Notes and Comment Blog

How we live now

Dec 22nd, 2014 6:12 pm | By

Life for Canadian dentistry students who are careless enough to be women can be quite unpleasant, it appears.

“It was hell,” said the resident, CBC News is calling “Sarah”. We have agreed to protect her identity because she fears retaliation​ and damage to her professional career.​

Over the course of her final year in residency she says she and other female peers were targets of misogynistic jokes, comments and text messages made by a fellow male resident.

“When I started I was one of two females and the jokes [and] the acceptance for certain kinds of jokes were shocking to me.”

“He would make comments about other [female] residents weight or about her height. When we were studying cranial-facial abnormalities he would pick each one of us and say that we look to have this syndrome.”

Sarah says eventually it evolved to text messaging.

“I got a text message from him asking where he could find girls like me, I asked what he was talking about and he said ‘oh, because you’re a whore.'”

It’s not the worst thing that could happen, but it’s not something anyone should have to put up with, either. It’s not cool. If they were already professionals it would be called unprofessional; since they’re students, it’s…well it’s still unprofessional. It’s not the way to treat people.

Another female resident sent screen shots of the the text messages to the program’s director. Sarah says the next day, the male student sent an email to class apologizing.

The letter read,

“It’s been brought to my attention that my behaviour to residents in the program has been unacceptable, inappropriate and not in a professional manner.”

He needed to be told that?

If he didn’t know that without being told, it’s debatable whether he should be in any kind of doctor-patient field to begin with. Casual sadists shouldn’t go for jobs where they work directly with and on human beings. I wouldn’t want that guy sticking sharp things into my mouth.

The student didn’t consider the email sufficient.

Finally she filed a formal complaint with the faculty, who launched the investigation. During this time, she says she was still forced to sit two chairs from this resident, despite pleading with the faculty to have him moved. It was not until Sarah hired a lawyer that the university obliged to switch him out of the class.

“What upsets me the most is that if his comments would have been towards an ethnic group or about someone’s sexual orientation … or religion, it would be unacceptable.” she said.

I think that’s probably right. Verbal abuse of women is normalized.

H/t Ibis

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

We don’t live in a copocracy

Dec 22nd, 2014 5:17 pm | By

Anthony Zurcher reports on the opportunistic “blame the protests” rhetoric over the murders of the two New York cops.

At the centre of the storm is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been heralded as a populist torch-bearer since his election in November 2013.

The mayor had previously expressed solidarity with protesters who had taken to the streets after a police officer was not indicted for the death of Eric Garner.

And he had publicly wondered if his biracial son was safe from police – rhetoric some are now arguing helped to create an environment that encourages violence against police.

Yes, and? Is protesting the killing of Eric Garner and the non-indictment of his killers so obviously terrible? Not to me.

Patrick Lynch of the PBA said what he said. Pataki said what he said. The cops turned their backs on De Blasio.

On Sunday night some police officers turned their backs on the mayor in silent protest as he walked to a press conference. It was a gesture that Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News says shows the gravity of the crisis.

“The mayor has to understand that if he does not step up and step forward now and admit mistakes he has made with the NYPD because of his obsession with playing to his base, then the image of those cops turning their backs on him will be a part of his permanent record,” he writes.

Well the image of Eric Garner lying on the pavement will be a part of the NYPD’s permanent record, too. Who is more in the wrong? It’s not clear to me that it’s De Blasio.

Mr de Blasio “lit the fuse” that led to the shootings, writes the New York Post’s Michael Goodwin.

“Again and again, he depicted the great and gallant NYPD as an occupying army of racist brutes,” he writes.

Gallant shmallant.

Many of them may be terrific, but some of them clearly are not. We are allowed to say that. The police have a job to do; they’re not our bosses or our monarchs or our priests; we’re not required to pay them unconditional homage. We are allowed to say they did a bad thing in any particular case.

A mayor is either with the police or against them, he says. “That fact is nowhere to be found in the progressive playbook, which sees everything through race and class,” he continues. “But it is how the real world works.”

Former New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir, writing for Time magazine, says there currently exists “an atmosphere of permissiveness and anti-police rhetoric unlike any that I have seen in 45 years in law enforcement”.

He warns that if police aren’t supported it could lead to a return to a time in New York City when “gangs controlled the streets” and car theft and murders were rampant.

I tell you this crap is fascist. They don’t seem to realize it, but it is. This hero-worship of the people with guns is the essence of fascism, even more so than racism.

Now to hear from the other point of view.

“There is a yawning gap between the kind of reforms demanded by De Blasio and the protesters, and open hostility to police,” writes the New Republic’s Claire Groden. “Hundreds of deaths caused by police officers have gone unreported in federal statistics since 2007. Overly aggressive policing – such as the stop-and-frisk policies that de Blasio made a point of reforming – victimises minorities across the country.”

Activist and former basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabaar calls the recent rhetoric a cynical ploy.

“This shrill cry of ‘policism’ (a form of reverse racism) by Pataki and the police unions is a hollow and false whine born of financial self-interest (unions) or party politics (Republican Pataki besmirching Democrat De Blasio) rather than social justice,” he writes in Time magazine. “These tragic murders now become a bargaining chip in whatever contract negotiations or political aspirations they have.”

Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News says people like Mr Pataki and the police union leaders are “the usual array of bottom feeders” looking to turn the police murders into political advantage.

Mr de Blasio’s “biggest crime”, he says, “apparently was telling his black son to be extra sure to do what the officer says when he’s stopped”.

The police are not in charge of us. They are empowered to enforce the law where it needs enforcing, but that does not make them in charge of us. We are allowed to say they got it wrong, especially when they did in fact get it wrong.

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

Guest post: There is little recourse to the law when the criminal is a cop

Dec 22nd, 2014 1:25 pm | By

Originally a comment by Bruce Gorton on “A predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric.”

On the same day on which this story broke, I read another in which a cop attacked someone who was asleep in a hospital.

The cop arrested his victim for assault, it was probably only that hospital waiting rooms have cameras that resulted in the cop being found out.

Last week meanwhile I subbed a story about a cop who was suspended, for not tear-gassing a suicidal university student he had just talked down when his fellow officers felt the need to forcibly restrain the said student for no apparent reason.

America’s police force blames the media, but who was it that killed a 12-year-old for carrying a toy gun? Who killed a man for picking up a toy gun in a toy store? Who choked a man to death on the streets? Who killed an unarmed teenager?

And what did each case demonstrate?

There is little recourse to the law when the criminal is a cop. The issue is not simply the police force, but the entire legal system.

So what happens when people don’t trust the law anymore? I can tell you what happens in South Africa.

You get people attacking the police because they’re just one more rival gang. They aren’t keepers of the peace, they’re thugs and crime lords abusing a position of authority to build their little empires.

You get mob justice, you get riots and you get deaths. The best cops become worthless – because they cannot do their jobs without the trust of the public, and without the ability to trust their coworkers.

My country has serious problems with distrust of the police force, and not reporting on it doesn’t solve the base problems that caused that distrust. You can shut the media up all you like – but people still know the cops will take bribes and lose dockets.

You can shut the media up all you like, but people still know the American police force kills children for being black. A silent media is deadlier than a noisy one, because in the absence of information action cannot be taken to correct major problems, while allowing far darker imaginings than the bald truth to become seen as fact.

You want to prevent this happening again? Then you need to stop whining at the protesters and start taking a serious look at your police culture, which has gone so far overboard on the macho bullshit that the decent, sane cops are more likely to be punished than the thugs with badges.

Otherwise all you’re doing is wanking self-righteously about how mean people are for pointing out how your police force’s shit stinks.

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

At most local news

Dec 22nd, 2014 1:01 pm | By

Oh and by the way – it’s completely unimportant, but then again it perhaps led to things that were important, so it might be worth mentioning – the first person Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot was his ex-girlfriend, Shaneka Thompson. He shot her in the stomach.

Nancy Leong at Slate says this is a pattern.

We live in a country where shooting your ex-girlfriend is at most local news.

According to media reports, the management of Thompson’s apartment complex distributed a letter to other residents stating that her shooting was the result of a “domestic dispute” in order to reassure them that “this was a private, isolated incident.” When three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every single day in the United States, domestic violence is just another routine event—merely a landlord-tenant-relations issue of no concern to anyone else.

Of course, later that day Brinsley went on to murder New York police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, so we now know that his shooting of Thompson was no private, isolated incident. The more difficult question is why anyone ever assumed that it was.

Well it’s like this. Brinsley was mad at his own personal ex-girlfriend. That means he’s not going to shoot the rest of us in the stomach, because we’re not his ex-girlfriend. The same applies to all those other private, isolated incidents of domestic violence. All we have to do is not involve ourselves with someone who will shoot us when he gets pissed off, and we’ll be fine.

Too often, our society resists taking domestic violence and other forms of gendered violence, such as stalking and sexual assault, as seriously as other kinds of violence. We need to stop dismissing gendered violence and start learning from the pattern present in one incident after another. Men who engage in violence at home are often men who engage in violence outside the home. And men who devalue women’s lives are, by definition, men who devalue human lives.

And for another reason, too. Women’s lives matter. Even women who aren’t cops or celebrities or important in some way.

And just a few days ago, Man Haron Monis held 17 people hostage for more than 12 hours in a coffee shop in what quickly became known as the Sydney siege, which culminated in the deaths of two hostages as well as Monis. Both during and after the hostage standoff, considerable attention focused on Monis’ Islamic ties and purported religious extremism. Yet far less note was made of his extensive history of violence against women. At the time of the standoff, he was out on bail for charges relating to the murder of his ex-wife, whom he had also threatened and stalked, and he had been charged with more than 40 sexual assault offenses dating from 2000 and allegedly involving seven different women. As Clementine Ford aptly observed, this information “paint[s] an incredibly disturbing picture of someone with a deep and aggressive hatred for women.” Yet this disturbing pattern of violence against women apparently failed to raise the kind of red flags that would have led to confinement—or at least closer supervision—of Monis.

I suppose that’s because violence against women is seen as “domestic” and that is seen as not a threat to people in general.

We need to stop seeing these various manifestations of misogyny—aggression, stalking, domestic violence, sexual assault—as a separate species of problem. Certainly men who engage in violence against women often do so for gendered reasons. Sometimes men are angry when women don’t obey them. Sometimes men feel that women owe them something. And women often suffer when they don’t act the way men want them to. But the consequences of misogyny and gendered violence don’t stop with women.

I’m really not sure that’s a great way to frame it. I’m not sure violence becomes worse just because it doesn’t stop with women. I’m not sure violence is more benign as long as it stops with women. Obviously Leong doesn’t mean to say otherwise, but I’m not crazy about the way she framed this.

Given the clear connection between private and public acts of violence, the relative lack of media attention to Brinsley’s attack on Thompson is inexcusable. Although local media and Twitter linked her shooting to that of Liu and Ramos within a few hours, many mainstream media outlets failed to mention her or devoted only a single sentence to her shooting until much later.

Same again – not the best way to put it.

Mind you – I didn’t mention Thompson yesterday either. Guilty as charged.

Certainly ending violence against women is a worthy aim in and of itself. But we also need to see misogyny as a warning sign both of violence against women and of violence, period. What if Seung-Hui’s stalking behavior had resulted in concrete punishment? What if Rodger’s aggression toward women had been taken more seriously? What if the various charges against Monis had been deemed sufficient to warrant his incarceration prior to trial?

Of course, taking gendered violence seriously is not a panacea. It’s not yet clear whether treating Brinsley’s shooting of his ex-girlfriend as a mere domestic dispute delayed the police in discovering his deadly intentions. Perhaps handling the event differently would have prevented the tragic deaths of Liu and Ramos. Perhaps it wouldn’t have.

What is clear is that gendered violence is often a prelude to other forms of violence. Moving forward, we should treat gendered violence as real violence, and its harms as part of a pattern that affects all of us.

Well, really, I think we should treat gendered violence as something that matters whether it affects all of us or not.


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

Dangerous driving

Dec 22nd, 2014 12:07 pm | By

So there’s a new trend in France? A fashionable new style of mini-jihad – drive a van or truck or car into a crowd of shoppers because Allahu akbar?

A van has been driven at shoppers at a French Christmas market in the city of Nantes and the driver is reported to have stabbed himself, officials say.

Ten people are reported to have been injured, five seriously.

The exact circumstances remain unclear, but the incident comes only a day after pedestrians were run down in Dijon.

The driver of that vehicle screamed “God is great” in Arabic.

Meanwhile, to confuse the issue further, in Glasgow a garbage truck (aka rubbish lorry or bin lorry) went out of control in a busy square and crashed into a bunch of people, killing six, but the police don’t think that one was deliberate.

It’s a Hobbesian world out there.

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

The memo wasn’t sent formally, maybe

Dec 21st, 2014 6:08 pm | By

There’s a letter, or memo, that purports to be from the PBA but the PBA is denying it. If it’s real it’s terrifying – it’s unabashed fascism is what it is.

But the PBA is denying it.

A spokesman for the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association has denied that the group issued a now-widely circulated memo reacting to today’s killing of two police officers that says, among other things, “The mayors hands are literally dripping with our blood because of his words actions and policies …”

Well the “literally” is excessive for sure.

The memo was first posted on Twitter by Ryan Gorman, whose Twitter bio gives his title as managing editor of breaking news and original content at AOL. Gorman said on Twitter that he got the memo from a union source.

At 8:18 p.m., the New York Times website reported that the memo came from the P.B.A., and then shortly afterward posted a different article referring to the memo as “a statement purporting to be from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.”

In a press conference Saturday night, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch used similar language to that in the memo, saying, in reference to de Blasio and protesters, “There’s blood on many hands tonight.”

“Those that incited violence on the street, under the guise of protest, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day,” Lynch said. “We tried to warn—’it must not go on, it cannot be tolerated.’ That blood on the hands, starts on the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor.”

Later, he said, “When these funerals are over, those responsible will be called on the carpet and held accountable.”

He’s talking about people objecting to the police killing people. He’s saying that must not go on, it cannot be tolerated – not about the killing but about the objecting to the killing. He’s objecting to civilian oversight of the police. It’s fascism.

Asked about the memo, NYPD deputy commissioner for public information Stephen Davis wrote in an email to Capital, “That is absolutely not a Department directive.”

Asked if the NYPD had reports of police officers receiving the memo from any police union, Davis replied, “Unknown if it actually sent by Union formally.”

Oh, so maybe it was sent informally. That’s fine then.

Here’s what the memo said:

At least two units are to respond to EVERY call, no matter the condition or severity, no matter what type of job is pending, or what the option of the patrol supervisor happens to be. IN ADDITION: Absolutely NO enforcement action in the form of arrests and or summonses is to be taken unless absolutely necessary and an individual MUST be placed under arrest. These are precautions that were taken in the 1970’s when Police Officers were ambushed and executed on a regular basis. 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.

It’s the wording of a coup.

Let’s be clear about this. The police don’t get to decide that. The police union doesn’t get to decide that. The police do not run the show.

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

“A predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric”

Dec 21st, 2014 5:34 pm | By

Apparently the PBA of New York is blaming the mayor in the wake of the murder of two cops in Brooklyn yesterday.

The two police officers were sitting in their car when they were shot.

The killings have widened the divide between the NYPD—under fire following a grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer who killed unarmed Staten Island man Eric Garner in July—and Mayor Bill De Blasio.

Officers turned their backs on De Blasio when he arrived at police headquarters for a press conference, and police union head Patrick Lynch told reporters “there’s blood on many hands”— apparently singling out the mayor for blame alongside anti-brutality protesters.

Because we shouldn’t object to police brutality? We should smile approvingly on it, lest someone take revenge on random cops?

I wonder if it occurs to Patrick Lynch to blame the police officers who – however accidentally – killed Eric Garner.

There’s more.

During a press conference held outside Woodhull Hospital, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said, “there’s blood on many hands tonight” and “that blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor.”

Former New York Governor George Pataki shared a similar statement via Twitter, calling the shocking murders “a predictable outcome” of Mayor de Blasio and Attorney General Eric Holder’s “divisive anti-cop rhetoric.”

That’s what he said:

George E. Pataki @GovernorPataki

Sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric of #ericholder & #mayordeblasio. #NYPD

Is it “anti-cop rhetoric” to say that cops shouldn’t have killed Eric Garner? Are the police supposed to have unlimited unchecked power over us no matter what? Are we supposed to just resign ourselves to police over-reactions?

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

The woman’s life is not altered

Dec 21st, 2014 3:33 pm | By

That Missouri legislator who introduced a law that would require women to get the man’s permission before she can have an abortion – that guy is even worse than he seemed at first. He talked to a news program on Thursday to clear that up.

“It took two to come together and create a child, and right now the way it is the woman gets the full say and the father gets no say, and I think that that needs to change,” Brattin said. “With the women’s movement for equal rights, well it’s swung so far we have now taken away the man’s right and the say in their child’s life.”

That’s because the pregnancy happens to the woman in a way that it doesn’t happen to the man. With a planned, wanted pregnancy (or an unplanned but still welcome one) the man can do a lot to participate and certainly to become emotionally invested, but he still can’t actually do half of the pregnancy. That’s why he can’t have a veto. That’s why the state has no business giving him a veto.

He added, “It’s a child’s life that’s taken. The woman’s life is not altered.”

It’s not a child, and the woman’s life is very much altered.

This guy must be an out and out MRA.

Brattin’s bill includes an exception for victims of “legitimate rape” who report the crime to the police.

Provisions that require women to prove the “legitimately” of sexually assault are a standard feature of state-level bans on Medicaid funding for abortion and many states force rape victims to produce a police report to obtain coverage for an abortion. Sexual assault prevention experts, however, point out that rape is a vastly underreported crime, with the majority of victims never reporting the assault to authorities.

Well, those rapes aren’t legitimate rapes then, are they.

According to one study, just 37 percent of the women who qualify for eligible abortions under Medicaid’s exceptions actually end up getting their procedures funded by the program.

Your tax dollars saved! And sluts who get illegitimate rapes taught a lesson, and the woman’s life is not altered.

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

Guest post: What we mean when we talk about accommodationism

Dec 21st, 2014 2:59 pm | By

Originally a comment by Dave Ricks on Provocative or offensive?

A side note about accommodationism:

In 2008, Austin Dacey wrote accommodationism to mean [1]

The view that there exist no important conflicts between science and religion I call accommodationism. Those who either recognize no conflicts between religion and science, or who recognize such conflicts but are disinclined to discuss them publicly, I call accommodationists.

In 2009, Jerry Coyne wrote accommodationism to mean [2]

Professional societies like the National Academy of Sciences — the most elite organization of American scientists — have concluded that to make evolution palatable to Americans, you must show that it is not only consistent with religion, but also no threat to it.

Dacey and Coyne wrote accommodationism to mean nearly the same thing, although Coyne meant something more active. But by either definition, what Massimo Pigliucci wrote here is not accommodationism. Also, Coyne’s position of anti-accommodationism is that science organizations like the NCSE should simply stop telling people their religion is compatible with evolution by natural selection. Coyne’s anti-accommodationism has nothing to do with being provocative or offensive.

By 2010 the atheosphere overheard the discussion and started arguing as if accommodationism meant being nice, and anti-accommodationism meant being a jerk. This is a pet peeve of mine, not to be pedantic about definitions, but because the original points of Dacey and Coyne were lost.

– – –
[1] At Trinity College here, you can select the book Secularism & Science in the 21st Century, then select Dacey’s chapter, “Evolution Education and the Science-Religion Conflict: Dispatches from a Philosophical Correspondent.” From there you can download the chapter as a PDF file by registering with Scribd.
[2] Coyne posted a timeline from 2009 here. He first used the word “accommodationism” in the 2nd link on that list, and my blockquote is from that post.


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

Guest post: Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries: Another African Church Prosecuting Witch hunt in Contemporary America

Dec 21st, 2014 1:00 pm | By

By Leo Igwe

To most Americans, witch hunting ended in Salem centuries ago. They assume this dark age practice has no place in contemporary America. But is that really the case? I do not think so. Witchcraft accusation is going on at least in some migrant communities across the country. There are clear indications that many African churches are prosecuting a ‘silent war’ against ‘witches’ in the name of practicing Christianity. These churches are recharging witchcraft narratives in African migrant communities. African pentecostal pastors are spreading witchcraft-based fears, panic and hysteria, fueling witchcraft suspicions and insinuations, and inciting hatred and violence against vulnerable members of the population.

Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries (MFM) is one church that is prosecuting a modern day witch hunt in North America. The church’s crusade against witchcraft should, as a matter of urgency, be brought to the attention of the ‘enlightened world’.

MFM is a Nigerian church with branches across North America – in Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New York etc. Dr. Daniel Kolawole Olukoya founded it in 1989. The church draws its teachings from the Founder’s numerous books and sermons including his publications on witchcraft.

In one of his books, Overpowering Witchcraft (2010), Pastor Olukoya provides ‘sound biblical teachings’ on his ‘Ministry of Witchcraft’. He claims that manifestations of witchcraft are based in the Scriptures and can be revealed by God.

Olukoya associates witchcraft with prostitution and multiple deaths. He uses fake and fabricated stories and testimonies to illustrate the potency of witchcraft and how mothers-in-law use occult powers to undermine marriages and fuel problems in families. He states that the function of witchcraft is ”to bend what is straight, make it crooked. They change and refashion things to conform to their wicked intentions.” (p.9)

Olukoya declares that ”many intellectuals, well disciplined people and morally upright men and women, are being carefully and intelligently controlled by witchcraft spirit”. On the back cover, it states ”The destructive and competitive nature of witchcraft has done so much damage wherever they are found. Witchcraft is more complicated than we think. Witchcraft uses demonic influences to subdue and undo another. Good people are being controlled and manipulated by witchcraft weapons. Many are battling right now and have not been able to discern exactly is happening to them. Many are unconscious witches with death sentences hanging on their heads.” The author goes on to ask ”Are you being tormented by evil intelligent network? Are you being denied from enjoying your divine benefits? Have you been caged by failures on the edge of breakthroughs, profitless hard work, spiritual stagnancy, chain problems, prayer paralysis and general backwardness?” Obviously, he attributes all these problems to witchcraft.

The entire book drips with alarmist messages and passages which church members and other witch-believing folks could use to legimitize witchcraft accusation and witch persecution. A quick look on the church’s North American web site reveals how Olukoya’s teachings have been translated into “Deliverance Prayers from Witchcraft Prayers Points and Message.” The anti witchcraft prayer points are divided into several parts.

The first category contains prayers against the witchcraft pot. Some of the prayers read as follows:

1. I break every witchcraft pot over my life, in the name of Jesus. 2. Let every evil pot hunt their owners, in the name of Jesus. 3. Every wicked pot cooking my affairs, be roasted, in the name of Jesus.4. Every witchcraft pot working against me, I bring the judgment of God against you, in Jesus name.

The second part contains prayers against ‘witchcraft burial’. It says:

1. Every operation of witchcraft burial in my life be reversed now, in the in name of Jesus. 2. Every witchcraft burial against my marriage be reversed now, in the name of Jesus.3. 0 Lord, let the power of witchcraft burial against my finances be reversed now in the name of Jesus. 4. 0 Lord, let the power of be witchcraft burial against my progress be nullified in the name of Jesus.

The next session contains prayers against ‘witchcraft verdict’

2. You witchcraft foundation in my life be dismantled by fire, in the name of Jesus. 3. Every witchcraft money spent on my behalf, be withdrawn by fire. 4. Every witchcraft law over my life, vanish by fire, in the name of Jesus. 5. Every witchcraft/herbalist coven harboring my womb receive the fire of God and be roasted, in Jesus name. 6. Every monthly monitoring of my womb by witchcraft power be dissolved by fire. 7. Every bi-monthly monitoring of my womb by witchcraft power, be dissolved by fire, in the name of Jesus. 8. Every witchcraft verdicts against my life, turn against your sender, in the name of Jesus. 9. You curse of bitterness issued against my life by witchcraft spirits, be broken in the name of Jesus. 10. Your curse of desolation issued against my womb, ovary, fallopian tubes by witchcraft, be broken by the blood of Jesus. 11. You curse of miscarriages issued against my womb, break by fire, in the name of Jesus. 12. Every verdict of witchcraft be nullified, in the name of Jesus.

Another part of the prayer point is for the destruction of the ”traveling routes of witchcraft”:

1. Let life-choking thorns begin to grow on the traveling route of my household witchcraft, in Jesus name. 2. Let the traveling-routes of my household witchcraft become their burying places, in the name of Jesus. 3. Let the angel of destruction continually minister on any route of witchcraft that is fashioned against me, in Jesus name. 4. Let any witchcraft route constructed against me become dark and slippery, in the name of Jesus.

The remaining sessions contain prayers against the ‘Communication and Transportation Systems of witchcraft’, prayers for the destruction of the altars of witchcraft, prayers for ”Breaking Witchcraft Curses”, prayers for the destruction of the covens of witchcraft and the hold of marine witchcraft, prayers for vomiting the food of witchcraft, prayers for destroying the infirmity of witchcraft and for plucking out the eyes of witchcraft, prayers for dismantling witchcraft embargo on financies and prayers for the destruction of the Throne of witchcraft.

No one should think that these are just innocuous prayer points with no effects on people’s minds and actions. They are not. These prayer points are texts and manuals for witchcraft accusation and witch finding. They produce and reinforce witchcraft stereotypes and shape how people make sense of their day to day experiences.

Critical-thinking Americans need to realize the potentially dangerous nature of Olukoya’s ‘Ministry of Witchcraft’ and take action against this violent brand of Christianity which MFM embodies before it is too late. American skeptics and freethinkers need to provide a counter narrative to MFM’s witch crusade. They should not stand by and allow a slow undoing and erosion of the gains of enlightenment and a re-enactment of the Salem witch trials. Olukoya’s Ministry of Witchcraft has no place in contemporary America and in the contemporary world. Witch hunting by African migrant churches must stop. Witch hunting pastors must be stopped.

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

Back on the streets

Dec 21st, 2014 12:14 pm | By

Here’s an uncomfortable subject to think about – police unions, and the part they play in keeping abusive cops from being fired.

There are, of course, police officers who are fired for egregious misbehavior by commanding officers who decide that a given abuse makes them unfit for a badge and gun. Yet all over the U.S., police unions help many of those cops to get their jobs back, often via secretive appeals geared to protect labor rights rather than public safety. Cops deemed unqualified by their own bosses are put back on the streets. Their colleagues get the message that police [are] all but impervious to termination.

I think labor rights are important, and unions are mostly a good thing for that reason. But…I’m not thrilled if teachers’ unions keep bad teachers in the classroom, and I’m not thrilled if cops’ unions keep killer cops on the streets.

Let’s begin in Oakland, California, where the San Jose Mercury News reports that “of the last 15 arbitration cases in which officers have appealed punishments, those punishments have been revoked in seven cases and reduced in five others.”

Hector Jimenez is one Oakland policeman who was fired and reinstated. In 2007, he shot and killed an unarmed 20-year-old man. Just seven months later, he killed another unarmed man, shooting him three times in the back as he ran away. Oakland paid a $650,000 settlement to the dead man’s family in a lawsuit and fired Jimenez, who appealed through his police union. Despite killing two unarmed men and costing taxpayers all that money, he was reinstated and given back pay.

Conor Friedersdorf gives a lot more examples along the same lines, then sums up.

Society entrusts police officers with awesome power. The stakes could not be higher when they abuse it: Innocents are killed, wrongly imprisoned, beaten, harassed—and as knowledge of such abuses spreads, respect for the rule of law wanes. If police officers were at-will employees (as I’ve been at every job I’ve ever held), none of the cops mentioned above would now be walking the streets with badges and loaded guns. Perhaps one or two of them deserved to be exonerated, despite how bad their cases look. Does the benefit of being scrupulously fair to those individuals justify the cost of having more abusive cops on the street?



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

Killing of children and women is according to the teachings

Dec 21st, 2014 11:42 am | By

Ahmar Mustikhan reports in the Examiner on the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s explanation for why the slaughter in Peshawar was right-on according to the prophet. It’s enough to make you vomit.

The Islamic terrorist outfit that carried out the bloodiest school massacre in world history Wednesday defended its action as being in line with what Prophet Mohammed, who Muslims believe was the last messenger of God, did with his enemies 1400 years ago.

“At the time of the Bannu Qurayza massacre, Prophet Mohammed ordered only those children be killed whose pubic hairs have appeared,” said Umar Khurasani, spokesperson for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Bannu Qurayza was a Jewish tribe that lived in present day Medina. Islamic history texts confirm 800 men and boys and one woman of the Qurayza tribe were beheaded. “Killing of children and women is according to the teachings of Prophet Mohammed; those who are objecting should study Sahih al-Bukhari,” Khurasani said.

The prophet said it, so that makes it totally halal. That’s all there is to it. No need to think, no need for empathy, no remorse, just follow instructions.

Khurasani insisted the TTP followed what he called sunnat, or actions of Prophet Mohammed during wars.. He said those who are saying the Peshawar attack was un-Islamic should read Sahih al-Bukhari 5th Volume, Hadith. No. 138. Bukhari is considered to be one of the most authentic books on what Prophet Mohammed said and did during his lifetime. The TTP statement coincided with the television interview of Maulana Abdul Aziz, chief cleric at the Lal Mosque in Islamabad, who flatly refused to condemn the Peshawar attack during a television talk.

He doesn’t make the rules. The proph made the rules 14 centuries ago, and it’s no good second-guessing them now. If the proph says it’s fine to murder a school full of children, then go for it. Allahu akbar.





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

It’s not obvious

Dec 21st, 2014 10:27 am | By

Apparently that article about the unreliability of Doctor Oz et al. has prompted lots of people to say “well obviously you shouldn’t trust a doctor on some tv talk show!”

But it’s not obvious. It’s not obvious unless you already know it.

It’s not at all easy to know which authorities to trust, and it’s not obviously stupid to assume that people on tv are constrained by some sort of rules or standards about truth and competence. We may think it’s obvious, but I think if we do we’re forgetting that we have some background knowledge about Oprah’s attraction to woo and the like. Not everybody has the same background knowledge, to put it mildly. It’s not self-evident that Oprah likes woo, because Oprah is a very intelligent and skilled tv personality. She doesn’t come across as gullible at all; rather the contrary; that makes it all the harder to be wary of what she tells us and of the putative authorities she promotes.

This makes it all the more reprehensible that she does promote a woo-monger like Mehmet Oz. She has huge power to persuade people of things; she comes across as an authority to many people; therefore she should do a much better job of filtering her medical experts. With great power comes great responsibility yadda yadda – it’s a cliche but by god it’s true. She could have a reliable, evidence-based medical expert as a regular on her show, but instead she has Oz. Bad move.

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

Dalit women and rape statistics

Dec 20th, 2014 5:16 pm | By

From Rahila Gupta in the New Statesman, here’s a shocking fact I didn’t know:

…the conviction rate for rape cases brought by Dalit women stands at an appallingly low 2 per cent as compared to 24 per cent for women in general.

I shudder to think how that plays out in court. I also wonder why the higher number is so much higher than the US rate, which is from 2 to 9 percent according to the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender. (If people wonder why rape victims don’t rush to tell the cops, that conviction rate has to be one reason. Go through that just to see an acquittal? Doesn’t sound like much fun.)

One organisation, Jan Sahas (People’s Courage), which represents Dalit women who work mainly as manual scavengers (cleaning dry toilets with their bare hands) has bucked the trend by raising the conviction rate from 2 to 38 per cent. Their director, Ashif Shaikh, was in London recently to pick up an award from the Stars Foundation for liberating more than 14,000 women from scavenging. He spoke about the innovative methods used by his organisation to improve access to justice for raped women.

Jan Sahas set up its own network of 350 lawyers, the Progressive Lawyers Forum, to provide legal support in over 5000 cases of atrocity, which included nearly 1,000 cases of rape against mainly Dalit women across six states in 2013, to counter the corruption of the public prosecution system. Lawyers earn 150 rupees per case (£1.50), low even by Indian standards, a payment rate that attracts incompetent individuals who are infinitely susceptible to bribes of 10-15,000 rupees (£100-£150) offered by the generally upper-caste families of the accused to scupper the case.

Jan Sahas has also trained 200 female survivors of sexual violence as “barefoot lawyers” to support victims currently going through the criminal justice system. Many of them are illiterate and do not know their rights. They face tremendous pressure from family members not to pursue the case either because of the stigma attached to it or because the family has been paid off by the accused, pressure from the wider community/village, pressure from the accused and the police.

Plus there’s the fact that the odds are horrendous.

Gupta makes a ferocious point at the end.

The untouchability of Dalits is so etched in Indian cultural attitudes that separate utensils are kept in caste-Hindu households for Dalits. Although rape is an act of violence, misogyny and male power, and although men everywhere can overcome other hatreds such as racism towards black women slaves, it is nonetheless staggering that men who fear defilement through less intimate forms of “touch” think nothing of flushing themselves into the bodies of Dalit women.

It is, isn’t it.

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

Subway manspreaders told to close their legs

Dec 20th, 2014 3:27 pm | By

No really, they’re told that. The Guardian says so.

  • Poster campaign will attempt to stop antisocial practice
  • Doctors say crossing legs will not affect reproductive powers

Are they sure? Not in any way? Not even shrinking things just a little? Or enfeebling them ever so slightly? Or delaying appropriate responses? Or making them look like lace or flowers or scented soap?

As 2014 comes to an end, one thing New York commuters can expect in 2015 is an official city campaign against a growing problem: “manspreading”.

I wonder why the problem is growing. Maybe it’s a reaction to feminism? “I’ll show you – I’ll take up extra room so that you’ll know who’s boss.” Or maybe it’s that subway seats are shrinking.

In January, the MTA will unveil ads calling for better subway manners. According to the New York Times, one such poster will bear the message: “Dude … Stop the Spread, Please.

Social-media sites have magnified criticism of manspreading, as people have posted images on sites like Twitter and Tumblr in an effort to shame culprits and compel them to keep their legs together.

But that might do them an injury!

Dr Marc Goldstein, director of the center for male reproductive medicine and microsurgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center, told the Times crossing one’s legs for a subway ride does not – contrary to apparently accepted wisdom – pose health risks to a man’s reproductive organs.

Do people really think otherwise?

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

The end of an era

Dec 20th, 2014 3:08 pm | By

So long, Geoffrey Peterson.

Adios, Secretariat.


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


Dec 20th, 2014 1:04 pm | By

A team of researchers led by Christina Korownyk of the University of Alberta’s Department of Family Medicine took a look at the medical information on two tv doctor shows, “The Dr. Oz Show” and “The Doctors,” which have average daily audiences of 2.9 million and 2.3 million respectively. The paper was published in the BMJ.

When looking at the shows individually, there was evidence to support 46% of the claims made on the “Dr. Oz Show.” Approximately 15% of the claims made on the show were contrary to what has been reported in scientific literature. There was no evidence to support or reject 49% of the claims made on the show. “The Doctors” had slightly better results, with 63% of the claims supported by scientific evidence. About 14% of the claims on the show are contradicted by evidence, and there is no evidence for or against 24% of the show’s claims.

I think 63% is quite a lot better than 46%.

Anyway – I recommend using the internet instead.



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

Not the Girl Scouts

Dec 20th, 2014 12:28 pm | By

So the Vatican has issued its final report on the rebellious nuns in the US. It dresses it up in cuddly language but Mary Hunt at Religion Dispatches is wholly unpersuaded of its cuddliness.

Despite herculean efforts to make nice, the 12-page report and its presentation reinforce the Roman Catholic Church’s patriarchal power paradigm. And although many have hailed the report as a sign of the Vatican’s warming toward women, I am not convinced.

Many will hail anything as a sign of something cuddly, because that’s what they do. The rest of us turn a very yellow eye on Vatican reports.

The first shoe dropped in 2008 when Cardinal Franc Rodé announced an Apostolic Visitation of active women’s religious communities. The goal of the inquiry—akin to a grand jury—was “to look into the quality of life of apostolic Congregations of women religious in the United States.”

The benign-sounding rhetoric was, to those in the know, an unmistakable signal of disapproval of how women religious were living increasingly self- and community-directed lives.

The Visitation was in no way experienced by the subjects or meant by the perpetrators “to convey the caring support of the Church in respectful, ‘sister-to-sister’ dialogue, as modeled in the Gospel account of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth” as one “eyebrow-raising paragraph” in the report asserted—this revisionist history is pure fantasy.

But it sounds so sweet. And it’s Christmas! Can’t we pretend?

While some of the visits were cordial enough, according to reports, there was never any illusion about why they took place or who ordered them. The nuns under study had no part in the overall process, no say in when, whether, and with whom they would share their lives. Instead, they were expected welcome “visitators” into their midst and to engage in data-gathering conversations which would be reported to Rome—and have the privilege of paying for it as well.

The report explains that. It’s about authority, you see.

8. The Service of Authority

The role of superiors has always been of great importance in the consecrated life. The Church has consistently taught that “those who exercise authority cannot renounce their obligation as those first responsible for the community, as guides of their sisters… in the spiritual and apostolic life.” Those entrusted with religious authority must know how to involve their sisters in the decision-making process and, at the same time, remember that “the final word belongs to authority and, consequently, that authority has the right to see that decisions taken are respected” (Vita Consecrata, 43).

Yay authority! Here is Our Bum: now kneel down and kiss it.

Back to RD:

Many of the women’s communities took deep offense at the notion that men in Rome would dispatch underlings to investigate their lives and lifestyles, especially their prayer and ministries. Nonetheless, because women’s religious communities belong to the kyriarchal structure of the church there was pressure to participate or suffer unnamed consequences.

Well that is the nature of the church.


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

Provocative or offensive?

Dec 20th, 2014 10:50 am | By

Massimo Pigliucci has a post about the American Atheists billboard campaign and the utility of what Dave Silverman calls the “firebrand” approach to fighting religion.

In this essay I will first explain why I object to “firebrand” atheism and on what principled (i.e., before evidence) grounds. I will then look at David’s data and argue that it doesn’t show what he thinks it does, and why even if it did this would still not settle the matter. I will then end with some constructive suggestions for atheist activism more generally.

Why firebrand atheism is a bad idea

American Atheists’ billboards have carried messages the likes of “You know it’s a myth… and you have a choice,” “What myths do you see?,” “Christianity? Sadistic God; useless Savior; 30,000+ versions of ‘truth’; promotes hate, calls it ‘love’” (I know, this is a mouthful…); “You know they are all scams”; “Who needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody”; and this year’s entry, featuring a cute kid and the words “Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is to skip church! I’m too old for fairy tales.”

I have one thought here before even reading most of Massimo’s post. That thought is that billboards are like tweets, and that deliberately “provocative” (or firebrand) tweets can backfire in ways that we have seen many many many times over the past few years as Twitter’s ubiquity has become ever more so. In short, I have learned to loathe “provocative” tweets, and to think that they just don’t work. Maybe that’s actually an overgeneralization, and they can work, but it takes a lot of skill. Billboards are even more so than tweets, because there is no Reply button on a billboard. The AA billboards have always made me feel a bit twitchy, because they oversimplify, and oversimplification doesn’t seem all that useful. (T shirts come to mind here, too.)

The reason I find this approach objectionable is precisely the reason David pushes it: it is in-your-face, belittling religious believers by telling them in huge font that they built their lives around myths and lies, and that they worship morally reprehensible charismatic figures. The ads paint religion with one broad brush, implying, or outright stating, that it is fundamentally stupid and evil.

Well, I think it’s all right to argue that, and that it is at least a big part of the truth, but I don’t think it’s a great idea to say it in ten or twenty words on a billboard. I think you need many more words, and a less take-it-or-leave-it medium.

The first problem with all this is that the older I get the less I think that being offensive on purpose gets you anywhere.

Now that I agree with.

I think being provocative can get you somewhere, if you’re a skilled provocateur (which few people are). But offensive on purpose? Not really…although I suppose I can think of some pieties that do need puncturing, for the public good, and the pious believers will inevitably see the puncturing as offensive even if we consider it merely provocative. Irregular verbs or adjectival phrases again: I’m provocative, they’re offensive.

Now I’ll read the rest of Massimo’s post.

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

Teenagers wanting to become ‘Jihadi brides’

Dec 19th, 2014 5:37 pm | By

This is a sickening story.

British girls as young as 14 are being helped to marry Islamic State fighters in Syria in increasing numbers by London-based “facilitators”.

Teenagers wanting to become ‘Jihadi brides’ are being assisted with applying for passports, given funding and sometimes even accompanied to the region after being groomed online.

Ew. What a golden opportunity – marry a murderer and give up all your rights for the sake of the bright lights of IS-held Syria.

Pockets of east London in particular are becoming hotbeds for organised groups of men and women helping young IS supporters to get to the Syrian conflict zone, the Evening Standard reported.

Haras Rafiq, an expert at British counter-terrorism think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation, says the organisation is “aware” of groups working across London but particularly in the east of the capital.

He said: “The average age is being reduced. Some of the girls getting out there are only 14.

Ew ew ew.

Mr Rafiq said the attraction for these girls is escaping their “regressive” home lives.

He added the roles this girls play once in IS are primarily domestic. But Mr Rafiq added they are also given the job of acting as the “morality police” and attend radicalisation classes where they learn how to “brainwash” potential new recruits online.

The warning comes after a girl of 15 was rescued from joining the conflict in Syria after Met counter-terrorism officers stopped the plane she was on as it was taxiing down the runway at Heathrow.

Fifteen. I remember how ignorant and clueless I was at fifteen. Fifteen.

A minimum of five people a week are evading the authorities and going out to IS, according to Met chief Bernard Hogan-Howe and it is estimated around 1,500 Brits may have been recruited to fight in Iraq and Syria.

The Times said one of its investigators posing as Aisha, a 17-year-old from east London, was offered cash and assistance after making contact with a hardline jihadist in Syria on Twitter.

He sent an image of himself outside the Islamic Court in the Isil stronghold of Raqqa, northern Syria, in which he is clutching a rifle and holding a handwritten message bearing the name from her Twitter profile.

So romantic.

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