Notes and Comment Blog


Desperate people will consent to a lot of things

Aug 11th, 2015 11:56 am | By

The BBC did a backgrounder piece by Naomi Grimley on Amnesty and the decriminalization of sex work yesterday.

It’s not often that a liberal newspaper like The Guardian rails against an organisation like Amnesty International.
But last week the paper ran a stinging editorial questioning the wisdom of the human rights group.
It said Amnesty would make a “serious mistake” if it advocated the decriminalisation of prostitution – a decision the group’s international council will vote on later on Tuesday.

Women’s groups and Jimmy Carter have said similar things.

Amnesty’s leaked proposal says decriminalisation would be “based on the human rights principle that consensual sexual conduct between adults is entitled to protection from state interference” so long as violence or child abuse or other illegal behaviour isn’t involved.

But you could call anything consensual and make it ok that way. Desperate people “consent” to do dangerous work, because they need to survive. Desperate people sometimes even “consent” to selling themselves into slavery, because they need to survive. Desperate people “consent” to living in neighborhoods near toxic landfills and the like. Consent isn’t always completely free.

Germany is one of the countries which liberalised its prostitution laws, together with New Zealand and the Netherlands.

One of the main reasons the Germans opted for legalisation in 2002 was the hope that it would professionalise the industry, giving prostitutes more access to benefits such as health insurance and pensions – just like in any other job.

But there are many who argue that the German experiment has gone badly wrong with very few prostitutes registering and being able to claim benefits. Above all, the number one criticism is that it’s boosted sex tourism and fuelled human trafficking to meet the demand of an expanded market.
Figures on human trafficking and its relationship to prostitution are hard to establish. But one academic study looking at 150 countries argued there was a link between relaxed prostitution laws and increased trafficking rates.
Other critics of the German model point to anecdotal evidence of growing numbers of young Romanian and Bulgarian women travelling to Germany to work on the streets or even in mega-brothels.

An investigation in 2013 by Der Spiegel described how many of these women head to cities such as Cologne voluntarily but soon end up caught in a dangerous web they can’t easily escape.

But it’s good for the people who make the profit.



Hello Anastasia

Aug 11th, 2015 11:03 am | By

Huh. I’ve seen (and probably heard) that “bye Felicia” thing a few times, so this time I decided to look up its origin.

So predictable.

Urban dictionary:

When someone says that they’re leaving and you could really give two shits less that they are. Their name then becomes “felicia”, a random bitch that nobody is sad to see go. They’re real name becomes irrelevant because nobody cares what it really is. Instead, they now are “felicia”.
“hey guys i’m gonna go”
“bye felicia”
“who is felicia?”
“exactly bitch. buh bye.”
Ok, that’s one I won’t adopt, not even by accident.

The entries farther down are a little more informative, but no more alluring.

A line from the 1995 film “Friday” starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker that is becoming increasingly popular for no reason. Just like twerking, it has been around and well established for many years, but has recently become more mainstream as white girls attempt to use it, most often incorrectly and oblivious to its origin.

That’s fine then, I’m a white hag, so I won’t attempt to use it.



It will lobby governments to accept its point of view

Aug 11th, 2015 10:36 am | By

Welp, that’s over.

From the Times again:

LONDON — Amnesty International has approved a controversial policy to endorse the de-criminalization of the sex trade, rejecting complaints by women’s rights groups who say it is tantamount to advocating the legalization of pimping and brothel owning.

Well, women’s rights groups…who cares what they say.

At its decision-making forum in Dublin on Tuesday, the human rights group approved the resolution to recommend “full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work.” It argues its research suggests decriminalization is the best way to defend sex workers’ human rights.

While other people’s research suggests otherwise.

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women has argued that while it agrees with Amnesty that those who are prostituted should not be criminalized, full de-criminalization would make pimps “businesspeople” who could sell the vulnerable with impunity.

Amnesty’s decision is important because it will lobby governments to accept its point of view.

Oh well, it’s only women.

 

 



Look like a girl, think like a man

Aug 11th, 2015 9:50 am | By

Now that’s a helpful message…



What message that sends out to children and adults

Aug 11th, 2015 9:36 am | By

I found something.

A Facebook group, Let Clothes Be Clothes.

Down with gender-separated clothes.

Let Clothes be Clothes is asking retailers in the UK to rethink how they design and market children’s clothing. Just like many of our supporters, we’re concerned about how colours, styles and themes are split into for girls or for boys, and what message that sends out to children and adults. Children should decide their own interests, favourite colours and wear the styles they find most comfortable and enjoyable to wear.

Please send us your photographs, petition links and blog posts, and help us promote a more positive culture that offers a full range of options to every child, encourages gender equality, prevents bullying and lets children be children.

Please follow us on Twitter @letclothesbe

Sounds like a fine idea to me.



Blood coming out of her wherever

Aug 11th, 2015 9:01 am | By

Good lord. Credulity defied yet again. Donald Trump’s idea of a good way to respond to persistent questions from a tv news presenter who has the bad taste to be a woman is to talk about her bleeding all over everything.

Trump is under fire for saying Friday night that [Megyn] Kelly, who pressed him on his previous attacks on women during Thursday night’s GOP presidential debate, had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her — wherever.”

Yeah that’s women for you – we’re just so damn wet and leaky. It’s gross.

The NY Times has more.

Megyn Kelly opened her Fox News program on Monday night by addressing the uproar overDonald J. Trump’s personal attacks on her, her first comments since he made a remark that many interpreted as a reference to her menstrual cycle.

Her “menstrual cycle”? Don’t be silly, Times. He wasn’t talking about her “cycle.” He was talking about the ooky gross chunk-filled blood that comes out of her several days each month. He was talking about blood and endometrial tissue. He was talking about how gross and disgusting women are. He was shouting out to the dregs of humanity who agree with him about how gross and disgusting women are.

She said she would not respond directly to any of Mr. Trump’s numerous insults and disparaging statements about her.

Mr. Trump and many of his supporters have unleashed a social media assault against Ms. Kelly and Fox News since she asked him pointed questions about his descriptions of women as pigs, dogs and slobs.

In the days since the debate, he has taken to Twitter and appeared on numerous news programs to mock her and question her professionalism — a tactic he often uses against people who find themselves on his bad side.

And when it’s a woman, well, he has the extra advantage that he can talk about how gross and disgusting she is.

 



Arrest them all

Aug 10th, 2015 5:37 pm | By

Arifur Rahman updates us on what Bangladesh is doing about the relentless attacks on secular bloggers.

Following the killing of Niloy, Bangladesh Olama League (a Islamist wing of Bangladesh Awami League, the party running the government now) have showed rage against Atheists openly in the capital. They then demanded law to be formed which will have provision of ‘Death Penalty’ for Atheistic writings. Among many other inhumane demands, they wanted all blogs having Athiestic writing to be shut down.

And they’re getting what they want.

The chief of police in Dhaka said this:

At a press briefing at the Police Headquarters on Sunday, he also suggested notifying police if anyone’s blog was found to be offensive to religions.

“There will always be free thinkers. I have enough respect for them. But we need to remember that hurting religious sentiments is a crime according to our law.

“Any offender of religious beliefs may get the highest punishment of 14 years (in jail).”

He’s saying atheist bloggers should be reported to the police. Not protected by the police, but reported to them.

Then the Ministers:

Following the press briefing of the Police Chief, a number of government Ministers in a Law and order meeting held at the ministry for home affairs unanimously agreed to arrest anyone writing in a manner that could defame religion.

Not the murderers – the bloggers. Arrest them. Of course if the murderers hack them to death first, there’s no need to arrest them.



He stirs up trouble on the internet

Aug 10th, 2015 4:48 pm | By

News organizations keep asking women to go on debate shows with Milo Yiannopoulos. Last March Kate Smurthwaite wrote about what a terrible idea that is.

In the last week I’ve received over 1,700 nasty Twitter messages. Many of these messages have been retweeted and ‘favourited’ hundreds of times. I was going to print all the abuse out and hold it up for a photo to accompany this article. The document came out at 165 pages. To print my week’s abuse I’m going to have to buy a new printer cartridge.

You might assume that to provoke such a response I had said something deeply racist, incited rape or sexual violence or called for the death of a much-loved TV star. No, my ‘crime’ was to ask a man not to call a woman he didn’t know ‘darling’ during a live TV debate on gender equality.

I remember that. I saw it. It was The Big Question, and Yiannopoulos did call her that, very contemptuously. It was infuriating, and I was very glad when Kate snapped at him not to do that.

It turns out, unsurprisingly, that Milo Yiannopoulos has direct links to the #GamerGate scandal which saw massive-scale abuse targeted at Anita Sarkeesian. The hashtag crops up repeatedly. He stirs up trouble on the internet knowing perfectly well that once he has identified a target, that individual will be bombarded with hateful messages. Bombarded is an understatement.
Retweets, favourites, replies loaded with more misogyny, and also the tactic of copying in others who will likely add to the abuse. Creating a sort of harassment chain letter

Yiannopoulos is a kind of professional Twitter-bully. It’s what he does, and for some reason tv stations think that makes him a good person to invite onto debate shows with women.

Among the messages are of course a fair few that wish me dead or raped. Some have photoshopped images with slogans or waded through video footage to find the ugliest image of me they can. They call me ‘bitch’ and ‘retarded’ and ‘harpy’ and ‘asshole’.

A big theme is victim-blaming. I’m told that if I didn’t want this I shouldn’t have gone on TV. I’m told that I deserve punishment for things that other feminists have said. I’m told that if I complain I’m letting down feminism.

It’s what the internet is for – telling women all the things that generations of men have wanted to but didn’t have the tools.

Quite understandably in the 21st century, the first thing a comedy promoter does when recommended an act is bang their name into Google. There’s no way of distinguishing between a punter who has seen my show and not enjoyed it and a troll scrambling for new ways to ruin my afternoon. So my career is undoubtedly being detrimentally affected. Nasty comments have also appeared under basically every video of me online.

That makes it all the more infuriating when well-meaning individuals, from friends to the police themselves, say ‘ignore it’, ‘leave Twitter’, ‘block them’ or ‘report it’. I’m a human being; people use Twitter to communicate with me, as a 21st-century comedian I’m expected to use it to promote my work. When what I have to wade through is page after page of hate, it does affect me.

But you’re supposed to have a “thick skin”! Like an armadillo, or a container ship.

I’ve reported a fair few rape and death threats to the police over the last few years. They ask me to describe the abuse – which means read it out a number of times, making sure it’s fully embedded in my head; I can recite it without notes, better than some of my own material. Then they wait a couple of months and tell me they’re not going to do anything about it. My hope that they might do something about harassment that doesn’t even describe ripping my head off and fucking my bleeding neck has long since faded.

The trouble is we seem to hold the internet to a different standard to real life. We now live significant parts of our lives online and we should have the same rights there as we do anywhere else. If Milo and 500 of his friends stood in the street and shouted these things at me we would all agree there was a serious problem that needed to be addressed. This is no different.

If any technology or legal experts can help me access justice, your help would be much appreciated. You can contact me through my website. katesmurthwaite.co.uk

And don’t ever do a tv show with Milo Yiannopoulos, ever, for any reason.



The “freethinkers” should keep in mind

Aug 10th, 2015 3:57 pm | By

You have got to be kidding.

The Times of India:

DHAKA: With four secular bloggers being killed by suspected Islamists in Bangladesh in recent months, police here have asked secular writers not to “cross the limit” and write anything which hurts religious beliefs of others.

“Do not cross the limit. Do not hurt anyone’s religious belief,” inspector general of police AKM Shahidul Hoque said as investigators struggled to nab the killers of secular blogger Niloy Chakrabarty Neel who was hacked to death at his flat here on Friday.

What “limit”? Religious belief covers a vast territory, and not hurting any possible variant of it requires not saying anything at all ever.

The “freethinkers” should keep in mind that hurting someone’s religious sentiment is a criminal offence, Bdnews quoted Hoque as saying.

Oh should they? And what about murder? Isn’t that too a criminal offence? Isn’t it a much more serious criminal offence? Isn’t it a genuine criminal offence, while “hurting someone’s religious sentiment” is a childish and bogus one?



Music

Aug 10th, 2015 3:03 pm | By

Here’s Shira Banki playing the piano in 2009, when she was ten, at the Ron Shulamit Music School in Jerusalem.

This is the girl the tall man with the huge knife stabbed to death at the Gay Pride Parade.



You there!

Aug 10th, 2015 2:54 pm | By

No reason. I just thought I would.

Atheist, 7, sparks Indiana lawsuit



The Withdrawing Room

Aug 10th, 2015 1:48 pm | By

Harald Hanche-Olsen wisely reminded me to add a new Withdrawing Room, so here it is.

The Withdrawing Room, for new readers who don’t already know, is where you can talk about any random thing you feel like talking about. Nothing is off-topic because there is no topic. Nothing is a derail because there is no rail.

We have this whole big rambling website, with lots of rooms,  to play with, so I might move it somewhere else later, but for now it’s here.

Have a slice of the view from my window:

Puget Sound Fishing



That same day

Aug 10th, 2015 11:40 am | By

That same day in Jerusalem –

Hours after the stabbing at the gay parade, and in a separate incident, an 18-month-old Palestinian boy was killed in a firebombing attack on his family home early Friday morning that was attributed to right-wing Jewish extremists.

Unknown assailants, suspected to be extremist Jewish settlers, firebombed the home of a Palestinian family in the northern West Bank village of Duma, killing the toddler. The parents and brother of Ali Saad Dawabsha were hospitalized and are still fighting for their lives.

Chairperson of the Zionist Union’s Knesset faction Merav Michaeli said she expected the government to tell lawmakers how it intends to curb the threat of Jewish terror attacks.

“The two terrible Jewish terror hate crimes need to be debated by the Knesset,” Michaeli said, according to a report on the Hebrew-language NRG website. “We will demand of the prime minister and the rest of the right-wing nationalist leadership to present to the Knesset activities to eliminate Jewish terror, and not empty declarations.”

The Dawabsha family’s small brick-and-cement home was gutted by fire, and a Star of David spray-painted on a wall along with the words “Revenge” and “Long live the Messiah.”

The phrases were indicative of so-called “price tag” violence — a euphemism for nationalist-motivated hate crimes by Jewish extremists.

Israeli officials swiftly condemned both incidents as hate crimes and declared the Duma attack as an act of terror.

Religious fanatics are dangerous.



Shira Banki

Aug 10th, 2015 10:44 am | By

Shira Banki died on August 2.

She died of the stab wounds inflicted on her by a religious fanatic at Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade three days before.

Stuart Winer at the Times of Israel has more.

Banki’s family said that their daughter was killed because of her tolerant views. They also indicated they place some blame on the police for not preventing the killer, Yishai Schlissel, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, from reaching the parade.

“Our wonderful Shira was murdered because of the fact that she was a happy 16-year-old girl, full of life and love, who came to support the rights of her friends and every person to live in their own way,” Banki’s family said in a statement. “For no reason, and because of the wickedness of stupidity and carelessness, our precious flower’s life was cut.”

At the Leyada school where Banki studied her friends gathered to meet with counselors and social workers as they talked about their slain classmate.

Nadav Harobi, who tutored Banki, spoke of the teen’s vigor for volunteer work and social activism.

“I will remember her all my life,” Harobi told the Ynet news site. “She was a smart girl, critical in the best sense of the word. She was sharp, she volunteered a lot in her life. She was active and rose against any discrimination. She was a person who liked to live, cheerful, caring. This is an immense loss for Shira’s good friends, as well as for me.”

Shira Banki, in a picture dated November 16, 2013, taken from her Facebook page.

A 2013 photo from her Facebook page

I don’t think the world is better off without Shira Banki in it.



A housekeeping note

Aug 10th, 2015 9:28 am | By

Dear readers and especially commenters – ur-B&W has been pretty dormant for four years, so things are a little rusty.

Comments are sometimes slow to appear, but they do turn up.

It’s ok if you make a duplicate, I can just delete them. No worries.

It will take me awhile to oil all the joints.

Meanwhile, enjoy not having to see all those god damn ads!



Just in time for the parade

Aug 10th, 2015 9:24 am | By

Ten days ago, at the Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem, a Haredi man stabbed six people, one of whom died a few days later.

A police spokesperson identified the suspect as the same man who stabbed three people at the parade in 2005.

Yishai Schlissel, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for that attack and was released from prison three weeks ago.

It’s too bad they released him from prison just in time for the parade. It’s also too bad they didn’t make sure he didn’t do it again.

The attacker emerged behind marchers and began stabbing them while screaming, before being tackled by a police officer.

Dramatic images showed the assailant reaching inside his coat and raising a knife above his head.

The BBC includes many of those images. They’re terrifying.

Carole Nuriel, a director at New York-based Jewish rights organisation the Anti-Defamation League, said the group was “shocked and horrified” by the attack.

“Jerusalem’s pride parade celebrates the city’s diverse and vibrant LGBT community. That celebration has once again been violated with violence and hatred,” she said in a statement.

She added: “We extend our solidarity with the LGBT community, and hope for the full recovery of the victims.”

Yes, but this is the crux that Israel and the US and Bangladesh and many many other countries constantly have to deal with. Religions are not necessarily in favor of vibrant diversity. Religions tend to prefer sameness on at least some issues, and sexuality is very high on the list of those issues. Israel is an avowedly religious state; that creates problems. Haredis are not fans of gender equality, let alone LGBTQ equality.

The event has long been a source of tension between Jerusalem’s secular minority and its Jewish Orthodox communities. Israeli police granted a permit for 30 right-wing religious activists to protest on Thursday by the Great Synagogue, close to the parade route.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews have previously gathered in the city’s Mea Shearim quarter to protest against homosexuality.

Israel’s homosexual community was the target of a 2009 attack in Tel Aviv, where a gunman opened fire at a centre for young gays, killing two people and wounding 15 others.

Well exactly. If you cherish and encourage and privilege the religious zealots, you’re going to get more and stronger religious zealotry.

Vasudevan Sridharan at the IBTimes reports that Schlissel had all but sent the police a note telling them he was going to attack the parade again.

Israeli authorities are facing a barrage of criticism after it emerged that Yishai Schlissel, who stabbed six people at a gay parade in Jerusalem, was a repeat offender and was released from prison only weeks ago.

Police blamed intelligence failure for not monitoring Schlissel, who served a 10-year jail sentence since 2005 for a similar attack, since his recent release.

Schlissel, who was originally given a 12-year sentence but released two years early, had made a series of statements from prison just before his release hinting that he was planning another attack on the LGBT rally.

Hmm. He’d done it before, for religious reasons. He was still a Haredi. He made a series of statements hinting he was going to do it again. He was released three weeks before the parade. Hmm.

Shortly after his release three weeks ago, Schlissel distributed hand-written anti-gay pamphlets calling the LGBT rally “shameful” and “blasphemous”.

The ultra-orthodox Jew wrote: “It is incumbent upon every Jew to risk beatings or imprisonment and together to stop the desecration for the sanctity of His name. If we refrain from declaring war, they’ll feel free to spread this shame all over the world.”

He also gave interviews to media outlets heaping scorn on the gay parade.

And then he went to the parade and stabbed six people. One of them, a girl of 16, is now dead.



Interjecting to inform you

Aug 9th, 2015 6:07 pm | By

Be sure to read this piece by Bruce Everett (author of many guest posts at B&W):

Mutation of concept

I’ll give you a sample, and you’ll be off like a shot to read the whole thing.

Concept: “You can’t expect people arguing from a position of disadvantage, in a discussion of said disadvantage, to adhere to lists of arbitrarily acceptable decorum, especially not when the list explicitly and prejudicially excludes mention of some of the very concepts they need to express.”

Mutation: “YOU MUST LET PEOPLE FROM A POSITION OF DISADVANTAGE ABUSE AND THREATEN YOU OTHERWISE YOU ARE BEING AN EXCLUSIONARY SHITLORD!!1! DO NOT ERASE THEIR ANGER!”

Concept: “For too long, people in positions of relative power have defined the language of political discussion, such that their biases have become entrenched and covertly assumed in a way that prejudices the interests of various groups of disadvantaged people. These prejudicial assumptions need to be teased out and criticised, and often this will entail deliberately making space for members of disadvantaged groups.”

Mutation: “I identify as more disadvantaged than you, so I am interjecting to inform you that I am now editor of your blog. YOU DON’T GET TO PUBLISH DISAGREEMENT YOU ENTITLED ASSHOLE! HOW DARE YOU!111”

It’s all that good.



See the moral panic swell and grow

Aug 9th, 2015 4:28 pm | By

This is how ridiculous the panic and frenzy have become. It’s a little alarming how eagerly and fast people have sprinted over a cliff. This is a comment by Darlene Pineda on Jason Thibeault’s long, ugly, dishonest post about me on Thursday:

@Jason: She’s generally good only she’s done hurtful things and her growth as a person is being stymied by her needing to be right rather than being fair to all parties and accepting criticism.

Most people are. Generally good, that is. They don’t around kicking puppies, for example. They generally think people should be treated fairly.

But when they think some people should be treated more fairly than others, that’s when that whole “generally good” stuff breaks down. Ophelia Benson is anti-trans. She doesn’t believe they even exist, really. Oh, she’s willing to humor them and doesn’t wish them harm, but she denies them the basic humanity and ability to define themselves she grants herself. She is a bigot. Flat out. That isn’t just hurtful, it is dangerous. It feeds the people who are denying rights to trans people to use the bathroom of their choice. She is in basic agreement with Huckabee, FFS.

I put her TERF views and friends firmly in the same camp as the KKK and any other hate group. Hate group. Her views — outspoken as they are — are part of a larger whole that impacts policies and politics that work to further marginalize trans people.

She may not be evil, but the consequences of her actions are. K.c. Haggard, 66. India Clarke, 25. Mercedes Williamson, 17. London Chanel, 23. Kristina Gomez Reinwald, 46. Penny Proud, 21. Taja Gabrielle DeJesus, 36. Yazmin Vash Payne, 33. Ty Underwood, 24. Lamia Beard, 30. Lamar “Papi” Edwards, 20. Bri Golec, 22. Amber Monroe, 20.

My daughter is 20. She doesn’t use public restrooms. It’s safer. Because people don’t think she’s a woman. Because she’s afraid of getting killed.

This is not an intellectual game, this is real life and death, today. Right now.

Generally good people? They don’t make people fear for their lives when needing to pee.

First of all – it’s terrible that she’s so afraid for her daughter, and that her daughter is so afraid. It’s just fucking awful.

But, having said that – that comment is off a cliff. It’s batshit. It says my “actions” – writing some innocuous words on a blog – have something to do with the murders of trans people. It says I make her daughter afraid for her life when she needs to pee. That is over the top panic about nothing.

Also…if we had to weight the two, I would say that comment is a lot more likely to incite violence against me than anything I’ve ever said is likely to incite violence against Darlene Pineda’s daughter. I would say that comment is inciting hatred and rage against me, and I’ve never said a word that does anything like that.

We don’t have to weight the two, and I don’t think that comment puts me in danger, but I do think the connection is a whole lot more obvious than it is in the case of my blog thoughts about gender and a stranger’s daughter.

If I really were a danger to trans people…wouldn’t that stand out rather? Wouldn’t it be pretty glaring? Wouldn’t it be obvious?

But to find anything to accuse me of they had to go combing through what groups I’m in on Facebook and what I “Liked” in those groups. Really?

Really?

My liking things said in a Facebook group is a threat to the life of a young trans woman who needs to pee?

How, exactly? How would that work?

These people are working themselves into a ridiculous panic, and I would find it funny if it weren’t the result of Jason Thibeault and others peddling a bunch of lies and exaggerations about me. Since it is that, I find it horrifying and contemptible.



Their divinely-mandated duty

Aug 9th, 2015 12:34 pm | By

A blogger on the plight of secular bloggers in Bangladesh:

Again! Again, murderous violence against a secular, atheist blogger by vile, despicable Islamic extremists in Bangladesh!

The shocking news brought a sense of overwhelming numbness that altogether masked my usual emotional reactions at such news – bitter sadness, frustration and impotent rage, and eventually resigned acceptance. This was the fifth such incident since February 2013 – a secular blogger violently cut down in his prime for daring to express his views championing secular humanism, science and rationality; Rajiv Haidar, Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman, Ananta Bijoy Das, and now, Niloy Chatterjee – popularly known by his pen-name, ‘Niloy Neel’. Another such blogger, Asif Mohiuddin, had thankfully survived being stabbed in January 2013.

Who is doing it? Religious fanatics, for the flimsiest of reason, on the emptiest of instructions.

Washiqur Rahman was a complete stranger to the men who perpetrated the fatal machete attack on him; they – confessed the two who were later arrested by the police – didn’t even know his face, or know of him, and weren’t familiar with his work, until it all was pointed out to them. Yet, when told that Rahman had insulted Islam and the Prophet, these men executed him without a shred of remorse – because they were made to believe that it was their divinely-mandated duty to take the life of another.

They were told to, so they did. It was that simple. A valuable, useful life was chopped short, over an imagined “insult” to a religion and a long-dead human.

Niloy Neel was many things to many people; a blogger, author, an activist engaged in various social justice causes, and the founder of the Bangladesh Science and Rationalists Association. His online writings touched upon diverse topics, philosophy, religions, social issues such as feminism, equality, gay rights, and so forth; he was a critic of religious fundamentalism, including Islamic fundamentalism, and relentlessly pointed out inconsistencies in religious edicts, superstitions, and other social ills. It was for his writings that he was deemed to have forfeited his life by divine fiat, and he was brutally murdered inside his residence – while his family was present at home – by assailants belonging to Ansar Al Islam, the Bangladesh branch of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (News report in Bangla here).

Writers are dangerous. Writers must be stopped. Writers are Problematic Persons.

This pattern of grievous violence by Islamic extremists in Bangladesh has by no means been restricted to secular bloggers alone, but was visited upon several of Bangladeshi activists, professors and authors deemed to be critical of Islam in any way. The predicament of Bangladeshi author, atheist and rationalist freethinker, Taslima Nasrin, continues to haunt her. What does one do… How does one counter effectively the mindless, thoughtless, remorseless adherents of a bloodthirsty, obscurantist ideology, hell bent upon silencing any and all critics through savagery?

I wish I knew. Massive funding of schools would help, because people send their children to madrassas simply because the schools are no good. (The madrassas are worse than no good, but the parents don’t know that.) Cutting off funding from Saudi Arabia would help. But both of those are pipe dreams…

Violent extremists pose a serious challenge to the governance of the entire country, and so far, unfortunately, the Bangladesh government has failed to acquit itself well. In an interview with BBC Trending after Niloy Neel’s murder, Bangladesh’s Minister of Information, Hasanul Haq Inu, denied the accusation that the government has been suppressing secular voices, choosing to justify instead the nebulous and draconian laws against ‘hurting religious sentiments’.

Sigh. Laws against “hurting religious sentiments” simply fuel the very kind of fanatical punitive rage that got the bloggers hacked to death.

At the end there is a list of other blog commentary:



Questions about their thyroid health from strangers

Aug 9th, 2015 11:41 am | By

Olga Khazan in The Atlantic on how much money women have to squander on having a socially acceptable face. (Talk about cisnormative…)

The cosmetics industry makes $60 billion each year. The personal-finance site Mint claims the average woman will spend $15,000 on the stuff in her lifetime. It also costs time. My weekday morning makeup routine takes 10 minutes. That’s roughly an hour per week, or two full days per year. Last year, the Today show pegged this number even higher, at two weeks per year per woman.

Lucky me! That’s ten extra minutes I have each day to spend on saying random things on Facebook.

That’s just me though.

It’s true that some women never wear makeup for various reasons. Some look better without it than others do. Some object on principle, or prefer to maintain a vaguely earthy-crunchy vibe. Others simply don’t have the time, can’t afford it, or have jobs that don’t involve interacting with others.

Well all of that treats wearing makeup as the default, and not wearing it as something that requires an explanation – a reason, a causality. That’s silly. The default should be not wearing it, because it’s a very odd thing to do, when you think about it. I have thought about it, and I find it very odd. Put bits of wax and blobs of goo on your face? No thanks – that would be uncomfortable, and I don’t want to do it. Of course I did want to do it as a child, when I was too young to do it for real so it had the allure of being a Grownup thing. But once I was old enough to do it for real I lost all taste for it, permanently.

The part about having a job that doesn’t involve interacting with others is relevant though. My laptop doesn’t give a shit what’s on my face.

Makeup, in short, is a norm, and nothing ruins a first impression like a norm violation. Some women contend they only wear makeup to “boost their confidence,” but the reason they feel less confident when they don’t wear it is that there’s an expectation they will.

Exactly. It’s the same reason we would all feel less confident if we went out without any pants on – there’s an expectation that we will wear pants, even if only the minimal shorts necessary to cover our bums and genitals. The makeup expectation is probably a little bit more expendable.

So, what can be done about it? Workplace policies that allow employees to work from home, where their facial-contrast levels are judged only by their cats, could be an immediate help. So could including more bare-faced women in TV shows and magazine spreads.

For more enduring change, women could just stop wearing makeup. But unless we all did it in unison, it’s likely that the holdouts would continue to reap benefits while the au naturel protesters would continue to field questions about their thyroid health from strangers.

It’s the tragedy of the commons, innit. Always a bear to deal with.