Notes and Comment Blog

The worst of the worst

Dec 14th, 2014 11:45 am | By

God Dick Cheney is an embarrassment. He was on tv this morning saying how fabulous torture is and how he regrets nothing.

The former vice president showed little remorse for the dozens of prisoners who were found to have been wrongfully detained, for the man who died in the program, or for people like Khaled El-Masri — a German citizen who was shipped off to Afghanistan and sodomized in a case of mistaken identity.

“I’d do it again in a minute,” said Cheney.

He also spoke repeatedly of how the program was justified to get the “bastards” who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks.

He’s really that stupid? Or that self-blinded or that warped by his own loyalties? He really thinks the badness of the 9/11 attacks justifies bad things done to other people, including innocent people wrongly detained? He really misses the point by that wide a margin?

About the program’s serious errors — and the abuses that CIA Director John Brennan described as “abhorrent” on Thursday — Cheney said, “I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective.”

Spoken like a true war criminal.

The Senate report has led to new calls for former Bush administration or CIA officials to be prosecuted for the torture program they oversaw, but Cheney on Sunday dismissed an appeal from Ben Emmerson, the UN Special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, to reopen inquires.

“I have little respect for the United Nations, or for this individual, who doesn’t have a clue,” said Cheney.

Back atcha, war criminal.


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

Even when you are emotionally invested

Dec 14th, 2014 11:12 am | By

Here’s an interesting issue.

From the context where I found it, I gather it’s one of those right-wing moral panics about creeping PC run amok creepingly amidst us, but setting that aside, it’s still an interesting issue. The issue is something like: can an exam question about a very fraught current event or series of events be so emotionally loaded that it either shouldn’t be on the exam or should have a trigger warning?

Eugene Volokh writes it up for the Washington Post.

Several readers have asked me about the controversy at UCLA Law School related to this exam question in a First Amendment Law class:

Question I (35 minutes)

CNN News reported: On Nov. 24, St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch announced in a publicized press conference that Police Officer Darren Wilson (who has since resigned) would not be indicted in the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown. Michael Brown’s stepfather, Louis Head, was with hundreds of protesters assembled outside the police station, listening on loudspeakers and car radios when they learned Officer Wilson was not being charged. Standing on the hood of a car, Mr. Head embraced Michael Brown’s mother. Mr. Head asked someone for a bullhorn but it was not passed to him. He turned to the crowd, stomped on the hood and shouted, repeatedly, “Burn this bitch down!”

Police Chief Tom Jackson told Fox “News,” “We are pursuing those comments … We can’t let Ferguson and the community die [as a result of the riots and fires following McCulloch’s announcement]. Everyone who is responsible for taking away people’s property, their livelihoods, their jobs, their businesses — every single one of them needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

County Attorney Robert McCulloch asks lawyers in his office whether to seek an indictment against Head by relying on a statute forbidding breach of the peace and another prohibiting rioting (six or more persons assembling to violate laws with violence). A recent hire in the office, you are asked to write a memo discussing the relevant 1st Amendment issues in such a prosecution. Write the memo.

My colleague Prof. Robert Goldstein had this question on his exam; some students complained, and he decided to partly withdraw it: He didn’t count it for students who got a lower score on it than on the other questions, and this didn’t affect the grades of students who got a higher score on the question, because the class was too small to be graded on a curve.

My first thought, before reading Volokh’s commentary, was that that and other things like it are exactly the kind of thing many lawyers have to think about every day. It goes with the job. Adding trigger warnings would seem kind of like adding trigger warnings to exam questions about ooky things like blood and infections in med school. What would be the point? If crucial parts of the job squick you out, then that’s not the right job for you.

Volokh, after commenting on more practical aspects, confirms what I was thinking:

To be sure, some people might be deeply emotionally invested in an issue, and have a hard time viewing it from both sides. But a key part of a law school education is to learn how to do this, even when you are emotionally invested. If you want to work for, say, the NAACP (or the NRA), you will do your clients no favors by being so zealous in your opinions that you fail to grasp the best arguments on the other side.

And that is also true when the matter is still raw in your mind. Often you have to make arguments just days after some traumatic event (here the exam was two weeks after). Indeed, often you have to make arguments just days after a traumatic event that involves you much more directly than the Ferguson incident involved UCLA students — for instance, what you see as a racist verdict that will send your innocent client to prison, or an appellate decision that you think unjustly rejects an argument that you’ve spent years developing. As a lawyer, you need to master your emotions enough to deal with such situations. As a student, you have to learn how to do that.

It doesn’t do to lose your temper or burst out sobbing in the courtroom if you’re one of the lawyers. You have to train yourself (or let yourself be trained by others) not to react to triggers. That’s part of many jobs.

This can end up being a source of tension or estrangement between the two kinds of people. The ones who have learned how to tamp down their emotions can overlearn it and become tamped down in all contexts instead of only the job one. Even those who don’t can seem cold and bot-like to the rest of us. It’s a little bit tragic, really.

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

Such a pretty tincture

Dec 13th, 2014 5:55 pm | By

I’ve been remembering the tinctures – the tiny little tinctures that Prince Charles used to sell for £10 the 50 ml bottle. He doesn’t sell them any more because the regulators told him to stop pretending they had medicinal value.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint over the online advertising, for a range of organic products, including Duchy Herbals Echina-Relief Tincture and Duchy Herbals Hyperi-Lift Tincture saying the product had no “scientifically proven benefits for treating colds and low moods”.

The advert for the products, which are sold for £10 for 50ml in some Boots and Waitrose stores, claimed “If you haven’t managed to escape the winter sniffles, look no further than our new Echina-Relief Tincture, which offers natural relief from cold and flu symptoms … Our Echinacea, Hypericum and Detox Tinctures provide alternative and natural ways of treating common ailments such as colds, low moods and digestive discomfort …”.

The regulator found that the Duchy Originals advert breached the code in four areas including substantiation, truthfulness and medicinal claims.

The ASA ruling said: “We noted that it was intended that the Detox Tincture was presented as a food supplement that could help eliminate toxins and aid digestion. We considered however that the claim that it could “treat … digestive discomfort” implied that Detox Tincture had scientifically proven benefits. Because we had seen no evidence for the efficacy of Detox Tincture, we concluded that the ad was misleading”.

The watchdog said the advertisement must not appear again in its current form.

There’s no such thing as “detox” except for addictions. Those things labeled “detox” in the health food stores might as well be labeled “bullshit.” It sounds helpful though, so people buy it.

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

Ghomeshi was the way he was

Dec 13th, 2014 4:56 pm | By

In the CBC’s Fifth Estate show on Jian Ghomeshi, there was discussion of the fact that he once told a producer at a meeting who had just yawned that he would like to hate-fuck her to wake her up. (No doubt it stuck in my mind because the US is too puritanical to allow the word “fuck” on broadcast tv.) A few days later the producer wrote about her history with Ghomeshi at the Guardian. It’s an ugly story. Familiar, and ugly.

I used to work as a radio producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. A few months into my job in 2007, I let out a big yawn at a staff meeting and my host told me “I want to hate fuck you, to wake you up.” I was 27 years old. I made sure never to yawn in front of him again.

There was groping. There was leering while shirt-unbuttoning. There was gaslighting, there were psychological games that undermined her.

In 2010, I went to my union to try and find a way to end this pattern of sexual harassment by Jian Ghomeshi. I had no intention to sue, or to get him fired, or even to have him reprimanded. I just needed him to stop. The union representative and my executive producer at Q, the radio show for which we worked, did nothing.

He was popular. She was just a producer. She didn’t matter and he did, so the union rep and the boss did nothing.

As I said: ugly.

She could have walked, but it was a plum of a job. Why should she be forced to?

I went years without reporting the harassment because I feared for my job and my career: getting asked to be part of the original production team behind Q was the biggest break I’d ever had. It was my first permanent, full-time job. I had stability, many excellent colleagues and a dental plan. The show became a conspicuous success with a known celebrity at its helm. If I quit, where else was there to go?

Plus she wondered if it was her fault.

The union rep did tell her she could start a union arbitration, or file a formal grievance, but the trouble was that confronting Ghomeshi was exactly what she didn’t want to do.

By the time my union rep offered to informally talk to the executive producer of the show, Arif Noorani, I felt like I was trapped in a feedback loop: I had cried in my boss’s office already, on more than one occasion, because of Ghomeshi’s behaviour towards me. A couple of days later, Noorani called me in for a meeting, and told me that Ghomeshi was the way he was, and that I had to figure out how to cope with that.

Well that sounds familiar.

So she did walk. She moved to LA and tried to forget about Ghomeshi.

Then my friend Jesse Brown – who had been one of my main confidantes during my time at Q – called to ask if I’d tell my story publicly, as part of his investigation into Ghomeshi after two young women came forward and said they’d been assaulted by him. But I wasn’t keen to be called a slut and a liar and a fabulist, and I was nervous that someone would identify me publicly and, in doing so, would damage the new career and life I’d worked so hard to build. I also didn’t think my experience being sexual harassed by Ghomeshi was remotely comparable to what the victims of his assaults had gone through. But Jesse persisted, and, eventually, I gave him permission to write about me anonymously.

A few days after the story was published, Noorani sent an internal memo to all the current Q staffers about me:

… In [the article], the producer claims she approached the executive producer with claims of sexual impropriety in the workplace. It is untrue. At no time, was I approached with such allegations from this producer or anyone else. If I had, I would have immediately reported them.


My old union issued a memo along similar lines, saying that no union staff members had heard of any complaints of sexual harassment. I emailed Bruce May, a staff representative at the CMG, and told him the memo was wrong, because I’d spoken to Neesam. May replied that technically the memo was correct, because Neesam was an “elected representative” and not a union “staff member”. He asked if that “clarified” things for me, and I said that it did: it clarified that the union was carefully parsing its words to leave casual readers with the impression that I was lying and they had done the right thing.


Chris Boyce, the executive director of radio at the CBC, has been equally coy – saying that management launched an investigation into Ghomeshi’s workplace conduct in the summer, while dodging the question of who, specifically, he talked to. None of my former colleagues were contacted, nor was I. Meanwhile, when my former boss, Noorani, was identified as the executive who told me that I had to learn to cope with Ghomeshi’s harassment, he was shuffled to another show, instead of being shown the door.

Chris Boyce is the guy we saw in that extended interview for the Fifth Estate, shuffling and shifting and sweating.

The key players who protected Ghomeshi for so long are now seemingly now using those skills to protect themselves.

But the system that obsessively propped up Jian Ghomeshi needs to change. He is one disgusting man – but our public broadcaster, demoralized over long-running budget cuts and criticisms that it was out of touch with the public and its younger listeners, latched onto him as their savior and clearly didn’t want to let go. The CBC allowed a two-tier workplace to emerge, in which Ghomeshi didn’t have to comply with either the law or workplace norms as long as he kept pulling in listeners, and workers like me only had job security so long as we accepted his abuses of authority. I was essentially forced to either leave the show or allow my boss to lay his hands on my body at his pleasure. But since then, no manager or executive who was complicit in creating or maintaining a workplace in which Ghomeshi was allowed to operate with impunity has lost his job, let alone apologized.

So it goes. If they’re popular and attractive and bring in the bucks, they’re shielded and protected for years or decades, while the people they harmed just twist in the wind.


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

The small school she opened

Dec 13th, 2014 4:12 pm | By

Mukhtar Mai is strong and active these days, which is good to learn. If you’ve been reading B&W for a long time you may remember a lot of posts about her gang rape, ordered by the village elders as punishment for something her younger brother was alleged to have done (he hadn’t).

KARACHI: Mukhtar Mai put up a smiling face throughout the evening – a smile that symbolised courage, defiance and resilience, even when others spoke about how difficult life is for rape survivors.

On Thursday, she was called to address a seminar, titled ‘Rape and Sexual Violence: Legal Reforms,’ organised by War Against Rape (WAR) to celebrate 25 years of its existence.

I remember thinking at the time she might be psychologically wrecked for life. I’m profoundly glad she isn’t.

“Before 2002, I had never dealt with the police,” said Mukhtar, recalling what had happened to her in Meerwala, Punjab, when she went to the Mastoi tribe to seek forgiveness for her brother’s conduct. “I had asked my family why they were only sending me to ask for forgiveness. Was it because I was sitting at home and my four sisters were not?”

After the rape, Mukhtar’s family discouraged her from pressing charges or registering an FIR. “Nonethless, I decided that it’s better to fight than to die.” She talked about the small school she opened after the incident, selling off her buffalo and whatever jewellery she possessed to pay for the sole teacher’s salary. In 2005, the Canadian high commissioner donated two years’ funding to the school.

She also spoke about her other projects: a shelter home providing support not only to rape victims but also to girls shunned by their families after marrying of their own choice and a telephone helpline for women who are in danger and cannot leave their homes. Despite what happened to her, Mukhtar held no bitter feelings for the opposite sex. “There are good and bad people everywhere.”

Now that’s a hero.

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

“”But she crossed the line by telling my mom about it”

Dec 13th, 2014 12:57 pm | By

You couldn’t make it up. Update: you could make it up, and someone did. I bit! /end of update.

You know how Alanah Pearce has been getting harassment, and how she’s been reporting some of the harassers to their mothers?

Now some of the reported ones are suing her for doing that. For some reason the judge has apparently failed to throw the case out.

Australia-based video game reviewer Alanah Pearce is set to appear in court after revealing to mothers that their sons threatened her on her Facebook page, according toThe Huffington Post

According to the 21-year-old, the threats were prompted by her game reviews posted on YouTube. Some viewers responded negatively on her reviews by posting sexually abusive messages on her Facebook account.

Which is not something that people should do. People should not do that.

In response, she decided to conduct her own investigation on her male abusers and discovered that many of them are aged 10 to 15 years old.

That would explain a lot. I can think of several harassers who sound about 10.

To solve the issue, she decided to contact her abusers’ mothers to tell them about what their sons have been posting online.

One mother responded by forcing her son to write a handwritten apology letter to Pearce.

However, some of the abusers, with the help from their mothers, have filed a lawsuit against the game reviewer on grounds of defamation.

Defamation? How can it be defamation?

One of the boys said the threats were only meant as a joke and should be ignored. He then stated that he is more mature than Pearce because of how he would have handled such a situation and even accused her of being a tattle tale.

“Our so-called ‘threats’ were just small pranks, and not much different than things you see on the Internet every day,” he said. “If I was receiving these death or rape threats online I would have just brushed them off because I’m clearly more mature than her.”

“But she crossed the line, though, by telling my mom about it,” he added. “Something you learn at a very young age is to never be a tattle tale. She obviously missed that important lesson.”

And that’s grounds to sue her for defamation?

No, of course it’s not. Is there something about the legal system in Australia that would explain this?

And by the way, fuck that idea. It’s a bullies’ charter. It’s a rapists’ charter. Yes you damn well do be a tattle tale when someone is bullying or harassing you or a third party. Of course you do. If that kid’s mother is on his side in this, there is something badly wrong with her thinking.

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

This reflects cultural conventions, not sexism

Dec 13th, 2014 11:20 am | By

Wait wait wait.

Yet another of the American Enterprise Institute’s anti-feminist “feminists” takes on “the conventional wisdom” about women in science.

It’s the conventional wisdom that women are held back in science because of sexism. A new paper by a research team at Cornell University reports that young women faculty members prosper in math-based fields of science. Statistically, women are less likely to continue on in certain science fields, but there are cultural conventions that need to be taken into account. Visiting Factual Feminist Sally Satel will discuss these factors in this episode.

But there are cultural conventions? Well of course there are – and those cultural conventions are part of what sexism is. Why would the presence of cultural conventions undermine claims that women are held back in science because of sexism?

But Satel says it does.

She says women and men without children have pretty equal rates of publication, but men with children have higher rates than women with children. But don’t go thinking that’s sexism – oh no, it’s something completely different.

More research is needed to fill in this picture, but you could speculate that this disparity exists because fathers are more likely to have a spouse who’s caring full time for the children than are the mothers. It’s not rocket science. It’s easier to have kids when there’s someone at home doing the childcare. This reflects cultural conventions, not sexism in science. [1:50 to 2:20]

I haven’t yet listened to how she explains that absurd claim, because I was so gobsmacked by it that I wanted to yell about it first.

Hello? The idea that women must or should do all the childcare while men do none of it (or share it only in leisure hours) is indeed a cultural convention, and that cultural convention is sexist. Defining people’s duties and tasks by what gender they are is indeed sexism. The fact that men are more likely to have a spouse who’s caring full time for the children than are women is indeed sexism.

Let me guess – Satel’s explanation will be that this pattern simply reflects people’s natural unforced preferences, now that we have totally eradicated sexism and thus made all preferences free.

Ha. Like hell we have.


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


Dec 13th, 2014 9:28 am | By

Checking in on Twitter…That photo of the Greenpeacers standing around with their stupid yellow message is at the top of my page, and I stared at it some more, with a new or refreshed feeling of…something…

…something, it occurs to me, very close to a sense of profanation. Of something “sacred” being violated and profaned by a hostile external doesn’t-belong element. Everything in me screams GET OFF as I look at it. GET AWAY FROM THERE.

Embedded image permalink

It’s more aesthetic than sacerdotal, though. The hummingbird is so arresting and stark and beautiful – that cheap yellow clutter is just an outrage next to it.

But it’s not purely or solely aesthetic. There’s added weight because of whatever (unknown) meaning the lines had to the people who made them and shared in them. There’s added weight because of what things of that kind generally do mean to the people who made them and shared in them. Or maybe it’s not exactly that (since the meaning found in contemporary religious artifacts around me doesn’t tend to inspire me with anything)…maybe it’s more like that plus distance plus not knowing. I suppose if I knew the lines stood for some kind of dreary accounting system with the gods, much of this awe would dissipate. But I don’t know that, so the awe remains.

Anyway. I just think there’s something odd, and not in a good way, about people who can be happy making something so ugly right next to something so beautiful – who can be happy making a beautiful thing ugly by carefully placing their garbage in its embrace.

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

Guest post: Why we pay attention

Dec 13th, 2014 9:07 am | By

Originally a comment by SC (Salty Current) on That’s why.

I’ve given this a bit of thought over the past several months, especially when I’ve been inclined to say, “Can we start ignoring him now?” Eventually, I realized that I pay attention to posts about Dawkins in much the same way as I pay attention to Right Wing Watch. As you and Lee said, he’s a rich and influential person and so even his most ludicrous and poisonous statements get media attention and a public hearing. Several years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that I’d ever regard Dawkins in this way.

Second, I have a longstanding interest in the ways governments (the US and UK in particular), corporations, and their networks of think tanks and political organizations surreptitiously spread their ideologies and work to sabotage social justice movements. In light of the involvement of some known atheists with AEI and some of the recent organization/foundation shenanigans, I’m even more concerned than ever that the atheist and skeptical movements have been and are being used as vehicles for these interests.

Third, I’m disappointed. It’s largely my own fault, I admit, because I hadn’t sufficiently investigated what Dawkins and others had said in the past and hadn’t been attentive enough to some evidence. Nevertheless, I had difficulty believing that he and others would be so resistant to applying to themselves the principles they so passionately, publicly espoused, or that they could so callously defend some of the things they have.

Finally, I care about the atheist/secularist cause. I feel that I need to know what people like Dawkins are saying so that I can distance myself from them and my anti-faith advocacy and values from theirs.

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

More than all the gold ever mined

Dec 12th, 2014 5:46 pm | By

The garbage in the oceans problem is worse than people thought. Much worse.

More than 5 trillion pieces of plastic are afloat in the world’s oceans, according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One.

Ranging in size from a grain of salt to larger than a plastic water bottle, the plastic pollution in the world’s oceans weighs more than 269,000 tons—far more than all the gold ever mined in the world and far more than scientists previously estimated.

And that’s in just a few decades. Good job, humans.

Study author Marcus Eriksen and his team from the 5 Gyres Institute, based in Los Angeles, spent tens of thousands of hours scouring the world’s oceans for plastic between 2007 and 2012. They used trawling nets to scoop particles from the ocean surface and visually counted very large pieces. The study provides a snapshot of the magnitude of marine plastic pollution and its movement around the world’s oceans, said Eriksen.

The estimate is much higher than what previous studies found.

It’s interesting what a hard time we have getting an accurate bead on just how destructive we are as a species.

“It’s evidence that there is too much plastic in the ocean,” Cózar said in an email. “Only two or three generations have been using plastic materials. This provides evidence that the current model of managing plastic materials is economically and ecologically unsustainable.”

Garbage in, garbage in some more.


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

The damage

Dec 12th, 2014 4:29 pm | By

The damage Greenpeace did is worse than I’d realized. (Thanks to Tsu Dho Nimh for giving us the link to a graphic picture.)

You can see it very clearly in this picture from RT, assuming those naughty Russians haven’t faked it up.

Greenpeace hand out photograph showing Greenpeace activists from 7 countries gathered in Nazca, Peru during a protest in the framework of the UN climate talks on December 8, 2014. (AFP/Greenpeace)

That’s a mess.

Peru This Week points out that it hasn’t been established that the marks were not there before Greenpeace invaded the site.

Photographs taken yesterday at 5:05 p.m. by Captain Juan Carlos Ruiz are timely and demonstrate the current state of the lines. However, at the moment it is still unclear whether or not photographs taken prior to the incident correctly demonstrate the state up to the very moment the activists entered.

On their facebook page, Greenpeace International states, “We can assure you that absolutely NO damage was done. The message was written in cloth letters that laid on the ground without touching the Nazca lines. It was assessed by an experienced archaeologist, ensuring not even a trace was left behind.”

So an experienced archaeologist helped them barge onto a closed site to leave a “message”? That’s a baaaaaaaaaaad archaeologist.

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

Especially bad decisions

Dec 12th, 2014 3:50 pm | By

Stacey Patton and David J Leonard at the BBC look at why some victims get blamed for being killed by the police.

“You had a 350lb (158.8kg) person who was resisting arrest. The police were trying to bring him down as quickly as possible,” New York Representative Peter King told the press. “If he had not had asthma and a heart condition and was so obese, almost definitely he would not have died.”

This sort of logic sees Garner’s choices as the reasons for his death. Everything is about what he did. He had a petty criminal record with dozens of arrests, he (allegedly) sold untaxed cigarettes, he resisted arrest and disrespected the officers by not complying.

It’s as if the cops were a chainsaw or a cliff edge or an erupting volcano – unconscious things that human beings need to be careful of.

According to Bob McManus, a columnist for The New York Post, both Eric Garner and Michael Brown, the teenager shot dead by a police officer in Ferguson Missouri, “had much in common, not the least of which was this: On the last day of their lives, they made bad decisions. Especially bad decisions. Each broke the law – petty offenses, to be sure, but sufficient to attract the attention of the police. And then – tragically, stupidly, fatally, inexplicably – each fought the law.”

As one might fight a chainsaw or a volcano. If you get killed, well, what did you expect?

But why not talk instead about the choices the cops made, they ask.

There is plenty of blame to go around. The NYPD’s embrace of stop-and-frisk policies rooted in the “broken windows” method of policing is a co-conspirator worthy of public scrutiny and outrage.

Yet, we focus on Eric Garner’s choices.

Such victim-blaming is central to white supremacy.

Emmett Till should not have whistled at a white woman.

Amadou Diallo should not have reached for his wallet.

Trayvon Martin should not have been wearing a hoodie.

And so on, for a long list of examples.

The irony is these statements are made in a society where white men brazenly walk around with rifles and machine guns, citing their constitutional right to do so when confronted by the police.

Cliven Bundy pointed his gun at a bunch of federal cops and drove them away. Cliven Bundy is not a person of color.

Strange, isn’t it.


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

Ruling: the killing of Tamir Rice was a homicide

Dec 12th, 2014 12:40 pm | By

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s report ruled Rice’s death a homicide.

(Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office)

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

Grave violation

Dec 12th, 2014 12:21 pm | By

The Malay Mail Online notes that the IHEU report on freedom of thought singled out Malaysia “for trampling on the rights of non-religious sections of society.”

The International Humanist and Ethical Union’s (IHEU) latest edition of the Freedom of Thought Report 2014 gave Malaysia a“grave violation” rating, specifically citing Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s speech in Kuantan on May 14 in which he branded “humanism and secularism as well as liberalism” as “deviant”.

Najib went on to describe these elements as a threat to Islam and the country at a national-level Quran Recital Assembly, the report added.

“This country is found to be declining due to alienating rhetoric against “atheists” and “humanists” voiced in 2014 by the prime minister, as well as ongoing legal disputes over the freedoms of religious minorities contributing to interreligious tension,” stated the report.

But but but but isn’t Malaysia one of those nice “moderate” officially-Islamic states? Like Indonesia?

Although a degree of religious freedom is granted to non-Muslim religious minorities including Christians, Buddhists and Hindus, the report pointed out that Malaysia is far behind in terms of for freedom of thought and expression specifically due to the control exerted on the majority Malay Muslim community.

“Ethnic Malay (are) subjected to strict state controls over an enforced, homogenous religious identity, including mandatory Sharia laws and localised death penalties on the books for “apostasy”,” it noted.

That counts too you know. Even if non-Muslims have all possible freedom, if Muslims are subject to state-enforced religious “laws” and punishments, then that’s not religious freedom. Many Christians in the US don’t want to be governed by the “laws” of the FLDS church or the Southern Baptist Convention or indeed any other religious law, and if the feds forced all Christians to be subject to Christian laws, that would not be religious freedom. At all.

While the Federal Constitution protects freedom of religion or belief and the freedom of expression, it is restricted by Shariah laws and policies in a bid to protect Islam as the religion of the federation including Putrajaya’s ban on the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims, it said.

Brunei, which had recently legislated hudud, and Indonesia, for its suppression of religious minorities and harassment by its religious police, were also rebuked and given the grave violation rating”.

But they’re the “moderate” ones! So…that means…

oh dear.

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

Greenpeace still doesn’t get it

Dec 12th, 2014 11:53 am | By

Greenpeace has apologized to the people of Peru for stomping on the Nazca lines in order to stick a dopy slogan next to them – but it’s a bad, point-missing apology.

Greenpeace has apologized for the action. “Without reservation Greenpeace apologises to the people of Peru for the offence caused by our recent activity laying a message of hope at the site of the historic Nazca Lines,” the organization said in a statement. “We are deeply sorry for this.

“Rather than relay an urgent message of hope and possibility to the leaders gathering at the Lima UN climate talks, we came across as careless and crass.”

No, you dumb fucks. You damaged the site. It’s not about how you “came across” and it’s not about “offence” – it’s about the damage you did by entering a site that is closed in order to preserve it. Jesus h christ wouldn’t you think an environmental group of all groups would be able to grasp the difference between “causing offense” and doing irreparable damage to a part of the earth?

What stinking cowards they must be along with being whatever kind of ruthless shithead you have to be to barge into a closed historical archaeological artistic site in the first place. How cowardly and evasive to pretend all they did was cause some offence and appear careless and crass.

No doubt they did that for legal reasons, because they’re hoping to avoid prosecution and/or financial damages – but then their apology is a worthless chickenshit lie.

Frankly, I hope Peru sues them into oblivion, them and their “message of hope.”


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

That’s why

Dec 12th, 2014 10:46 am | By

Adam Lee has a post on the “suppression” of Richard Dawkins, based on that interview with Kimberly Winston a few weeks ago. There’s a comment on it that is surprisingly oblivious to something that seems completely obvious to me. (Which just goes to show – what’s obvious to me is not obvious to thee. That’s what all this is about, in the end.)

Adam, your points are as always well thought through and equally well written.
What I don’t understand is the obsession that some in the atheist community have in following Richard Dawkins every word and then proceeding to perform an autopsy on the perceived flaws in his character. He is after all human like the rest of us, albeit extremely talented and skilled in areas I am only just able to understand as a layman.

I can understand the religious zealots picking him apart, as they see him as a threat to the truth behind their fairy tales and the power and control that their false beliefs gives them over their flock. However it seems though there is a desire for the atheist community to have a messiah to rival god in the religious world and to many, Dawkins excellent works on the subject have elevated him to this perceived status.

I am a proud atheist and have no need to look for any idol in my life to replace a non existent god. I idolise the true outstanding behaviours in human kind; love caring, compassion and putting others needs above your own. As humans we all have character flaws, look hard enough and you will find them in all of us. Why this obsession with Dawkins,? Brilliant scientist and great orator aside he is after all a non believer like me with his human character flaws like me and the rest of us.
So why this obsession?


Because he’s immensely popular and influential.

That’s why.

He’s immensely popular, so people take their cues from him, they pay attention to what he says, he shapes some of their thinking.

He’s influential: he has a foundation, he gives money to organizations, his presence at a conference draws paying customers. The press goes to him for thoughts on atheism and secularism. He can promote people he likes, and he can draw harassment and threats down on people he dislikes.

That’s why.

This popularity and influence naturally shape the way others deal with him and with his critics. People who run organizations have every reason to want to avoid annoying him, and almost no reason to want to annoy him apart from whatever substantive disagreements they may have. Substantive disagreement is as milkweed in the face of all the motives they have to stay on his good side.

All that means, among other things, that every damn time he issues some Twitter taunt against what he takes to be the wrong kind of feminism, he makes things worse for atheist feminists in general. He apparently still doesn’t grasp that simple fact, but he ought to – it’s not as if he’s unaware of his sales figures or his popularity. (I’ve seen him using his sales figures as a weapon against interlocutors on Twitter.)

So, all that is why. There’s more; I could go on about it for thousands of words; but you get the drift. That’s why.

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

He could be facing five years in prison for blasphemy

Dec 12th, 2014 9:53 am | By

You know how we keep being told that Indonesia is an example of a country where Islam is the majority religion but is not oppressive?

Oh really?

The Jakarta Post has defended the publication of a cartoon criticising Islamic State (IS) militants, after its editor was named in a defamation case.

The cartoon shows a flag similar to ones used by IS with the words “there is no God but Allah”, and a skull and crossbones.

That is, the IS flag has the words “there is no God but Allah” and a plain oval; the cartoon made the plain oval a skull and crossbones.

Published on 3 July, the cartoon replaces the oval shape on the original flag with a skull and crossbones but leaves the Arabic religious phrase “Laa ilaaha illallaah”, meaning “there is no God but Allah”.

It also shows the words Allah and Muhammad, which are sacred to Muslims and found on IS flags, inside the skull shape.

The Post, a leading English-language daily, said the cartoon was meant as a critique of the use of religious symbols in acts of violence.

Well we can’t have that, now can we. People might start to think that happens a lot, or something equally alarming and improper.

But some Muslim groups said the cartoon was offensive towards Islam. The Post apologised and retracted the cartoon on 8 July, saying it regretted the “error in judgement”.

On Thursday, police named the Jakarta Post’s editor-in-chief, Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, a suspect for religious defamation.

“We are amazed because the fact is we did not commit a criminal act as accused,” the newspaper responded in a statement on Thursday.

“Religious defamation” – i.e. the nonsense idea that it’s possible to “defame” religion. In Indonesia the police are enforcing this nonsense idea.

A police spokesman told the BBC Mr Suryodiningrat could be summoned next week. He could be facing five years in prison for religious blasphemy.

So how is Indonesia an example of a country where Islam is the majority religion but is not oppressive? I don’t see it, myself.


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

The ISS sends a postcard

Dec 12th, 2014 9:39 am | By

The view from up there – Lake Michigan, Chicago, St Louis, Memphis…

Embedded image permalink
Image Credit: NASA/Barry Wilmore

From the International Space Station, Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore took this photograph of the Great Lakes and central U.S. on Dec. 7, 2014, and posted it to social media.

Toronto, Buffalo…Columbus…Atlanta…

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

Cosby’s attorneys did not respond to Vanity Fair’s requests for comment

Dec 11th, 2014 5:37 pm | By

Another woman has a Bill Cosby story. (No, it’s not a story of how he spotted some guy spiking her drink and gave the guy a damn good talking to. Nope.) Beverly Johnson tells hers in Vanity Fair.

She grew up admiring Cosby. She was delighted when he asked her to audition for a bit part on his show. She met with him in his office and thought he was fabulous. She and her young daughter had lunch at his house and she thought he was even more fabulous.

Looking back, that first invite from Cosby to his home seems like part of a perfectly laid out plan, a way to make me feel secure with him at all times. It worked like a charm. Cosby suggested I come back to his house a few days later to read for the part. I agreed, and one late afternoon the following week I returned. His staff served a light dinner and Bill and I talked more about my plans for the future.

Then he made her a cappuccino, and she said she didn’t drink coffee that late in the day, and he insisted and she felt mystifyingly (to herself) unable to argue with him.

It’s nuts, I know, but it felt oddly inappropriate arguing with Bill Cosby so I took a few sips of the coffee just to appease him.

Now let me explain this: I was a top model during the 70s, a period when drugs flowed at parties and photo shoots like bottled water at a health spa. I’d had my fun and experimented with my fair share of mood enhancers. I knew by the second sip of the drink Cosby had given me that I’d been drugged—and drugged good.

[Editor’s Note: Cosby’s attorneys did not respond to Vanity Fair’s requests for comment.]

My head became woozy, my speech became slurred, and the room began to spin nonstop. Cosby motioned for me to come over to him as though we were really about to act out the scene. He put his hands around my waist, and I managed to put my hand on his shoulder in order to steady myself.

She was rapidly losing it, so she started shouting at him.

“You are a motherfucker aren’t you?”

That’s the exact question I yelled at him as he stood there holding me, expecting me to bend to his will. I rapidly called him several more “motherfuckers.” By the fifth, I could tell that I was really pissing him off. At one point he dropped his hands from my waist and just stood there looking at me like I’d lost my mind.

Then he grabbed her by the arm and yanked her down the stairs and out the front door, hailed a cab, and shoved her into it. She got home – she doesn’t know how – and slept well into the next day. It took days for the drug to wear off completely.

For a long time I thought it was something that only happened to me, and that I was somehow responsible. So I kept my secret to myself, believing this truth needed to remain in the darkness. But the last four weeks have changed everything, as so many women have shared similar stories, of which the press have belatedly taken heed.

He got away with it for a long long long time. Decades.

Still I struggled with how to reveal my big secret, and more importantly, what would people think when and if I did? Would they dismiss me as an angry black woman intent on ruining the image of one of the most revered men in the African American community over the last 40 years? Or would they see my open and honest account of being betrayed by one of the country’s most powerful, influential, and beloved entertainers?

As I wrestled with the idea of telling my story of the day Bill Cosby drugged me with the intention of doing God knows what, the faces of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless other brown and black men took residence in my mind.

As if I needed to be reminded. The current plight of the black male was behind my silence when Barbara Bowman came out to tell the horrific details of being drugged and raped by Cosby to theWashington Post in November. And I watched in horror as my longtime friend and fellow model Janice Dickinson was raked over the coals for telling her account of rape at Cosby’s hands. Over the years I’ve met other women who also claim to have been violated by Cosby. Many are still afraid to speak up. I couldn’t sit back and watch the other women be vilified and shamed for something I knew was true.

So she spoke up.

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

Bad move, Greenpeace

Dec 11th, 2014 1:25 pm | By

Wow. What not to do: make a point about climate change by trampling on a fragile, restricted, ancient artwork.

Greenpeace treads on ancient Nazca lines site to urge renewable energy

The BBC reports:

Peru says it will sue activists from the environmental pressure group Greenpeace after they placed a banner next to the Nazca Lines heritage site.

The activists entered a restricted area next to the ancient ground markings depicting a hummingbird and laid down letters advocating renewable energy.

Peru is currently hosting the UN climate summit in its capital, Lima.

So Greenpeace rewards Peru by stomping on the Nazca lines, where people are not allowed to walk. What will they do next, have a rave in the Lascaux caves? Build a campfire at Stonehenge? Skateboard all over Machu Picchu?

Luis Jaime Castillo, a Peruvian deputy culture minister, said Peru would file charges of “attacking archaeological monuments” against the activists from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Italy and Spain.

He said the Nazca Lines, which are an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 years old, were “absolutely fragile”.

“You walk there and the footprint is going to last hundreds or thousands of years,” he said.

The lines, depicting animals, stylised plants and imaginary figures were declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1994.

“They haven’t touched the hummingbird figure but now we have an additional figure created by the footsteps of these people,” Mr Castillo told local radio.

The Guardian has more:

The activists entered a “strictly prohibited” area beside the figure of a hummingbird, the culture ministry said. They laid big yellow cloth letters reading: “Time for Change! The Future is Renewable.” The message was intended for delegates from 190 countries at the UN climate talks being held in Lima.

Castillo said no one, not even presidents and cabinet ministers, was allowed where the activists had gone without authorisation and anyone who received permission must wear special shoes.

They didn’t wear special shoes. You can see that in the photos – they’re wearing ordinary trainers, with all the ridges and bumps that trainers have.

For more on the Nazca lines, there are pictures and links at




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