Notes and Comment Blog

Sabeen Mahmud

Apr 24th, 2015 11:06 am | By

Terrible news out of Pakistan – another valuable person murdered. Sabeen Mahmud was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Karachi today.

The Mary Sue did a write-up about her two years ago.

Sabeen Mahmud (above, in blue), who says she fell in love with technology the first time she ever saw a Mac, just organized Pakistan’s first ever Hackathon last month, aimed specifically at finding ways to use technology to fix or at least alleviate Pakistan’s political problems. According to a piece by Wired, the gathering was pretty amazing for everyone involved.

Mahmud runs a small technology firm, but hosted the gathering of forty (whittled down from 120 applications) in her café The Second Floor, which she founded because she felt Karachi, the most populous city in Pakistan, needed “a space where people could gather around shared interests, an interdisciplinary space for collaboration and brainstorming.” And even though she’d done no research and was living with family at the time, Mahmud felt that she was the woman for the job.

So, naturally, they killed her. God damn it.

From Dawn:

Sabeen, accompanied by her mother, left T2F after 9pm on Friday evening and was on her way home when she was shot by unidentified gunmen, sources confirmed. She died on her way to the hospital. Doctors said they retrieved five bullets from her body.

Her mother also sustained bullet wounds and is currently being treated at a hospital; she is said to be in critical condition.

T2F had on Friday organised a talk on Balochistan: ‘Unsilencing Balochistan Take 2: In Conversation with Mama Qadeer, Farzana Baloch & Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur.’

A talk. Talks are not allowed, I guess.

T2F, described as a community space for open dialogue, was Sabeen’s brainchild. In an interview with Aurora, she referred to it as “an inclusive space where different kinds of people can be comfortable.”

Conceived as a bookstore and café patterned after the old coffeehouse culture of Lahore and Karachi, The Second Floor — or T2F, as everyone calls it — says on its website that it was born out of a desire to enact transformational change in urban Pakistani society.

And now she’s dead.

Embedded image permalink

Wasay Jalil on Twitter

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

Movies probably are not for you

Apr 24th, 2015 10:29 am | By

Surprise surprise, comedy that aims at the frat boy crowd turns out to be so obnoxious (aka racist and sexist) that actors actually walk off the set. Surprise surprise, it’s an Adam Sandler movie.

Nearly a dozen Native American actors and a cultural adviser walked off the set of an Adam Sandler movie that’s currently filming because of depictions they found insulting, according to a report by Indian Country Today Media Network.

Actor Loren Anthony said the script, penned by Sandler and his longtime screenwriting partner Tim Herlihy, was insulting to Native women and elders and inaccurately portrayed Apache culture. He said the actors, who were supposed to be playing Apache men and women, were made up to resemble Comanches. Anthony and David Hill were among the actors who walked off the set Wednesday.

Hey it was a joke. Can’t you take a joke? Can’t anybody take a joke?

The film, part of Sandler’s four-picture deal with Netflix, is supposed to be a send-up of “The Magnificent Seven.” It reportedly included characters named “Beaver’s Breath” and “No Bra” and included a scene with an Apache woman “squatting and urinating while smoking a peace pipe.”

“There were about a dozen of us who walked off the set,” Anthony, who is Navajo, told ICMTN. “I was asked a long time ago to do some work on this and I wasn’t down for it. Then they told me it was going to be a comedy, but it would not be racist. So I agreed to it but on Monday things started getting weird on the set.”

How is that possible when they said it would not be racist? Surely they didn’t lie about it. Surely they’re not clueless about what’s racist. Surely they’re not marinated in a culture that thinks it’s funny to shit on people who aren’t like them. Surely.

Multiple people, including hair and makeup artist Goldie Tom, told reporter Vincent Shilling that they implored the film’s producers and director to make changes. But those requests seemed to fall on deaf ears.

“We talked to the producers about our concerns,” said Allison Young, a Navajo filmmaker and actress. “They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.’

Quite right too. Movies probably are not for you. #MPANFY

This is hardly the first time Sandler has faced criticism for inaccurate and stereotypical depictions of racial minorities in his movies.

Writing for the New Yorker, critic Richard Brody called “Blended,” Sandler’s 2014 comedic effort co-starring Drew Barrymore, “grotesquely offensive”:

No sooner do the families arrive at the resort than the obliviously trivializing depictions of black people, based on long-superseded stereotypes, begin. The Friedmans get out of their limo and are greeted by the hotel’s staff, all black, starting with a singing group, called Thathoo (pronounced “Tattoo”). The group leader’s eye-rolling and glad-handing, his lubriciously insinuating and exaggeratedly jiving, all seem to be taken straight from a minstrel show. And, throughout the movie, the group pops up like a Greek chorus to underline the action. There’s also an obsequious greeter whose exaggerated ingratiations would shame the hospitality business. Though his malapropisms are ultimately seen to be a canny joke, his manner is never anything but grinningly servile. And there’s an elderly slacker, sleeping on the job and avoiding responsibility, whose lazy ways are a monstrous and venerable cliché.

Yes but if you’re in the frat boy crowd, that stuff is hilarious. If you can’t handle that, #MPANFY

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

Stripping these protections in the name of religious liberty

Apr 24th, 2015 10:10 am | By

Wow – evil in America. The ACLU blog has the details:

A committee of the US House of Representatives decided that employees in the District of Columbia could be fired for using in vitro fertilization to start a family or for becoming pregnant while unmarried.

That’s right, people of D.C.: members of Congress just voted to let your boss fire you for personal decisions you make at the doctor’s office — because your boss believes those decisions aren’t consistent with his religious beliefs. Now, the whole House may take a vote on this discriminatory measure.

What’s next? Will this committee vote to let employers fire people for being atheist, for reading Dan Savage, for not reading the bible, for not going to church, for going to mosque, for dancing, for cheering the wrong football team, for eating falafel? Will this committee vote to let employers imprison employees, or beat them, or withhold their pay, or confiscate their property, or pour boiling water on them?

At the same time, a separate measure introduced in the House would block the Human Rights Amendment Act, another D.C. bill that would ensure that LGBT student groups at religiously affiliated schools and universities have access to the same facilities and resources as their peers. And similar measures on both bills are still pending in the Senate.

In both of these cases, proponents of these congressional actions are stripping these protections in the name of religious liberty.

Of course they are; it’s the hot new thing. Religions are full of ugly rules and laws and taboos that treat sets of people like dirt, so they make a great alibi for being evil. Not that I’m saying that’s why people are religious, but people who demand the right to treat people like dirt because religious liberty – those people have bad priorities.

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

“Dan Savage recently made a lewd smear against Pope John Paul II”

Apr 24th, 2015 9:17 am | By

Catholic thought leaders are upset and angry about a proposed new sitcom that they say is based on the life of Dan Savage. Well they say it’s based on the life of anti-religious bigot Dan Savage, to be exact.

April 21, 2015 ( – Catholic leaders joined the Media Research Center (MRC), the Family Research Council (FRC), and the American Family Association (AFA) in a national campaign to educate the public about a Disney ABC sitcom pilot based on the life of anti-religious bigot Dan Savage. MRC and FRC sent a letter to Ben Sherwood, president of Disney/ABC Television Group, nearly four weeks ago urging him to pull the plug on the new show but have still not received a response.

Still no response! Sounds like anti-Catholic bigotry, for sure. Normally entertainment executives are eager to get into discussions with people who tell them to pull the plug on shows that aren’t Catholic enough.

Dan Savage’s vulgarity and violent rhetoric is well-documented. Savage is unapologetic in his promotion of filth masquerading as humor. His new show, ironically titled “The Real O’Neals,” is a platform he does not deserve. Even so, Disney ABC continues to remain silent as pro-family and pro-faith organizations call for it to reconsider its decision to promote this bigoted, hate-filled man.

What is Disney doing giving this terrible man a platform? No one like that should have a platform. All his platforms should be taken away, until none but Catholic platforms remain.

“Disney ABC continues to circle the wagon and ignore the anti-religious bigot in their midst,” said MRC President Brent Bozell. “We will not relent in exposing Dan Savage for the vile hate he spews at conservatives, Catholics, and evangelicals. Disney ABC’s silence is shameful.”

Hmm. That reminds me of something. I wonder what it could be…

Then LifeSiteNews provides a string of statements from various outraged thought leaders.

“Dan Savage recently made a lewd smear against Pope John Paul II on Twitter in which he accused him of being a child molester. This is sadly typical of Dan Savage, who has a history of making X-rated personal attacks. Why would Disney hire this man for one of their TV shows? And why would advertisers want to be associated with such vile attacks on Catholics?”
– Brian Burch, President,

Huh, that too sounds oddly familiar…

“The idea that the vulgar, insulting, outrageous Dan Savage would rate consideration for a sitcom on ABC Disney only confirms the obvious fact that, culturally, our nation is in a moral free fall.  What other reason could there be for partnering with a man who has spent much of his adult life insulting God, His followers, and His Church? How low will society go before courageous Americans stand up and say enough? The time is now to raise our voices. Join us in opposing this most recent embrace of media bigotry that has no place in a civilized nation.”
– Judie Brown, President, American Life League Inc.

Hahahaha Dan Savage gets people as riled up as PZ does.

Then LifeSiteNews provides a Little List:

Dan Savage has made numerous comments about conservatives, evangelicals, and Catholics that offend basic standards of decency. They include:

  • Proclaiming that he sometimes thinks about “f***ing the shit out of” Senator Rick Santorum
  • Calling for Christians at a high school conference to “ignore the bulls*** in the Bible”
  • Saying that “the only thing that stands between my d*** and Brad Pitt’s mouth is a piece of paper” when expressing his feelings on Pope Benedict’s opposition to gay “marriage”
  • Promoting marital infidelity
  • Saying “Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there’s nothing left but the rope.”
  • Telling Bill Maher that he wished Republicans “were all f***ing dead”
  • Telling Dr. Ben Carson to “suck my d***. Name the time and place and I’ll bring my d*** and a camera crew and you can s*** me off and win the argument.”

I hope we are all suitably chastened.

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

Earthquake time

Apr 23rd, 2015 5:16 pm | By

Of course. [Some of] Gamergate is picking up Dawkins’s cool hashtag. Make #‎UPINFY‬ trend wooha!

DragonKing ‏@BahamutDKing 6 hours ago
#gamergate Earthquake time make #UPINFY trend and show these there are no safe spaces we can’t prove are not safe from facts.

Kozi ‏@SergeantKozi 8 hours ago
@_Icze4r Check the #UPINFY tag for the latest culture war front, (University Probably Is Not For You) in response to Based Mom’s treatment

Video Culture Replay ‏@VCR_Blog 8 hours ago
If you are triggered by clapping and different opinions than those taught by mainstream “academic feminists”, #UPINFY

Ross The Boss ‏@gigagiga333 8 hours ago
#Gamergate please boost this tag #UPINFY

Akashi ‏@Onetailedfox3 8 hours ago
We should really just start replying to any SJW with #UPINFY. It is amazing.

Thanks, Richard. It’s lucky for us you’re such a feminist, isn’t it.

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

What language are they speaking? Is it English?

Apr 23rd, 2015 1:25 pm | By

I think what set Dawkins off on his University Probably Is Not For You hashtag spree was Christina Hoff Sommers on her own Twitter spree on the subject of her talk at Oberlin on Monday.

He replied to one of her tweets:

Richard Dawkins‏@RichardDawkins
@CHSommers What language are they speaking? Is it English? English is my native language and I couldn’t understand a single word they said.

Kids today eh. Students eh well I never. Young people talk a strange lingo get offa my lawn wot wot.

So what about Sommers’s talk at Oberlin? You probably know without looking. There was hostility, there were protests, there was talk of safe spaces and trigger warnings. There was probably a good deal of silliness, because people can be silly, yes even feminist undergraduates. Sommers gave a predictable little interview to Reason on the subject.

But the thing is…Sommers spends quite a lot of her time and energy deliberately provoking such responses. She’s very like Dawkins that way only more so. She does not act like an academic philosopher now, she acts like a Fox “News” personality or a shock jock. Her videos are snide and sarcastic, and her tweets are the same only more so. She’s obnoxious on purpose, then she gives a talk at a liberal college and gets the expected responses, then she gets more mileage out of complaining about the responses. It’s her shtick.

The students at the liberal college are pretty foolish to take her bait, but she’s pretty malicious to dangle it in front of them. And Dawkins is wrong to take her seriously.

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

Guest post: Presto, vaccination levels shot up into herd immunity levels

Apr 23rd, 2015 12:52 pm | By

Originally a comment by quixote on California has the “personal belief” exemption.

Some little municpal health department near Vernal, Utah, was trying to figure out how to up the vaccination rate. The vaccination cost $25. A personal belief exemption involved ticking a box on a form.

Well, a local live wire figured they should reverse the incentives. They made the vaccination free and charged $25 for administrative costs to fill out a more time-consuming exemption form.

Presto, vaccination levels shot up into herd immunity levels (above 95%) and the problem was solved.

What struck me about this story that I heard from a relative is how little it took for people to decide their deeply held personal beliefs were totally negotiable.

Add to that the entirely justifiable costs of billing anti-vaxxers for all the contact tracing and unnecessary medical expenses incurred by their BS, and I bet you could get vaccination rates back up where they belong.

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

“University probably is not for you”

Apr 23rd, 2015 12:29 pm | By

This is unfortunate.

Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins · Apr 22
University is about confronting new ideas, unfamiliar, un-“safe”. If you want to be “safe” you are not worthy of a university education.

Sadly, it didn’t stop there. It went on.

Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins 12 hours ago
If you can’t handle challenging questions like “What’s wrong with incest, or cannibalism?” University Probably Is Not For You (#UPINFY)

That one set off a little hashtag storm, which is still going on.

The originator helped.

Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins 12 hours ago
If you can’t handle challenging questions like “Could rape be a Darwinian adaptation in wild animals?” university may be not for you #UPINFY

A philosopher suggests that children will one day sue their parents for bad genes. Another asks when nuclear 1st strike justified. #UPINFY

If you boycott a lecture because scared it may challenge your existing beliefs & “trigger” un-“safe” feelings #UPINFY

If you are implacably convinced that all knowledge & wisdom is contained in one centuries-old book, #UPINFY

And then, the conclusion:

Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins  11 hours ago
If, for any of the reasons given, it looks as though #UPINFY, why not go to University anyway? It just might open your mind.

Nice of him to throw that minimal lifeline at the end, but…not really.

It’s nasty stuff. It’s also fatuous. It’s not true that universities are packed to the rafters with academics asking silly “provocative” deliberately rude questions. Dawkins gives the impression of wanting them to be like that, but they’re not like that.

There’s a germ of truth in what he’s saying, which is that students shouldn’t dogmatically refuse to consider any ideas they don’t already hold – but there’s a whole silo full of truth in what I’m going to say now, which is that crude slogans are not the best way to convey that kernel of truth.

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

California has the “personal belief” exemption

Apr 23rd, 2015 11:39 am | By

George Skelton at the LA Times observes that we all tend to value health very highly, and that that makes it surprising that so many people are hostile to vaccinations.

You parents who won’t permit vaccinations because of a personal belief, well, you’re free to practice that belief any way you’d like — as long as it doesn’t threaten other people’s kids.

Americans do have freedom of religion — but not the freedom to jeopardize the health of other Americans.

That’s the way it should be, anyway, and how a bill struggling through the Legislature would make it in California.

It passed one Senate committee; it has to pass two more; if it’s passed by the Senate it will get a stiff fight in the Assembly. If it passes Jerry Brown might sign it.

Besides polio, kids are required, before entering school or child care, to be immunized for such communicable diseases as diphtheria, measles, mumps, whooping cough, chickenpox and hepatitis B.

But California has the “personal belief” exemption that increasingly has resulted in parents refusing to inoculate their children. Besides a religious belief, many are scared that vaccinations can cause other ailments.

Many mistakenly believe, for example, that a measles shot can lead to autism — a discredited theory promoted in 1998 by a lying researcher. His study later was retracted by the journal that published it. And many studies since have shown there is no link between vaccinations and autism.

But Wakefield injected it into the memestream, and it may never get out.

Experts say that low vaccination rates fueled the measles outbreak that started at Disneyland in December, sickening 157 people and inspiring the legislation.

“Each year we’re adding to the number of unvaccinated,” Pan says. “If it gets low enough, that’s when disease is able to spread. Because so many people haven’t experienced these diseases, they don’t know how serious they are.”

I haven’t experienced falling off a tall building, but I know how serious it is. People should pay better attention.

During the Senate Education Committee’s fiery hearing last week — attended by hundreds of angry parents — a polio survivor told about being stricken at age 7. She urged passage of the bill, speaking in a voice apparently weakened by respiratory problems.

Later, she was mocked on Facebook by two opponents of the bill. “Lisa” referred to “the hysterical polio survivor” and added: “Poor woman needs emotional therapy.” “Annika” responded: “Polio was really DDT poisoning.”

Oh, man, that’s revolting.

In 1951, before there was a vaccine, more than 10,000 Americans were afflicted with paralytic polio. I was one. My strong single mom guided me through the ordeal. She was a saint.

But if there had been a polio vaccine that she had prevented me from receiving, I never would have forgiven her.

Parents who won’t allow their children to be vaccinated are — let’s put it politely — misguided. That’s their problem — and their kids’.

The Legislature should gather enough courage to make sure it’s not also everyone else’s problem.

It should indeed.

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


Apr 23rd, 2015 11:00 am | By

Not getting it.

A godbotherer claims that Obama is driving all the Christians out of the military and sowing their fields with salt. His claims are short on citations, apart from a link-free date-free mention of the Washington Times.

But he does give a couple of examples.

If you are in the military today, you have got to be so careful about any expression of faith.

Even the slightest slip up can cause the authorities to crack down on you.

Just consider the following two examples which come from Newsmax…

In December, a chaplain for a Ranger training battalion was sent an administrative letter of concern after a soldier complained that he had promoted Christianity and used a Bible during a mandatory suicide-prevention training session.

Last month, a Navy chaplain was removed from his job and may lose his career after complaints about his private counseling during which he discouraged homosexuality and sex outside of marriage.

You mean a Christian chaplain actually “used a Bible” and “promoted Christianity”?

Not too sharp, is he. It was a mandatory suicide-prevention training session. That’s the issue. Obviously Christian chaplains can use a bible and promote Christianity, but they shouldn’t be doing it for mandatory training sessions. I’d prefer to be able to say they’re not allowed to. but that’s the very point at issue. Chaplains should be available but not mandatory.

Everything else he says is, frankly, bullshit.

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

Guest post: Priorities

Apr 23rd, 2015 10:14 am | By

Guest post by Monette Richards, President of CFI – NE Ohio and a Director of Secular Woman.

I am being frustrated at the priorities we set in the secular movement. The amount of restrictions being passed against bodily autonomy, restrictions that have strong, deep roots in religion, are depending on bad and/or faulty science and yet are being outright ignored by most of the secular organizations. It is infuriating.

The slow but seemingly thorough takeover of hospitals by the Catholic Church is a growing problem that is hardly addressed. The directives set by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops set limits on the care they may provide. Already, we see this endangering women, especially those without the means to travel to another, non-religious, hospital.

Public funding for Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) has been an ongoing trend. CPCs are notoriously religion-backed clinics that use lies and tricks to try to keep pregnant individuals from having abortions. Public money is going toward groups that then try to push their religious views on pregnant people.

The entire anti-abortion movement, even the secular one, is totally and completely based on religion and bad science. And yet, Hemant Mehta thinks giving them a platform, twice, to present this argument is a great idea! Even Silverman bought into it. We need to hold their feet to the fire and not let them fudge these arguments. Anti-abortion arguments are based on either religion or bad science.

And this bad science is being worked into bills, forcing doctors to outright lie to patients. Healthcare coverage is being denied by redefining contraceptive to abortifacient.

So, why haven’t these facts brought our movement to its feet to grab the torches and pitchforks? Why would a movement that jumps on any chance to make sure creationism isn’t taught in public schools not also work just as hard to keep bills based on junk science from becoming laws?

We are a movement built by, mostly, white middle class men and, therefore, are structured to focus on white middle class men issues. We are a movement who can find the time and money to support a man who wants to “try atheism for a year” but can barely find the funds for a program for young, black female humanists.

Secular Woman’s origin is due to much of this. We needed an organization that put these issues as our focus. We should not have to depend on organizations which will not focus on the religious aspect of these issues, like NARAL, PP, and NOW, to protect us from the onslaught. And it should be obvious that they are not enough, anyway. It should be obvious that when religion invades the lives of some of us, it is a problem for all of us.

This is not to say we shouldn’t ALSO work on other things. This is no Dear Muslima. I’m a big believer in ending microagressions as well as hugely obvious transgressions of the First Amendment. Getting Jesus pictures out of schools and ten commandment plaques off of courtroom walls are important tasks.

For the past few years, we have been facing very awful laws that are getting passed in lot of states, with poor women suffering the most. And these very awful laws are being mostly ignored by the secular movement.

We have organizations paying to court the most conservative, the people who are behind these same laws, these same encroachments, these same directives which are actively harming women.  When we should all be working together to stop them.

I’m frustrated. I’m angry. Why isn’t everyone?

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

All they have done is put stickers all over the place

Apr 23rd, 2015 9:16 am | By

The theocratic Islamist campaign to convince UK Muslims that “VOTING FOR MAN-MADE LAW IS SHIRK” has popped up in Leicester, the BBC reports.

Bright yellow stickers have been posted in areas of Leicester with large Muslim communities saying voting is “shirk”.

Shirk is the sin of worshipping someone other than Allah and is considered the most grievous crime for a Muslim.

Which just goes to show how anti-human and revolting religion can be at its worst. The most grievous crime, ahead of murder, rape, genocide, torture. Plus of course there’s the fact that voting for X≠worshipping X.

Dr [Ather] Hussain, an imam in Leicester and surrounding cities, said: “It’s laughable. Logically and religiously speaking they haven’t got a leg to stand on.

“I fail to see how voting would be considered as the most grievous crime possible for a Muslim to commit.

“The argument is shallow, baseless and it has absolutely no standing religiously or theologically in our religion.”

And he added that those who posted the signs probably did not believe it themselves.

“If they had a sound argument perhaps they would operate in mosques and in the right public spaces.

“But quite cowardly, all they have done is put stickers all over the place without any context, without telling us who they are, without giving us any indication about where we can find more about these ridiculous beliefs.”

It’s a sort of graffiti. But, unfortunately, it’s a sort that some people will find impressive and convincing.

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

Never really a party, but the alter ego of Lutfur Rahman

Apr 23rd, 2015 8:46 am | By

Election fraud in Tower Hamlets.

An east London mayor has been removed from office and a poll declared void after he was found guilty of electoral fraud.

An Election Commissioner concluded Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman breached election rules and must vacate his post immediately.

Four voters alleged he used “corrupt and illegal practices” in last year’s election, which must now be re-run.

Mr Rahman, who denied any wrong-doing, has been banned from standing again.

Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey said it was a big mess, caused by one guy’s ruthless ambition.

Mawrey also described Bangladesh-born Mr Rahman as an “evasive and discursive witness whose evidence was untruthful on occasion” and suggested he had played “race” and “religious” cards.

Mr Rahman ran a “ruthless and dishonest campaign to convince electorate his rival John Biggs was a racist”, Mr Mawrey said.

That sounds familiar. It sounds like George Galloway, among others.

BBC News correspondent Sarah Campbell said the Election Commissioner had upheld a number of the allegations, including:

  • Voting fraud: ballots were double-cast or cast from false addresses
  • False statements made against Mr Rahman’s rival Mr Biggs
  • Bribery: grants approved to organisations which Mr Rahman favoured, most of which were run by Bangladeshi groups
  • Treating: providing free food and drink to encourage people to vote for Mr Rahman
  • Spiritual influence: voters were told that it was their duty as Muslims to vote for Mr Rahman.

That’s interesting. I wonder if that allegation has ever been made about an Anglican candidate, and if so if it has ever succeeded. In the US candidates do that as a matter of routine, of course.

[T]he Election Commissioner said that Tower Hamlets First was “never really a party but the alter ego of Lutfur Rahman”.

Again, reminiscent of Galloway and “Respect.” And some other examples I can think of.

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

To keep players on the field

Apr 22nd, 2015 5:42 pm | By

The National Football League has to give former players a whole lot of money.

A federal judge gave final approval on Wednesday to a settlement in a lawsuit brought by about 5,000 former National Football League players who accused the league of covering up the dangers of concussions.

The settlement, approved by Judge Anita Brody, includes allowing for monetary awards of up to $5 million per retired player for serious medical conditions associated with repeated head trauma and could cost the league $1 billion over 65 years.

Which they can well afford, considering how profitable the whole racket is.

The NFL is accused of covering up the dangers of concussions to keep players on the field. The league and the players union estimate that 30 percent of former players will develop brain conditions like Alzheimer’s or a less debilitating form of dementia.

Concussions have become a major issue for America’s most popular sports league, causing some players to cut short their careers, including Chris Borland, a 24-year-old linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, who recently retired over concerns about long-term head injuries.

The game is violent not incidentally but intentionally. The violence is an important part of the game. Fans like it. Advertisers play it up.

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

The national nut

Apr 22nd, 2015 5:17 pm | By

Almond milk. I already knew this from looking at the ingredients and the bit where it says how much protein and so on per serving – almond milk isn’t a useful thing.

People drink almond milk for a variety of reasons, but many have no idea how devoid of nutrients their trendy dairy milk alternative actually is.

Each half-gallon carton contains very few actual almonds. Evidence shows there may be just over a handful.

Well if they don’t know they didn’t look, because if you look, it’s obvious. Almonds aren’t the main ingredient. It’s mostly water and sweeteners.

While the amount of almonds in each brand of the beverage vary, an analysis of UK almond milk brand Alpro showed that nuts make up just 2% of the drink.

Doesn’t surprise me a bit. It’s like Nutella – Nutella is fabulous, but it has very little hazelnut in it. It’s dessert, it’s not a nourishing food. Same with almond milk.

A typical serving of almonds has 160 calories per serving. By comparison, a cup of almond milk contains just about 30 calories. And while a serving of almonds has 14 grams of total fat and 6 grams of protein, a serving of the milk has 2.5 grams of fat and just one gram of protein.

In other words, a single serving of almond milk has almost no protein. Compared with plain old almonds, it fares even worse.

It’s basically syrup. Drink it if you like it, but don’t be thinking it’s food.

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

What’s the national fruit?

Apr 22nd, 2015 4:59 pm | By

More compulsory religion for the US.

North Carolina’s McDowell County is now the third municipality in the state to approve adding the national motto “In God We Trust” to its public buildings.

The McDowell County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the inclusion of “In God We Trust” signs for county buildings last Monday.

So take that, atheists! And secularists, and people who don’t call themselves secularists but still don’t want god shoved on them in government buildings. Take that, all of you! No freedom of religion for you! Religion is mandatory around here and don’t you forget it.

(Also that “national motto” thing is ridiculous. That’s not a thing. We don’t have a national sock or a national dog or a national cookie – we don’t need a national motto, either. We can pick our own mottos. “In god we trust” is particularly obnoxious – I don’t trust that bastard an inch, because it’s just Rick Warren or the pope hiding behind a mask.)

“Upon presentation to our board, the commissioners’ voted to have, at no cost to the county, the motto displayed on the county administration building in two locations: in our boardroom and on the county courthouse,” said Walker.

“We did this to reaffirm what our Founding Fathers affirmed and that is our national motto is ‘In God We Trust.'”

Wow, that’s ignorant. The “founding fathers” did no such thing.

Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director with the Washington, D.C. –based Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told CP that McDowell’s actions were unconstitutional.

“Placing large signs reading ‘In God We Trust’ on government buildings promotes religion to a substantially greater extent than does the historical practice of merely allowing the phrase to appear on coins in small type,” said Luchenitser.

“The county’s conduct sends its citizens a message that the county’s government favors the religious over the non-religious, and adherents to monotheist faiths over others.”

Yes it does. It’s none of their business. It’s not their job to try to force us or pressure us to take their god seriously.

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

Wink wink smooch

Apr 22nd, 2015 12:01 pm | By

In the Spectator

Bahar Mustafa, the Welfare and Diversity officer for Goldsmiths Students’ Union, must have a strong sense of irony. You’d have to, to run an ‘anti-racism’ event which states that ‘if you’re a man and/or white PLEASE DON’T COME. As the student publication the Tab reports, the event claims to be ‘challenging the white-centric culture of occupations’, ‘diversifying our curriculum’ and building a ‘cross campus campaign that puts liberation at the heart of the movement’.

It’s an anti-racism event but men are told to stay away? I don’t even…


She’s the welfare officer at Goldsmiths. Hmm.

Back in February, Mustafa, who describes herself on Twitter as a ‘queer, anti-racist feminist killjoy’, came to my attention when she helped organise a ‘BME ONLY social’ before a screening of the film Dear White People. For those not acquainted with the lingo, this means for Black and Minority Ethnic only.


Come to all the things!, smiley face kiss kiss kiss, except don’t if you’re in the wrong group. Kiss kiss kiss smiley face.

She also lied about why Kate Smurthwaite’s gig at Goldsmiths was canceled at the last minute, lied in a way that’s damaging to Kate and protective of the goons at Goldsmiths who got her gig canceled.

Kiss kiss kiss smiley face.

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

Huge fan

Apr 22nd, 2015 11:14 am | By

Of course.

Embedded image permalink

THE AMAZING ATHEIST! ‏@amazingatheist 14 hours ago
Hey @CHSommers I would love to have you on my podcast, The Drunken Peasants.

Christina H. Sommers ‏@CHSommers
@amazingatheist Any time. Huge fan.

If you’ve forgotten who the amazing atheist is and what he’s like, just take a squiz at his feed.

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

By what twisted argument should Islam be less compatible with humour than other religions?

Apr 22nd, 2015 11:00 am | By

The Independent has a nice big (translated) excerpt from Charb’s book.

Stéphane Charbonnier was a cartoonist and writer. He was a supporter of the French Communist Party. And while, under his editorship, Charlie Hebdo aggressively poked fun at Catholicism and Judaism as well as radical Islam, his book – published in France last week – is a passionate rejection of the allegations that, under his editorship, Charlie Hebdo was “racist” or “Islamophobic”.

In the book, Charb, as he was always known, defends his publication of cartoons mocking radical Islam and caricaturing (but never mocking) the Prophet Mohamed. He argues – from a left-wing, anti-racist, militantly secular viewpoint – that the word “Islamophobia” is a trap, set by an unholy alliance of Muslim radicals and the unthinking, liberal Western media. The real issue, he says, is racism and Charlie Hebdo was never racist…

He argues from a left-wing, anti-racist, militantly secular viewpoint.

That’s important.

Really, the word “Islamophobia” is badly chosen if it’s supposed to described the hatred which some lame-brains have for Muslims. And it is not only badly chosen, it is dangerous. From a purely etymological viewpoint, Islamophobia ought to mean “fear of Islam” – yet the inventors, promoters and users of this word deploy it to denounce hatred of Muslims. But isn’t it odd that “Muslimophobia”, or just “racism”, isn’t used instead of “Islamophobia”.

Why has this word taken over? From ignorance, from idleness… but also because those who campaign against Islamophobia don’t do so to defend Muslims as individuals. They do so to defend the religion of the prophet Mohamed.

They do so to silence atheists and secularists and freethinkers who want to talk about the ways religion is an obstacle to human flourishing. They do so to shore up and protect the illegitimate power of religion and religious authority figures. They do so to keep humanity enchained.

So, yes, we are in the middle of an explosion of racist behaviour – yet the word “racism” is used only timidly, and is on the way to being supplanted by “Islamophobia”. And the campaigners for multiculturalism, who try to foist the notion of “Islamophobia” on the judicial and political authorities, have only one aim in mind: to force the victims of racism into identifying themselves as Muslims.

Anything to trap people more firmly in the religion of their ancestors.

However, why do the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, who know that their drawings will be exploited by the media, by the retailers of anti-Islamophobia, by far-right Muslims and nationalists, insist on drawing Mohamed and other “sacred” symbols of Islam? Simply because the Charlie Hebdo drawings do not have the vast majority of Muslims as their target. We believe that Muslims are capable of recognising a tongue-in-cheek. By what twisted argument should Islam be less compatible with humour than other religions?

By the argument from the racism of lower expecatations.

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

Guest post: It’s worth running a simple filter

Apr 22nd, 2015 9:46 am | By

Originally a comment by Morgan on Psychiatry is an important skeptical and social justice issue.

Making demands about alternatives before you’ll bother to learn the truth about it seems callous, in addition to incurious.

Look, here’s the thing: you sound like a crank.

That doesn’t mean you’re wrong, but from what you’re saying, it’s more likely that you’re a crank than not. So before giving what you have to say much time or attention, it’s worth running a simple filter of asking what your views are, in case they’re “people need to regulate their orgone energy via crystals” or something else that would clearly indicate you’re not worth the effort. What you’re saying may seem obviously reasonable to you, but to me as an outside observer it’s not obviously different from any wooish alt-med claim about how, for example, AIDS isn’t caused by a virus but by poor nutrition / immorality / sinister Western drugs. It doesn’t help that the way you talk about “biopsychiatry” comes off to me as suspiciously dualist, like the idea that mental phenomena are based in the biological action of the brain and that treating or managing them may require medical interventions is just obviously false for some reason.

Your response does shift the odds away from crank, but it’s still vague enough not to be particularly compelling. Okay, so if I’m understanding you correctly, your contention is that much of psychiatry, in particular the diagnoses in the DSM and the pharmaceutical treatments for them, are so poorly evidenced as to be worthless – what’s labeled “schizophrenia” or “depression” is so poorly defined, ad-hoc, and lacking in scientific grounding that it doesn’t make sense to talk about “a mental illness” called schizophrenia. The obvious problem there, then, is that people do have issues that lead them to be diagnosed, and they do take medicines prescribed for their diagnosis, and at least some of those people do improve when they’re medicated (and notice a definite pattern of worsening if they stop). So maybe all such problems are the result of traumatic or stressful experiences or conditions, and there should be more focus on heading off mental health problems by reducing poverty and improving parenting and so on – sure, that’s not in principle a bad idea. But once someone ends up with an issue, are you saying the fix is to solve all the problems in their life that might have led to it? That’s not really useful to many, probably most, people actually trying to live their lives unable to remedy structural oppression. Are they to seek intervention, but definitely not drugs? So what about when they’ve tried everything they could, and it’s the drugs that seemed to actually made a difference? Is that always just the placebo effect? Or is the solution that

…some problems that have been falsely labeled as disorders in order to sell drugs are really the pains of human living, part of the human condition in an imperfect world, and will pass.

? That’s kind of a convenient out – if the approach you advocate doesn’t work, just wait for the problem to go away by itself. The problems that are leaving you unable to function are just the pains of human living, tough shit, suck it up. You say you don’t want to stigmatize or minimize, but surely you can see where what you’re saying has that effect regardless of your desires?

In the other thread you ask:

If you think I’m being a bad advocate, what do you suggest?

My suggestion: have a clear summary that you can link or paste of what you are saying, and what you’re not. Be aware that “psychiatry is totally wrong and you don’t need your pills” is a claim made by a lot of people for bad reasons, and you’re going to have to work to distinguish yourself from those people – you may feel you’re doing so by recommending books or linking articles, but that doesn’t actually set you apart. Saying “we should be skeptical about this” is not as small and unobjectionable a statement as you seem to think when in effect it’s “we should disregard an entire branch of medicine as pseudoscience and any ways in which people find it’s helped them as accidental”. If you think the problem is pharmaceutical treatment of mental health problems but still think people will need professional, evidence-based, medical assistance to deal with them, then maybe focus your criticism a bit more, since as far as I can see that would still require psychiatry to gather and understand that evidence and provide that assistance.

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