Notes and Comment Blog

Let them eat cupcakes

Apr 15th, 2014 9:39 am | By

From the annals of Grinding the Poor:

At a time when many states and cities are working passing minimum wage increases, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) has gone in the opposite direction and signed a law banning cities from passing higher wages. The bill also bans them from enacting paid sick days or vacation requirements.

That’s…pretty extraordinary. No paid sick days for you, peasants! Pass the brioche.

The law will stymie the efforts of activists in Oklahoma City, where a labor federation has led the push on a petition to raise the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. The state’s current minimum has been set at the federal level of $7.25. In 2012, 64,000 workers in the state earned $7.25 an hour or less, making up 7.2 percent of all hourly workers, a larger share than the 4.7 percent figure for the country as a whole.

Fallin said she signed the bill out of the worry that higher local minimum wages “would drive businesses to other communities and states, and would raise prices for consumers.” She also argued that “most minimum wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry level jobs” and that “many are high school or college students living with their parents in middle-class families.” She warned that increasing the minimum wage “would require businesses to fire many of those part-time workers” and harm job creation.

That is such bullshit. No, most minimum wage workers are not young, single people working part-time jobs.

But that’s not what the typical American minimum wage worker looks like. Nearly 90 percent of workers who would be [affected] by an increase in the wage are older than 20, while the average age is 35. More than a quarter have children to support. More than half work full time, and 44 percent have at least some college education, while half a million minimum wage workers are college graduates.

Mary Fallon should read Barbara Ehrenreich’s classic Nickle and Dimed. At once.


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

Catholic hospitals exist to provide “Christ-centered health care”

Apr 14th, 2014 6:26 pm | By

Just when you think the Catholic theocrats can’t get any more disgusting, they surprise you. Catholic News Agency reports the theocratic point of view on Catholic hospitals and health care institutions refusing to provide contraception.

Following controversy over a Catholic-affiliated medical center’s rejection of contraceptive practices in Oklahoma, physicians have said that such institutions are trying to act with integrity.

“Catholic hospitals and health care providers do not prevent women from accessing what they want, they just don’t provide it themselves,” Lester Ruppersberger, a Pennsylvania physician and vice president of the Catholic Medical Association, said April 3.

“They are not lobbying against contraception, they just do not wish to be forced to violate their beliefs and ethics.”

Bollocks. When they’re the only game in town, they do indeed prevent women from getting access to what they want. You can’t just go to WalMart and buy an IUD and shove it in, you know.

He told CNA that those who do not agree with Catholic medical ethics “are not being deprived” and “do not have the right to expect or force (Catholic health systems) to provide what they cannot and will not.”

Yes they do. If you don’t want to do the job, don’t take the job. The job is the job.

Rebecca Peck, a Florida-based family physician, criticized assumptions that birth control drugs are difficult to secure.

“They are widely available, even if there is not another health care system in town.” The federal Title X Family Planning Program makes contraceptives “widely available, even free,” and the drugs can be purchased at the retail giant Wal-Mart “for about $10 a month,” she said.

Peck, a member of the Catholic Medical Association, said that contraceptives and morning-after pills do not prevent disease.

“Fertility and children are not diseases,” she told CNA April 3.

She said that contraceptive use is bad for women’s health and their relationships, noting some studies indicating an increase in breast cancer and cervical cancer risk, the risk of strokes and blood clots, and occasionally death.

Ruppersberger said that Catholics understand that contraception “violates the meaning of the marital act” by separating procreation from the unitive dimensions of marital relations.

Peck labeled as “short-sighted,” concerns that the Catholic-affiliated medical center policy will hurt the local economy by driving business elsewhere.

She said money from obstetric and pediatric services for children helps contribute to the town’s economy, as does the labor of the children after they grow up.

Therefore, it’s perfectly fine for the Catholic church to force women to have those children when they don’t want to. The Catholic church gets to decide and not the people who will have and raise the children – according to Rebecca Peck.

She said Catholic health systems “promote family life, which is the heart and soul of every town,” and that Catholic health care provides a necessary counterweight to “an increasingly secular and utilitarian society.”

Ruppersberger said Catholic hospitals exist to provide “Christ-centered health care,” which aims to apply Catholic teachings “with integrity and compassion.”

“Christ” is for church. Keep your “Christ” out of our hospitals.

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

A happy photo from Nigeria

Apr 14th, 2014 6:08 pm | By

Leo Igwe performs his first humanist wedding.


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

Sanctimony in Iowa

Apr 14th, 2014 3:53 pm | By

The governor of that state recently signed a proclamation “in the name and by the authority of the State of Iowa,” inviting “all Iowans who choose to join in thoughtful prayer and humble repentance according to II Chronicles 7:14 in favor of our state and nation to come together on July 14, 2014.”

You know, people who choose to join in prayer can do that. They don’t need the governor inviting them. The governor shouldn’t invite them, because that’s not his job; he’s a politician and administrator, not a priest or imam. Politicians should stop wrapping themselves in altar cloths.

Apparently the source for this bad adventure is some frantic group called Prayer-7-14-14. They explain the whole thing:


This is not about a single day of prayer, fasting and true repentance, but it is about a lifestyle journey of letting our hearts awaken and allowing God’s very breath to fill us.  It is understanding we have strayed from God, our first Love, and realizing the only way back is through true heart-felt repentance.  Repentance that brings change and realizing that repentance has many depths to it.  It’s about forgiving one another and not allowing the enemy to rule us through offenses.  Realizing there is diversity in unity.  It is about knowing who we are in Christ!  That He first loved us and He still loves us and is pursuing us to come back to Him.

Nonsense. Not a bit of it. We haven’t “strayed from” god; we have resisted the annoying insistence of deluded conformists that there is any “god” and gone on our way rejoicing. They might as well tell me I’ve strayed from Brenda The Transcendent Poodle and that I should let my heart awaken and allow Brenda’s breath – which reeks of dog food, by the way – to fill me. Hah. I’d rather eat some Talenti Southern Butter Pecan gelato, thanks.

There’s more.

ON 4-20-13 God spoke to me through a dream and His word…

In the dream I was writing on a red, white and blue shirt, “Something will start to churn in you today.”  I wanted to change the word to move, but I heard a voice say “NO, it is churn.” I happened to be reading through Hosea again for the third, fourth or fifth time, and I was starting at Chapter 11 that day.  When I got to verse 8, you can see below, it said His heart CHURNS  (just like in the dream)within Him and His sympathy is stirred.

I knew God was is pursuing America to turn back…

Um…[backs slowly away]

A group? Apparently it’s not even a group, it’s just one…eccentric. The governor is getting his inspiration from this?

We are in deep trouble.

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

The angry fanboys

Apr 14th, 2014 2:57 pm | By

What’s it like being a woman in comics? What’s it like being a woman in comics who writes an article criticizing a comic book cover for among other things featuring a teenage girl with breasts as big as her head? What’s it like being a woman in comics who responds to aggressive (shall we say) reactions to her criticism of a comic book cover?

About what you’d expect.

I was called a whiny bitch, a feminazi, a feminist bitch, a bitter cunt, and then the rape threats started rolling in.

You see, I’m also doing a survey about sexual harassment in comics. (If you’d like to take this survey, you can find it here.) And so as soon as the angry fanboys started looking me up after the CBR article, they discovered this survey and started answering my questions and using the open box at the end to write in all sorts of awfulness.

Because if you talk about sexism or sexual harassment then the only proper and sensible thing to do is to attack in sexist, harassing terms, by way of demonstrating that it’s wrong to talk about sexism or sexual harassment because there is no such thing.


When the survey was posted on a blog, one of the comments included “If you have a entrenched ideology then it’s nigh impossible to be objective, and according to Ms. Asselin’s Twitter tag, she’s a self described feminist.”

Let’s talk about that for a second. Feminist is not a bad word. People who think feminism is a negative often run in two very different directions – either they misunderstand what it is or are outright misogynists. Feminism is defined by as “the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.” If it’s an “entrenched ideology” to wish to be treated as an equal human along side men, then so be it.

Speaking of entrenched ideology – you know what really is an entrenched ideology? The idea that feminism is – automatically, always, necessarily – an entrenched ideology.

There are too many people, including professionals, who think it’s okay to condescend, harass, berate, etc. women in comics simply because they’ve espoused a belief that revolves around women being treated more as equals. I want women and girls to be seen as an equally promising demographic for comics as males; I want major companies with an easy opportunity to reach out to women to not feature art that is disgusting and objectifying; I want women to be hired as much as men to create comics; I want to not know so many people who have been violated in an industry I still love despite it all.

There are men in comics who understand how not to be a condescending asshole. But right now, the problem is that too many other men think that they are in a crowd of like-minded men who are super sick of this feminazi bullshit. The truth is that you are on the losing side. Women in comics aren’t going away. Even if you continue to talk to us like this. Your threats and insults do nothing more than make me want to stick around and shout even louder. So thank you for that.

Feminism isn’t going away. Also? The last thing that would make it go away is condescending assholes calling it feminazi bullshit and threatening to rape all the feminists. All that does is show how desperately it’s needed.

H/t Jen



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

If a child under the age of two screams in the night

Apr 14th, 2014 2:12 pm | By

I didn’t realize Helen Ukpabio was in London, but she is, or at least was last week, according to the Independent.

“Lady Apostle” Helen Ukpabio, founder of the controversial Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries, is believed to still be in the capital after addressing three gatherings last week.

The born-again Christian Pentecostal preacher claims to have been betrothed to Satan as a teenager before being rescued from a cult at the age of 17. She now specialises in liberating captives in “deliverance sessions” that critics claim are little more than crude exorcisms.

Among her advice to parents is the suggestion: “If a child under the age of two screams in the night, cries and is always feverish with deteriorating health, he or she is a servant of Satan.”

Spot the problem there? Of course you do. Any child under the age of two is likely to scream in the night or cry, and if you tell people their children are “servants of Satan”…you’re putting those children’s lives in danger. That’s all children under the age of two put at risk.

Campaigners say such beliefs, prevalent in some parts of the developing world, can put children’s safety at risk. They have written to [Home Secretary Theresa] May to urge that the pastor be banned from the UK after the current tour.

In the letter, the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN), the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) cite the cases of Victoria Climbié and Kristy Bamu as examples where witchcraft beliefs played a role in the  horrific torture and murder of children.

And many cases in Nigeria, home to Helen Ukpabio. Mind you, if she’s not in London she’s in Nigeria, and she’s lethal in either place. Really she should be made to stop, not to stay home. Free speech; no; fingering people as witches is lethal.

H/t Leo Igwe

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

Parental guidance

Apr 14th, 2014 1:00 pm | By


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

The uses of Richard Hoggart

Apr 14th, 2014 11:37 am | By

The Guardian on Richard Hoggart:

As news of academic Richard Hoggart’s death emerged last week, there was a sense in obituaries and appreciations that the 95-year-old was a figure from the past, the relevance of whose work, most famously his 1957 book The Uses of Literacy, had waned over time.

My intellectual development continues to be defined by his writing, and all I can say to anyone who has yet to read his work is: do it now. We still need voices like his to articulate what is wrong, right now, with an official and media language that wilfully ignores the malign effects of class and poverty.

What, you mean we’re not all raking in the profits from real estate bubbles and tech innovation and exciting new ways to package risky mortgages?

Hoggart came to prominence at a time when a number of socially mobile writers and academics were able to take advantage of changes in society to give voice to their ideas. It was precisely because he was a social interloper that he was able to forge a new discipline – contemporary cultural studies – based on the need for individuals to look more closely at the information we consume and create, and to understand what it reveals about social relations.

We need Hoggart now because we have a deceptively flattened media and cultural landscape in which everyone is meant to take a bit, and like a bit, of everything. Twitter and Instagram give the impression of everyone having an equal voice, from the out-of-work plasterer to the millionaire art dealer. A grounding in Hoggart’s work blasts through that. He reminds us that access to culture widens and narrows according to who’s got the keys – and that is always the people with education, contacts and confidence.

Not to mention money. Don’t forget money. Money can do a lot to stand in for education. Fill your house with expensive art and rugs and tchotchkes and people will assume you have education.

There are a lot of good tributes on the Letters page.

• Martin Kettle (Report, 11 August) is right to stress the importance and influence of Richard Hoggart’s work, both in his written work and in the many posts he held, including vice-chairmanship of the Arts Council, from which he was sacked by Margaret Thatcher in 1982. For Hoggart, humane reading and humane education and humane culture and society should be open to everyone, and he deeply deplored those who saw themselves as privileged, not least the patrician William Rees-Mogg who, as chairman of the Arts Council, took it for granted that his journeys from London to his Somerset home and back should be provided by an Arts Council-funded chauffeur-driven car. Not something Richard Hoggart would ever have contemplated.
Bruce Ross-Smith

• In Richard Hoggart’s obituary, you recall that he wrote of seeing his widowed mother “standing frozen, while tears start slowly down her cheeks because a sixpence has been lost … you do not easily forget”. Reading Polly Toynbee’s article (Duncan Smith’s treatment of the disabled is monstrous, 11 April), it is apparent that IDS has forgotten the effects of poverty, if he ever knew. It seems very little may have changed since the 1920s.
David Verguson

If people remembered the effects of poverty, how would they be able to fill their houses with rugs and Etruscan pottery?

H/t Maureen

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

The Jaafari Personal Status Law

Apr 13th, 2014 3:35 pm | By

Human Rights Watch to Iraq: yo, don’t legalize marriage for 9-year-olds.

Iraq’s Council of Ministers should withdraw a new draft Personal Status Law and ensure that Iraq’s legal framework protects women and girls in line with its international obligations. The pending legislation would restrict women’s rights in matters of inheritance and parental and other rights after divorce, make it easier for men to take multiple wives, and allow girls to be married from age nine.

The draft law, called the Jaafari Personal Status Law, is based on the principles of the Jaafari school of Shia religious jurisprudence, founded by Imam Jaafar al-Sadiq, the sixth Shia imam. Approved by the Council of Ministers on February 25, 2014, it must now be approved by the parliament to become law.

And what are his dates? Jaafar al-Sadiq, the sixth imam? 702-765 CE. Here’s a thought: how about not looking to imams who lived 13 centuries ago for guidance in making new laws? How about actually thinking about human beings and their needs, instead of taking instruction from a sixth or fifth or seventh imam?

The draft law would cover Iraq’s Shia citizens and residents, a majority of the population of 36 million. It includes provisions that prohibit Muslim men from marrying non-Muslims, legalizes marital rape by stating that a husband is entitled to have sex with his wife regardless of her consent, and prevents women from leaving the house without permission from their husbands. The law would automatically grant custody over any child age two or older to the father in divorce cases, lower the marriage age to nine for girls and fifteen for boys, and even allow girls younger than nine to be married with a parent’s approval.

In short it treats women and girls like inferiors and slaves with no rights.

The draft law violates the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which Iraq ratified in 1986, by giving fewer rights to women and girls on the basis of their gender. It also violates the Convention on Rights of the Child, which Iraq ratified in 1994, by legalizing child marriage, putting girls at risk of forced and early marriage and susceptible to sexual abuse, and not requiring decisions about children in divorce cases to be made in the best interests of the child.

The draft law ignores article 2 of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women by legalizing marital rape, Human Rights Watch said. The CEDAW committee, the body of international experts who review state compliance with the convention, in its February 28, 2014 review of Iraq’s reports, urged the government to “immediately withdraw the draft Jaafari personal status law.” The law also appears to violate the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by granting fewer rights to certain individuals on the basis of their religion.

Well at least Iraq ratified CEDAW. You know who has 626 million thumbs and didn’t ratify CEDAW? The US, that’s who. We’re one of only seven countries that haven’t. My god that makes me swell with pride. The others? Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Palau, and Tonga. Great, isn’t it? On the other hand we do not have a Jaafari Personal Status Law on the books, so that’s an improvement on Iraq.

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

She has to hide her truth to be able to live

Apr 13th, 2014 3:00 pm | By

BenBaz Aziz did an interview for Atheist Alliance International with a transsexual woman in Saudi Arabia…which is not one of the best places to be a trans woman. BenBaz is hoping people will share it.

9- Tell us about the discrimination by the family.

Growing up in misogynistic society, surely my family will see females are inferior to males. The idea that I will “become” as they think a female, is not acceptable. They have no idea about the difference between gender and sex . So, they think I will “shift” to female,which is the inferior sex.  From this vision, you can imagine how they are misguided about the truth.

They consider me a “disgrace”, “shame”  and wanting to challenge or to drag attention.  I have faced a lot of hate speech, violence and threats of informing authorities from the people I love the most.

I have to hide my truth to be able to live, my family would certainly kill me if they had proof I am taking hormones. I know I will mostly lose them forever, when I complete transition and live as a woman – the true reality. It is not my fault, and I didn’t ask for any of this ! I was born a girl, they assigned me incorrectly, so what can I do ?

I guess the worst part is, you live all these years in a lie, and you have to sacrifice everything and the people you loved and lived with, played with and had nice memories with. Just to get rid of this lie!!

I hope things get better for her.


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


Apr 13th, 2014 12:24 pm | By

I heard a discussion of a new movie, Calvary, on BBC Radio 4′s Saturday Review yesterday; it sounds pretty damn interesting.

The Irish Times has a review.

The predictably flawless Brendan Gleeson plays Father James Lavelle, a decent priest serving the needs of an absurdly colourful Sligo community, whose world is upended by an unexpected encounter in the confessional.

A troubled parishioner – unseen by us, but apparently known to our hero – explains that, having been abused by clerics as a child, he intends to exact revenge by killing James in one week’s time.

There is a terrible logic to his scheme. The annihilation of a guilty priest will provoke only so much rending of garments. The murder of an innocent man will, however, really hammer home how troublesome any association with the discredited Catholic Church has become.

Ok…I want to see that.

On the other hand the review goes on to say that what the rest of the movie does with that setup is a mess, so maybe I don’t want to see it. But the setup…yes, that’s interesting.

The Guardian on the other hand says it’s terrific.

In the darkness of the confession box, Father James (Brendan Gleeson) learns he is about to be killed. Behind the grille, a shadowy parishioner explains that he was abused as a child and is hellbent on revenge. Father James, as a representative of the church, has been selected to take the fall; the good priest parachuted in to deputise for the bad. His crucifixion is booked for the following Sunday, just down on the beach. The priest now has a week to put his own house in order.

Part of why the setup is interesting is because the good priests make the bad ones possible. Good people don’t belong in the Catholic church, because it’s not a good institution.



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

The cupcake as weltanschauung

Apr 13th, 2014 11:30 am | By

Is this a parody? It certainly looks like one, but…it’s not clear that that’s what the Guardian intends.

Beware of cupcake fascism, it tells us. Oh come on, that has to be a parody.

The constellation of cultural tropes that most paradigmatically manifest in the form of the cupcake are associated in particular with infantilisation. Of course, looking back to a perfect past that never existed is nothing if not the pained howl of a child who never wanted to be forced to grow up, and the cupcake and its associates market themselves by catering to these never-​never-​land adults’ tastes. These products, which treat their audience as children, and more specifically the children of the middle classes – perfect special snowflakes full of wide-​eyed wonder and possibility – succeed as expressions of a desire on behalf of consumers to always and forever be children, by telling consumers not only that this is OK, but also that it is, to a real degree, possible.

Parody. Has to be parody. But then you scroll down and come to

Something became clear to me in the aftermath of the London riots in 2011, when I sawthousands of people take to the streets with brooms at the instigation of a twitter hashtag (#riotcleanup), and “clean up” the effects of the anger of the rioters, which was already in the process of being dismissed and demonised in the media as opportunistic looting long before the police would find a way to have their killing of Mark Duggan declared “lawful”. This realisation was that if you wanted to found a fascist reich in Britain today, you could never do so on the basis of any sort of ideology of racial superiority or militaristic imagery or anything of the like. Fascism is, if nothing else, necessarily majoritarian, and nowadays racism is very niche-​appeal (just look at how laughable every EDL march is, where the anti-​fascists outnumber the alleged fascists by a ratio of more than two to one). But you could get a huge mass of people to participate in a reactionary endeavour if you dressed it up in nice, twee, cupcakey imagery, and persuaded everyone that the brutality of your ideology was in fact a form of niceness. If a fascist reich was to be established anywhere today, I believe it would necessarily have to exchange iron eagles for fluffy kittens, swap jackboots for Converse, and the epic drama of Wagnerian horns for mumbled ditties on ukuleles.

So beware of cupcakes, I guess.

But I refuse to get rid of my jackboots.

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

Hours of work will depend on our sweet will

Apr 13th, 2014 11:05 am | By

Nick Cohen has a good piece on the grinding of the poor in the UK.

…for me, the best way of summing up the division between rich and poor, and high and low, is a contract stating that “hours of work will be advised by the visitor manager and will be dependent upon the requirements for retail assistants“. The staff had no security, the contract made clear. Their employers guaranteed them no minimum income. The bosses might leave them at home from one week to the next, while still insisting that the casual workers remained available to work for them and them alone.

Who’s that – some hotel chain? Asda? The local prison?

No, it’s Brenda, aka Betty Windsor, aka her majesty.

The contract says so much because the employer in question was not some crook but the Queen – whom everyone in authority assures us is a benign sovereign who cares for every one of her subjects. Her Majesty’s exploited servants were to show tourists round Buckingham Palace’s staterooms, when and only when the monarchy thought it had no choice but to pay them.

As the recession grew, the wealthy were finding new ways of encouraging poverty by keeping the poor on zero-hours contracts whose average hourly rates were 40% below the “normal” earnings for the work. Not just oligarchs it is easy to despise as cruel foreigners, but the British monarch and head of state.

Well, be fair – she did give up the yacht.

The account of royal miserliness comes from the forthcoming Hard Times by Tom Clark, a leader writer on the GuardianI hope it sellsbecause Clark is the first author I know of who has examined the data on the great recession and shown that booms and busts are like Tolstoy’s families. All happy financial bubbles are alike but each recession is unhappy in its own way.

Many commentators, including me, expected the great crash of 2008 to produce mass unemployment as the great crash of 1929 led to the mass unemployment of the 30s. Because labour is so cheap, we have instead an English-speaking world without neat boundaries. For the majority of people, the division of time into the years of boom and the years of bust makes little sense. In America, the average worker has not had a pay rise since 1973. In Britain, median full-time pay stopped rising in 2000, then collapsed after the crash. The great recession came after 30 years of the rich leaving the rest behind. (In the past two decades, for instance, the top 1% has grabbed three-fifths of all the gains in American growth.) The majority of the population did not enjoy a boom in the past decade: just a bust in 2008. As Osborne tries to sneak an election victory in 2015 by letting the housing market soar and fall yet again, another boomless bust is coming.

There’s a solution for this problem though. Everyone should just go into the financial planning business. The pay there is HUGE so everyone will be hugely rich. Utopia here we come.



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

Where will Brandeis go to get its respect and honor back?

Apr 12th, 2014 6:29 pm | By

Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe is also annoyed about CAIR’S bullying of Honor Diaries.

‘HONOR DIARIES” might not be coming to a theater near you, at least not if CAIR gets its way. The award-winning documentary about “honor” violence against girls and women in much of the Muslim world was released last month in honor of International Women’s Day, and it didn’t take long for the Council on American Islamic Relations to slap its all-purpose “Islamophobic” label on it. The film has been shown in dozens of venues, but CAIR has raised enough of a stink to get screenings cancelled on several college campuses, including the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois.

He then talks about CAIR’s role in bullying Brandeis into insulting Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Ali was involved in making “Honor Diaries,” which goes out of its way to convey respect for moderate Islam. It spotlights nine eloquent women with roots in the Islamic world, several of whom are devout Muslims — “Islam is my spiritual journey,” says one — and all of whom are passionate about exposing the terrible abuses women and girls in many Muslim cultures suffer in the name of family honor. None thinks such horrors should be excused or neglected out of a misplaced cultural sensitivity or political correctness.

But CAIR apparently does. Why does it? And why do Brandeis and other universities listen to it? Why don’t they tell it to fuck off?

Efforts by CAIR and its ilk to squelch honest discussion of such grave human-rights issues — and to demonize as “haters” and “Islamophobes” those who do — encapsulate the very perversity “Honor Diaries” seeks to expose: valuing the honor of a community more than a woman’s life or voice. But does CAIR’s shrill protest reflect what average citizens in Muslim countries think of such a documentary? Or does the “Honor Diaries” Arabic Facebook page, with 95,000 “likes” — and climbing?

Why aren’t more progressives passionate about these issues?

I don’t know. I do what I can. I try to get the word out to them.

I put that question to Nazie Eftekhari, an immigrant from Iran and another of the women “Honor Diaries” focuses on. A successful Minnesota health care entrepreneur, Eftekhari unhesitatingly describes herself as a “bleeding-heart liberal” and a longtime Democratic Party voter, loyalist, and fund-raiser. She is as mystified as I am.

“The biggest human-rights crisis of our generation is the treatment of women in Muslim-majority countries, and we’ve applied a gag order to ourselves,” she replies with unmistakable distress. “We won’t talk about it. Where are my fellow liberals? Where are the feminists?”

Right here. Right here. But all too many of them are siding with CAIR instead, yes. It’s appalling.

In theocratic Iran today, Eftekhari says, the legal age of marriage for girls has been lowered to 9. Fathers can legally marry their adopted daughters. “How can President Obama, who has two young daughters, not be making a huge issue of this?” she wants to know. “It’s not marriage, it’s statutory rape.”

Eftekhari can’t understand why so many progressive voices fall silent on an issue she thinks they should be raising the loudest. She has only contempt for anyone who thinks it progressive to snub those — like Ayaan Hirsi Ali — who so bravely speak out: “Ali needs no degree or honor from Brandeis; she is a guiding light for the women who respect and honor her. But where will Brandeis go to get its respect and honor back?”

It will always have CAIR.

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

Hey baby, look at my latest book

Apr 12th, 2014 10:50 am | By


Remember that horrible piece by David Foster at Comment is Free saying it should be totally fine to ask a total stranger for sex? Well guess who shared it on Twitter.


Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins

“Adults of both genders [should be] comfortable both making and receiving straightforward sexual propositions.” 

Well if nothing else, that at least helps to explain Dear Muslima. Not that we didn’t know that was the reason for Dear Muslima, but that helpfully puts it on the record for people who were in denial. Richard was pissed off at Rebecca because he doesn’t want guys being told “don’t do that” – don’t corner women at 4 a.m. to ask them for sex. He doesn’t want guys being told “don’t do that” because he thinks adults – like him for instance, and any women he wants to hit on – should be comfortable both making and receiving straightforward sexual propositions. He thinks that because he wants to feel comfortable that way himself. The important thing is for men to feel entirely free and comfortable to ask women they don’t know for sex.

The important thing is not for women who don’t want to be constantly and permanently subject to being asked for sex by strangers, to feel confident that that won’t happen in places where they go to do other things. Women who want to be able to do their jobs while at work? Pffffff – they’re just prudes. Women who want to be treated as colleagues instead of potential fuck buddies? Bah, they’re those awful sex-negative feminist types. Life is a cabaret, get yer kit off, I’ve got a straightforward sexual proposition for you, and if you say no I’ll get my revenge.


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

Welcome, voters, how long can you hold it?

Apr 12th, 2014 10:01 am | By

Election officials in Miami-Dade County have thought of a fabulous new way to disenfanchise people: lock up the restrooms (toilets, WCs, washrooms) at polling places so that voters faced with long lines will give up and leave.

Earlier this year, the Miami-Dade County Elections Department quietly implemented a policy to close the bathrooms at all polling facilities, according to disability rights lawyer Marc Dubin. Dubin said the policy change was in “direct response” to an inquiry to the Elections Department about whether they had assessed accessibility of polling place bathrooms to those with disabilities.

“I was expecting them to say either yes we have or yes we will,” Dubin said.

Instead, he received a written response announcing that the county would close all restrooms at polling places “to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not treated unfairly,” a January email stated. “[T]he Department’s policy is not to permit access to restrooms at polling sites on election days,” Assistant County Attorney Shanika Graves said in a Feb. 14 email.

That’s like saying “the Department’s policy is to whack people waiting in line to vote with heavy wooden baseball bats.”

Did someone mention voting rights? Never heard of them.


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

CAIR shuts down “Honor Diaries” at universities

Apr 11th, 2014 4:42 pm | By

More from the shut-uppers at CAIR.

Writers and producers of “Honor Diaries” are standing by the film they made about abuses women face around the world, despite criticism it received from the U.S.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), reported the Washington Examiner on Thursday.

CAIR called the film, which showcases nine Muslim women who speak about their experiences with honor practices such as forced marriage at young ages, denial of education and female genital mutilation, “islamophobic.”

It’s also forced marriageophobic, child marriageophobic, denial of educationophobic, and FGMophobic. So the fuck what? Shut up, CAIR. You’re not the boss of everything.

The controversy began after CAIR convinced officials at University of Michigan to cancel a screening of the film last week and then confirmed a second cancellation of the film showing at the University of Illinois.

[breathing flames]

Clinical therapist and activist on global women’s rights Zainab Khan who appears in the film says the organization is “utilizing tactics of censorship.”

“It’s completely dangerous and shows their mode of operation: bullying, scapegoating, censoring, avoiding issues.”

It is and it does. This organization needs to be seen for what it is, and people on the left need to stop treating it as some kind of equivalent of the NAACP or the ADL.

CAIR officials said it wasn’t censorship and that the organization had only informed sponsors of the documentary showing that the issues presented in the film were done so unfairly.

“The screenings were not canceled by CAIR,” said spokesman Ibrahim Hooper.

“They were canceled by the screening sponsors after they were informed of the hate agenda and Islamophobic history of the film’s producers. Replacement events dealings with this issue are now being planned with the screening sponsors and actual representatives of the American Muslim community.”

And of course “actual representatives of the American Muslim community” means “people who are completely uncritical of Islam and act as amateur public relations staff for it.”

In an interview with the Washington Examiner, human rights attorney Paula Kweskin, a writer and producer for the film, said it was clear that the Muslim advocacy group had not seen the film in its entirety.

Kweskin said the inspiration for the film stemmed from the Arab Spring in 2011 when women were at the front of a lot of the protests. While supporters hoped that it would result in greater equality for women in the Arab world, it has not been the case. Women and children are the greatest victims of the ongoing conflict and women in Egypt are regularly victimized for protesting.

This film needs to be seen. Universities need to stop jumping when CAIR says jump.

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

Fetal stand your ground law

Apr 11th, 2014 4:08 pm | By

Sometimes I can’t believe what I’m reading.

A Senate subcommittee in South Carolina is seeking to expand the state’s “Stand Your Ground” defense law to include protections for all children, including unborn ones, beginning from the moment of conception.

In other words a Senate subcommittee in South Carolina is seeking to legalize the murder of abortion providers.

Democratic State Senator Brad Hutto shared with The State his concern that any new law would be redundant, as it is already legal for a pregnant woman to respond with deadly force. He asked supporters of the measures — three are currently pending — to provide him with an example in which an unborn child’s life would be threatened when the mother’s isn’t.

The subcommittee passed a bill it called “The Pregnant Women’s Protection Act,” but abortion-rights activists claim the name of the bill is a misnomer used to disguise the fact that this bill is actually a back-door effort to grant constitutional rights to embryos from the moment of conception.

And thus remove said rights from pregnant women.

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

Just thought you should know

Apr 11th, 2014 4:02 pm | By

Via Political Loudmouth on Facebook.

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

We do no favors when we shut our eyes to this link

Apr 11th, 2014 3:40 pm | By

The Wall Street Journal has a condensed version of what would have been Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s talk at Brandeis had they not rudely withdrawn her invitation to receive an honorary degree. (Yes, I’m spelling it out in full every time.)

You deserve better memories than 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing. And you are not the only ones. In Syria, at least 120,000 people have been killed, not simply in battle, but in wholesale massacres, in a civil war that is increasingly waged across a sectarian divide. Violence is escalating in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Libya, in Egypt. And far more than was the case when you were born, organized violence in the world today is disproportionately concentrated in the Muslim world.

Another striking feature of the countries I have just named, and of the Middle East generally, is that violence against women is also increasing. In Saudi Arabia, there has been a noticeable rise in the practice of female genital mutilation. In Egypt, 99% of women report being sexually harassed and up to 80 sexual assaults occur in a single day.

Especially troubling is the way the status of women as second-class citizens is being cemented in legislation. In Iraq, a law is being proposed that lowers to 9 the legal age at which a girl can be forced into marriage. That same law would give a husband the right to deny his wife permission to leave the house.

Is this a good trend? No, it’s not a good trend. Is it completely unconnected to Islam? Hardly.

Two decades ago, not even the bleakest pessimist would have anticipated all that has gone wrong in the part of world where I grew up. After so many victories for feminism in the West, no one would have predicted that women’s basic human rights would actually be reduced in so many countries as the 20th century gave way to the 21st.

But at that point, it might surprise her detractors to learn, she takes a turn to optimism.

Today, however, I am going to predict a better future, because I believe that the pendulum has swung almost as far as it possibly can in the wrong direction.

When I see millions of women in Afghanistan defying threats from the Taliban and lining up to vote; when I see women in Saudi Arabia defying an absurd ban on female driving; and when I see Tunisian women celebrating the conviction of a group of policemen for a heinous gang rape, I feel more optimistic than I did a few years ago. The misnamed Arab Spring has been a revolution full of disappointments. But I believe it has created an opportunity for traditional forms of authority—including patriarchal authority—to be challenged, and even for the religious justifications for the oppression of women to be questioned.

Yet for that opportunity to be fulfilled, we in the West must provide the right kind of encouragement. Just as the city of Boston was once the cradle of a new ideal of liberty, we need to return to our roots by becoming once again a beacon of free thought and civility for the 21st century. When there is injustice, we need to speak out, not simply with condemnation, but with concrete actions.

One of the best places to do that is in our institutions of higher learning. We need to make our universities temples not of dogmatic orthodoxy, but of truly critical thinking, where all ideas are welcome and where civil debate is encouraged. I’m used to being shouted down on campuses, so I am grateful for the opportunity to address you today. I do not expect all of you to agree with me, but I very much appreciate your willingness to listen.


Well that didn’t work out.

How embarrassing.

Shame on you, Brandeis.

I stand before you as someone who is fighting for women’s and girls’ basic rights globally. And I stand before you as someone who is not afraid to ask difficult questions about the role of religion in that fight.

The connection between violence, particularly violence against women, and Islam is too clear to be ignored. We do no favors to students, faculty, nonbelievers and people of faith when we shut our eyes to this link, when we excuse rather than reflect.

Or when we silence brave women who talk about that connection.

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