Notes and Comment Blog

Nobody should be allowed to die this way

Apr 19th, 2015 9:38 am | By

A fishing boat packed with an estimated 700 people capsized in the Mediterranean last night.

Bloomberg reports:

Italy and Malta immediately deployed navy and coast guard ships in an effort to rescue survivors. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Sunday that 28 bodies had been recovered and that the number is “bound to increase.” Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said 49 people had been rescued.

“If confirmed, this would be the largest tragedy ever in the Mediterranean involving migrants,” Muscat said in a telephone interview. “Nobody should be allowed to die this way.”

A Maltese military official, who asked not be identified, confirmed Italian news reports that about 700 migrants were on board when the boat left the Libyan port of Zuara. The official said the boat capsized about 61 nautical miles (113 kilometers) north of Libya late Saturday.

Italian news reports said the boat capsized when the passengers rushed to one side after spotting a merchant ship, in hopes of being rescued.

One of god’s little jokes, I suppose.

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

Are we the baddies?

Apr 19th, 2015 9:21 am | By

Just saw this, which I hadn’t seen before. I’m glad to have seen it.


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

That was 1987

Apr 18th, 2015 4:16 pm | By

Capitalism at its finest. Ian James of the Desert Sun did an investigative report in March:

In a rocky canyon in the San Bernardino National Forest, pipes carry water from springs high on the mountainside down to a roadside tank and from there to tanker trucks which haul it to a bottling plant to be sold as Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water to the profit of Nestle. How sweet and bucolic, except for a few tiny things – there’s a drought; the Forest Service hasn’t been monitoring the environmental impacts, and oh yes Nestle’s permit expired 28 years ago.

Nestle Waters North America holds a longstanding right to use this water from the national forest near San Bernardino. But the U.S. Forest Service hasn’t been keeping an eye on whether the taking of water is harming Strawberry Creek and the wildlife that depends on it. In fact, Nestle’s permit to transport water across the national forest expired in 1988. It hasn’t been reviewed since, and the Forest Service hasn’t examined the ecological effects of drawing tens of millions of gallons each year from the springs.

Even with California deep in drought, the federal agency hasn’t assessed the impacts of the bottled water business on springs and streams in two watersheds that sustain sensitive habitats in the national forest. The lack of oversight is symptomatic of a Forest Service limited by tight budgets and focused on other issues, and of a regulatory system in California that allows the bottled water industry to operate with little independent tracking of the potential toll on the environment.

Well hey, it’s not like they’re using the water to keep their lawns green. It’s drinking water. That’s got to be good, right? Especially in a drought! If Nestle didn’t bottle it it would just go to waste up there.

While the Forest Service has allowed Nestle to keep using an expired permit for nearly three decades, the agency has cracked down on other water users in the national forest. Several years ago, for instance, dozens of cabin owners were required to stop drawing water from a creek when their permits came up for renewal. Nestle has faced no such restrictions.

That’s because…um…Nestle gets the water out to all the people! It’s the invisible hand, dammit, and it’s the best way to everything.

But for real, it’s a long detailed story.

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

He was restrained by a coach

Apr 18th, 2015 12:47 pm | By

Gee, it’s all rape and harassment and more harassment day. Here’s a shocker:

Jeremiah True, the Reed College student who made headlines in March for protesting his professor’s decision to remove him from class, was arrested on Thursday by the Portland, Oregon police for alleged sex abuse, harassment, and disorderly conduct.

According to an employee at Rugby Oregon, a youth rugby organization based in Portland, True was arrested for disrupting a high school girls’ rugby practice. He was restrained by a coach who called the police, the employee said.

In March, True drew national attention after he started an online petition claiming he was unfairly removed from the seminar portion of his humanities class for questioning statistics on sexual assault. Other students and his professor said it was his disruptive behavior, not his views, that created a hostile learning environment and resulted in his dismissal.

Wo, who could have seen that coming?!! Normally people who question statistics on sexual assault are serious scholars, not guys who get busted for harassing high school girls trying to play rugby.

Update: more on the story, h/t Charles Sullivan:

A probable cause affidavit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court says a Reed College student was arrested for sex abuse against a 17-year-old girl.

Portland Police arrested 20-year-old Jeremiah True Thursday after he touched a 17-year-old girl and made an inappropriate comment, according to court documents.

According to court documents, police say the teenage girls were practicing at Normandale Park when he walked up to one of them “and made physical contact with her by caressing her hair and arm.”

Police say he then walked off for a bit before coming back and making the comment that brought the situation to their attention, according to court documents.

True is charged with third-degree sex abuse and harassment.

H/t Stacy



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

Guest post: Except that’s not their message

Apr 18th, 2015 12:40 pm | By

Originally a comment by M can help you with that on Cunningly disguised as their own.

Once there we will start distributing the totalitarian message that nerd and gamer culture is… perfectly wonderful just as it is and should be left alone to go it’s [sic] own way.

…except that’s not their message. Their message is that only the reactionary parts of nerd and gamer culture are “perfectly wonderful.” We know this from their positions: when one part of nerd or gamer culture (a more feminist, less racist, less cis-centric and/or heterocentric part) tries to influence what it means for the culture of which they are a part to “go its own way”…then that part, the honey badgers insist, absolutely cannot be “left alone,” but must be attacked, condemned, and harassed into silence. They’re not defending “nerd culture” or “gamer culture” — they’re insisting that certain reactionary elements in those subcultures should have absolute authority over the subculture as a whole.

There have been women, feminists, people of color, queer people, radicals, social-justice advocates, etc. in nerd and gamer culture as long as nerd and gamer culture have existed — certainly longer than the honey badgers (or I) have been part of these cultures, or even alive. Letting nerd culture “go its own way” means seeing the culture grow, mature, and develop in ways that expand the ways people can find a safe home in the culture, not demanding that a (supposed) core of entitled insecure straight cis white men have the divine right to prevent that growth and development.

(As an aside — I think quite a bit of the commentary regarding the honey badgers’ “infiltration” remarks have been off-point. I took it as sarcastic, i.e. they were trying to say “Hey, we’re part of nerd culture too!” — but, of course, it doesn’t work so well in terms of making a point because they, not the people who disagree with them, are the ones dedicated to exclusion.)

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

Cunningly disguised as their own

Apr 18th, 2015 11:59 am | By

The Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo is happening this weekend. Jill Pantozzi at the MarySue fills us in on some doings there.

First, she tells us they have an excellent anti-harassment policy.

They also have a campaign going called #ExpoEquality, in cooperation with Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse.

Yay. For equality, against harassment and abuse.

So, naturally, we can’t have that.

A Gamergate affiliated group known as Honey Badger Radio procured a booth for Calgary Expo through a crowdfundng campaign specifically geared toward gaining attendance under false pretenses. The people representing them are Karen Straughan, Mike Stephenson, Alison Tieman, and Sage Gerard, and of their campaign they wrote:

In April of this year, the Honey Badgers plan to put on a booth at the Calgary Comics and Entertainment Expo! We plan to infiltrate nerd culture cunningly disguised as their own.

Each of us has been carefully crafting a persona of nerdiness through decades of dedication to comics, science fiction, fantasy, comedy games and other geekery, waiting for this moment, our moment to slip among the unaware. Once there we will start distributing the totalitarian message that nerd and gamer culture is… perfectly wonderful just as it is and should be left alone to go it’s own way.

That’s it folks.

As men’s issues advocates and defenders of creator’s rights to create unmolested, that’s what we have to say to the nerds and geeks and gamers. You are fantastic as you are, carry on.

Yep, in today’s political climate that’s considered an extremist position. Just letting creative communities create; consumers consume what they want; and gamers get down to the business of vidya without being judged.

So if you share our vision of a world in which nerds and geeks and gamers roam free and unfettered, help us spread that message by throwing a few shekels our way to attend the con.

So freedom = the total absence of all criticism? Judgment = fetters? Who knew?

However, Honey Badger Radio did not use their website to apply for vendor/exhibitor status. The “Honey Badger Brigade” on the Calgary Expo website links to awebcomic site (run by Honey Badger Tieman) instead. If you didn’t think all of this was enough to warrant expulsion from the convention (it is), there’s more.

Their show is broadcast by A Voice For Men, one of the biggest men’s rights website on the internet. Less specific plans for Calgary Expo were also detailed on that group’s site, which is classified as a “women-hating” site by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and said in part: “The Honey Badgers are a diverse group of female gender apostates–women who oppose outdated ideas of gender, particularly the association of womanhood with weakness. We offer an alternative to the damaging portrayal of women as victims of geek and gamer culture.”

Fantastic! So by the same token people who opposed the institution of slavery, for instance, were portraying slaves as victims of slave culture, and that was very bad. The right thing to do is nothing at all, so that people can be strong and not victims. The slaves have to end slavery all by themselves!

The group also attended the “Women Into Comics” panel last night. Panelist Brittney Le Blanc gave us this account of the events that transpired:

We were about fifteen minutes into the panel when a woman in the second row stood up and identified herself as a Men’s Rights Activist. She and her male companion both came to raise issues they felt would not be covered by our panel. Raising points about the way men are portrayed in comics struck a note with all the panelists, as we agreed that we want to see a diversity across body types, characters, races, etc in mainstream comics. Not everyone wants to see a hero who looks like he’s built like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. They also accused us of presenting all women as victims, which was an outright lie and derailing tactic.

Their questions did take up quite a bit of time at the panel and served to derail the topic onto another tangent, which was frustrating for the panel and for those in the audience. It’s what they came to do, and in part, they succeeded. I would say that it brought up some great discussions though…

Lemons to lemonade.

They wanted to stand up and have their say, but not to listen or try to understand the points of view other people in the room had. This was further proven by the video discussion they posted later last night, in which they mentioned our panel and that we were “donning the ball gowns of our victimhood”, which I’m not even entirely sure how to take. I will admit to not watching the whole video, and I think anyone who attempts to watch it would understand why.

Calgary Expo kicked them out today, or asked them to leave. It issued a statement:

View image on Twitter

As the world turns.

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

“It is our conclusion that CBC management condoned this behaviour”​​

Apr 18th, 2015 11:14 am | By

The CBC tells us there’s a report saying the CBC did a bad job of dealing with Jian Ghomeshi.

CBC failed to provide its staff a workplace “free from disrespectful and abusive behaviour,” says the report of an independent investigator hired to examine the corporation’s handling of the behaviour of former radio and television host Jian Ghomeshi.

Janice Rubin, a Toronto employment lawyer with expertise in the field of workplace harassment, says in the report that Ghomeshi’s behaviour violated CBC standards, and that his behaviour was “considered to create an intimidating, humiliating, hostile or offensive work environment.”

The report says that as information was shared “upwards,” it had a tendency to become “diluted.”

“Less prevalent, but also present in a small number of cases, was behaviour that constituted sexual harassment,” the report says, although it asserts that management was unaware of any complaints or allegations about sexual harassment.

It also says management failed to take steps in accordance with its own policies.

“It is our conclusion that CBC management condoned this behaviour.”​​

It’s so familiar, isn’t it? Ghomeshi is a star. He brings us viewers. He’s a star. These other people…well they’re just behind the scenes people, anybody can do what they do, if they quit we can easily replace them. But Ghomeshi? He’s a star. A star. You can’t replace a star, because a star is a star.

In an interview with CBC’s Ioanna Roumeliotis, [executive vice-president of English Services Heather] Conway said what concerns her the most is that “there was a persistent pattern of behaviour that wasn’t dealt with, because that is a series of missed opportunities, and over a period of years.”

Because Ghomeshi was a star over a period of years. They don’t want to get rid of their star. We’ve seen this before; we’re still seeing this right now. Protect the star, even if it requires persecuting the people who are reporting that the star does bad things. Protect the star at all costs. Throw the underlings overboard.

Several women contacted police, accusing Ghomeshi of harassment and violence. He now faces eight charges, which include seven counts of sexual assault and one of overcoming resistance by choking.

He has repeatedly denied taking part in any violent, non-consensual sexual acts.

Ghomeshi’s lawyer has said he intends to plead not guilty to the charges.

Ghomeshi is free on $100,000 bail with numerous conditions.

He is due to return to court on April 28.

Isn’t that supposed to be [named individual]?

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

The Don’t Vote campaign

Apr 18th, 2015 10:21 am | By

WalesOnline reports on theocratic efforts to discourage people from voting:

Stickers encouraging people not to vote because “none have the right to vote but Allah” have appeared in Cardiff.

The stickers have been put up on lampposts around the Corporation Road area of Grangetown.


Embedded image permalink

Via Twitter

The yellow warning sticker reads: “Democracy is a system whereby man violates the right of Allah.

“Islam is the only real workable solution for the UK”.

They carry the hashtag #Dontvoteformanmadelaw.

It also says “None have the right to legislate except Allah.”

Oh really. How does that work then? What’s the line of transmission? How does Allah tell us what legislation Allah has passed?

If the answer is the Koran, that won’t do, because things have changed since the Koran was written. If it’s something else – what is it?

Cardiff council’s cleansing team have begun to remove the posters.

The council say any religiously motivated or offensive stickers will be removed as a priority.

The BBC also reports, and in its usual mindless way it talks to a “Muslim Council” which is an affiliate of the MCB.

Akmal Hanuk, a trustee at the Muslim Council of Wales, said: “It is not representing the views of the majority of Muslims. I think the majority of Muslims want to vote and will.

“From a Muslim Council of Wales perspective, we encourage them to vote and to have a say in the democratic system.”

The BBC could have talked to a liberal Muslim group or person, but as so often, it didn’t.

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

Insufficient for joy

Apr 17th, 2015 4:27 pm | By

I spent too many minutes today arguing with a very “spiritual” person who is a vocal supporter of Raif Badawi on Facebook but who keeps putting her support in inappropriately “spiritual” terms. Since it’s one version of “spirituality” that is so determined to keep torturing him, I think that’s inappropriate at best.

I especially think it’s inappropriate to talk about “joy” in response to another Friday with no flogging, as she does every week. That’s not joyful. It’s a brief partial respite for Ensaf and their children, I hope, but it can’t very well be joyful when he could still be flogged next Friday and every Friday after that until all the remaining 950 lashes have been dealt out. It’s not an occasion for a party, not when things are this grim.

But I wish I hadn’t said anything to her, because her response was to ask Ensaf about it. Sigh. Because Ensaf has nothing better to worry about than this person on Facebook.

Joy is for when he gets out of prison and gets on the plane.

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

If they can, why can’t we??!

Apr 17th, 2015 3:54 pm | By

Get special rules, that is.

In Tennessee:

In an effort to get around recently passed zoning laws the owners of [a] Tennessee swingers club are rebranding their proposed establishment as a church, according to WSMV.

Previously the owners of the proposed club in Madison had submitted plans to convert a former medical building, situated next to a Christian school, into a sex club only to meet with stiff public resistance.

Following a packed and contentious meeting last month — with one audience member shouting “we don’t want this darkness to extinguish this beacon of light that has been here for years and years” –  the Metro Council amended the zoning laws to prevent the club from being developed.

Well you know…they would sort of have to amend the zoning laws for the whole entire town, wouldn’t they? I mean I hate to break it to them but I think there are probably people doing sex in many many places in Madison, Tennessee. I know it’s shocking and filthy, but there you go – people are like that. Sex!! In all the houses!!!

Relying upon federal laws that protect churches, the owners reapplied as a church. A room that was once labeled “the dungeon” is now the “choir room.” The former “game room” will now be known as a “fellowship hall.”

Ricky Perry, president of Goodpasture Christian School located next to the development, called changes and owners of the club “irreverent.”

“It just seems like there’s nothing you wouldn’t stoop to try to accomplish what you’re trying to do,” he said. “It’s obvious to me that all they’re trying to do is find another way to legally, or through some loophole, accomplish what they want to do.”

Or maybe it’s the Council that amended the zoning laws to stop them, hmmmm? Maybe they’re the ones trying to find another way to legally, or through some loophole, stop people from doing something because they think it’s ooky.

God bless.

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

Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict

Apr 17th, 2015 12:57 pm | By

We’ve been talking about this idea that climate change is going to cause a lot of mass migration, and the claim that it won’t be a problem if we just have open borders everywhere. I find that claim not at all credible, so I thought I would gesture toward a source or two.

The Center for American Progress has a report.

From the summary:

Recent intelligence reports and war games, including some conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense, conclude that over the next two or three decades, vulnerable regions (particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia) will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises, and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change. These developments could demand U.S., European, and international humanitarian relief or military responses, often the delivery vehicle for aid in crisis situations.

That seems odd at first blush, but of course the military has the equipment and the personnel to do jobs like that…assuming, that is, it’s not all tied-up with a grotesquely ill-advised war.

But will there be migration or not?

In the 21st century the world could see substantial numbers of climate migrants—people displaced by either the slow or sudden onset of the effects of climate change. The United Nations’ recent Human Development Report stated that, worldwide, there are already an estimated 700 million internal migrants—those leaving their homes within their own countries—a number that includes people whose migration is related to climate change and environmental factors. Overall migration across national borders is already at approximately 214 million people worldwide, with estimates of up to 20 million displaced in 2008 alone because of a rising sea level, desertification, and flooding.

One expert, Oli Brown of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, predicts a tenfold increase in the current number of internally displaced persons and international refugees by 2050. It is important to acknowledge that there is no consensus on this estimate. In fact there is major disagreement among experts about how to identify climate as a causal factor in internal and international migration.

It’s not going to come with labels on it. Most migrants aren’t going to say “I’m here because of climate change.”

But even though the root causes of human mobility are not always easy to decipher, the policy challenges posed by that movement are real. A 2009 report by the International Organization for Migration produced in cooperation with the United Nations University and the Climate Change, Environment and Migration Alliance cites numbers that range from “200 million to 1 billion migrants from cli- mate change alone, by 2050,” arguing that “environmental drivers of migration are often coupled with economic, social and developmental factors that can accelerate and to a certain extent mask the impact of climate change.”

The report also notes that “migration can result from different environmental factors, among them gradual environmental degradation (including desertification, soil and coastal erosion) and natural disasters (such as earthquakes, floods or tropical storms).” (See box on page 15 for a more detailed definition of climate migrants.) Clearly, then, climate change is expected to aggravate many existing migratory pressures around the world. Indeed associated extreme weather events resulting in drought, floods, and disease are projected to increase the number of sudden humanitarian crises and disasters in areas least able to cope, such as those already mired in poverty or prone to conflict.

Or both.

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

On the Town Hall to Sydney Airport service

Apr 17th, 2015 12:25 pm | By

The SMH tells us what Hafeez Ahmed Bhatti says about how Stacey Eden acted on that train. Spoiler: he doesn’t call her a white savior.

A man at the receiving end of an anti-Islamic tirade on a Sydney train has thanked the woman who stood up for his family and is meeting police on Friday to report the incident.

Hafeez Ahmed Bhatti, his wife and their four-month-old son were catching the train to Sydney Airport on Wednesday afternoon, after a one-day visit from Brisbane, when they were subjected to a torrent of abuse from a woman sitting opposite them.

Fellow passenger Stacey Eden was hailed a ‘legend’ for pulling out her camera phone and standing up to the woman after witnessing “a good 10 minutes” of abuse.

“Legend” is a silly word. I can discount some of Ashkitha Nagesh’s hostility toward Eden on the grounds that “legend” is a silly word applied to what she did on that train. She did the right thing, in my view, even if she didn’t word it perfectly throughout, but it was far from being such a heroic thing that it needs to be called legendary. [Update: see comments for why I was wrong about that.]

Mr Bhatti, an accountant from Pakistan, has revealed further details of what happened before Ms Eden started filming, saying the abusive passenger first touched his wife on her head and asked why she was wearing a hijab in such warm weather.

“I was [a] little shocked, she touched my wife’s head like she was blessing [her],” he said. “And then she started her ignorant comments.”

Oh, man – I’d be way more than a little shocked at that. You don’t touch people! And certainly not on the head!

The woman, wearing a red top and red floral pants, then proceeded to tell the couple that all Muslims should leave Australia and asked why they follow someone who married a six year-old child.

Ms Eden’s footage captured the woman asking Ms Bhatti’s wife: “Why do you wear it [a hijab] for a man that marries a six year-old girl?”

She rants about beheadings and the Martin Place siege while Ms Eden tells her it has nothing to do with the lady, who is sitting quietly.

Ms Eden’s smackdown ends with her angrily telling the woman: “if you’ve got nothing nice to say, don’t say anything, it’s simple.”

It is, it’s very simple. You don’t berate people on trains or in shops or at the bus stop. You leave people alone unless they are…you know…verbally abusing someone.

Mariam Veiszadeh, founder of the Islamophobia Register Australia, said such incidents had become more common after the Reclaim Australia rallies earlier this month.

“Is it any surprise that such sentiments are being expressed by people out in public given the Reclaim Australia movement and the rampant Islamophobia which ensued, and the woeful silence of our political leaders, which has created an environment where Islamophobia can flourish?” she said.

“It’s about time that authorities and our government acknowledged that Islamophobia is a problem.”

Bigotry against Muslims, is what it is, and what the problem is.

Meanwhile though, Ashkitha Nagesh is getting dogpiled on Twitter, and that’s no good either.

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

Slavery has no place full stop

Apr 17th, 2015 11:28 am | By

Amnesty International shares a letter from Samar Badawi to her husband Waleed Abu al-Khair. Samar Badawi is Raif Badawi’s sister.

He taught me that a person is born free and that it is up to him or her to live in freedom or die trying to achieve it. Slavery has no place in his life except when it comes to serving God, the one and only. Now, he lives in freedom even though he is behind bars with his colleagues Abdullah al-Hamid, Mohammad al-Qahtani and many other activists imprisoned purely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

That’s a very odd exception, I have to say. Slavery is bad except when it’s slavery to god? I couldn’t disagree more. Slavery to god is the worst, because there is no avenue of appeal.

But, that apart…

Know then, dear husband, that it is tyranny and oppression that have put you behind bars.

In Saudi Arabia those who chose to rule in the name of Islam and Shari’a law have treated such jurisprudence as mere ink on paper. Those who claim to use religion to protect me are the very people who took away my safety and security, for within the kingdom those meant to be serving justice have decided that oppression should be a cause for celebration.

So a word to them…

To all those rulers and judges who have unfairly imprisoned the free, and enslaved the people, beware of the judgement you will receive from the heavens above. Woe to you who have terrorized the aggrieved out of pride.

To my fellow Saudi Arabians I say that my husband has been imprisoned so that you could live free. He stood up to the tyrants to claim your rights; he faced up to his oppressors telling them he would not tolerate their repression. Remember that history does not forget, it will exalt those who have fought for freedom and cast aside the memory of those who succumbed to a life of humiliation and servitude.

I like that part much better.

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

Omøgade 8, Østerbro i København

Apr 17th, 2015 10:26 am | By

It’s Friday, so.

Raif was not flogged today.

Via Ensaf Haidar via Dansk PEN – protests in Copenhagen over the past many weeks:

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

An own goal

Apr 16th, 2015 6:28 pm | By

I’m late catching up with the Hugo awards – Vox Day – Sad Puppies – Rabid Puppies – Connie Willis stories. It’s pretty pathetic, and sad.

One recent summary:

The Hugo Awards have long honored authors, illustrators, and even fans, for their contributions to the field of sci-fi and fantasy. Past recipients have included Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. Le Guin, William Gibson, and J.K. Rowling, to name just a few. Like any prestigious award in a highly competitive industry, the Hugos are no stranger to controversy. This year, however, the Hugo nomination process was marred when a small cadre of science fiction writers and their fans systematically set out to manipulate the entire awards roster away from a diverse group of authors writing about diverse issues, and towards stories about big explosions and shiny lasers. And thanks to the Hugo’s relatively open nomination process (for $40, anyone can become a “supporting” and voting member of the awards’ parent organization, The World Science Fiction Society) it’s all perfectly legal. Not a single rule broken.

Making speculative fiction more conservative! What a great idea! Obviously it’s the ideal genre for conservatism and let’s keep doing things the way they were done when I was six-ism.

To the Puppies, the genres of science fiction and fantasy lose credibility the more they focus on things like racism, sexism, and sheer innovative storytelling, instead of telling tales about shooting guns or swinging swords. Last year’s Hugo awards ceremony was hailed for its emphasis on younger, more diverse nominees. This year, three of the five “Best Novel” nominees, three out of five “Best Short Story” nominees, and the entire “Best Novella” category are Puppy picks.

And some of the biggest names in sci-fi and fantasy have noticed.

Here’s Hugo winner John Scalzi:

…[I]t’s okay to penalize graceless award grasping by people who clearly despise the Hugo and what they believe it represents, and yet so very desperately crave the legitimacy they believe the award will confer to them. Therapy is the answer there, not a literary award.

And there are others. And then there’s Connie Willis.

Connie Willis, 11-time Hugo winner, with more science fiction and fantasy awards under her belt than any other writer, has turned down an invitation to present at this year’s ceremonies. Initially reluctant to boycott, Willis felt she had no choice after hearing reports that Puppy leader Vox Day had threatened to continue his campaign of nomination manipulation until one of his handpicked choices was given an award—in essence, holding the Hugos hostage. Explaining her decision, Willis writes:

to Vox Day, Brad Torgeson, and their followers, I have this to say:

You may have been able to cheat your way onto the ballot. (And don’t talk to me about how this isn’t against the rules–doing anything except nominating the works you personally liked best is cheating in my book.) You may even be able to bully and intimidate people into voting for you. But you can’t make me hand you the Hugo and say “Congratulations,” just as if you’d actually won it. And you can’t make me appear onstage and tell jokes and act like this year’s Hugo ceremony is business as usual and what you’ve done is okay. I’m not going to help you get away with this. I love the Hugo Awards too much.”

Brilliant move – drive all the best people away. No sacrifice is to great when it comes to keeping the women and other weirdos out.

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

Stacey Eden is a mensch

Apr 16th, 2015 5:25 pm | By

The so-called “white savior,” Stacey Eden, posted a bit of video on Facebook of the verbal abuse of the Muslim couple on a train. It seems pretty clear that she didn’t take it or post it to show off, but to document the abuse and say “people, don’t do that.” She did a damn good job of telling the abuser “don’t do that.”

Here’s her caption:

So i sat there for a good 10 minutes before i started recording this, while i listened to this woman bad mouth muslims and call the lady sitting opposite me an ISIS supporter because she wore a scarf, then she told me to go join ISIS because i was sticking up for her. People like this make me sick. People who are so ignorant and disrespectful to other people who were clearly sitting there minding their own business.
She was saying some pretty horrible and hurtful things before i spoke up then as soon as i started defending them she stopped.

People need to stop judging and putting others down over religion! EVERY RELIGION HAS GOOD AND BAD but if you take it back to the foundations, every religion is also built on LOVE. To LOVE one another.

The purpose of religion is to control yourself, not to criticise others.

She did the right thing. “White savior” my ass.

Here’s what Hafeez Ahmed Bhatti said on his Facebook wall.

Yesterday, before the video:

I was in the train to catch my flight and she targeted my wife and commenting on her. However, one of young Australian lady was arguing with her that she should stop racism.

Nothing about wishing she hadn’t or feeling patronized or white-saviored.

A woman friend replied:

Ahh good on her.

He posted a story from the Daily Mail, with pictures of all of them including Stacey Eden. A friend of his commented:

Watu Izzu Mantasha, Watu Zillu Mantasha.

This verse from Surah Al-Imran, which is extensively quoted by the faithful, simply means Allah honors those He is pleased with and disgraces those He is not happy with..

MASHA’ALLAH man good to see & pray (love) for Stacy Eden

The last one, 20 hours ago:

This video was not recorded by me. But that is what happened to us on sydney train, God bless Stacey Eden who support us.

Not a word from any of them about how Stacey Eden robbed them of their agency as opposed to making them feel less isolated and alone.

God damn. When you see people in trouble in some way, yes, you try to help. You be a mensch.

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

Oh no, not a “white saviour”

Apr 16th, 2015 4:40 pm | By

Hey, it turns out it actually is the right thing to do to sit still when people are being verbally abused and do nothing to intervene. I know, I’m surprised too! I thought it wasn’t! I thought it was pretty assholish to sit like a lump and stare while people are given shit by a stranger in a public place. But nope! Nope nope nope! That’s the correct, non-white-savior thing to do. If you speak up you’re denying agency to the people being abused. Leave them alone, you colonialist!

It’s Ashitha Nagesh who sets us straight about this, in the Independent.

You may have already seen the video from Australia that has gone viral today. It shows a middle-aged racist in a train ranting at a young Muslim couple, making some confusing links between the woman’s hijab and the Islamic State, Al-Shabaab’s attack in Garissa, and Muhammad “marrying a six-year-old” or something. She made no sense, as hardline racists never do.

But cue superwoman Stacey Eden! A white knight in shining armour swoops in to save the day, protecting the couple from the onslaught of abuse being hurled at them from across the carriage.

“She wears it for herself, OK? She wears it because she wants to be modest with her body, not because of people like you who are going to sit there and disrespect her.”

Isn’t it good Stacey was there? The couple were naturally mute and incapable of independent thought. Hell, they don’t even seem to have names, judging from most reports. They needed Stacey to save them.

Except… they didn’t.

Personally I found this video uncomfortable, but not for the reasons most other people seemed to. Yes I was disgusted by the racism, but I also felt patronised. It is just an incredibly patronising video. The couple are treated like children who can’t possibly be expected to deal with a crap situation by themselves.

I apologize. I apologize for all white people everywhere (except the ones who are wearing hijabs on trains). I apologize for all white saviors who try to help when some stranger gets abusive toward a woman wearing a hijab. I’m so ashamed of us. When will we learn to sit still and do nothing when people are being abused right in front of us? We’re so meddlesome.

The problem with videos like this is that they perpetuate the idea of the helpless minority needing a “white saviour” to stick up for them – and the attention has shifted so strongly onto Stacey that we don’t even know who this couple is or how they actually felt about the whole situation.

So true. It would be way better to perpetuate the idea of the callous indifference of the population at large to xenophobic bullying. If only there were more of that kind of thing!

Sarcasm fit over. What a shitty article. I do think what the “white savior” said was the wrong thing to say, because she’s not a mind-reader and she doesn’t know why the woman wears hijab. She should have just said hey, stop that, leave them alone, back off. But do I think she did a bad thing by intervening? Hell no. What Nagesh says is complete bullshit. Being verbally attacked by a stranger in a public place is a very intimidating experience, and knowing that some of the other strangers around are on your side is not a bad thing. Support in a situation like that is not a bad thing. People just sitting there gulping like fish makes it all worse. Nagesh is completely wrong, and ill-natured to boot.

Solidarity is not a bad thing. It’s a great thing, it’s one of the best things. It’s ridiculously precious to find fault with it for contrived reasons.

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

Lettre ouverte aux escrocs de l’islamophobie

Apr 16th, 2015 12:57 pm | By

L’Obs today has extracts from Charb’s book, “Lettre ouverte aux escrocs de l’islamophobie qui font le jeu des racistes.”

Again, I’ll attempt a translation; tell me what I get wrong. (I know some of you are Francophones, you can’t hide.)

L’islamophobie, un concept mal taillé

“Les militants communautaristes qui essaient d’imposer aux autorités judiciaires et politiques la notion d”islamophobie’ n’ont pas d’autre but que de pousser les victimes de racisme à s’affirmer musulmanes (…) Si demain les musulmans de France se convertissent au catholicisme ou bien renoncent à toute religion, ça ne changera rien au discours des racistes : ces étrangers ou ces Français d’origine étrangère seront toujours désignés comme responsables de tous les maux.”

Islamophobia, a crude concept

The communitarian militants who tried to impose the notion of “Islamophobia” on judicial and political authorities had no other goal than to push victims of racism into self-identifying as Muslims. (…) If Muslims in France convert to Catholicism tomorrow, or even renounce all religion, that won’t change anything about racist discourse: these foreigners or these French people of foreign origin will always be made responsible for everything bad.

The next one is funny.

Avoir peur est un droit

“Avoir peur de l’islam est sans doute crétin, absurde, et plein d’autres choses encore, mais ce n’est pas un délit. (…) le problème, ce n’est ni le Coran ni la Bible, romans soporifiques, incohérents et mal écrits, mais le fidèle qui lit le Coran ou la Bible comme on lit la notice de montage d’une étagère Ikea.”

Being afraid is a right

Being afraid of Islam is for sure stupid, absurd, and lots of other things besides, but it’s not a crime. (…) The problem is not the Koran or the Bible, soporifically boring novels, incoherent and badly written, but the faithist who reads the Koran or the Bible as one reads the instructions for putting together an Ikea bookshelf.

I wish he were alive to write more books.

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

Capitalising much?

Apr 16th, 2015 11:58 am | By

One of those times when the jaw drops so hard it hits the desk.


A tweet by Myriam François-Cerrah:

M Francois-Cerrah‏@MFrancoisCerrah
Capitalising much? Charlie Hebdo’s Charb publishes posthumous book on Islam … #bloodmoney

Blood money? Blood money? Whose blood is she talking about? Charb and his colleagues were murdered by the Kouachi brothers, not the other way around. Charb didn’t kill anyone, or order anyone killed, or incite anyone to kill. What blood money is François-Cerrah talking about?

And “capitalizing”? Charb is capitalizing on his own death, when he is dead? How is he doing that exactly?

He wrote the book before the Kouachi brothers murdered him and all those others. He’s not “capitalizing” on anything – he’s dead. Finished, story closed, no more books or cartoons, over.

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

“Sometimes I was sold. Sometimes I was given as a gift.”

Apr 16th, 2015 11:13 am | By

HRW reports on what ISIS/Daesh is doing to Yezidi women and girls in northern Iraq. HRW interviewed 20 women and girls who escaped.

ISIS forces took several thousand Yezidi civilians into custody in northern Iraq’s Nineveh province in August 2014, according to Kurdistan officials and community leaders. Witnesses said that fighters systematically separated young women and adolescent girls from their families and other captives and moved them from one location to another inside Iraq and Syria.

The 11 women and 9 girls Human Rights Watch interviewed had escaped between September 2014 and January 2015. Half, including two 12-year-old girls, said they had been raped – some multiple times and by several ISIS fighters. Nearly all of them said they had been forced into marriage; sold, in some cases a number of times; or given as “gifts.” The women and girls also witnessed other captives being abused.

I think that must mean they were all raped. I wonder if they’re not calling it rape if they were forced into “marriage.” (In my view forced “marriage” shouldn’t be called marriage at all. That’s not marriage, it’s enslavement. The two should be treated as radically different.)

Human Rights Watch also interviewed more than a dozen international and local service providers, medical workers, Kurdish officials, community leaders, and activists who corroborated these accounts. A local doctor treating female survivors in Dohuk told Human Rights Watch that of the 105 women and girls she had examined, 70 appeared to have been raped in ISIS captivity.

I wonder if that means “appeared to have had sex” or “appeared to have been violently subjected to sex.” The first would still be rape, given the circumstances.

In October 2014, ISIS acknowledged in its publication Dabiq that its fighters had given captured Yezidi women and girls to its fighters as “spoils of war.”

Oh, I don’t think “acknowledged” is the right word. I think they proclaimed it, boastfully and proudly.

In October 2014, ISIS acknowledged in its publication Dabiq that its fighters had given captured Yezidi women and girls to its fighters as “spoils of war.” ISIS has sought to justify sexual violence claiming that Islam permits sex with non-Muslim “slaves,” including girls, as well as beating and selling them. The statements are further evidence of a widespread practice and a systematic plan of action by ISIS, Human Rights Watch said.

Well, Islam does permit sex with non-Muslim slaves, as the bible does with its outgroups.

The women and girls who spoke to Human Rights Watch described repeated rape, sexual violence, and other abuse in ISIS captivity.

Jalila (all survivors’ names have been changed for their security), age 12, said that Arab men whom she recognized from her village north of Sinjar accosted her and seven family members on August 3, 2014, as they were trying to flee ISIS. The men handed the family over to ISIS fighters, who separated Jalila, her sister, sister-in-law, and infant nephew from the other family members and took them to Tal Afar. Later, the fighters took Jalila and her sister to Mosul. Thirty-five days later they separated Jalila from her sister and took her to a house in Syria that housed other abducted young Yezidi women and girls. Jalila said:

The men would come and select us. When they came, they would tell us to stand up and then examine our bodies. They would tell us to show our hair and sometimes they beat the girls if they refused. They wore dishdashas [ankle length garments], and had long beards and hair.

She said that the ISIS fighter who selected her slapped her and dragged her out of the house when she resisted. “I told him not to touch me and begged him to let me go,” she said. “I told him to take me to my mother. I was a young girl, and I asked him, ‘What do you want from me?’ He spent three days having sex with me.”

Jalila said that during her captivity, seven ISIS fighters “owned” her, and four raped her on multiple occasions: “Sometimes I was sold. Sometimes I was given as a gift. The last man was the most abusive; he used to tie my hands and legs.”

Age 12.

To be continued.

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