Notes and Comment Blog

Guest post on Sam Harris and the duties of public intellectuals

Aug 21st, 2014 6:02 pm | By

Guest post by Simon Frankel Pratt.

I think that Harris is good at presenting a kind of naive though not completely stupid position that many thoughtful but poorly informed secular Western liberals are likely to arrive at. In a sense, his positions should be the challenge or the foil against which informed experts and public intellectuals frame their answers. For example, Harris’s views on the links between religion and violence are almost entirely wrong, as scholars such as Atran have shown, but they are understandable.

The problem is, of course, that Harris does not engage with the experts.

He does not frame his views as naive or as questions in need of answering, but as the obvious answers. He does not consult with experts on his issues, and when experts tell him that he’s wrong, he either dismisses them impatiently (such as he did with Dennett on the matter of free will) or actually resorts to personal attacks and slurs (as he did with Scott Atran). Instead of offering a clear, concise, and well articulated starting position for us to engage in further enquiry and refinement of our views in light of the evidence, he sells his opinions as discussion-ending truths which we are foolish or harmful to ignore.

This bothers me a lot. It bothers me not just because I dislike Harris’s tone and disagree with his views, but because I see Harris’s actions as a violation of the duties and ethical obligations that public intellectual figures have to guide their audiences to more critical, self-aware, and historically/scientifically informed views.

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

Like a trucking company

Aug 21st, 2014 4:58 pm | By

Cardinal Pell is another one vying for the Zero Empathy Remark of the Year Award.

Cardinal George Pell has strongly defended the so-called Melbourne Response as Australia’s first comprehensive redress scheme for victims of clerical sexual abuse at the royal commission.

Appearing at the commission via video link from the Vatican in Rome on Thursday night, Cardinal Pell likened the Catholic Church’s responsibility for child abuse to that of a ”trucking company”. If a driver sexually assaulted a passenger they picked up along the way, he said, ”I don’t think it appropriate for the … leadership of that company be held responsible.”

What’s wrong with that analogy? Well let’s see…

  1. The Catholic church doesn’t pick up passengers along the way. Its relationship to its child parishioners is not similar to that of a truck driver to a hitch hiker.
  2. The Catholic church sees itself as the source of absolute moral truth. Trucking companies don’t see themselves that way.
  3. The relationship between the Catholic hierarchy and its priests is not like that of a trucking company to its employees.

But even more to the point, it’s just so…shoulder-shrugging, indifferent, blame-shifting, evasive.

Sean Cash, a lawyer for abuse victim Paul Hersbach, challenged the trucking company analogy, saying that because the Catholic Church was an organisation of the ”highest integrity” it owed victims a far greater legal and moral responsibility. He said it should not impede victims’ ability to receive full and fair compensation.

”We were among the front-runners in Melbourne in addressing these scandals and I would suggest to you that that is entirely consistent with Catholic tradition and the teachings of Christ,” Cardinal Pell replied.

Jesus had teachings about how the church should deal with rapist priests? I missed that part.

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


Aug 21st, 2014 12:38 pm | By

Dawkins is trending on Facebook again, thanks to his Most Recent Tweet of Infamy. At the top of the list I see (I assume the list is different for different people, because of their different Facebook histories) there are a lot of mainstream media stories and some Facebook posts by friends, and then after that…there is a long stream of right-wing, Christian, anti-abortion links.

Fabulous. Very very helpful.

There’s The Blaze.

There’s Christian News Network.

There’s Life Site News.

There’s Alan Colmes.

There’s Life News.

There’s Ray Comfort.

Richard Dawkins is being consistent again–with his Darwinian/Nazi ideology of “survival of the fittest.” This time he suggests that down syndrome children aren’t fit to survive, and he has the audacity to advocate the taking of a human life–in the name of morality.

May he find a place of repentance and trust in Jesus Christ, before he stands before the One in whom he doesn’t believe.

There’s Breitbart.

There’s End Time Headlines.

There’s Al Jazeera, Salon, Huffington Post UK, The Telegraph, The Mirror, The Evening Standard, The Guardian Australia, Sky News, ITV News, Fri Tanke…on and on. I haven’t scrolled to the end yet; maybe there is no end. There’s a lot. At any rate we can be damn sure this has done no favors to atheism or abortion rights.




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

Muslim “community leaders” churned out televised obfuscations

Aug 21st, 2014 12:02 pm | By

Maajid Nawaz wrote a piece for the Times yesterday. It’s behind a paywall, but even the extract posted by Quilliam contains good stuff.

The Isis man who apparently beheaded James Foley had a British accent. He is likely to be among the one out of every 800 British Sunni Muslim men of fighting age — around 500 of them — to have joined these jihadists in Iraq and Syria. This does not emerge from a vacuum. We in Britain have a deeply entrenched problem. Islamist extremism is poisoning our community relations, hijacking our youth, and we are doing very little to address it.

Throughout the Nineties our communities grew together, apart. This was applauded instead of being seen for what it was: fetishisation of minorities for those bent on romanticising “authentic” Eastern culture.

Foreign policy emerged as the popular cause for extremism, a half-truth at best, and Muslim “community leaders” churned out televised obfuscations in order to avoid addressing the obvious: what responsibility do Iraq’s slaughtered Yazidis bear for any foreign policy grievance? After much lobbying, David Cameron’s 2011 Munich speech finally recognised “Islamist extremism” head-on. But three years later and the Department for Communities and Local Government, which was tasked with challenging non-violent extremism, has yet to publish a counter-extremism strategy. British Muslims going abroad to fight is not new: it happened in Afghanistan. The only difference is that the ideology has been allowed to take root in the UK since then, and we are not doing anything about it.

Now, without a hint of irony, even al-Qaeda uses religious anti-extremism rhetoric to condemn Isis. But it is not good enough for Islamists merely to condemn.

Our collective efforts must focus on encouraging all people towards democratic values, minority and gender rights, equality and reason. This requires a strategy. But engaging on values is exactly what we have not been doing. More British jihadists will feature in Isis decapitation videos. And as our government hears no evil and sees no evil, we are woefully unprepared for when these jihadist fighters return home.

It’s a gruesome, horrible, miserable situation. With the right influences and inspirations and role models, most of these guys could be working to build infrastructure in Bangladesh or to care for Ebola patients in Liberia, but instead they’re dedicated to killing as many people as they can.

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

Those defections do not have legal effect

Aug 21st, 2014 11:26 am | By

J P O’Malley learns that the Irish Catholic church will not let you leave.

From aged 12, I had no belief, whatsoever, in the concept of a divine being.

By the time I was in my 20s, I was a militant-atheist.

And after my close reading of the ‘Ferns’, ‘Murphy’, and ‘Ryan Reports’, I was fully convinced that this was not an organisation I wanted to be associated with in any way.

It came as a huge surprise to me, then, last October, after I wrote to Reverend Fintan Gavin, the assistant chancellor of the Dublin Dioceses, asking if I could formally leave the Catholic Church, to be told that it was impossible.

There’s this 1983 Vatican “law,” you see, that was supposed to allow members to “defect.” (To what? Why defect? Why can’t people just leave? It’s not parenthood, after all. You can’t just leave parenthood, unless you’re a Class A Shit, but you can leave groups and clubs and political parties and, yes, religions.) But then there was a new law later on.

Fintan Gavin reiterated that since canon law was changed in 2009 “those [former] defections do not have legal effect.” In other words: the Catholic Church refuses to allow its members to walk away voluntarily.

When one has no affiliation — culturally, spiritually, or otherwise — to such an organisation, it’s easy to read this letter with a dose of Father Ted-style humour. But while the Church and State are completely separate — in terms of the common law in Ireland — that relationship has never been as simple as either the Irish government, or the Catholic Church, presently define it.

Since the founding of the Irish State, in 1922, the Church has provided a free service to the Irish government: a de facto, bureaucratic invisible hand to keep the population under control. If the Soviet Union had the Cheka to enforce public morality through fear, Ireland had priests and bishops. The costumes may have been different, but the theme remained the same: unquestionable, totalitarian power.

While these methods of coercion were never legally recognised in the Irish Constitution, the country was, one could argue, unofficially a theocracy until the early 1990s.

It wasn’t an entirely a free service. The state actually paid the church for running the Industrial “schools” and the mother-baby prisons. The state paid per head, and the church made a nice little living off the payments. And the population was by god kept under control.

Helen O’Shea, the current secretary of Atheist Ireland, who was able to formally defect from the Catholic Church pre-2009 — before the law was revoked by the Vatican — says that in the interests of democratic accountability the Irish state must operate in a consistent manner for all its citizens in terms of religious freedom.

“[Many] Irish schools are almost exclusively controlled by Catholic management. And when places are limited, a baptism certificate is often required. This is unacceptable in a supposedly non-theocratic state,” she said.

“Atheist Ireland are currently investigating setting up a website, so people can document their wish to leave the Church formally. It’s very ignorant [of the Church] to insist on membership when an individual requests the opposite,” said O’Shea.

I think that should happen. It would be very good for the church to be embarrassed by a long long long list of people who have left the church but are still counted as members by that church.

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

Not a vessel

Aug 21st, 2014 11:01 am | By

There was a big turnout for a protest over Ireland’s abortion laws on O’Connell Street in Dublin yesterday.

UP TO TWO thousand people have gathered in Dublin’s city centre this evening to protest at Ireland’s abortion laws and call for a repeal of the controversial 8th Amendment of the Constitution.

Protesters held signs saying “Raped, Pregnant, Suicidal, Forced C-Section – Ireland 2014,” and “I’m not a vessel”, in reference to comments made at the UN  Human Rights Committee last month, where its chairman said Ireland’s abortion laws treat women who are raped as a vessel.

The protest was called in response to the case publicised in recent days involving a suicidal  young woman who sought an abortion after being raped.

Ashling O’Brien of Atheist Ireland was there and gave me permission to post her photos.

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

We cannot expect

Aug 20th, 2014 6:16 pm | By

PZ also has a post on the abortion and Down syndrome issue. In it he says this:

I recommend reading any of Michael Bérubé’s stories about having a child with Down Syndrome— he doesn’t have any regrets at all. Or you could read about how Bérubé schooled Peter Singer, and Singer did the right thing and changed his mind. He also wrote a book on the subject,reviewed in the NY Times.

I was thinking of Michael and Jamie Bérubé and of Peter Singer during all this, so I was glad to see that link, which is to a piece I read with interest at the time. (The time was December 2008.) Reading it again reminds me what a fiendishly good writer Michael is. Read the whole post, because it’s fiendishly good. I’ll just extract a little, because it’s relevant.

Surely you’ll recall—my post was only two months ago!—that in the passage at issue, Singer wrote, “To have a child with Down syndrome is to have a very different experience from having a normal child. It can still be a warm and loving experience, but we must have lowered expectations of our child’s ability. We cannot expect a child with Down syndrome to play the guitar, to develop an appreciation of science fiction, to learn a foreign language, to chat with us about the latest Woody Allen movie, or to be a respectable athlete, basketballer or tennis player.”

Well, Singer wrote to me to say that my reply to this passage suggests that he is wrong about Down syndrome, whereas in fact it takes more than a couple of exceptional children here and there to challenge the general rule.  After all, the passage speaks of expectations, and although people do win the lottery now and again, it would be unreasonable to buy a lottery ticket and expect to win.  Professor Singer then asked me to direct him to some evidence that would indicate that Jamie is not anomalous—and, he said, this is not an idle challenge: if he is mistaken about Down syndrome, he will correct himself in the future.

They wrote back and forth, and Michael requested and got permission to quote his own replies.

Many thanks for noticing that blog post, and for taking the time to write.  Thanks also for your kind words about Jamie.  I do, in fact, enjoy a handful of Woody Allen movies here and there;Broadway Danny Rose is a wonderful piece of work, and I’m fond of Bullets Over Broadway as well.  But I do think “we cannot expect a child with Down syndrome to chat with us about the latest Woody Allen film” instates a distinctly Upper West Side-y performance criterion, and is worth critiquing on those grounds alone.  More seriously, I note that in the 1920s we were told that people with Down syndrome were incapable of learning to speak; in the 1970s, we were told that people with Down syndrome were incapable of learning how to read.  OK, so now the rationale for seeing these people as somewhat less than human is their likely comprehension of Woody Allen films.  Twenty years from now we’ll be hearing “sure, they get Woody Allen, but only his early comedies—they completely fail to appreciate the breakthrough of Interiors.”  Surely you understand my sense that the goalposts are being moved around here in a rather arbitrary fashion.

I do appreciate the fact that you’re not issuing an idle challenge.  I don’t think you would do that.  I have three responses to it.

Here is the second response:

The larger point of my argument with your claim is that we cannot (I use the term advisedly) know what to expect of children with Down syndrome.  Early-intervention programs have made such dramatic differences in their lives over the past few decades that we simply do not know what the range of functioning looks like, and therefore do not rightly know what to expect. That, Professor Singer, is the real challenge of being a parent of a child with Down syndrome: it’s not just a matter of contesting other people’s low expectations of your child, it’s a matter of recalibrating your own expectations time and time again—and not only for your own child, but for Down syndrome itself.  I’ll never forget the first time I saw a young man with Down syndrome playing the violin—quite competently, at that, with delicacy and a sense of nuance.  I thought I was seeing a griffin.  And who could have imagined, just forty or fifty years ago, that the children we were institutionalizing and leaving to rot could in fact grow up to become actors?  Likewise, this past summer when I remarked to Jamie that time is so strange that nobody really understands it, that we can’t touch it or see it even though we watch the passing of every day, and that it only goes forward like an arrow, and Jamie replied, “except with Hermione’s Time-Turner in Harry Potter,” I was so stunned I nearly crashed the car.  I take issue with your passage, then, not because I’m a sentimental fool or because I believe that one child’s surprising accomplishments suffice to win the argument, but because as we learn more about Down syndrome, we honestly—if paradoxically—don’t know what constitutes a “reasonable expectation” for a person with Down syndrome.

There’s more; it’s all that good.

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

Your majesty is like a doughnut

Aug 20th, 2014 5:07 pm | By

Oscar Wilde, James McNeill Whistler, George Bernard Shaw, and George V (or is it Edward VII?) discuss eugenics.


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

Choice is minimised

Aug 20th, 2014 4:00 pm | By

Iain Brassington comments on Dawkins’s Twitter adventure today at the Journal of Medical Ethics blog (which is a subset of the BMJ blog).

Look, I know that Twitter really isn’t the place for nuanced debate.  But, by that token, everyone else should realise that as well – especially intellectual superstars. So how, then, to explain Richard Dawkins’ spectacular foot-in-mouth moment earlier today?

Well, one leg of that explanation would be that actually Dawkins appears not to realize that. I honestly don’t know why, because 1. I know that people very close to him have told him it, and 2. it seems so blindingly obvious once you’ve been using Twitter for awhile, as he has. (Not to mention 3. doing so has blown up in his face about ten times now, and the last time was just three weeks ago.)

But another leg of it would be, I think, that he doesn’t realize it in the moment, and then when it all goes pear-shaped he gets irritated instead of getting quiet. SIWOTI, basically.

So why doesn’t he realize it in the moment? I really don’t know. I would think the problem with today’s would just jump right out at you, while you were typing. I don’t know why such things don’t jump out at him.

I do know a few people like that though – people who just say startlingly rude things to other people, apparently without any idea that they’re saying something rude. On the other hand none of them are famous best-selling Oxford professors.

Brassington quotes the infamous tweet.

Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.

Oh, crikey. He actually said it. I don’t want to raise the spectre of The Paper Of Which We Do Not Speak, or even to delve into questions of procreative beneficence; what’s important about this is a deeply stupid thing to say in its own right. After all, you can think what you like about the permissibility of abortion, but I don’t think that anyone is really suggesting that a woman who is pregnant ought to abort. The most defenders of abortion would want to say is that it’s permissible to abort.   Procreative beneficence says that you ought to select against “disabled” embryos if only one can be implanted and one is going to be implanted; but it doesn’t say that you ought to terminate a once-begun pregnancy. Nor should it: to make that kind of statement is indefensible for more or less the same reason as a statement to the effect that a woman isn’t allowed to have an abortion - to wit, there’s light years between a right to abort and a duty to abort.  The former is about a woman’s ability to choose what kind of pregnancy she has, and what kind of child she’s willing to gestate; the latter is… well, it’s the opposite of that.  Choice is minimised.

A little dialogue ensued on Twitter:

Dr. Steve Cooke ‏@SteveCooke 2h
@IBrasso @OpheliaBenson it’s easy to forget (more so because Dawkins also forgets) that Dawkins is a scientist not an ethicist.

Synthetic Future(s) ‏@SynFutures 2h
@SteveCooke @IBrasso @OpheliaBenson Is it?!


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

Searching and hoping for comfort

Aug 20th, 2014 11:50 am | By

A doctor with MSF, Gabriel Fitzpatrick, gives a heartrending account of working at the center of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.

In the suspected cases ward I saw a small child getting his nappy changed by a nurse who was wearing a full body plastic protective suit.

The child was clinging on to the nurse, searching and hoping for comfort in a place which does not allow direct skin-to-skin contact. As a father myself, this image stuck in my mind.

On the same evening, a mother and her two children were admitted to the hospital with confirmed Ebola. Within days the mother and eldest child had passed away.

It is startling how quickly this virus can kill patients. The remaining child is still receiving supportive care but his chances are not good.

There are a few rules in the Ebola treatment centre that are sometimes difficult to remember and go against our natural instincts.

Firstly, shaking hands with anybody is forbidden, and you must keep a certain distance away from people at all times. This can feel isolating.

Especially, no doubt, for the patients. The child trying to cling to the plastic-covered nurse is just…crushing.

So let’s include some better news.

There are happier stories – some of those who catch Ebola survive. For some unknown reason their bodies beat the virus.

More than 300 patients have been admitted to MSF isolation centres in Sierra Leone. To date about 50 have recovered and returned home.

Every few days, patients who have survived are discharged from the hospital. This is a big occasion and is celebrated both by those who have recovered and by hospital staff.

Certificates are presented to these patients during a ceremony with somebody invariably performing a dance. West African music is supplied via a mobile phone.

It didn’t work; the clinging child is still in the foreground.


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

The cabal strikes again

Aug 20th, 2014 10:46 am | By

Oh dear. Here we go again. Another item for the big master list of things not to say on Twitter.

InYourFaceNewYorker ‏@InYourFaceNYer 2h
@RichardDawkins @AidanMcCourt I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma.

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins
@InYourFaceNYer Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.

The Independent is already on it.

Budding atheists wondering whether Richard Dawkins is in need of a little time away from Twitter to reflect on the past few weeks are about to have their (lack of) prayers answered.

The philosopher has managed to go one step further than his controversial comments on ‘date rape versus stranger rape’ to voice his opinions on what it would be ethical for a mother who is informed that her unborn child has Down Syndrome to do.

He started off his conversation with followers ethically enough, highlighting the plight of women in Ireland, where abortion is illegal, in light of the recent reports of the country’s refusal to provide a safe abortion to a suicidal rape victim. She was forced to give birth.

“Ireland is a civilised country except in this 1 area,” he tweeted, adding “You’d think the Roman Church would have lost all influence,” to caption a link to a similar article.

But then the provocateurs sent by the cabal of Secret Theocratic Underground Operatives got to work.

But after engaging in conversation with a number of users, his ethical values appeared to come a little unstuck.

“994 human beings with Down’s Syndrome deliberately killed before birth in England and Wales in 2012. Is that civilised?” @AidanMcCourt asked.

“Yes, it is very civilised. These are fetuses, diagnosed before they have human feelings,” Dawkins responded.

“I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma,” @InYourFaceNYer chimed in.

“Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice,” he tweeted back.

Job done! All it took was two tweets! The cabal of Secret Theocratic Underground Operatives is laughing its fiendish collective laugh as atheism takes yet another broadside hit in the reputation.

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


Aug 19th, 2014 5:13 pm | By

Oh good god.

Via Godless Indian Feminists on Facebook.

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

Gentle, friendly, courageous

Aug 19th, 2014 4:42 pm | By

More on James Foley.

The BBC:

The Islamic State militant group has released a video online purporting to show the killing of a US journalist.

The victim was identified by the militants as James Foley, a freelancer who was seized in Syria in late 2012.

The militants said it was in revenge for recent US air strikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq.

The video has not been independently verified, but the White House said if it was genuine, the US would be “appalled by the brutal murder”.

Foley’s family wrote on Facebook: “We know that many of you are looking for confirmation or answers. Please be patient until we all have more information, and keep the Foleys in your thoughts and prayers.”

Foley has reported extensively across the Middle East, working for the Global Post and other news outlets including the French news agency AFP.

From the Guardian:

A friend of Foley’s and his fellow captive in Libya, journalist Clare Morgana Gillis, wrote in a 2013 essay that captivity was “the state most violently opposite his nature.” Gillis described Foley as gentle, friendly, courageous and impatient with “anything that slows his forward momentum.”

In a January 2013 interview with local television news near her Rochester, New Hampshire home, Foley’s mother Diane said her son was “passionate about covering the story in Syria, passionate about the people there.”

A talk that Foley gave in 2011:


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

Imposing signature orientalist questions

Aug 19th, 2014 4:01 pm | By

So let’s sample a bit of Dilly Hussain’s work. Here’s a piece posted at the Huffington Post UK yesterday. It’s about the pressure on Muslims to disavow Islamist violence and repression.

This pressure on Muslims to bend over backwards in distancing themselves from crimes committed by their co-religionists comes in many forms: the war on terror rhetoric our government uses when talking about ‘extremism’ and ‘radicalisation’, the media’s demonisation of Islam linking it to every crime under the sun from sexual grooming, domestic violence to terrorism, and TV/radio presenters’ aggressive methods of interviewing. The sight of prominent Muslim figures and organisations tripping over themselves when they race to condemn on national TV, you can’t help but think, how different it is when let’s say white Britons or Americans commit similar crimes, or Christians or any other ethnic, racial or religious group – this apologetic syndrome has affected Muslims exclusively.

When the Madrid and London 7/7 bombings happened, Muslims in the West felt cornered as their governments and the media targeted their religion. Whilst the perpetrators of these attacks were Muslim, you would be naive to think that Islam was the catalyst behind the attacks, totally ignoring the West’s unequivocal support for Israel and its brutal occupation of Palestinian territories, propping oppressive dictators in the Arab world like Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gadhafi, Ben Ali and the petrol rich sheikhdoms of the Gulf, as well as the illegal war against Iraq.

But how does the West’s unequivocal support for Israel and its brutal occupation of Palestinian territories, propping oppressive dictators in the Arab world like Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gadhafi, Ben Ali and the petrol rich sheikhdoms of the Gulf, as well as the illegal war against Iraq justify or explain or require the murder of 52 random people in London? In what way is murdering random civilians a method of disputing or reforming the foreign policy of “the West”?

Also, in fact, you wouldn’t be “naive” to think the London bombers were all radical Islamists, because they were just that.

I found myself hounded upon by a BBC radio presenter last week when I was invited to speak on the topic of ‘Should British Muslims support a Caliphate‘. The discussion went from my personal views on the Caliphate to whether I acknowledged that Yazidis were being persecuted and if I condemned it. Furthermore, the presenter was hell-bent in his condescending style of ‘ impartiality’, imposing signature orientalist questions of analysing the Caliphate from the prism of secular liberal democracies as a bench mark to measure its viability in the modern era.

Golly. Now I have another question about why the Huffington Post publishes this guy: I want to know why they want such a bad writer writing for them.

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

On the nerves of Islamists

Aug 19th, 2014 3:37 pm | By

Amjad Khan at Harry’s Place introduces us to Dilly Hussain and his methods of disagreeing with that horrifying monster a Liberal Woman.

There seems to be something about women that really gets on the nerves of Islamists such as Dilly Hussain. Namely when they’re doing horrible “Islamophobic” things such as expressing opinions or leaving the confines of their home.

Now for those of you who don’t know ol’ Dilly, he’s a regular on the Huff Po and likes to write about his wonderful Caliphate (you know, the one that beheads apostates and stones women to death) on a bag of crazy called 5Pillarz.

Why would the HuffPo regularly publish someone who advocates for a Caliphate? Does it publish people who advocate for Nazism?

Dilly’s latest outrage was over Mina Topia having the audacity to say she ”wouldn’t agree with any state which tries to curtail anyone else’s right based on their religion, their sexuality, their creed or their political leaning” on a recent debate on the caliphate on BBC Asian network. That should sound fairly uncontroversial coming from pretty much anybody. The problem of course is that Mina made the mistake of being a Muslim and worse still, being a woman. Being unable to smear his critics as either racist or “Islamophobic”, Dilly instead resorted to calling Mina a “fatty”. Because that’s real mature and because he couldn’t deploy his usual dirty tactics to close down the debate before it even gets started.

With his persecution complex in full swing, Dilly decided to Twitter stalk Mina then copy and paste pictures of her out friends with great nuggets of wisdom like “pisshead, drunken liberal garbage”. Of course what somebody like Dilly is doing on a site that is meant to cater mainly to progressives, whilst referring to a woman as a “stupid liberal cow”, you will have to ask the Huff Po themselves. I didn’t know believers in a brutal, repressive, totalitarian theocracy that stones uppity women to death like Mina were standard fair for that site now.

It’s to make up for imperialism. Or something like that.

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

Sending a message

Aug 19th, 2014 3:26 pm | By

IS has apparently beheaded the US journalist James Foley, who has been missing for two years, the SMH reports.

Islamic State insurgents who control territory in Iraq and Syria released a video on Tuesday purportedly showing the beheading of US journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago. The group also threatened the life of a second US journalist it claims to be holding.

The video, titled “A Message To America,” was posted on social media sites. It was not immediately possible to verify.

Foley, who has reported in the Middle East for five years, was kidnapped on November 22, 2012, by unidentified gunmen.

God is great.

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

More Amnesty sources

Aug 19th, 2014 11:59 am | By

Amnesty International has a useful Ferguson Storify recording its activities and what its people have seen.

police announcing anyone standing who’s not a member of media will be arrested. Heading back to hotel with @Amnesty crew. stay safe

US can’t tell other countries to improve their records on policing and peaceful assembly if it won’t clean up its own human rights record


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

Economic recovery depended on cheap labor

Aug 19th, 2014 10:38 am | By

I’ve been re-reading David Oshinsky’s book Worse Than Slavery. It’s about the ways the Southern states found, after the Civil War, to continue exploiting black labor after and despite the abolition of slavery; it culminates with an account of Parchman Farm, Mississippi’s nightmarish state prison.

The Washington Post has the whole first chapter. Let’s start with the Mississippi governor in 1865. The state was a ruin.

In the fall of 1865, Governor Benjamin G. Humphreys addressed the “negro problem” before a special session of the Mississippi legislature. A planter by profession and a general during the war, Humphreys had campaigned for office in a “thrice-perforated” army coat shot through with Yankee lead. Like other leading Confederates, he had at first been excluded from participating in the South’s postwar political affairs. But President Andrew Johnson had pardoned the general, and hundreds like him, in remarkably short order. Humphreys received his pardon on October 5, 1865, just three days after winning the governor’s race in a landslide.(24)

His speech about the Negro was a major event, the first of its kind by a Southern governor since the Confederate defeat. “Under the pressure of federal bayonets.” Humphreys began, “. . . the people of Mississippi have abolished the institution of slavery.” That decision was final; there could be no turning back. “The Negro is free, whether we like it or not; we must realize that fact now and forever.”(25)

But freedom had its limits, Humphreys continued. It protected the Negro’s person and property but did not guarantee him political or social equality with whites. Indeed the “purity and progress” of both races required a strict caste system, with blacks accepting their place in the lower order of things. And that place–literally–was the cotton field of the south. Since economic recovery depended on a ready supply of Negro labor, the new system, like the old one, must reward the faithful field hand and punish the loafer. Such was the rule of the plantation, said Humphreys, and the “law of God.”

In the following days, the legislature passed a series of acts known collectively as the Black Codes. Their aim was to control the labor supply, to protect the freedman from his own “vices,” and to ensure the superior position of whites in southern life. “While some of [these acts] may seem rigid and stringent to sickly modern humanitarians,” the legislators declared, “the wicked and improvident, the vagabond and meddler, must be smarted [and] reformed.” Others agreed. The Mississippi Black Codes were copied, sometimes word for word, by legislators in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas.

And that’s the core of the whole story right there. It’s horribly simple. Mississippi was fertile land for growing cotton but the work is horrible and so is the climate. What to do? Nominate a caste of people who have to do the labor. Before the war it was literal explicit slavery; after the war it was slavery disguised as judicial punishment. How to do that? Make not working a crime for that caste. Make it a crime to quit a job, make it a crime to seek higher pay, make it a crime to move around, make it a crime to offer higher pay.

The Black Codes listed specific crimes for the “free negro” alone: “mischief,” “insulting gestures” “cruel treatment to animals,” and the “vending of spiritous or intoxicating liquors.” Free blacks were also prohibited from keeping firearms and from cohabiting with whites. The penalty for intermarriage, the ultimate taboo, was “confinement in the State penitentiary for life.”

At the heart of these codes were the vagrancy and enticement laws, designed to drive ex-slaves back to their home plantations. The Vagrancy Act provided that “all free negroes and mulattoes over the age of eighteen” must have written proof of a job at the beginning of every year. Those found “with no lawful employment . . . shall be deemed vagrants, and on conviction . . . fined a sum not exceeding . . . fifty dollars.” The Enticement Act made it illegal to lure a worker away from his employer by offering him inducements of any kind. Its purpose, of course, was to restrict the flow (and price) of labor by forcing plantation owners to stop “stealing” each other’s Negroes.

Frighteningly tidy, isn’t it; all exits locked and barred and nailed shut.

Reconstruction got in the way for awhile, but only for awhile.

So this is part of our filthy history, we Americans. Ferguson is like a day at the beach in comparison.

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


Aug 19th, 2014 9:51 am | By

Amnesty International is in Ferguson.

In an unusual move, the global rights organization Amnesty International has dispatched a delegation of observers and organizers to Ferguson, Mo., to provide direct support to community members and to observe the police response to protests. The 13-person delegation, which arrived late last week, was the first of its kind deployed by Amnesty within the United States, the organization said.

Not the first time it’s ever been needed though.

Via Twitter:

stevegiegerich @stevegiegerich · Aug 15
Jasmine Heiss & Justin Mazzola part of Amnesty International team monitoring situation in #Ferguson #MichaelBrown

Embedded image permalink

The scope of Amnesty’s mission was unprecedented; it was more like what they did during the 2013 protests in Turkey than anything they’ve done in the US before.

Heiss, who returned to Washington on Sunday, said the most striking thing she saw during her time in Ferguson was the “overall lack of transparency” from law enforcement.

“Reflecting on our time there, one of the most troubling things is what we didn’t see,” she said, referring to limits placed by law enforcement officials on access to the protests. “When you see this kind of restricting of people protesting … it seems clear that the authorities are using the ill will of some to undermine the rest.”

Well let’s face it: the US is more like Turkey than it is like the secular liberal democracies of the world.

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

More from the Brown files

Aug 18th, 2014 6:04 pm | By

Andrew Brown has invented a concept he calls “hard secularism” and cites as an example of it “attempts to ban prayer before council meetings.”

Mark Hammond, chief executive of the EHRC, points out that of the four cases on religious liberty that have gone to Strasbourg in the past three years, his organisation has sided with the Christians in two and against them in two. The commission took the view that Christians were not allowed to discriminate against gay people, however sincerely they want to, but it backed their right to wear crosses at work even when the secular courts disagreed.

For the EHRC, this is no more than a slight adjustment of course: a check that it is interpreting the law as it is supposed to be. But I think it is rather more than that and represents the start of a swing of the pendulum away from the kind of hard secularism that regards all forms of religion in public life with suspicion. Examples of that would be attempts to ban prayer before council meetings.

Because it’s just obviously no problem at all when city governments impose prayers on all councilors? Why? Why is that obviously no problem at all?

This is not a move towards the functional re-establishment ofChristianity, which has been effectively disestablished over the past 30 years. If anything, it is prompted by the rising importance of Islam. It is obviously dangerous to social cohesion if the idea gets around that Muslims can get away with things that Christians can’t, and there is some basis for that kind of reasoning. Christians who preach homophobia are sometimes harassed by the police in a way that Muslims who do the same aren’t; if Muslims come to the attention of the police for their beliefs, it is in connection with terrorism rather than crimes against liberal sexual orthodoxy.

“Liberal sexual orthodoxy”? So now Andrew Brown is sneering at gay rights too? Why doesn’t he just move to the Telegraph then and end the confusion?

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