Notes and Comment Blog

Drawn to what they imagine

Dec 19th, 2014 10:35 am | By

Mark Oppenheimer has an article in the Atlantic piquantly titled The Zen Predator of the Upper East Side.

Eido Shimano is the founder of the contemporary Zen Buddhist network in the US. One night in 2010 a student at Dai Bosatsu, Shimano’s rural branch of the Zen Studies Society, stood up at the end of dinner and gave a rambling speech about secrecy, shame, and the need for openness.

Fred Forsyth, an artist who now lives in New York City, remembered that her speech “was very long, and she had clearly been preparing it.” She spoke of “authority” and “power,” and how she was “secretly in a relationship” with someone who wielded much more power than she did. As Daphna spoke, Forsyth realized that his fears were being confirmed. It was clear that Daphna was describing a prolonged sexual affair with Eido Shimano, who was sitting right there. A monk named Bonnie Shoultz recalled that Daphna was particularly upset that she’d had to keep the affair secret, for close to two years.

And she wasn’t the only one.

Daphna’s allegations, it turned out, were not the first hints that Shimano wasn’t the man his followers hoped he was, and that the world he had built was not what it seemed. One week earlier, the Zen Studies Society board had met to discuss allegations of several decades of sexual impropriety, allegations that had surfaced on the Internet.

The Internet!? Well then obviously they were false. True allegations are made only to the police, never on the Internet.

The charges were damning, and well sourced, and Shimano had not denied them. The board had drafted a new set of ethical guidelines, the text of which included an acknowledgment of past indiscretions by Shimano. The hope had been that this new ethics statement would resolve the online rumors, which largely referred to events many years in the past. But news of this more recent affair spread quickly, and it forced prompt action. On July 19, 2010, Shimano resigned from the board of the Zen Studies Society and said that he would step down as abbot in 2012.

Oh. So it turns out that allegations of sexual predation can be taken seriously even without police involvement. How astonishing.

But in early August 2010, I got an get e-mails from a member of the sanghawho believed that Shimano’s phased retirement, with attendant honors, dinners, and valedictory speeches, would only keep forestall the necessary healing in the sangha.

Because if the phased retirement goes with heaps of honors and flattery, then there’s no real acknowledgement of the harm done. This is always the problem when people who do harm don’t acknowledge the harm they’ve done.

This member hoped that, as a journalist who covered religion, I would tell the world about Shimano’s behavior. On August 20, 2010, I wrote an article for The New York Times in which I described the online allegations, recounted Daphna’s bombshell at Dai Bosatsu, and quoted several sources discussing the board’s deliberations. My article seemed to hasten Shimano’s departure: on September 7, he announced in a letter that rather than waiting until 2012, he would step down as abbot at the end of the year.

But he’s fighting back.

…he is currently suing his old society for the pension that he says he is owed, but which the society’s new leadership says he forfeited with his decades of bad behavior. In response to those charges, Shimano is arguing that, first, he was never the womanizer that he is alleged to be, and second, even if he was, that is no grounds to void his contract. According to Shimano, sex with students is not a violation of Buddhist precepts. By sleeping with a student, he now says, he might have been doing her a favor.

Shimano’s defense, as outrageous as it may sound to some, is worth inspecting. Not because I side with Shimano, but because his views of sexuality are widely held in certain precincts of American Buddhism. In this country, we have learned the hard way that religiosity is no guarantor of morality. But many Americans still imagine that Buddhists are the good kind of religious people—or that they are not religious at all, just “spiritual.” Buddhists, they know, or think they know, do not have the Jewish, Christian, or Muslim beliefs in “dualism,” in good and evil; they are not censorious, always worried about sin and shame. Drawn to what they imagine is a kindler, gentler way of being, imported from a more pacific part of the world, Buddhists themselves, confronted with the worst things a teacher can do, may choose to be willfully naive.

Which describes how this always goes. Drawn to what they imagine is a better, cleverer / funnier / wiser / more skeptical way of being, fans / followers / admirers themselves, confronted with the worst things a comedian / actor / football player / skeptic / atheist can do, may choose to be willfully naive.



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

Hold that pose

Dec 19th, 2014 8:33 am | By

Meet Fools Do Art.

His name is Chris.  His name is Francesco. They love recreating famous paintings. All of the painting remixes are done at the Squarespace office in NYC. The only rules are that all props must be things found in the office and all editing must be done on a phone (Android or iPhone). Enjoy!

Update: Must add the new one. H/t chigau.

The most recent one, dated December 17, is my favorite:

You can send them suggestions.

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

More poor Muslims than rich westerners

Dec 18th, 2014 6:17 pm | By

Oh look. Looky there. A headline on a Guardian Comment is Free post by Ben Doherty –

Pakistan attack reveals the truth about terrorism: it kills more poor Muslims than rich westerners

Golly gee, that’s exactly what I was saying in that post on Sunday that got so many people in such a (mostly fake) rage. How shockingly ideological to make that point! Why shouldn’t terrorism kill more poor Muslims than rich westerners? Why even mention it? It’s political correctness run mad.

Doherty commits the thought-crime all over again in the first paragraph. (Or, rather, he commits it too, since it was probably an editor who chose the title.)

Those who suffer most from Islamist extremism are not people in rich western nations, but other poor Muslims.

Shocking. He’s fighting class warfare by saying that. Shocking shocking.

But enough of that. His point is serious and of course it’s true. Nigeria all by itself is testimony to that, not to mention Syria and Iraq.

In 2012, there were 140 incidents of terrorism in the west. In 2013, that figure was more than 250, the increase driven by a sharp rise in attacks in Northern Ireland and Greece. Twelve people died.

But those figures are dwarfed by attacks outside the west.

In non-western countries, the increase was from 8,000 incidents in 2012 to more than 11,000 in 2013, the rise driven by continuing sectarian violence in Iraq and Pakistan, and deepening unrest in the Philippines and Egypt.

The number of non-western terrorism deaths in 2013 was over 22,000.

In November of this year, nearly 5,000 people died in Islamist fundamentalist terror attacks, the majority of those at the hands of Islamic State (Isis) or Boko Haram.

Just over half the dead were civilians, “the vast majority … Muslim,” the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation said.

The children and teachers murdered in Peshawar? It seems safe to assume they were mostly or all Muslims, culturally or observantly or anything in between. The “militants” are not there to fight for justice or equality.


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

The procedure involves slicing through the cartilage and ligaments

Dec 18th, 2014 5:36 pm | By

And speaking of doing horrible things to people…The Guardian reports another one of Ireland’s grim secrets.

“Mary” was delighted to be pregnant at 23, but she was in labor for a long time, and they got worried about her heartbeat, so they called in the doctor.

When the doctor arrived, he did something Mary cannot forget. “They gave me gas and air and an injection, and took me to another room, where they tied my legs up on each side,” she recalls. “There were two nurses on each side of me. I saw this doctor at the end of my bed with a big, long silver thing. They made a hole in your private parts, and he inserted this silver thing up and cut the pubic bone and pushed it over to widen your pelvis for you to deliver your baby yourself.”

Petrified and in agony, Mary had been subjected to a symphysiotomy – a controversial operation that was seldom used in the rest of Europe after the mid-20th century, but which was carried out on an estimated 1,500 women in Ireland between the 1940s and 1980s.

The procedure involves slicing through the cartilage and ligaments of a pelvic joint (or in extreme cases, called pubiotomy, sawing through the bone of the pelvis itself) to widen it and allow a baby to be delivered unobstructed.

What could possibly go wrong? Besides everything?

Critics blame the continued use of the operation on a toxic mix of medical experimentation, Catholic aversion to caesarean sections and an institutional disregard for women’s autonomy. They claim it has left hundreds of surviving women with life-long pain, disability and emotional trauma. For some in Ireland, it is yet another scandal perpetrated against women and girls, joining revelations over the Magdalene laundries (where “wayward” women were abused), the deaths of children at mother-and-baby homes and sex abuse in the Catholic church.

It ruined Mary physically.

“I hold down a job, but only because of the painkillers,” she says. “I have arthritis in my hip and in the bottom of my spine. I walk with a limp. No one can help – there’s no way back. Getting up and down stairs or getting up on a chair I can’t really do. You get one leg up, then the other slips down.”

The worst problem, she says, is incontinence. “I wear pads the whole time, and have been since the age of 23. My sisters all had babies and none had this problem. A lot of people might have a little leak, but this is a whole flow … It’s very embarrassing.”

Mary and her husband went on to have three boys as well as their daughter. She believes she should have been offered a caesarean section much earlier. But campaigners and historians say it was exactly to avoid caesarean sections that symphysiotomy was used in Ireland.

Symphysiotomy was first used in the 19th century. As caesarean sections grew safer, the use of the operation declined in the developed world. But Alex Spain, the master of Dublin’s National Maternity Hospital (NMH) until 1948, disapproved. According to Jacqueline Morrissey, a historian who <a class=” data-link-name=”in body link” data-component=”in-body-link”>began investigating the practice in the 1990s, it was Spain’s Catholic beliefs, not his medical judgment, that guided his actions. At the time, the established medical consensus was that having more than three caesarean sections was dangerous, and that further pregnancies would have to be stopped by sterilisation or contraception. Spain considered this unacceptable, says Morrissey, and talked about “the mutilating operation of sterilisation and marital difficulty”.

So that’s terrifying.

The real argument, according to Mairead Enright, a law lecturer at the University of Kent who specialises in religion and law, is whether medical staff were negligent in using “a procedure so inherently defective that any doctor should have realised it was wrong”.

“The consequences for women afterwards were so severe that they should have known it was not the proper way to go,” she argues. “Depriving a woman of one medical treatment, which has problems, and substituting another that has guaranteed morbidity to circumvent contraception is gender-based violence.”

More sadism from the loving god.

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

The next thing we knew, she was on fire

Dec 18th, 2014 4:47 pm | By

Yesterday the Telegraph reported some heart-breaking details of the slaughter at the army school in Peshawar. Be warned: they’re not happy reading.

The Taliban attackers reserved particularly horrific deaths for the adults, pouring fuel over at least three and setting them alight and killing the head, Tahira Qazi, with a hand grenade.

“Our principal showed extreme bravery,” Wasif Ali, a grade six pupil, said from his bed at the Lady Reading Hospital, where he was being treated for abdominal and head injuries. “She wasn’t afraid even when the militants were firing shots.” He said that as the firing started, she rushed from classroom to classroom, shouting at those inside to lock themselves in. Other pupils said she was trying to console them as well as protect them.

She was joined by another teacher, Saeed Khan, who tried to prevent pupils running away, fearing they would be exposing themselves to more danger, and told them to lie on the floor of the classrooms.

“All the 900 students would have been killed, had both those teachers not come out in the middle of it all,” said Jaffar Gul, a boy who sustained head injuries. “God bless both.”

This isn’t militancy or unrest or extremism. It’s sadistic slaughter for its own sake, by people who take pleasure in sadistic slaughter.

Mr Khan was one of a number of teachers who had fuel poured on them and set alight. At the hospital, he could only be identified by the rings he was wearing.

“Saeed Khan didn’t care for himself,” said Adnan Ahmed, a grade nine student. “Later, we were told in the hospital that Khan has been killed.,” Another pupil, Irfan Ullah, 15, told local reporters he would have probably been killed if his teacher, Afsha Ahmed, 24, hadn’t stood in front of the attackers as they entered their room and told them she would not allow them in.

“She was so brave,” Irfanullah said. “Her last words to the terrorists were: ‘You must kill me first because I will not see my students’ bodies lying in front of me.’ “The next thing we knew, she was on fire. Even while burning, she shouted at us to run away and find refuge.” Another teacher, Hifsa Khush, is also thought to have been burned alive in front of her pupils.

Shortly before the sadistic murderers did that, they posed for a picture in front of a flag with the shahada.

The Pakistan Taliban continued yesterday to claim credit for the attack, which they said was in retaliation for army assaults on their strongholds in the north-west of the country.

They published online pictures of the attackers taken before they launched their assault, at lunch-time on Tuesday. The pictures showed six men and their commander lined up first in military fatigues and then in civilian clothing, brandishing rocket-propelled grenade launchers and automatic rifles.

In the latter, they are kneeling in front of a flag bearing the Muslim expression of faith in black writing on a white background.

That’s their “god” – one that approves of setting teachers who protect their students on fire.

The school, part of a network of elite schools for the sons and daughters of soldiers as well as some civilians, was a natural target.

However, the Taliban have also destroyed schools across northern Pakistan as part of their campaign against modern education. More than 1,000, especially girls schools, have been attacked and in many cases burned.

The prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, signalled a hardening of attitudes, saying he would no longer distinguish between “good and bad Taliban”, referring to previous attempts to negotiate with some jihadist factions, including that responsible for Tuesday’s attack.

That was never a good idea.



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

Self-appointed experts

Dec 18th, 2014 1:08 pm | By

NPR did a blog post about Vani Hari aka “Food Babe” the other day.

…as her profile grows, so too do the criticisms of her approach. Detractors, many of them academics, say she stokes unfounded fears about what’s in our food to garner publicity. Steve Novella, a Yale neuroscientist and prominent pseudoscience warrior, among others, has dubbed Hari the “Jenny McCarthy of food” after the celebrity known for championing thoroughly debunked claims that vaccines cause autism.

Hari is a self-styled consumer advocate and adviser on healthful eating.

Her website,, offers recipes, tips for nutritious dining while traveling, and, for $17.99 a month, “eating guides” that include recipes, meal calendars and shopping lists. But she’s best-known for her food investigations, frequently shared on social media — posts in which she flags what she deems to be questionable ingredients.

But if you’re going to pay attention to someone’s food investigations, you want it to be someone who knows the subject, or at least knows how to ask people who know the subject. Hari isn’t that sort of someone.

Take, for example, Hari’s campaign urging beer-makers to reveal the ingredients in their brews. Among the ingredients that concerned Hari was propylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze. But, as cancer surgeon and blogger David Gorski writes,the product used in some beers to stabilize foam is actually propylene glycol alginate — which is derived from kelp. “It is not the same chemical as propylene glycol, not even close. It is not antifreeze,” he wrote.

Like that. That’s not useful.

Another beer ingredient that got Hari up in arms? Isinglass, or dried fish swim bladders, which may sound, well, fishy, but has been used to clarify beers for well over a century. Such mix-ups prompted historian Maureen Ogle, the author of Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer, to dissect Hari’s claims, point by point, in a post on her site titled “What’s In YOUR Beer? Or, The Dangers of Dumbassery.”

Hari’s approach capitalizes on growing consumer distrust of both Big Food companies and their unfamiliar, industrial-sounding ingredients, and of regulators’ ability to oversee them effectively. Some of these chemicals and additives may indeed be questionable, but food scientists would argue that nearly all are safe. So why do food companies respond to her demands, if they have nothing to hide?

Because, Gorski writes, “companies live and die by public perception. It’s far easier to give a blackmailer like Hari what she wants than to try to resist or to counter her propaganda by educating the public.”

Critics note that Hari lacks credentials in nutrition or food science; she’s a former consultant who studied computer science. Hari declined to be interviewed for this story; through her publicist, she told NPR she isn’t speaking to media until her new book is released in February. But when the Charlotte Observerasked her about such criticisms, Hari answered, “I’ve never claimed to be a nutritionist. I’m an investigator.”

But that lack of training often leads her to misinterpret peer-reviewed research and technical details about food chemistry, nutrition and health, says Kevin Folta, a professor of horticultural sciences at the University of Florida and vocal online critic of Hari.

It’s kind of the same principle as rewiring. I’m sure you’re familiar with the Rewiring Principle. It states that when you decide you need to update the electrical wiring in your house, you don’t ask someone random to do it for you, you find a licensed electrician who knows how to do wiring in such a way that it won’t burst into flames some night while you’re asleep.

So why not simply ignore Hari? Because her reach is growing: Last month her op-edwas featured in The New York Times’ Room for Debate section. In October,Experience Life magazine, a health and fitness publication, featured her on its cover. That decision prompted critics to bombard the magazine’s Amazon page with single-star reviews for putting “an uneducated fearmonger” on its cover.

And this fall, Hari addressed the University of Florida as part of a lecture series for freshmen on “The Good Food Revolution.” That talk prompted Folta to write a scathing blog post about her visit in which he accused her of being “afraid of science and intellectual engagement.”

He was angry that her talk didn’t include a question and answer period in which he could challenge her on some of her scientific assertions. “When you bring in a self-appointed expert, a celebrity more than a scientific figure, it does have the effect of undoing the science we are trying to instill in our students,” Folta told me.

I want the licensed electrician every time.

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

Arctic feedback cycle

Dec 18th, 2014 12:50 pm | By

Here’s a disquieting press release from NASA:

NASA Satellites Measure Increase of Sun’s Energy Absorbed in the Arctic

NASA satellite instruments have observed a marked increase in solar radiation absorbed in the Arctic since the year 2000 – a trend that aligns with the steady decrease in Arctic sea ice during the same period.

While sea ice is mostly white and reflects the sun’s rays, ocean water is dark and absorbs the sun’s energy at a higher rate. A decline in the region’s albedo – its reflectivity, in effect – has been a key concern among scientists since the summer Arctic sea ice cover began shrinking in recent decades. As more of the sun’s energy is absorbed by the climate system, it enhances ongoing warming in the region, which is more pronounced than anywhere else on the planet.

So there keeps being more dark water, so there keeps being more of the sun’s energy being absorbed, so there keeps being more dark water, repeat repeat; feedback cycle; problem.

Since the year 2000, the rate of absorbed solar radiation in the Arctic in June, July and August has increased by five percent, said Norman Loeb, of NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia. The measurement is made by NASA’s Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) instruments, which fly on multiple satellites.

While a five percent increase may not seem like much, consider that the rate globally has remained essentially flat during that same time. No other region on Earth shows a trend of potential long-term change.

Oh it seems like much. That’s in only 15 years. Yes, that’s much.

As a region, the Arctic is showing more dramatic signs of climate change than any other spot on the planet. These include a warming of air temperatures at a rate two to three times greater than the rest of the planet and the loss of September sea ice extent at a rate of 13 percent per decade.

While these CERES measurements could ultimately become another of those signs of dramatic climate change, right now scientists say they have obtained the bare minimum of a data record needed to discern what’s happening over the long term.

Getting data beyond 15 years will allow scientists to better assess if recent trend falls outside the realm of natural variability, said Jennifer Kay, an atmospheric scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research and Environmental Science at the University of Colorado.

So it could be a fluke instead of a trend. The feedback cycle might not go on forever; more data needed. Fingers crossed.

Increasing absorbed solar radiation is causing multiple changes in the sea ice cover, said Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland. Two of those changes include the timing of the beginning of the melt season each year and the loss of older, thicker sea ice.

The onset of the melt season in the high Arctic is now on average seven days earlier than it was in 1982, Meier said. Earlier melting can lead to increased solar radiation absorption. This is one step in a potential feedback cycle of warming leading to melting, melting leading to increased solar radiation absorption, and increased absorption leading to enhanced warming.

Since 2000, the Arctic has lost 1.4 million square kilometers (541,000 square miles) of older ice that is more than 3 meters thick, which during winter has essentially been replaced by ice that is less than 2 meters thick, according to data provided by Mark Tschudi at the University of Colorado. Once again, Meier said, this trend is a step in a feedback cycle.

“Having younger and thus thinner ice during winter makes the system more vulnerable to ice loss during the summer melt season,” Meier said.

But maybe there will be a miracle.



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

The daily horror

Dec 18th, 2014 11:28 am | By

Boko Haram this time.

Militants have stormed a remote village in north-eastern Nigeria, killing at least 33 people and kidnapping about 200, a survivor has told the BBC.

He said that suspected Boko Haram militants had seized young men, women and children from Gumsuri village.

The attack happened on Sunday but news has only just emerged, after survivors reached the city of Maiduguri.

The BBC headline is peculiar: Boko Haram unrest: Nigerian militants ‘kidnap 200 villagers’. It’s not “unrest” – it’s organized murder and kidnapping. And the people doing it aren’t really “militants”; their goal is to kill some people and enslave others. Calling them “militants” makes it sound as if they have genuine political goals, but it’s not at all clear that they do. It’s much clearer that they love violence and murder and sexual enslavement.

Residents told the BBC that armed militants attacked the border town of Amchide on Wednesday, arriving in two vehicles with many others on foot.

They raided the market area, setting fire to shops and more than 50 houses.

They’re armed criminals. Why dignify them with the title “militants”?

Guess who the people “kidnapped” were.

A vigilante group that had protected the village from previous attacks was overpowered by the militants, AFP reported.

“After killing our youths, the insurgents have taken away our wives and daughters,” a resident who fled to Maiduguri was quoted as saying.

Militants, insurgents, yadda yadda – they’re men who kill other men and enslave women. That’s their “politics”; that’s their “ideology.”


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

Got secularist?

Dec 18th, 2014 10:39 am | By

The NSS is taking nominations for Secularist of the Year.

Who do you think should be the 2015 Secularist of the year?

The Irwin Prize for Secularist of the Year is awarded annually in recognition of an individual or an organisation considered to have made an outstanding contribution to the secular cause.

This year’s prize will be presented on Saturday 28 March at a lunch event in central London so please get your nominations to us by Friday 23 January.

The nomination form is right there on the page, so if you have a candidate, get to it.


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

“Does this rag smell like chloroform to you??”

Dec 17th, 2014 4:55 pm | By

Some people and institutions do take misogyny seriously. Dalhousie University apparently does.

Dalhousie University in Halifax has launched an investigation into disturbing, sexually explicit Facebook posts attributed to male students in the faculty of dentistry, CBC News has learned.

The men were part of a Facebook group called the Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen. The group was removed from Facebook late last week.

I wonder by whom. Facebook doesn’t remove groups like that, and no one else could, so I guess the members removed it.

The university is working on what to do about it. Exams have been postponed until next month.

CBC News obtained screenshots of the group’s posts, which are sexually explicit and appear to involve discussions of female classmates.

In one post, members were polled and asked, “Who would you hate f–k?” They were given two names to vote on.

Yeah that hate fuck idea is nice. Jian Ghomeshi told a colleague he wanted to hate fuck her at a meeting, which tells you something.

Another post shows a woman wearing a bikini. The caption says, “Bang until stress is relieved or unconscious (girl).”

You know…I know of several Facebook groups that are way worse than that. That’s mild in comparison. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

Their conversations also include jokes about using chloroform on women.

The words: “Does this rag smell like chloroform to you??” were superimposed on one photo.

In response to another photo of a bikini-clad woman, two members wrote: “Can you tell me what this chloroform smells like?” and “Does this mask smell like nitrous oxide to you?”

Haha – geddit? Gas her unconscious so that you can fuck her – with or without hate – whether she’s willing or not.

One thing the internet has certainly given us is a much deeper knowledge of how many men really hate women, and how taken for granted it is. Not one of my favorite things about the technology.

H/t Ibis.

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

Words are never enough, but have some anyway

Dec 17th, 2014 4:07 pm | By

So I had to read John Sauven’s* blog post about how sincerely, deeply, utterly sorry he is about the Nazca lines and how strongly he hopes Peru will just take his word for that and stop bothering them.

Words are never enough, he says in the title, and yet they seem to be all he’s offering.

Words are not enough. I know that. But I want to start by saying how deeply disappointed and sorry I am for the activity undertaken in the name of Greenpeace at the Nazca lines in Peru last week during the climate talks.

The place chosen for holding a banner showed a regrettable disregard for the culture of Peru and the importance of not going to fragile and culturally important sites without authorisation. Greenpeace International’s Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo, has this week met with the Peruvian Minister of Culture, who is responsible for the site, to offer an apology. Kumi has assured the Minister that we will fully participate in any investigation into the activity.

“Fully” of course meaning “not including telling Peru who was involved in the ‘activity’.” (Note the evasive word. Trespass, invasion, damage – those would have been better words.) “Fully participate” meaning “in whatever sense we mean by ‘fully’ and not at all what Peru might mean by it.”

In short, he’s basically told an untruth right at the outset. They’re not fully participating.

Greenpeace International is conducting an investigation into how it was possible for this to have happened. The result of this investigation will inform changes that Greenpeace will make to try and ensure something like this can never happen again.

Like the church, like the military, like the universities. But they committed a crime. They don’t get to keep the investigation in-house. Sure, they need to look at their own organization to find out why someone agreed to such a bad move, but they don’t get to be in charge of the whole investigation, and they shouldn’t be stonewalling.

The first comment says that nicely.

The phrase “hold the people responsible accountable” has been tossed about by Greenpeace, without ever defining what that means. Will you turn them over to Peruvian authorities, or will you just withhold their team T-Shirts? You say words are not enough. When will you actually offer more than words? If it was oil rather than footprints spread out over the sacred desert site, would Greenpeace accept an apology from BP or Haliburton?

Would they and should they? No and no.

*Sauven is the executive director of Greenpeace UK.

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

If they really are as ashamed as they say they are

Dec 17th, 2014 3:38 pm | By

Peru is planning to extradite the Greenpeacers who scratched up the Nazca hummingbird site.

Castillo told the Guardian that Peruvian authorities had identified six members of the group who participated in the protest at the Unesco world heritage site last week, adding that prosecutors have filed charges of attacking archaeological monuments – a crime punishable by up to six years in prison.

But the minister said Greenpeace had refused to name all the protesters – leaving Peru no choice but to pursue it “through our legal means”.

“Greenpeace says it wants to take responsibility but in not giving us the names so that those responsible can appear before a judge in Peru it is refusing to do that,” he told the Guardian. “It’s a contradiction in terms.”

“It makes you wonder if they really are as ashamed as they say they are.”

That sounds consistent with their stunted non-apology that carefully avoided mentioning damage or harm and just talked about having “offended,” as if that were all they’d done.

Archaeologists say footprints left by the activists could remain in the arid desert ground for decades. Castillo said that footage of the protest showed the activists acting as if they were on a “picnic”.

The still photographs certainly show them taking no care at all about how they treated the site – standing on it in their trainers and kneeling on it in their blue jeans, as if it were the sturdy linoleum floor of their kitchen.

“It’s not a matter of money. The destruction is irreparable,” said Ana María Cogorno, president of the Maria Reiche Association, named after the German archaeologist whose groundbreaking research on the Nazca lines from 1940 onwards saw them gain recognition and protection.

The hummingbird etching on which the Greenpeace stunt was laid was the “only one of the lines which was completely untouched and perfectly conserved,” she said. “It’s one of the symbols of Peru,” she added.

Siiiiigh. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know it was the only completely untouched site.

After a meeting with Greenpeace’s executive director, Kumi Naidoo, on Monday, Peru’s minister for culture, Diana Álvarez-Calderón, said the group’s failure to reveal the protesters’ names amounted to a “ kind of cover-up”.

And adds insult to injury, if you ask me.

In a blogpost on Tuesday John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK,made clear his disapproval of the stunt, which was apparently organised to highlight the slow progress of the United Nations climate talks in Lima.

“For many years, Greenpeace offices around the world have been making concerted efforts to reach out to and collaborate with communities everywhere. We understand the importance of being a respectful ally who can learn from our partners and ensure the work we do reflects and supports all communities. This action did not measure up to that commitment. But this activity is not who we are. It is not what we believe in, and this is not what I believe in,” Sauven wrote.

That’s disgusting. It’s just a bunch of PR babble saying how nice they are and how well they mean. Obviously they don’t  understand the importance of being a respectful ally; if they did they wouldn’t have pulled this stupid stunt.

Kyle Ash, a Greenpeace spokesman, said that the group had taken “every care” to avoid any damage. “The surprise to us was that this resulted in some kind of moral offence. We definitely regret that and we want to figure out a way to resolve it.”

The group did not take “every care”; you have only to glance at any of the photos of them in action to see that. Stop telling self-admiring lies!

Greenpeace sucks.

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

Men with guns

Dec 17th, 2014 11:48 am | By

The Taliban released pictures of the gunmen who killed 148 children and teachers in Peshawar and injured 121 more. The Taliban is proud of them, apparently.

The Times of India reports.

The Pakistani Taliban released the pictures as they issued a statement claiming the attack was justified because the Pakistani army had long been killing innocent children and families of their fighters.

Pakistani Taliban spokesman Mohammad Khurasani also vowed more attacks as he warned civilians to detach themselves from all military institutions.

In photos released by the group, between six and seven men carrying guns can be seen pictured in front of a white banner.

Brave heroes.


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

Dancing with the dogs

Dec 17th, 2014 11:31 am | By

A laugh, because we need one these days.

I wish Cooper knew how to do that.


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

They cite websites skeptical about immunizations

Dec 17th, 2014 11:20 am | By

Michigan has a dangerously low vaccination rate.

That’s the warning from public health experts as more and more schoolchildren are not getting basic vaccinations to protect them — and all of us — from preventable disease.

Michigan makes it easy to avoid immunization and after years of increasing public concerns over side effects and government intervention, the rate of those going unvaccinated is dangerously high.

After millions of years of being vulnerable to infectious diseases, the moderately clever humans engineered a way to avoid many of them. What a boon to humanity! And now, we’ve gone the next stage, and become so pseudo-clever that we deliberately and knowingly reject that engineered fix, so that we can have more infectious diseases again.

How fucking stupid are we.

A recent outbreak in Traverse City shut down a 1,200-student charter school for a week, infected students at 14 other school buildings in the region, and has sickened dozens of people and forced hundreds into quarantine.

The culprit was pertussis — also known as whooping cough — a disease once thought to be nearly eradicated.

But Grand Traverse County has an undervaccination rate six times the national average. And nearly 1 in 5 of the kindergarteners (17 percent) at the charter school, Grand Traverse Academy, had parents who signed waivers exempting the children from required vaccinations.

Whooping cough. That’s a horrible disease.

Last week, the other shoe dropped in Grand Traverse: Two residents were diagnosed with measles, the most contagious disease known to man and one that can have serious complications.

It happened in Traverse City. It could easily happen in communities throughout Michigan.

Michigan has one of the highest vaccine-waiver rates for kindergartners in the country, three times the national median, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the number of kindergartners getting vaccine waivers is growing. In five years, it’s increased 23 percent, the CDC says.

Not clever.

The CDC warns outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases are most likely to occur where “unvaccinated persons cluster in schools and communities.”

Such clusters exist in a third of Michigan public and private schools housing kindergartners — that’s more than 800 school buildings scattered across 68 of the state’s 83 counties, according to the MLive analysis.

Many of those clusters are in affluent and well-educated communities, such as Traverse City, Troy, Grosse Pointe and Clarkston.

Well-educated enough to read woo about medical subjects but not well-educated enough to realize they’re bullshit.

Those opting out of vaccines tend to be health-conscious families who buy organic food, give their children health supplements and are drawn to alternatives to Western medicine. They cite internet websites skeptical about immunizations and worry the risk of vaccines outweigh the benefits.

Yeah that kind. The Prince Charles kind. They’re “health-conscious” so they buy into bullshit.

“Michigan is one of the worst states in the country” in terms of vaccine-waiver rates, and communities with high waiver rates should be “very concerned,” said Dr. Paul Offit, a leading authority on vaccinations in the United States and chief of the infectious diseases division at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“When you have a fairly large number of people who are choosing not to vaccinate, that puts not only their own children at risk, but also everyone else’s,” Offit said.

A little learning is a dangerous thing.

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

Allahu akbar

Dec 17th, 2014 10:30 am | By

The Telegraph shares a bunch of photos of the scene at that Peshawar army school. Be warned: they’re heart-wrenching to look at – no bodies, but lots of blood. But most heart-wrenching are the pictures of the victims in life.

The full devastation of the Taliban attack in which 148 people – the vast majority children – were massacred in a Pakistan school yesterday is laid bare in images showing pools of blood and bullet-ridden walls.

Upturned desks and torn exam papers scattered across the floor give evidence of the unexpected terror that struck 500 children and staff on Tuesday morning as nine gun-wielding militants stormed the building.

Shouting “Allahu akbar.”

“They finished in minutes what I had lived my whole life for, my son,” said labourer Akhtar Hussain, tears streaming down his face as he buried his 14-year-old, Fahad. He said he had worked for years in Dubai to earn a livelihood for his children.

“That innocent one is now gone in the grave, and I can’t wait to join him, I can’t live anymore,” he wailed, banging his fists against his head.

Allahu akbar.

Pulse on the school’s principal Tahira Kazi. Warning: it’s bad.

Tahira Kazi, the principal of the Army Public School attacked by Taliban Jihadists in Pakistan was burnt to death while her students watched because she was married to a Pakistani soldier.

Kazi was torched alive by the jihadists who stormed the school, located in Peshawar, at about 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

According to a MailOnline report, it is believed that Kazi was killed in such a gruesome manner because she’s married to a retired a retired army colonel, Kazi Zafrullah.

Student Pulse gathered that one of the seven terrorist that attacked the school also blew himself up in the late principal’s office.

Another teacher, 24-year-old Afsha Ahmed, was doused with petrol and set ablaze while her pupils watched after she told the terrorists that “You can only kill my students over my dead body.”

That’s all I can stand for now.


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

Women have to get written permission

Dec 17th, 2014 9:34 am | By

Mother Jones tells us about an exciting new idea from a Missouri state legislator: a new way to make women non-people under the law.

A Missouri Republican is pushing a bill that would allow a man who gets a woman pregnant to stop her from having an abortion. The measure would force a woman who wants an abortion to obtain written permission from the father first—unless she was the victim of “legitimate rape.”

Rick Brattin, a state representative from outside Kansas City, filed the bill on December 3 for next year’s legislative session. The proposed measure reads, “No abortion shall be performed or induced unless and until the father of the unborn child provides written, notarized consent to the abortion.”

Cool. So if they’ve split up in the interim, she has to go to him to beg permission to get an abortion, which he can refuse to give. If they’ve split up and she doesn’t know how to contact him, she’s stuck with that baby she doesn’t want to have. If they were never together in the first place and she doesn’t know how to contact him, same deal. If he got her drunk and then had sex with her and she doesn’t know how to contact him, same deal. She has no rights at all, and he can mess with her rights.

The bill contains exceptions for women who become pregnant as the result of rape or incest—but there are caveats.

“Just like any rape, you have to report it, and you have to prove it,” Brattin tells Mother Jones. “So you couldn’t just go and say, ‘Oh yeah, I was raped,’ and get an abortion. It has to be a legitimate rape.”

Damn right! None of this just saying you were raped shit – none of this wicked smearing of good men by slutty women just saying they were raped. They have to prove it, which is easy to do if you actually were legitimately raped. Nobody ever says “but he says it was consensual” or “you’re a lying whore,” so there will be no problem getting an abortion if you were legitimately raped.

Brattin adds that he is not using the term “legitimate rape” in the same way as former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who famously claimed that women couldn’t get pregnant from a “legitimate rape” because “the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

“I’m just saying if there was a legitimate rape, you’re going to make a police report, just as if you were robbed,” Brattin says. “That’s just common sense.”

Absolutely! Totally common sense. So if you don’t make a police report, obviously you weren’t raped, and that’s all there is to it.

Under his bill, he adds, “you have to take steps to show that you were raped…And I’d think you’d be able to prove that.”

Oh yes? How? How would you be able to prove that?

Missouri is home to only one abortion clinic, based in St. Louis. Each year, legislators target the clinic with dozens of new restrictions. In 2014, the GOP-controlled legislature approved a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to wait 72 hours between the initial consultation and the procedure. It’s the longest abortion waiting period in the county.

This isn’t about “the unborn child.” It’s about hatred of women. It’s about hatred of the smallest hint that any particular woman is not the wholly owned subordinate of a man. It’s about hatred and punishment of women.


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

Nobody wants to be a buzzkill

Dec 16th, 2014 5:57 pm | By

A code of conduct? Who needs a code of conduct? This community is too fabulous to need a code of conduct!

A couple of years ago, I was asked to help put together a code of conduct for the IA Summit. I laughed.

We need a code of conduct here? The IA Summit is the nicest, most community-friendly conference ever! Those problems happen at other conferences! And they want me to help? There are sailors jealous of my cussing vocabulary—surely I was not PC enough to be part of such an effort. But the chairs insisted. So, being a good user-centered designer, I started asking around about the idea of a code of conduct.

I found out design conferences are not the safe meetings of minds I thought they were.

One woman told me that she had been molested by another attendee at a favorite conference, and was too scared to report it. “No one will ever see me as anything but a victim,” she said. “I’ve worked too hard for that.”

And there was more, Christina Wodtke writes. The idea of a code of conduct didn’t seem so silly any more.

Unfortunately, it still seems silly to others. Recently I was talking to another conference organizer about setting up codes of conduct, and he said, “That doesn’t happen at our conferences. People know me, and they know they can talk to me. A code of conduct will make people nervous that we have a problem. And we don’t.”

I wonder how he knew that, since most victims don’t come forward. They don’t want to be seen as a “buzzkill,” or be told that what they wore or what they drank meant that they asked for it. This is not unusual; every day we see examples of women whose reputations are trashed for reporting rape and harassment. On Twitter, women who talk about sexism in games or even think a woman should go on a stamp are given death threats. Reporting carries consequences. Reporting is scary.

Availability heuristic. We don’t see it, so we assume that means it’s not there. Ding ding ding – wrong! We don’t see police brutality if it never happens to us, so we assume it isn’t there. We don’t see sexism or harassment if it never happens to us, so we assume it isn’t there.

H/t Harald.

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

Make the choice

Dec 16th, 2014 5:29 pm | By

Karima Bennoune says what’s needed now is firm rejection of violent religious fanaticism.

As many Australians themselves have already clearly demonstrated in the wake of the attack through the wonderful anti-racist hashtag #I’llridewithyou, the correct response to such atrocious events is not blind discrimination against people on the basis of real or presumed religious identity or refugee status. However, unconditional condemnation of the extreme Islamist political ideology that may be behind this terrible attack — and at least was used to justify it — is absolutely essential, and is in no way discriminatory.

In fact, any tolerance of such intolerance does not produce tolerance, but rather has paradoxical and dangerous results — allowing illiberalism to flourish and letting violent events proliferate. No one knows this more than those who have lived on the frontlines of Islamist terror.

She was in Australia last May to talk about her book.

After my lecture about the book at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, which ended with the story of Amel Zenoune-Zouani, an Algerian law student killed by the Armed Islamic Group in 1997, I was surrounded and embraced onstage by a group of people of Muslim heritage — all women and many in tears. They were refugees from Algeria and Afghanistan who had been driven from their own countries by fundamentalist violence, like that the Sydney hostage taker Man Haron Monis appeared to be mimicking. Some of the Algerians later told me how loyal and grateful they were to Australians generally for being so welcoming to them when they were forced to flee there in the 1990s, and that they were disturbed to occasionally encounter Muslim fundamentalists in their adopted country who reminded them of the ideology that had forced them from their homes.

Rejection of that ideology does not equate to rejection of Muslims in general.

The unprecedented (for Australia) Sydney hostage-taking is yet another reminder of the urgent need to discredit Islamist ideology, and to effectively counter the narratives that promote extremist violence. One of the best ways to do this is to support people of Muslim heritage — like those I lectured about while in Australia — who are fighting back against the fundamentalists. Meanwhile, the stories of the Muslim immigrants and refugees I met down under are also a reminder of the urgent need to prevent the manipulation of this terrible event in support of an anti-refugee narrative — a development which would only harm many who have already been victims of Islamist violence and who are allies in the battle against extremism.

H/t Tehmina.


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

The ideology-spotter

Dec 16th, 2014 3:33 pm | By

I’ve been getting a barrage of hostile tweets and comments today about four fatal words in the post I did when I first learned of the Sydney siege, soon after it started. The one or ones I got that day – Sunday here – were reasonable and accepted my explanation and apology for clumsy wording. The ones today not so much.


D.J. Grothe ‏@DJGrothe 8h
Ugh. Tells you everything you need to know about the worldview there: “privileged rich coffee drinkers” … #sydneysiege

Shane Walsh ‏@mountainsRhigh 7h
@DJGrothe so bitter about everything. It must be miserable to be her.

D.J. Grothe @DJGrothe
@mountainsRhigh When I knew her she seemed pleasant enough. People change with age, I guess.

Geddit? I’m old and rotting.


K. R. Marlo ‏@KRMarlo 8h
@DJGrothe I see she backpedalled after being called out, but …. gross.

D.J. Grothe ‏@DJGrothe 8h
@KRMarlo Yeah. I imagine she feels proud of the display of compassion for the “apron wearing” proletariat victims.

That’s such an ugly thing to say. No, I don’t feel “proud” and it wasn’t a “display” – it was a feeling put into words, obviously not well enough but all the same that’s what it was.

This isn’t weird, or peculiar to me. After 9/11 I remember a lot of commentary about the “proletariat victims” who were in the towers along with the bankers and stockbrokers – that is, about the restaurant workers and maintenance staff and cleaners and security guards and all the unglamorous not very highly paid people who were doing support work that morning.

After 7/7 I was particularly upset about Gladys Wundowa. She was a cleaner on the night shift at UCL, on the bus on her way to school, the number 30 bus that blew up in Tavistock Square.

Mrs Wundowa, 51, finished her early morning shift at 9am on Thursday before heading for a college course at Shoreditch, east London.

I don’t apologize for being particularly upset about her. That doesn’t mean I think everyone else deserved to be blown up, it just means I find it particularly poignant when underlings get it. I’m not “proud” of it; it’s not particularly rational; it’s just a feeling. I get that sometimes.

And it’s not “ideology,” either.


D.J. Grothe ‏@DJGrothe 6h
@OpheliaBenson Nah, something far less sensational. How about just blinded by messy ideology? Or is it just being anti-coffee.

Ophelia Benson ‏@OpheliaBenson 6h
.@DJGrothe Well, as I explained, it was a combination of sarcasm abt likely motives of the perp and gut-level pang for the guy in the apron.

.@DJGrothe Not really “ideology” at all, just an emo reaction.

D.J. Grothe ‏@DJGrothe 6h
@OpheliaBenson Right. For the wage earning apron wearer but not for the “privileged coffee sippers.” I think that’s an ideological bias.

I’d seen the photo of the “apron wearer” in the window. The photo got to me. I hadn’t seen photos of the other people. Those photos got to me too when I saw them yesterday, after the siege had ended. I’m human; I react to pictures.

So that’s been today. I did apologize for wording it badly, and I still do. But for having a not completely rational reaction to that picture? No.

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