her, some abused

Mar 10th, 2015 3:37 pm | By

A woman in Afghanistan did a performance art thing about street sexual assault, and she got such a generous reception that she’s gone into hiding.

Kubra Khademi had hired a local blacksmith to forge a suit of armor with accentuated breasts and buttocks. She planned to wear it publicly to protest the way that women’s bodies are lecherously groped and abused in public spaces — something that first happened to her when she was only four years old.

“Somebody touched me and then he just walked away. I was just a female for him. He didn’t care how old I was,” the 25-year-old artist shared in an interview. “I was feeling guilty. Why did it happen to me? It was my fault. And I said: ‘I wish my underwear were made of iron.’”

She told the AP that she was publicly sexually assaulted several times after that, most recently in 2008, just before she took her entrance exams to study art at Kabul University. That time, she screamed. “All the people stared at me and even started yelling at me: ‘You whore! How dare you scream! Did you enjoy it?’” she remembered.

She’s a whore for objecting to sexual assault. What? Is it whorish of her to think her body belongs to her and not to the general public?

Kubra Khademi (Image via Twitter)

Via Twitter

Khademi’s activism culminated on the afternoon of February 26, when she emerged from her home wearing the metal suit, concealed by a coat. She removed the covering at the base of the Kata stone bridge and began to walk. Bystander Mina Rezaei described the eight-minute performance and the angry reactions it quickly provoked on her Facebook:

Crowds were wide-eyed and everyone was running to see the armored woman. Some complained about her clothes, some misused the situation and started touching girls’ bodies in the crowd, some people stoned her, some abused. It was so unbearable and scary. People were following both herself and her entourages while stoning all of them. During those eight minutes, the armored woman was scared and walked so fast. At the end she sat in a car, but people still stoned and kicked the car as a sign of goodbye to her.

Stoning. Well, that’s forthright, at least.

Some people even accused Khademi of being an American spy. She has since received so many angry emails and death threats that she’s purportedly left her home. According to her Facebook, she currently resides in Seoul, South Korea, though it’s unclear if that’s where she’s currently located.

Khademi’s brave performance follows that of many other artists  — from Pussy Riot to Tania Bruguera — who have forsaken the safe haven of the gallery to take their social activism into the streets, where it is most trenchant.

And then are made to pay for it.

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

Sigma Alpha Epsilon has a track record

Mar 10th, 2015 12:04 pm | By

It’s not the kind of track record you want.

The fraternity now boasts more than 200,000 living alumni, along with about 15,000 undergraduates populating 219 chapters and 20 “colonies” seeking full membership at universities.

SAE has had to work hard to change recently after a string of member deaths, many blamed on the hazing of new recruits, SAE national President Bradley Cohen wrote in a message on the fraternity’s website.

The fraternity’s website lists more than 130 chapters cited or suspended for “health and safety incidents” since 2010. At least 30 of the incidents involved hazing, and dozens more involved alcohol.

130 out of 219. Wow.

However, the list is missing numerous incidents from recent months. Among them, according to various media outlets: Yale University banned the SAEs from campus activities last month after members allegedly tried tointerfere with a sexual misconduct investigation connected to an initiation rite.

Stanford University in December suspended SAE housing privileges after finding sorority members attending a fraternity function were subjected to graphic sexual content. And Johns Hopkins University in November suspended the fraternity for underage drinking.

“The media has labeled us as the ‘nation’s deadliest fraternity,’ ” Cohen said. In 2011, for example, a student died while being coerced into excessive alcohol consumption, according to a lawsuit.

Its insurer dumped it, so now it pays Lloyd’s of London the highest insurance rates possible.

Universities have turned down SAE’s attempts to open new chapters, and the fraternity had to close 12 in 18 months over hazing incidents.

But isn’t that what higher education is for?

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

Each Sunday morning he yells and pouts

Mar 10th, 2015 11:58 am | By

From Slate’s advice column by Emily Yoffe

Two years ago when my son was 10 he became very verbal about hating church and resisted going. My older son loves the teen group at Sunday school and assured his brother that when he made it out of the baby area, he, too, would love it. Well, he does not. Each Sunday morning he yells, pouts, and eventually succumbs to my threats.

Then he takes his snarky and unhelpful attitude to Sunday school. He doesn’t believe in God, and his very cool Sunday teacher works with that. I hated my boring church as a kid, and looking back I wonder, had I not gone to church would I have been a worse person? My husband was forced to attend his church when he was little. Now, he sleeps late Sunday morning, then hikes and does other activities. He is supportive of the fact that both our sons’ spiritual development is important to me. Do I force my son to go or give up?

—Mad as Hell Mom

No, you don’t force him to go. I wouldn’t call that giving up, I’d call it not forcing him to do something that shouldn’t be mandatory for anyone.

I too hated church as a kid. We didn’t go all that often, but when we did, I hated it. I hated Sunday school even more; I think I went only about twice.

We stopped going before I was old enough to refuse as opposed to complaining – long before I was twelve. Thank fuck for that. But I remain convinced that it’s not something parents should force on children, especially if they hate it. Of course many religious parents aren’t going to agree with me, but that’s what I think.

So I don’t like Yoffe’s reply.

You and your older son find spiritual and intellectual sustenance in the church, but your younger son finds the whole thing intolerable. You’ve been fighting this losing battle for two years, and if you keep going, your son will flee all observance as soon as he is able. I think you need to walk a more tolerant path. Tell your little atheist that you’ve been thinking about what he’s been saying about church, you’re tired of dragging him to Sunday school, and you’re reconsidering your stand. But before you do, you have a requirement he needs to fulfill. You want him to write an essay (minimum two typed pages) about the progression of his (dis)beliefs, and he must cite examples of people who have struggled with lack of faith—Biblical sources get extra credit. Then, if he takes this assignment seriously, release him. But say this doesn’t mean he gets to watch TV or play video games while his brother is getting religious instruction.

Jeezis. Punish him with homework, make his freedom from church conditional on doing the homework, and punish him in general for not going, just to make sure.

Godbotherers can be such bullies.

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

Guest post: On celiac disease, fat deposition, and nonsense on PBS

Mar 10th, 2015 11:01 am | By

Originally a comment by quixote on What next, How to Homeopathy?

@m-la, your two links relate to borderline celiac conditions. (I’m a biology prof with quite a bit of knowledge of both nutrition and human physiology, so forgive me for going all “Imma gonna lecture” on you.)

The links have no relation to the claim that GMO foods will somehow alter fat deposition. GMO foods, as far as I’m concerned, have plenty of other problems. (Bad agricultural practices, lower nutritional quality, potential introduction of allergens, lack of long term, independent research demonstrating safety, the list goes on for a while. I did a post on it a while back.)

None of the objections, though, have any relation to fat deposition. Or, for that matter, to causing celiac disease. Aggravating it is a different topic entirely.

For research on what can be a contributing cause to celiac disease, recent research implicates emulsifiers added to hundreds of commercial food products. That makes rather obvious biological sense. Emulsifiers emulsify fats. Cell membranes are fats. Emulsifiers can cause enough damage to the cells lining the intestines of some people to cause a problem.

Fat deposition can be altered by endocrine disruptors. These are any pollutants or additives that interfere with hormones, things like BPA, plenty of pesticides and herbicides, and so on. A recent general article is here with links to the research publications in that article. Endocrine disruptors are not the same as GMO food.

tl:dr It is nonsense to say that eating wheat is going to give you belly fat, except insofar as extra calories of any kind can have that effect. It’s also nonsense to say that GMO wheat will somehow have more of that effect than any other kind of wheat. And it’s nonsense to say that wheat or GMO wheat causes celiac disease. It may be poorly tolerated if you already have celiac disease. PBS should not be promoting nonsense. Very disappointing.

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

Not new, not unique

Mar 10th, 2015 10:30 am | By

Two University of Oklahoma students who led the racist chant have been expelled.

Two University of Oklahoma students were expelled Tuesday for their alleged “leadership role” in a racist chant by Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members, a decision that President David Boren says speaks to his school’s “zero tolerance” policy for such “threatening racist behavior.”

The expulsions come days after the video surfaced and hours before the midnight Tuesday deadline that SAE members were given to pack their bags and get out of their house.

It was only a nine-second clip, but the fallout has been disastrous.

The national chapter of SAE shuttered the house at OU, and Boren said the university’s affiliation with the fraternity is permanently done.

“I was not only shocked and disappointed but disgusted by the outright display of racism displayed in the video,”said Brad Cohen, the fraternity’s national president. “SAE is a diverse organization, and we have zero tolerance for racism or any bad behavior.”

Is that right? A fraternity? A fraternity with zero tolerance for any bad behavior? I’m sorry, I don’t believe that for a second.

Boren said he’s done with SAE at Oklahoma.

“The house will be closed, and as far as I’m concerned, they won’t be back,” he said at a Monday news conference. The university also is exploring what actions it can take against individual fraternity members.

“There seems to be a culture in some of these fraternities, and it just has to be snuffed out,” Boren told CNN.

I continue to wonder if sexism and misogyny are as sharply rebuked as racism.

The decision to shutter the fraternity was an easy one for Boren.

“If we’re ever going to snuff this out in the whole country, let alone on college campuses, we’re going to have to have zero tolerance and we have to act right away,” the former Oklahoma governor and U.S. senator said.

“This is not a place that wants racists or bigots on our campus or will tolerate it, so I think you have to send a very strong signal.”

That’s good. I hope the same applies to sexism.

Unheard co-director Chelsea Davis said a racist mentality is not new to campus and is not confined to one fraternity.

“Unfortunately, it took them getting caught on video camera for this to happen, but this is definitely not something that is brand-new. It’s not something that’s only seen within this one organization,” she said.

It would be nice if adolescents could find other, better ways to rebel.

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

Biden’s response

Mar 10th, 2015 9:42 am | By

Joe Biden issued a statement on the Republican Senators’ letter to Iran:

I served in the United States Senate for thirty-six years. I believe deeply in its traditions, in its value as an institution, and in its indispensable constitutional role in the conduct of our foreign policy. The letter sent on March 9th by forty-seven Republican Senators to the Islamic Republic of Iran, expressly designed to undercut a sitting President in the midst of sensitive international negotiations, is beneath the dignity of an institution I revere.

This letter, in the guise of a constitutional lesson, ignores two centuries of precedent and threatens to undermine the ability of any future American President, whether Democrat or Republican, to negotiate with other nations on behalf of the United States. Honorable people can disagree over policy. But this is no way to make America safer or stronger.

Around the world, America’s influence depends on its ability to honor its commitments. Some of these are made in international agreements approved by Congress. However, as the authors of this letter must know, the vast majority of our international commitments take effect without Congressional approval. And that will be the case should the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany reach an understanding with Iran. There are numerous similar cases. The recent U.S.-Russia framework to remove chemical weapons from Syria is only one recent example. Arrangements such as these are often what provide the protections that U.S. troops around the world rely on every day. They allow for the basing of our forces in places like Afghanistan. They help us disrupt the proliferation by sea of weapons of mass destruction. They are essential tools to the conduct of our foreign policy, and they ensure the continuity that enables the United States to maintain our credibility and global leadership even as Presidents and Congresses come and go.

Since the beginning of the Republic, Presidents have addressed sensitive and high-profile matters in negotiations that culminate in commitments, both binding and non-binding, that Congress does not approve. Under Presidents of both parties, such major shifts in American foreign policy as diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China, the resolution of the Iran hostage crisis, and the conclusion of the Vietnam War were all conducted without Congressional approval.

In thirty-six years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country—much less a longtime foreign adversary— that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them. This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments—a message that is as false as it is dangerous.

The decision to undercut our President and circumvent our constitutional system offends me as a matter of principle. As a matter of policy, the letter and its authors have also offered no viable alternative to the diplomatic resolution with Iran that their letter seeks to undermine.

There is no perfect solution to the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. However, a diplomatic solution that puts significant and verifiable constraints on Iran’s nuclear program represents the best, most sustainable chance to ensure that America, Israel, and the world will never be menaced by a nuclear-armed Iran. This letter is designed to convince Iran’s leaders not to reach such an understanding with the United States.

The author of this letter has been explicit that he is seeking to take any action that will end President Obama’s diplomatic negotiations with Iran. But to what end? If talks collapse because of Congressional intervention, the United States will be blamed, leaving us with the worst of all worlds. Iran’s nuclear program, currently frozen, would race forward again. We would lack the international unity necessary just to enforce existing sanctions, let alone put in place new ones. Without diplomacy or increased pressure, the need to resort to military force becomes much more likely—at a time when our forces are already engaged in the fight against ISIL.

The President has committed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. He has made clear that no deal is preferable to a bad deal that fails to achieve this objective, and he has made clear that all options remain on the table. The current negotiations offer the best prospect in many years to address the serious threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It would be a dangerous mistake to scuttle a peaceful resolution, especially while diplomacy is still underway.

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

You may not fully understand our constitutional system

Mar 10th, 2015 9:32 am | By

The Republicans are such comedians. Hahahahaha they’re sabotaging an agreement that could avert Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, in order to say yaboosucks to Obama. So so funny!

Amy Davidson at the New Yorker has one opinion piece of the many many opinion pieces out there.

Forty-seven senators, all of them Republicans, have sent a letter to Tehranthat might be summarized this way: Dear Iran, Please don’t agree to halt your nuclear-weapons program, because we don’t like Barack Obama and, anyway, he’ll be gone soon.

That may be shorthand, but it is not an exaggeration of either the tone or the intent of the letter, which was signed by the Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, as well as John McCain, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul. The signature drive was organized by Senator Tom Cotton. He is a thirty-seven-year-old Republican, who entered the Senate two months ago, from the state of Arkansas. Senators, as the letter helpfully informs the Iranians—this is an actual quote—“may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades.”

Or perhaps not. Presidents have term limits and  Senators don’t. That doesn’t mean Senators will necessarily get re-elected over and over again. It also doesn’t mean they can’t be charged with treason. There are a lot of things the absence of term limits doesn’t mean.

The letter opens, “It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system.” As the letter writers tell it, “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen, and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.” It is a bit more complicated than that: Presidents can make commitments that are difficult to get out of (unless one wants to provoke a crisis), and Congress, instead of just being able to merrily modify, has to deal with things like vetoes. What is more extraordinary is the intent behind this tinny civics lesson—to tell a foreign power, one with which the United States is at odds, not to listen to the American President.

In the hope, perhaps, that Iran will develop nukes and a phalanx of Republican Senators will then vote to nuke the whole country into radioactive rubble. Is that the thinking? Or is it not as long-term as that? Is it really just “Hey, ayatollahs, don’t listen to that uppity guy in the White House, we hate him and you don’t want to piss us off”?

The prospect of Iran getting a nuclear bomb is a grave threat to world peace. The Obama Administration, which is trying to stop that from happening, has only a certain number of cards to play, and yet the Republicans are doing whatever they can to weaken its hand. (Their rationale is that key provisions of the deal on the table would reportedly last for only ten or fifteen years—even though a decade is a lot longer than the possible alternative of no years between now and an Iranian drive to build a bomb.) As with the invitation that John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, extended to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, to speak before Congress, it is not clear whether the primary impetus has to do with foreign policy or with partisan theatrics. Is the intention to scuttle the nuclear negotiations, without regard for the ugliness that it brings to our politics? Or is it to humiliate and insult President Obama, no matter the cost to the goal of nuclear nonproliferation—even if it means another bomb in the world?

Another bomb in the world in the hands of fanatical theocratic clerics, which is absolutely the last place you want such bombs.

Here’s an odd thing – this scenario is basically the same as the plot of the latest episode of the network tv show “Madam Secretary,” in which a rogue diplomat murders the previous Secretary of State and does other bad things in aid of backing a coup in Iran, and it comes to light just as the President has signed a treaty with Iran. It was written well before this letter was sent. Maybe the Senators got their ideas from the tv show.

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

I am progressive on social issues but dude

Mar 9th, 2015 6:22 pm | By

I’m reading Steve Almond’s Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto. There’s an interesting bit on page 98:

And I can tell you exactly what happens to any dude who dares to speak out about the moral complexities of football. Here’s a sampling of the e-mails I received after writing such a piece for The New York Times Magazine, printed here verbatim:

OMG. I am progressive on social issues but dude – you are the biggest fucking pussy on the face of the earth. Change your tampon you woman.


I read an article you wrote about football and I couldn’t help but think of a slutty girl I knew growing up. I thought she had the biggest vagina I’d ever seen before until now…congrats dude, you have a bigger one.


Why do libs have to ruin everything we do for fun or to take our minds off the world? I don’t even like the Redskins but if that kind of stuff offends the large vagina crowd, I am a fan now.

Dispiriting, isn’t it. Those aren’t people we know, people pissed off at “FTB” or “SJWs” or Anita Sarkeesian. Those are a whole different bunch of people. But there’s all the same disgust and loathing of women. It’s a miracle we aren’t all at each other’s throats every minute of every day, with that kind of thing saturating the atmosphere.

Also, that first guy? Hahaha that’s funny, what he said. No, he’s not “progressive on social issues.” It’s funny that he thinks he is.

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

A small group of powerful people

Mar 9th, 2015 5:30 pm | By

Nick Cohen says there’s a scandal at the BBC that nobody dares talk about.

The scandal is simply this: the BBC is forcing out or demoting the journalists who exposed Jimmy Savile as a voracious abuser of girls. As Meirion Jones put it to me: “There is a small group of powerful people at the BBC who think it would have been better if the truth about Savile had never come out. And they aim to punish the reporters who revealed it.”

Jones was one of the BBC’s best investigative producers. He had suspected that Savile was not the “national treasure” the BBC, NHS, monarchy and public adored, ever since he had seen Savile take girls away in his car from an approved school his aunt ran in the 1970s. He broke the story which showed that Savile was one of the most prolific sex abusers in British history, and handed the BBC what would have been one of its biggest scoops. If it had run it. Which, of course, it did not. The editor of Newsnight banned the report. Thus began a cover-up which tore the BBC apart.

Close ranks, boys!

They fired Jones last week, and they forced his reporter on the Savile film, Liz MacKean, out too.

“When the Savile scandal broke,” she told me, “the BBC tried to smear my reputation. They said they had banned the film because Meirion and I had produced shoddy journalism. I stayed to fight them, but I knew they would make me leave in the end. Managers would look through me as if I wasn’t there. I went because I knew I was never going to appear on screen again.”

The BBC seemed to have gotten it right at one point…

Panorama responded magnificently to the news that the BBC had killed the Savile scoop. It broadcast a special documentary, which earned the highest audience in the programme’s history. Jones and MacKean described how their journalism had been suppressed, and Panorama went on to document Savile’s crimes. How open the BBC is, I thought. What other institution would subject itself to the same level of self-criticism?

What a fool I was. Since then, BBC managers have shifted Tom Giles, the editor ofPanorama, out of news. Peter Horrocks, an executive who insisted throughout the scandal that the BBC must behave ethically, announced last September that he was resigning to “find new challenges”. Clive Edwards, who as commissioning editor for current affairs oversaw the Panorama documentary, was demoted. The television trade press reported recently that his future is “not yet clear” (which doesn’t sound as if he has much of a future at all).

There are more demotions and promotions that fit the pattern.

I could go on, but I am sure you are weary of bog-standard jobsworths. The wider point is that the interests of those at the top of an organisation and the interests of the organisation can be miles apart.

If the BBC had exposed Savile, viewers would have admired its honesty. If it had bent over backwards to ensure that Jones and MacKean did not suffer for speaking out, everyone would say that it was behaving as a free institution should, rather than looking like the official broadcaster of a paranoid dictatorship or the board of directors of HSBC.

In the banks, the NHS, the police or the BBC, the greatest threats to those in charge, however, are not threats to the institution but threats to their status. If subordinates can contradict them, how can they justify their salaries and the prestige that goes with them? The Pollard review into Savile showed that status anxiety was generating real hatred at the top of the BBC.

That sounds familiar. We are up here, peasants; we can’t hear you. Leave your tribute in a basket and we’ll haul it up.

The power of hierarchies is hard to break. But if you want to fight fraud in the City or the rape of children, it has to be broken. A start can be made by insisting that everyone from John Humphrys in the morning to Evan Davis at night tells the truth about the purge of the BBC’s truth tellers.

But without hierarchies, what would the peasants have to ogle at?

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

Real Sooners are not racist

Mar 9th, 2015 4:52 pm | By

The president of the University of Oklahoma posted his statement on Facebook.


To those who have misused their free speech in such a reprehensible way, I have a message for you. You are disgraceful. You have violated all that we stand for. You should not have the privilege of calling yourselves “Sooners.” Real Sooners are not racist. Real Sooners are not bigots. Real Sooners believe in equal opportunity. Real Sooners treat all people with respect. Real Sooners love each other and take care of each other like family members.

Effective immediately, all ties and affiliations between this University and the local SAE chapter are hereby severed. I direct that the house be closed and that members will remove their personal belongings from the house by midnight tomorrow. Those needing to make special arrangements for possessions shall contact the Dean of Students.

All of us will redouble our efforts to create the strongest sense of family and community. We vow that we will be an example to the entire country of how to deal with this issue. There must be zero tolerance for racism everywhere in our nation.

President Boren


I wonder if he would have reacted as strongly as that if it had been sexism or homophobia rather than racism. I’m afraid I doubt it, mostly because frat boys and other brands of sexist boys at universities do talk shit about women and we don’t see their fraternities or football teams being shut down. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think he should have reacted the way he did, it’s just that I think people should react just as strongly to the sexist or homophobic equivalent.

(The trouble is people think there is no such equivalent, and that talking shit about women or LGBT people isn’t the same as that loathsome ditty on the bus, for complicated subtle historical reasons that they can’t quite explain. So we just have to put up with the sexism, because hey, it’s only women.)


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

Part of a culture of hate

Mar 9th, 2015 4:05 pm | By

5Pillars thinks the murdered people at Charlie Hebdo had it coming.

There are also no prizes for guessing the winner of the “International” category.

The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo which was the target of a murderous attack in January won the prize here for its continual stoking of Islamophobic sentiment by caricaturing Muslims as terrorists and ridiculing their beliefs.

Charlie Hebdo’s repeated mocking of Muslims is part of a culture of hate that is intended to marginalise, further alienate and further endanger a community that has effectively been “otherised” in much the same way that Jews were in Nazi Germany.

No it isn’t.

I wonder how much attention 5Pillars pays to the way Ahmadiyya Muslims are treated in Pakistan. I wonder how much attention it pays to the way Christians are treated in Pakistan and Egypt and Nigeria. I wonder what it makes of the fact that the vast bulk of the victims of Boko Haram and Daesh are Muslims, killed dead by Islamists like the ones at 5Pillars.

What disgusting shits they are.

H/t Tendance Coatesy

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

We have to look at those more subtle things as well

Mar 9th, 2015 12:04 pm | By

Frat boys at the University of Oklahoma chant a racist ditty on a bus, get themselves on YouTube.

University of Oklahoma president David Boren stood with his students Monday in protest of a video that appears to show Sigma Alpha Epsilon members participating in racist chants. The video is “disgraceful,” Boren said at the protest, according to the Oklahoman. “Real Sooners are not bigots, real Sooners are not racist.”

The video, posted to the Twitter and YouTube accounts of the black student alliance Unheard, is just 10 seconds long. In it, a busload of white students — apparently members of the fraternity’s University of Oklahoma chapter — chant: “You can hang ‘em from a tree, but it will never start with me/There will never be a nigger SAE.”

Unheard posted the video Sunday, organizers told The Post. The person who captured the chant on video sent it to the group in a private message on Twitter and has asked to remain anonymous.

That fraternity is now closed by order of both SAE’s national organizers and by Boren himself.

They have until midnight tomorrow to get their stuff out of the frat house, and they’ll have to find their own housing. The university has severed all ties with that chapter of the fraternity.

But the video is just one incident on a campus that was already in the process of confronting larger issues of race and discrimination — something that both Boren and many students said they were determined to change.

Although the video exploded into a national story, some students hope it has the potential to become something different on campus: A teaching moment to discuss what Boren called “more subtle forms of discrimination.”

“We have to look at those more subtle things as well,” he said.

Cue the groans and sneers about microaggressions and hurt fee-fees.

Boren wasn’t the only prominent school official — or, arguably, even the most visible one — stepping out to make their condemnation of the video clear. Bob Stoops, head coach of the university’s football team, also attended a student protest alongside several football players and about 100 athletes. His presence was particularly noteworthy, because he is the face of the school’s powerhouse football program and arguably the state’s most famous employee.

Well, you know, that’s not a healthy arrangement either. Universities should be about education, and the football coach should not be the most important person there.

In a working document, Unheard outlined several issues it wants the university to address. Those include the apparent under-representation of black faculty members in departments beyond the African American studies program; black student recruitment and retention rates; a lack of black scholarship opportunities; and what organizers say is a lack of black student representation in many planning committees for major campus-wide events.

Boren referred to several of these issues on Monday, saying that after meeting with Unheard earlier this year, he plans to work on about “95 percent” of them. “Upon reflection, I found myself agreeing with them; let’s do it,” he said on Monday.

“Sometimes, people can be thoughtless,” the university president added. “They can be insensitive and not even know.” He hopes his campus can work to “make people more aware” of racial insensitivity. “It’s hard work building a family,” he added, “But we’re gonna build one. We’re gonna keep on working on it.”

It’s very easy to not even know, which is why people talk about privilege a lot.

Here’s that chant. Don’t play it at work if you can be heard.


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

It’s her job

Mar 9th, 2015 11:47 am | By

An Indonesian sports wear manufacturer included witty washing instructions on the shirts it made for a football club.

“Washing instructions: Give this shirt to a woman. It’s her job,” Salvo Sports printed on the shirts of Indonesian Super League team Pusamania Borneo.

Haha. Haha. Isn’t that funny? Isn’t it hilarious? Here’s another. “Make me a sammich.” Are you out of breath yet?

The instructions rapidly drew criticism on social media.

The company offered an apology on Sunday, International Women’s Day, after being inundated with complaints.

“The message is simply, instead of washing it in the wrong way, you might as well give it to a lady because they are more capable,” Salvo Sports posted on Twitter.

“There is no intention to humiliate women. In contrast [we want to tell the men] learn from women how to take care of clothes,” it said.

Oh, I see, it wasn’t even a joke, it was advice. Give it to a woman because estrogen causes you to know how to do laundry and androgen causes you to be completely baffled by the whole concept.

Happy International Women’s Day to you too.

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

Nuisance flooding

Mar 9th, 2015 11:20 am | By

What parts of the US have the most to worry about because of climate change? Hm that would be coastal areas, wouldn’t it, especially low-lying, swampy coastal areas, like Louisiana and Florida. And yet

The state of Florida is the region most susceptible to the effects of global warming in this country, according to scientists. Sea-level rise alone threatens 30 percent of the state’s beaches over the next 85 years.

But you would not know that by talking to officials at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state agency on the front lines of studying and planning for these changes.

DEP officials have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

Huh. That’s kind of like telling the Fire Department not to use the terms “fire” or “burn” or “hot.” It’s like telling the health services not to use the terms “bacteria” or “virus” or “infection” or “death.”

“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’” said Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the DEP’s Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee from 2008 to 2013. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”

Kristina Trotta, another former DEP employee who worked in Miami, said her supervisor told her not to use the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in a 2014 staff meeting. “We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact,” she said.

I suppose they’ll be allowed to use the words once Florida is actually under water. That’s a sensible policy. By the same token, we don’t need to fret about falling off great heights until we actually hit bottom. Until then, there’s just no telling what might happen.

This unwritten policy went into effect after Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011 and appointed Herschel Vinyard Jr. as the DEP’s director, according to former DEP employees. Gov. Scott, who won a second term in November, has repeatedly said he is not convinced that climate change is caused by human activity, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.

Vinyard has since resigned. Neither he nor his successor, Scott Steverson, would comment for this article.

Various flacks said there is no such policy.

But four former DEP employees from offices around the state say the order was well known and distributed verbally statewide.

One former DEP employee who worked in Tallahassee during Scott’s first term in office, and asked not to be identified because of an ongoing business relationship with the department, said staffers were warned that using the terms in reports would bring unwanted attention to their projects.

“We were dealing with the effects and economic impact of climate change, and yet we can’t reference it,” the former employee said.

Climate…progress? Development? Increase? Augmentation? I can think of lots of cheer-up words for it.

Some climate scientists asked for a chance to explain the science to Scott and he said ok, you’ve got 30 minutes. He spent ten of those minutes introducing people, and then sat quietly for the 20 minutes of scientists talking. Then he went back to doing real work.

Scott’s predecessor, Charlie Crist, had been proactive on climate change, forming a statewide task force and convening a national summit in Miami in 2007. But evidence the issue has fallen out of favor during the Scott administration is apparent.

One example is the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council’s Annual Research Plan, put together by DEP and other state agencies. The 2009-2010 report, published the year before Scott was elected, contains 15 references to climate change, including a section titled “Research Priorities — Climate Change.”

In the 2014-15 edition of the report, climate change is only mentioned if it is in the title of a past report or conference. There is one standalone reference to the issue at the end of a sentence that sources say must have slipped by the censors. “It’s a distinct possibility,” said one former DEP employee.

Instead, terms like “climate drivers” and “climate-driven changes” are used.

Climate chocolate sauce, climate flash mobs, climate tight pants.

Christopher Byrd said that he was warned not to use “climate change” and related terms during a 2011 staff meeting shortly after Scott appointed Vinyard as DEP director.

“Deputy General Counsel Larry Morgan was giving us a briefing on what to expect with the new secretary,” Byrd recalled. Morgan gave them “a warning to beware of the words global warming, climate change and sea-level rise, and advised us not to use those words in particular.”

Ah yes sea-level rise – you don’t want to go mentioning that in Florida of all places. God no! The time to mention that is after all the hotels and condos are built, not before. Just issue everyone an inflatable raft and all will be well.

in November 2014, the Coral Reef Conservation Program held a meeting to train volunteers to use a PowerPoint presentation about the threats coral reefs faced. Harper attended the meeting, held at DEP’s Biscayne Bay office in Miami. Doug Young, president of the South Florida Audubon Society and a member of the Broward County Climate Change Task Force, also attended.

Two DEP employees, Ana Zangroniz and Kristina Trotta, showed the presentation to the volunteers and then asked if anyone had a question.

“I told them the biggest problem I have was that there was absolutely no mention of climate change and the affect of climate change on coral reefs,” Young said.

He continued: “The two young women, really good people, said, ‘We are not allowed to show the words, or show any slides that depicted anything related to climate change.’”

Young and Harper said they could not participate if climate change was not mentioned. “The women kept saying, ‘Work with us; we know you are frustrated,’” Harper said.

On Nov. 19, 2014, the DEP’s Zangroniz wrote Harper and Young an email stating she had talked to her manager about their concerns.

“Unfortunately at this time,” she wrote, “we can’t make any alterations or additions to the presentation. … If you do choose to continue as a volunteer, we would have to request that you present the information as is. If you choose to add in an additional presentation or speaker that addresses climate change and coral reefs, there would have to be a very clear split between the two.”

Trotta left her position as a field and administrative assistant in January. She told FCIR that when it came to scrubbing the term “climate change” from projects, she was following orders. Those orders came from Regional Administrator Joanna Walczak during a staff meeting in the summer of 2014.

“We were instructed by our regional administrator that we were no longer allowed to use the terms ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’ or even ‘sea-level rise,’ ” said Trotta. “Sea-level rise was to be referred to as ‘nuisance flooding.’”

Read the whole damn thing.

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

Bradford West

Mar 9th, 2015 10:35 am | By

Meet Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Bradford West, Naz Shah.

I was only 6 when my father abandoned my mother with two young children and pregnant with a third when he eloped with the neighbour’s 16 year old daughter. I remember been thrown into the back of a taxi with black bin liners full of our belongings and packed off from the family home on Hartman Place to my granddads home in Kirkham Road. We never really saw the end of black bin liners over the next few years as we moved from squalor to squalor, 14 times in less than 2 years, from back to back houses where the toilet was outside to rat infested damp houses where we lived and slept in just one room.

Then her mother bought a house with the proceeds from selling her wedding jewelry, but the house was in the name of a man, Azam.

My mother’s attempt to provide her children with the security of a home came at the expense of being abused by Azam over years. A man that she thought would save her children from an uncertain and insecure future, little did she know he would be the exact opposite. My mother had sent me to Pakistan at the age of 12 when she felt I was at risk of his abuse. When my younger sister was growing up and my mother felt she was now at risk, and following years of anti- depressants, failed suicide attempts and feeling desperate and destitute she snapped.

She killed the man who abused her.

I remember how my days and nights became one, how my world was turned upside down, how I became a mother to my two siblings who were 11 and 13 at the time. Up until then the worst I had known personally was my own forced marriage through emotional blackmail when I was just 15 years old whilst in Pakistan.

Oh is that all.

She worked a crap job, then a slightly less crap one, then one where she could actually use her talents.

I became a carer for children with disabilities as my mother had also been a carer. I then went on to become an advocate for women with disabilities and their carers. I felt my calling was to help people and I then joined the Samaritans. I didn’t realise how much anger I carried inside me towards the ‘systems’ that failed me and my family because I had turned it into this force to change people’s lives. I would get emotional about the families I was helping and angry if they weren’t getting the right services, until one day my mentor pulled me to one side and asked me why was I so upset when families didn’t get the services they needed , how much of this is really about the failure you experienced? That conversation was a game changer for me.

I quickly realised to effect change I must be able to influence decision making and that’s when I joined the NHS. To begin with I managed giving out grants and ‘Patient and Public Involvement’ and we then started ‘commissioning services’. I found my niche when my manager recognised my talent and invested heavily in my leadership development. I fell in love with the idea of ‘Leadership’ and am still in love with the notion of it being the key to change society for the betterment of humanity

Beyond my own career I continued to fly the flag around violence against women through speaking at conferences and contributing to discussions. I didn’t really appreciate exactly how much I was using my own natural leadership and passion to influence policy and change.

Now, she’s running for Galloway’s seat. Let’s hope she wins!


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

An American Citizen for saving Americans for America

Mar 9th, 2015 10:10 am | By

A god-loving type resorts to sending bullying hate-mail to an elected official to demonstrate the glory of god. Or something.

All they wanted was a mash note to god inside a government building, and here’s this elected official whining about the separation of church and state. Get out the epithets!!

An Oregon city councilwoman who voiced her opposition to displaying “In God We Trust” inside a government building received a death threat from an individual calling himself an “American Citizen for saving Americans for America.”

Cool title. It sounds like irony, but given the nature of the message, I don’t suppose it actually is irony.

Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams mentioned displaying the motto in the county’s public hearing room last December, and David and Carol Warren ran with the idea. “We believe God wants us to do this,” Carol toldThe Oregonian.

Commissioner Mallams said he did not anticipate posting the motto to be a problem, since “it doesn’t say ‘the God of the Bible.’ It’s not ‘Allah.’ It’s not ‘the God of the Jews.’ It’s just acknowledging that there is a higher power out there that sets boundaries for what’s right and wrong.”

Oh “just” that, is it. “Just” “acknowledging” something that there’s no reason to think is true. There’s a hell of a lot more reason to think there isn’t any higher power out there that sets boundaries for what’s right and wrong than there is to think there is one. If there is such a higher power it’s doing a damn bad job of setting those boundaries.

As for atheists, Mallams and Warren said, “they don’t have to look at it.”

Well now that’s just an outright lie. Look again at what the plan is – Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams mentioned displaying the motto in the county’s public hearing room. Displaying. What does that mean? It means you do have to look at it. It means it’s forced on your attention. You can try to ignore it once you’ve seen it, but it’s flat-out not the case that you don’t have to look at it. The plan is to stick it in that hearing room so that everyone who enters it does have to look at it.

Seiler responded that it’s disingenuous to talk of a generic god when it obviously isn’t generic at all, and she mentioned the separation of church and state. Treason!

But according to the author of a letter Seiler received after penning the editorial, the United States was founded on “Christian morality.” The author then wrote, “Maybe we could have the privilege of seeing your wonderful Muslims behead your [expletive] ugly [expletive]!!!”

The author confuses atheists with Muslims. Nope. Atheists aren’t Muslims, and Muslims aren’t atheists. That’s just silly.

Anyway – god is love; that’s the important thing.


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