Notes and Comment Blog

Like many others

Feb 3rd, 2013 4:11 pm | By

Janet Heimlich casts a cold eye on a bishop’s “apology.”

You know what’s coming. We could all write the “apology” in our sleep.

“I wish to acknowledge and apologize for those instances when I made decisions regarding the treatment and disposition of clergy accused of sexual abuse that in retrospect appear inadequate or mistaken.” Curry added, “Like many others, I have come to a clearer understanding over the years of the causes and treatment of sexual abuse, and I have fully implemented in my pastoral region the archdiocese’s policies and procedures for reporting abuse, screening those who supervise children and abuse prevention training for adults and children.”

Uh huh. In retrospect. In retrospect they appear inadequate or mistaken. As Janet says, that’s no apology.

In retrospect they appear inadequate or mistaken, meaning, they appeared perfectly fine at the time, indeed virtuous and holy, because otherwise I wouldn’t have done them, because I am a bishop. It was all a mistake of perception, like being color blind. It was not at all a failure of empathy or moral alertness or basic consideration for others or recognition of the helplessness of a child in the hands of an adult man with all the weight of the church behind him. No no. Just a mistake, that’s all, like thinking Pluto was a planet.

Like many others, now he has learned better, but he didn’t know then, and that’s not his fault because he was like many others. Only he was also completely different because he was a Catholic priest, so he got to conceal crimes from the police. Janet continues:

The statement is disgraceful and disrespects victims of sexual abuse. The documents that have been released reveal communications between Curry and Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, who is also Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles, in which they discussed ways to conceal cases of molestation from law enforcement. (Mahoney issued a more heartfelt apology to victims on January 21.) One particular case involves a priest who admitted to sexu­ally ab­us­ing 13 boys dur­ing his 36 years in the Los Angeles arch­diocese. Yet, rather than reporting the man to police, Curry said he should be sent to “a lawyer who is also a psychiatrist,” thereby putting “the reports under the protection of privilege.”

But he wants us to think that at the time, like many others, he didn’t know it’s not ok to hide crimes from the police.

But then if he didn’t know, because he was like many others, what becomes of the church’s claim to be better than everyone else? Why didn’t his priesthood make him better than “many others” – isn’t that the whole point of it? If it’s not, why are they always trying to tell everyone what to do?

They’re lying cowardly self-serving placeholders. They let their colleagues and friends make generations of children miserable, and now they pretend they didn’t know any better. They’re contemptible.


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

Cultural crap

Feb 3rd, 2013 1:58 pm | By

What is “radical feminism”? I see peculiar definitions here and there – or not so much definitions, as ad hoc explanations apparently pulled out of people’s…imaginary reference materials. The definitions or ad hoc explanations are crafted in such a way that they appear to fit feminists the crafters dislike, unless you actually know anything about the feminists in question.

There’s Vacula’s definition for example.

Secular Woman is an organization, launched in June of 2012, which aims to “amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious woman.” I was initially supportive of the organization and helped promote it because I had hoped that this organization would provide a fresh breath of air to the discussion about women’s issues – something much different than what many have already heard from the likes of radical or gender feminists in the secular community who seem to believe that men, ‘the patriarchy,’ and misogyny are responsible for all or most of the problems women face.

Mmm. Yeh. Except we don’t.

Not even close.

A straw definition if ever I saw one. I don’t talk about “the patriarchy” for example; I don’t even talk about it much without the definite article. I also don’t think anything as stupid or crude or off the mark as that. I don’t think even actual radical feminists think anything as stupid as that. Most of the problems all people face are just part of being a mortal animal! There are core human problems and challenges that feminism can’t possibly touch. Feminists aren’t so stupid that we don’t know that.

And even if we improve the definition by specifying social problems or political problems or the problems of being seen as subordinate, they still don’t boil down to making “men, ‘the patriarchy,’ and misogyny” responsible for all of them.

The sources of sexism and misogyny (and no, I do not treat them as identical; that’s a later post) that interest me most are cultural; memes, if you like. Women are responsible for them too! I don’t think there is a cabal of patriarchs running a meme factory that keeps women down. I think it’s a lot more complicated than that.

I do also think it matters. That, I think, is what people mean when they call us “radical feminists” – that we think cultural crap matters. But that’s not radical feminism. Second wave feminism always thought cultural crap matters. All second wave feminism. That was the point of it.

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

Why, I know you

Feb 3rd, 2013 9:45 am | By

So there’s this blob on a wall where some water damage happened, and damned if that blob isn’t the spitting image of The Virgin Mary™ – or rather of the outline of one of those creepy statuette things that are supposed to represent The Virgin Mary™.

It’s cool, too, because on the wall to her right hangs her son on his execution-by-torture device. Idn that pretty? They’re together again, or at least little statue-type deals that are supposed to represent them are together.

(Have you ever noticed that it’s oddly hard not to see dolls and stuffed animals and the like as just a little bit sentient? Because I have. I guess that’s just because the recognition of what is sentient is so deeply rooted and automatic that it’s hard to over-ride it even though you know the fuzzy puppy doll is no more sentient than a brick.)

(This is Kahneman’s System 1 and System 2. There are some System 1 things you can’t not do – one nice example he gives is “think of Paris when you hear the capital of France.”)

(This could explain a lot about the fuss over abortion.)

Veronica points out

It will take more than a miracle for the Catholic Church to placate the thousands of parishioners who are outraged by church closures and who are disgusted with the behaviour of the clergy in the diocese.

Someone should design a really cuddly priest doll.

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

In a defeat for misogyny and ignorance

Feb 2nd, 2013 4:57 pm | By

Yo! Breaking news – Malala has indeed been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.


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

Another way of saying shut up

Feb 2nd, 2013 4:07 pm | By

Michael Nugent points out a classic example of the special rules by which what would be an utterly normal tone of voice and wording and manner in a man get called “shrill” when it’s a woman speaking. The woman is Senator Ivana Bacik, asking questions at the parliamentary hearings on abortion law. She speaks firmly, and with an edge, but not the least bit “shrilly.” But hey, she’s a woman, and she’s talking firmly and with an edge to men. Must be shrill. Stands to reason.

In an opinion piece titled ‘We can’t be cowed by shrill voices’, editor Michael Kelly wrote:

“Ms Bacik clearly disagrees with the Catholic view that all human life is sacred and that in pregnancy mothers and their unborn child should have an equal right to life. Can’t she disagree politely, however?

A gentleman is one, the old saying goes, who can disagree without being disagreeable. The same surely applies for ladies.

Shrill caricatures have no place in mature debates. It is becoming increasingly difficult in modern Ireland to have a calm and rational debate about things people disagree about.”

He makes her a child, too, and one who has no place in parliamentary hearings (despite the fact that she’s a Senator).

Well maybe Michael Kelly divides humanity into two types: potential priests, and shrill babies.

Senator Bacik speaks at 2:36:

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

The X case itself has crossed that line

Feb 2nd, 2013 3:40 pm | By

Here are Michael Nugent and Ivana Bacik responding to abortion law questions at an Irish parliamentary hearing.

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

Mary-flavored potato chips

Feb 2nd, 2013 12:33 pm | By

Aw, another innocent marketing decision goes awry.

Sandwich shop chain Pret A Manger has withdrawn a new “Virgin Mary” brand of crisps following religious complaints.

The firm, with about 350 shops in the UK, launched the spicy tomato crisps – based on the non-alcoholic version of a Bloody Mary cocktail – last week.

This prompted complaints, including from Catholic groups, that it was an offensive reference to Jesus’s mother.

A company spokesman said it had noted complainants’ “strength of feeling” and withdrawn the product to avoid offence.

Now look here, Jesus’s mother isn’t the only virgin Mary in the world. How do the complainers know that Pret A Manger didn’t mean their cousin Mary age six? How do they know Pret A Manger meant just that one virgin Mary and not any other virgin Mary?

(I bet I know how Pret A Manger is pronounced, and I bet it’s not prounounced as if it were, you know, French. I bet it’s pronounced PRETTaMONjay. It’s certainly not spelled as if it were French.)

The Reverend Nick Donnelly, deacon of the Diocese of Lancaster and author of Protect the Pope website, was among those who complained to Pret A Manger.

Following the decision to withdraw the crisps, he wrote on the Protect the Pope site: “Clive Schlee and Pret A Manger deserve our unreserved thanks for listening to our concerns as Catholics and for acting so quickly to remove the brand of crisps.

“It seems fitting that Pret A Manger are planning to give any unsold crisps to the homeless.”

He added: “One of the things we need to go away and think about is what this incident tells us about how we defend our faith in the future.

“We’ve been passive for too long in the face of mockery of our faith and discrimination against us as Catholics.”

Yeah? How noisy have you been about child-raping priests? Ireland’s industrial schools? Lies about condoms?

H/t Roger.

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

No you may not decide for you

Feb 2nd, 2013 10:40 am | By

The anti-abortion phalanx in Ireland is shouting louder than ever, according to the BBC.

The groups taking part – Youth Defence, Pro Life Ireland and the Catholic organisation, the Iona Institute – testify to the polemical nature of the debate here.

“Keep Your Promise!” they shout – a direct reference to a 2011 election pledge by the main party in Ireland’s coalition not to legislate for abortion.

Nice pledge – a “promise” to keep women enslaved by the physical fact that it’s possible to become pregnant without consent.

Nope, sorry, laydeez, tough shit. God gave you the equipment to become pregnant so if you do become pregnant you don’t get to complain that you didn’t mean to, that you don’t want to bear a child at this time, that it was an accident or coercion. No dice. Your plumbing, your choice; it’s too late to back out now. You should have thought of that before you were born female.

During mass, priests across the country stress the importance of every human being’s right to life from the moment of conception until natural death.

While many Catholics remain devoted to the church’s official position, some of those I spoke to after a service at St Theresa’s Church in Dublin feel conflicted.

“It is unfair of the Catholic religion to impose their views,” said one of the few churchgoers who would talk, stating that she was not in favour of abortion.

“That said, I think the mother has the right to decide,” she added.

During mass, priests across the country talk sanctimonious bullshit, but even some churchgoers manage to maintain a grip on some shred of reasonable practical ethics.

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

When is World Yellow Star Day?

Feb 1st, 2013 5:37 pm | By

Oh swell, it’s “World Hijab Day.” Whatever the hell that is. It seems kind of early, since it was also “World Hijab Day” back in September, according to Taslima. I wonder when World Chains of Enslavement Day is.

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain forum has a page on the subject.

I begrudgingly wore the headscarf until very recently. I started disliking it when I was 13, and my dislike for it got more and more intense until I absolutely fucking hated it by the time I was 17. I didn’t express my feelings towards the hijab, partly because as a Muslim I felt guilty for feeling that way, but mostly because I was too scared that my parents would force me to continue wearing it and view me differently/negatively if I broached the subject.

Absolutely fucking hating it is a good sign.

I’m an ex-muslim and I have to wear it every fucking days. If I don’t, well I might be dead or thrown outside of the house. I don’t want that, because it’s already tensed at home. So I have no choice to wear it every day when I’m in College, when I go to some family friends’ house etc. I’ve been wearing it since I was 12 years old and I’m turning 19 soon. I don’t know when I’ll take it off, but it would be of course after I escape away from my house…. :/

Seven years muffled in a bandage she hates wearing. Horrible.

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

I did not compare TAM to Nazi Germany 2

Feb 1st, 2013 4:55 pm | By

I’m tired of this, so I’m going to set the record straight, even though it’s futile. I did it once last summer, and now I’ll do it again.

I did not “compare TAM to Nazi Germany.” The harassers have been posting that version all over the place and it’s a stupid malevolent lie.

Here is what I said. Exactly what I said, not a new and improved version of what I said invented by the mildew people.

Responding to DJ Grothe’s “a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe” quoted by Rebecca,

I said:

As Jews in Germany circa 1936 might have created “a climate where Jews — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe.” As the Southern Poverty Law Center creates a climate where people who are the object of systematic vocal hatred end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe. That’s not to compare TAM with Nazi Germany or racist pockets of the US, of course, but then Rebecca didn’t name TAM in the item DJ quoted, either; she (or rather USA Today, indirectly quoting her) said “the freethought community.”

See? I compared a stupid and unpleasant thing that Grothe said to various hypothetical things that someone might have said in other situations. (Yes, the examples were too strong, and I later took them back, but that’s a different subject.)

That is NOT the same thing as making “an analogy between TAM and Nazi Germany.”

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

“The request of every PC whiner”

Feb 1st, 2013 4:10 pm | By

I was just rereading this post from a month ago, which quoted Michael Nugent’s response to Thunderf00t’s plea command to organizers of secular conferences to shun feminists:

Thunderf00t concludes with a call to conference organisers and leaders of secular groups:

“Seriously, those who organise conferences, get a grip. You do not have to appease the request of every PC whiner. The secular community can achieve great things, but it will never achieve anything while it has poison like this being dripped into its heart. Please forward this video to leaders of secular groups who you think need to hear this message.”

Thunderf00t, I’ll give you a straight answer. As an organiser of conferences and as chairperson of Atheist Ireland, I will oppose any attempts to ostracize the people you name, and I will also oppose any attempts to ostracize people like you who disagree with them.


I don’t think I knew it when I wrote that post, but Nugent had already gone public with Atheist Ireland’s plans on the matter of making Atheist Ireland inclusive (or as Tf00t put it “appeasing the request of every PC whiner”). He did a post after their annual General Meeting to lay out their plans for next (now this) year.

Check out item 6.

6. Women in Secularism Conference

  • Organize an international Women in Secularism conference in Dublin
  • Invite speakers from Ireland, elsewhere in Europe, and other Continents
  • The theme of the conference is Empowering Women Through Secularism
  • Start promoting theme on UNESCO Philosophy Day November15
  • Support the CFI Women in Secularism Conference in Washington

Oh. They’re going to have their own, international Women in Secularism conference in Dublin, as well as supporting the one in DC.

That’s fantastic.


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

Talking about honor killing

Feb 1st, 2013 3:39 pm | By

A panel in Oslo discusses Deeyah’s film Banaz: a Love Story. The panel is Deeyah; Diana Nammi, Director of the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation; Detective Superintendent Caroline Goode who led the investigation into the murder of Banaz Mahmod; and anthropologist Unni Wikan.

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

A leaflet listing the regulations for women

Feb 1st, 2013 11:59 am | By

Things it’s good to hear are now lying in the dirt

A leaflet listing the regulations for women under Islamist rule now lies in dirt here at the tribunal in Timbuktu. Rule No. 1: The veil should cover the entire body. Rule No. 4: The veil cannot be colored. And Rule No. 8: The woman should not perfume herself after putting on the all-enveloping fabric.

Any of those rules or other rules broken? 95 lashes.

Several days after French special forces parachuted in and liberated this storied city, there is a growing sense of freedom. Though in the houses immediately facing the Islamic tribunal, many of the 8- and 9-year-old girls are still wearing the head covering.

“It is out of fear of the Islamists that they still wear this, says Diahara Adjanga, the mother of one girl said Thursday.”They hit everyone — even children.”

That’s what they do – they hit everyone. Meaning of life, to them. Impose hateful life-denying rules on everyone and especially on women, and hit everyone who “disobeys” no matter how trivially. A strand of hair escapes? WHAM.

Fatouma Traore, 21, said that there was one commander who was especially brutal to the women in Timbuktu.

“We don’t want the army to catch him. It’s the women who want to arrest him so that we can kill him ourselves. …  Even if you’re talking to your own blood brother on the stoop of your house, they hit you. Even if you are wearing the veil, and it happens to slip off, they hit you. This man, Ahmed Moussa, he made life miserable for women. Even an old grandmother if she’s not covered up, he would hit her.”

She picks up her 1-year-old niece and hoists her on one hip, saying: “We even bought a veil for this baby.”

I hope she gets over the wanting to kill him part, but I can see where it comes from.


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

Intuitive heuristics

Feb 1st, 2013 11:19 am | By

Daniel Kahneman explains that there is such a thing as the affect heuristic,

where judgments and decisions are guided directly by feelings of liking and disliking, with little deliberation or reasoning.

The example he had just given was the chief investment officer of a large financial firm, who told Kahneman he had just invested tens of millions of dollars in the stock of Ford Motor Company. Why? He’d gone to an automobile show and been impressed by Ford cars. “Wo, good cars!” Yes but that’s not the relevant question. The relevant question is whether the stock is currently underpriced.

The cio did an affect heuristic thing – which is pretty funny, really, given his job. But the thing is, Kahneman explains, the relevant question is more work to answer correctly than the irrelevant one.

When the question is difficult and a skilled solution is not available, intuition still has a shot: an answer may come to mind quickly – but it is not an answer to the original question. The question that the executive faced (should I invest in Ford stock?) was difficult, but the answer to an easier and related question (do I like Ford cars?) came readily to his mind and determined his choice. This is the essence of intuitive heuristics: when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution.

Thinking, Fast and Slow p 12

I love that final half-sentence. I’m going to set it off by itself so that we can admire it in all its glory.

when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution.




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

It’s charisma

Jan 31st, 2013 4:46 pm | By

Some grey bloke did a nice video last October. I may have already posted it but never mind, here it is again.

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

Remembering Chaucer

Jan 31st, 2013 11:43 am | By

Coming up this week at the Tate Modern:

a major performance-art event conceived and curated by US artist Suzanne Lacy. Silver Action will see 400 women aged 60 and over – who have taken part in some of the last century’s major political protests, from the 1968 Ford sewing machinists’ strike to Greenham Common – converge on the gallery’s subterranean performance space, the Tanks, for a live, unscripted performance about ageing and activism.

Why? Well one reason is…

One evening a couple of years ago, 82-year-old Barbara Robson was crammed in a rush-hour London tube train. Politely, she asked a young man near her, smart in his suit and tie, if he might move along a little. “He turned to me,” she says, “and told me that, as an old woman, I was a total waste of space. I felt so wounded I could hardly speak.”

I suspect that young man was raised chiefly by the internet. There are a lot of things I like about the internet, but dapper young men who feel cheerfully free to tell old women they should be dead – they are not one of those things.

Lacy’s central aim is to challenge preconceptions about older women. “There’s a very large public conversation now about resources,” she says, “and what to do with an ageing population. Because women live longer, that will impact them more than men. I’m trying to shift the discourse away from one of isolation and increasing frailty: we should see older women as an amazing resource – not just talk about them taking resources.”

Robson, a mental health activist, is certainly excited about Silver Action’s potential to change the way she feels about growing older. Along with 13 other women who will be taking part, I meet her at a workshop at Tate Modern, arranged to stimulate the conversations volunteers will have on the day, and compile a timeline of significant events they’ve been involved in. “This feels like such an important thing to be a part of,” she tells me. “Every day I feel invisible – this is a way to feel less so.”

And you know, there are actually some good things about being ancient. Having a bigger personal frame of historical reference is one. Overall accumulation – mental accumulation, I mean – is another.

H/t Maureen Brian.

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

Always a horrible waste

Jan 31st, 2013 10:16 am | By

What a waste. What a horrible waste.

Less than two weeks ago, Hadiya Pendleton was leading her classmates in the King College Prep School Marching Band down Pennsylvania Avenue on the afternoon of President Obama’s second inauguration. It would be an opportunity of a lifetime for any 15 year old, but for Pendleton, it was her last. On Tuesday, she was gunned down in a park a few blocks from school on the South Side of Chicago, less than a mile from the first family’s home.

It’s always a horrible waste and it happens way too much. As I said at the time, the children at Newtown are no more (or less) of a waste because there was a larger than usual number of them for a single event. There are way too many Hadiya Pendletons in Chicago.

And there’s the school bus driver in Alabama who did his best to prevent a guy with a gun from causing harm to the children on the bus and was shot and killed.

Charles Albert Poland Jr., was driving a school bus for the Dale County Board of Education on Tuesday afternoon, a job he had done full-time since 2009.

At about 3:40 p.m. a gun-wielding man boarded the bus carrying 22 students near Destiny Church on Highway 231.

The suspect, identified to NBC News by a source close to the investigation as area resident Jimmy Lee Dykes, tried to take children off the bus — but the 66-year-old Poland was determined to not let that happen.

For his heroism, the driver was shot and killed.


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

Rushdie the radfem

Jan 31st, 2013 6:08 am | By

Salman Rushdie’s in India and he talked to the BBC there. I transcribed most of it.

The bigger question India needs to ask itself is about gender relations, is about how men think about women, and actually to an extent how women think about women because again there’s a lot of oppression inside families by matriarchs of daughters-in-law.

And many women bring up these boys, you know? And don’t teach them proper ways to behave.

Rajini Vaidyanathan: What appals you the most about the way women are treated here?

Well just the brutality of it, the easy brutality of it, and the fact that mostly people get away with it.

It’s nothing to do with what clothes they wear, with whether they go out in the evening – it’s to do with the way men behave towards them.

He cited the disppointing reaction from politicians, gurus, the police.

Unless these attitudes change – and I think young people have to demand that they change -

Vaidyanathan: What would your recommendation be?

Well first you’ve got to start talking about it the right way. You’ve got to stop criminalizing women in this situation and shift the focus to how men think about women.

You’ve got to start changing the terms of the conversation.

He’s talking about culture, ideas, discourse – what confused people label “radical” feminism. It’s not radical. It’s core feminism.


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

Everyday sexism at the Beeb

Jan 31st, 2013 5:31 am | By

BBC World does a thing where it reads a proverb as a little filler item. Yesterday’s proverb – which is currently visible on its Africa page – is a charmer.

Today’s African Proverb

“He who never saw his mother while she was young thinks his father wasted the dowry”

A Maragoli proverb from Western Kenya sent by H Essendi, Southampton, UK

Good choice. Well done, BBC.

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

Grievance 1: your face bruising my fist

Jan 30th, 2013 4:27 pm | By

Lee Moore is hoping for a cease fire.

I think a cease fire could be possible, since I haven’t been firing except when attacked. That makes it easy to agree to a cease fire. Do I want to write about Reap Paden and Atheist Asshole all the time? Fuck no. Of course not. If they would leave me the hell alone I would be delighted to forget all about them.

But Lee wants more than just a cease fire.

I am going to do something about it.  In order to facilitate this I am calling for representatives from both camps in these blog wars to sit down with me in what may be the first of many live and public google hangouts to discuss grievances and come back to the world of civil discussion and cooperation.  I am also asking for an end to the attacks from both sides as a show of good faith (and not the faith of the religious, but the faith that all atheists share: faith in ourselves—in our humanity and our ability to work together to create a more rational, understanding society).

So I invite you—no, I implore you—to join us in our campaign for cooperation.

If you are interested in being a part of these talks please contact me at

Yeah no. Cease fire, hell yes: be my guest. To discuss grievances, hell no. What “grievance” does franc hoggle or any of the rest of them have against me? That I’m ugly and disgusting and should be made to shut up? Yeah I’m not discussing grievances like that.

But don’t let me be a party pooper. If you want to do a google hangout to discuss Reap Paden’s grievance that I eat cat food, knock yourselves out.

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