Notes and Comment Blog

One tent and a stack of Bibles

Sep 8th, 2013 9:51 am | By

There’s a new documentary, Mission Congo by Lara Zizic and David Turner, that alleges some very dubious activities by Pat Robertson. Charity bait-and-switch fraud allegations.

Robertson has a non-profit organization, Operation Blessing International (OBI). He’s in a position to raise a lot of money for it, given the 700 Club and the Christian Broadcasting Network and all. He can just say send money, and people send money. He said send money specifically to aid refugees from the Rwandan genocide who fled to camps in DR Congo.

Chris McGreal, a journalist for The Guardian who was stationed at the refugee camp in Goma, recalled a strange sight. The camp was plagued by a cholera epidemic, which claimed over 40,000 lives. As victims were rushed to medical tents on stretchers, he witnessed a preacher running alongside the stretcher clenching a Bible and preaching to the victim. The Bible-thumper was a member of OBI.

“They had one tent and a stack of Bibles,” said a member of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which provided actual aid to the refugree camp in Goma, in the film.

“People began to refuse the Bibles,” added a local. “‘What we need is food and medicine,’ they said. Operation Blessing would say, ‘That’s not our mission.’”

Bibles. They brought bibles. They brought bibles, and nothing else.

According to Jessie Potts, who served as Operations Manager for OBI in 1994, the charity stopped sending medical teams to Goma several weeks into the operation. Instead, the film alleges that these resources—the donations, the cargo planes, etc.—were used for the for-profit African Development Company Ltd., a diamond mining operation that was headquartered in Kinshasa, while the mining site itself was located in the remote village of Kamonia. Robertson was the sole shareholder and president of ADC.

There are many details, including named people who go on the record.

OBI’s Chief Pilot Hinkle claims in the film that the cargo planes, which bore the logo “Operation Blessing” on the tail, were barely used for any sort of charitable work. Instead, he was shipping 8-inch and 6-inch dredges, 55-gallon drums of fuel, food supplies, four-wheelers, and Jeeps out to the diamond dredging operation in Kamonia. Of the 40 flights he flew, the film alleges that 43.9 hours were spent on humanitarian aid, while 271.9 hours were spent on transporting dredges around Zaire. At one point, Hinkle says he became so disgusted that he had the “Operation Blessing” logo removed from the aircraft. The film also claims that the 3,000-foot airstrip Robertson touted on his program was not used for the transport of medical supplies, but for the mining operation.

You know…if the allegations are true, that’s fraud. It’s my understanding that fraud is a crime. Are prosecutors afraid to go after Pat Robertson because he’s on TeamGod?

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

Only 9 countries

Sep 8th, 2013 8:23 am | By

UNESCO has a new finding: 54 million of the world’s 76 million illiterate young women live in just 9 countries.

Embedded image permalink

Notice that Bangladesh is the one place on the list where there are more illiterate young men. I wonder why that is.

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

Hey go back to Atheostan

Sep 7th, 2013 4:37 pm | By

Hey get a JOB. Hey if you don’t like me harassing you, GET OFF THE INTERNET. Hey if you don’t like the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance, YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIVE HERE.

That last item of ignorant bullying is from a Fox News personality, Dana Perino. She really did say that.

Massachusetts’ highest court is currently hearing a case against the Pledge brought by atheist parents, who feel that due to its religious wording, atheist children “are denied meaningful participation in this patriotic exercise.” The case specifically involves the phrase, “under God,” which was not actually a part of the original phrasing of the Pledge.

Regarding atheists, Perino said during a live segment, “I’m tired of them.” She continued, “I remember working at the Justice Department years ago when I first started right after 9/11 and a lawsuit like this came through, and before the day had finished, the United States Senate and the House of Representatives had both passed resolutions saying that they were for keeping ‘under God’ in the pledge.”

“If these people really don’t like it, they don’t have to live here,” she concluded.

That’s the way to deal with minority rights all right – just tell the minorities to leave if they don’t like it.

Dave Silverman, not surprisingly, sees it differently. He did a Facebook post to explain his view of the “just get out then” ideology.

What’s with Dana Perino? Dana Perino is an ‘equalophobe’- she is afraid of ONLY being equal. We see this often, and here’s a perfect example. She will say this is a free country, and that freedom means being able to make a choice, but when that yields a loss of the special status afforded her religion, she becomes aggressive and demeaning. “We are free to choose” becomes “They can just leave if they don’t choose to agree with my majority”.

Christians in this country (and other religions in other countries) use the government to protect their perceived special status, and most are too afraid to see past their privilege in favor of freedom. They are hypocrites, and they need to hear about it, so they can learn that freedom must, by definition, include equality for those with whom they disagree.

From my book: “If someone claims to be offended by the truth, it’s because they are used to privilege and social superiority and actually fear “just” being equal (Equalophobes). Do not let, “I’m offended” silence you.” #iatheist

He even used the word “privilege.”



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

Why are we not used to seeing them that way?

Sep 7th, 2013 12:04 pm | By

It’s everywhere. Classical music for instance.

Marin Alsop, who will on Saturday night  be the first female conductor to tackle the Last Night of the Proms in its 118-year history, has suggested society is still uncomfortable seeing women in authority roles such as hers.

In interview with the Guardian, she said: “There is no logical reason to stop women from conducting. The baton isn’t heavy. It weighs about an ounce. No superhuman strength is required. Good musicianship is all that counts. As a society we have a lack of comfort in seeing women in these ultimate authority roles. Still none of the ‘big five’ orchestras has had a female music director.”

And the lack of comfort is created by the very situation it creates. Why do we have a lack of comfort in seeing women in these ultimate authority roles? Because we’re not used to seeing them that way. Why are we not used to seeing them that way? Because we don’t get the chance to see them that way, because they’re not in these ultimate authority roles. Why are they not in these ultimate authority roles? Because we have a lack of comfort in seeing women in these ultimate authority roles. Why do we have a lack of comfort in seeing women in these ultimate authority roles? Because we’re not used to seeing them that way. Why are we not used to seeing them that way? Because we don’t get the chance to see them that way, because they’re not in these ultimate authority roles. Why are they not in these ultimate authority roles? Because we have a lack of comfort in seeing women in these ultimate authority roles.

That’s why affirmative action is not such a stupid idea as most people think. (I’ve said this before. Apologies. It bears repeating.) It’s not just punching a ticket, or checking a box. There are good reasons to do some quota-filling, even if the quota-fillers aren’t ten times better than all other candidates. We really do need to work on creating new and better stereotypes.

Her remarks come in the wake of the outcry sparked by Russian Vasily Petrenko, the principal conductor of the National Youth Orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, who claimed orchestras “react better when they have a man in front of them”, adding “a sweet girl on the poduim can make one’s thoughts drift towards something else”.

Better than that, for example.

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

True Courage Is Knowing You’re Wrong But Refusing To Admit It

Sep 7th, 2013 11:47 am | By

From the Onion:

Courage requires us to remain steadfast in our beliefs. It asks that we stand by the convictions we express and never give an inch, no matter what the cost. However off base, wrongheaded, or patently false a position we’ve staked out may be, courage nonetheless demands that we blindly pound home our stupid fucking point, never letting up.

Brave hero!

What is the measure of bravery? I think part of it has to do with how firmly we stand our ground when we have absolutely no fucking clue what we’re talking about.

Another part involves having the mental strength to steel our minds against any reasonable argument that might challenge one of our beliefs. This means cultivating the ability to remain totally impervious to logic, so that when someone points out a blatant error in our line of thought, we can simply shrug and ignore them.

Can you make statements you know to be false in a determined and measured tone of voice? Can you then continue to reel off untruths by pulling idiotic examples out of your ass to further illustrate your faulty point, all the while giving no one else a chance to respond? Can you look basic common sense in the face and laugh?

Because that is what courage asks of us.

We know that brave hero.

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

And we would have to do it topless

Sep 7th, 2013 11:33 am | By

Suzanne Moore is perhaps even more annoyed about Femen and Victor Svyatski.

If only men ran feminism, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in. We wouldn’t have to worry about offending them or arguing among ourselves. We would simply take instruction from consultants on gender struggle. Only the prettiest would be allowed to fight the gender jihad. And we would have to do it topless.

You can’t make this stuff up. And I am not. It turns out that that Femen, the Ukrainian feminist group known for semi-naked media stunts, slogan “Our mission is protest, our weapons are bare breasts” was actually founded by a man, Victor Svyatski. It gets weirder. This man hand picked attractive women knowing they would make the front pages – and they did.

Well yes. We already knew that women can get attention by showing their tits (provided they’re pretty enough that anyone wants to look at their tits). Feminism was never actually a movement for more attention to women’s tits, or for more attention to women because of their tits, or for more attention to women who took their shirts off. More attention to women’s tits is one of the more otiose goals it’s possible to think of. It would be like campaigning for more attention to bears that are charging at you growling.

No, the point of feminism was actually more like the opposite of that – less ignoring of women in general, women as such, without regard to the quality of their tits.

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

Get yer kit off

Sep 7th, 2013 11:07 am | By

Oh good grief.

Bim Adewunmi at Comment is Free last Wednesday:

Australian film-maker Kitty Green has named Victor Svyatski as the wizard behind the curtain of Ukrainian feminist group Femen. Green alleges that Svyatski not only supports the group, as Femen had previously acknowledged, but actually founded the organisation, as well hand-selecting the “prettiest girls” for their topless protests. Love or loathe Femen – and it is no secret that I am no fan of theirs – this is plain depressing.

For the documentary, Ukraine Is Not a Brothel, which is being shown at the Venice film festival, Green recorded an interview with Svyatski in which he acknowledges he may have started the group to meet women. His reply is a masterclass in how to cop out: “Perhaps yes, somewhere in my deep subconscious.”


I never did think the topless protests were a good idea, so I never promoted them, but I didn’t realize they were such an ungood idea as that.

Did we guess that something might have been going on? The clues were there. Topless protests featuring mostly skinny, “pretty” European women. The slogans: “Our mission is protest, our weapons are bare breasts”, “Nudity is liberty” and “Better naked than in a burqa”, gave off an unpleasant stench but didn’t necessarily point to a male svengali figure in the background.

Well yes and no. I wasn’t sure about it myself – was it just another way to exclude all women except the hot ones? Or was it a blow for sex-positive feminism? I couldn’t tell, and of course, being ugly, I have a built-in bias against forms of protest that don’t work well for ugly people, or that just plain exclude them.

In Green’s film, Svyatski talks of the campaigners needing a firm hand as they lack strength of character – and he is the one who will teach it to them. “They show submissiveness, spinelessness, lack of punctuality, and many other factors which prevent them from becoming political activists. These are qualities which it was essential to teach them.”

No one is saying men can’t be involved in the feminist struggle. Allies are an important component in the march towards equality But if you have friends like this, who needs enemies?

And really, people – if a guy says “I have a great idea for more feminism! Show your tits!!” then take a second look, all right?

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

Meet Olympe De Gouges

Sep 7th, 2013 10:30 am | By

The Observer introduced her last week:

She fought to give women the right to divorce. She campaigned for civil partnerships and against slavery. She was a passionate feminist who died for her ideals – and all this in the late 18th century. Now one of France’s greatest honours could be bestowed on Olympe de Gouges, a woman considered by many to be one of the world’s first feminist campaigners.

De Gouges is one of a handful of women being considered for membership of the Panthéon, France’s secular necropolis. Kickstarting a national campaign, the feminist movement Osez le féminisme (Dare to be a feminist) has just launched an e-petition to put pressure on President François Hollande to admit more women to the Panthéon.

Tell us more about the Panthéon, please, Observer.

Designed in the late 1740s on Louis XV’s request, Paris’s Panthéon, originally designed as a church, was completed a few months after the revolution started. The consecration never took place. Instead, revolutionaries decided to dedicate the impressive building perched on top of the Latin Quarter’s hill, just south of the Sorbonne, to the great men and women who have contributed to France’s grandeur.

Very good. Too bad they fell down on the “and women” part.

Born Marie Gouze in 1748, the feminist reinvented herself as Olympe de Gouges in her 20s when she arrived in pre-revolutionary Paris. Opposed to religious marriage, which she deemed “love and trust’s grave”, she preferred companionship.

She chose the theatre, which was at the forefront of avant-garde politics, to express her radical ideas. Performed by her own theatre company, her play The Slavery of the Blacks made her famous. In it she denounced the economics behind slavery and supported its abolition.

She also edited a newsletter, Lettre au Peuple (Letter to the People), in which she developed a series of social reforms. She wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Women, in which she stated: “A woman has the right to be guillotined; she should also have the right to debate.” She campaigned for the right for women to divorce and obtained it. She campaigned in favour of a system of civil partnerships that would replace religious marriage.

All very nice, but did she have a JOB? She should have had a JOB. She should have done real activism and real things instead of all that scribbling, plus she should have had a JOB.

However, her audacity proved too much for some – and Robespierre in particular, whom she had publicly accused of tyranny. She was arrested and sentenced to death in 1793. As she walked up to the guillotine, she declared: “Children of the fatherland, you will avenge my death.”

Oh yes? Well doesn’t Robespierre sound like

no, I won’t say it.

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


Sep 6th, 2013 5:45 pm | By

But they’re much funnier in Texas than those lame-ass Nova Scotians. The hilarious thing to do in Texas is stick a decal on the tailgate of your pickup that makes it look as if there’s a woman tied up in the back of the truck.

Geddit? Killer funny, right?

At a glance, the decal is extremely convincing and acts as an optical illusion to make someone think there is an actual woman tied up in the bed of a truck.

But a closer look reveals that the optical illusion is simply a decal, and there is no woman in distress.

The decal is the handy work of Hornet Signs, a marketing and advertising company in Waco.

According to Brad Kolb, the owner of the company, the sticker was put on an employee’s truck to gauge how realistic their decals are.

Well of course. And they couldn’t have made it a decal of bags of groceries, or a rocking chair, or bales of hay. No, for purely technical reasons, none of those would have gotten as much attention.

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

Oh, now you mention it…

Sep 6th, 2013 4:54 pm | By

Fun and games for the start of a new year at St Mary’s University in Halifax: a chant about the joys of raping underage girls (“o is for oh so tight” is one stanza).

The questionable cheer is based on the word YOUNG – “Y is for your sister … U is for underage, N is for no consent … Saint Mary’s boys we like them young.”

O you already have; “G is for grab that ass” is the other redacted one.

The students didn’t notice anything wrong with it, but now they do. Not noticing seems rather inattentive.

In response, the university is calling in an expert on bullying. (Uh oh – let’s hope it’s not Kristina Hansen aka “the wooly bumblebee”!)

Wayne MacKay, the former chair of a provincial task force on bullying, was appointed by the school after a video surfaced of a chant during frosh week activities at the Halifax university.

He was also called upon frequently to comment on the death of Nova Scotia teenager Rehtaeh Parsons. The provincial government has been focusing on raising awareness around sex and bullying following the death of Ms. Parsons, who attempted suicide after she was allegedly sexually assaulted by several young men at a party in 2011. The 17-year-old had been the victim of bullying and cyberbullying after the incident, according to her family.

The CBC’s The National had a segment on it last night. The reporter talked to a girl, who said cheerfully, “I’m not a feminist sort of person, so it doesn’t affect me personally.”

I was unaware that it was only feminists who object to rape.

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

Secrets and lies

Sep 6th, 2013 11:51 am | By

Stephanie has a post about standards and how we decide whom to believe and related subjects. In it she links to a document that reveals some important background information.

So here we have to weigh Sarah’s word against that of Cornwell, now the former RDFRS executive director. This would be harder for me if Cornwell didn’t have a history of using falsehood to deflect negative attention from Dawkins. She did this in the forum debacle a few years ago. (Yes, that email has been verified with someone who worked for RDFRS at the time. No, the source of the verification is not Timonen.) She did this by privately “clarifying” that Paula Kirby wasn’t part of Dawkins’ foundation when people were baffled that Kirby would write something like “The Sisterhood of the Oppressed”, though Cornwell’s email states that Dawkins insisted that Kirby be included in the foundation. [ETA: Kirby herself has also claimed the association.] Given Cornwell’s history, I don’t see any good reason to think that when someone otherwise trustworthy says something about Dawkins that Cornwell contradicts, I should trust Cornwell.

The link under “forum debacle” is, as Stephanie says, to an email. The email reveals some secret relationships, which explain some things about the atheist and secularist movements – secret relationships among people who ran major organizations and held positions on the boards of other major organizations. The email sheds light on a lot of things – things which should never have been secret – conflicts of interest, in short. Undeclared nepotism, in short. And, probably, why Dawkins took such a ferocious dislike to Rebecca Watson.

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

The de-idolization process

Sep 5th, 2013 6:04 pm | By

American Atheists posted a statement on Facebook a few hours ago in response to Sarah Moglia’s post at Skepchick.

A recent blog post by Sarah Moglia alleges that American Atheists President Dave Silverman acquiesced to a demand by Richard Dawkins in September 2011 that he choose between Rebecca Watson and Dr. Dawkins as speakers at the Reason Rally in March 2012.

American Atheists and Mr. Silverman do not condone, support, or participate in the practice of allowing potential convention speakers, or convention supporters, sponsors, or attendees, to blacklist or attempt to blacklist other potential speakers and attendees.

While Mr. Silverman does not dispute that an exchange with Dr. Dawkins took place in Miami in September of 2011, there was no acquiescence on Mr. Silverman’s part. At the time the exchange took place, Ms. Watson had not in fact been invited to speak at the Reason Rally, and that decision had already been made. The Reason Rally had many more requests from prominent atheists to speak than speaking slots to offer.

There’s more, but that’s the essence of it.

Fair enough. That’s consistent with what Sarah wrote, and it makes sense. Anyway, frankly – I probably would have done the same thing if I’d been in that position. I don’t feel like getting all judgey about it (and neither did Sarah, in the post). The point is that Dawkins shouldn’t have put him in that position, just as he shouldn’t have said “zero harm” and he shouldn’t have said “Dear Muslima.” It’s also that it’s a mistake to have idols. Fortunately the idols themselves are doing a bang-up job of convincing us of that.

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

Guest post: Responsibility, character, retribution

Sep 5th, 2013 5:31 pm | By

A guest post by the philosophical primate, extracted from a comment on Prison disagreed with him.

In calling him a bully and a coward, I addressed Castro’s moral character, and expressed a character judgment. That has bugger all to do with retributive justice.

In fact, one of the aims of a legitimate, socially constructive penal system (which we do not have in this country) is that it offers those convicted of crimes the opportunity and resources to reform their character, to become better human beings. As you said, rehabilitation should be our aim, not retribution — and what is rehabilitation but character reform? But even in American prisons, for all their flaws, some people have used their time in prison to face their own past — not just their criminal actions, but the life history that led up to their criminal actions — and sought to overcome their problems and confront their guilt. In short, they’ve tried to become better human beings, tried to rehabilitate themselves. But becoming a better human being is difficult, and Castro appears to have been too much the coward to even contemplate such a struggle. Instead, he denied responsibility for his actions repeatedly, then escaped the consequences of those actions at the earliest opportunity. Thus, even the last action of his existence was morally blameworthy.

As Hume pointed out a few centuries back (in Enquiry, Section VIII, Part II), the whole business of making moral judgments absolutely requires that people’s behavior is caused by their character. When we judge that an action was not produced by a person’s actual intentions and predispositions — for example, in a genuine accident — we don’t assign moral blame. The fact that character is itself the result of a causal chain in no way negates the possibility of making moral judgments, or sensibly using concepts such as responsibility and blame. Were there reasons why Ariel Castro was a loathsome human being? Logically and psychologically, there certainly must have been: People develop, they don’t just spring into existence wholly formed. Do the causal forces that shaped Ariel Castro into a bully, a coward, and overall vicious person (in the classical sense of vicious, as opposed to virtuous) somehow expiate his responsibility for his actions? Not in the slightest.

Holding people responsible for their actions is not the same as retribution, and some of your arguments here seem to confuse this vital distinction.

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

A ton of backstory

Sep 5th, 2013 11:45 am | By

Speaking of that Aja Romano piece (as I was yesterday) – she heard from a lot of Team Slime people, on her article and on Twitter. One was Aneris23, who tried to tweet her the right way of seeing things.


Aja Romano to Aneris

wait am I literally watching a guy debate semantics around the words “I want to kick you in the cunt”?

like of course he’s not serious, WHY IS HE DEFENDING A GUY WHO THINKS THAT’S AN OKAY THING TO SAY. like, before anything else, no.

 The he doing the defending is Justicar; the link “Aneris” gave is to one of Justicar’s many tedious self-important videos. So, curious about that particular bit, I took a look, and transcribed the relevant passage. It starts at about 5:40.

Ophelia Benson has been deriving a great amount of blog traffic and money from the hoggle [air quotes] cunt kick thing some of you may have heard about? [big sigh] She’s very keen on claiming that he threatened to kick her in the cunt but she’s conspicuously not keen on linking to the original article or putting it in – quoting him exactly, or in the context he said it. What he said was, he would get a sex change, and kick her in the cunt. Now he said this because he knows specifically that Ophelia will not take it as just hyperbolic internet trolling – I mean who’s really going to have sex reassignment surgery, just to kick Ophelia Benson? And, true to form, she ignores the sex change bit, says “oh my god, this man is threatening sexual violence, he’s threatening to come kick me in the cunt.”

How dare I, right? What a nerve.

“hoggle” later joined that exchange, to call me the Talking Prune and explain how right he was to rant about kicking me the cunt. I’m not sure Aja Romano will find that any more persuasive than she found “Aneris.”

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

If she’s going to be there

Sep 5th, 2013 9:50 am | By

So there’s this now – Sarah Moglia got a job as an Event Specialist with the Secular Student Alliance right after she graduated from college. Her first task was to help plan a tour for Richard Dawkins’ children’s book, The Magic of Reality. The first stop of the tour was in Miami.

Hours before the first event, there were people lining up outside the doors. As a member of the team, I was allowed in the auditorium before the event began. It was me, Dave Silverman (President of American Atheists), Elizabeth Cornwell (Executive Director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation), Sean Faircloth (then newly-hired Director of Strategy and Policy for RDF), and Richard Dawkins himself.

At this time (September of 2011), Dave Silverman was heading up the Reason Rally Committee. There was still quite a bit of planning and promotion that needed to be done, so Dave asked Richard, Elizabeth, and Sean to make videos to promote the Reason Rally. (The video Richard ended up making is still viewable.) Richard was standing behind the podium, and he asked Dave something along the lines of, “What exactly is the Reason Rally?” Dave started explaining it, and as he did, someone who was waiting in the line outside opened the door to peek inside and we could all hear a lot of noise. I rushed up the aisle and made frantic “shut the door” gestures at the people peeking inside, and they did. As I walked the ten feet back, I couldn’t hear everything Dave was saying, but I heard the name “Rebecca Watson.” Richard suddenly had a very angry look on his face and I heard him almost shout, “No, absolutely not! If she’s going to be there, I won’t be there. I don’t want her speaking.” and then Dave immediately replied, “You’re absolutely right, we’ll take her off the roster. It’s done.” Richard huffed for a moment, Dave continued to placate him, and then he made the video.

I was crushed. I couldn’t believe it. Richard Dawkins was my hero. I looked up to him as a beacon of truth and reason in a world of irrationality. I couldn’t believe he would act this way toward Rebecca.

Read the rest.

The point is, it’s crappy. It’s an abuse of fame and status and the kind of (intangible) power they confer.

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

And a haircut, while you’re at it

Sep 4th, 2013 6:12 pm | By

One of the things I hate more than some of the other things in The Great Community Wars is the cry of “get a JOB!!”

Like the cry quoted by Aja Romano in a Daily Dot piece on the latest front in The Great Community Wars, mockingly dubbed #tablegate.

Skeptics seized upon the discrepancies in Watson’s post and launched a heated backlash. One of the most outspoken critics of the incident was the ironically named Uberfeminist, a skeptics/atheists blog heavily focused on critiquing “American atheist social justice bloggers.” Uberfeminist believed Watson and Roth were trying to game Dragon Con by getting free attendance and then using their own panels to plug their table and merchandise:

Skepchick may say they’re not trying to make a profit, they’re trying to “break even” when accounting for the cost of making the trip happen. … Presumably the majority of attendees make this work by having a day job and saving money.

That’s far from the first time I’ve seen that stupid trope. It’s almost as popular as “real activists do real things, unlike those losers who write blog posts.” The two are closely related, of course, and about as vulgar and anti-intellectual as it’s possible to get. Yeah, get a job, John Keats – don’t lounge around writing poetry, do some honest work for a change.

Fuck that. People are allowed to try to make it work in other ways. People are allowed to put together a patchwork of partial jobs, to make a living by creating art, to make less money doing what they love instead of more money doing what they hate. People are allowed to do things that have little or no market value but a lot of non-market value. Just having a job isn’t the hallmark of virtue and merit.

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

Prison disagreed with him

Sep 4th, 2013 4:14 pm | By

So Ariel Castro, the guy who kidnapped and enslaved three women, killed himself in his prison cell. (Or he was murdered and the authorities are just saying he killed himself. Who knows, but let’s go with the official story for now.)

Some moments from his life:

In court:

Castro appeared to blame the victims and accused them of lying about their treatment. He went on to say that none of the women was a virgin when he abducted them, that they wanted sex and there was “harmony” in the “happy household.”

Mm. That’s why there were chains; that’s why the windows were boarded up; that’s why Amanda Berry clawed the front door partly open and screamed for help.

At home:

Castro’s 1,400-square-foot home was reconfigured to keep their whereabouts a secret, FBI agent Andrew Burke testified. The back door was outfitted with an alarm, bedspreads and curtains obscured parts of the home and a porch swing was placed in front of the stairs leading to the rooms where Castro held the women and girl hostage.

Police also testified Castro would chain the women to objects, including a support pole in his basement.

In the room where Berry and her daughter were held, the doorknob was removed, a lock was affixed to the outside and a hole was cut through the door for ventilation because the windows had been boarded up from the inside, Burke said.



The first police officer on the scene, Barbara Johnson, recalled for the court how she and another officer heard the pitter-patter of footsteps in a dark room where Knight and DeJesus were held.

When the captive women realized they were police, Knight “literally launched herself” onto an officer, “legs, arms, just choking him. She just kept repeating, ‘You saved us! You saved us!’ ” Johnson said.

The women were described as scared, pale, malnourished and dehydrated when they were rescued. Dr. Gerald Maloney, who was in the emergency room when the victims arrived, said Knight requested that no male physicians attend to her.

Dehydrated. He didn’t even let them have enough water.

Quite an epitaph.

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

The catalyst

Sep 4th, 2013 12:00 pm | By

The Dawkins Foundation has been sprucing up its website lately, I gather. It has a projects page, with two sub pages, one of which is Our Resources Include You. It’s about team-building, I guess, and it starts with You, meaning all us readers, then it goes on to Dawkins and co.

Richard Dawkins, DSc, FRS: One of the most respected scientists in the world and the biggest draw in secularism, Richard Dawkins always generates impressive crowds when visiting North America. On his Fall 2011 tour he drew an enthusiastic crowd of 2300 at Eastern Kentucky University. This is a movement, and Richard Dawkins is the catalyst that galvanizes it. 

Um…that’s a sprucing up too far, that last sentence is. (The first sentence isn’t great either. “Most respected” is such a waffly description, and dubious for that reason. It’s PR-speak. That’s the point, that’s what the page is, that’s probably what the sprucing up is about, but all the same – crude PR-speak isn’t really a plus, especially not for a “movement” or project or whatever that proclaims itself as “for reason and science.” Dawkins wouldn’t introduce himself that way to colleagues, I should think, so he shouldn’t let his PR people introduce him to the rest of the world that way. It looks at the very least silly.)

That’s too long for a parenthesis. Back to the last sentence. THE catalyst? No no no no no no no. Don’t do that. Don’t obliterate everyone else that way. There are a lot of catalysts in this movement, they all contribute to the galvanizing, there is no one catalyst that galvanizes it all by himself.

Also, a factual item -

You. is the most visited website in secularism. It is where secular innovation and secular ideas meet secular people who can and will take action. That’s you.

It’s not the most visited website in secularism. For instance – there’s Freethought Blogs.

Dawkins foundation:

Alexa Traffic Rank: 28,606  United States Flag Traffic Rank in US: 14,785


Alexa Traffic Rank: 17,783  United States Flag Traffic Rank in US: 6,196

Just saying.


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

Your garden variety sexist communications

Sep 4th, 2013 10:56 am | By

Caroline Criado-Perez gave a talk at the Women’s Aid conference; she talked about cyber harassment.

I’d like to start off by giving you a bit of background into what led up to the harassment I received for over two weeks in July and August, because I think it’s important to see how little it takes to provoke this kind of abuse – it’s important to face up to how much of a problem we still have with widespread misogyny against any woman who dares to use her voice in public.

I don’t think of it as “still” – I think of it as new. That’s because I’m a lot older than Criado-Perez, so I didn’t grow up with the internet, so I remember a time when there was no real way for misogynists to call women bitches and cunts in a public, archivable way. Norman Mailer couldn’t go on the Dick Cavett show and call feminists bitches and cunts, because he would simply have been bleeped. One of the many novelties the internet makes possible is noisy, repetitive, unabashed misogyny and harassment.

So some of you may have heard of a campaign I ran from April to July this year, asking the Bank of England to review its decision to have an all-male line-up on banknotes. (Note to media, I really didn’t campaign for Jane Austen’s face on a banknote, please stop saying I did, thank you!) The campaign received quite a lot of media attention, and I spent much of my time rehearsing arguments about the damage a public culture saturated with white male faces does to the aspirations and achievements of women and young girls.

She could have put that last bit better. It’s not the saturation with white male faces, it’s the lack of other kinds of faces. The point isn’t to say white males get out, it’s to say white males aren’t all there are.

As a result of this media attention, throughout the campaign I had been on the receiving end of your garden variety sexist communications. The sort that call you a bitch, a cunt, that tell you to get back to the kitchen. The sort that tell you to shut up, stop whining, stop moaning – to get a life.

Then the Bank of England made its decision, and the real harassment got going. She gives details; lots of details.

One of the saddest things about the abuse I suffered, was the fact that it wasn’t just from men. Some women joined in on the act too – although the majority of the malicious communications I got from women were of the victim-blaming variety. Stop attention-seeking, you’re a media whore, a fame hag, bet you’re crying your way to the bank over this. If you were really bothered you would just keep quiet. You’re not silenced – look at you all over the airwaves. Why should we care about you, you’re not perfect, you’re no mother Teresa. And at its worst and most blatant: “you’re no victim”.

Not even a professional one? They missed a trick there.

The psychological fall-out is still unravelling. I feel like I’m walking around like a timer about to explode; I’m functioning at just under boiling point – and it takes so little to make me cry – or to make me scream.

And I’m still being told not to feed the trolls.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate that phrase. That phrase takes no account of the feelings of the victim – only of the feelings of a society that doesn’t care, that doesn’t want to hear it, that wants women to put up and shut up. It completely ignores the actions of the abuser, focusing only on the actions of the victim – because that’s what we do in this society. We police victims. We ask “why doesn’t she leave?” instead of asking “why doesn’t he stop?”

Why doesn’t she just say “no thank you” to more wine? Why didn’t she go to the police? Why should we believe her? Why would any skeptic ever believe any report of harassing behavior? Why do you hate skepticism?

Victims have to be allowed to stand up and shout back – they need to be allowed to ask for support, without being accused of attention-seeking. They need to be allowed to draw the attention of the world to what so many women go through on a daily basis, and make it front page news. Because, make no mistake. Not talking about this is not going to make abuse and misogyny go away. On the contrary, it will help it to thrive.

So many women got in touch with me when the story broke to thank me for speaking out about it, for making it front page news for so long. They had been through the same, they said. And the police had not helped them. The police had told them to lock their accounts, to stop tweeting controversial things – in one case, the controversial thing being tweeted about was racism. A black woman was being told she could not tweet about racism, because there was nothing the police could do about the ensuing rape threats.

Yep. If you don’t like being harassed, get off Twitter – that’s what we’re told. If you don’t like people ranting about wanting to kick you in the cunt, stop writing and talking in public. It’s easy. It’s simple. Just shut up, and the problem is solved.

Except that that is the problem – women being bullied into shutting up is the problem. Women being bullied into shutting up can’t be the solution to the problem of women being bullied into shutting up.



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

Malala at the library

Sep 3rd, 2013 4:48 pm | By

Malala Yousafzai opened the new Birmingham Library today.

How’s that for the best possible revenge? It’s not revenge at all, it’s just surviving and flourishing and being an inspiration to people who need that very thing, when ignorant warped bullies wanted her dead.

As part of the opening ceremony, Malala placed her copy of The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho in the library – the last book to go on the shelves. She has been given membership to access the archive.

Addressing the public, Malala said she was feeling very proud the building had been designed by a woman and the city was now her second home after her “beloved Pakistan”.

She said books were weapons to beat terrorism and “the only way to global peace is reading knowledge and education”.

“Books are precious,” she explained.

“Some books travel with you back centuries, others take you into the future. Some take you to the core of your heart and others take you into the universe.

“There’s no better way to explain the importance of books than to show even God chose the medium of a book to send his message to his people.

“This library will continue to enlighten future generations.

“It is written that a room without books is like a body without a soul. A city without a library is like a graveyard.”

Speaking of how Birmingham has become a home to her, Malala said: “This city is the beating heart of England.

“Birmingham is very special for me, because it was here I found myself alive seven days after I was shot.”

She said the “great people” of the city gave her moral support.

“This event proves this city loves me and I love it too.”

The BBC has a slideshow – the restored Shakespeare room is a knockout, as is the roof garden and the view of Brum from the roof.

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