Notes and Comment Blog

They sure do, Chip!

Sep 7th, 2015 9:54 am | By

A viral cartoon by a friend who wants to be anonymous (but wants the cartoon to be shared) via South Jersey Humanists

Pete and the Weavers

Sep 6th, 2015 5:57 pm | By

Happy Labor Day tomorrow for those of you in the US.

H/t Jeffrey

The mysterious identity

Sep 6th, 2015 5:20 pm | By

Remember the blog Gay Girl in Damascus? By a Syrian lesbian blogger? Who turned out to be a straight married guy in Edinburgh? That was 2011.

The mysterious identity of a young Arab lesbian blogger who was apparently kidnapped last week in Syria has been revealed conclusively to be a hoax. The blogs were written not by a gay girl in Damascus, but a middle-aged American man based in Scotland.

Tom MacMaster, a 40-year-old Middle East activist studying for a masters at Edinburgh University, posted an update declaring that, rather than a 35-year-old feminist and lesbian called Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari, he was “the sole author of all posts on this blog”.

The admission – confirmed in an email to the Guardian from MacMaster’s wife – apparently ends a mystery that has convulsed parts of the internet for almost a week. But it provoked a furious response from those who had supported the blogger’s campaign, with some in the Syrian gay community saying he had risked their safety and seriously harmed their cause.

The blog A Gay Girl in Damascus was launched in February, purportedly to explain “what it’s like to be a lesbian here”, and gathered a growing following as Syria’s popular uprising gained momentum in recent months. Amina described participating in street protests, carrying out furtive lesbian romances and eventually being forced into hiding after security forces came to her home to arrest her.

Then, on 6 June, a post appeared in the name of Amina’s cousin “Rania O Ismail”, who said the blogger had been snatched by armed men on a Damascus street.

Then there was a campaign to get her out…and then people started asking questions. Lots of questions. IP addresses were traced, photos were traced, everything led to MacMaster.

So he confessed, and said something about the pervasiveness of “liberal Orientalism.”

Despite MacMaster’s assertion “I do not believe that I have harmed anyone”, activists were furious. Sami Hamwi, the pseudonym for the Damascus editor of, wrote: “To Mr MacMaster, I say shame on you!!! There are bloggers in Syria who are trying as hard as they can to report news and stories from the country. We have to deal with too many difficulties than you can imagine. What you have done has harmed many, put us all in danger, and made us worry about our LGBT activism. Add to that, that it might have caused doubts about the authenticity of our blogs, stories, and us.”

What if, instead of confessing, he had simply said he identified as a Syrian lesbian blogger?

H/t Alona.

For bringing philosophy into conversation with culture

Sep 6th, 2015 3:20 pm | By

An excellent piece of news from CFI

The Center for Inquiry extends its heartfelt congratulations to Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, who will be given the National Humanities Award by President Obama for her lifetime of inspiring and enlightening work in philosophy, literature, and the history of science. Dr. Goldstein is an honorary member of the Board of Directors of CFI, an organization that promotes science, reason, and humanist values, and this summer delivered the keynote address at CFI’s international Reason for Change conference.


The White House announced today that the ten winners of the 2014 National Humanities Award, including Dr. Goldstein, will be given their medals by President Obama on September 10 in the East Room. The award is intended to honor those who have demonstrated the power and impact of the humanities on American life.

“We are delighted that Rebecca Goldstein has received this well-deserved recognition,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “This award is a fitting one, indeed, as her work exemplifies the importance of the humanities. Few writers are as gifted as Rebecca Goldstein is in fiction, or as insightful as she is in nonfiction. Her wide-ranging body of work is philosophically compelling, richly rewarding, and deeply humane, engaging both our intellect and our emotions, and in the process making us laugh, cry, sigh … and think. Whether writing about Plato, Spinoza, or the joys and travails of love, Dr. Goldstein unfailingly manages to illuminate the human condition.”

The White House praised Dr. Goldstein for “bringing philosophy into conversation with culture” in its official citation, stating, “In scholarship, Dr. Goldstein has elucidated the ideas of Spinoza and Gödel, while in fiction, she deploys wit and drama to help us understand the great human conflict between thought and feeling.”

Goldstein first earned national prominence in 1983 as a writer of fiction for her first novel, the critically acclaimed bestseller The Mind-Body Problem. She has since published six other novels, including 36 Arguments for The Existence of God: A Work of Fiction, in 2010. Having earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton and a “genius grant” as a MacArthur Fellow, she is also the author of several influential nonfiction books including Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel, which was named one of the top science books of 2005 by Discover Magazine, and of Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity, which received the Koret International Prize for Jewish Scholarship. She has been awarded several honorary doctorates, Guggenheim and Radcliffe fellowships, and is a Humanist Laureate. Her newest book is Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away, for which she won the 2014 Morris D. Forkosch Award from the Council for Secular Humanism, a program of CFI.

She is currently an honorary member of the Center for Inquiry Board of Directors, along with physicist Lawrence Krauss and journalist and author Susan Jacoby. She has spoken at two of CFI’s Women in Secularism conferences, and keynoted the 2015 Reason for Change conference. Rebecca Goldstein identifies as a humanist, and apparently this is the first time that the National Humanities Medal has been awarded to someone who has openly identified as such.

See Rebecca Goldstein deliver a presentation at CFI’s Women in Secularism 2 conference on “The Mattering Map.”

See the National Endowment for the Humanities’ official announcement.

I have two interviews with Rebecca right here on B&W – one from 2005 when her book Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel was published, and one from March 2014 when Plato at the Googleplex had come out and was getting rave reviews.



Sep 6th, 2015 12:47 pm | By

The working group investigating the disappearance of 43 students in Iguala, Mexico, released its report today, the LA Times tells us.

The Mexican government’s claim that 43 missing students were killed and burned in a local trash dump in the state of Guerrero nearly a year ago has been discredited by a six-month investigation from an international working group.

The inquiry, published Sunday, also found that the police who allegedly attacked and abducted the students last Sept. 26 could have been acting directly under the orders of drug traffickers to reclaim a cargo of illegal heroin stashed in at least one of the buses in which the students were traveling at the time the attacks occurred.

The report, carried out by an interdisciplinary working group created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, says there is no physical evidence that a fire sufficient to reduce 43 bodies “to ashes” took place on the night of the disappearance. Officials have claimed the bodies were incinerated in a trash dump in the small town of Cocula, which is about a 15-minute drive from Iguala.

The report describes a direct connection between Iguala and the supply of illegal heroin to Chicago. It cites evidence presented in a recent case in Illinois that shows the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel used public transport buses in Mexico to move heroin north from Iguala. The mountains around Iguala are dotted with clandestine poppy fields as well as illicit graves, and Guerrero state is one of the biggest producers of illegal heroin for sale in the United States.

Well that makes me feel proud to be an American.

The inquiry also raises the possibility that the government investigation into what has become known as the “Ayotzinapa” case could have omitted important facts. Five buses were commandeered that night by the students — a practice common among youth groups lacking resources as a way to get to events — yet only four are mentioned in the government investigation, according to the working group.

The investigation also concluded that the Mexican military was present during the incidents of that night — something the government has always denied.

The students who disappeared all studied at a rural teachers college in the small town of Ayotzinapa, about an hour’s drive from Iguala. Some of them and other civilian bystanders were killed when the police opened fire indiscriminately at various locations across the city. Then 43 students were allegedly dragged away and stuffed into police pickups; they haven’t been seen since.

Sounds legit.

Everyday heroism

Sep 6th, 2015 11:55 am | By

A nurse with MSF, Alison Criado-Perez, blogs about her next job.

The phone wakes me early on the morning of my departure. I’m heading for Malta, to join up with the MSF/MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) team on the Phoenix, rescuing people attempting to cross the Mediterranean in leaky, un-seaworthy vessels.

It seems that yesterday yet another leaky, unseaworthy vessel was the cause of another tragedy. “We may have to reroute you to Rome,” John, our logistician in Malta, tells me. “The team has gone out on a rescue, a big one, over 40 dead… we’re not sure yet where the boat will land.”

I think of the terror the migrants must have felt as their boat filled with water, or capsized – I haven’t heard the full story yet. And I know that only desperation would have forced them onto that perilous journey across the deep waters of the Med. Desperation with their lives in Somalia, Eritrea, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya: war-torn, anarchic, little-hope places.

She thinks back on her time working with MSF with Syrian refugees in Turkey, and refugees from sub-Saharan Africa she met in the aftermath of the Libyan conflict.

I think back to my time in South Sudan where people, bombed out of their homes in Blue Nile State in Sudan, had trekked through the bush for up to three months, living on berries, arriving in South Sudan so dehydrated and malnourished that dozens just died on the side of the road.

It is with the plight of these refugees in mind, these people whose faces I remember so well, who I think of as I set off on this trip to help rescue yet more hundreds, thousands of people who, through no fault of their own, are forced to leave their countries.

She considers it a duty to help them rather than lock ourselves up in Fortress Britain or [insert your country’s name here].

I don’t know exactly what lies ahead of me. I hope I’m prepared, physically and mentally, for this trip. I’ve done a fairly arduous sea-safety training, which entailed me leaping from a height into water, dressed in a survival suit, and clambering into a wobbly life-raft. But I don’t think anything – not even seeing people dying miserably from Ebola – can prepare one for finding 52 people dead in the hold from asphyxiation, as my colleagues did recently.

But I’m glad that I can be there to help these desperate people with my medical skills in whatever way I can.

Now that’s walking the walk.

Updating to add:

MSF tweeted a photo of her on the job:

Embedded image permalink

“With other faith leaders”

Sep 6th, 2015 11:29 am | By

The archbishop of Canterbury has written a typically (typically for the office rather than the person – I have no idea what’s typical of Justin Welby the person, nor do I care) dishonest and bullying piece about an assisted dying bill that Parliament will be debating.

With other faith leaders, I have joined in writing to members of parliament, urging them to oppose Rob Marris’s assisted dying bill.

We have written, not in an attempt to push “the religious” viewpoint on others but because we are concerned that a change in the current law on assisted suicide would have detrimental effects both on individuals and on our society.

There’s the first dishonest bit right there – of course it’s an attempt to push “the religious” viewpoint on others. What the fuck else would it be? Notice that four words into his piece he tells us he and his fellow clerics are “leaders” – that’s very loaded, manipulative, dishonest language.

While some individual religious voices, including that of my distinguished predecessor, Lord Carey, have called for a change in the law, the faith leaders’ letter represents the considered opinion of our communities that have analysed, discussed and debated the issue over many years. Their response springs from philosophical and theological reflections as well as from a vast range of pastoral experience and a profound sense of compassion.

Bully bully bully, it’s all bullying. It’s all loaded language meant to shame and pressure everyone into agreeing with the nice pious compassionate man and his nice pious compassionate friends. “Religious voices”; “distinguished”; “faith leaders”; “our communities”; “theological reflections”; “vast range of pastoral experience”; “profound sense of compassion.” It’s eyewash, it’s flapdoodle; it’s bullshit.

What there is of the substance:

While it is not a crime in the UK for someone to take his or her own life, we recognise that it is a tragedy and we, rightly, do all that we can to prevent suicide.

Not always. If there are ways to help the person planning suicide such that suicide would no longer be desirable, we do all we can to do that. If there are no ways to help – that’s a different story. Clearly some people will still do all they can to interfere, but the claim the archbish is resisting is that they shouldn’t.

At present, we can show love, care and compassion to those who at all ages and stages of life are contemplating suicide. We can try to intervene, to support them to embrace life once more. We can do all in our power to surround those who are terminally ill with the best possible palliative care, including physical, emotional and spiritual support. We can redouble our efforts to alleviate suffering.

We can still do that, with assisted dying in place. Assisted dying would not prevent that. It’s not up to other people to decide what level of suffering anyone has to bear. If X says thank you for all your efforts but you can’t alleviate the suffering and I want to check out now, it’s not the job of “faith leaders” to bar the door.

Opening up about gender fluidity could get messy

Sep 6th, 2015 10:25 am | By

Pink News introduces us to a gender-fluid father who identifies as a straight lesbian.

Perhaps Pink News has merged with The Onion? No, they say the father wants to raise awareness.

A young father has opened up about his gender fluidity, in a bid to raise more awareness regarding the subject.

Jas Sutherland always knew he felt like both a male and a female, but said that until recently, he never though he could be open about it.

However, now, he says he can transition between his two personas regularly and is determined to generate a better public understanding about what it is to be gender fluid.

It must be so exciting to reinvent the wheel.

Why do we have to conceptualize it that way? Instead let’s conceptualize it the opposite way: “feeling like” a female or a male is just a formula we paste onto our sense of self (which is another such formula, it’s formulas all the way down), and we could use a different formula. It’s possible that nobody really “feels like” a female or a male at all; it’s possible that we all just feel like ourselves – our selves – and the categories are external and imposed.

Maybe we all just feel like people…or maybe not even that, maybe we all just feel like a set of senses and thoughts and actions.

I, at least, don’t feel like either a female or a male, nor do I feel “gender fluid” in the sense of alternating between the two. I feel like someone who is seen as a female by the rest of the world. In here? I couldn’t really tell you. A secret agent, a dissenter, a taker of notes.

He made the decision to come out four months ago after consulting a life coach who he says helped him come to terms with his identity, as did seeing more gender fluid stars – such as Ruby Rose – in the spotlight.

“I have had theses feelings for many years but just suppressed it,” he says.

“Knowing I didn’t want to change sex or be a cross dresser it was hard to find myself with that.

“It was not until the term came out that I felt comfortable coming out myself. Stars like Ruby Rose have certainly made life easier for the rest of us.”

So he’s a straight lesbian. Whatevs.

Non credo

Sep 5th, 2015 4:17 pm | By

Another particularly surprising bit of dialogue from a thread on the AUSA Womensfest page. I’m calling the characters A, B and C even though all this is public, in case they don’t want their names bandied about on some blog.

A: like straight up if you’re worried enough about two cis women in a position of power being called cunts very implicitly for, you know, actively enacting transmisogyny that you’re bothered with that immensely more than with the transmisogyny (which, you know, at its absolute tamest involves being called much, much worse), as someone who kind of has a cunt depending how you define that: you’re a cunt.

it’s often cis women who are the most violent to trans women because it’s one of the few ways in which cis women benefit from the policing of womanhood, that they’re “more authentic” than trans women.

B: Okay. I don’t want to make this nitpicky, but I am genuinely surprised – you’re saying MOST of the violence committed against transwomen comes from ciswomen?

Yes, I’m aware of the policing of gender, and the way oppressed groups benefit from oppressing others. But literally, literal physical violence? Transwomen are most often murdered, not by cismen, but by ciswomen???

C: As a trans woman I can absolutely confirm that cis women – feminists in particular – have been the most violently and insidiously transmisogynist towards me + ppl I know.

B: what [C] said. also: the group of people most fervently dedicated to getting poor trans women fired (and — it is near impossible to get hired as a trans woman, a lot of the time, so this is a death sentence), evicted, and otherwise deprived of the basic essentials of life are a large group of cis women.

like, virtually none of them are cis men.

hundreds. of cis women.

A: Oh, yes, of course – even as a ciswoman (maybe? we could go with queer but I want to avoid labels here), I can confirm the kinds of insidious, horrifying, nonphysical (and occasionally physical) violence I have experienced at the hands of women of all kinds.

That is horrendous, and in no way to be dismissed. But I was talking about the kinds of physical violence that goes with – and that I have experienced with – being called a cunt.

B: lmao ok so basically what you’re saying is “i don’t believe these frail female-bodied cis women could beat up a trans woman”, is that right? if not, please clarify why you’re so disbelieving of this

it has happened to my friends. it happens most often when groups of cis women jump one trans girl. i’m not going into this further out of respect for the trans women on this thread who don’t deserve to be traumatized for the sake of proving something to you.

So there it is: the claim is that women are the source of violence against trans women. Not men, but women. Especially feminists.

Crossing a beach in Bodrum

Sep 5th, 2015 11:49 am | By

Brandon Griggs at CNN tells us about the photographer who took those photos of Aylan Kurdi.

Nilufer Demir was crossing a beach in Bodrum, Turkey, on Wednesday when she saw him: a small boy in a red T-shirt, blue pants and black shoes, lying face-down in the sand.

Waves lapped at his lifeless face.

She froze.

“There was nothing left to do for him. There was nothing left to bring him back to life,” she told CNN Turk, a CNN sister network based in Turkey.

So Demir, a correspondent and photographer with Turkey’s Dogan News Agency, did the only thing she could: She raised her camera and began shooting.

She thought it was the only way to express the silent scream of his body.

Demir, 29, has worked for Dogan News Agency, also known as DHA, since she was a teenager. Based in Bodrum, she responded to reports of activity at the beach and discovered that several bodies had washed up on shore.

She and her colleagues found Aylan’s brother Galip nearby, and then another boy. None of them had life jackets.

The boys’ father was the only Kurdi family member to survive the ill-fated boat trip.

“I don’t want anything else from this world,” Abdullah Kurdi told CNN on Thursday. “Everything I was dreaming of is gone. I want to bury my children and sit beside them until I die.”

Demir has been covering the refugee crisis for months and has photographed many dead migrants. But none has had the impact of her images of Aylan.

“I didn’t think it would bring this much attention when I was taking the photograph,” she told CNN Turk. “However, with the pain I felt when I saw Aylan, the only thing on my mind was to pass along this to the public. I didn’t think anything else. I just wanted to show their tragedy.”

That happens – one photo strikes a nerve. The little girl running down the road with napalm burns; the little boy in the huge cap in the Warsaw ghetto; the woman with the faraway stare in the dust bowl.

Nick Ut



Sep 5th, 2015 11:08 am | By

More from the AUSA Womensfest page.

(I know some of y’all don’t do Facebook, but this is a public page and you can read it without being signed up to Facebook.)

A post explaining some things:

Newsflash, AUSA:

trans women are women.
trans women are biologically female.
trans women are womyn-born-womyn.
trans women are female-bodied.
trans women have female chromosomes.
trans women have female reproductive systems.
trans women’s genitals are female.
trans women’s secondary sex characteristics are female.
trans women have female voices.
trans women are female-socialized.

(source: queerkittenprincess on Tumblr)

Unpack yourselves.
Stop excluding trans women.
Trans women are dying and you are aiding and abetting in that.
You are complicit in that.

This is about vagina cupcakes. This post is saying that the AUSA is killing trans women by having a vagina cupcakes event.

We thought we were breaking boundaries and taboos around women’s bodies

Sep 5th, 2015 9:58 am | By

The Auckland University Students Association is putting on a Womensfest September 21-25.

It’s time for another Womensfest! The AUSA Womens’ Rights Officers have been working around the clock to bring you a great week filled with events on womens’ rights, issues, culture and intersectionality! Don’t miss it – come along and get empowered!

Good stuff, right? But there’s a problem.

One planned item is the Vagina Cupcake event.

Uh oh.

One response:

Hiya WROs! I was one of the WROs in 2011 and I’ve learned a lot since then. For example, we did things for fun (luckily not during our Womensfest, but unfortunately during our KATE) like vulva origami and vulva cupcakes, for exactly the same reasons as you are now – we thought we were breaking boundaries and taboos around women’s bodies, and doing something new and exciting.

What I didn’t think about then was that we weren’t representing all women’s bodies, and in fact what we were doing was a pretty cruel slap to those women who were already the most excluded. It wasn’t new and exciting, but an old exercise in cis privilege. It was reminiscent of the ways a lot of old-school feminists try to exclude trans people from women’s spaces by emphasising specific shared traits or experiences of “womanhood”, e.g. having a vagina. Which if you think about it is not a great thing to base a sisterhood on!

I’m actually really embarrassed about a lot of the things I did out of ignorance when I was WRO, but history doesn’t have to repeat. Luckily there are lots of fun ways to celebrate Womensfest without resorting to a reductive feminism rooted in the vagina, aka Cunt Feminism. If you want to learn how not to be a cunt feminist I suggest you listen closely to the constructive criticism that you are being given by your peers.

Surely she means cuntstructive criticism.


80 of them have been tricked into working there

Sep 4th, 2015 6:24 pm | By

More in the unofficial series on slavery around the world – slave labor on Thai fishing boats.

Akaradetch Seri had a fight with his girl friend one day and found himself homeless. He spent the night on a park bench where ever such a nice man approached him and offered him a place to stay.

The man mentioned he could stay at a friend’s house, what turned out to be a stark room inhabited by several others. The front door remained bolted, and Seri became worried when asked not to leave under any circumstances.

After several days, the men were taken to a port and loaded into a ship’s barren hull, then ferried to Indonesia and forced to board another vessel to work. Afraid, Seri asked to go back. He was told his passage had been paid for and only his backbreaking labor could buy his freedom.

For the next three years, Seri caught and sorted fish on a Thai-run deep-sea fishing vessel in Indonesian waters, earning a fraction of Thailand’s minimum wage.

And that’s how it’s done.

Thailand has overfished its own waters so it goes into other countries, which means the slaves are stuck on the boats for months or even years.

The conditions are horrific and not compensated for by decent pay, so nobody wants these jobs.

Increasingly, boat owners have turned to human traffickers to meet their staffing needs.

Over one third of polled fishing industry workers in Samut Sakhon province, a fishery hub, said they were trafficked into the industry, with 57 percent reporting conditions of forced labor, according to a 2012 study by the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP).

Long-haul fishing boats, which rarely return to shore, are especially prone to abusive conditions, with one in six surveyed workers on such vessels reporting they did not sign up for the job, according to a 2013 study by the International Labor Organization.

One former slave places the figure much higher. “Ask 100 men on a boat and 80 of them have been tricked into working there,” said Chairat Ratchapaksri, a 37-year-old Thai man who worked as a mechanic on a deep-sea vessel before his rescue in April from the remote Indonesian island of Benjina, following the publication of an Associated Press investigation into a massive Thai-run criminal syndicate operating in those waters.

Read the rest.

Sara Hucal wrote the piece.

Drawn by @jabertoon

Sep 4th, 2015 5:09 pm | By

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted a cartoon a couple of days ago:

Embedded image permalink

Someone they haven’t shut up yet:

Ahmad Al-shathry ‏@Abunass3r Sep 2
@KenRoth That’s a Saudi Arabian political cartoon, by the way. Drawn by @jabertoon his work appears regularly in our news papers

The Gulf States and the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Sep 4th, 2015 4:51 pm | By

Natasha Fatah and Nahayat Tizhoosh produced a story for the CBC on the failure of the Gulf states to accept any refugees at all.


The ministry does not sponsor Arab children who lost their parents in conflicts

Sep 4th, 2015 3:07 pm | By

Pure, virtuous Saudi Arabia.

The Ministry of Social Affairs has banned Saudi families from adopting Syrian or other foreign children.

“The ministry does not sponsor Arab children who lost their parents in conflicts, such as in Syria and Iraq. There are global humanitarian organizations that deal with these cases,” said Latifah Al-Tamimi, director of social supervision at the ministry in the Eastern Province.

So their god hates children, too. No surprise there.

Bloomberg reports that refugees from Syria feel more welcome in Europe than in the Gulf states.

Searching for a new home, Yassir Batal says Germany and its unfamiliar voices and customs are more enticing for his wife and five children than the wealthy Arab states whose culture, religion and language they share.

Like so many other Syrians who have escaped civil war, the 36-year-old has ruled out heading south through Jordan to Saudi Arabia or beyond. They wouldn’t be welcomed the same way, he said.

“In Europe, I can get treatment for my polio, educate my children, have shelter and live an honorable life,” said Batal, as he left a United Nations office in Beirut, the city that’s been the crossroads for more than a million refugees since the violence started in March 2011. “Gulf countries have closed their doors in the face of Syrians.”

What happened to the ummah?

“I’m most indignant over the Arab countries who are rolling in money and who only take very few refugees,” Danish Finance Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said in an interview this week at his office in Copenhagen. “Countries like Saudi Arabia. It’s completely scandalous.”

Well all those beheadings aren’t free, you know.

Tariq Al Shammari, a Saudi who heads the Council of Gulf International Relations lobby group, dismissed the criticism as “nonsense” and unfair.

“The Europeans turned a blind eye to what was happening in Syria until the crisis reached their shores,” Al Shammari said by telephone from Manama, Bahrain’s capital. “They just want to lay the blame on someone else.”

Because it’s the Europeans’ responsibility but not the Saudis’? Why? Who made that rule?

Outside the Swedish city of Gothenburg, Mahmoud Abbas, the artist, said he was driven to draw the cartoon by news of Syrians who were found decomposing in a truck abandoned on the highway connecting Budapest and Vienna last week.

Cartoon by Palestinian Artist Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

“If our Arab heritage hasn’t moved us toward the people closest to us, then it’s a disaster,” he said.

God hates people.

Surely flies will go to the dish

Sep 4th, 2015 2:23 pm | By

Whatever problem it is you want to address…just blame it on women. It makes everything so much simpler. The Malay Mail Online reports on an example of that simplification process:

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 4 — A Friday sermon by Federal Territories’ Islamic authorities today blamed women who do not cover their “aurat,” or intimate body parts, for causing social ills that would affect even those who do.

In its sermon distributed to mosques under its jurisdiction, the Federal Territories Islamic Department (Jawi) also compared uncovered women to uncovered dishes, which it said are bound to frequented by flies, making them unappetising.

Women’s filthy intimate body parts cause all the problems, plus, they draw flies and are just plain disgusting.

“Let us think, what will happen if a dish is not covered? Surely flies will go to the dish, subsequently making those who love the dish lose their appetite,” Jawi said.

“Looking at today’s social ills, it is worrying. When women fail to cover their aurat perfectly, it will open the door to vices,” the sermon added.

“The exploitation of women will prosper. Illicit sex will invite calamities. Life will no longer be peaceful. Safety will be worthless. Even those who take care of their aurat will be victims. Those who reveal their aurat, sins await them.”

It’s women, I tell you, women women women.

According to contemporary Muslim teachings, Muslim women’s “aurat” towards unrelated men is their whole body except their faces and both palms.

Elbows? Biceps? The middle of the back? Shins? Everything but the face and palms? That’s some powerful magic.

Except it’s not, it’s just a way to batter and smash women down into even more submission, which is still never enough. It’s just not possible to hate and stifle women so thoroughly that they become no longer an issue and the sermons can talk about something else. God damn women! What is wrong with them?! Why do they have to be so bad?

There was no mention in the sermon about the obligation of men to also cover their aurat, although Friday prayers are attended almost exclusively by Muslim men in Malaysia.

Of course not. It’s the women who are so disgusting and fly-blown, not the men.

I wonder how many women got beaten up in Kuala Lumpur today.

No small hooray for the pope

Sep 4th, 2015 9:34 am | By

Kate Smurthwaite has some thoughts on the pope’s “pardon” for abortions.

As I am the official representative of womb-operators (as well as being a comedian I’m also the Media Spokesperson for Abortion Rights UK – you’d be amazed how much overlap the roles have) every journalist and radio presenter has been tripping over themselves to ask me if I’m PLEASED. One even went so far as to ask whether I couldn’t manage a ‘small hooray’.

But any transitory modicum of elation I might have felt at the news that his Holiness has taken one tiny step away from the misogynist medieval attitude that my uterus is any of his damn business is more than swamped by the fury I’m feeling that anyone is still listening to the guy.

Right? The news media treat him with such tender care, such affection, such solemnity – but why? He’s not the boss of all of us. He’d like to be, but he’s not. He’s not, strictly speaking, the boss of anyone except the church hierarchy. He’s just a guy in fancy robes who’s at the top a particular church ladder, that’s all. There are a lot of Catholics, but they’re all free to ignore him if they decide to. He has no power over them.

He has as no democratic mandate. The Pope is ‘elected’ by a bunch of cardinals who in turn are appointed by the Pope. They’re not exactly a diverse bunch.

He doesn’t represent Catholics, thousands of whom have abortions every year and carry on calling themselves Catholics afterwards. Some have even organized to form a campaign group called Catholics For Choice.

He certainly doesn’t represent women. Everyone is entitled to a view on any subject they want, but seriously. Has he, or any of his cardinals, ever woken up and thought ‘still no period… oh shit, I really hope this isn’t… come on… start you stupid thing…’?

No, because for them it’s always someone else who does the baby-having. They make the rules, those inferior other people carry them out.

The only mandate he has is that, as several enthusiastic journalists couldn’t wait to advise me, ‘He’s God’s representative on earth.’

Draconian laws, the vast majority of them initially catapulted into force by the political influence of his predecessors, mean that every year over 20 million women have unsafe illegal abortions and thousands of them die. I’m sorry, but in 2015 I need a better justification for that than ‘He’s God’s representative on earth’.

Journalists told her that? Oy. No he’s not “God’s representative on earth” – because we don’t have any reliable knowledge that there is such a god, because even if we did we wouldn’t know how to contact it, because we have no reason at all to think any pope or any other human is that unavailable god’s “representative.” There’s no link between those four words and any kind of evidence or line of transmission.

And if there were we could still disobey it.

Saudi Arabia: 0

Sep 4th, 2015 7:40 am | By

Mona Eltahawy tweeted an interesting graphic:

Embedded image permalink


We are watching Syria die

Sep 3rd, 2015 5:52 pm | By

Terry Glavin in the Ottawa Citizen yesterday:

“The worst part of it is the feeling that we don’t have any allies,” Montreal’s Faisal Alazem, the tireless 32-year-old campaigner for the Syrian-Canadian Council, told me the other day. “That is what people in the Syrian community are feeling.”

There are feelings of deep gratitude for having been welcomed into Canada, Alazem said. But with their homeland being reduced to an apocalyptic nightmare – the barrel-bombing of Aleppo and Homs, the beheadings of university professors, the demolition of Palmyra’s ancient temples – among Syrian Canadians there is also an unquenchable sorrow.

But among Syrian-Canadians, the worst thing of all, Alazem said, is a suffocating feeling of solitude and betrayal. “In the western countries, the civil society groups – it’s not just their inaction, they fight you as well,” he said. “They are crying crocodile tears about refugees now, but they have played the biggest role in throwing lifelines to the regime. And so I have to say to them, this is the reality, this is the result of all your anti-war activism, and now the people are drowning in the sea.”

Drowning in the sea: a little boy in a red t-shirt and shorts, found face-down in the surf. The boy was among 11 corpses that washed up on a Turkish beach Tuesday. Last Friday, as many as 200 refugees drowned when the fishing boat they were being smuggled in capsized off the Libyan coast. At least 2,500 people, most of them Syrians, have drowned in this way in the Mediterranean already this year.

Nobody is innocent.

…what we are all doing – Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats, Americans, Canadians, and all the dominant elites of the United Nations and the NATO countries that cleave to that sophisticated indifference known in polite company as anti-interventionism – is a very straightforward thing. We are watching Syria die. We are allowing it to happen. And if you can comprehend that, you will know something of the sorrow that afflicts Faisal Alazem and all those other Syrian-Canadians these days.