Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

Cross at the crosswalk

Jul 26th, 2011 4:05 pm | By

Transportation for America has Raquel Nelson on the Today show yesterday. It’s very hard to watch, but worth watching. She’s impressive, and obviously not just some giddy irresponsible parent dragging her children into traffic because she can’t be bothered to walk down the block to the intersection.

It also has a guy called Ken Edelstein of Green Building Chronicle in Atlanta showing us the bus stop, the street, how far away the intersection with traffic lights is, how obvious it is that the bus stop is there for the apartment complex, how people who live there never go to the intersection to cross, how like a highway the street is, how heavy the traffic is and how fast it goes, and, above all, how infuriatingly tiny the strip of concrete in the middle is. I don’t have a car; I use public transportation; I’ve crossed busy suburban roads and stood on strips of concrete between two rivers of traffic hoping no bits of me were sticking out as the cars flashed past. I thought of standing on that thing with shopping bags hanging off my arms and three children – not because I wanted to but because it was getting dark and walking back from that distant intersection in the dark would also be dangerous – and I shuddered.

It’s an insult. It’s as if human beings are trespassing on the property of automobiles. It’s as if human beings are worms and cars are gods.

By way of more insult, Cobb County transport put a big sign in the bus shelter saying CCT Cares – oh right! – and be safe and cross at the crosswalk. Cross at what crosswalk?! There is no fucking crosswalk! “Cross at the crosswalk five miles from here.” What the hell is the point of that? People need buses to take them where they’re going, not 3/10 of a mile down the road and then 3/10 of a mile back up the other side.

It makes me angry. It’s typically American and brutal and it makes me angry.

Green Building Chronicle thinks just maybe CCT will be sued.

Trying to survive in Bachmann’s district

Jul 26th, 2011 12:17 pm | By

How ugly.

Over the past two years, a total of nine teenagers have committed suicide in a Minnesota school district represented by Rep. Michele Bachmann—the latest in May—and many more students have attempted to take their lives. State public health officials have labeled the area a “suicide contagion area” because of the unusually high death rate.

Some of the victims were gay, or perceived to be by their classmates, and many were reportedly bullied. And the anti-gay activists who are some of the congresswoman’s closest allies stand accused of blocking an effective response to the crisis and fostering a climate of intolerance that allowed bullying to flourish.

Teachers and counselors in the district, as well as civil rights activists, say that Bachmann’s closest allies like the MFC have helped create a vitriolic climate in the wake of the teen suicides in the Anoka-Hennepin area that may have hampered the community’s ability to effectively address what was, at root, a serious mental health crisis. Following the deaths and the publicity about bullying and anti-gay sentiments, the school district became inflamed with nasty infighting over whether promoting anti-bullying efforts was simply a cover for advancing the homosexual agenda in schools.

That seems to be what the extra-pious are good at – coming up with pointless reasons to treat some people as Evil-Other and then persecute them.

The anti-gay climate in the schools in Bachmann’s district has been so extreme that it has attracted the attention of the Justice Department and the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which are both investigating allegations of anti-gay bullying.

Ugly. Cruel. Pointless. Reasonless.

Fun with names

Jul 25th, 2011 12:28 pm | By

How to get more traffic on your blog…write about elevator guy. Ha! That’s a good one. That’s a real thigh-slapper.

Steve Caldwell makes a different suggestion.

Apparently, the secret for a successful website (aka “blog”) is misspelling a person’s last name so the misspelled name includes a slang term for female genitalia.

That will get one over 1240 comments …

Quite, with the addendum that as of this moment the count is 1283. What fun all this would have been if Watson had had a couple of confederates, Rachel Unt and Rosalind Ussy. But then again what if the confederates had been named Rachel Igger and Rosalind Pade? Would the count have been higher, or lower, or the same?

Let them eat bus transfers

Jul 25th, 2011 11:53 am | By

Punishing people for not having a car. Prosecuting people for not driving. Teaching a lesson to pedestrians and bus-takers.

Nelson, 30 and African-American, was convicted on the charge this week by six jurors who were not her peers: All were middle-class whites, and none had ever taken a bus in metro Atlanta. In other words, none had ever been in Nelson’s shoes:

They had never taken two buses to go grocery shopping at Wal-Mart with three kids in tow. They had never missed a transfer on the way home that caused them to wait a full hour-and-a-half with tired and hungry kids for the next bus. They had never been let off at a bus stop on a five-lane speedway, with their apartment in sight across the road, and been asked to drag those three little ones an additional half-mile-plus down the road to the nearest traffic signal and back in order to get home at last.

They apparently operate on the assumption that responsible people have cars and people who don’t have cars are irresponsible and reckless.

Why is this familiar?

Because we saw the same damn thing just before and during and after Hurricane Katrina. I remember it vividly – that Sunday afternoon, the day before Katrina hit, the news was full of warnings about the hurricane and officials saying urgently, “Everyone get in your cars immediately and get out of New Orleans”…with no mention of what people who didn’t have cars were supposed to do. I remember fuming and ranting about that on Sunday; fuming and ranting that nobody in charge even seemed to have formed the idea that some people actually don’t own cars and that perhaps they should not just be abandoned to drown. I ranted and fumed a lot more in the days that followed, as lots of people fumed and ranted about the reckless irresponsible fools who stayed in New Orleans, overlooking the fact that most of them had no way to get out.

What about the highway designers, traffic engineers, transit planners and land use regulators who allowed a bus stop to be placed so far from a signal and made no other provision for a safe crossing; who allowed – even encouraged, with wide, straight lanes – prevailing speeds of 50-plus on a road flanked by houses and apartments; who carved a fifth lane out of a wider median that could have provided more of a safe refuge for pedestrians; who designed the entire landscape to be hostile to people trying to get to work and groceries despite having no access to a car?

What indeed.

Let’s send all the victims to jail! That’ll teach them

Jul 24th, 2011 2:50 pm | By


On April 10, 2010, Raquel Nelson lost her 4-year-old son. Nelson was crossing a busy Marietta, Georgia, street with her son and his two siblings when they were struck by a hit-and-run driver. Police were able to track down the driver, Jerry Guy, who later admitted he had been drinking and had taken painkillers the night of the accident. He was also mostly blind in one eye.  Guy had already been convicted of two prior hit-and-runs. He pleaded guilty, served six months of his five-year sentence, and was released last October.

…Last week Nelson herself was convicted on three charges related to her son’s death: reckless conduct, improperly crossing a roadway and second-degree homicide by vehicle. Each is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in prison. Nelson could spend up to six times as many months in jail as the man who struck her son and then fled the scene. Nelson’s crime: jaywalking.

“Jaywalking” – because the bus stop is on the other side of a busy street from Nelson’s apartment building, and there is no crosswalk nearby, so people who get off the bus at that stop cross outside a crosswalk, in other words they “jaywalk.”

And then they get prosecuted for it, and convicted (by people who never take the bus). The rich hate the poor; whites hate blacks; everybody hates women.


There’s a petition you can sign if you want to. It asks the judge not to send Nelson to jail.

Rebecca gives some helpful advice

Jul 23rd, 2011 3:35 pm | By

Seen Rebecca’s dating advice? I think it’s pretty damn funny, and apposite. More apposite than I’d like it to be.

I don’t exactly see myself on either “team,” to the extent that there are two “teams.” I don’t think absolutely every single thing said and done on either side is 100% correct and perfect and right, so I’m not really on either “team” if that’s what it takes. But I don’t suppose anybody on either “team” really thinks either “team” is 100% correct and perfect and right any more than I do, so maybe that’s not what it takes.

At any rate I’m not on any team that calls Rebecca “Twatson” or thinks that her dating advice is a reason to declare that she’s a fucking bitch. And I think her dating advice is funny.

Someone did a transcript there, so I’ll give you a couple of highlights in case you don’t have time to watch it right now.

And I just wanted to, ah, to address some of the questions you’ve all had.  Um, I don’t really have a lot of time right now, but I thought I would just address the one BIG question, (serious look) the one that I keep seeing over and over and over again.  Which is something along these lines:  “I’m a man, and I don’t see, uh, the PROBLEM, in cornering a woman in an elevator and inviting her back to my room, despite the fact that she said she’s tired and going to bed, despite the fact that she said she didn’t want to be hit on (shrug) and, despite the fact that I’ve never talked to her before;  I don’t see a problem with the situation.  So if you say I can’t do THAT, then, HOW can I possibly get laid?”

And (headshake) the answer to that, is that… you probably can’t.  (wry look)  You probably can’t get laid.  Because, I think most normal people see that situation, and they realize “Oh okay, yeah, that’s not an appropriate time to, uh, ask a woman to come back to my hotel room.”  And those of you who didn’t see that right away, y’know, there’s another subset of normal people, who said “Oh, well, it didn’t occur to me that that would be seen as creepy or weird or undesirable.  So thank you for pointing it out; I will not do that in the future.”  So y’know, most normal people get that, and they can then go forward and flirt with members of the opposite sex in a normal manner that may or may not result in sex for them.

But y’know, those of you who are asking that question obviously can’t do that.  So, I would recommend that you look at OTHER ways to maybe get your rocks off.  Like, I dunno, maybe one of those dolls?   They, they sell those… (indicates vague shape, wry-faced)  They’re kind of expensive I think, I dunno, I’ve never priced one myself, but I’ve seen a documentary on it, and they’re really… They’re LIFELIKE, but… their mouths are only used for sucking (pinchy hand gesture and chuckle)  y’know, so no worries about them… very calmly… giving you advice on how to approach a woman or how not to approach a woman.

When I was a zookeeper, I had a folksy supervisor who hailed from Oklahoma. One day he remarked apropos of I forget what, “I have the kind of luck that if somebody cut a woman in half and gave me half, I’d get the half that talks.” Rebecca’s joke is kind of like that…except that hers is funny. Her delivery is funny, too. She’s good at the wry deadpan thing.

Y’know, the point of me uploading the video previously wasn’t necessarily to GIVE sex advice, but to give advice on how we, as a community, might go about making our community a more inviting one to women.  But, a lot of you just have no interest in that (headshake)… you just wanted the sex advice.  So there it is, my advice to you is to buy one of those really expensive dolls, and… fuck that!  (smile)  So I hope that helps.  Thank you again to everybody who’s commented.  I haven’t really read any of them, in the past, uh, few weeks, but hey!  Keep it up, because you seem to… You seem to really enjoy it.  (warm smile) So, thanks.

Judith Martin herself couldn’t have done it better.

Starve the beast

Jul 22nd, 2011 4:41 pm | By

How to do gummint.

In the world according to ALEC, competing firms in free markets are the only real source of social efficiency and wealth. Government contributes nothing but security. Outside of this function, it should be demonized, starved or privatized. Any force in civil society, especially labor, that contests the right of business to grab all social surplus for itself, and to treat people like roadkill and the earth like a sewer, should be crushed.

Because, the national chairman of ALEC explained on Fresh Air yesterday, creating jobs isn’t the job of government; corporations are the ones that create jobs.

O rilly? I thought what corporations did was cut jobs as much as they possibly could without cutting production. I thought the job of corporations was not to create jobs but to make lotsa money for the shareholders. I thought one favored way of doing this was cutting labor costs. Jobs are all very well, but if they don’t pay anything, they tend to be more trouble than they’re worth. (I should know; I don’t get paid anything; but then I don’t call what I “do” a “job.”)

Well anyway. The Republican are determined to push us all off a cliff, so none of it matters. In a couple of weeks everybody except the very rich will be penniless. Whatevs.

To write business-friendly legislation

Jul 22nd, 2011 3:58 pm | By

How cozy.

ALEC is a critical arm of the right-wing network of policy shops that, with infusions of corporate cash, has evolved to shape American politics…ALEC’s model legislation reflects long-term goals: downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account. Corporate donors retain veto power over the language, which is developed by the secretive task forces. The task forces cover issues from education to health policy. ALEC’s priorities for the 2011 session included bills to privatize education, break unions, deregulate major industries, pass voter ID laws and more.

Corporations “helping” state legislators to craft legislation, in short. What a fantastic arrangement.

“Dozens of corporations are investing millions of dollars a year to write business-friendly legislation that is being made into law in statehouses coast to coast, with no regard for the public interest,” says Bob Edgar of Common Cause. “This is proof positive of the depth and scope of the corporate reach into our democratic processes.”

Check out ALEC exposed, and grind your teeth.

Ireland wakes up

Jul 21st, 2011 4:36 pm | By

The Taoiseach lets fly:

…for the first time in this country a report on child sexual abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago.  In doing so the report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection and elitism that dominates the culture of the Vatican to this day.  The rape and torture of children were down-played or managed to uphold the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and reputation.  Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal with St. Benedict’s “ear of the heart”, the Vatican’s reaction was to parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a Canon lawyer.

Music. And there’s more.

Clericalism has rendered some of Ireland’s brightest and most privileged and powerful men either unwilling or unable to address the horrors cited in the Ryan and Murphy reports.  This Roman clericalism must be devastating for good priests, some of them old, others struggling to keep their humanity, even their sanity, as they work hard to be the keepers of the church’s light and goodness within their parishes, communities and the condition of the human heart.  Thankfully for them and us, this is not Rome.  Nor is it industrial school or Magdalene Ireland, where the swish of a soutane, smothered conscience and humanity and the swing of a thurible ruled the Irish Catholic world.  This is the Republic of Ireland in 2011.  It is a republic of laws, rights and responsibilities and proper civic order where the delinquency and arrogance of a particular version of a particular kind of morality will no longer be tolerated or ignored.

Later on, Deputy Dara Calleary speaks up:

It is exactly one week since the publication of the report by the Government and the Vatican has yet to issue a formal response.  Its only response was through a spokesman this morning who, in a personal capacity, said there was noting in the advice given by the nuncio in 1997 to encourage bishops to break Irish laws.  He said the Vatican’s advice on child protection policies could not be interpreted as an invitation to cover up abuse.  Does the Vatican take us, the people of Ireland, for fools?

This is the most damning line.  There is no indication of any concern on the part of Vatican for the children who were abused.  While the Vatican authorities might not have encouraged bishops to break the laws, they encouraged them to put the reputation of the church before the protection of children.  They were more worried about embarrassment than the damage of abuse.  In how many other dioceses did the Vatican interfere in the manner it did in Cloyne?

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:

How many inquiries do we have to go through before real action is taken on this dreadful neglect?

The Papal Nuncio refused to answer queries from a commission of inquiry and claimed diplomatic immunity.  The same Papal Nuncio still has the role of issuing Vatican instructions to the bishops in this country.  I expect that if a school system operated and directly controlled by a third party state in Ireland consistently failed to report allegations of child sexual abuse against its teachers and ancillary employees to the Garda, that state’s ambassador would be required to answer questions.  If he or she failed to do so, he or she would be asked to leave.  The church is not above the law and it is high time it stopped thinking it was.  Fr. Federico Lombardi may claim his recent remarks were made in a personal capacity, but this is the disingenuous double-speak that must come to an end.

Bishop John Magee had no interest in protecting the children of Cloyne and fobbed off his responsibility to Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan who equally had no interest in reporting the abuse of children to the authorities.  Bishop John Magee actively and knowingly lied to the Government, the health service and the Garda.  He concealed information on the crimes committed by the priests in his diocese.  He actively engaged in the reckless and, at times, wilful endangerment of children.

And there’s much more. It’s good reading.

Another bad idea

Jul 21st, 2011 4:09 pm | By

A couple of prominent rabbis were briefly held for questioning in Jerusalem recently.

Rabbis Dov Lior and Yacob Yousef had endorsed a highly controversial book, the King’s Torah – written by two lesser-known settler rabbis. It justifies killing non-Jews, including those not involved in violence, under certain circumstances.

The fifth chapter, entitled “Murder of non-Jews in a time of war” has been widely quoted in the Israeli media. The summary states that “you can kill those who are not supporting or encouraging murder in order to save the lives of Jews”.

At one point it suggests that babies can justifiably be killed if it is clear they will grow up to pose a threat.

How would that be “clear,” one wonders? Under what circumstances could that ever be clear? How could it ever be “clear” that existing enmities and conflicts will be unchanged in 15 or 20 years? Even hideously intractable ones like that over Israel.

Preventive murder as a religious principle…let’s not.

Grothe makes diversity a priority

Jul 20th, 2011 6:19 pm | By

This is funny/interesting. From Jennifer Ouellette’s piece on the cold climate for women among atheists and skeptics:

Foster top-down change. Leadership, especially male leadership, needs to set the tone for what is and is not acceptable in a community…

JREF president DJ Grothe did just that when, a few days before TAM9, he openly addressed the rift caused by “Elevatorgate” and made it clear that unwanted sexual advances or other harassing behavior were unacceptable, and grounds for being ejected from the conference. Grothe also deserves credit for making diversity a priority in his selection of speakers and topic. That’s the mark of a true leader, and the JREF is lucky to have him.

What’s funny/interesting about that is that I briefly talked about the subject with DJ right here, four years ago, after I’d spent a couple of weeks at CFI in Amherst. I pointed out what a boys’ club it was (and it certainly was) and DJ commented to say yes it is, and he was always trying to improve the situation.

(Also funny/interesting, given that, that he’s never invited me to talk at TAM. Then again maybe it’s not; I’m probably just boring.)

(I did a talk last night [or rather a reading] and I was certainly boring then, but then they forgot to give me the dinner they’d promised [and because of which I hadn't already eaten an early dinner] or anything to drink other than water in a plastic cup plus it was dark plus it was noisy, because in a bar. You’d be boring too with all that.)

Ah yes, I found it. Leaving Amherst.

I tell you what though: it is a boys’ club. I’m sorry to say that, but it is. (You know it is, you CfI people, if any of you are reading this. Look up the hall, look down the hall; look up and down the other hall; you know what you see. Consider, and repent.) That’s probably not entirely its fault though: on average women seem not to be as interested in this kind of thing as men are. I find that highly irritating, and also all the more reason for me to remain very interested, and to redouble my efforts to annoy everyone within hearing on the subject. If there are fewer women, then the women there are have to be all the more noisy and obstreperous.

That was then. There are more women now. Or the same number but they’re more noisy and obstreperous. Or some of both.

Here’s DJ’s brief comment. Little did we (at least I) know then…

I think youre absolutely right about it being a boy’s club, Ophelia. For what it is worth, in my time here, five of the six employees I have hired are females, but that is a drop in the bucket in this place.

Yep. It really was very male.

What was that we were saying about sexist epithets? Five years ago?

Jul 20th, 2011 5:11 pm | By

Dear oh dear. The slow-motion train wreck lumbers on its way, tumbling down the slope uprooting trees and squashing goats.

Apparently this move has been in the works for a long time, with Camp Quest.  Apparently before Twatson fell down and threw a temper tantrum and demanded everyone kiss her invisible boo-boo.

If you search for “twatson” on that post there are currently 58 matches, with the number of comments at 519. Including

How could I think that this was in the works for a while, AND think that this was in response to Twatson and the Bitch Brigade?


“Beatified” statue “funding issue” “solved”

Jul 19th, 2011 12:26 pm | By

The BBC, not to be outdone, jumps eagerly into the god-hugging pool, reporting joyfully that Birmingham city council has fixed a “funding shortfall” by spending public money on a hideous tin-foil statue of a local-boy-makes-good “saint.”

A funding shortfall to pay for a work of art to celebrate the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Birmingham has been met by the city council.

The sculpture of the Blessed John Henry Newman was commissioned by the
authority, to mark the visit last year.

It was hoped public donations would pay for the statue of the Victorian
clergyman who was beatified by the Pope in a special Mass.

But they didn’t, which is not surprising if you look at it, so the council spent public money on it instead, to the tune of £25,000.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter Shadwell

Jul 19th, 2011 9:16 am | By

Holy shit.

More extremist posters have been discovered in the East London borough of Tower Hamlets.

It is understood the posters were found last Thursday morning at council-managed housing blocks in Shadwell, next to the DLR and Overground station.

They state: “You are entering a Shariah controlled zone. Islamic rules enforced.”

Underneath, images declare that smoking, alcohol, music, drugs, prostitution and porn are forbidden.

In other words, good morning, the Taliban has arrived in Shadwell. If you live here, your life is now hell. Have a nice day.

Islamic preacher Anjem Choudary, who said in 2008 that gays should be stoned to death, has claimed responsibility for the campaign.

Ah. Well that’s a relief. If it’s true, that means it’s just one loon as opposed to a group; a Taliban of one. Choudary seems to be a “preacher” who preaches to no one in particular; one who has, in short, no followers.

Still. It’s not one of London’s pleasanter features.

Two possible apologies for the archbishop

Jul 18th, 2011 3:31 pm | By

Guest post by Patrick O’Malley.

I wrote 2 apologies for the Archbishop in Ireland, who is preparing to give an apology after the scathing Cloyne report, which showed that in 2011 the Catholic church continues to be criminally negligent about clergy child sex. Both apologies are completely honest, so they are inadmissible in today’s Catholic church:

1) Let’s be honest. We don’t care. A few of our priests raped your kids. We don’t care. It’s a nuisance. They’re only kids. Let’s get back to fighting women priests, condoms, and gays, and fixing everyone else in this world. Now shut up, go home, and don’t bring this up again. God bless, fools.

2) I’m so embarrassed to be a Catholic priest today. We raped tens of thousands of children. We hid the truth. We lied about it. We ignored the children. I am so sick to my stomach about how we disgraced God, that I can’t forgive myself or anyone else in the Catholic church. For the future of the church, we have all decided to resign.

Pope Benedict decided that the only way to save the church was to have us all resign. Today. We are going to use church money to enact laws to force all of us to be put in jail for the rest of our lives. Benedict (who has dropped the title Pope, effective immediately) is knocking on the door of a jail today asking to be put in the general population. The rest of us think that the only way for God to save our souls after the way we’ve disgraced the church is to spend the rest of our lives trying to save the souls of prisoners, the worst people on earth. I’ve cried all day about the fact that we didn’t try to save the souls of the best people on earth – the poor, innocent children that we raped.

We have hired financial people to sell all of our churches and to purchase replacement buildings that are smaller and cheaper. We have invested well – we’re going to make a ton of money. Half will be set up in an open account for therapy for victims of child rape. If you were raped by a priest, go to therapy any time. We’ll pay. We are so sorry for what we’ve put you through. If you weren’t raped by a priest and go anyway, we’ll pay. That’s part of our Christian contribution to show the world how sorry we are. We never earned that money, and we hope the parishioners think it’s a good investment in the future.

The other half of the money will go to cure hunger. We’re crying that we didn’t think of this earlier. Children around the world are dying because they can’t eat, and we are in buildings that are so expensive, that we could have fed them by trading down. We’re finally doing it. We also promise that all current priests will never eat more than the most underfed person on earth.

We’re hoping we don’t go to hell for taking so long, and letting so many children suffer.

For whoever continues the church, it’s actually so simple – please follow the 10 Commandments, and do What Jesus Would Do. If any of us had done that, none of this would have happened. Forget the importance of money. It works out God doesn’t care about money.

We’re so sorry we have disgraced you, and set such a horrible example for you, and we are mortally sorry we have disgraced God. God bless you. We were fools.

Twentieth Century Vole

Jul 17th, 2011 4:45 pm | By

Christopher Shea on Patricia Churchland.

“It all changed when I learned about the prairie voles,” she says—surely not a phrase John Rawls ever uttered.

She told the story at the natural-history museum, in late March. Montane voles and prairie voles are so similar “that naifs like me can’t tell them apart,” she told a standing-room-only audience (younger and hipper than the museum’s usual patrons—the word “neuroscience” these days is like catnip). But prairie voles mate for life, and montane voles do not. Among prairie voles, the males not only share parenting duties, they will even lick and nurture pups that aren’t their own. By contrast, male montane voles do not actively parent even their own offspring. What accounts for the difference? Researchers have found that the prairie voles, the sociable ones, have greater numbers of oxytocin receptors in certain regions of the brain. (And prairie voles that have had their oxytocin receptors blocked will not pair-bond.)

Prairie voles. Oxytocin receptors. It’s not…this person is kind and generous while that person is cruel and ruthless. It’s oxytocin receptors. It is disconcerting. Shakespeare and Austen suddenly seem beside the point.

“As a philosopher, I was stunned,” Churchland said, archly. “I thought that monogamous pair-bonding was something one determined for oneself, with a high level of consideration and maybe some Kantian reasoning thrown in. It turns out it is mediated by biology in a very real way.”

Kant and Austen turn out to be beside the point.


The glorious golden city

Jul 16th, 2011 1:20 pm | By

Again a top cleric – excuse me, a “faith leader” – frankly admits that religion is the opposite of egalitarianism. Once again a “faith leader” (male, of course) admits that he and his religion consider equality legislation incompatible with “religious liberty.”

Seems a bit stupid, doesn’t it? To come right out and say that your religion is opposed to equality?

The “chief rabbi” said

I share a real concern that the attempt to impose the current prevailing template of equality and discrimination on religious organisations is an erosion of religious liberty.

We are beginning to move back to where we came in in the 17th century – a whole lot of people on the Mayflower leaving to find religious freedom elsewhere.

Some far distant land, populated only by funny little people who can be brushed aside, where they will be free to treat women and homosexuals like dirt. The city on a hill.

Another penny drops

Jul 16th, 2011 12:49 pm | By

Wait; what? Michael Ruse in the CHE:

There are days when, I swear to God, I am all set to enroll under the banner of Richard Dawkins and anathematize all religions and those who subscribe to them.  I take a lot of criticism from my fellow atheists, including my fellow Brainstormers, for arguing that science and religion are compatible.  I still think that, but increasingly I cannot for the life of me see why any decent human being would want to be religious, and increasingly I think one should be ashamed to be religious.

Increasingly? Increasingly?

What on earth took him so long? What’s different now? Why has he been yelling at us all this time just for being aware of what he is only just catching up to?

I asked him that; it will be interesting to see if he replies. I think he did reply to something I said on one of the Berlinerblau threads, but I’m not sure.

It’s really very odd though. What does he talk about as examples of this “increasingly”? The Cloyne report and the Toronto school that lets girls from Muslim backgrounds be shamed for menstruating at “prayers.” Well quite, but we’ve been talking about this kind of thing for years, while Ruse has been shouting at us for years, so what is different now? And, to repeat, what took him so long?

That’s all this piece says to me – wo, Michael Ruse finally notices the obvious. Yes, Professor Ruse; exactly; no kidding.


Jul 15th, 2011 11:34 am | By

Music, I tell you.

Ireland’s government demanded answers from the Vatican’s ambassador Thursday…

Gilmore and Prime Minister Enda Kenny accused the Vatican of violating Ireland’s sovereignty by instructing bishops in the letter that they should place the church’s laws above the nation’s…

“There’s one law in this country. Everybody is going to have to learn to comply with it. The Vatican will have to comply with the laws of this country,” Gilmore said after his face-to-face grilling of the ambassador, a rare experience for the pope’s diplomats anywhere, let alone long-deferential Ireland.

Exactly why it’s music. It’s about fucking time. The pervasive deference to the Vatican – by no means just in Ireland – is ridiculous and appalling.

Kenny, who didn’t attend the meeting with the Vatican diplomat, said his
government soon would make it a crime to withhold evidence of child abuse from the police. He specified this would include any information a priest received during the sacrament of confession.

“The law of the land should not be stopped by a crozier or a collar,” Kenny


Kenny called the Vatican’s written intervention — first revealed in full by The Associated Press six months ago — “absolutely disgraceful.”

Irish leaders had sought formal Vatican approval. Instead the Vatican’s then-ambassador, the late Archbishop Luciano Storero, warned Irish bishops that a powerful church body, the Congregation for the Clergy, had ruled that such mandatory reporting of abuse claims to civil authorities conflicted with canon law.

Storero wrote that the Irish policy had the status of “merely a study document,” while the new Irish policy of making the reporting of suspected crimes mandatory “gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and canonical nature.”

He wrote that canon law, which required abuse allegations and punishments to be handled within the church, “must be meticulously followed.” Any bishops who tried to impose punishments outside the confines of canon law would face the “highly embarrassing” position of having their actions overturned on appeal in Rome.

In other words the Vatican “ambassador” to Ireland ordered Irish clerics to disobey Irish law.

A former altar boy, Andrew Madden, was first to go public with his lawsuit against the Dublin Archdiocese, which had tried to settle the claim in quiet.

Madden offered one possible solution Thursday to the church’s difficulty in choosing between Ireland’s laws and its own, which still do not make explicit the need to report suspected child-abuse crimes to police.

“If the bishops want to live by canon law,” he said, “they should take themselves off to the Vatican and live there.”


That’s more like it

Jul 14th, 2011 4:09 pm | By

The Irish state getting properly angry at last.

Ireland’s foreign minister summoned the country’s papal nuncio and demanded that the Vatican give a formal response to the Cloyne Report into the mishandling of clerical abuse.

That’s the stuff. Summoned; demanded.

The Cloyne Report said the Vatican, through its opposition to the Irish bishops’ 1996 guidelines for handling child sexual abuse, gave comfort to dissenters within the church who did not want to implement the procedures. In a letter to the bishops, the Congregation for Clergy described the rules as “merely a study document” and refused to give the document formal recognition.

Gilmore said the Vatican intervention was “absolutely unacceptable” and “inappropriate.” He said he had told Archbishop Leanza that an explanation and response were required as to why the Vatican had told priests and bishops they could undermine the rules.

That’s the ticket. Absolutely unacceptable; explanation required.

Responding to journalists’ queries, Gilmore said: “I want to know why this
state, with which we have diplomatic relations, issued a communication, the
effect of which was that very serious matter of the abuse of children in this
country was not reported to the authorities.”

Damn right! Finally.