Notes and Comment Blog

The United States continues its descent

May 5th, 2015 4:02 pm | By

A press release from Save the Children:

The United States continues its descent in the global rankings of best and worst places for mothers, slipping to 33rd out of 179 surveyed countries, reveals Save the Children’s new report, “State of the World’s Mothers 2015: The Urban Disadvantage.” Norway rose to the top of the list, which was released today, while Somalia remained last for the second year.

32 countries do better than we do.

That could be all right – somebody has to do best, and it’s not written in the stars that it should be the US. But we’re a very rich country, so, really, if we’re that far down the table…we’re doing something wrong. Not that we didn’t already know that.

The report indicates that women in the United States face a 1 in 1,800 risk of maternal death. This is the worst level of risk of any developed country in the world. An American woman is more than 10 times as likely to eventually die in pregnancy or childbirth as a Polish woman. And an American child is just as likely to die as a child in Bosnia and Herzegovina or Serbia.

The worst level of any developed country in the world. Ugh. That’s shaming.

You know what it is. It’s because we rely on poverty. We want poverty; we don’t want to get rid of poverty. Why? Cheap docile labor, that’s why. Profit. We care far more about the ability of a few people to get obscenely rich than we do about the ability of all people to do well enough.

Here are 1-33:


2 Finland

3 Iceland

4 Denmark

5 Sweden

6 Netherlands

7 Spain

8 Germany

9 Australia 1

0 Belgium

11 Austria

12 Italy

13 Switzerland

14 Singapore

15 Slovenia

16 Portugal

17 New Zealand

18 Israel

19 Greece

20 Canada

21 Luxembourg

22 Ireland

23 France

24 United Kingdom

*25 Belarus

*25 Czech Republic

27 Estonia

*28 Lithuania

*28 Poland

*30 Croatia

*30 Korea, Republic of

32 Japan

33 United States of America


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

All of them are traumatised

May 5th, 2015 3:07 pm | By

According to the UN, more than 200 of the girls rescued from Boko Haram are visibly pregnant.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said that 214 of the rescued girls were “visibly pregnant”, according to the International Business Times.

The online magazine said the claims followed reports that women and girls kidnapped by the insurgents were routinely raped and forced to marry their abductors.

Turai Kadir, who helps in the internally displaced people camps in the city, said the former hostages were “not in great condition”. “All of them are traumatised,” she added.

So that’s their lives ruined.


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

Vive la plume

May 5th, 2015 2:50 pm | By

Tweets from #PENfest

Sascha Freudenheim ‏@SaschaDF 22 hours ago
The inimitable @monaeltahawy at #PENfest, @PENamerican. #Egypt #WomensRights

Embedded image permalink

Harlem Stage ‏@MyHarlemStage 3 hours ago
Come to “In and Out of Africa” w/ writers from Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire & more | May 9 | #PENfest

Reinhard Lamsfuss ‏@rlamsfuss 3 hours ago
SOS Racisme #France called #CharlieHebdo “the greatest anti-racist weekly in the country.” … #PENfest

PENamerican ‏@PENamerican 5 hours ago
“If you make the effort to understand, to really understand what the cartoon is about, you won’t be offended” —Jean-Baptiste Thoret #PENfest

“We have nothing against religion. We fight against the political use of religion. That’s not the same” —Gérard Biard #PENfest #CharlieHebdo

“I must assure you that we don’t eat children and we don’t eat believers. Ever” —Gérard Biard, editor-in-chief of #CharlieHebdo at #PENfest

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

Extraordinary people

May 5th, 2015 12:17 pm | By

The Guardian tells us about the people replacing the boycotters at the PEN gala this evening.

Now award-winning fantasy novelist Gaiman, acclaimed cartoonist Bechdel, Maus creator Spiegelman, Reading Lolita in Tehran author Azar Nafisi and American author and journalist George Packer have been named as new hosts at the event, which PEN confirmed would have heightened security. French-Congolese novelist Alain Mabanckou, meanwhile, will present the award to Jean-Baptiste Thoret, the Charlie Hebdo member of staff who arrived late to work on 7 January, missing the attack that killed 12 people.

Mabanckou told the Guardian he had decided to present the award because “I’m a big reader of Charlie Hebdo, because I know that it’s not a racist magazine. I decided to do it in memory of all journalists and cartoonists who die because they have the courage to pursue their work. Finally, I decided to do it because among the members of Charlie Hebdo who were massacred in January 2015 was a friend of mine, the economist and journalist Bernard Maris, who was an extraordinary man.”

From what I’ve been able to gather over the last four months, they were all pretty extraordinary.

Gaiman tweeted:I’ll be hosting a table at the PEN event because it’s important.” He told the Associated Press in an email: “I was honoured to be invited to host a table. The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists are getting an award for courage: They continued putting out their magazine after the offices were firebombed, and the survivors have continued following the murders.”

“They died for their beliefs. The award is for courage that transcends our like or dislike of them,” Nafisi tweeted this weekend. She also wrote: “PEN award to CH is recognition of the writers’ & artists’ rights to ‘disturb the peace,’ regardless of the price”.

If writers and artists don’t disturb the peace, who will? I’m serious. Other people have other jobs to do, they don’t have time to disturb the peace, their bosses don’t want them to disturb the peace.

Other writers including Paul Auster, Siri Hustvedt, Simon Schama, Richard Ford and Sara Paretsky have also offered their support to PEN. The novelist Salman Rushdie, meanwhile, has been a particularly outspoken supporter of PEN’s decision to honour Charlie Hebdo, writing in a letter to the free speech organisation that by withdrawing, the six authors had “made themselves the fellow travellers” of “fanatical Islam, which is highly organised, well funded, and which seeks to terrify us all, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, into a cowed silence”.

And who can dispute him?

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

Guest post: By pushing an almost totalitarian narrative of white guilt

May 5th, 2015 11:14 am | By

Originally a comment by veil_of_ignorance on A new way to weasel.

Two things:

(1) It was indeed absurd and cynical how Western governments (and their MENA allies including the KSA) have exploited the CH massacre for empty lip service to free speech. However, this is a common phenomenon which is not limited to CH. We see it anytime when the political agenda allows it: from Raif over Pussy Riot to Liu Xiaobo. This does not mean that those people do not deserve to be honored or are some kind of neoliberal US-imperialist fifth column. Or to inverse the argument: the fact that Edward Snowden is now best friends with Putin – not due to the latter’s universal commitment to free speech but for obvious political reasons – doesn’t mean that Snowden should be accused of enabling Russian, neo-Stalinist nationalism and conservatism.

(2) “By choosing to honor Charlie Hebdo, the victim of Islamic radicals, rather than any of the many worthy dissidents they could have chosen, people like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, truly courageous people whose actions and words have placed them at odds with the powerful western nations of the world”. Since Furst likes to speak about narratives, I will provide a counter-narrative: What happened to CH doesn’t really involve American white liberals; however, it involves many progressive people in Muslim majority countries and the Muslim diaspora who are increasingly silenced, marginalized and endangered by the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. This is the reason why – while the white liberal American press tried to play white guilt Olympics – there generally was a lot of solidarity from the left-wing and liberal press in the MENA region, which realized that what happened to CH is also currently happening to them (Zineb El Rhazoui wrote interesting things about this topic and the fact that CH allowed francophone MENA authors to publish things which they could not publish in their home countries). By bringing in Assange and Snowden in contrast, the American liberal tries to make everything about them and their struggles again.

I might go out on a limb, but I think that what we see in the whole CH debate is almost hegemonic white guilt: the American white liberal press holds a lot of power when it comes to influencing the international sociopolitical discourse. And by pushing an almost totalitarian narrative of white guilt – a narrative which vastly overstates the West’s power in today’s geopolitical constellation, which denies the agency of non-Western actors, which essentializes universal social problems (e.g. the role of women in society) to the West and romanticizes non-Western cultures (= a variety of orientalism which tends to be ignored) – it basically suffocates social dissent from the Global South.

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

A central tenet

May 5th, 2015 10:51 am | By

CNN ran a solemn backgrounder piece yesterday explaining Why Islam forbids images of Mohammed aka Why images of Mohammed offend Muslims. (It has more than one title, don’t ask me why.)

(CNN) Violence over depictions of the Prophet Mohammed may mystify many non-Muslims, but it speaks to a central tenet of Islam: the worship of God alone.

No doubt it does, but so what? A central tenet of Islam may be relevant to Muslims (or it may not; it should be up to them), but it’s not relevant to anyone else. By the same token, a “central tenet” of Catholicism is not relevant to non-Catholics. It’s not even relevant to many Catholics, and it’s certainly not relevant to everyone else. Adherents of religion X don’t get to force the rest of the world to defer to the tenets of X, however central they may be.

So we get to go on being mystified, and disgusted and repelled, by violence over images of Mo, because we get to choose for ourselves which strictly religious taboos we will obey, if any. Other people don’t get to enforce their strictly religious taboos on the whole world.

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

A room half full of the self-righteously misinformed

May 5th, 2015 10:18 am | By

From one of the worst piece on Charlie Hebdo and PEN to one of the best: Michael Moynihan at the Daily Beast.

On January 7, Jean-Baptiste Thoret was ambling toward the office, late for an editorial meeting—he’s a French film critic, after all—when 12 of his colleagues at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo were being cut to ribbons by AK-47 fire. A fraternal team of semi-illiterate religious fanatics, Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, both Paris-born, casually returned to their getaway car, congratulating themselves for having avenged their aggrieved prophet. As a digestif, an accomplice was across town, preparing to murder Jewish shoppers at a kosher supermarket.

It helps to know how to write, doesn’t it, particularly on this subject. It’s striking how much of the writing of the antis has been leaden and wit-free and clunky, even from people who ordinarily do know how to write. It’s as if the style is forced to match the thought: both must be equally talentless, the way two horses pulling a carriage have to pace together.

Charlie Hebdo would seem a rather obvious choice for a prize celebrating journalistic courage, considering the newspaper was firebombed  in 2011 for producing cartoons satirizing militant Islam, lived with a heavy—but not heavy enough—security presence, and continued to raise a middle finger to those who threatened its journalists with death. But the award was an obvious choice that annoyed more than 200 PEN members—including Eric Bogosian, Wallace Shawn, Junot Diaz, and Peter Carey—who responded to the honor with a campaign of defamation against the dead.

You’d think it would catch in their throats, wouldn’t you. You’d think they would shiver and stop and re-think their positions. You’d think they would quail at giving political support to people who murder cartoonists and Jewish supermarket-shoppers.

Charlie Hebdo—scourge of the post-fascist political party Front National, enemy of Papists, cheerful anti-racist activists, fellow travelers of the French Communist Party, staunch agitators for Palestine—has been accused of racism and employing crude and offensive satire to “punch down” at an aggrieved minority.

Six impossible things before breakfast.

Two days after the murders, under the crass headline “Unmournable Bodies,” The New Yorker’s Teju Cole provided a confused exegesis on French satire, a subject he has previously avoided discussing.Charlie Hebdo, he wrote, was possessed of a “bullyingly racist agenda” and traded in “violently racist” images.

I couldn’t even read that thing in January. I took a look, I cringed, and I couldn’t stand to read it.

Elsewhere, the #JeSuisCharlie brigades were admonished for affiliating with an anti-Arab magazine whose “staff was white,” a point not contested by editor Moustapha Ourrad because he had annoyingly just been murdered by religious psychopaths. Nor did Zineb El Rhazoui protest, likely because she was too busy mourning her dead friends and cobbling together the newspaper’s first post-bloodbath issue. Francine Prose, one of the first refuseniks, said PEN’s choice “very conveniently feeds into a larger political narrative of white Europeans being killed by Muslim extremists, which is not the case,” a point with which the families of slain Hebdo staffers might take issue.

“Conveniently” – how I hate that “conveniently.” How I hate the fake knowingness behind that whole sentence.

Should you trust the judgments of newly minted French satire experts, most of whom don’t speak French and have never held a copy of the newspaper? Or should you trust Dominique Sopo, the Togolese-French president of SOS-Racisme, France’s most celebrated anti-racism organization, who made the obvious point that Charlie Hebdo was the “most anti-racist newspaper” in the country? Those accusing his murdered friends of supporting the very things they so passionately opposed, Sopo said, were either motivated by “stupidity or intellectual dishonesty…Every week in Charlie Hebdoevery week—half of it was against racism, against anti-Semitism, against anti-Muslim hatred.”

Well, ok, but why wasn’t the award given to Julian Assange? The brave martyr hiding in an embassy to avoid rape charges?

Few of PEN’s critics responded to this counter evidence. When asked on Twitter if he had ever thumbed through a copy of Charlie Hebdo, n+1 editor and what-a-bunch-of-racists petition signatory Keith Gessen admitted that he hadn’t. “Nor would my French be up to it if I did. This is more about PEN than it is about Charlie, and I know lots about PEN. :)” In other words, Gessen has a beef with PEN America—likely about how the recipient was chosen—which necessitated signing a petition branding Charlie Hebdo a racist publication.

Smiley face.

Tee hee.

Novelist Deborah Eisenberg, one of PEN’s most vocal and least informed critics, said Hebdo’s brand of satire was “reckless,” like “dropping your lit match into a dry forest.” Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau indulged in his own bit of victim-blaming, saying that “the decision they made” to be satirists, applying religious satire evenly across faiths and denominations, “brought really a world of pain to France.”

Strange, coming from Garry Trudeau, isn’t it – since he made the decision to be a satirist himself, and hasn’t noticeably deferred to ridiculous taboos. Why would he blame other people for not deferring to ridiculous taboos? I will never understand it.

There’s more, not-to-be-missed stuff. Don’t miss it.

PEN’s dissident Fanonists might stay away from Tuesday night’s ceremony, or make a bold stand against the nonexistent racism of 12 dead journalists by refusing to clap for the one who got away, or simply hope that next year’s Courage Award honoree will have been murdered for inoffensive journalism that comports with the bien pensant opinions of America’s literary class.

As for Thoret, after the atrocity visited upon Charlie Hebdo in January, he can manage a room half full of the self-righteously misinformed. His comrades are gone; the newspaper is more popular than ever; and his American critics, he sighs, “don’t really know what they are talking about.”

But their ignorance isn’t stopping them talking about it. They’re an embarrassment.

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

A new way to weasel

May 5th, 2015 9:22 am | By

Well this is a novel way to crap on Charlie Hebdo – fully seeing what’s wrong with all the cries of “racist!” from people who have no French and no knowledge of French culture and no willingness to listen to people who do – and coldly deciding to crap on Charlie anyway, because bafflegab.

It’s Joshua Furst in The Forward.

When I heard that the writers Deborah Eisenberg, Teju Cole, Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Rachael Kushner and Taiye Salasi had publically withdrawn from their roles as table hosts for PEN America’s annual gala in protest over the organization’s decision to award Charlie Hebdo the Freedom of Expression Courage Award, my first reaction was to cringe at the spectacle of a group of writers — many of whom I greatly respect — coming out against a clearly beleaguered, clearly courageous publication simply because they disagreed with its politics.

At the same time, I felt, on some fundamental level, that they were right to be criticizing PEN. That I couldn’t place exactly why troubled me.

But he got to work and managed to come up with something, so now he’s content.

He was annoyed by the presence of a whole slew of illiberal heads of state at the Charlie protest march in Paris. Yes, so was I, but that’s not a reason to crap on Charlie.

There was a “je ne suis pas Charlie” counter-protest, but that troubled him too. But that was then.

The pertinent question now isn’t whether Charlie Hebdo’s politics conform to my own, or even whether I’m offended by the content of their cartoons, but rather, what PEN’s purpose in honoring the journal in this specific way in this specific context is and what this says about PEN.

To answer this question, one must look at the context of the award—not just the attacks but all that’s happened since. One must take into account the competing narratives and symbolic meanings that have accumulated around the magazine, and ask: does PEN want to affirm the over-simplified narrative being peddled by the politicians who gathered in Paris, and if not, how does it recognize the way this narrative has been challenged by the vigorous arguments about class and race that rose out of the wake of the attacks?

So that’s a reason to crap on Charlie, according to Furst. Nope. It isn’t. It could be a reason to write a piece about the award (just as he’s doing, in fact), but it’s not a reason to call Charlie Hebdo racist or compare it to neo-Nazis or to boycott the award.

Was Charlie Hebdo simply the safest, easiest choice to present to this audience? Is PEN a cultural institution here to celebrate the idea of free speech while providing intellectual cover for the preexisting assumptions of our capitalist democracy, or is it an organization meant to rattle and challenge, and yes, fight to protect those whose voices are stifled by political, economic and social repression, both here and abroad?

It’s easy for an American organization to celebrate those who have take stands against America’s enemies. By choosing to honor Charlie Hebdo, the victim of Islamic radicals, rather than any of the many worthy dissidents they could have chosen, people like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, truly courageous people whose actions and words have placed them at odds with the powerful western nations of the world, PEN has communicated to their donors that it is on the side of powerful and reinforced the neo-liberal assumptions that allow for unchecked oppression to be perpetuated in our name around the world.

This, to me, is a fundamental betrayal of everything PEN is meant to stand for. And so, despite not agreeing with every word it contained, I felt strongly enough about the central idea of the letter protesting PEN’s choice that I was compelled to sign it.

Furst seems to have overlooked something. The people at Charlie Hebdo were killed. Assange and Snowden are alive. He also seems to be overlooking, or forgetting, the fact that Charlie Hebdo is no fan of capitalism or neo-liberalism.

This is how it’s done, I guess. This is how it was done to Salman in 1989 and after, and it’s how it’s done now. It’s an ugly business.

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

The kefala system might be waived to allow Nepalis to go back home?

May 5th, 2015 8:56 am | By

A lot of Nepalese people go abroad to work, to places like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. After the earthquake, many of them very naturally wanted to go home to help family and friends. But there’s a catch

Hundreds of thousands of Nepalese construction worker have been unable to go home, unable to check on their families and homes after last month’s massive earthquake. That’s according to the International Trade Union Confederation or ITUC. These are migrants working in Gulf states, and their jobs are controlled by a contract system that requires them to remain in the country where they’re employed for two years. Under the system of sponsorship called kefala, you can’t enter the country or leave it without permission from your sponsor. Last week, the ITUC announced it had written to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to ask them to suspend that system.

And of course Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates all eagerly agreed, and rushed to help facilitate? No. They haven’t even replied to the ITUC. NPR’s Robert Siegel talked to Tim Noonan, the director of campaigns and communications for the ITUC.

SIEGEL: Have you received a response from any of the countries I just mentioned that the kefala system might be waived to allow Nepalis to go back home?

NOONAN: No. It’s been several days now since we took contact with the authorities in those three countries to ask them to suspend the kefala restrictions. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard a response, and the information that we’re getting on the ground is that there is a serious and growing problem.

SIEGEL: A problem of Nepali workers wanting to go home and not being allowed to by their sponsors, contractors say.

NOONAN: That’s correct. The law requires migrant workers to have permission from their employer to leave the country. No change or suspension to that kefala law has been made. We do understand that some larger companies have been allowing, even helping, Nepalese workers to go home, but it’s really only a trickle. We know that many more haven’t been able to get that permission from their employer, and the governments are leaving those rules in place.

How humane, how compassionate, how caring and empathetic and full of human solidarity. Not.

How many people is this? A million. Half a million in Saudi, more than 300 thousand in Qatar, 200 thousand in the UAE.

SIEGEL: Is there any precedent for the kefala system ever being suspended because of any particular emergency?

NOONAN: To our knowledge, in relation to these three countries, no. There have, however, been in other countries. For example, in Bahrain, where there are still a large number of labor-related problems, the government did reform the kefala system and do away with the exit permit system. So Gulf countries can do this. It’s just a matter of whether they want to live according to modern rules or whether they want to remain in a feudal employment situation, which is the case in these three countries at the moment.

Zakat? Isn’t that one of the 5 pillars? I’m not seeing much zakat here.

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

We tell America that what is coming will be even bigger and more bitter

May 5th, 2015 8:00 am | By

IS says IS did it.

Islamic State (IS) has said that it was behind the attack on a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in the US state of Texas.

It said that “two soldiers of the caliphate” carried out the attack at a conference centre near Dallas.

My first thought was to wonder why they would demand credit for such a failure.

My second thought was how stupid am I. That’s exactly what I thought about the embassy bombings, too, and it turned out to be a staggeringly stupid thing to think. The fact that one adventure goes badly means nothing. It sure as hell doesn’t mean that the next one won’t go swimmingly.

Correspondents say that it is believed to be the first time that IS has claimed to have carried out an attack in the US.

“We tell America that what is coming will be even bigger and more bitter, and that you will see the soldiers of the Islamic State do terrible things,” the statement released by the group said.

I’m sure we will.

The BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner offers some analysis.

This is obviously not the first jihadist attack to take place on the US mainland, but if Islamic State is able to prove that it planned and directed it – rather than just staking a claim after the event – then that would be a significant development.

It is also possible that IS’s claim is one of convenience, that it played little or no part in the attack.

In some ways, it was a failure. The attackers did not get near the actual event organisers or speakers and the two gunmen ended up being the only ones killed, shot down not by a SWAT team, but by a traffic policeman.

But that would be to miss the point. For IS, this is all about publicity and the generation of fear. The message they want to give Americans is: “You’re not safe in your own backyard, this was just the beginning and there are more attacks to come”.

And why wouldn’t that be true? Especially in the US, where the citizens are steeped in a culture of violence from birth; where guns are a religion of their own; where religion is almost as popular as violence. How could IS fail to be hugely alluring here, with its throbbing combination of fanatical religion and bloodsoaked violence? Of course IS is going to be able to find thousands of eager volunteers to do the promised “terrible things.”

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

RSF pour Raif

May 4th, 2015 6:00 pm | By

Karine Drouin on Facebook:

Rencontre, lors du concert anniversaire des 30 ans de RSF, avec ces “monuments” qui ont marqué notre histoire, WU’ER KAIXI, leader du mouvement de Tiananmen, SHIRIN EBADI, Prix Nobel de la Paix 2003 et le créateur du slogan “Je suis Charlie”, JOACHIM RONCIN, le Président de RSF, ALAIN LE GOUGUEC, et l’artiste engagée JEANNE CHERHAL. Tous ont apporté leur soutien à RAIF BADAWI

A meeting, during the 30th anniversary concert for Reporters Without Borders, with these “monuments” who have marked our history: Wu’er Kaixi, leader of the Tiananmen Square movement; Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize winner 2003; the creator of the “Je suis Charlie” slogan, Joachim Roncin; the president of RSF, Alain Le Gougec; and the activist artist Jeanne Cherhal. They all lent their support to Raif Badawi.

Wu’er Kaixi

Joachim Roncin

Alain Le Gougec

Jeanne Cherhal

Shirin Ebadi

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


May 4th, 2015 5:29 pm | By

There’s a film about Taslima; it won an award. Well we can’t have that, can we.

Trinamool Congress Lok Sabha MP from Basirhat, Idris Ali has termed exiled Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen as a ‘loose charactered woman’ on Sunday.

“Taslima Nasreen is a loose charactered woman who plays the communal card. People who support her, eventually end up spreading communal tension,” said Ali. He also targeted author Salman Rushdie saying, “Rushdie was barred from entering West Bengal as this is a secular state and communal elements like him should be kept at bay.”

The communal card, for heaven’s sake. It’s Idris Ali and people like him who are doing that, not Taslima.

This apart, he lashed out at the director of Nirbashito – a film based on Nasreen’s life – for making the film which recently received the National Award. “I will not let the directors release the film in the state. If someone still does it, he will have to face dire consequences. This is the second time that I am protesting against the release of such a film,” Ali said. Directed by Churni Ganguly and shot in Kolkata and Sweden, the bilingual film was released at the Mumbai International Film Festival in in 2014. The filmmakers are yet to take a call whether or not to release the film in Kolkata.

This is not the first time Ali has targeted the author. In 2007, he was arrested for allegedly inciting violence for getting Nasreen expelled from the country.

But he accuses her of playing the communal card. How dishonest can you get.

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

Keeping the women in line

May 4th, 2015 4:16 pm | By

House Republicans vote to punish the women of DC.

Late Thursday night, the House of Representatives voted in favor of “H.J.Res. 43: Disapproving the action of the District of Columbia Council in approving the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014.” If enacted, the legislation would make using employer-based health insurance for in vitro fertilization or birth control pills a fireable offense in Washington, D.C.

So women can have that kind of insurance, I guess, but if they use it, they can be fired. Mind you, people can be fired for any reason or no reason anyway, but there was a law making an exception of this very thing, which the Republicans voted to overturn.

When I entered the Gallery, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) was imploring her Republican colleagues not to use the federal authority vested in them by people from other states to overturn local laws in Washington, D.C.

I sat down near D.C. voting rights activists who were attending the hearing and began to take notes on a steno pad. A congressional staffer came over and informed me I was not allowed to take notes.

Not allowed to take notes? You can watch Congress in action but you can’t take notes? What kind of stupid rule is that? Stupid and undemocratic, that is.

Though its population is greater than that of either Vermont or Wyoming, Washington, D.C. (whose population is about 50 percent black) has limited presidential voting rights, no vote in Congress, and the inability to raise local revenues or pass local laws without Congressional permission.

For over a decade, for example, the U.S. Congress made it a federal crime for the D.C. government to spend locally-raised tax dollars for HIV prevention programming. Today, the District has one of the highest HIV rates in the nation.

Good job, Congress. Brilliant.

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

Jihadists and Caliph-chasers

May 4th, 2015 3:37 pm | By

Padraig Reidy drew up a little list of talking points for the Garland shootings, to save everyone some effort.

Geller’s organization is racist, people have every right to this that and the other, people don’t have the right to kill.

The last two are less obvious and less invoked.

8. The people who attempt to shoot others for drawing cartoons do not do so in order to combat Islamophobia. If anything, they do so to encourage Islamophobia. Jihadists and Caliph-chasers have a vested interest in division between Muslims and non-Muslims
9. Well-meaning though it may be, casting jihadist attacks as a symptom of “Muslim anger” is to buy into stereotypes of Muslims as irrational and violent, and ignore the complexity of Islamist and jihadist politics

Here’s my addition: Pamela Geller is not an ally of secular liberals.

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

Glorious Las Vegas

May 4th, 2015 3:00 pm | By

More on Mayweather’s history of beating up women and the way people are hiding it so that other people will pay lots of money to watch him punch a man.

Ignore the police reports, the court records, and his own plea deals, he says into the camera lens, never an ounce of doubt on his face, because there are no pictures. It’s a cliché of Internet life—pics or it didn’t happen—and one that Mayweather has leveraged into making it okay for millions of sports fans to plunk down $100 to watch him fight Manny Pacquiao without an ounce of doubt about putting money directly in the pocket of a misogynist.

To Rachel Nichols: “Once again, no pictures. Just hearsay and allegations.”

To Katie Couric: “Did I kick, stomp and beat someone? No, that didn’t happen. I look in your face and say, ‘No, that didn’t happen.’”

But, Diana Moskovitz reports, there are pictures, but we don’t get to see them.

In at least two cases of domestic violence, official records show pictures were taken. In one case, a police report explicitly says that the photos show a victim’s injuries. But authorities in Las Vegas, a city poised to make millions off Floyd this weekend, have either destroyed the photos or haven’t released them.

Because, after all, it’s just women. It’s not as if he hit anyone important.

We shouldn’t need to see the pictures. The overwhelming evidence should be enough. The guilty and no contest pleas should be enough. The words of so many women should be enough. But seeing pictures—in all their grotesqueness and horror—is unfortunately the only way to prove a man hit a woman. It’s part of why officers take these pictures, to show a judge and a jury what happened.

“When you’re in a front of a judge, you describe the injuries written in the complaint, the bruising, the swelling, the blood,” prosecutor Scott E. Kessler told the New York Times for a 2007 story about how digital cameras were changing domestic violence investigations. “But until a person sees another human being with those injuries, with the swelling, the blood, the bruising, it’s hard to get that point across.”

He was proven right last year, when TMZ published the video of Ray Riceknocking out his future wife, Janay, with one swift punch. Before the video was published, Rice was poised to return to football after a short suspension. Afterward, Rice was gone for an entire season and dumped by his team. He’s still searching for a chance to play.

There has been no elevator-tape moment for Mayweather, though, despite his long and well-documented history of beating up women, and there probably never will be.

Las Vegas has made sure of it.

It’s Chinatown, Jake.

H/t Marcus Ranum

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

Guest post: Leafing through the canon and cackling uproariously

May 4th, 2015 12:37 pm | By

Originally a comment by AJ Milne on Refrain from laughter.

Philosophical documents on laughter, religious statements and mandates forbidding laughter–all these provide instructions on how and when and how hard to laugh. They designate the proper attitude one should take toward laughter, because laughter is our last “sense” to capitulate to authority…

… Imagine, then, being firmly seated in a position of authority and knowing that at any second the power to control and direct could be cut short by the lowliest peon–not with a Molotov cocktail or an Uzi automatic, but with riotous laughter…

(Barry Sanders, from Sudden Glory: Laughter as Subversive History.)

… I figure it should be entirely unsurprising, whenever ‘prophets’ or the authorities who try to reuse their creed to cement their own power attempt to forbid laughter. Read the work of the former, and you have to figure that was the first reaction of much of the audience; initially, at least, they have hope it works out, and they get enough people to buy the line together to get a certain critical mass going. But ongoing laughter no doubt worries them, even once this is achieved. And the ‘prophet’ and their first followers, if still alive, I figure, are likely to remember this reaction bitterly. It takes them back to a very different world, when they had to be far humbler in their demands.

Religions prefer, I figure, therefore, generally to control it. Probably the only reason more of them don’t attempt so clumsily to ban it outright is this is a just a little too obvious. More subtle dissuasion will, however, do within communities, at least, once the creed is dominant enough. The rituals shall encourage a hushed, reverent attitude, or, if you are to smile, or perhaps holler or sing hallelujahs, it is to be done in a beatific, transcendent fashion. ‘Joyful’ may be okay. Leafing through the canon and cackling uproariously generally less so.

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

Mayweather has had at least seven domestic violence incidents that resulted in arrests

May 4th, 2015 12:20 pm | By

Oh what a surprise – two reporters who had talked about Floyd Mayweather’s history of domestic violence were banned from reporting on that big match. I’ve been growling for days about all the ridiculously excited and eager publicity for a boxing match, even from the BBC, and this item just adds to the disgust. Yay, folks, let’s get overjoyed about a “sport” that cuts out all the frills and folderol of trying to put a ball into a net and just goes straight to the part about guys punching each other. After that lets all go watch people torturing animals for amusement.

As the boxing world watches the hotly anticipated fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao—two fan favorites meeting for the first time—there are a few people who won’t be there: The sports reporters who’ve spoken openly about Mayweather’s history of domestic violence, and have publicly questioned or spoken out against supporting him as an athlete.

Does this sound at all familiar? Does it sound like Ray Rice for example? Does it sound like the long history of everyone looking hard in the opposite direction whenever people mentioned a football or basketball or boxing star’s history of punching women? It does to me.

Mayweather has had at least seven domestic violence incidents that resulted in arrests and citations against five women, including an arrest in 2010. He pled guilty in March 2002 to two counts of domestic violence for striking the mother of his children in the face with a car door in front of their family, and punching her repeatedly.

Yeah the BBC never mentioned that in its hyperventilating report on the approaching fight that I heard a few days ago. Nope; not a word.

But hey, it’s only women.

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

They responded with applause

May 4th, 2015 11:40 am | By

Loyalty is nice, but…

On April 30, Pastor Jim Staley plead guilty to multiple counts of felony wire fraud. The charges stem from Staley’s involvement in a complex scheme, which used phony life insurance policies, front companies, deceptive contracts and other dubious methods to defraud elderly investors out of millions of dollars. Many of those who were taken in by the scheme later said they believed that Staley was a ‘nice, religious man.’

The statements of Staley’s victims, the detailed federal indictment, even Staley’s acknowledgement of guilt in open court, seems to have had no impact on his religiously obsessed followers. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that:

“The courtroom overflowed with so many Staley supporters Thursday that some federal agents and court staff were relocated to open up more seats. After the hearing, Staley thanked members of the crowd for coming. They responded with applause.”

That’s from Addicting Info. Interesting, isn’t it – they “support” him despite knowing that he defrauded people of millions of dollars.

It’s almost as if people don’t always have good judgement.

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

Desperately seeking more killers

May 4th, 2015 8:59 am | By

AQ in the subcontinent says they did it.

The leader of Al Qaeda’s branch in the Indian subcontinent has published a video claiming responsibility for the death ofAvijit Roy, an atheist Bangladeshi-American blogger who was killed by a group of men with machetes on Feb. 26 as he was leaving a book fair in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

In a nine-minute video posted on jihadist forums on Saturday, the leader of the branch, Asim Umar, said followers of his group were responsible for the killing of several people he called blasphemers: Mohammad Shakil Auj, an Islamic scholar fatally shot in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2014; Aniqa Naz, a Pakistani blogger; Rajib Haider, a blogger killed in a machete attack in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, in 2013; and Mr. Roy.

“They have taught a lesson to blasphemers in France, Denmark, Pakistan and now in Bangladesh,” Mr. Umar said in the video, which was translated and published by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity online.

He went on to urge his followers to carry out more attacks, saying, “Where are those who would kill these blasphemers, wherever they may be found, even if it has to be done using a dagger or a knife, and by doing so record their names on the Day of Judgment among the devotees of the prophet?”

Nope. There is no record. There is no day of judgement. That’s all a fiction, just as Harry Potter is a fiction. The murderers won’t get any high fives from the prophet in the great hereafter.

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

Refrain from laughter

May 4th, 2015 8:39 am | By

News from Malaysia:

An Islamic mufti has warned Malaysian comedians against telling jokes that cause excessive laughter. According to the mufti, Islam urges emotional moderation and refrain from excessive laughter, crying, or other emotional expressions.

How hellish. I can honestly not think of anything more calculated to make life grim. Maybe a rule that all food should be devoid of flavor, or a rule that sex should be like doing sit-ups, but other than that…nothing. “Excessive” laughter is a great thing, and that which causes it is a great thing. (Ok not if you’re one of those horrible people who laugh when someone falls.) If Islam urges emotional moderation then Islam is badly wrong. I’ve always disagreed with the Stoics about this, too.

Islamic law is largely based on the hadiths, which are the written narratives of Mohammad and his early follower’s lives, and Sunnah, which refers to the life and example set by the Prophet Mohammad.

The ban against excessive laughter appears to come from a statement made by Mohammad stating: “Do not laugh too much, for excessive laughter kills the heart [spiritually].”

Because it’s impure, right? Purity is being calm and dull and stable. The hell with that.

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