Notes and Comment Blog

He’s just not sure

Jun 10th, 2014 5:36 pm | By

Priests are supposed to be better than the rest of us, right? They’re supposed to have a special pipeline to god – that’s why they’re priests. It’s not just a job like any other; it’s not something you learn, like plumbing or pharmacy; it’s a magical goddy thing you’re inducted into. Priests are Set Apart; they are Intermediaries between us and the goddy fella.

Bishops are that but more so, and archbishops are that and more so again.

So why would an archbishop not know it’s wrong for adults to rape children? Knowing that is just average, surely; since archbishops are supposed to be way way way above average in the knowing right from wrong department (because of the special link to god), they would surely know it before they had even sent away for their name tapes for priest-school.

But the archbishop of St Louis says he doesn’t know if he knew. He’s just all at sea on the matter.

Carlson, the head of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, was deposed for a case regarding sex abuse allegations that took place when he was auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis from 1979 until 1994. He investigated those allegations during his time in Minnesota.

During the deposition, which was released Monday, attorney Jeff Anderson asked Carlson if he “knew it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid.”

“I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not,” Carlson said. “I understand today it’s a crime.”

So back then he may have thought it was ok? He’d have been happy to have told everyone he knew that he (just for example) was raping children every chance he got?

You know what? I don’t believe that. Not for a second. People knew it was a crime when I was a child, two hundred years ago. The archbishop told a whopper. That too is frowned on. The archbishop is not a moral exemplar.

Carlson said he doesn’t recall when he first discerned that it is a crime, but documents released Monday from the law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates in St. Paul tell a different story.

A 1984 document, reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, showed Carlson’s correspondence with the former archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis about one particular victim. Carlson wrote that the victim’s parents were thinking about notifying the police.

See? That’s what I’m saying. Of course he knew it was a crime. Wrong, and a crime.

The Catholic church seems to be bad for the moral fiber.

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

A code that had little or nothing to do with morality

Jun 10th, 2014 4:55 pm | By

An Irish expat in Boston feels ashamed to be Irish at the moment.

It’s hard to like or be proud of your own country, a country where bad things have happened: church-concealed child sexual abuse, women’s labor camps, a.k.a. Magdalene Laundries, and, now, 796 unconsecrated and unmarked baby graves. No, not ‘happened.’ These atrocities were perpetrated, ignored and criminally concealed. The victims? Women, children and the poor. The atonement? Little to none.

Even if the national will or means were there, even if it could be orchestrated, how would Ireland carry out a reconciliation process? What does it take for a country to have or to acquire the morality, the humility and the will to atone for collective cruelties to its most vulnerable citizens?

I don’t know. But I do think that a formal separation of church and state would be a very good start. So would an end to the hypocritical set of laws that still mandates that 21st-century Irish women must travel overseas for legal, safe abortions.

Aine Greaney made it to adulthood all right, without being locked up in a laundry or having a baby yanked away from her to be sold to someone from California.

So this particular brand of Irish “bad thing” didn’t happen to me.

But please tell me that there is no woman with a uterus, a brain and a heart who has read the reports of the St. Mary’s mothers’ and babies’ home in Tuam, County Galway — plus the follow-on reports from other similar homes in Cork and Westmeath – and not felt sickened? Surely no woman can read about those interned and tortured unmarried mothers and not know that this is about all of us?

Lest we protest that history is history, that we cannot superimpose a modern, enlightened sensibility upon a church-whipped past, let me assure you that this shaming of women, this Irish neutering of our female sexuality, extended well into and beyond the 1980s.

Which means that it will take decades more – it will take a couple of generations dying off – before it’s out of the system altogether.

I have always been proud of how, regardless of economics, religious belief or social class, we Irish maintain and observe a ritualistic solemnity around death. Even in the most impoverished, most illiterate times, we perform those sacred rituals that send the dead off to their next place. Irish companies and nonprofits allow their employees much more bereavement time than their American counterparts. During and after the full, two-day funeral, we Irish make enough tea and deliver enough curries or casseroles to keep the bereaved from feeling lonely or hungry or abandoned.

But I was wrong about this national trait. My pride was misplaced. This latest story proves that our Irish reverence was only for those who died under our approved moral codes — a code that had little or nothing to do with morality. For the Irish, some corpses are more equal, more deserving of ritual and reverence than others.What a national and diaspora-wide disgrace.

Which is really morality – kindness and compassion, or keeping your legs closed?


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

Afraid of a little bird

Jun 10th, 2014 3:30 pm | By

The New York Times has background on Twitter and Pakistan and “blasphemy.”

At least five times this month, a Pakistani bureaucrat who works from a colonial-era barracks in Karachi, just down the street from the former home of his country’s secularist founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, asked Twitter to shield his compatriots from exposure to accounts, tweets or searches of the social network that he described as “blasphemous” or “unethical.”

All five of those requests were honored by the company, meaning that Twitter users in Pakistan can no longer see the content that so disturbed the bureaucrat, Abdul Batin of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority: crude drawings of the Prophet Muhammad, photographs of burning Qurans, and messages from a handful of anti-Islam bloggers and an American porn star who now attends Duke University.

So one bozo in Karachi gets to decide for everyone in Pakistan what is “blasphemous” and must not be seen. Good system.

The blocking of these tweets in Pakistan — in line with the country-specific censorship policy Twitter unveiled in 2012 — is the first time the social network has agreed to withhold content there. A number of the accounts seemed to have been blocked in anticipation of the fourth annual “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” on May 20.

This censorship comes as challenges to Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy law have become increasingly deadly, amid a flurry of arrests, killings and assassination attempts on secularists.

And Twitter chose the wrong side. Brilliant.

CFI illustrates:

Embedded image permalink

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

Join the campaign against #TwitterTheocracy

Jun 10th, 2014 2:58 pm | By

Join the campaign against #TwitterTheocracy today June 10th 2014. Ex-Muslims of North America explains:

Twitter has agreed to use its ‘Country Withheld Tool’ to block “blasphemous tweets” in Pakistan, thus becoming complicit in suppressing free speech, and in aiding Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Over the past month, Twitter accounts have been suspended and tweets have been blocked in Pakistan; a Twitter user has recently been jailed in Turkey for a “blasphemous” tweet. In Pakistan and other theocracy-based states, blasphemy laws are key tools used by those in power to actively persecute minorities. We urge Twitter and all other international companies and organizations to uphold human rights-based standards of conduct, particularly when it comes to freedom of expression.

We at Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) are committed to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 19, pertaining to freedom of expression. Alongside AA, AAI, AHA, Black Non-Believers, Camp Quest, CFI, RDFRS, SCA, SHJ, SSA and other secular allies, we are organizing a day of protest on June 10th to highlight the role Twitter is playing in aiding and promoting anti-freedom, anti-human-rights, theocratic policies.

On June 10th, tweet hashtag #TwitterTheocracy and speak up about how Twitter has chosen to side with theocratic regimes instead of those who are trying to resist those regimes.

There was a time when Twitter was rightly lauded for the role it played during the Arab Spring, facilitating communication between those resisting oppressive governments. In fact, Egypt’s dictators tried to disable Twitter, and then internet access completely, before being overwhelmed by the protests that began at Tahrir Square. Governments in Tunisia and Iran tried similar tactics to suppress protests against those oppressive regimes.

Lately, Twitter seems to have moved away from its ethical, pro-human-rights stance, and caved to the demands of oppressive governments. By using its ‘Country Withheld Tool’ to enable government authorities to censor content, Twitter is aiding the enforcement of laws that violate both the UN declaration as well as the secular values of the separation of church/mosque and state.

We at EXMNA, and our secular allies, understand the complicated position in which Twitter and other international companies and organizations find themselves when operating in countries with oppressive regimes. However, Twitter users, secularists, and those who care about human rights expect Twitter to be better than oppressive, theocratic regimes. Twitter was forged on the principles of open communication. Now, it has compromised the principles of freedom of expression in selected regions of the world. We must stand against this selective hypocrisy.

We urge you to use your freedom of expression, and tweet using the hashtag #TwitterTheocracy on June 10th, 2014. Along with tweeting the hashtag, we ask that you sign our petition, to call out Twitter’s complicity in censoring dissenters and aiding the theocratic agenda in Pakistan and elsewhere. If you care about freedom of expression and human rights, please speak up, join this campaign, and share this page with your friends and social networks.

This campaign is by

Ex-Muslims of North America –
Atheists Alliance International –
American Atheists –
American Humanists Association –
Black Non-Believers –
British Humanist Association –
Camp Quest –
Center for Inquiry –
International Humanist and Ethical Union –
Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science –
Secular Students Alliance –
Society for Humanistic Judaism –
Secular Coalition for America –

To Twitter!


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

A wave of militant attacks on villages

Jun 10th, 2014 11:35 am | By

And in Borno state, more women are grabbed and enslaved.

Suspected Boko Haram militants have abducted at least 20 women close to where 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in northern Nigeria, eyewitnesses say.

The women were loaded on to vans at gunpoint and driven away to an unknown location in Borno state, they add.

The army has not commented on the incident, which occurred on the nomadic Garkin Fulani settlement on Thursday.

And Nigerian officialdom just shrugs and goes about its business?

The latest incident occurred close to where more than 200 schoolgirls were snatched from the remote Chibok town near the Cameroonian border on 14 April.

A member of a local vigilante group set up to resist such attacks said that in addition to the women, the militants also seized three men who had tried to stop the abduction.

“We tried to go after them when the news got to us about three hours later, but the vehicles we have could not go far, and the report came to us a little bit late,” Alhaji Tar said.

It’s a war of all against all.

On Monday, the military announced it had killed 50 insurgents in anti-terrorism operations in recent days and prevented further Islamist raids on villages in Borno and neighbouring Adamawa state.

It follows a wave of militant attacks on villages in recent days, with as many as 200 people feared killed in one attack alone in the remote Gwoza area of Borno state.

A world of bandits preying on village people; the childhood of the species; no law, no justice, no safety, no peace.

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

The daily shooting

Jun 10th, 2014 11:12 am | By

Today’s is in Oregon.

A gunman has shot dead a student at a school in the US state of Oregon, and he is also dead, police said.

“The student has died. I’m very, very sorry for the family,” said Troutdale police chief Scott Anderson.

Shots were reported at Reynolds High School in Troutdale on Tuesday morning when the suspect opened fire using a semi-automatic weapon.

A well-regulated militia.

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

Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes

Jun 10th, 2014 11:08 am | By

The BBC has a rather opaque story on the “Trojan Horse” thingummy.

Head teachers claim there was an organised campaign to impose a “narrow, faith-based ideology” at some schools in Birmingham, Ofsted has said.

The watchdog has placed five of the city’s schools in special measures after “deeply worrying” findings.

It inspected 21 schools after an anonymous letter alleging a Muslim takeover plot was circulated.

It’s too bad they don’t just require state schools to be secular.

Sir Michael said teachers at some of the schools inspected had reported being unfairly treated due to their faith and gender.

He said inspectors had “uncovered evidence of unfair and opaque recruitment practices, including examples of relatives being appointed to unadvertised senior posts”.

“Although exam results are often good, the curriculum has become too narrow, reflecting the personal views of a small number of governors, rather than the wider community in Birmingham and beyond,” he said.

Funny, isn’t it, an opaque story talking about unfair and opaque recruitment practices in carefully opaque language. It’s opacity all the way down, and not very conducive to understanding.

Ofsted’s key findings at five inadequate schools

  • Nansen Primary was criticised for the leadership of the school as well as pupils’ behaviour. Ofsted said: “The governing body has removed some subjects, such as music, from the timetable.” It added that the school “does not prepare pupils adequately for life in modern Britain”.
  • Inspectors recommended Oldknow Academy was put in special measures despite being rated outstanding in some categories. The report said a small group of governors was “making significant changes to the ethos and culture of the academy without full consultation”. “They are endeavouring to promote a particular and narrow faith-based ideology in what is a maintained and non-faith academy,” it said.
  • Saltley School, previously rated good, was criticised in every area, including governance, teaching standards, pupils’ achievement, safety and leadership. Inspectors also criticised financial management at the school and relationships between senior staff and governors.
  • Ofsted found Park View School did not do enough to alert students to the risks of extremism. It said speakers invited to the school were not vetted and pupils were not taught about the safe use of the internet. Pupils are not given adequate preparation for living in a multi-cultural society, it said.
  • At Golden Hillock, inspectors concluded leaders and governors were “not doing enough to mitigate against cultural isolation”. Ofsted concluded it “could leave students vulnerable to the risk of marginalisation from wider British society”.

Yet more opacity.

Bhupinder Kondal, principal of Oldknow Academy, said she was removed from her post in January against her will.

Anderson Park head Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson said “none of the contents of the Trojan Horse letter came as a shock”.

Another head teacher, speaking anonymously, told the BBC they had been “bullied” into employing a senior member of staff with no experience.

Arshad Malik, whose son, Imran, attends Park View School, said he believed people were “trying to use this school to push their own agendas”.

“‎Inspectors came with loaded questions…This issue is a political football,” he said.

Gaafar Tariq, a taxi driver and father-of-five, has two children who attend Nansen Primary School.

The 47-year-old said: “I don’t think there’s any concern about extremism in this area and these reports prove it. I don’t see any problem with this school.”

They said they said they said.


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

Ensign Pulver

Jun 9th, 2014 5:17 pm | By

A Twitter conversation with Improbable Joe that touched on collecting papers reminded me of Ensign Pulver, looking for marbles all day long, so I Googled to see if I could find a YouTube clip of that bit but no luck, there’s only the more famous last scene where Pulver throws the Captain’s palm tree overboard. So then I Googled the phrase itself and found several things including…a ten-year-old post by me. It’s kind of interesting so I’m just going to recycle it.


One thing (but not the only thing) that prompted this train of thought (or perhaps bus of rumination or minivan of woolgathering or rollerskate of idle daydreaming) was something I read a few days ago in another of Dwight Macdonald’s letters, this one from January 1946, when Macdonald was editing his own magazine Politics.

I suppose you’ve read by now Simone Weil’s article on The Iliad. The response to it has surprised me; I thought it was a great political article, dealing with the moral questions implicit in the terrible events one reads about in every day’s newspaper, which was why I played it up so prominently in the issue…Nothing I’ve printed yet seems to have made so deep an impression. The only people who didn’t understand how such an article had a place in a political journal were – and I think this is profoundly significant – all of them Marxists. To a Marxist, an analysis of human behavior from an ethical point of view is just not ‘serious’ – even smacks a little of religion.

I think the Marxists who didn’t understand must have had a fairly crude understanding of Marxism, but that’s another subject. The relevant aspect is the question of what has a place in a particular kind of journal and what doesn’t – and the fact that Macdonald was thinking about that question. I was already thinking about it when I read that – well in fact I’m always thinking about it, really. Not every second, but every day, usually several times a day. Every time I link to a News item, in fact every time I look for a News item, which in a sense is every time I read anything at all, other than perhaps package ingredients or addresses on envelopes. As Ensign Pulver was looking for marbles all day long, I’m looking for News items all day long. Though not always actively looking – sometimes I’m just reading, like a normal person, and then as I read the act of reading is transformed into the act of reading for something. Though that doesn’t quite describe it either, because I seldom do ‘just read’ any more – or I both just read and read for something. Which is interesting, in a boring sort of way – by which I mean it interests me but I realize it may not interest everyone. Actually maybe I’ve never ‘just read’, at least not exclusively. I think that’s right – but the percentage has changed.

There’s a lot to be said for reading for something. There’s also a good deal to be said for just reading, but on the whole I prefer reading for something, as long as the something I’m reading for is worth it. I thought while I was typing it that all this was an unconscionable digression that I would probably delete, but I’ve changed my mind. It is about the subject under discussion, in a strained sort of way. Why do we read, after all? Surely the way we think about that question has some connection to what kind of thing we want to read, and why, which has some connection to why Macdonald published Weil on The Iliad. She wrote it for something, he published it for something, the readers read it for something.

At any rate, I was thinking about it more than usual even before I read the Macdonald letter. It was because of posting an item about the Bush administration’s approach to science – I was thinking about the fact that that’s not academic (to put it mildly) nonsense, so it’s not strictly our subject. I decided that what did make it our subject was the element of bullshit involved. The fact that it’s not just mistaken, but the kind of mistaken rooted in prior commitments. I decided it is worth pointing out occasionally that the academic left certainly does not have a monopoly on that kind of bad thinking. I try to do that kind of thing sparingly, because otherwise B&W will just be about anything and everything; but that’s my reasoning for doing it once in awhile. That’s my Iliad.

Because our subject is woolly thinking of a particular kind – thinking that’s fuzzy because it’s distorted, because it starts out from the wrong place. Because it starts not from genuine inquiry but from what Susan Haack calls pseudo-inquiry – not from a real desire to find the truth but from a desire to make a case for a pre-selected conclusion. That’s the bullshit aspect, the bogus element, the pseudo factor. B&W examines the academic manifestations of woolly thinking and pseudo-inquiry and bullshit, but it is worth offering an occasional example from other parts of the world too, I think, if only for epistemological reasons. It is part of the overall story, of the Big Pikcha as I said to my colleague the other day. It’s part of an understanding of how woolly thinking and bad moves work, to be able to recognize them in a variety of habitats, to realize that they’re not confined to one discipline or sector of the economy or political orientation. If we don’t know it when we see it, how can we resist it?

- See more at:

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

That’s completely different

Jun 9th, 2014 3:45 pm | By

The Washington Post has some information on yesterday’s installment of the required daily mass shooting that has become such a hallmark of the US summer as well as autumn and spring.

The shooters who killed a pair of police officers and a bystander who tried to stop them on Sunday in Las Vegas had expressed anti-government views, according to police, who are working to officially determine a motive in the violent episode.

“There is no doubt that the suspects have an ideology that’s along the lines of militia and white supremacists,” said Kevin C. McMahill, assistant sheriff of Clark County, during a news conference Monday.


While authorities said they believed this was an isolated, random act, they also said they were investigating the ideology of the two shooters.  They believe that the fact that they placed a swastika on the bodies of one of the people they killed Sunday suggested that they equated law enforcement “with the Nazi movement,” McMahill said. Police also said they are investigating reports that one or both of the Millers went to the Nevada ranch of Cliven Bundy during a standoff with federal authorities earlier this year.


A neighbor told the Los Angeles Times that on Sunday morning, Jerad Miller had pulled out swastikas and an Army insignia and said he was going to put one on every police officer they killed. ”I’m thinking, ‘Right. They’re not going to do that,” Kelly Fielder said. “I should have called the cops. I feel I have the deaths of five people on my shoulders. The signs were there.”

No no no they weren’t. That was just some passing whim that had nothing to do with the shootings. The shootings were because Jerad Miller was mentally ill. That’s totally all there was to it. Plus, it’s complicated.

Fielder described Jerad Miller as hateful of the government and of President Obama, while she said Amanda Miller was “a good girl who would do anything to make her man happy.”

See? See? They cancel each other out, so the views don’t count.

The pair then took the slain officers out of their booth and laid them on the ground, covering Beck with a yellow Gadsden flag that read “Don’t Tread on Me” and placing a swastika on his body.

They also pinned a note to Salvo that read, “This is the beginning of the revolution,” McMahill said, and they repeated that phrase to people in the restaurant before leaving and heading to a nearby Wal-Mart.

Mental illness, that was. Nothing to do with ideas at all. The guy was cray. Plus? It’s complicated.

Jerad Miller had posted a lengthy statement on his Facebook page last week writing that the country was facing oppression that could only be stopped “with bloodshed.”

The couple apparently was committed to an anti-government belief system typified by hatred of law enforcement and the notion that the federal government has no authority over them, said Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project.

“This isn’t the first attack from people who show these kinds of beliefs,” she said Monday in a telephone interview from the organization’s headquarters in Montgomery, Ala. “They come to see the government as the enemy. The fact that these two shot cops is right in that line of thinking.”

But…that has…nothing to do with it…

In 2010, a similar strain of anti-government rage resulted in two family members killing two police officers in West Memphis, Ark. That episode concluded in a Wal-Mart parking lot, as Jerry Ralph Kane Jr., and his 16-year-old son, Joseph, died in a firefight with law enforcement officials.

Earlier this year, a man plotted to kidnap and kill police officers in Las Vegas as part of the anti-government “sovereign citizen” movement, which believes that governments operate illegally. The FBI has called the sovereign citizen extremists a “growing domestic threat,” one that has had violent and fatal encounters with law enforcement officials.

There were 43 violent incidents between law enforcement officials and extremists, with 30 police officers shot and 14 killed, between 2009 and 2013, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Well maybe there was some connection.

End of sarcasm. Any bets on how many of the people who have been telling us Elliot Rodger’s shooting spree had nothing to do with misogyny will be making a parallel claim about the Las Vegas shooting spree?

My bet is not a fucking one.


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

The deportation of Imran Firasat

Jun 9th, 2014 11:55 am | By

I generally try to find other sources for items reported by Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch, because I’m leery of his allies and fans. But I could find only Spanish news sources for this one, so I’m going with it, hoping English language sources will pick it up later. I’m going with it because it’s horrendous.

Spain to deport Pakistani ex-Muslim refugee for criticizing Islam

“Spain to Deport Pakistani Refugee for Criticizing Islam,” by Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, June 6, 2014:

The Spanish Supreme Court has ruled that a political refugee should be deported because his criticism of Islam poses “a danger to the security of Spain.”

The May 30 ruling, which upholds an earlier decision by a lower court to revoke the refugee status of a Pakistani ex-Muslim named Imran Firasat, showcases how the fear of Muslim rage continues to threaten the exercise of free speech in Europe.

Firasat obtained political asylum in Spain in October 2006 because of death threats against him in both Pakistan and Indonesia for leaving the Islamic faith and marrying a non-Muslim.

But then he made a movie about the prophet and the prophet’s religion…

Firasat, who runs a website called (A World Without Islam), says he was inspired by another amateur film, “The Innocence of Muslims,” which portrayed the Islamic Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer and a pedophile. Released in September 2012, the movie triggered a wave of riots across Europe and the Middle East that resulted in the deaths of more than 30 people.

At the time, the Obama Administration falsely alleged that the film was responsible for the death of the American ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three others in Benghazi, Libya.

“When I heard that the U.S. ambassador was slain,” Firasat told the Belgian newspaper De Morgen in December 2012. “I said okay, you Muslims, use violence, but we will continue to make films. One day one of us will lose.”

And so Spain decided that made him a threat to Spanish security, so they decided to revoke his refugee status.

Fernández issued an order on December 21, 2012 to deport Firasat based on Article 44 of the Law on Asylum and Protection, which allows the state to revoke the refugee status of “persons who constitute a threat to Spanish security.” The deportation order stated that Firasat constituted a “persistent source of problems due to his constant threats against the Koran and Islam in general.”

Firasat appealed the deportation order at the National Court [Audiencia Nacional], arguing that the expression of his views about Islam fall within the constitutional right to free speech.

But the National Court rejected Firasat’s appeal. A ruling dated October 3, 2013 states:

“The right to the freedom of expression can be subject to certain formalities, conditions, restrictions or sanctions, which constitute necessary measures, in a democratic society, to preserve national security, public security and the constitutional order.”

Under certain narrow conditions, yes…

Now the Supreme Court has not only confirmed the National Court’s ruling, but it has gone one step farther. Its ruling states:

“The right to the freedom of expression does not guarantee the right to intolerant manifestations or expressions that infringe against religious freedom, that have the character of blasphemy or that seek to offend religious convictions and do not contribute to the public debate.”

This paragraph is strangely similar to an international blasphemy law being promoted by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a bloc of 57 Muslim countries dedicated to implementing a worldwide ban on “negative stereotyping of Islam.”

Jesus god – the right to the freedom of expression does not guarantee the right to intolerant manifestations or expressions that have the character of blasphemy?? It doesn’t?!

If that’s true we’re all in big big trouble.

Warning of potential trouble ahead for the exercise of free speech in Spain, two judges—Manuel Campos and Isabella Perelló—dissented from the majority opinion. They signed a statement in which they ask whether the source of the danger to national security is in the actions of Firasat, or in the reactions of Islamic fundamentalists. They write:

“The pernicious effects against national security do not strictly derive from the conduct of the refugee, but rather from the violent reactions of third persons.”

Although Firasat can now be deported, the court says he and his family will not be delivered “to a country where there is danger to life or freedom.”

Oh, Spencer must have missed that sentence, because he says the opposite in his intro at the top:

Imran Firasat’s criticism of Islam doesn’t pose a danger to the security of Spain. What poses a danger to the security of Spain is the way some Muslims may react to Imran Firasat’s criticism of Islam. But rather than confront them, Spanish authorities are sending Imran Firasat back to certain death in Pakistan.

But apparently they’re not, so…Spencer got that part wrong. It’s an important part. Sending him to Sweden (say) is different from sending him to Pakistan.

It’s still a bad outcome though. Bad Spain; do better.


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

Guest post by Salty Current: A real transparency problem

Jun 9th, 2014 10:16 am | By

Originally a comment on Asking a question.

Others have already said much that I would have about the content and attitude of this missive, but I found this remark the most concerning:

The Global Secular Council “launched” only its website and social media at the behest of many involved, mainly donors,

As I mentioned previously, many of these organizations seem to have a real transparency problem concerning donations and finances. It was a big issue at RDF, Rogers’ recent firing appears to have something to do with embezzlement at SCA, I can’t get anyone from the Harvard Humanists to give any information about donors,* and the course of the JREF looks at this point to be determined by one guy.

To the extent that an organization or sub-organization is dominated by one or a handful of donors with outsized influence, it tends to reflect their politics, priorities, and personal animosities and agendas rather than those of the community. Now this new project appears, founded and advised by the “Bella & Stella Foundation.” Who is this? Is it a vanity project of one or more of the “Experts,” several of whom are also on the SCA’s advisory board? Do the donors, important enough to push through the GSC’s launch, have their own political goals?

This changes the whole situation for people who are questioning or criticizing an organization’s actions, because they’re (reasonably) expecting the organization to be responsive to its supporters and to the community it claims to represent, when it largely won’t be because it’s beholden to a small number of individuals. People will tend to attribute to incompetence what’s really an intentional course of action.

* I’m not asking them to name people, just to say whether the large bulk of donations come from small donations or one or a handful of individual rich people or organizations.


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

The debut of Audrey Zhang

Jun 9th, 2014 9:20 am | By

Wow! An 11-year-old kid did today’s Google doodle, which is one brilliant doodle – I jumped when I saw it and then looked for information about it, as one does – I thought it was perhaps a variation on John Tenniel, creator of the brilliant illustrations of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking-glass. I was not thinking “probably an 11-year-old kid.”

Google named Audrey Zhang, of Island Trees Memorial

Credit: Google

The Google one is animated. Audrey Zhang’s is a still.

Yesterday the Handmade Parade in Hebden Bridge, today this. Yay art. Art makes me feel optimistic.

Long Island Now reports on the local genius:

Visit Google’s homepage today and marvel at the intricate and interactive doodle created by an 11-year-old Long Island girl.

An animated version of the drawing that recently won Levittown fifth-grader Audrey Zhang the national 2014 Doodle 4 Google contest went live on the site at midnight Sunday and will be on display throughout Monday.

In an interview Sunday, Audrey, a student at Island Trees Middle School, said she was “excited” to see her masterpiece brought to life, but she wasn’t planning to be awake when it debuted at midnight. She said she would see it when she woke up Monday morning.

Fabulous job, Audrey.

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

Appendix: stupid questions

Jun 9th, 2014 8:09 am | By


EllenBeth Wachs @BlameEllenBeth Jun 6

Holy mofo crap how do you not see your hypocrisy Ophelia?-> Why do they think they are above being questioned?

I’m not an organization.

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

People who didn’t dare ask questions

Jun 8th, 2014 5:45 pm | By

A forthright piece in the Irish Independent on the death rate in the Tuam mother and baby home.

It didn’t just happen. It wasn’t just bad management. It took years of organisation, strategies of intimidation and control. And, let’s face it, it took a citizenry steeped in fear and reverence.

A population that was deferential. People who did what they were told. People who didn’t dare ask questions.

Not, of course, that dumping the bodies of almost 800 kids near a septic tank was the object of the exercise – that was just a byproduct. Just some human waste that had to be tucked away in a suitable place.

It was about sex and power. It was about the right of the Church to do whatever it thought necessary to preserve its domain. It stemmed from a hierarchy of old men who were obsessed with sex.

The Church was very conscious of its need to dominate. Never to serve – to dominate.

As it still is. Domination is what it does.

Under the leadership of the legendary Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, between 1940 and 1965 the Church built no fewer than 34 churches in Dublin.

These weren’t pretty little places of spiritual reflection – they were massive structures that physically and psychologically dominated their surroundings.

These buildings did not say, ‘Come in here for solace’ – as any church of any faith might say. They said, ‘We are your masters.’

Regular expulsions for trivial matters sharpened the edge of guilt and fear in the awed people on whom the Confraternities thrived.

The Church was in that period at the height of its power. It could do whatever it wanted. When you have a docile citizenry; an obedient political regime; academics who know which backsides to kiss; and a politically appointed judiciary, you can shape a society in your own image.

Which is what the bishops did.


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

PC gone mad I tell you

Jun 8th, 2014 5:02 pm | By

Ann Widdecombe is vying for Most Outrageous this week. I think she has a shot at it.

It is “very difficult” to be an active Christian in modern Britain, former government minister Ann Widdecombe, who lives in Dartmoor, has claimed.

The ex-MP blamed “quite militant secularism” and equality legislation for people feeling they could not express their faith.

She claimed that respect for people’s personal views meant people could have been a fascist in post-1945 Britain or a Communist during the Cold War but Christians now had started “suppressing the expression of conscience”.

And yet, there the Archbishop still is, archbishoping away.

Ms Widdecombe, who converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism in 1993, said: “Christians now have quite a lot of problems, whether it’s that you can’t display even very discreet small symbols of your faith at work, that you can’t say ‘God bless you’, you can’t offer to pray for somebody, if it’s an even bigger stance on conscience that you’re taking, some of the equality laws can actually bring you to the attention of the police themselves.

“So I think it is a very difficult country now, unlike when I was growing up, in which to be a Christian, an active Christian at any rate.”

Ah, look what she did there. She’s not talking about “conscience,” she’s talking about people shoving their religion on everyone else.

When we were engaged in the height of the Cold War, when there were all those weapons lined up on the borders of the Warsaw Pact countries pointing straight at us, you could still, in this country, proclaim yourself as a Communist, you could still stand for Parliament for that matter as a Communist.

You wouldn’t get in but you could stand. You could sell the Morning Star on street corners.

Is she claiming that now you can’t stand for Parliament as a Christian? To the best of my knowledge, you can not only stand for Parliament as a Christian, you can even get in. So…her comparison doesn’t do what she wants it to do, does it.

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

Asking a question

Jun 8th, 2014 3:44 pm | By

So anyway, on Friday, I wrote again to the press contact person at the Global Secular Council to ask the question the GSC’s Twitter account never did answer, and first insulted me and then blocked me for asking.

Why did the Global Secular Council launch before inviting more “global” people to be on its panel of Experts?

She replied that she wanted to be sure I would not “not misconstrue or “twist” [her] text reply, and perhaps repopulate that misconception publicly.”

I couldn’t quite fathom how I would be able to do that as long as I quoted her exactly, which obviously I would do; I said as much, and with that she answered my question. Here is her answer:

What I will say to you is that most of my answer was dictated by me to the Social Media Team (at their request) and, as I understand it, sent back to you in snippets (or “tweets”).  I looked over what actually was sent back to your questions and it seems, though loaded with a little too much “internet personality”, to be congruent with the reply I intended; although, perhaps because of the forced brevity of those responses, those remarks were not received by you as actual answers.  So far, those answers seem to have been missed, “twisted”, or at least, misconstrued, consistently by you and your loyal followers.  But, I’m happy to recap here, and you can perhaps help me to fill in the blanks in my answer.  This is my personal understanding of the situation, and by no means represents every single member of our organization:

The Global Secular Council “launched” only its website and social media at the behest of many involved, mainly donors, and not without concern from many others involved, similar to yours.  I speak for myself, but echo others, when I say many agreed that on the face of it, we did not yet display enough racial, gender, and national diversity in our Council Members.  However, since we were by no means at the close of some finite process, but rather, at the beginning of a far-reaching project, we did not determine there would be any actual harm done announcing that the Council was being formed, while further “human resources” continued to gather and make commitments.  Taslima Nasreen, for instance, has agreed to join, but we have not yet solidified.  We were and are excited!  To that end, from the start, the name “Global” was a statement of purpose, as well as an indication of what we were already doing–gathering resources such as surveys, articles, and academic papers from around the world in support of a secular cause.

So the answer to my question is: they “did not determine there would be any actual harm done announcing that the Council was being formed, while further “human resources” continued to gather and make commitments.”

As you see, she had also said “you can perhaps help me to fill in the blanks in my answer” so I basically asked my question all over again:

Since you suggest I help fill in the blanks, I’ll ask again about why you launched before getting more global people on board. You say you (plural) did not determine there would be any actual harm done, so I would ask why not? It’s the same question all over again, really. It seems to be an obviously bad idea to launch a global project with no one “global” on the roster.

I know you’ve invited Taslima; she’s a good friend of mine. But you invited her after you invited other people, people with less experience and knowledge of matters outside North America and the UK. That seems like a slight. I would think you (plural) would want to avoid giving that impression.

I hope she doesn’t see that as me misconstruing or twisting her reply, much less repopulating that misconception publicly. I see it as just pressing the question, which wasn’t very satisfactorily answered. Why didn’t they think there would be any harm done?

Why did they think it would be a good idea to set up a panel of people they dubbed “Experts” for a council to deal with global issues when the experts have no obvious expertise at all in the global issues in question? American and British physicists, biologists, zoologists – how are they experts in global issues? I see of course how they are “Experts” tout court, but what does that have to do with anything? Having a PhD in field X doesn’t make you a universal seer. Given the completely random qualifications of the people on that list, it certainly would have helped to have had at least a broader geographical reach.

In one way it’s obviously none of my business, but then again they certainly sent out press releases asking us all to spread the word about their new council, plus there are all these people who seem to expect our infinite loyalty, so from that point of view it is my business, it’s all of our business. And then, I know a lot of people they should have asked to be on that panel but didn’t, and it annoys me. (No, I emphatically don’t mean me. I mean people from other parts of the world.)

Then again, the description of their planned activity that she ends with perhaps indicates that none of this matters after all:

…the name “Global” was a statement of purpose, as well as an indication of what we were already doing–gathering resources such as surveys, articles, and academic papers from around the world in support of a secular cause.

Oh. That’s their plan? To gather papers?

Oh. Oh well, never mind then.


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

The ways of love

Jun 8th, 2014 3:00 pm | By

Gnu Atheism illustrates:

Photo: On the off-chance someone doesn't yet know what this is about: </p>

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A beautiful day in Hebden Bridge

Jun 8th, 2014 12:29 pm | By

For a joyous interlude – check out the Handmade Parade today in Hebden Bridge in south Yorkshire. There’s a huge collection of photos here, and Maureen has given me permission to post a selection of hers.


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

Forced to kneel there for what turned out to be two weeks

Jun 8th, 2014 12:12 pm | By

Any time I want to make sure I’m not getting too optimistic about things, I pause to remember how shamingly far the US differs (always in the wrong direction) from all other developed countries on a whole slew of indices of national well-being or flourishing. Just off the top of my head, without taking to Google to find lists, there’s

  • infant mortality
  • maternal mortality
  • lack of universal health insurance
  • income inequality
  • wealth inequality
  • percentage of the population in prison
  • executions
  • violent crime
  • guns
  • debt

That’s a terrible list.

An item I wasn’t really aware of is the rate of juvenile incarceration. It’s off the fucking charts higher than any other developed country. How the scorching blood of shame rises to contemplate that fact.

There’s a new book on the subject by Nell Bernstein, Burning Down the House.

The American rate of juvenile incarceration is seven times that of Great Britain, and 18 times that of France. It costs, on average, $88,000 a year to keep a youth locked up — far more than the U.S. spends on a child’s education.

Think what an education a kid could get for 88k a year.

But the biggest problem with juvenile incarceration, author Nell Bernstein tells Fresh Air‘s Dave Davies, is that instead of helping troubled kids get their lives back on track, detention usually makes their problems worse, and sets them in the direction of more crime and self-destructive behavior.

“The greatest predictor of adult incarceration and adult criminality wasn’t gang involvement, wasn’t family issues, wasn’t delinquency itself,” Bernstein says. “The greatest predictor that a kid would grow up to be a criminal was being incarcerated in a juvenile facility.”

So we do a lot of it, more than other comparable countries. Brilliant. Just fucking brilliant.

A lot of them talked about being numb to fear, but some of that felt like leftover bravado to me, because the stories they told of what actually happened to them were so terrifying that I can’t believe that there wasn’t fear.

One young man described arriving at a new facility just as a fight broke out in the dormitory to which he had been assigned. And although he hadn’t been involved, his whole dorm was stripped to their boxers, handcuffed, chained together, taken to the gymnasium and forced to kneel there for what turned out to be two weeks. Is fear the right word for what you feel during an experience like that? I don’t know, because, again, he described his humanity draining out of him as he listened to the guards banter and tell jokes and just pass the time, as if these were something other than suffering human beings on the floor in front of them. …

It’s right up there with the Irish mother and baby homes and the industrial “schools” and the Magdalene laundries – only this is now, and it’s here in my country where I vote.


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

Not dumped but…carefully placed?

Jun 8th, 2014 11:36 am | By

Catherine Corless isn’t happy about the way the discussion of the Tuam mother and baby home has gone. She doesn’t like the framing.

‘I never used that word ‘dumped’,” Catherine Corless, a local historian in Co Galway, tells The Irish Times. “I never said to anyone that 800 bodies were dumped in a septic tank. That did not come from me at any point. They are not my words.”

The story that emerged from her work was reported this week in dramatic headlines around the world.

“Tell us the truth about the children dumped in Galway’s mass graves” – The Guardian.

I used the word “dumped” too. That was the word that occurred to me. They weren’t “buried” as we commonly understand burial of the dead. The usual way of naming that is in fact “dumped” – it’s a deliberately emotive word that underlines the brutality. I think it’s the right word. It’s an indictment of the people – the church people – who ran that “home”.

The deaths of these 796 children are not in doubt. Their numbers are a stark reflection of a period in Ireland when infant mortality in general was very much higher than today, particularly in institutions, where infection spread rapidly. At times during those 36 years the Tuam home housed more than 200 children and 100 mothers, plus those who worked there, according to records Corless has found.

What has upset, confused and dismayed her in recent days is the speculative nature of much of the reporting around the story, particularly about what happened to the children after they died. “I never used that word ‘dumped’,” she says again, with distress. “I just wanted those children to be remembered and for their names to go up on a plaque. That was why I did this project, and now it has taken [on] a life of its own.”

She must be thinking that “dumped” will be upsetting to the surviving mothers of those babies and children. Maybe it will – or maybe it will make them feel that at last people care? I don’t know. I do know that my mind shrinks back in horror whenever I contemplate the scene back then when a baby or child died and was then…put or placed or tossed or dumped in a pit out back, with no marker or headstone or separate grave the mother might visit.

Corless has not been contacted by anyone from any State department, asking to have access to her research. Nor has her work been corroborated by anyone else. “I would definitely be willing to share my research,” she says.

In response to Corless’s story, Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan confirmed this week that there will be a Government inquiry into all mother-and-baby homes.

Corless has proved that 796 children died while at St Mary’s in Tuam – a shameful statistic that would not have been known without her years of dedicated work. It seems clear that at least some of these children lie in the small plot of land at the back of the Dublin Road housing estate. Excavation might be the only way to be sure. “Our intention in setting up this committee was not excavation,” she says, “but I would welcome the truth.”

The 796 deaths over 36 years is the real point, not the callous disposal of the bodies…except that the callous disposal of the bodies must have been an appalling twist of the knife for the mothers.

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