Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.


Aug 9th, 2012 4:09 pm | By

I’m not ignoring you. It’s just that I have two deadlines tomorrow – and they’re both in the UK so really that means they’re today. One for The Freethinker, the other for TPM.

The first is done. The second isn’t.

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

Police made her father sign a “pledge”

Aug 9th, 2012 10:44 am | By

And then there are those strange coincidences – like when a woman complains to the police that her father and brother beat her, and they are arrested but then released on bail, and three days later the father takes her body to a clinic where a doctor issues a death certificate. Spooky, isn’t it.

The men, from al-Samu near Hebron, were detained for four days, but a court released them on bail on July 18.

Randa’s brother has told south Hebron prosecutor Mohammad Gaboon that on his release he returned home and beat Randa on her face and chest. “She lost her conscious and I left the room at that time,” he said.

On July 21, Randa’s father took her body to a clinic, where a doctor issued a death certificate.

And the family hastily buried her, without a funeral.

Several months before her death, Randa had sought police protection from her father and her brother, said Farid al-Atrash, the regional director of the Independent Commission for Human Rights told Ma’an.

In January, she filed complaints with the family protection unit and at police stations in al-Samu, where she lived, and Yatta, a nearby town. Police made her father sign a “pledge” to stop beating her.

The beatings continued and Randa approached the Independent Commission of Human Rights on Feb. 4.

“We called the family protection department to find her a safe house, but family protection said that her father and brother promised to find her a job,” al-Atrash said.

Oh well in that case – obviously she’s perfectly safe staying with them.

Randa was living with her family after her husband threw her out, Hiyan Qaqour, a lawyer for the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling told Ma’an.

Aged 28, Randa was forced to marry a 78-year-old man from Beersheba, in Israel, her mother told Ma’an.

They were married for six years and he regularly beat her, the lawyer said. Randa complained to Israeli police, who arrested him. On her husband’s release, he sent her back to her family in as-Samu in the southern West Bank, Qaqour added.

Got it. Shit life, and shit death. Treated like shit by her birth family, and the man she was forced to “marry,” and the institutions around her.

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

Children were born

Aug 9th, 2012 10:00 am | By

Some ways of living are better than others. Some basic constituents of a good life are fresh air, freedom of movement, access to the wider world. Ways of living that provide more of those basic constituents are generally better than those that don’t.

Living underground, for instance. Not ideal.

MOSCOW – A self-proclaimed prophet had a vision from God: He would build an Islamic caliphate under the earth.

The digging began about a decade ago, and 70 followers moved into an eight-level subterranean honeycomb of cramped cells with no light, heat or ventilation.

Children were born. They, too, lived in the cold underground cells for many years — until authorities raided the compound last week and freed 27 sons and daughters of the sect.

Ages 1 to 17, the children rarely saw the light of day and had never left the property, attended school or been seen by a doctor, officials said Wednesday.

Human moles, in other words. Not ideal. Not one of the better ways of living. Not responsible parenthood.



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

Not even a hint

Aug 8th, 2012 3:58 pm | By

Are the Saudis proud of their women athletes? They are not. They consider them a dirty secret.

Across the world, word that Saudi Arabia would send women athletes to the Olympics for the first time immediately rocketed to the top of websites and broadcasts. In Saudi Arabia’s official media: Not even a hint.

They don’t want the sluts to get big ideas.

“It does not change the fact that Saudi women are not free to move and to choose,” said political analyst Mona Abass in neighboring Bahrain. “The Saudis may use it to boost their image, but it changes little.”

Even the two athletes selected to compete under the Saudi flag — 800-meter runner Sarah Attar from Pepperdine University in California and Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani in judo — live outside the kingdom and carry almost no influence as sports figures.

They sent only two women; both women live outside the country; Saudi Arabia kept the whole thing a secret.

So actually, nothing changed.


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

How to cope with eternal bliss

Aug 8th, 2012 2:55 pm | By

A great new Jesus and Mo. The title article on Jesus’s magazine particularly amuses me.


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

Sport will lead to corrupt morals

Aug 8th, 2012 2:15 pm | By

Saudi Arabia finally gave in to pressure and “allowed” Saudi women – a whole entire two of them – to compete in the Olympics, but it really really hated doing it.

The ministry of education bans physical education for girls. The rationale behind the ban ranges from claims that sport will lead to corrupt morals and lesbianism, to it being masculine and damaging for female health and psyche.

The main rationale, though, is that introducing physical education is a slippery slope that will eventually lead it to becoming common to see Saudi women practise and compete in sports publicly in front of men. In a country where all state schools mandate fully covering the face , the thought of Saudi women running in a conservative tracksuit with the face showing is simply too much for many to handle.

Saudi Arabia thinks everything is damaging for female health and psyche, apart from being fucked and bearing children. It’s as if women were both fragile as crystal and infectious as Ebola, while still being tragically necessary because fucking and reproduction.

Imagine not being allowed to do any kind of sport. Imagine not being allowed to go outside unless you’re buried in a bag and have a male relative along. Imagine not being allowed to go into banks, shops, restaurants because women are banned.

Once it was announced that two women would be joining the Saudi delegation, many  criticised the minister of sports, Prince Nawaf al-Faisal, for allowing it. However, the inclusion of women proceeded, and when those opposing the move saw that they could not get the minister to retract, they changed strategy and focused on the female athletes instead.

Photos of Sarah Attar on the running track from her university website in California emerged on Twitter and Facebook with her face, arms and legs blurred so that all a person can see is that it is a woman in shorts. These photos were captioned with statements of how this goes against the minister’s promise to ensure that Saudi women would participate in hijab.

As if the Saudi minister of sport gets to promise that a girl in California will wear what he says she’ll wear. As if it were the world’s business what she wears.

Meanwhile, judo competitor Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani‘s father received insults that included racial abuse and comments questioning his manhood, his honour and even his citizenship.

Both women were featured under an Arabic Twitter hashtag that translates as “Olympic whores“.

Aren’t people lovely.


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

Uncomfortable with activist women

Aug 8th, 2012 10:14 am | By

Michael Idov attends the closing arguments in the Pussy Riot trial.

…the hometown opinion on Pussy Riot is mixed at best. Even the liberal response has involved language like “They should let these chicks go with a slap on the ass.” Despite the rapid Westernization of the city elites, the rise of the vaunted “creative class” and the widespread distrust of the state-coddled Orthodox Church, Russians remain distinctly uncomfortable with activist women.

Pride parades remain banned in Moscow, while opposition leaders freely use the Russian word for “faggot” in public. The idea that liberalism is partly about upholding someone else’s liberty — including their right to do something that’s personally offensive to you — is an exotic and untested notion in Russia.

This allows Russian commentators to say or write things like “these women disgust me, they should rot in jail” without noticing the clear line between opinion and law that separates the first thought from the second.

It seems such a conspicuous line to fail to notice, doesn’t it. Is there a crime of “disgusting someone” on the books in Russia?

A case that should pivot on a specific legal question (“Does a violation of church protocol rise to the level of religious hatred?”) instead hangs entirely on emotions, including those of Patriarch Kirill I and President Vladimir V. Putin, that the judge and the prosecution appear to be trying to divine. The debate about the trial has also been full of pointless syllogisms: What if it was your daughter up there? What if they tried doing this in a mosque? What if someone came into your house and defecated on the carpet?

Snort. Pointless indeed. A public space like a church is not the same as “your house” and swearing is not the same as defecation. No carpet was damaged in the singing of Pussy Riot’s song.

Of course, if the defendants decided to convey over-the-top remorse (by falling to their knees, crying, etc.), then public opinion and even their legal fortunes would almost certainly turn. But Ms. Alyokhina, Ms. Samutsevich and Ms. Tolokonnikova remain cool, smiling and remote — a “Western” and “unfeminine” attitude. When you’re a woman in Russia, nothing but tears will do.

Policing the woman’s face again.



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

Swear words in a church

Aug 7th, 2012 5:27 pm | By

Russian prosecutors want the three women of Pussy Riot to get three years in prison for playing a song attacking Putin in front of an altar in a cathedral.

“The actions of the accomplices clearly show religious hatred and enmity,” state prosecutor Alexei Nikiforov said in closing arguments.

“Using swear words in a church is an abuse of God.”

He said the women had “set themselves up against the Orthodox Christian world”.

Using swear words in a church is an abuse of God? And that deserves three years in prison?

People are crazy. Just bug-nuts.

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

Justice for Nigar Rahim

Aug 7th, 2012 4:05 pm | By

By Houzan Mahmoud

7 August 2012

An appeal to women organisations and human rights activists worldwide to condemn the Kurdistan Regional Government and seek justice for Nigar Rahim

Raped by one brother, killed by another brother to wash the shame brought upon family “honour”



Nigar Rahim was only 15 when she was killed by her brother on the 20th of July in Garmian in Kurdistan-Iraq. Nigar had been raped and impregnated by one of her brothers. She was protected along with her child by the Directorate to Investigate Violence against Women for six months after giving birth. Nigar and her brother were arrested at the beginning of this year; the brother was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment while Nigar was released on bail according to the police in Garmian where the case was dealt with. She was then under the protection of the Directorate.

After six months, another brother of Nigar entered a negotiation with the police and signed a document promising not to harm her. The police handed her over to the family on the 12th of June, but she was killed by that other brother on the 20th of July.

The rape and murder of a young girl in this manner shows a lack of responsibility on the part of state institutions who are only promoting such crimes by not providing long-term, intense protection and care in cases like Nigar’s. The situation of a 15 year old girl being raped by her own brother, traumatised, shocked, and giving birth to a child from her own brother in a highly patriarchal and socially conservative society is very complex. Victims of rape are considered guilty and therefore deserving of death to clear the shame brought upon the family’s so-called honour.

InKurdistanwhere, on a daily basis, women are killed, degraded, or forced to commit suicide through self-immolation, even young girls’ lives are not safe. For the last 20 years the Kurdistan Regional Government have turned a blind eye to the plight of women, to the point where the situation is now almost out of control. Despite the anger and protest by activists and organisations opposed to this situation, the killing and violence against women continue.

It is time for the government and its institutions to take the necessary steps to uproot these misogynist, patriarchal, and tribal practices that has turned the country into a hell and a prison for women.

We the undersigned therefore demand:

1-   The head of the Directorate and the persons who were involved in handing Nigar over to her family must be investigated.

2- Stop handing over women and girls whose lives are in risk merely through signing a document with no legal consequences, as this gives families a free hand to kill female members.

3- A clear and transparent investigation must be made into this case, with the results to be made public.

4- Declare rape to be a crime and abolish all punishment for the victim.

5- Provide protection, medical care, and social help to victims of rape so that they will be able to rebuild their lives.


The undersigned of this appeal are:

Houzan Mahmoud: Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq-UK

Ophelia Benson, blogger and columnist.

Najiba Mahmud: Women’s rights activist-Sweden

Edith Rubinstein: retired, Woman in Black.

Jim Catterson: Regional Contact person MENA Region Industrial Global Union

Choman Hardi: Writer and academic researcher

Mariwan Kanie: Assistant professor of Arab and Middle Eastern studies at theUniversityofAmsterdam-Netherlands

Bahar Monzir: Women’s rights activist-Kurdistan


MADRE: International women’s human rights organization-U.S.A

Thomas Schmidinger: PoliticalScientist-Austria.

Fuad Qaradaghy: Writer-Kurdistan

Mary Kreutzer: (Leeza, Association for Emancipatory Development Cooperation; and University of Applied Sciences Dornbirn)-Austria

Nicola Stott: Centre for Women’s Studies, University of York-UK

Lesley Abdela: Shevolution-UK

Bill Weinberg, author and independent journalist,New   York

Chilura Hardi: Women’s rights activist-Kurdistan

Deanne Rauscher: Journalist researcher (member of The Swedish Journalist Association)-Sweden

Valeria Dessì: Research Student, SOAS-University of London-UK

Göran Gustavsson: Member of the representative assembly Municipal Workers Union Stockholm- Sweden.

Noori Bashir: Writer-UK

Avin Fatah: Social researcher and women’s rights activist in Hawler-Kurdistan

Maryam Namazie: Spokesperson, Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination inIranand One Law for All,UK

Maria Fantappie: Researcher and Writer-Italy

Lisa-Marie Taylor: Feminism in London 2013 Project Manager-UK

Gjuner Nebiu: Women’s Civic Initiatives Antico,RepublicofMacedonia

Sawsan Zakzak:Researcher-Syria

Lilian Halls-French:  European Feminist Initiative IFE-EFI-France

Muslih Irwani: Lecturer and Researcher-UK

Diana Ferrus: Writer, and Poet from the University of theWestern   Cape,Cape   Town-South Africa

Lawzha Jawad: Women’s rights activist-Denmark

Stara Arif: Journalist, and civil society activist-Kurdistan

Parwa Ali: Journalist-Kurdistan

Shwan Mohammed: Journalist-Kurdistan

Arian Omed Arif: Red Honour group-Norway

Christian Ronse, University Professor of Computer Science (France)

Nask Hussein: Poet-Canada

Aso Jabar: Writer-USA

Tara Twana: Member of Social Democratic Party & Stockholm municipality-Sweden

Halala Rafie: Nina Centre-Sweden

Sarkaw Hadi: Theatrical actor and writer

Nahid Mokri: Women’s rights activist and writer-Sweden

Glyn Harries: Hackney TradesUnionCouncil-UK

Gona Saed: Women’s rights activist-UK

Nyaz Abdullah: journalist and women’s rights activist-Kurdistan

Saira Zuberi: Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)

Sophie Boiszeau: Initiative-Communiste-Ouvrière-France

Stéphane Julien: Teacher, Solidarité Irak-France

Liam McNulty:Alliancefor Workers’ Liberty-UK

Jani Diylan: Journalist-USA

Rebecca Hybbinette: PHD in political philosophy -Sweden

Shahla Nouri: Director of Women’s Liberation-Sweden

Joana Vicente Baginha: Member of Portuguese feminist organisation UMAR-UK

Floyd Codlin: PCS Trade Union Chair at the British Library-UK

Esther Townsend: Workers’Liberty, Women’s Fightback & NCAFC Women’s Committee (PC)-UK

Twana Taha: Journalist-Soran-Kurdistan

Kawan Kadir: Artist-Canada

San Saravan: Documentary film maker-Kurdistan

Hawzhin Gharib: Journalist-Kurdistan

Halwest Abdulah Karim: Civil society activist-Kurdistan

Salah Raouf: Musician-Germany

Sara Omar: Writer, and lawyer (Denmark-Germany)

Muhsin Adib: Writer and researcher in law theory

Sara Qadir: Journalist, and lecturer at Sulaymaniah University-Kurdistan

Naliya Ibrahim- Women’s rights activist-Sweden

Chairwoman for Never forget Pela and Fadime Organisation inSweden

Arland Mehmetaj: activist with Initiative communiste-ouvrière-France

Nwenar Ahmad: Artist, Musician, director of Bara house of Art

Samal Ali: Philosophy lecturer at university of Raparin-Kurdistan

Zilan Ali: Journalist at Warvin Foundation for Women’s Rights-Kurdistan

Nergiz Qadir: Journalist at Warvin Foundation for Women’s Rights-Kurdistan

Arsalan Rahman: Journalist at Warvin Foundation for Women’s Rights-Kurdistan

Sakar Rostam: Journalist and programme manager at Warvin foundation-Kurdistan

Kaywan Hawrami: Journalist-Kurdistan

Faraidon Arif: Writer and journalist-India &Kurdistan

Yadgar Fayaq: TV presenter and journalist-Kurdistan

AramJalal: Member of Network in defence of rights and freedoms of people in Kurdistan & Religious critic based inFinland

YaseenHamaAli: Designer at Hawlati Newspaper-Sulaymania

Akram Nadir: international Representative of FWCUI-Canada

Khulia Hussein / Poet and women’s Right’s advocate

Pola Qasim Nori: Student at Fine Arts Institute-Kurdistan

Kazhal Nuri: Writer, and civil society activist-Netherlands

Dr. Yousuf Zangana: Academic, London-UK

Dr.Rebwar Karim Mahmoud: political science Lecturer -UniversityofSulaymania-Kurdistan

Kaziwa Salih: Writer and journalist-Canada

Chiman Salih: Editor in chief of KurdistanOnline

Awezan Noori: Writer and human rights activist-Kerku

Dr.Salar Basira: University of Sulaymaniah-Kurdistan

Aziz Raouf: Writer-Kurdistan

Sarbast K. Arif: Painter, writer-Norway

Fariba Mohamadi: Writer-Kurdistan

Mahin Shokrolahpoor: Women’s rights activist-France

Chia Yasin: Journalist and women’s rights activist

Ibrahim Abbas: Journalist-Kurdistan

Azad Hama Rasoul: Artist-Norway

Halgurd Samad, Journalist/ France

Shwan Raouf: Civil society activist-Kurdistan

Tara Hawrami: Women’s rights activist-Sweden

Adiba Ahmad: Journalist- Kurdistan

Shwan Sdiq: Journalist- Kurdistan

Shankar Abdula: Journalist-Kurdistan

Kamil Ahmed: Artist-Germany

Jasim Gafour: Artist-UK

Twana Ali: Journalist-Kurdistan

Kit Larsen Hughes: Teacher-Sweden

Avin Mirawdeli: PHD Student-UK

Mihraban Ali: Women’s rights activist-Finland

Serwa Ali: Women’s rights activist-Canada

Hana Ali: Women’s rights activist-Canada

Samira Hamasalih Fathulla: Nurse –Finland

Laura Guidetti:  Italian feminist journalMarea,Italy

Jaza Hamasalih Wali: Social researcher-Kurdistan

Salah Fathollah: Artist-Finland

Sarkawt Ahmad:UK

Salah Kermashani: Finalnd

AramHawrami: Gothenburg-Sweden

Nigar Ibrahim: Step by Step in Gothenburg-U.S.A

Blend Said:Kurdistan

Hazha Najat:Kurdistan

Rebwar Raza Chuchani: Journalist-Kurdistan

Nicolas Dessaux, on behalf of SolidaritéIrak-France

Shahen Husain:Kurdistan

Goran Jaf:Switzerland

Hawrey Nishtman:Kurdistan

Rubar Gule:Kurdistan

Dana Sherzan Osman:Kurdistan

Goran Osman: Worker-Switzerland

Soran Palani: Lawyer and journalist

Kalè Karim: Wome’s rights activist-Switzerland

Choman Osman: Journalist-Kurdistan

Goran Ali: Writer-Sweden


Muhammed Rash:Kurdistan

Dillan zandy:Kurdistan

Farman Sadiq: Journalist-Kurdistan


Mohammed Ahmad Hassan:Kurdistan

Chra Ali:Kurdistan

Sangar Salem:Kurdistan

Lanja Abdullah: Director of Warvin for Women’s Rights in Kurdistan

Warvin Foundation for Women’s Rights- Kurdistan

Roj Aziz: Political activist

Hersh Yasin: Kurdistan

Shahla Dabaghi: Women’s rights activist-Sweden

Katha Pollitt, The Nation

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

Entire galleries devoted to her “bitch face”

Aug 7th, 2012 3:00 pm | By

Here we go again.

This time it’s not evil bloggers-while-female, it’s evil gymnast-while-female.

McKayla Maroney is not going to win any medals for congeniality. As a member of the U.S. gymnastics team’s “Fab Five,” she’s the one Least Likely to Crack a Smile. But if you think that automatically makes her a sore loser, or worse, that it justifies calling a 16-year-old girl a brat or a bitch, please report to the nearest rock and crawl under it.

Oh don’t be silly, any fule kno it’s every woman’s job – yes even if she’s a girl of 16! – to look Nice and approachable and cuddly and non-threatening. If she fails in that duty it’s perfectly fine to shout at her and call her a bitch and a cunt.

At the opposite end of the age range, the queen got the same kind of crap for failing to grin for five hours straight.

Police those women and their scary faces, or else.

That face, that tough, steely look, has been a wide-open opportunity for would-be comics to poke fun at Maroney’s “Oh, hell no” countenance, and to riff on her “mean girl”  persona. She’s had entire galleries devoted to her “bitch face,”  which also serves as her unofficial nickname. She’s been a “fool” and a “brat” and a “baby,” a “snobby,” “pissy” “diva.” Well, what do you expect from the same civilization that also brought you the endless ragging on Gabby Douglas’ hair?

Nothing. I expect fucking nothing from that civilization.

Maroney isn’t the naturally smiling, ebullient Olympian. She doesn’t exude the warmth of Sanya Richards-Ross or outdoorsy ease of Kerri Walsh. Nothing about her serious, controlled persona says, “Hey, world, love me!” That’s a difficult thing for a lot of people in the world to accept in a female.

And that’s where they get us, right there. Intensity and focus are not allowed if they interfere with the cuddly – and you don’t want cuddly people who can’t focus in serious subjects like physics and engineering and computer science and math and philosophy, so better nudge the women out by making fun of them and policing their faces and tits and clothes all the time.

Bitch face indeed.

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

Their indelible and putrid stench

Aug 7th, 2012 12:56 pm | By

An excellent post on wrong ways to think about “honor” killing and other crimes of patriarchy, in particular on the murder in a courtroom of a woman by her brother, a lawyer. His reason? She married a man that her family hadn’t chosen for her, and without their permission.

Clearly, mere academic education is no proof against familial brutality, particularly when patriarchy, and the consequent misogyny, leave their indelible and putrid stench upon the family unit, the educational system, the political state, the emotive components of social and cultural institutions, such as religion, music and arts, language and literature (including folklore), as well as media associated with such cultures.

Education is surprisingly worthless as a preventive against misogyny. Why surprisingly? Because it seems so stupid and unthinking to foster inter-sexual hatred on one side and fear on the other. What’s the use of that? How does that make the world a better place to live in? It doesn’t – yet people can be supereducated and still not grasp that.


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

The simple and sheer amazingness

Aug 6th, 2012 5:35 pm | By

Phil Plait has a fantastic observation on all this, prompted by the amazing photo from the Mars orbiter of the Rover on its way down – this one -

The simple and sheer amazingness of this picture cannot be overstated. Here we have a picture taken by a camera on board a space probe that’s been orbiting Mars for six years, reset and re-aimed by programmers hundreds of millions of kilometers away using math and science pioneered centuries ago, so that it could catch the fleeting view of another machine we humans flung across space, traveling hundreds of million of kilometers to another world at mind-bending speeds, only to gently – and perfectly – touch down on the surface mere minutes later.

I know. I was tripping on it yesterday, and I still am. Wham bam 8 months at high speed then wham decelerate then whisper touch down gently on the ground. It makes my eyes prickle every time I think about it. And not only that but the orbiter snaps a photo of it from above. It’s just too amazing.

The news these days is filled with polarization, with hate, with fear, with ignorance. But while these feelings are a part of us, and always will be, they neither dominate nor define us. Not if we don’t let them. When we reach, when we explore, when we’re curious – that’s when we’re at our best. We can learn about the world around us, the Universe around us. It doesn’t divide us, or separate us, or create artificial and wholly made-up barriers between us. As we saw on Twitter, at New York Times Square where hundreds of people watched the landing live, and all over the world: science and exploration bind us together. Science makes the world a better place, and it makes us better people.

It’s what we can do, and what we must do.

Ya. One of the guys at the late press conference last night said he really believes curiosity is the central human quality. It was thrilling, especially because that’s what I think too.

Thank you JPL. Thank you engineers.

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

The view from Curious Rover

Aug 6th, 2012 5:04 pm | By

Courtesy of NASA.

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

People must accept that we will impose Sharia whether they like it or not

Aug 6th, 2012 4:58 pm | By

The Islamists in Mali aren’t bothering about winning hearts and minds. Hundreds of people protested their plan to chop off someone’s hand and a radio journalist was beaten up for urging the protesters on.

“We don’t want to know what this young man did, but they are not going to cut his hand off in front of us,” a resident said on Sunday, according to the AFP news agency.

Journalist Abdoul Malick Maiga has now regained consciousness after being beaten by MUJAO fighters, a doctor at Gao’s hospital told AFP.

One resident said Mr Maiga was attacked live on air.

Oumar Ould Hamaha, a fighter who said he was speaking as a MUJAO spokesman, confirmed the incident, according to the Reuters news agency.

“We don’t care about secularism, democracy, the international community or others. People must accept that we will impose Sharia whether they like it or not,” he said.

“It is not tramps like journalists who are going to stop us.”

The religion of peace.


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

Betraying the readers

Aug 6th, 2012 2:57 pm | By

Two academics, Stephen F. Cohen a professor emeritus of politics and Russian studies at Princeton and NYU, and Peter Reddaway, a professor emeritus of political science at George Washington University, report on problems with the work of Orlando Figes. Remember him? The historian who posted sockpuppet bad reviews of rivals’ work and flattering review of his own at Amazon, and then denied it, and threatened libel, and then let his wife take the blame, and only when that ploy failed too finally admitted he’d done it? And yet is still at Birkbeck?

Many Western observers believe that  Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime has in effect banned a Russian edition of a widely acclaimed 2007 book by the British historian Orlando Figes, The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia. A professor at University of London’s Birkbeck College, Figes himself inspired this explanation. In an interview and in an article in 2009, he suggested that his first Russian publisher dropped the project due to “political pressure” because his large-scale study of Stalin-era terror “is inconvenient to the current regime.” Three years later, his explanation continues to circulate.

You know there’s a “but” on the way.

Our examination of transcripts of original Russian-language interviews he used to write The Whisperers, and of documents provided by Russians close to the project, tells a different story. A second Russian publisher, Corpus, had no political qualms about soon contracting for its own edition of the book. In 2010, however, Corpus also canceled the project. The reasons had nothing to do with Putin’s regime but everything to do with Figes himself.

He got the Memorial Society, a widely respected Russian historical and human rights organization, to do a bunch of interviews for the book, and then when Corpus was going to do the Russian translation of the book, it looked at the original interviews and found mistakes in Figes’s (English language) book – so many mistakes it decided not to publish a translation after all.

Cohen and Reddaway describe some of the mistakes, and then sum up:

Unfortunately, The Whisperers is still regarded by many Western readers, including scholars, as an exemplary study of Soviet history. These new revelations show, however, that Figes’s work cannot be read without considerable caution. Historians are obliged to be especially meticulous in using generally inaccessible archive materials, but Figes cannot be fully trusted even with open sources.

That’s no good.

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


Aug 6th, 2012 1:49 pm | By

PZ has new rules.

Also, the porcupine joke is on its way out.

That’s good; I hate the porcupine joke.


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

Canary Pete

Aug 6th, 2012 12:08 pm | By

A reader alerted me to a famous Belgian cartoonist’s response to Sophie Peeters’s documentary on street harassment of women.

She translated for me. The title is “More women get verbally harassed on the streets.” The cop is asking the woman, “What did the harasser look like?” She is replying, “Blue eyes, red nose, shabby clothes and not a complete set of teeth.”

Apparently the point is that she’s dressed like a whore and she’s enormous, while the guy she’s reporting to the cop is small and beaten to a pulp.

In other words, bitchez be lyin.

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

We can easily become desensitized to abuse

Aug 6th, 2012 11:23 am | By

Mick Nugent has the latest post in Amy’s series, and it’s a Mars landing of a post. He gets it. (I know that’s an expression that some people dislike…but it does describe something, as does its obverse.) He gets what it’s like, and how it’s bad and harmful.

We should not tolerate, in any of our online or offline communities, any sexual harassment or abuse or threats of violence against women that we would not tolerate if they were directed against our family or close friends. On the Internet, many women face a pattern of online sexual harassment, including rape threats, in the technology, business, entertainment, atheist, skeptical, pop culture, gaming and many other online communities.

This can cause women to feel hurt and frightened, to hide their female identity online, or to retreat altogether from the Internet. And this can in turn affect other aspects of their lives. Our online identities and online networking are increasingly important to our social lives and careers. And our friends and employers may see this hate speech when searching online for information about us.

Most men have no idea of the relentless nature of this type of online abuse, and how devastating the cumulative impact can be. Because most men don’t get the same type of sexual abuse as women do, and because the Internet can seem to be an artificial environment, we can easily become desensitized to abuse that would outrage us if it was aimed at our sisters or friends or daughters or wives or mothers.

You may sincerely believe that people are exaggerating the scale and impact of this abuse, or that is prudish or victorian to be concerned about it. Or you may see it as a trivial problem that goes away when you turn off your computer. If any of these thoughts cross your mind, you should consider some actual examples of what this abuse really looks like, and imagine experiencing this from the perspective of the victims.

And then he provides a whole bunch of examples that illustrate the problem well.

This is a pattern of behaviour, not a series of isolated incidents. It is gradually becoming less acceptable to sexually harass or threaten women in real life. But that message has not yet reached the Internet, where anonymity and hostile debate and absence of oversight make it easier for us to evade responsibility for our actions.

There is also the wider context of sexism in general. If we as men faced this pattern of sick online abuse simply because of our gender, I suspect that we would urgently take action to tackle the problem. If we fail to take the same action when women face this problem, our inaction reinforces prejudice and discrimination against women generally. We may not mean to do that, and we may not even be aware of it, but the impact of our inaction remains the same.

Tackling sexism is a complex problem, with no magic answers. We should rigorously analyze the extent of sexism in our communities, both online and offline, and we should test and refine the best ways to eradicate it. But we must not deny that it exists, or reinforce it with prejudice and discrimination. Instead we should actively work to create inclusive, safe and supportive communities, in which we can live together as equals, regardless of our race, gender, sexuality or ability levels.

And he provides a bunch of references with links.

Touchdown confirmed. (Yes I’m going to be a Mars bore now. You’ll just have to get used to it.)


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

Touchdown confirmed

Aug 6th, 2012 9:17 am | By

We’re safe on Mars.

We’ve got thumbnails.

That’s a wheel!

Holy shit.

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

They did it!

Aug 5th, 2012 10:48 pm | By

Curiosity has landed safely. It’s sent back pictures. I’m watching a room full of laughing crying hugging partying engineers.

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