Notes and Comment Blog

We reserve the right to serve anybody

Feb 27th, 2014 5:47 pm | By

For a refreshing change, meet someone you’d like to sit next to at a bar or a conference or a pizzeria. Meet Rocco DiGrazia.

Editor’s note: Rocco DiGrazia describes himself as a “failed anthropologist and thwarted musician, but a decent father and passable pizzaiolo.” He owns Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria in Tucson, Arizona, and is married with two children.

Ahhh, you’re saying to yourself, that Rocco. Yes. He wrote this piece explaining why he put that sign in the window.

In the days leading up to this, I put a sign in the window of my pizzeria that said: “We reserve the right to refuse service to Arizona legislators.” The reaction was vastly and overwhelmingly positive, with only a few people telling me they wouldn’t ever eat at my restaurant again. Mainly, we have received many, many messages of support; phone calls, e-mails and texts, from people who live in Tucson, across the state and even from outside the United States.

The sign is part of a tradition we have. When I moved into the supposedly cursed restaurant space on Broadway in Tucson, Arizona, 15 years ago, I found a box of letters — the kind you put on a marquee sign out front. By the end of the day, I had a message on the sign. We’ve been changing it every day since. I am often told people plan their routes to see what we have to say each day — even if just for a chuckle.

Kind of like Twitter, or a blog.

Then I learned that the state Senate once again passed an appalling bill that attempted to save me from my fellow Arizonans. I thought, “Oh no, not again.” If anything seemed ripe for parody, this was it.

It was irresistible. I instantly typed a comment on my Facebook page, saying that the busybodies in the capital of Phoenix were not allowed to come in and sit at my table. Minutes later, one of my followers supplied the sign that so eloquently expressed my viewpoint. I laminated it, and by that afternoon it was on my doors.

Since then, a lot of similar signs showed up in the windows of Tucson businesses saying “We reserve the right to serve anybody.”

So, in a way, he’s not a failed anthropologist at all.

This legislation was ostensibly trying to protect religious freedom. A lot of Christian groups feel like they’re being persecuted by our culture, and that is really what underlies this bill. But if they feel like they’re being persecuted, they should try being gay for a little while.

I cannot condone discrimination against one group of people. Regardless of the kind intentions of the lawmakers to the north of Tucson that were trying to make sure I have freedom of religion, I already have it. This bill was gratuitous as well as ridiculous. I can already refuse service to anyone — and that includes any one of those several dozen Arizonans who aren’t representing my views in Phoenix.

An excelllent Rocco.



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

Look at the specifics

Feb 27th, 2014 5:01 pm | By

Ron Lindsay wrote a post commenting on Ben Radford’s post. It’s good.

The concluding paragraphs:

That false reports happen is not disputed. Nor does anyone dispute that for the individual falsely accused, it’s a very unfortunate, sometimes tragic, situation. But is this a widespread problem? That’s the key question. One might think so from the attention Ben has given to it and his use of the adverb “often,” but, actually, the evidence seems to indicate it is not a widespread problem. For example, a British study last year indicated that there were 35 prosecutions for false accusations of rape during a 17-month period while there were 5,681 prosecutions for rape in the same period of time. The suggestion that false accusations of rape are commonplace does not appear to be supported by the evidence. Moreover, this suggestion can be very harmful if it persuades people that reports of rape should be treated with special suspicion.

Here’s the bottom line. All accusations of sexual assault should be treated seriously and investigated thoroughly. There is no a priori justification for treating the accuser with suspicion instead of compassion. The determination of whether a sexual assault actually occurred should be based on the evidence uncovered during the investigation of that case, not on generalizations about the behavior of people derived from other, distinct cases — however prominent or obscure.

That’s actually quite a good recommendation for a lot of practices and situations: you need to look at the specifics, and think about them, rather than generalizing about categories and then acting accordingly. You might even say that’s good skeptical practice. Never mind speculations, never mind what patterns you see, never mind stories; consider the particulars.

You know what else that’s good advice for? Treating people like equals. Never mind treating women like fluffy bunnies who are interested in shoes and shopping and nothing else; treat individual women as individuals, not as examples of a Feminine Essence. The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to other categories.

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

Where to place the emphasis

Feb 27th, 2014 12:03 pm | By

Speaking of foreign domestic workers in Saudi Arabia…the aforementioned country takes a step to catch up with labor laws circa 1400.

For the first time, Indonesian maids working in Saudi Arabia will be guaranteed a monthly wage, time off, and contact with their loved ones, under a new agreement signed by the Gulf kingdom and Jakarta this week.

Wo, generous. A wage! Time off! Permission to phone!

Human rights groups say the pact is a step towards ensuring the protection of foreign workers’ basic rights in Saudi Arabia. But it fails to address a worrying trend of domestic helpers filing complaints of exploitation and abuse only to face counter-allegations by their employers of “theft, witchcraft or adultery,” according to Human Rights Watch.

See? What about that kind of “false accusation” eh? Is Ben Radford equally worried about that sort of thing? Does he write about it much? Or ever?

Earlier this month, King Abdullah pardoned an Indonesian maid, who was on death row after being convicted in 2003 of “casting a magic spell on her employer and his family,” a spokesman for the Indonesian Embassy told Saudi news site, Arab news.

She returned to her home in West Java, but others haven’t been so lucky. Some 41 other Indonesian workers face possible death sentences in Saudi Arabia on charges ranging from black magic to stealing, adultery and murder, according to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry and local non-profit groups.

Many facing charges claim they suffered long-term abuse or exploitation at the hands of employers, according to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s director for legal aid and protection of Indonesian nationals overseas, Tatang Budie Utama Razak.

“When I observe why they killed their employer, most of them were not mentally ready (to work overseas),” Razak told CNN.

“They have to work unlimited hours, they have take care of the children, take care of the house, (their salaries are) unpaid, they cannot go out, (and) they cannot contact their families,” he said.

Still, there are false accusations. People can choose what they write about. Radford and Tavris can write about false accusations against Important Men. That’s their right.


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

Of particular interest to skeptics

Feb 27th, 2014 11:42 am | By

Huh. The stars must be aligned. Or is it the fates? Or the demons? Something. There was another post by a Big Skeptic yesterday on the subject of False Allegations of Sexual Assault. Two in one day. How about that!

It almost looks planned, doesn’t it. Arranged. Timed to coincide.

This one is by Ben Radford. It’s very long and much of it is very particular, but he also does some generalizing.

False accusations are of particular interest to skeptics because skepticism has often been at the forefront of giving voice to the wrongly accused. From the Salem witch trials (in which innocent young women were falsely accused of being witches) to the Satanic Panic moral panic of the 1980s and 1990s (in which dozens of innocent men and women were falsely accused of sexually assaulting children and others) and hundreds of examples in between, skeptics have often been there to remind the public to ask for evidence before rushing to judgment. Indeed, the brilliant CSI Fellow Carol Tavris just recently wrote an e-skeptic piece about this in relation to recent accusations against Woody Allen.

Indeed, and how helpful that it was published not “recently” but the same day Radford posted his piece. His “Indeed” looks rather artificial there, as if he’s claiming a coincidence that isn’t a coincidence. (He remembers the Salem witch trials wrong, by the way. The young girls were the accusers; the accused were older.)

Anyway. Sure, false accusations are of particular interest to skeptics, and rightly so. But that interest shouldn’t obscure the interest of non-false accusations, and how many of those get dismissed or worse. False accusations are a bad thing, and so are true accusations that are not believed. It’s especially bad when accusations are not believed because the people making them have less power and influence and status than the people they accuse. This is a situation that’s not unknown, in fact it happens quite a lot.

Think of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia for instance. It’s notorious that they are treated like dirt and that their employers can abuse them with impunity. Then again, maybe some exhausted domestic worker has made a false accusation against an employer – although it seems unlikely, since no one cares about non-false accusations, so why would anyone bother to make a false one? But maybe it has happened. That’s a bad thing, but all the abuse is a bad thing too.

I find Radford’s attention to false accusations somewhat…pointed.

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

Arizona says wait, come back

Feb 27th, 2014 10:10 am | By

Arizona’s governor vetoed the “we can treat people badly because Jesus” bill yesterday.

The bill was inspired by episodes in other states in which florists, photographers and bakers were sued for refusing to cater to same-sex couples. But it would have allowed much broader religious exemptions by business owners.

Why why why why why can’t florists, photographers and bakers refuse to cater to people they consider oooky? Why? This is America, god damn it, and America was built on the principle that Nice people get to shit on people they consider oooky.

Supporters said the bill was needed to allow people to live and work by their religious beliefs. “This bill is not about allowing discrimination,” State Senator Steve Yarbrough said during debate on the measure last week. “This bill is about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith.”

By refusing to cater to people they consider oooky. That’s what faith is for. It tells you who is oooky and who is Nice.

Calls, emails and posts to Ms. Brewer’s Facebook page streamed in by the thousands, many from people urging her to sign the legislation. “Don’t let them bully you, Jan,” one of them read. “If we deny someone their religious beliefs or the right to do business with whom they choose, we truly are giving up more and more, all of us, gay or straight.”

Ah right – the concern is really about gay people not being able to refuse to cater to straight people on the grounds of religious beliefs.

The measure is the latest initiative in Arizona to set off a political firestorm. Arizona is still struggling to repair its image and finances after the boycotts and bad publicity it endured after the passage of an immigration law in 2010 that gave police officers the right to stop people whom they suspected of being in the country illegally and made it a crime for illegal immigrants to hold jobs.

The state also faced a boycott almost 20 years ago, after voters initially refused to recognize Martin Luther King’s Birthday as a state holiday. At that time, the state was also set to host the Super Bowl, but the N.F.L., looking to avoid controversy, moved the game to Pasadena, Calif.

Oh well. They’ll always have cactus.

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

Braid the queen’s hair

Feb 27th, 2014 9:20 am | By

Saturday Night Live gives you: chess for girls!

It’s sarcastic, and yet…it could just as easily be straight up.

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

Skepticism to the rescue

Feb 27th, 2014 8:51 am | By

The first thing I saw when I went to Twitter just now:

mayhewSara E. Mayhew @saramayhew 31m

Fcking embarrassing to have such shitty speakers representing women. @wis3cfi: Women in Secularism 3 approaches by @opheliabenson

Ah yes, such “shitty speakers” as Taslima Nasreen, Susan Jacoby, Rebecca Goldstein, Katha Pollitt, Barbara Ehrenreich, Soraya Chemaly, Amanda Knief…

Embarrassing indeed.

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

As soon as we take sides

Feb 26th, 2014 5:55 pm | By

Carol Tavris takes a look at the Dylan Farrow-Woody Allen matter at Michael Shermer’s Skeptic.

The first part is good. I agree with all of it; it’s why I was careful not to say I “believed” Dylan Farrow or that I thought all claims of rape or sexual assault should be believed, just like that no matter what. It’s why I pointed out that DF’s memory could be wrong, without any intention or malice.

I was also dismayed to read claims by many of Dylan Farrow’s supporters that have long been scientifically disproved:

  • Children never lie about sexual abuse.
  • If a memory is vivid, detailed, and emotionally laden, that is evidence that it is accurate.
  • In the case of Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow, one must be “lying.” As Aaron Bady posted in The New Inquiry, “If one of them has to be lying for the other to be telling the truth, then presuming the innocence of one produces a presumption of the other’s guilt. And Woody Allen cannot be presumed to be innocent of molesting a child unless she is presumed to be lying to us.”

Same here. But then, toward the end, things go slightly wrong.

The problem, as studies of cognitive dissonance show, is that as soon as we take sides, the brain sees to it that we will justify and solidify our position by seeking only the information that confirms it, and deny, ignore or minimize evidence that we could be wrong.

That is the reason for the vehemence with which many of Farrow’s supporters are shouting down the opposition. (The title of a research paper captured this phenomenon perfectly: “When in Doubt, Shout.”) Given a choice of whom to believe, they say, we must always side with the accuser in a rape or molestation case; otherwise we are supporting the patriarchal “rape culture.” As Bady writes, “if you are presuming his innocence by presuming her mendacity, you are rape cultured.” Anyone who asks skeptical questions of Dylan Farrow’s story is a pedophile or a sexist who is abetting the abuse of children and women. That kind of self-righteous certainty shuts down thoughtful inquiry. It does not help the cause of feminism or justice.

How, then, should we think about Dylan Farrow’s allegations? It’s relevant that they occurred during a bitter custody dispute, when Mia Farrow’s understandable rage at Allen over his affair with Soon Yi was going at full blast. We might ask why Dylan is making her story public now. We might wonder whether she has been influenced by recovered-memory therapists or, as her brother Moses writes, by an angry and vengeful mother. We would want to take into account that this family remains bitterly divided. Most of all, we have to accept the most difficult lesson of critical thinking: tolerating uncertainty.

What we should not do, as my coauthor Elliot Aronson has said, is “sacrifice our skepticism on the altar of outrage.” Outrage is good when it leads to constructive, mindful efforts to promote justice—for innocent children and for innocent adults. But outrage without skepticism and science is a recipe for hysteria and witch hunts.

Notice anything? She forgot to follow her own instructions. That’s odd, isn’t it, since she had just given them. In one paragraph she said “as soon as we take sides, the brain sees to it that we will justify and solidify our position by seeking only the information that confirms it, and deny, ignore or minimize evidence that we could be wrong,” and in the next three paragraphs she discusses only Dylan Farrow’s allegations and not Woody Allen’s claims. It’s relevant that he’d been seeing a therapist because of his obsessive possessive relationship with Dylan; we might wonder whether he had some strange views about adoption and siblings and suitable sex partners; we would want to take into account that he never did see anything wrong with secretly fucking his long-term partner’s daughter.

So, yeah. Tavris is right that we don’t know, and that excess certainty is just that. But she’s quite wrong that that applies only to what Dylan Farrow has said.

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


Feb 26th, 2014 4:57 pm | By

Malala Yousafzai is supporting Fahma Mohamed in her campaign to get education about female genital mutilation into all schools in the UK.

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Malala praised Fahma’s campaign, and joined her in calling for better education in schools about FGM. “I’ve watched every step of Fahma’s campaign and I think she is on the edge of something huge,” she said. “Over 140 million girls and women are mutilated – but like keeping girls out of school in Pakistan, we can come out together and be strong and change things for the next generation. I am her sister and I am at her side and I want her to be listened to I as I was.”

Fahma is 17, Malala is 16.

Malala, who has recovered well in the UK after receiving specialised treatment at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham, compared the work done by Fahma and other members of the anti-FGM charity Integrate Bristol to her own battle for universal education. “I’m also trying to work for women’s rights and girls’ education and I think the campaign that you are doing is a part of my campaign as well,” she said. “[W]hen you talk about education you talk about quality education and it should be [known] all over the world about FGM – what it is and how can it affect the life of a girl. So I think it should be a part of education and we both will struggle for this. Because we can never achieve our goals unless we struggle for it, so I think this is the time to start it.”

Maybe that’s what girls are like. Maybe they actually have ideas in their heads. Maybe the people who carefully design extra-stupid toys and games for girls should pay more attention to girls like Fahma and Malala.


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

Which would you choose?

Feb 26th, 2014 11:56 am | By

As Blanche Quizno points out, there was this:

It’s not a pink version of Battleship, it’s the women segregated in the kitchen doing the chores. Which is more infuriating?

I can’t choose between them.

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

Women in Secularism 3 approaches

Feb 26th, 2014 11:41 am | By

Hey look what time it is – it’s almost March, so it’s almost time for Women in Secularism 3.

Taslima Nasreen will be there. She just tweeted a bit of good news – finally someone in Bangladesh has spoken up for her. The National Human Rights Commission has done that.

National Human Rights Commission Chairman Mizanur Rahman is unhappy about the lack of initiatives to bring feminist writer Taslima Nasrin back home.

His reaction came at a view-exchange meeting on empowerment of women held at CIRDAP auditorium in the capital on Wednesday.

Addressing the audience, he said: “What have you done to bring Taslima Nasrin back. Under what authority, a state deprives its citizen of the right to return home?”

Rahman said every citizen had the right to live in their motherland.

He said in an angry tone: “Taslima Nasrin couldn’t return home even after the death of her mother and relatives to see them for one last time.”

“She speaks against militants, is this her fault?”

Nasreen, a physician by training, was compelled to leave the country amid threat of militants following publication of her novel ‘Lajja’.

Since then, she has been living abroad – presently in India.

And in just a few weeks she’ll be at Women in Secularism 3.

Also, Susan Jacoby and Rebecca Goldstein are going to do an onstage conversation to talk about “Why Women Are Too Polite About Religion.” I look forward to that – it’s the other side of the “outspoken atheism is more of a guy thing” mistake. One reason people make that mistake is because a hell of a lot of people think that’s how things are divided: women do politeness and men do outspokenness. Women are pink and fluffy and need pink Monopoly and pink pens, and men are normal and sandpaperish and know how to be direct and frank. I look forward to hearing Susan Jacoby and Rebecca Goldstein skewering that notion.

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

Except they’re pink, so they cost twice as much

Feb 26th, 2014 11:19 am | By

As Kausik said – this is always relevant, alas.

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

Gender segregation by Hasbro

Feb 26th, 2014 11:05 am | By

They cannot be serious.

Via the Facebook page Destroy the Joint:

It’s Monopoly for Gurrulz.

Of all the icons in the universe that could be produced for “girls only”, perhaps the last one you’d think of would be good old Monopoly. Sadly – it has.

Monopoly “for girls” has been around for a while, but perhaps you haven’t heard of it. To make sure it is suitable for the “fairer sex”, it’s:
•Packaged in a keepsake storage box with removable tray and non-glass mirrored insert
•Has a pink game-board and dice with unique properties to buy such as spas and jewelry stores
•Has boutiques and malls instead of houses and hotels
•Has Instant Message and Text Message cards instead of Chance and Community Chest

Spas and jewelry stores; boutiques and malls. Because the female of the species really is that stupid and that limited and that weird and creepy and alien.

Photo: Destroyers –</p>
<p>Of all the icons in the universe that could be produced for “girls only”, perhaps the last one you’d think of would be good old Monopoly. Sadly – it has.</p>
<p>Monopoly “for girls” has been around for a while, but perhaps you haven’t heard of it. To make sure it is suitable for the “fairer sex”, it’s:<br />
•Packaged in a keepsake storage box with removable tray and non-glass mirrored insert<br />
•Has a pink game-board and dice with unique properties to buy such as spas and jewelry stores<br />
•Has boutiques and malls instead of houses and hotels<br />
•Has Instant Message and Text Message cards instead of Chance and Community Chest</p>
<p>And as you’d expect, the game has many feminist commentators and bloggers in a tizz. Here is one take on it (warning – language):<br />
“ … today I have for you an item of such clunge-clenching sexism that I fear we may all have fallen into a wormhole signposted 1864. No really, I am actually writing this blog post from a Dickensian slum while sailors attempt to pluck at my garters as I root through rubbish for dry coal. That’s how sexist this situation is. And for that you can lay the blame slap bang on the doorstep of toy-knockers Hasbro because it is currently producing Monopoly Boutique Edition. For girls.”</p>
<p>Destroyers – what do you think about traditional board games “for girls”. Where are the ones “for boys”?

It makes me want to…well, to destroy the joint.

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

Immaterial concepts that they are unable to understand.

Feb 26th, 2014 10:32 am | By

This is an interesting claim that seems to me to be quite wrong, but maybe that’s because I have exactly the kind of mind-blindness it’s talking about…Except I think I have good reason to think I don’t, which is why the claim seems to me to be quite wrong. I could go around like this all day.

The claim is a comment on a post of Chris Stedman’s giving five reasons it’s a bad idea for atheists to call religion a form of mental illness.

Yes, there is a link between autism and atheism. It’s been found that many autistic people are atheists. This explains why many atheists (who might be suffering from autism) are quiet in real life (due to the obvious social difficulties and interactions of being autistic) but very vocal on the internet letting their frustration out on immaterial concepts that they are unable to understand.

Autistic people do not view emotions and other immaterial concepts such as the prime-mover (which is fully established in philosophy and logic) the same way as regular people which explains why many become atheists as they unable to perceive God as a immaterial being and instead see him as a”sky-daddy” which is a juvenile view of the prime-mover that the great philosopher Aristotle argued for in Ancient Greece whose argument continues to this day.

That could be true. It makes internal sense. But of course it begs the question; it assumes that there really is such a thing as “God who is an immaterial being” and that it’s only a brain defect that prevents people from perceiving it.

Also, viewing emotions differently from the way non-autistic people do isn’t the same as not perceiving them at all. Some emotions have visible manifestations. You can’t say the same about “God” – it’s not as if a really intense version of “God” is visible to everyone.

The background idea though is familiar, and interesting. We have only the equipment we have. We have zero reason to think the equipment we have is able to perceive everything there is; in fact we have abundant reason to be aware that it doesn’t. It could be the case that there really is a thing we would call “God” if we could perceive it, that we just can’t perceive because we don’t have the organs to do the job.

It could be. It doesn’t follow though that the stories humans have been telling about their imagined gods for millennia have anything to do with that possible “God.”

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

Silly CPAC

Feb 25th, 2014 6:03 pm | By

Lordy, how silly.

American Atheists got an information booth at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and announced it today, and promptly had its table snatched away because…I don’t know, because it turned out that atheists are atheists, or something. I did say it was silly.

Politico explains.

“American Atheists misrepresented itself about their willingness to engage in positive dialogue and work together to promote limited government,” said CPAC spokesperson Meghan Snyder in an email.

Earlier Tuesday, after announcing the group’s participation, American Atheists’ president David Silverman told CNN, “I am not worried about making the Christian right angry. The Christian right should be angry that we are going in to enlighten conservatives. The Christian right should be threatened by us.”

When CPAC spoke to Silverman about this “divisive and inappropriate language,” Snyder said, “he pledged that he will attack the very idea that Christianity is an important element of conservatism.”

“People of any faith tradition should not be attacked for their beliefs, especially at our conference. He has left us with no choice but to return his money,” she said.

But “attacking” the idea that Christianity is an important element of conservatism is not the same thing as “attacking” people for their beliefs.

Now, in all fairness, if Dave had been harassing the people behind CPAC for several months, calling them names and mocking them and tweeting at them, I could certainly see why they would decline his request for a booth. But that’s not what happened. Saying they can’t have a booth after all because he wanted to tell them that Christianity is not an important element of conservatism is just silly.



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

Guest post on Secular Organizations for Sobriety/Save Our Selves

Feb 25th, 2014 4:06 pm | By

Guest post by Anonymous.

Right now, Secular Organizations for Sobriety/Save Our Selves (SOS) is in financial crisis. SOS is a support network for those seeking a secular alternative to AA. James Christopher, a sober alcoholic, founded SOS in 1985 as a way to get and stay sober through secular means. The Council for Secular Humanism (a part of Center for Inquiry) has financially supported the SOS program for over 23 years, but due to other commitments, it will severely cut funding unless SOS can raise $75,000 by the end of March 2014. SOS has so far raised $25,000, but time is running out.

Many, many people have been helped by SOS. Over 700 SOS groups meet in cities all over the world, including many in prisons. It doesn’t get the recognition that Alcoholics Anonymous gets, of course, and people mandated by the courts to join addictions recovery groups often aren’t aware of/offered an alternative. AA is not a secular program. Its 12-Step model requires giving oneself over to a “higher power” to get sober. Many nonbelievers in AA say they can make their higher power whatever they want it to be, i.e. pets, fictional characters, the memory of loved ones; but it is a major part of the program and it’s difficult to get around if you aren’t a spiritual person. Group prayers are often part of the meetings.

SOS credits the individual for achieving and maintaining their own sobriety, and welcomes the attendance of religious as well as nonreligious persons.

Please help save this important, effective program from losing its funding. Secular organizations offer few social programs that directly benefit the public and it would be a shame to lose this one.

If you agree that SOS should continue operating, please donate or pass on this link to the SOS Indiegogo page: There’s also an abbreviated link there to use on Twitter. The Indiegogo campaign ends March 14.

Donations can also be made (through March 31) here:, or send your tax-deductible donation today to:

Save SOS
4773 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA90027

(Credit card donors may also call 323-666-4295 24 hours.)

Find out more about SOS here:

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

World Burqa Day

Feb 25th, 2014 11:59 am | By

Oh, so that’s what the burqa is for.

TORONTO - A Muslim man wore a traditional woman’s burka and female shoes before he strangled his estranged wife in the company of their toddler son.

Abdul Malik Rustam admitted he donned the headdress — which disguised his face — and wedge shoes when he killed his wife, Shaher Bano Shahdady, after she asked for a divorce.

The killing occurred only two weeks after the 21-year-old woman received social assistance and moved into an apartment at 3131 Eglinton Ave. E.

Shahdady, who emigrated from Pakistan to Canada with her family when she was a year old, returned to her homeland when she was 12 or 13.

Rustam and Shahdady were wed in an arranged marriage in their native Pakistan in 2008 when she was 17 or 18 and he was 25.

Arranged? When she was 17 or 18? Is “arranged” really the right word there? Was it really arranged and not forced? I don’t know, but the power differential is obvious enough.

Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, said the murder is an honour killing that raises two disturbing issues for him.

“This attire has become an attire of choice for various crimes, terrorists, and now this is the first time the burka has been used as an instrument to a murder,” Fatah said. “The burka is protected under the guise of religious freedom.”

He added that the burka enabled the killer “to gain access into the home.

“Had it not been for the burka, she would not have let him gain entry at 1 in the morning and would still be alive today,” he said.

“It follows the whole question of arranged marriages, for girls born or raised over here, to men overseas who simply cannot visualize or imagine their wives having professional relationships with any man,” Fatah said.

The whole thing is a nightmare.

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

We’ve already had this conversation

Feb 25th, 2014 11:12 am | By

Exactly. EXACTLY.

Photo: Those who forget the past are doomed to look pretty stupid later.

Via George Takei on Facebook.

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

The child’s host

Feb 25th, 2014 10:39 am | By

We knew it all along. The motive force behind the campaign to get rid of abortion rights is hatred of women as women, women separate from babies, women as people.

Alexandra Petri in the Washington Post:

…just last week, Virginia State Senator Steve Martin posted on his Facebook wall, in response to a Valentine from a pro-choice group, that “Once a child does exist in your womb, I’m not going to assume a right to kill it just because the child’s host (some refer to them as mothers) doesn’t want it.” (He updated the post on Monday afternoon to change the language from “host” to “bearer of the child” because THAT fixes it.)

The fetus is a child, while the woman is a host. The fetus is a full person, while the woman is a mere incubator.

Women are expendable. They’re interchangeable. They’re basically just machines. They don’t matter, except for their machine-function. That’s why they’re the ones who gestate the babies, while the important people who really are fully people, men, get on with the important work that only people can do. Like stand-up comedy for instance.

Now Martin claims he was joking. Really? Look, when you support a fetal personhood bill and vote for the Virginia bill that mandated ultrasounds, it seems safe to assume that literally nothing you say calling women Baby-Hosts is a joke.


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

You’re not going to shift the fact that loads more men want to do it

Feb 25th, 2014 9:53 am | By

[See update at end.]

Ah yes – this again. If you make it explicit that you’re attempting to correct the lazy habit of inviting only men (only white men, only straight white men, etcetera) to do something then that’s tokenism, shock horror, so you shouldn’t do that, you should instead just stick with the lazy habit of inviting only men. It’s better all around. No one will use the word “token” and everything will be in every way better and more emollient.

The Independent has the details.

Dara O’Briain thinks the BBC’s ban on all-male comedy panels should have “evolved” without making future female guests appear as the “token woman”.

The Mock the Week presenter criticised the decision, arguing that stand-up by nature has a larger share of male comics.

By nature?

Ok wait, that could be just the Independent’s paraphrase. Maybe he didn’t say anything quite that dumb.

“It would have been better if it had evolved without showing your workings, if you know what I mean. Legislating for token woman isn’t much help.

“A certain number of women want to go into comedy and they should be cherished and nurtured, but you’re not going to shift the fact that loads more men want to do it.”

All right, that amounts to the same thing. If you’re not going to shift the fact, that must be because it’s “by nature,” also known as “it’s more of a guy thing.”

To go over the old ground yet again: nobody knows it’s “by nature” or “more of a guy thing” or a “fact” that you’re not going to shift. Why does nobody know that? Because there hasn’t been a careful test yet. The “tests” have all been done in a context where men are already expected to be the ones who do the talking, which includes the performing and the being funny. In a context like that it’s not possible to know that loads more men want to do it. The tests have also all been done in a context where women’s offerings get overlooked or dismissed or forgotten; a context where people just casually say “oh not many women want to do that” without pausing to realize that years of discouragement and extra-high hurdles could have something to do with their inability to think of many women who do stand-up.

O’Briain went on to argue that tackling gender inequalities in other areas such as computer coding would be a more effective use of time than dwelling on the representation of women in comedy.

“I wish a tenth of the energy that was put into the women-on-panel-shows debate was put into women in computer coding, in which there are hundreds of thousands of jobs in Europe and 11 per cent of them are done by women,” he said. “It seems a more sensible challenge than these 300 people (in stand-up comedy) and how they are represented.["]

Tech jobs are also important; of course they are. But you know what else is important? The culture. The discourse. The public conversation. Why is it important? Because it shapes our perceptions of the world and ourselves and each other, and the interactions among them. If women are scarce or totally absent in big chunks of that, that matters.

Update: O’Briain says he was misquoted. On Twitter he said

To clarify, yet again. I have no problem with a policy of no all-male panel shows. I just wouldn’t have announced it.

Fair enough. I still disagree with the “you’re not going to shift the fact” claim, but that’s less annoying without the misquoted part.

Thanks to Malachite for the correction.


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