Notes and Comment Blog

If they can, why can’t we??!

Apr 17th, 2015 3:54 pm | By

Get special rules, that is.

In Tennessee:

In an effort to get around recently passed zoning laws the owners of [a] Tennessee swingers club are rebranding their proposed establishment as a church, according to WSMV.

Previously the owners of the proposed club in Madison had submitted plans to convert a former medical building, situated next to a Christian school, into a sex club only to meet with stiff public resistance.

Following a packed and contentious meeting last month — with one audience member shouting “we don’t want this darkness to extinguish this beacon of light that has been here for years and years” –  the Metro Council amended the zoning laws to prevent the club from being developed.

Well you know…they would sort of have to amend the zoning laws for the whole entire town, wouldn’t they? I mean I hate to break it to them but I think there are probably people doing sex in many many places in Madison, Tennessee. I know it’s shocking and filthy, but there you go – people are like that. Sex!! In all the houses!!!

Relying upon federal laws that protect churches, the owners reapplied as a church. A room that was once labeled “the dungeon” is now the “choir room.” The former “game room” will now be known as a “fellowship hall.”

Ricky Perry, president of Goodpasture Christian School located next to the development, called changes and owners of the club “irreverent.”

“It just seems like there’s nothing you wouldn’t stoop to try to accomplish what you’re trying to do,” he said. “It’s obvious to me that all they’re trying to do is find another way to legally, or through some loophole, accomplish what they want to do.”

Or maybe it’s the Council that amended the zoning laws to stop them, hmmmm? Maybe they’re the ones trying to find another way to legally, or through some loophole, stop people from doing something because they think it’s ooky.

God bless.

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

Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict

Apr 17th, 2015 12:57 pm | By

We’ve been talking about this idea that climate change is going to cause a lot of mass migration, and the claim that it won’t be a problem if we just have open borders everywhere. I find that claim not at all credible, so I thought I would gesture toward a source or two.

The Center for American Progress has a report.

From the summary:

Recent intelligence reports and war games, including some conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense, conclude that over the next two or three decades, vulnerable regions (particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia) will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises, and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change. These developments could demand U.S., European, and international humanitarian relief or military responses, often the delivery vehicle for aid in crisis situations.

That seems odd at first blush, but of course the military has the equipment and the personnel to do jobs like that…assuming, that is, it’s not all tied-up with a grotesquely ill-advised war.

But will there be migration or not?

In the 21st century the world could see substantial numbers of climate migrants—people displaced by either the slow or sudden onset of the effects of climate change. The United Nations’ recent Human Development Report stated that, worldwide, there are already an estimated 700 million internal migrants—those leaving their homes within their own countries—a number that includes people whose migration is related to climate change and environmental factors. Overall migration across national borders is already at approximately 214 million people worldwide, with estimates of up to 20 million displaced in 2008 alone because of a rising sea level, desertification, and flooding.

One expert, Oli Brown of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, predicts a tenfold increase in the current number of internally displaced persons and international refugees by 2050. It is important to acknowledge that there is no consensus on this estimate. In fact there is major disagreement among experts about how to identify climate as a causal factor in internal and international migration.

It’s not going to come with labels on it. Most migrants aren’t going to say “I’m here because of climate change.”

But even though the root causes of human mobility are not always easy to decipher, the policy challenges posed by that movement are real. A 2009 report by the International Organization for Migration produced in cooperation with the United Nations University and the Climate Change, Environment and Migration Alliance cites numbers that range from “200 million to 1 billion migrants from cli- mate change alone, by 2050,” arguing that “environmental drivers of migration are often coupled with economic, social and developmental factors that can accelerate and to a certain extent mask the impact of climate change.”

The report also notes that “migration can result from different environmental factors, among them gradual environmental degradation (including desertification, soil and coastal erosion) and natural disasters (such as earthquakes, floods or tropical storms).” (See box on page 15 for a more detailed definition of climate migrants.) Clearly, then, climate change is expected to aggravate many existing migratory pressures around the world. Indeed associated extreme weather events resulting in drought, floods, and disease are projected to increase the number of sudden humanitarian crises and disasters in areas least able to cope, such as those already mired in poverty or prone to conflict.

Or both.

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

On the Town Hall to Sydney Airport service

Apr 17th, 2015 12:25 pm | By

The SMH tells us what Hafeez Ahmed Bhatti says about how Stacey Eden acted on that train. Spoiler: he doesn’t call her a white savior.

A man at the receiving end of an anti-Islamic tirade on a Sydney train has thanked the woman who stood up for his family and is meeting police on Friday to report the incident.

Hafeez Ahmed Bhatti, his wife and their four-month-old son were catching the train to Sydney Airport on Wednesday afternoon, after a one-day visit from Brisbane, when they were subjected to a torrent of abuse from a woman sitting opposite them.

Fellow passenger Stacey Eden was hailed a ‘legend’ for pulling out her camera phone and standing up to the woman after witnessing “a good 10 minutes” of abuse.

“Legend” is a silly word. I can discount some of Ashkitha Nagesh’s hostility toward Eden on the grounds that “legend” is a silly word applied to what she did on that train. She did the right thing, in my view, even if she didn’t word it perfectly throughout, but it was far from being such a heroic thing that it needs to be called legendary. [Update: see comments for why I was wrong about that.]

Mr Bhatti, an accountant from Pakistan, has revealed further details of what happened before Ms Eden started filming, saying the abusive passenger first touched his wife on her head and asked why she was wearing a hijab in such warm weather.

“I was [a] little shocked, she touched my wife’s head like she was blessing [her],” he said. “And then she started her ignorant comments.”

Oh, man – I’d be way more than a little shocked at that. You don’t touch people! And certainly not on the head!

The woman, wearing a red top and red floral pants, then proceeded to tell the couple that all Muslims should leave Australia and asked why they follow someone who married a six year-old child.

Ms Eden’s footage captured the woman asking Ms Bhatti’s wife: “Why do you wear it [a hijab] for a man that marries a six year-old girl?”

She rants about beheadings and the Martin Place siege while Ms Eden tells her it has nothing to do with the lady, who is sitting quietly.

Ms Eden’s smackdown ends with her angrily telling the woman: “if you’ve got nothing nice to say, don’t say anything, it’s simple.”

It is, it’s very simple. You don’t berate people on trains or in shops or at the bus stop. You leave people alone unless they are…you know…verbally abusing someone.

Mariam Veiszadeh, founder of the Islamophobia Register Australia, said such incidents had become more common after the Reclaim Australia rallies earlier this month.

“Is it any surprise that such sentiments are being expressed by people out in public given the Reclaim Australia movement and the rampant Islamophobia which ensued, and the woeful silence of our political leaders, which has created an environment where Islamophobia can flourish?” she said.

“It’s about time that authorities and our government acknowledged that Islamophobia is a problem.”

Bigotry against Muslims, is what it is, and what the problem is.

Meanwhile though, Ashkitha Nagesh is getting dogpiled on Twitter, and that’s no good either.

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

Slavery has no place full stop

Apr 17th, 2015 11:28 am | By

Amnesty International shares a letter from Samar Badawi to her husband Waleed Abu al-Khair. Samar Badawi is Raif Badawi’s sister.

He taught me that a person is born free and that it is up to him or her to live in freedom or die trying to achieve it. Slavery has no place in his life except when it comes to serving God, the one and only. Now, he lives in freedom even though he is behind bars with his colleagues Abdullah al-Hamid, Mohammad al-Qahtani and many other activists imprisoned purely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

That’s a very odd exception, I have to say. Slavery is bad except when it’s slavery to god? I couldn’t disagree more. Slavery to god is the worst, because there is no avenue of appeal.

But, that apart…

Know then, dear husband, that it is tyranny and oppression that have put you behind bars.

In Saudi Arabia those who chose to rule in the name of Islam and Shari’a law have treated such jurisprudence as mere ink on paper. Those who claim to use religion to protect me are the very people who took away my safety and security, for within the kingdom those meant to be serving justice have decided that oppression should be a cause for celebration.

So a word to them…

To all those rulers and judges who have unfairly imprisoned the free, and enslaved the people, beware of the judgement you will receive from the heavens above. Woe to you who have terrorized the aggrieved out of pride.

To my fellow Saudi Arabians I say that my husband has been imprisoned so that you could live free. He stood up to the tyrants to claim your rights; he faced up to his oppressors telling them he would not tolerate their repression. Remember that history does not forget, it will exalt those who have fought for freedom and cast aside the memory of those who succumbed to a life of humiliation and servitude.

I like that part much better.

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

Omøgade 8, Østerbro i København

Apr 17th, 2015 10:26 am | By

It’s Friday, so.

Raif was not flogged today.

Via Ensaf Haidar via Dansk PEN – protests in Copenhagen over the past many weeks:

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

An own goal

Apr 16th, 2015 6:28 pm | By

I’m late catching up with the Hugo awards – Vox Day – Sad Puppies – Rabid Puppies – Connie Willis stories. It’s pretty pathetic, and sad.

One recent summary:

The Hugo Awards have long honored authors, illustrators, and even fans, for their contributions to the field of sci-fi and fantasy. Past recipients have included Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. Le Guin, William Gibson, and J.K. Rowling, to name just a few. Like any prestigious award in a highly competitive industry, the Hugos are no stranger to controversy. This year, however, the Hugo nomination process was marred when a small cadre of science fiction writers and their fans systematically set out to manipulate the entire awards roster away from a diverse group of authors writing about diverse issues, and towards stories about big explosions and shiny lasers. And thanks to the Hugo’s relatively open nomination process (for $40, anyone can become a “supporting” and voting member of the awards’ parent organization, The World Science Fiction Society) it’s all perfectly legal. Not a single rule broken.

Making speculative fiction more conservative! What a great idea! Obviously it’s the ideal genre for conservatism and let’s keep doing things the way they were done when I was six-ism.

To the Puppies, the genres of science fiction and fantasy lose credibility the more they focus on things like racism, sexism, and sheer innovative storytelling, instead of telling tales about shooting guns or swinging swords. Last year’s Hugo awards ceremony was hailed for its emphasis on younger, more diverse nominees. This year, three of the five “Best Novel” nominees, three out of five “Best Short Story” nominees, and the entire “Best Novella” category are Puppy picks.

And some of the biggest names in sci-fi and fantasy have noticed.

Here’s Hugo winner John Scalzi:

…[I]t’s okay to penalize graceless award grasping by people who clearly despise the Hugo and what they believe it represents, and yet so very desperately crave the legitimacy they believe the award will confer to them. Therapy is the answer there, not a literary award.

And there are others. And then there’s Connie Willis.

Connie Willis, 11-time Hugo winner, with more science fiction and fantasy awards under her belt than any other writer, has turned down an invitation to present at this year’s ceremonies. Initially reluctant to boycott, Willis felt she had no choice after hearing reports that Puppy leader Vox Day had threatened to continue his campaign of nomination manipulation until one of his handpicked choices was given an award—in essence, holding the Hugos hostage. Explaining her decision, Willis writes:

to Vox Day, Brad Torgeson, and their followers, I have this to say:

You may have been able to cheat your way onto the ballot. (And don’t talk to me about how this isn’t against the rules–doing anything except nominating the works you personally liked best is cheating in my book.) You may even be able to bully and intimidate people into voting for you. But you can’t make me hand you the Hugo and say “Congratulations,” just as if you’d actually won it. And you can’t make me appear onstage and tell jokes and act like this year’s Hugo ceremony is business as usual and what you’ve done is okay. I’m not going to help you get away with this. I love the Hugo Awards too much.”

Brilliant move – drive all the best people away. No sacrifice is to great when it comes to keeping the women and other weirdos out.

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

Stacey Eden is a mensch

Apr 16th, 2015 5:25 pm | By

The so-called “white savior,” Stacey Eden, posted a bit of video on Facebook of the verbal abuse of the Muslim couple on a train. It seems pretty clear that she didn’t take it or post it to show off, but to document the abuse and say “people, don’t do that.” She did a damn good job of telling the abuser “don’t do that.”

Here’s her caption:

So i sat there for a good 10 minutes before i started recording this, while i listened to this woman bad mouth muslims and call the lady sitting opposite me an ISIS supporter because she wore a scarf, then she told me to go join ISIS because i was sticking up for her. People like this make me sick. People who are so ignorant and disrespectful to other people who were clearly sitting there minding their own business.
She was saying some pretty horrible and hurtful things before i spoke up then as soon as i started defending them she stopped.

People need to stop judging and putting others down over religion! EVERY RELIGION HAS GOOD AND BAD but if you take it back to the foundations, every religion is also built on LOVE. To LOVE one another.

The purpose of religion is to control yourself, not to criticise others.

She did the right thing. “White savior” my ass.

Here’s what Hafeez Ahmed Bhatti said on his Facebook wall.

Yesterday, before the video:

I was in the train to catch my flight and she targeted my wife and commenting on her. However, one of young Australian lady was arguing with her that she should stop racism.

Nothing about wishing she hadn’t or feeling patronized or white-saviored.

A woman friend replied:

Ahh good on her.

He posted a story from the Daily Mail, with pictures of all of them including Stacey Eden. A friend of his commented:

Watu Izzu Mantasha, Watu Zillu Mantasha.

This verse from Surah Al-Imran, which is extensively quoted by the faithful, simply means Allah honors those He is pleased with and disgraces those He is not happy with..

MASHA’ALLAH man good to see & pray (love) for Stacy Eden

The last one, 20 hours ago:

This video was not recorded by me. But that is what happened to us on sydney train, God bless Stacey Eden who support us.

Not a word from any of them about how Stacey Eden robbed them of their agency as opposed to making them feel less isolated and alone.

God damn. When you see people in trouble in some way, yes, you try to help. You be a mensch.

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

Oh no, not a “white saviour”

Apr 16th, 2015 4:40 pm | By

Hey, it turns out it actually is the right thing to do to sit still when people are being verbally abused and do nothing to intervene. I know, I’m surprised too! I thought it wasn’t! I thought it was pretty assholish to sit like a lump and stare while people are given shit by a stranger in a public place. But nope! Nope nope nope! That’s the correct, non-white-savior thing to do. If you speak up you’re denying agency to the people being abused. Leave them alone, you colonialist!

It’s Ashitha Nagesh who sets us straight about this, in the Independent.

You may have already seen the video from Australia that has gone viral today. It shows a middle-aged racist in a train ranting at a young Muslim couple, making some confusing links between the woman’s hijab and the Islamic State, Al-Shabaab’s attack in Garissa, and Muhammad “marrying a six-year-old” or something. She made no sense, as hardline racists never do.

But cue superwoman Stacey Eden! A white knight in shining armour swoops in to save the day, protecting the couple from the onslaught of abuse being hurled at them from across the carriage.

“She wears it for herself, OK? She wears it because she wants to be modest with her body, not because of people like you who are going to sit there and disrespect her.”

Isn’t it good Stacey was there? The couple were naturally mute and incapable of independent thought. Hell, they don’t even seem to have names, judging from most reports. They needed Stacey to save them.

Except… they didn’t.

Personally I found this video uncomfortable, but not for the reasons most other people seemed to. Yes I was disgusted by the racism, but I also felt patronised. It is just an incredibly patronising video. The couple are treated like children who can’t possibly be expected to deal with a crap situation by themselves.

I apologize. I apologize for all white people everywhere (except the ones who are wearing hijabs on trains). I apologize for all white saviors who try to help when some stranger gets abusive toward a woman wearing a hijab. I’m so ashamed of us. When will we learn to sit still and do nothing when people are being abused right in front of us? We’re so meddlesome.

The problem with videos like this is that they perpetuate the idea of the helpless minority needing a “white saviour” to stick up for them – and the attention has shifted so strongly onto Stacey that we don’t even know who this couple is or how they actually felt about the whole situation.

So true. It would be way better to perpetuate the idea of the callous indifference of the population at large to xenophobic bullying. If only there were more of that kind of thing!

Sarcasm fit over. What a shitty article. I do think what the “white savior” said was the wrong thing to say, because she’s not a mind-reader and she doesn’t know why the woman wears hijab. She should have just said hey, stop that, leave them alone, back off. But do I think she did a bad thing by intervening? Hell no. What Nagesh says is complete bullshit. Being verbally attacked by a stranger in a public place is a very intimidating experience, and knowing that some of the other strangers around are on your side is not a bad thing. Support in a situation like that is not a bad thing. People just sitting there gulping like fish makes it all worse. Nagesh is completely wrong, and ill-natured to boot.

Solidarity is not a bad thing. It’s a great thing, it’s one of the best things. It’s ridiculously precious to find fault with it for contrived reasons.

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

Lettre ouverte aux escrocs de l’islamophobie

Apr 16th, 2015 12:57 pm | By

L’Obs today has extracts from Charb’s book, “Lettre ouverte aux escrocs de l’islamophobie qui font le jeu des racistes.”

Again, I’ll attempt a translation; tell me what I get wrong. (I know some of you are Francophones, you can’t hide.)

L’islamophobie, un concept mal taillé

“Les militants communautaristes qui essaient d’imposer aux autorités judiciaires et politiques la notion d”islamophobie’ n’ont pas d’autre but que de pousser les victimes de racisme à s’affirmer musulmanes (…) Si demain les musulmans de France se convertissent au catholicisme ou bien renoncent à toute religion, ça ne changera rien au discours des racistes : ces étrangers ou ces Français d’origine étrangère seront toujours désignés comme responsables de tous les maux.”

Islamophobia, a crude concept

The communitarian militants who tried to impose the notion of “Islamophobia” on judicial and political authorities had no other goal than to push victims of racism into self-identifying as Muslims. (…) If Muslims in France convert to Catholicism tomorrow, or even renounce all religion, that won’t change anything about racist discourse: these foreigners or these French people of foreign origin will always be made responsible for everything bad.

The next one is funny.

Avoir peur est un droit

“Avoir peur de l’islam est sans doute crétin, absurde, et plein d’autres choses encore, mais ce n’est pas un délit. (…) le problème, ce n’est ni le Coran ni la Bible, romans soporifiques, incohérents et mal écrits, mais le fidèle qui lit le Coran ou la Bible comme on lit la notice de montage d’une étagère Ikea.”

Being afraid is a right

Being afraid of Islam is for sure stupid, absurd, and lots of other things besides, but it’s not a crime. (…) The problem is not the Koran or the Bible, soporifically boring novels, incoherent and badly written, but the faithist who reads the Koran or the Bible as one reads the instructions for putting together an Ikea bookshelf.

I wish he were alive to write more books.

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

Capitalising much?

Apr 16th, 2015 11:58 am | By

One of those times when the jaw drops so hard it hits the desk.


A tweet by Myriam François-Cerrah:

M Francois-Cerrah‏@MFrancoisCerrah
Capitalising much? Charlie Hebdo’s Charb publishes posthumous book on Islam … #bloodmoney

Blood money? Blood money? Whose blood is she talking about? Charb and his colleagues were murdered by the Kouachi brothers, not the other way around. Charb didn’t kill anyone, or order anyone killed, or incite anyone to kill. What blood money is François-Cerrah talking about?

And “capitalizing”? Charb is capitalizing on his own death, when he is dead? How is he doing that exactly?

He wrote the book before the Kouachi brothers murdered him and all those others. He’s not “capitalizing” on anything – he’s dead. Finished, story closed, no more books or cartoons, over.

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

“Sometimes I was sold. Sometimes I was given as a gift.”

Apr 16th, 2015 11:13 am | By

HRW reports on what ISIS/Daesh is doing to Yezidi women and girls in northern Iraq. HRW interviewed 20 women and girls who escaped.

ISIS forces took several thousand Yezidi civilians into custody in northern Iraq’s Nineveh province in August 2014, according to Kurdistan officials and community leaders. Witnesses said that fighters systematically separated young women and adolescent girls from their families and other captives and moved them from one location to another inside Iraq and Syria.

The 11 women and 9 girls Human Rights Watch interviewed had escaped between September 2014 and January 2015. Half, including two 12-year-old girls, said they had been raped – some multiple times and by several ISIS fighters. Nearly all of them said they had been forced into marriage; sold, in some cases a number of times; or given as “gifts.” The women and girls also witnessed other captives being abused.

I think that must mean they were all raped. I wonder if they’re not calling it rape if they were forced into “marriage.” (In my view forced “marriage” shouldn’t be called marriage at all. That’s not marriage, it’s enslavement. The two should be treated as radically different.)

Human Rights Watch also interviewed more than a dozen international and local service providers, medical workers, Kurdish officials, community leaders, and activists who corroborated these accounts. A local doctor treating female survivors in Dohuk told Human Rights Watch that of the 105 women and girls she had examined, 70 appeared to have been raped in ISIS captivity.

I wonder if that means “appeared to have had sex” or “appeared to have been violently subjected to sex.” The first would still be rape, given the circumstances.

In October 2014, ISIS acknowledged in its publication Dabiq that its fighters had given captured Yezidi women and girls to its fighters as “spoils of war.”

Oh, I don’t think “acknowledged” is the right word. I think they proclaimed it, boastfully and proudly.

In October 2014, ISIS acknowledged in its publication Dabiq that its fighters had given captured Yezidi women and girls to its fighters as “spoils of war.” ISIS has sought to justify sexual violence claiming that Islam permits sex with non-Muslim “slaves,” including girls, as well as beating and selling them. The statements are further evidence of a widespread practice and a systematic plan of action by ISIS, Human Rights Watch said.

Well, Islam does permit sex with non-Muslim slaves, as the bible does with its outgroups.

The women and girls who spoke to Human Rights Watch described repeated rape, sexual violence, and other abuse in ISIS captivity.

Jalila (all survivors’ names have been changed for their security), age 12, said that Arab men whom she recognized from her village north of Sinjar accosted her and seven family members on August 3, 2014, as they were trying to flee ISIS. The men handed the family over to ISIS fighters, who separated Jalila, her sister, sister-in-law, and infant nephew from the other family members and took them to Tal Afar. Later, the fighters took Jalila and her sister to Mosul. Thirty-five days later they separated Jalila from her sister and took her to a house in Syria that housed other abducted young Yezidi women and girls. Jalila said:

The men would come and select us. When they came, they would tell us to stand up and then examine our bodies. They would tell us to show our hair and sometimes they beat the girls if they refused. They wore dishdashas [ankle length garments], and had long beards and hair.

She said that the ISIS fighter who selected her slapped her and dragged her out of the house when she resisted. “I told him not to touch me and begged him to let me go,” she said. “I told him to take me to my mother. I was a young girl, and I asked him, ‘What do you want from me?’ He spent three days having sex with me.”

Jalila said that during her captivity, seven ISIS fighters “owned” her, and four raped her on multiple occasions: “Sometimes I was sold. Sometimes I was given as a gift. The last man was the most abusive; he used to tie my hands and legs.”

Age 12.

To be continued.

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

What is that, if not discrimination?

Apr 16th, 2015 10:18 am | By

Charb finished a book on the right to ridicule religion two days before he was killed in the slaughter at Charlie Hebdo.

Charb had received numerous death threats following Charlie Hebdo’s publication of cartoons featuring the Prophet Muhammad in 2006. The magazine’s offices were firebombed in 2012.

Charb’s book – which goes on sale on Thursday – is entitled An Open Letter to the Fraudsters of Islamophobia who Play into Racists’ Hands.

It is both a defence of Charlie Hebdo’s editorial stance and an attack on the paper’s detractors.

“The suggestion that you can laugh at everything, except certain aspects of Islam, because Muslims are much more prickly than the rest of the population – what is that, if not discrimination?”

He condemns this position as “white, left-wing bourgeois intellectual paternalism”.

Another name for it, one that I consider more elegant and also more informative, is the racism of low expectations. I’m sure Charb makes that point himself, it’s just that the BBC chose that particular description.

Anyway…that is what it is. People do it for benevolent reasons, mostly, I guess – in the rich world, most Muslims are immigrants or the children or grandchildren of immigrants, and immigrants from poorer parts of the world as opposed to richer ones. They’re the despised other in more than one way, so people on the left are likely to think they need protection from various kinds of othering. Criticism and mockery of Islam are seen as one kind of othering. Criticism and mockery of Islam can in fact be a kind of othering, but they aren’t necessarily, and in any case the real issue is that Islam is itself something that has huge power over its putative members (who of course include people who don’t want to be members but can’t stop being members for all the reasons we’re so familiar with). Islam itself others many kinds of people. Islam itself is hierarchical and discriminatory. Islam itself has many faults, and treating it as sacrosanct simply helps it keep all its members, unwilling as well as willing, closely confined.

I look forward to reading Charb’s book.

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

On a boat headed to Sicily

Apr 16th, 2015 9:44 am | By

This is a tiny taste of what climate change is going to look like in the future – mass migrations, which by definition overwhelm the countries or regions people migrate to, because it’s not possible to prepare for them in advance. There will be horrors. There already are horrors, and they’ll get worse.

Italian police say they have arrested 15 Muslim migrants after they allegedly threw 12 Christians overboard following a row on a boat headed to Italy.

The Christian migrants, said to be from Ghana and Nigeria, are all feared dead.

In a separate incident, more than 40 people drowned after another migrant boat sunk between Libya and Italy.

The boats are unsafe and horrifically overloaded. Be sure to see the BBC’s photo of the open boat literally packed solid with people.

In the latest sinking, the Italian navy plucked four survivors – a Ghanaian, two Nigerians, and a man from Niger – from the sea and took them to Sicily along with 600 other migrants trying to make the crossing in various vessels. They told the police their inflatable boat sank not long after leaving the coast of Libya with 45 people on board.

Meanwhile, police in Palermo say that 15 Muslim migrants, who travelled on another boat, were arrested on charges of “multiple aggravated murder motivated by religious hate”, after several surviving migrants came forward and told them of an altercation which resulted in 12 Christians being thrown overboard.

The men who have been charged come from the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali and Guinea.

More room in the boat for the survivors.

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

Don’t mention the Armenian genocide

Apr 15th, 2015 5:25 pm | By

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is mad at the pope for mentioning the Armenian genocide. The what? The Armenian genocide. I can’t quite hear you. THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE. Oh yes, the Armenian genocide.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he condemned the Pope and warned him to “not repeat this mistake”.

Turkey rejects the use of the term genocide to describe the killings, arguing it was a civil war in which both sides died.

It is calling for a joint study by historians of what happened.

As if no historians have studied it.

Turkey recalled its envoy to the Vatican after Pope Francis made the comments on Sunday at a Mass at St Peter’s Basilica, attended by the Armenian president and the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Karekin II.

The Pope said that humanity had lived through “three massive and unprecedented tragedies” in the last century.

“The first, which is widely considered the first genocide of the 20th Century, struck your own Armenian people,” he said, in a form of words used in a declaration by Pope John Paul II in 2001.

But Turkey says it wasn’t a genocide, it was just a misunderstanding.

Mr Erdogan said on Tuesday that when political or religious leaders played the role of historians, what resulted was “delirium, not fact”.

Except when Mr Erdogan does it. That’s entirely different.

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

And in that they were exceedingly successful

Apr 15th, 2015 4:57 pm | By

The Washington Post has the whole text of Garry Trudeau’s speech on receiving the George Polk award, so we can do a thorough job of scowling at the wrongness.

I, and most of my colleagues, have spent a lot of time discussing red lines since the tragedy in Paris. As you know, the Muhammad cartoon controversy began [more than] eight years ago in Denmark, as a protest against “self-censorship,” one editor’s call to arms against what he felt was a suffocating political correctness. The idea behind the original drawings was not to entertain or to enlighten or to challenge authority — his charge to the cartoonists was specifically to provoke, and in that they were exceedingly successful.

Wait. I disagree that the idea behind the original drawings was not to challenge authority – and for that matter in doing so to entertain and enlighten. But to challenge authority? Fuck yes! Of course it was. It was to challenge theocratic authority that was saying You Must Not Draw This One Historical-Religious Person, because our religion says so. Disobeying that wholly illegitimate command is to challenge authority. Yes the religion in question is a religion of outsiders in Denmark, so yes that complicates things, but it doesn’t make Islam not authoritarian. If only it did.

Frankly it seems pretty dense of Trudeau not to see that.

…and in that they were exceedingly successful. Not only was one cartoonist gunned down, but riots erupted around the world, resulting in the deaths of scores. No one could say toward what positive social end, yet free-speech absolutists were unchastened. Using judgment and common sense in expressing oneself were denounced as antithetical to freedom of speech.

That first snide remark is revolting – they did not set out to get people killed, so no they were not successful.

And yes people could say toward what positive social end – toward the end of being able to talk freely about Islam, which would benefit the outsiders in Denmark, i.e. Muslims, more than anyone else.

And “judgment and common sense” is an odd label for bowing to the orders of theocrats. We need to be able to talk freely about Islam; Muslims need that much more than the rest of us do, and it’s not doing them a favor to treat it as a third rail.

And now we are adrift in an even wider sea of pain. Ironically, Charlie Hebdo — which always maintained it was attacking Islamic fanatics, not the general population — has succeeded in provoking many Muslims throughout France to make common cause with its most violent outliers. This is a bitter harvest.

Has it? What about the many Muslims who do the opposite? Why is Garry Trudeau erasing them from the picture?

Traditionally, satire has comforted the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. Great French satirists like Molière and Daumier always punched up, holding up the self-satisfied and hypocritical to ridicule. Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny—it’s just mean.

The White House took a lot of hits for not sending a high-level representative to the pro-Charlie solidarity march, but that oversight is now starting to look smart.


No it is not. What a horrible thing to say.

Has he not heard of Raif Badawi? If he has I don’t see how he can treat Islamist violence as unproblematically a natural response to criticism. If he has I don’t see how he can treat Islam in general, Islam as a world religion that is entangled with government in many countries, as unproblematically the underdog.

Meanwhile, the French government kept busy rounding up and arresting over 100 Muslims who had foolishly used their freedom of speech to express their support of the attacks.

The murders. The murders, the murders, the murders.

Shame on you, Garry Trudeau.

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

Well, voilà

Apr 15th, 2015 4:20 pm | By

I started to say I hate to agree with David Frum, but then I paused and decided I don’t, really – I’ve seen or heard him say reasonable things more than once, so it’s fatuous to hate to agree with him just because he’s a conservative.

He wrote about Garry Trudeau v Charlie Hebdo a couple of days ago, starting with a compliment to the Anglo-American liberal instinct to sympathize with the underdog.

This is not a universal human norm. Across much of the modern world, human beings still follow the ancient Roman rule,vae victis—woe to the loser. But the liberal tradition appealingly sees its core task as standing up for the weak against the powerful.

“Hold off, Cuff; don’t bully that child any more; or I’ll—”

“Or you’ll what?” Cuff asked in amazement at this interruption. “Hold out your hand, you little beast.”

“I’ll give you the worst thrashing you ever had in your life,” Dobbin said, in reply to the first part of Cuff’s sentence; and little Osborne, gasping and in tears, looked up with wonder and incredulity at seeing this amazing champion put up suddenly to defend him: while Cuff’s astonishment was scarcely less. Fancy our late monarch George III when he heard of the revolt of the North American colonies: fancy brazen Goliath when little David stepped forward and claimed a meeting; and you have the feelings of Mr. Reginald Cuff …

I wonder if that famous scene from Thackeray’s great novel Vanity Fair echoed in Garry Trudeau’s mind as he stepped forward to deliver his acceptance speech at the Polk Awards last week.

Beautifully put. I certainly hope Trudeau wasn’t thinking of the CH cartoonists as the equivalent of sadistic schoolteachers.

Almost exactly three months have passed since two heavily armed gunmen killed 11 people and wounded 11 more to punish a satirical weekly for publishing images they did not like. At the same time, two associates took hostages in a Parisian kosher supermarket, leading to the deaths of four shoppers. About a month later, a sympathizer with the Charlie Hebdo killers opened fire upon a meeting in Copenhagen attended by another cartoonist. One person was killed; three police officers were wounded. That same killer then proceeded to Copenhagen’s main synagogue, where he murdered a volunteer security guard and wounded two more police. For this long record of death and destruction—and for many other deaths as well—Garry Trudeau blamed the people who drew and published the offending cartoons.

As you know, the Muhammad cartoon controversy began eight years ago in Denmark, as a protest against “self-censorship,” one editor’s call to arms against what she felt was a suffocating political correctness. The idea behind the original drawings was not to entertain or to enlighten or to challenge authority—her charge to the cartoonists was specifically to provoke, and in that they were exceedingly successful. Not only was one cartoonist gunned down, but riots erupted around the world, resulting in the deaths of scores.

In Trudeau’s telling, the members of the staff of Charlie Hebdo were even more culpable than their Danish counterparts. Charlie Hebdo did not miss an issue after the massacre. Some might have seen something heroic in this continued commitment to their work in the aftermath of a slaughter intended to silence. Not Trudeau.

By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charliewandered into the realm of hate speech, which in France is only illegal if it directly incites violence. Well, voilà—the 7 million copies that were published following the killings did exactly that, triggering violent protests across the Muslim world, including one in Niger, in which ten people died.

There it is again – the attribution of agency. The 7 million copies published after much of the staff was murdered triggered violent protests. The protests were Charlie Hebdo’s fault; Charlie Hebdo caused that violence and death.

That’s a revolting thing to say. It would be crappy if CH were in fact a racist xenophobic hate-mongering paper, and since it’s the opposite of that, it’s crappy cubed.

In 2012, Garry Trudeau drew a series of strips about a Texas law requiring an ultrasound before an abortion. Trudeau’s point of view was ferocious: He had one of his characters pronounce, “By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.” Some newspapers found the series objectionable and declined to publish. In an interview with the Washington Post, Trudeau acknowledged the sensitivity of the subject matter. To avoid it, however, would be “comedy malpractice.” But here’s the good news: Nobody attempted to kill him. And because of the absence of threats, those who reported on the incident felt free to reproduceimages from the series in their news accounts.

If people had rioted over those strips, would Trudeau have said he triggered the riots? Would he have blamed himself?

Had the gunmen been “privileged,” then presumably the cartoons would have been commendable satire. The cartoonists would then have been martyrs to free speech. But since the gunmen were “non-privileged,” the responsibility for their actions shifts to the people they targeted, robbing them of agency. It’s almost as if he thinks of underdogs as literal dogs. If a dog bites a person who touches its dinner, we don’t blame the dog. The dog can’t help itself. The person should have known better.

The gunmen were “non-privileged” in some senses, but they had one massive privilege on that morning they forced their way into the Charlie Hebdo office that the people they killed didn’t have. They had big powerful guns.

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

Their imperishable creations live on

Apr 15th, 2015 2:50 pm | By

Garry Trudeau’s awful bilge about Charlie Hebdo is all the more gobsmacking, as brucegee points out, given this beautiful strip in the Washington Post:


So why, why, why?

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

And I’ll get to Scotland afore ye

Apr 15th, 2015 11:52 am | By

The Melby Foundation announces its disassociation from some things.

The Melby Foundation publicly dissociates itself from the harmful and hateful rhetoric of Nugent’s comments section.

The Melby Foundation is publicly dissociating itself from the hurtful and dehumanizing, hateful and violent, unjust and defamatory rhetoric of Nugent’s comments section. The final of many, many straws was its latest smear that if PZ Myers and Alex Gabriel were given power that they would send people to “re-education gulags”, and its subsequent description of the out-group as “a community of personality disordered individuals with high degrees of narcissism”. We are also asking all ethical organizations and individuals to consider how you can help to reverse Nugent’s comments section’s harmful impact on the individuals it targets and the atheist movement generally.

Does the wording sound at all familiar? Of course it does.

The Foundation gives abundant examples.

Nugent’s comments section said the out-group is a “little clique” engaging in a “pattern of lies, slander, misdirection, & general childish nastiness” that has done much to “discredit secular activism online” who aren’t “fooling [anyone] besides themselves” and are “despicable”. The out-group are called “Social Justice Warriors” who are a “negative and destructive [force]” that “won’t forgive [other’s] accomplishments, because these make them feel inferior” therefor other’s accomplishments are “the greatest sin you could have committed in their eyes”. They are described as “like minded bloggers and sycophants” who simply “blog for beer money” that represent a “toxic element” of “desperate liars” who are “inexcusable” and “spin so hard you could hook them up to a few dynamos and power a small city”. It also implied that the out-group accuses people of “internalized misogyny and deep xenophobia” for not “[promoting] speaking gigs”. It proclaimed that if someone continued to associate with the out-group they would “have choked on [their] own vomit” and accused the out-group of “kicking the corpses at Charlie Hebdo.”

Yeah right, I’ve been so hostile to the murdered cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo.

Nugent’s comments section praised a forum known for ridiculing a small number of targets for years on end, including jokes about kicking Ophelia Benson in the “cunt” and gifs of animals having sex labeled with people’s names, as “a fairly no-holds-barred but fun site” with “robust debate and a daft-laugh” where “humour takes some getting used to not simply because it appears tasteless” but because “there’s layer upon layer [of meaning] and you’ll probably have tears in your eyes long before you reach the center of them”. It was described as “practically the only opposition to the poison being spread amongst us” and “if you like irreverent, bawdy company and have a sense of humour, you will do absolutely find there.”

Nugent’s comment section went on to describe this forum as “rough & tumble” where “mentally adding a winkie or a [/sarcasm] tag to the end of every 3rd post … can enhance the … viewing experience for those who find themselves becoming concerned about what they read.” It is described as “an open, freewheeling and occasionally very crude and/or rude place” “sophomoric and brilliant” “hysterically funny” and the photoshop work is described as “satirically and artistically fantastic”. Nugent’s comments section explains that the forum provides “top-notch analysis of the failings of [named individuals]” and the “best way of keeping yourself up to date with [their] antics” and that the forum “deserve[s] our gratitude”. Nugent’s comment section says, “It [does] not matter…if the [forum] was sometimes offensive or sometimes angry.”

Seriously, it has been one of the major puzzles all along – starting from the “dialogue” Nugent forced on us over our objections – that Nugent goes on and on and on about PZ’s rhetoric while he welcomes that kind of thing on his blog.

Melby sums up beautifully:

These are only some examples of Nugent’s comments section’s harmful rhetoric.

It might be possible to interpret any one example of this unrelenting character assassination charitably, and certainly Nugent’s comments section can hide behind a wall of unkind, hyperbolic or polemic words written by PZ Myers over several YEARS; pretend that issues of civility were never addressed and continue to use Myers’ incivility to justify an obsessive harassment campaign against a number of targets.

Ironically, the sheer quantity of this obsessive rhetoric can seem to minimize the harm of each example. It is easy for us to become desensitized to the reality of four years of related ridicule and harassment framed as reasonable discourse. In fact, it might be really easy to just ignore it if you aren’t personally a target. Otherwise, it kind of sucks.

Nugent has been ignoring it ever since he forced that “dialogue” on us, that “dialogue” that accomplished nothing other than giving a group of harassers a more respectable place to publish their harassment.

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

The useful idiots of the brutal and the powerful

Apr 15th, 2015 10:19 am | By

Ken White also takes on Garry Trudeau, at Popehat.

Last week cartoonist Garry Trudeau received the George Polk award for journalism. It’s an award named in memory of a journalist murdered while covering a war. Trudeau used the opportunity to say that while murdering journalists is sub-optimal, journalists need to rethink offending people:

What free speech absolutists have failed to acknowledge is that because one has the right to offend a group does not mean that one must. Or that that group gives up the right to be outraged. They’re allowed to feel pain. Freedom should always be discussed within the context of responsibility. At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious. It becomes its own kind of fanaticism.

It really is quite staggering that he managed to formulate that thought, and write it down, and say it to an audience, in the context of the slaughter at Charlie Hebdo. The issue is not the right to be outraged or being allowed to feel pain. The issue is murdering cartoonists. The Kouachi brothers were not feeling pain when they murdered all those people. They were feeling powerful and righteous. Let’s not lose sight of literal power like guns and the willingness to fire them.

Trudeau’s complaint received sighs of rapture from Lydia Polgreen, a bureau chief at the New York Times, an institution generally associated — justifiably or not — with freeexpression:


Well, if by “wise” you mean thoughtless and stupid, and if by “nuanced” you mean crude and facts-ignoring.

Ken points out that Trudeau is relying on a parochial and privileged view of blasphemy in saying this – emphasis his, and rightly so. Trudeau has the privilege of not worrying that he will be hacked to death with machetes the way Avijit Roy and Washiqur Rahman were. He has the privilege of not being driven out of his country the way Taslima Nasreen was. He has the privilege of not being threatened with one thousand lashes and imprisoned and fined the way Raif Badawi was and is. And so on; Ken gives other examples. God knows there’s no shortage of them.

The issue is that anti-blasphemy social and legal norms are a tool of oppression of people who are powerless, even by the finicky standards of Trudeau and the New York Times. The concept of blasphemy is used to persecute religious minorities, ethnic minorities, rights activists, and anyone else disfavored by the mullahs and the mob. It is used to protect power — the existing power structure of the mostly conservative, mostly traditional, mostly male-and-religious-dominated societies where the concept holds sway.

Garry Trudeau and Lydia Polgreen are the useful idiots of the brutal and the powerful. By obligingly framing the “blasphemy debate” as an issue of West v. East and journalistic power vs. Islamic powerlessness, they support and advance the blasphemy norms used to murder and oppress the genuinely powerless. They are punching down.

Beautifully said.


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

Punching inwards

Apr 15th, 2015 9:35 am | By

Padraig Reidy has some things to say to Garry Trudeau about his ignorant and illiberal comments about Charlie Hebdo last week.

I thought we’d got somewhere closer to clarity on the Paris massacres by now. But comments made by Garry Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury[,] last week suggest we might have to go through this again. Speaking at Long Island University on 10 April, the veteran cartoonist sought to spread his wisdom on “the tragedy in Paris” (note the oddly neutral word “tragedy”: not “murders”, say).

“As you know,” Trudeau commented, “the Muhammad cartoon controversy began eight years ago in Denmark, as a protest against ‘self-censorship,’ one editor’s call to arms against what she [sic] felt was a suffocating political correctness.”

“By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech, which in France is only illegal if it directly incites violence.”

I was shocked to read those words. Et tu Garry Trudeau?? I’d have thought he was too smart for that.

“What free speech absolutists have failed to acknowledge is that because one has the right to offend a group does not mean that one must. Or that that group gives up the right to be outraged. They’re allowed to feel pain. Freedom should always be discussed within the context of responsibility. At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious. It becomes its own kind of fanaticism.”

Yes, Mr Trudeau, everyone has the right to be outraged. Everyone has the right to feel pain. What this has to do with murdering magazine staff and Jewish shoppers I have no idea. You seem to be suggesting that normal Muslims express pain through violence, rather than acknowledging that the Paris atrocities, and indeed the burning of churches and bars in Niger, were carried out by people acting upon a political ideology, the same ideology that justifies enslavement and murder by the Islamic State. For the avoidance of doubt, it is not me conflating normal Muslims and jihadists here: it is Trudeau.

He’s also sort of kind of justifying the murder of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and members of staff including the Muslim copy editor and the Muslim cop outside. I wonder if it occurs to him that Islamists with guns forcing their way into a magazine’s offices and killing a lot of unarmed people are “punching down.”

“I’m aware that I make these observations from a special position, one of safety. In America, no one goes into cartooning for the adrenaline. As Jon Stewart said in the aftermath of the killings, comedy in a free society shouldn’t take courage.”

You acknowledge this, but not for one moment does it inspire you to show an iota of solidarity with your fellow satirists.

Your fellow liberal, left-wing, anti-racist satirists.


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