Notes and Comment Blog

The occupying-force mentality

Dec 28th, 2014 11:24 am | By

The editors of The Nation are also disgusted at the police grandstanding and defiance of civilian rule.

Police-union leaders and their allies, however, chose this moment to talk not of peace but war. “The mayors hands are literally dripping with our blood because of his words actions and policies and we have, for the first time in a number of years, become a ‘wartime’ police department. We will act accordingly,” declared a now-infamous memo attributed to the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.

The PBA disavowed the memo, but its president, Patrick Lynch, clearly relished its imagery, speaking of “blood on the hands” repeatedly to reporters. Joining this twisted chorus were, among others, former NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly and former governor George Pataki, who called the killings “a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric” of Eric Holder and Bill de Blasio.

Where to begin? If anyone’s words could have a dangerous “predictable outcome,” they are those of Lynch, Pataki, Kelly and others, whose inflammatory statements contradict the message they otherwise seek to send: that the police are not the enemy but serve to protect the public. Of course, this is not how New Yorkers of color have experienced policing in the era of stop-and-frisk, which Mayor de Blasio pledged to end. Indeed, Lynch may have provided a service of sorts in so clearly articulating the occupying-force mentality that the protesters have been denouncing all along.

Yes, there’s something to that. I for one hadn’t been paying any particular attention to the New York police until the grand jury ruling in the Garner case and then the fascist reaction detailed above. I didn’t know they saw themselves as an occupying force until then.

But, it would be better to have a police force that didn’t see itself as an occupying force. Awareness of the problem is second best to not having the problem at all.

Outrageous as it is to blame democratic protests for the singular act of a mentally ill individual, it’s also true that highly charged political debates sometimes attract unstable, paranoid and untreated minds. But Brinsley has more in common with Sydney hostage-taker Man Haron Monis, or schizophrenic abortion-clinic shooter John Salvi in 1994, than he does with peaceful protesters against police violence. If anything, this tragedy is a reminder of why the underlying issues in this debate are so urgent—why good policing is tied to gun control and a better mental-health safety net; and why a new contract between police and communities is necessary. For the protest movement, it’s both good policy and good politics right now to focus on specific demands: abandon “broken windows” policing, abolish arrest quotas[,] and push for independent prosecutors when abuses occur. Those are reforms that will help keep everyone safe.

The harsh reality is that the US favors inequality because it’s good for rich people. The fact that it creates whole neighborhoods of impoverished people with little to lose and a lot to resent is not the rich people’s problem.

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

Hundreds of officers outside turned their backs

Dec 28th, 2014 9:55 am | By

The police fascism in New York is still ongoing. Yesterday at the funeral of Rafael Ramos it was on display again.

While mourners inside the church applauded politely as Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke, hundreds of officers outside turned their backs on him to protest what they see as his support for demonstrators angry over killings by police.

They’re “protesting” against civilian and democratic authority over the police, and that’s fascism. When the police get to call the shots, that’s a police state.

Sgt. Myron Joseph of the New Rochelle Police Department said he and fellow officers turned their backs spontaneously to “support our brothers in the NYPD.”

They need to stop doing that.

A block from the church, retired NYPD Officer John Mangan held a sign that read: “God Bless the NYPD. Dump de Blasio.”

No police department can or should be treated as beyond criticism. Cops can screw up. Individual cops can be flawed. Whole police departments can be infected with bad attitudes toward the people they work among. The self-pity and tribalism need to stop.



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

What Disco Mullah could do

Dec 27th, 2014 3:50 pm | By

Remember Junaid Jamshed? The former pop star turned reactionary preacher who had to flee Pakistan for London when he was accused of blasphemy by another reactionary preacher?

First, more about him from the BBC three weeks ago.

…the BBC’s Shaima Khalil in Islamabad says what makes Junaid Jamshed’s case so unusual is the fact that he is a high-profile, wealthy Muslim preacher.

As opposed to a Christian peasant woman like Asia Bibi.

In his video broadcast, which has since been widely shared, he appeared to make negative remarks about the Prophet’s youngest wife Ayesha.

He described how Ayesha demanded attention from the Prophet and how one day she faked an illness.

The video led to another Muslim group, Sunni Tehrik, filing the blasphemy case.

Junaid Jamshed – who is called “Disco Mullah” because of his role with the Tablighi Jamaat organisation – released a further video after the incident pleading for forgiveness.

But the blasphemy law isn’t about forgiveness, is it.

But the complainant, Sunni Tehrik spokesman Mohammad Mobeen Qadri, told BBC Urdu that an apology could not stop the legal process once blasphemy had been committed.

Before embarking on his religious career, Jamshed was a member of Vital Signs, a number of whose songs and albums topped the charts.

And now he has a third career: hiding from religious zealots.

Now an article by Kunwar Khuldune Shahid last week suggests that his case could be a way into reforming the blasphemy law.

‘Scholars’ who had dubbed blasphemy an unpardonable sin are seeking pardon, when Asia Bibi, Rimsha Masih, Shama and Shahzad Masih and countless others weren’t even given the chance to apologise. The same individuals who eulogise Shariah law and scorn secularism are taking refuge in secular realms, vying to dodge the ramifications of the same jurisprudence they tout as the foundation of the Islamic Utopia. Not to mention the fact that it was the narration of a religious scripture that summoned the blasphemy accusation in the first place.

The paradox, hypocrisy and irony in this entire episode are self-evident and have been thoroughly highlighted.

But given the realities, he says, the need is not to rejoice in Jamshed’s capture in a trap he has helped to set, but to use him as a lever to make the trap less lethal. If an apology can get him off the hook, then it should be able to get others off the hook.

Notwithstanding the allure of watching a despicable man fall in a trap that he’s set for others, many of us do not perceive the bigger picture here. We don’t realise the utility of the mullah in what is a rare opportunity to revamp the ugliest side of Pakistan.

After the virulence that JJ has been propagating in the garb of religion, it’s difficult to have any compassion for him; definitely not after watching the loathsome apology that he has recorded.  But we need to recognise the fact that it’s not just about one single detestable nut-head, and his brazen duplicity. It’s about the fate of those that have already suffered cataclysmic repercussions amidst the frequent Islamic spasms.

If the blasphemy law can gobble up a Jamshed it will be even more ravenous toward everyone else.

If the Pakistani establishment is as keen on curbing religious fanaticism as it has been peddling via the ISPR, and the touted casualty count of Islamist terrorists, it possesses the necessary muscle to use mullahs like Junaid Jamshed – and by correlation Tariq Jameel – into showcasing alleged blasphemy as a ‘pardonable sin.’ Once that happens, countless Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis and even the Shia, would be spared the wrath of the mullah and his personal toy that the blasphemy law has become.

In the ideal world no one should be forced to apologise – let alone be massacred – for holding any religious beliefs – or none whatsoever – but in Pakistan, one of the farthermost domains from the ideal world, giving blasphemy-accused the opportunity to apologise for a non-existent crime – one they never committed – would be a massive step towards eventually making said apology superfluous.

If an ‘Islamic scholar’ like Junaid Jamshed, with decades worth of indoctrination under his increasingly protracted belt, can ‘err’ into ‘unintentional blasphemy’, surely a non-Muslim, can make a similar mistake. This should be the official tagline for the reformist movement designed to save innocent lives from the murderous allegation of blasphemy.

In other words to reform it, the reformers have to take it on its own terms, at least for now. That must be a bitter pill to swallow.



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

Living Marxism denied Omarska

Dec 27th, 2014 11:57 am | By

And now that we’ve revisited Vulliamy’s and ITN’s visit to Omarska, let’s revisit their libel suit against Living Marxism for saying it was all a fabrication. Ed Vulliamy again:

Some will say that Living Marxism won the “public relations battle”, whatever that is. Others will cling to the puerile melodrama that ITN’s victory in the high court yesterday was that of Goliath over some plucky little David who only wanted to challenge the media establishment.

But history – the history of genocide in particular – is thankfully built not upon public relations or melodrama but upon truth; if necessary, truth established by law. And history will record this: that ITN reported the truth when, in August 1992, it revealed the gulag of horrific concentration camps run by the Serbs for their Muslim and Croatian quarry in Bosnia.

The law now records that Penny Marshall and Ian Williams (and myself, for that matter) did not lie but told the truth when they exposed this crime to the world, and that the lie was that of Living Marxism and its dilettante supporters who sought, in the time-honoured traditions of revisionism, to deny those camps existed.

Of course Living Marxism was unable to offer a single witness who had been at Trnopolje, the camp they claimed to be a fake, on that putrid afternoon of August 5, 1992. Indeed, they were unable to produce any witnesses at all. Unlike any member of Living Marxism or their sympathisers, I was there with ITN’s cameras that day. We went to two camps: Omarska and Trnopolje.

Living Marxism. Remember them? They’re still around, under new names – spiked and the Institute of Ideas, for two.

When ITN sued in pursuit of these aims, the company of course ran the risk that such action would draw attention to LM’s revisionism. But no one could have predicted the degree to which, rather than be dismissed as a foul revisionist trick, Living Marxism’s claims would become a matter for voguish tittle-tattle among bored intellectuals on the sofas of the Groucho Club.

LM played its hand well but the rot in the British intelligentsia made it easy for them to do so. LM succeeded in entwining the two issues of the libel writ and denial of the camps. Some of their supporters argued that they accepted the truth of the genocide but nevertheless felt compelled by ITN’s supposedly heavy-handed use of the libel laws to speak out in favour of those who denied the carnage. But such distinctions were utterly unconvincing. Those who helped LM cannot fail to recognise that by doing so they also stirred the poison LM had dropped into the well of history, playing their own role in denying a genocide.

By this entwinement, genocide was devalued into a “media debate”, something to chitter-chatter about over grilled sea bass and pale Belgian beer.

Hungry for controversy, a sizeable portion of London’s intelligentsia lined up to support Living Marxism. They rallied round those who had named me and others as liars in the name of free speech – so why not name them too, the great, the good and the up-and-coming? Fay Weldon, Doris Lessing, Harold Evans, Toby Young, and even a handful of contributors to this newspaper. A diverse coterie, eager to sip Living Marxism’s apparently excellent claret at the ICA, to eat their canapés and run alongside the rotten bandwagon of revisionism.

And they’re still flourishing, still passing around the claret.

As is by now well-known, Living Marxism has become adept at finding or placing supporters in what it regards as influential positions in the media. This is all perfectly above board: the Times was desperate enough to offer LM’s editor, Mick Hume, his own column. The signatories of LM’s letters are familiar bylines across Fleet Street.

And they still are. Brendan O’Neill is one. See note 19 in a 2009 piece by George Monbiot:

19. In 2000, Brendan O’Neill sent out a mass email with the following content: “The people who brought you LM magazine will be back in late 2000 with a new online publication called spiked.”

Genocide-deniers as media stars. It’s a strange world we live in.


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

Omarska 2012

Dec 27th, 2014 11:40 am | By

Bosnia Institute News tells us that Omarska is being wiped from memory.

On 9 May, a group of survivors came to Omarska, near Prijedor in Bosnia, to lay a wreath for those who perished there in 1992. It was Victory Day – a Bosnian holiday to mark the defeat of fascism in the World War II – and also, for them, an opportunity to commemorate the victims of numerous detention camps from the more recent conflict. They did so last year and in the years before at this place, now an iron ore mine but once notorious as a place of torture and death for several thousand Bosnians at the hands of Bosnian Serb forces.

But guards hired by ArcelorMittal, the largest steel producer in the world and the current owner of the site, did not allow them to place flowers at the gate. They were acting in accordance with the wishes of Prijedor’s hard-line Serb mayor Marko Pavic and ArcelorMittal’s new policy, which has suspended a previously expressed commitment to fund a memorial and allow survivors unrestricted access to this site of remembrance. A corporate giant that recently invested 19.2 million pounds in the London ‘Orbit’, and that has sought to project an image of corporate responsibility, ArcelorMittal has shown a different face in a troubled land from which some of its profits come.
Back to normal. It was a mining site, then it was a concentration camp, and now it’s a mining site again. Let’s just forget all about the concentration camp interlude, because it’s not comfortable.
The images of the emaciated inmates of Omarska broadcast in the summer of 1992 to the world by a group of British journalists shocked the international public, bringing back memories of Nazi concentration camps. The evidence of torture and killings of detainees at Omarska, collected by a UN Commission of Experts, led to the establishment of the first international war crimes court since Nuremberg and Tokyo – the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Some 20 Bosnian Serbs, including guards, commanders of the camp and local political leaders, have been convicted of crimes against humanity committed in Omarska.
But now…well, it’s time to move on.
As peace set in and foreign investors picked through state-owned assets in Bosnia, Mittal Steel decided to purchase the site of the concentration camp, together with a complex of rich ore mines and facilities around Prijedor (including the locations of mass graves where the bodies of murdered Omarska inmates were dumped by Serb authorities). It was a logical purchase, following the earlier acquisition of the huge steelworks in Zenica in central Bosnia.
Fearing a possible backlash and bad publicity, Mittal agreed with camp survivors that certain buildings at the Omarska complex would remain untouched and accessible to survivors and victims’ families. The agreement was followed by a promise that a memorial would be built on the site and financed by Mittal. This was in 2005, but things have changed dramatically since then.
Mittal’s promise was made at the height of hopes that Bosnia was heading in the right direction, towards a reckoning with the legacy of atrocities committed during the nineties. The project of Omarska Memorial, led by a UK-based group ‘Soul of Europe’, contracted by Mittal to facilitate discussions between Bosniak, Croat and Serb representatives in Prijedor, was hailed internationally as an example of Bosnia finally coming to terms with its ghosts. Not everybody was happy with the proposed memorial, but it seemed to be a breakthrough in a community ravaged by a brutal fratricide.
But then things went wrong.
However, shortly after this event, the mayor of Prijedor forcefully rejected the initiative. After a meeting with former UK Ambassador to Bosnia Matthew Rycroft, Marko Pavic said that a memorial in Omarska would ‘undermine relations between different ethnic groups in Prijedor’. As a response, Mittal representatives ‘suspended’ the Omarska Memorial project, insisting that the suspension was temporary.
The promise of a reckoning in Bosnia quickly evaporated under an onslaught from the prime minister (today president) of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, who embraced the strategy of ‘separation of peoples’ set out by Radovan Karadzic on 12 May 1992. Dividing ethnic communities, deeply scarred by the war, was an effective tactic to weaken Bosnian state institutions and strengthen Dodik’s rule in the entity dominated by the Serbs. He knew that nothing works better to sow resentment and mistrust than the denial of heinous crimes, such as those that took place in Omarska.
No truth, so no reconciliation.

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

Omarska 1992

Dec 27th, 2014 11:30 am | By

I’ve been re-reading Samantha Power‘s A Problem From Hell, and I feel a need to revisit what happened in Bosnia in 1992 and after.

Power cites the work of Ed Vulliamy of the Guardian. We could start with his Shame of camp Omarska.

The internees are horribly thin, raw-boned; some are almost cadaverous, with skin like parchment folded around their arms; their faces are lantern-jawed, and their eyes are haunted by the empty stare of the prisoner who does not know what will happen to him next.

The prisoners, or internees, emerge from a huge rust-coloured shed, 30 at a time, into the sun and heat.

They are lined up by a prison guard, a civilian policeman, and then, as part of some pathetic camp drill, they run in single file across a courtyard and into the camp canteen, under the watchful eye of a beefy policeman with a machine gun in a glass observation post. There are no barked orders; they know the drill only too well.

In the well-kept kitchen they line up again and wait for their ration: a bowl of beans augmented with breadcrumbs and a piece of bread, which they wolf down in silence at the metal tables, before quickly and obediently forming another line by the door, and then running in line back across the yard, into the aluminium shed.

The meal takes five minutes. It appears to be their only one of the day. If they ate even twice as much they would be only slightly less gaunt and withered. Some take their bread with them to eat later. Then the next 30 appear, and jog across the yard.

You can Google “Omarska” and check Images to see what Vulliamy describes. Bosnian Institute News has this familiar photo:

Vulliamy was the first to document this.

Omarska is an old iron mine and ore processing plant. It is now the most notorious on a list published by the Bosnian government naming 57 of what it calls ‘concentration camps’.

Neither the International Red Cross nor the United Nations – nor any press – had visited it before we arrived on Wednesday, although the international agencies have expressed acute concern about the Bosnian-Muslim allegations.

They weren’t given free access, of course.

Most of the inmates are too visibly terrified to talk. We decline to interview people selected by the authorities, preferring to try finding our own inmates to talk to, but we are bundled away upstairs for a briefing.

Omarska, they tell us, is an ‘investigation centre’ for men suspected of being in the Muslim irregular army. They are rounded up or arrested, then ‘screened’ to determine whether they are fighters or civilians.

And while they were “screened” they were also starved.





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

The eleventh person killed for being Ahmadi

Dec 27th, 2014 11:01 am | By

Another horror out of Pakistan.

Gunmen in a Punjab village shot dead a member of the Ahmadi religious minority on Saturday, five days after a Muslim leader denounced Ahmadis on a popular television show.

Luqman Ahad Shehzad was shot in the back of the head near Bhiri Shah Rehman village, a small community of Ahmadis in the Gujranwala district, said Saleemud Din, a spokesman of the community.

He is the eleventh person killed for being Ahmadi in Pakistan this year.

Should we be grateful the number is “only” eleven when it could be in the thousands? Or furious that it’s more than zero?

In 1984, a Pakistani law declared them non-Muslims and made it possible to jail Ahmadis for “posing as a Muslim” or “offending a Muslim’s feelings”.

They are often denounced by Muslim clerics and targeted by violent extremists. Some clerics promise that killing Ahmadis earns the killer a place in heaven and distribute leaflets listing their home addresses.

So it’s pretty amazing that the number isn’t in the thousands.

Clerics who urge their listeners to kill people for adhering to the wrong religion? Not good people to listen to.

On Monday, Muslim leader Syed Arif Shah Owaisi appeared on a popular morning television show hosted by Pakistani host Aamir Liaquat Hussain.

“This enemy is a common enemy and is an enemy of all of Pakistan. And this enemy is the sect of Qadiyani,” Owaisi said, using a derogatory term for Ahmadis.

“They are the ones blaspheming against the holy prophet (pbuh). All us Muslims should recognise that enemy.”

Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan. Scores of people have been lynched after being accused of blasphemy.

So a popular tv show in Pakistan hosts someone who basically sends a message to watchers to kill a certain kind of person. Free speech.




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

Teflon child

Dec 26th, 2014 2:57 pm | By

There was a heated discussion on a post of Tom Flynn’s at the CFI blogs about whether or not to celebrate Christmas because it is or isn’t a Christian festival. I don’t really have a position on that, but it prompted me to try to figure out if I ever really saw it (or felt it) as a religious observance. I may be misremembering, but for the life of me I can’t dredge up any real religious associations with it. By “real” I mean ones that I personally experienced as religious, as opposed to elements that I was aware were religious.

It’s odd, really, because there were a good few of the latter, but to me it’s as if they were just decoration. I somehow sidestepped the real religiosity.

Like: my mother always went to this thing called “midnight mass” at the Episcopal church, and my older sister and brother always or usually went with her. I wasn’t eligible to go because it was, you know, midnight, and by the time I was old enough…I don’t remember but the custom must have stopped, because I never went. It’s as if there was this odd little cliff between my siblings and me.

Another example: one of the rituals was for us to join up with an uncle and aunt and their four boys to drive around singing carols and looking at the Christmas lights. It sounds both boring and corny but I loved it. I loved ritual as a kid, and had a habit of trying to enforce it on the elders. Now obviously a lot of those carols were religious…but I can’t remember experiencing them as such. I knew they were religious, but it didn’t make any difference I can detect.

Or there was another ritual, this one at my school, which was private and in some sense Anglican: it was called “candlelight” and we walked in a procession holding candles and singing, and then we recited the nativity bit of whichever gospel that is, the one that starts with And there were, abiding in the fields, shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks by night. I can still recite the whole damn thing, with all the pauses and emphases just as we were taught them so that the recitation would be united. Well – that’s pretty damn religious. And yet to me it was just this pretty thing. I don’t remember feeling pious about it, but I also don’t remember feeling rebellious about it. It was just a pretty performance.

I wasn’t some kind of thoughtful atheist child. Hell no. I was a daydreamer and fantasist, not a thinker. But…I was all the same a godless child. It just bounced off me somehow.

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

“Our backs have turned to you”

Dec 26th, 2014 12:50 pm | By

You have got to be kidding.

Ex-NYC-cop and blogger John Cardillo has a message for us:

Late last night I was contacted by a coalition of NYPD cops, Detectives, and supervisors hundreds strong and asked to disseminate the following statement on their behalf. They requested I wait until after the plane towing a banner which reads “DE BLASIO, OUR BACKS HAVE TURNED TO YOU” was airborne.

At 08:50 I received word that the plane was in the air and asked to release the statement and photo below.

The plane was in the air, towing a message to all of us:


As a large and unified group of current and retired NYC Police Officers, Detectives, & Supervisors, we are outraged by the mayor’s incendiary rhetoric, and for facilitating the current hostile climate towards the NYPD. We understand that the department and even our own unions can only go so far in their public condemnation of the mayor as to not irreparably damage the working relationship with the city, or future contract negotiations.

It is our opinion that Mayor deBlasio’s dangerous and irresponsible comments about his and his wife’s concern for their son’s safety at the hands of the NYPD fueled the flames that led to civil unrest, and potentially to the deaths of PO Wenjian Liu and PO Rafael Ramos, as well as the continued threats against NYPD personnel. The Mayor shows us no respect, and encourages the public to follow his lead.

We no longer have confidence in Mayor deBlasio, nor in his ability to lead New York City and promote the values that both the NYPD and the good law abiding citizens of the city hold dear. Mayor deBlasio turned his back on us long before we turned our backs on him.

That’s their message to us. Nothing about the killing of Eric Garner, just sympathy for themselves. Nothing about the need to be accountable to the people they boast of protecting, nothing about the need to use restraint and caution while they do their jobs, nothing about the responsibility they have to use those big guns they have with care.


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

One nightmare over

Dec 26th, 2014 12:21 pm | By

News from Ireland: the high court has ruled that that unfortunate woman who was being kept “alive” after brain death because she was pregnant can – and in fact should – be allowed to die the rest of the way.

The woman’s family had asked the court to allow treatment to be withdrawn so she could be put to rest.

Doctors would not grant their wishes as they were unsure of the legal status of the unborn child under the Constitution.

The woman in this case was declared dead on 3 December.

The court heard evidence that her body was deteriorating and the outlook for her unborn child was very poor.

Her family wanted the life support machine to be turned off.

It’s almost as if women aren’t actually incubators. It’s almost as if there actually is a difference between a woman with a brain and a woman without one.

Lawyers represented the unborn child and the woman herself.

The lawyers for the unborn told the court that it had to satisfy that there was no real possibility of the unborn child surviving before allowing the machine to be turned off.

But there is no child. There’s no such thing as an “unborn child.” That’s a political slogan, not an accurate label. It’s grotesque having lawyers “representing” a fetus at all.


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

Quick, talk about something else

Dec 26th, 2014 11:40 am | By

Meanwhile Erdogan is changing the subject by telling Europe to do something about “Islamophobia” before criticizing Turkey’s approach to freedom of the press.

Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan slammed European countries on Friday for criticizing deteriorating press freedom in Turkey and said they should instead try to find a solution for what he said was increasing Islamophobia in the continent.

Turkish police earlier this month raided media outlets close to US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan accuses of forming a ‘parallel state’ to undermine his rule and orchestrating a graft scandal targeting his inner circle.

The European Union, which Turkey has been seeking to join for decades, said the media raids ran counter to European values, a criticism already dismissed by Erdogan. On Friday, the President repeated his discontent, with a visibly harsher tone.

Well, maybe he’s embarrassed about that schoolboy arrested for saying something harsh about him.

“We are not Europe’s scapegoat,” Erdogan told a symposium of civil servants. “We are definitely not a country that Europe can point its finger at and scold. Instead of criticizing us, Europe should find a solution to increasing racism and Islamophobia.”

Meh. “Europe” isn’t a thing that can point a finger or scold anyway, but if it were…it could do that. The EU can do that, the ECHR can do that, heads of state can do that, journalists can do that, rights activists can do that. Actually, anybody at all can do that…unless they’re actually in Turkey, of course.


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

The boy was arrested at school

Dec 26th, 2014 11:25 am | By

The teenager who “insulted” Erdogan is out of jail pending trial. Oooh really? How can they be sure he won’t insult again? It’s terrifying and reckless to let such a violent insulter walk around freely when at any moment he might say something hostile about the president of Turkey omigod.

Turkey’s penal code makes it a crime to insult the president.

As he left the courthouse in Konya, the boy said: “There is no question of taking a step back from our path, we will continue along this road.”

There has been growing concern amid rights groups in Turkey at what they see as a clampdown on freedom of speech.

Ya think?

The boy was arrested at school on Wednesday and taken for questioning.

His speech, given to commemorate the killing of a Turkish soldier by Islamists in the 1920s, was recorded on video and broadcast by Dogan News Agency.

In it, he defended secularism and the principles of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish republic.

He reportedly called Mr Erdogan the “thieving owner of the illegal palace”, referring to a controversial 1,150-room palace inaugurated by the president in October.

And for that appalling crime, the police went to his school and arrested him.

The arrest sparked fierce criticism of Mr Erdogan, with Attila Kart, a member of opposition party CHP, saying the president was creating “an environment of fear, oppression and threat”.

Mr Erdogan, who was elected president in August after serving as prime minister for 11 years, has faced several corruption allegations in recent years.

He insists they are baseless and part of a “dark plot” to oust him from power by influential cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is in self-imposed exile in the US.

An influential cleric is not what Turkey needs.

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

The Duggars don’t want that Civil Rights ordinance

Dec 25th, 2014 5:37 pm | By

Why not celebrate Xmas or solstice by signing the petition to tell the Duggars they’re homophobic bigots?

The new law the Duggars want repealed would prohibit business owners and landlords from unjustly firing or evicting someone because of their sexual orientation, gender identity and other characteristics.

According to finance and expenditure reports filed this week with the Washington County Clerk’s office, Fayetteville candidates have raised more than $44,000, **almost one-fourth of which came from Springdale residents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar.**

The Duggars, who are featured in the TV show “19 Kids and Counting,” have so far donated $10,000 toward the campaigns of the three most outspoken opponents to Fayetteville’s new Civil Rights Administration ordinance. The Duggars gave $2,000 to John La Tour, and $4,000 to both Joshua Crawford and Paul Phaenuef.

The ordinance was passed by the Fayetteville City Council on Aug. 20, but a group called Repeal 119 gathered enough signatures to put the new law to a Dec. 9 public vote.

They present a nice sunny exterior but they’re reactionary theocrats who should have been left in obscurity.

Happy holidays.

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

The student could face up to four years in prison

Dec 25th, 2014 3:20 pm | By

Chapter 70 squillion in the annals of “arrested for insulting ____” – in this case not the prophet but the president, of Turkey.

Police in Turkey have arrested a 16-year-old student on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to local media.

He was arrested on Wednesday after criticising the ruling AK Party during a speech at a student protest in the central Anatolian city of Konya.

The teenager could face up to four years in prison if found guilty.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu defended the arrest, saying the presidential office “needs to be shown respect”.

No. No it doesn’t. It doesn’t need to be shown unconditional respect and it certainly doesn’t need to be “shown respect” in the sense of criminalizing criticism.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has it completely backward. People who hold political office are more subject to criticism than civilians, not less so. People who have power have to be wide open to criticism, because otherwise they’re free to pillage us in any way they like.

Arresting a 16-year-old student for criticizing a political party is just contemptible.

Note to the EU: Turkey is not ready.

Turkey’s penal code makes it a crime to insult the president.

It also makes it a crime to insult “Turkishness.” Turkey’s penal code is fucked up.

The boy’s speech, given to commemorate the killing of a Turkish soldier by Islamists in the 1920s, was recorded on video and broadcast by Dogan News Agency.

In it, he defends secularism and the principles of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish republic.

He also singled out President Erdogan for criticism over recent corruption allegations, as the crowd chanted “everywhere is bribery, everywhere is corruption”.

And for that they busted him – dear “moderate” Turkey.



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

Consider the Deccan traps

Dec 25th, 2014 12:54 pm | By

What could be more festive than learning something new about the probable cause of the extinction event that terminated the dinosaurs?

At least, it’s new to me, although according to Science Daily it’s been on the table for 30 years.

A definitive geological timeline shows that a series of massive volcanic explosions 66 million years ago spewed enormous amounts of climate-altering gases into the atmosphere immediately before and during the extinction event that claimed Earth’s non-avian dinosaurs, according to new research from Princeton University.

A primeval volcanic range in western India known as the Deccan Traps, which were once three times larger than France, began its main phase of eruptions roughly 250,000 years before the Cretaceous-Paleogene, or K-Pg, extinction event, the researchers report in the journal Science. For the next 750,000 years, the volcanoes unleashed more than 1.1 million cubic kilometers (264,000 cubic miles) of lava. The main phase of eruptions comprised about 80-90 percent of the total volume of the Deccan Traps’ lava flow and followed a substantially weaker first phase that began about 1 million years earlier.

The results support the idea that the Deccan Traps played a role in the K-Pg extinction, and challenge the dominant theory that a meteorite impact near present-day Chicxulub, Mexico, was the sole cause of the extinction. The researchers suggest that the Deccan Traps eruptions and the Chicxulub impact need to be considered together when studying and modeling the K-Pg extinction event.

Interesting, no? Not just the uninvited visitor from space, but also volcanic explosions right here on the blue dot.

The Deccan Traps’ part in the K-Pg extinction is consistent with the rest of Earth history, explained lead author Blair Schoene, a Princeton assistant professor of geosciences who specializes in geochronology. Four of the five largest extinction events in the last 500 million years coincided with large volcanic eruptions similar to the Deccan Traps. The K-Pg extinction is the only one that coincides with an asteroid impact, he said.

“The precedent is there in Earth history that significant climate change and biotic turnover can result from massive volcanic eruptions, and therefore the effect of the Deccan Traps on late-Cretaceous ecosystems should be considered,” Schoene said.

“Biotic turnover” – that’s such a nicely chilling phrase.

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

Simon’s cat gets a catnip cat

Dec 25th, 2014 11:24 am | By

Prp? Prp? Rrp?


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

Why steadfast

Dec 25th, 2014 11:22 am | By

Jesus and Mo dance around the Confirmation Circle.

Jesus and Mo


Can become a patron at Patreon.

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

He was accused of apostasy “for speaking lightly of the Prophet Mohammed”

Dec 25th, 2014 11:11 am | By

Now a piece of horrible news from Mauritania:

A Muslim man has become the first person to be sentenced to death for apostasy in Mauritania since independence in 1960 after a court ruled he had written something blasphemous.

Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed, who is around 30 years old, fainted when the ruling was read out late Wednesday in a court in Nouadhibou in the northwest of the country, a judicial source told AFP.

As well he might. Imagine being sentenced to death by a court of law for writing “something blasphemous.”

During the hearing the judge told Mohamed that he was accused of apostasy “for speaking lightly of the Prophet Mohammed” in an article which was published briefly on several Mauritanian websites.

In it he challenged some the decisions taken by Islam’s prophet and his companions during the holy wars, the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He also accused Mauritanian society of perpetuating “an iniquitous social order” and defended those at the bottom rungs of society who he described as “marginalised and discriminated against from birth”.

And for that they intend to kill him. They intend to kill him, with the dignity of the law behind them.

Mohamed, named by some local media outlets as Cheikh Ould Mohamed Ould Mkheitir, explained that it was “not his intention to harm the prophet”, the source added.

His lawyer asked for leniency as he said his client was repentant but the judge agreed to the prosecutor’s request for the death penalty.

No information was immediately available on whether Mohamed would appeal.

Local Islamic organisations said it was the first time text critical of Islam had been published in the country.

The verdict was met with shouts of joy from the gallery, while on the streets there were jubilant scenes as cars sounded their horns.

How disgusting. How bottomlessly horrible to welcome a death sentence on someone for having a social conscience.


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

A Christmas morality play

Dec 25th, 2014 10:33 am | By

Department of Stories that we suspect didn’t happen quite the way they were described.

The New York Post reports – or, rather, melodramatizes – a tale of an evil Grumpy Passenger being thrown off a plane during boarding because he was a demonic Enemy of Christmas.

The byline is Michael Liss, Daniel Prendergast and Philip Messing, which seems like a lot for such a tiny story (in both length and import). Maybe they’re all sock puppets of Bill O’Reilly, or Murdoch himself.

The man was waiting to board American Airlines Flight 1140 to Dallas when a cheerful gate agent began welcoming everyone with the Yuletide greeting while checking boarding passes.

The grumpy passenger, who appeared to be traveling alone, barked at the woman, “You shouldn’t say that because not everyone celebrates Christmas.”

The agent replied, “Well, what should I say then?”

“Don’t say, ‘Merry Christmas!’ ” the man shouted before brushing past her.

See what I mean? Already I don’t believe it. I don’t believe he shouted, and as for “brushing past her” – what was he supposed to do, wait for her to carry him?

Once on the plane, he was warmly greeted by a flight attendant who also wished him a “merry Christmas.” That was the last straw.

“Don’t say, ‘Merry Christmas!’ ” the man raged before lecturing the attendants and the pilot about their faux pas.

“Raged”? I don’t believe you, New York Post.

The crew tried to calm the unidentified man, but he refused to back down and continued hectoring them.

He was escorted off the plane as other fliers burst into cheers and applause.

And Tiny Tim broke his crutch over the Grumpy Man’s head.

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

He’s a goofball who writes funny songs

Dec 24th, 2014 5:22 pm | By

So there was this charity event. It was held at an Elks Lodge. The lodge is in Glendale, California. The host of the event was a retired cop. About half of the 50 to 60 guests were cops.

You can probably already tell this story isn’t going to go well.

Somebody took some video. Salon reports on what the video shows.

In the video, Gary Fishell, a former federal investigator, sings a parody of the song “Bad, bad Leroy Brown“:

“Michael Brown learned a lesson about a messin’
With a badass policeman
And he’s bad, bad Michael Brown

Then it gets worse; go there if you want to read the whole thing.

It’s the fascism again. It’s racism too, obviously, but it’s also the fascism I was talking about in regard to the New York police commissioner and the PBA. It’s rejoicing in superior force, even in cases where it’s not called for. It’s saying jump when we say jump or we’ll kill you, and isn’t that glorious of us.

It’s also disgusting.

In an interview with TMZ, Fishell’s lawyer says that Fishell now realizes the song was “off color and in poor taste.” “He’s a goofball who writes funny songs,” his lawyer continued. “He thought the room would get a kick out of it.”

Sigh. Point missed. Reality evaded.

Myers was unapologetic about his guest’s chosen form of entertainment: “How can I dictate what he says in a song? This is America. We can say what we want. This is a free America.”

Yes yes yes, and nobody’s arresting him (or shooting him), but there are plenty of things people are free to do that are nonetheless despicable. That “funny song” is despicable.

A representative from the Glendale Elks Lodge condemned the performance: “It’s deplorable and inappropriate and the Lodge will take disciplinary action against [Fishell] and possibly the people who organized the event,” a trustee said. “We don’t stand for any racist things like this.”

This country is shameful in so many ways. Like this one, via Amazing Maps on Twitter:

Prison Population per 100,000 people (2012)

Embedded image permalink


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