Notes and Comment Blog

From a great height

Mar 19th, 2014 4:38 pm | By

The Tories look out for the little people, don’t let anyone tell you different.


Grant Shapps MP @grantshapps

#budget2014 cuts bingo & beer tax helping hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy. RT to spread the word

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche, eh?

Update: This makes a nice commentary. H/t Maureen.

Embedded image permalink

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

Nowhere to hide

Mar 19th, 2014 3:16 pm | By

Catherine Briggs of LifeSiteNews (yes, the anti-abortion site) seems to have missed the point of a certain fundraising campaign by a wide margin.

In the world of social media, instant news has become a way of life.  Thanks to Twitter and the diffusion of information at less than a moment’s speed, the DC Abortion Fund’s latest outrage has nowhere to hide.

In a move that can only be described as tasteless and sickening, the DC Abortion Fund has offered a gift of a coat-hanger pendant to anyone who signs up to donate $10 a month or more to their organization.

Far from being a disgusting joke, the DCAF is serious about this reward for their loyal donors.  The organization’s motto itself features a coat-hanger dangling from the end of its last word.

Yes, and?

The pendant isn’t what’s tasteless and sickening, it’s the policy that would lead to more and more coat-hanger abortions that is tasteless and sickening. LifeSiteNews’s policy. The policy that opposes legal abortion.

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

Non-Muslims may not inherit at all

Mar 19th, 2014 11:25 am | By

From the Lawyers’ Secular Society, a practice note issued by the Law Society.

This practice note provides guidance to lawyers specialising in areas such as wills, succession and inheritance, and in particular how to accommodate the wishes of clients who want to ensure their assets are distributed according to ‘sharia law principles’ on their death.

Uh oh.

But what this guidance does is legitimise discrimination towards women and “illegitimate children” – if that term still has any meaning in English law. In an astonishing few paragraphs the guidance states (at Section 3.6):

“The male heirs in most cases receive double the amount inherited by a female heir of the same class. Non-Muslims may not inherit at all, and only Muslim marriages are recognised. Similarly, a divorced spouse is no longer a Sharia heir, as the entitlement depends on a valid Muslim marriage existing at the date of death.

“This means you should amend or delete some standard will clauses. For example, you should consider excluding the provisions of s33 of the Wills Act 1837 because these operate to pass a gift to the children of a deceased ‘descendent’. Under Sharia rules, the children of a deceased heir have no entitlement, although they can benefit from the freely disposable third.

“Similarly, you should amend clauses which define the term ‘children’ or ‘issue’ to exclude those who are illegitimate or adopted.”

So the guidance by the Law Society instructs lawyers in how to draw up wills according to sharia, as if they were temporarily bound by sharia.

This raises serious questions about professional ethics and the role of the Law Society. The guidance seems not to recognise that there is a serious potential conflict between the Code of Conduct for solicitors and the guidance. Here is what the Code of Conduct – which all solicitors must abide by – says about equality and diversity (at Chapter 2):

“This chapter is about encouraging equality of opportunity and respect for diversity, and preventing unlawful discrimination, in your relationship with your clients and others. The requirements apply in relation to age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

“Everyone needs to contribute to compliance with these requirements, for example by treating each other, and clients, fairly and with respect, by embedding such values in the workplace and by challenging inappropriate behaviour and processes. Your role in embedding these values will vary depending on your role.

“As a matter of general law you must comply with requirements set out in legislation – including the Equality Act 2010 – as well as the conduct duties contained in this chapter.”

The Code of Conduct makes it clear that solicitors cannot discriminate, yet this guidance is encouraging us to facilitate discrimination in advising Muslim clients on their wills.

That seems outrageous. It will be interesting to see if there is any pushback.

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

For sure

Mar 19th, 2014 9:57 am | By

It’s conventional wisdom. It’s common sense. It’s what everyone knows. It’s for sure. It’s obvious. It’s dangerous for women to walk around alone, especially after dark or especially in places like parks where there aren’t a lot of people around. Imagine how dangerous it is to go into a park where there aren’t a lot of people around after dark!

It’s common sense, and it’s bullshit.

I’ve been treating it like bullshit my whole life, and I’ve been right to do so.

Think about it. Do rapists and thieves hang around in parks hoping someone will fall into their trap? Are parks after dark crawling with hopeful rapists and thieves, wasting their time while all the victims stay away?

Of course they’re not.

Beware of conventional wisdom. Beware of what you think you know if you’ve never for a second actually thought about it. Check your bromides.


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

Rooted in stereotype, and applied only to women

Mar 19th, 2014 9:36 am | By

Even Time – never a radical, lefty, groundbreaking, nonconformist magazine – gets it that words do matter, because they say things and people pick up the things and believe them.

So, in an attempt to save you — writers, speakers, humans, journalists — from falling into the gender bias trap unintentionally, we’ve put together this handy guide:

Don’t Call Girls Bossy. Or Grown Women Aggressive.

Seriously, don’t do it. And while you’re at it, don’t call them pushy, angry, brusque, ballbusters, bitchy, careerist, cold, calculating — you get the point. Also: shrill and strident, both of which imply high-pitched and screechy women a la your mother, finger pointed, scolding you to clean your room. Bossy is the subject of the new Sandberg campaign, but it’s something linguists have written about for decades. The reality is that these words are rooted in stereotype, and they are only applied to women. Think about it: girls are bossy, boys have “leadership qualities.” Women are deemed aggressive, while men are simply decisive (or just, um, bosses). From Ruth Bader Ginsburg (called “a bitch” by her law school classmates) to the “ball-busting” Hillary Clinton, historians will tell you: women in power have long been punished for exhibiting qualities of assertiveness, because it veers from the “feminine” mold. And yet, isn’t it precisely those assertive qualities that will help women get ahead?

And aren’t they just a necessary part of many lines of work? Yes, they are, so if women are bullied for demonstrating them, that’s an obstacle that shouldn’t be there. It’s dancing backward in high heels with a pitcher of water on your head.

Please Avoid the ‘Crazy Woman’ Trope. And While We’re At It: She’s Not ‘Moody,’ ‘Hysterical,’ or ‘Emotional’ Either.

Female hysteria was once the catch-all diagnosis for a woman with problems, and it didn’t disappear entirely from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders until 1980. But the trope of the crazy, emotional, moody, hysterical, PMS-ing, crazy woman — or worse, the crazy, emotional, hysterical romantic stalker — remains in full force. Crazy is the catch-all putdown for any woman you don’t like/makes you uncomfortable/doesn’t fit the mold. (Or as Tina Fey said in her book Bossypants, “the definition of ‘crazy’ in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her any more.”) The problem with being a woman is that it’s impossible to avoid this label. So what even is crazy? A woman who expresses opinions? A woman who speaks too loud, or out of turn? Am I crazy if I yell? Am I crazy if I like a guy? Am I crazy if I act like a leader? Whatever it is, it usually doesn’t refer to any kind of real life mental illness. So keep the crazy label in check.

Except when singing the Patsy Cline song.

Leave Looks Out Of It.

That means Hillary Clinton’s cleavage, her cankles, her haircuts, pants suits, or the color of her blouse — all irrelevant to whether she’s going to make a good president! I also don’t need to know about Huma Abedin’s “rich, glowing hair,” Elena Kagan’s “drab D.C. clothes” or that Janet Yellin wore the same outfit twice (she’s the motherfucking head of the Fed). Here’s what the Washington Post’s internal stylebook says about references to personal appearance in print: that they “should generally be omitted unless clearly relevant to the story.” In case that wasn’t clear, a few specifics. TV hosts: Probably a bad idea to comment on how hot a woman is on air. Interviewers: Let’s avoid asking badass ladies in various fields about their looks, diets or favorite fashion designers. (And for more on this topic, check out Lindy West’s great piece over at Jezebel on how to write about female politicians.)

Ok, I’ll do that. Lindy West is going to be at Women in Secularism 3.

Others? Catfight. Shut up about catfights. Skip the stupid “can she have it all” trope.

When in doubt, read this column, from the public editor of the New York Times, published last month amid outrage over a magazine cover titled, “Can Wendy Davis Have It All?” “Despite its well-intentioned efforts,” the Times ombudsman wrote, “this piece managed to trip over a double standard with its detailed examination of Ms. Davis’s biography, including her role in raising her two daughters.” And while we’re at it, let’s stop asking how women manage to “do it all.” Tina Fey declared this “the rudest question you can ask a woman.” Because the answer is simple. She’s doing it the same way a dude would, except that he doesn’t have to answer questions about it.

Well actually no, she’s usually not, because she’s doing both the job and the bulk of the domestic duties. While feeling guilty. Backward and in high heels.




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

Equine contributions

Mar 18th, 2014 5:19 pm | By

So now that you know how to conduct yourself if you have the audacity to go out in public, let’s turn our attention to Congress and the pope. Congress has asked the pope to come along and talk to them next time he’s in town, officially.

Congressional leaders have invited Pope Francis to address a joint session of Congress during his expected visit to the United States next year.

He’s planning to come over in September for a conference on families. Because that makes sense, right? Having an officially celibate cleric participate in a conference on families? They should invite him to a conference on early childhood development, too; he could explain the benefits of being raped by the priest and watching nobody care.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), as the constitutional officer of Congress, made the formal invitation on behalf of House and Senate leaders, according to House and Senate aides. The House speaker is the officer who formally invites the president each year to give a State of the Union address. All joint sessions of Congress occur in the House Chamber because it is the larger of the two chambers.

As the constitutional officer of Congress, he sent that invitation to the world’s only King and Emperor of a Global Religion. As the constitutional officer of Congress, did he give any thought to the separation of church and state? Did he pause to wonder why secular legislators should have the world’s only pontiff lecturing them?

If there’s one person in the whole world who should not be invited to lecture the US congress, it’s the pope. There is no one else on earth who has the position the pope has. Not one. It’s a unique position, and uniquely anachronistic, and uniquely theocratic. Congress has no business inviting him to talk to Congress.

Aides to Boehner said he sent the invitation Thursday to officials in Vatican City. If Francis accepts the invitation, he would be the first pontiff to ever address American lawmakers from the U.S. Capitol, according to Boehner aides.

In his formal invitation, Boehner noted that Francis’s ascension to the papacy and his social teachings over the past year “have prompted careful reflection and vigorous dialogue among people of all ideologies and religious views in the United States and throughout a rapidly changing world, particularly among those who champion human dignity, freedom, and social justice.”

What horse-shit.

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

Avoid isolated areas, don’t carry bags, be aware of your surroundings

Mar 18th, 2014 4:22 pm | By

And then, RAINN has

Avoiding Dangerous Situations

which is kind of them, because otherwise women would just keep seeking out dangerous situations, because women are so stupid that way.

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you to find a way to get out of a bad situation.
  • Try to avoid isolated areas. It is more difficult to get help if no one is around.
  • Walk with purpose. Even if you don’t know where you are going, act like you do.
  • Trust your instincts. If a situation or location feels unsafe or uncomfortable, it probably isn’t the best place to be.
  • Try not to load yourself down with packages or bags as this can make you appear more vulnerable.
  • Make sure your cell phone is with you and charged and that you have cab money.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be isolated with someone you don’t trust or someone you don’t know.
  • Avoid putting music headphones in both ears so that you can be more aware of your surroundings, especially if you are walking alone.

Do you notice something about all that? Because I do.

It’s basically telling women not to go outside like normal people. It’s telling them to act and feel like a fat juicy sheep strolling around in wolf country.

Excuse me, I like to go outside for walks, and I like to do it freely and without any obsessive worried planning and listchecking and rule-following and behavior-eliminating. I bet other women do too. I don’t want to “walk with purpose” all the time; I like to wander and gaze and be lost in my thoughts. I load myself down with packages and bags all the time, because I don’t have a car.

That list just boils down to telling women to stay inside, or if they must go out, act like a Jew in 1943 Warsaw nipping out for a package of cigarettes.

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

Exposed to 18 years of prevention messages

Mar 18th, 2014 3:57 pm | By

The RAINN advice seems to be wrong in another place – page 2 of the pdf:

By the time they reach college, most students have been exposed to 18 years of prevention messages, in one form or another. Thanks to repeated messages from parents, religious leaders, teachers, coaches, the media and, yes, the culture at large, the overwhelming majority of these young adults have learned right from wrong, and enter college knowing that rape falls squarely in the latter category.

Really? These students have heard, in those 18 years, nothing but “rape is wrong”? They’ve been exposed to no repeated messages that pull the other way?

Of course they have. They’ve been exposed to countless repeated messages to the effect that sex is a kind of battlefield, and that men who don’t win battles are losers. They’ve been exposed to repeated messages telling them that men are supposed to be pushy and aggressive and confident about sex. They’ve been exposed to repeated messages telling them that women secretly or not so secretly want to be “overcome” or nudged into it or seduced or made drunk and then fucked. They’ve been exposed to repeated messages telling them that men are supposed to “score” a lot and if they don’t they’re pathetic. They’ve been exposed to repeated messages telling them that women are kind of stupid and dishonest and manipulative. They’ve been exposed to all kinds of messages, and many of them are to the effect that women are more or less contemptible and men are supposed to get and keep the upper hand.

So no, the situation is not as simple and easy as the overwhelming majority of these young adults have learned right from wrong, and enter college knowing that rape falls squarely in the latter category. That would be nice, but it’s not true.


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

“Rape is caused not by cultural factors”

Mar 18th, 2014 12:38 pm | By

RAINN,  the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, wrote a letter to a new White House task force charged with creating a plan to reduce rape on college campuses. The letter includes what seems to me to be a strikingly bad piece of advice.

In 16 pages of recommendations, RAINN urged the task focus to remain focused on the true cause of the problem. “In the last few years, there has been an unfortunate trend towards blaming “rape culture” for the extensive problem of sexual violence on campuses. While it is helpful to point out the systemic barriers to addressing the problem, it is important to not lose sight of a simple fact: Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime,” said the letter to the task force from RAINN’s president, Scott Berkowitz, and vice president for public policy, Rebecca O’Connor.

Excuse me?

Nobody blames rape culture in the sense of thinking rape culture does the raping. Nobody needs to be told it’s individual people who do the raping. But what motivates them to do that, besides just wanting to fuck someone? What motivates them to do it and encourages them to think it’s ok and that they’ll get away with it? What fails to demotivate them? What is it that fails to cause them to prefer not to do that to their fellow students, their fellow humans? What is it that blocks what should be a fairly normal inhibition on assaulting people?

This phrase for instance doesn’t even make sense – “Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions” – how can conscious decisions not be caused by (among other things) cultural factors? They can’t. People aren’t raised by wolves. Everything we do is caused by cultural factors (along with other factors), because we are in culture, and we can’t get out of it. We’re in culture the way fish are in water. Conscious decisions are shaped by the culture we make them in.

And if RAINN really thinks that culture has no bearing on ideas about women and men, gender and equality, power and hierarchy, who gets to take and who gets to get taken, and the conscious decisions that are influenced by all that – well then RAINN is in the wrong line of work.


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

Taking it a little too far

Mar 18th, 2014 11:51 am | By

Ah the ever-popular response of busy school administrations to a bullying problem – they tell the person being bullied to stop doing whatever it is the bullies think is bad.

There’s a fundamental mistake being made here. The mistake is taking advice on what’s “bad” from people who think bullying is permissible and suitable.

In this case it’s a nine-year-old boy who wore a “My Little Pony” backpack to school.

Grayson Bruce said other students picked on him and bullied him because the backpack was “girly.” His mother, Noreen Bruce, said her son was punched, pushed down and called names over the fuzzy blue pony bag with ears.

“They’re taking it a little too far with you know, punching me and pushing me down — calling me horrible names. Stuff that really shouldn’t happen,” Grayson  said.

Bruce said Buncombe County Schools officials told her son to leave the backpack at home to “immediately address a situation that had created a disruption in the classroom.”

Nope. Nope nope nope. The thing to do there is to tell the children doing the punching and pushing down and calling horrible names to stop doing that, and enforce it. It’s not to punish Grayson Bruce, or to tell him he did something wrong. It’s not to let the children who did the bullying get their way while Grayson Bruce isn’t allowed to take his chosen backpack to school.


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

God loves poverty, ignorance and death

Mar 18th, 2014 11:07 am | By

So Boko Haram has won – Nigeria has closed down 85 schools in north-eastern Borno, affecting nearly 120,000 students, because of the danger of more murderous attacks by the Islamist thugs.

Islamic militants have burned down scores of schools in attacks that have killed hundreds of students. Other schools fearful of attacks have closed in Yobe and Adamawa states.

“We have run out of excuses for our failure to live up to our responsibility to protect our innocent defenceless children from gratuitous violence,” the speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, told legislators at a special session last week to mourn the latest victims – 59 students killed at a boarding school in neighbouring Yobe state on 25 February. Extremists locked some of the students into a dormitory and set it alight.

“Extremists” my ass – sadistic mass murderers, is what they are.

The school closures could have far-reaching consequences, including ending the education of some students in a region where few ever have the opportunity to get to high school, said the chairman of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, Chidi Anselm Odinkalu.

“The average secondary school enrolment is slightly under 5% (in north-eastern Nigeria), so I think it’s easy to understand that you cannot overestimate what the consequences of this could be, given the parlous state of education in the region and the fact that, clearly, whoever is orchestrating this is focused on targeting schools, educational institutions,” he said.

It just makes you want to bang your head against a wall – people wanting to stop education and ensure more and worse poverty. Look at a very impoverished reason with a horrifically low rate of education, and bend every nerve to make it much worse. Pleasing “god” by making more humans more miserable.

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

Taking Mel Brooks literally

Mar 17th, 2014 6:21 pm | By

David Salmanson has a beautiful takedown of Christina Hoff Sommers’s piece in Time bashing feminism and “Free to be You and Me.”

So let’s look at how Sommers misreads the context of Free To Be.  First there is the assertion that Free to Be’s main goal was to create gender-free children.  For evidence, she points to a dialogue between two babies wherein the boy wants to be a cocktail waitress and the girl a fireman.  Except she neglects to mention that the babies are voiced by Mel Brooks and Marlo Thomas and the skit is clearly played for laughs.   (Watch it here if you don’t believe me).   She also targets Ladies First, which is not about destroying concepts femininity but about pulling your own weight and acting appropriate in a given context.  And again, played for laughs.  She somehow ignored Carol Channing’s tour de force takedown on housework.  These stories used comedy and exaggeration to challenge stereotypes – not advocate for a genderless world.  Let’s remember what school looked like in 1974. Around 1974, my gym teacher told me girls couldn’t be captains for choosing sides in gym (mom called the principal).  In 1974, most girls had extremely limited opportunities to play sports at all.  In 1971, less than 300,000 girls played sports and comprised less than 1% of varsity athletes.  In 2012-13 over 3 million girls played sports in high school and comprising about 40 percent of high school athletes.   That’s a pretty hefty increase. But hey, that’s just sports, right?  What about the real world?  In 1970, only 10 percent of doctors were women, now it’s a third.  In 1970, only 5 percent of lawyers were women, now it’s a third.  Women, weren’t in those professions in part because of sexism in admissions, but in part because people actively discouraged women from joining those fields.  That’s why we needed Free to Be You and Me.

But but but! Sissy boys! Bossy professional victim girls! Contrarian, maverick, American Enterprise Institute, chances to write hit-pieces in Time.

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

A remnant

Mar 17th, 2014 5:37 pm | By

Hmm. I’d seen some comments about finding a bible in the Harlem explosion, and I was going to say something erm challenging about it, but I avoided Fox and the Daily News and chose the CNN version, and…well given the story CNN tells, I really don’t feel like looking down my nose at it.

On the third day of a grueling recovery effort from the three-story pile of rubble, firefighters early Saturday pulled a large waterlogged Bible from the ashes and ruins of the Spanish Christian Church, which occupied the basement and first floor of one of the two destroyed buildings.

“One of our members found a Bible, the original book they tell me of the founders of the church,” Cassano said. “It was singed, but it meant an awful lot to the pastor because at least we have a remnant of the church. It showed the pastor they’ll be rebuilding. This church is resilient.”

When firefighters presented the Spanish-language Bible to the church’s 83-year-old pastor, the Rev. Thomas Perez, the pastor was overcome.

Perez, who has stood vigil with others at the blast site, was participating in a small prayer gathering with religious leaders and experienced chest pains, said the Rev. Vernon Williams, who attended the vigil.

Cassano said Perez was recovering at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

“He was overwhelmed with emotion, for sure,” the fire commissioner said. “It’s a very sacred thing for him.”

After Perez was taken away by ambulance, Williams said, about two dozen people at the vigil prayed for him before carrying the Bible in a procession near the site.

“It was the altar Bible,” Williams said. “There was no sing[e]ing on the Bible at all. It was intact, with a little water damage.”

The small evangelical church and Bethel Gospel Assembly lost five members in the explosion.

The blast victims were identified as Carmen Tanco, 67; Alexis (Jordy) Salas, 22; Griselde Camacho, 44; Rosaura Hernandez, 21; Andreas Panagopoulos, 43; George Ameado, 44; and Rosaura Barrios, 44.

All right…I don’t get from that that oh it’s ok then, because the bible survived. I get more of a clutching at whatever there is.


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

Fixing feminism one tweet at a time

Mar 17th, 2014 4:45 pm | By

If you want to make yourself pissed off – and who doesn’t?? – you could do worse than checking on the Twitter account of Christina Hoff Sommers now and then. Here’s my crop from a quick scroll through just now:

Sexual McCarthyism in military is result of phony study.Sex assault genuine problem;but won’t be solved by fake data.

General Sinclair broke rules by having affair:Bad.But military pursued rape charge it knew not true:Horrifying.

Wow!Pentagon pursued sex assault case even though it knew accuser lying.Sexual McCarthyism no longer just on campus.

Wait a minute. I thought women were supposed to be the cooperative sex. …

Iraq just legalized spousal rape. American feminists organize to “Ban Bossy.”

Uh-oh! The ultimate male hegemon–Mitt Romney–regularly called “bossy” during campaign.

My advice to Sheryl Sandberg and others who find little word “bossy” threatening: Woman up!

Other male-specific putdowns–loser, creep, putz, bastard — and worse. Male achievement a complete mystery: So many mean words! #banbossy

RTing one Mark J Perry:

Do gender activists advocate perfect gender equality for: prison populations, motorcycle deaths, job-related deaths?

That’s a good enough sample for now.

She used to be a philosopher. Some people should just never go near Twitter.

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

Isn’t it amazing what the teacher asked

Mar 17th, 2014 4:03 pm | By

Remember that schoolteacher who bullied the Buddhist kid for not “correctly” answering the question she asked on a test:

“ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

when the “correct” answer was supposed to be “the Lord”? Remember that?

Well a judge has said that’s a no-no.

6th grade science teacher Rita Roark taught students that the Bible is “100 percent true.” She told them God created the Earth 6,000 years ago and called evolution a “stupid theory made up by stupid people who don’t want to believe in God.” What follows is a test question she gives to students.

“ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The answer Roark looked for was “The Lord.” But “C.C.,” a student in Roark’s class, couldn’t answer the question, nor would he have. That’s because C.C. is a Buddhist, not a Christian. Roark not only violated her student’s First Amendment rights by pushing specific religious beliefs on a classroom assignment, she also ridiculed her non-Christian student. She led her class in laughing at “C.C.” and called his Buddhist faith “stupid.” Roark also told “C.C.” that “you’re stupid if you don’t believe in God.”

Christian propaganda can be found all around school property. From pictures of Jesus, posters, Bible verses, and official prayers, Negreet High School clearly seeks to indoctrinate students and bully those who don’t practice the Christian faith. When parents confronted Sabine Parish Superintendent Sara Ebarb about the issue, she told them to either change their faith to fit in with “the Bible Belt” or find a school where “there are more Asians.”

Or get out of God’s country or give up on getting an education or jump off a cliff. One of those, anyway we win and you lose.

District Judge Elizabeth Foote not only ruled against the school, she threw the book at them. In her ruling, Foote agreed that the school district clearly violated the constitutional rights of students by forcing Christian doctrine down their throats. She ordered the school to remove all of the propaganda from the premises. The ruling banned school officials from initiating prayers, using class work to promote religion, sponsoring a religious belief, or holding religious services at the school. Students are still permitted to pray in school and participate in religious clubs. But as the ruling states,

“The District and School Board are permanently enjoined from permitting School Officials at any school within the School District to promote their personal religious beliefs to students in class or during or in conjunction with a School Event… School Officials shall not denigrate any particular faith, or lack thereof, or single out any student for disfavor or criticism because of his or her particular faith or religious belief, or lack thereof.”

In other words they’ve been told to do what they should have been doing all along.

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

Look for the Chopped-Off Alien Fetus Pods

Mar 17th, 2014 2:29 pm | By

I don’t know what this is, but it’s making me laugh until I have to get up and walk around the room to regain my composure.

Lileks Institute: Knudsen’s, the Very Best.

Excuse me, I have to blow my nose again.


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


Mar 17th, 2014 11:40 am | By

There’s an issue here; a crux, an aporia, a conundrum, a fork.

On the one hand, yes, of course, you have to ground all your claims in something. Reasons don’t just fall out of the sky; we have to think about them, and criticize them, and back them up.

On the other hand, you don’t want all questions to be permanently open. That would lead to a war of all against all.

How do you reconcile those two items?

Beats the hell out of me.

I’m seeing some philosophy types who are annoyed by this idea that some questions should be treated as closed, because hey, there are arguments for abortion rights, and it’s philosophy types who can make them.

Yes, ok, but does the discussion have to go on forever? And what do we do in the meantime? And what about all those places where it is in fact treated as closed? The US teems with new attacks on abortion rights and women’s right to be treated as human beings with human rights of their own; Ireland doesn’t even have abortion rights apart from the extremely minimal ones voted in last summer in the wake of the death of Savita Halappanavar; but in the UK and many other European countries abortion rights are just there – the question is treated as closed. It’s not clear why we have to start over again from scratch every day.

Also: philosophy types should not act like Spocks. They should not get all surprised and miffed when women who have an investment in abortion rights get pissed off by dispassionate discussion of whether women in fact should have abortion rights. This is a human thing. It’s human to get upset about controversies that are close to home. There’s something…reptilian about pointing disdainfully at people who get angry about controversies of that kind.

The reality is that rights were invented as a way to treat certain questions as closed for practical purposes. That’s why they’re rights as opposed to laws. That’s why they are called “inalienable” in the Declaration of Independence. “Inalienable” can be translated as “you can talk until you’re blue in the face but you still can’t take away our rights.”

Update: actually unalienable, not inalienable. My mistake.


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

What prompted this reaction?

Mar 17th, 2014 9:46 am | By

Philip Roth did an interview for Svenska Dagbladet and the NY Times Book Review a couple of weeks ago. There was one interesting question.

In some quarters it is almost a cliché to mention the word “misogyny” in relation to your books. What, do you think, prompted this reaction initially, and what is your response to those who still try to label your work in that way?

Misogyny, a hatred of women, provides my work with neither a structure, a meaning, a motive, a message, a conviction, a perspective, or a guiding principle. This is contrary, say, to how another noxious form of psychopathic abhorrence — and misogyny’s equivalent in the sweeping inclusiveness of its pervasive malice — anti-Semitism, a hatred of Jews, provides all those essentials to “Mein Kampf.” My traducers propound my alleged malefaction as though I have spewed venom on women for half a century. But only a madman would go to the trouble of writing 31 books in order to affirm his hatred.

It is my comic fate to be the writer these traducers have decided I am not. They practice a rather commonplace form of social control: You are not what you think you are. You are what we think you are. You are what we choose for you to be. Well, welcome to the subjective human race. The imposition of a cause’s idea of reality on the writer’s idea of reality can only mistakenly be called “reading.” And in the case at hand, it is not necessarily a harmless amusement. In some quarters, “misogynist” is now a word used almost as laxly as was “Communist” by the McCarthyite right in the 1950s — and for very like the same purpose.

Yet every writer learns over a lifetime to be tolerant of the stupid inferences that are drawn from literature and the fantasies implausibly imposed upon it. As for the kind of writer I am? I am who I don’t pretend to be.

Well, as for the interviewer’s question, “what prompted this reaction initially,” I can say what prompted it in me: it was reading his early novels, and in particular My Life as a Man, which is so frenzied in its loathing that it put me off reading him at all for decades. That’s what.

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

Guest post: The Myth of the Consistent Skeptic

Mar 16th, 2014 5:24 pm | By

Originally a comment by Blanche Quizno on Another bad model.

Let’s not fall into the trap sometimes described as the “Myth of the Consistent Skeptic.” Albert Einstein was an huge and outspoken admirer of the Soviet Union’s government system, holding onto his positive view even as negative information poured in:

Einstein held a wide range of beliefs beyond his contributions to science and outside his area of expertise. For example, in 1933, Einstein (we believe correctly) voiced his opinion about political liberty in Germany, “As long as I have any choice, I will only stay in a country where political liberty, toleration, and equality of all citizens before the law are the rule. Political liberty implies liberty to express one’s political views orally and in writing, toleration, respect for any and every individual. These conditions do not obtain in Germany at the present time” (Einstein 1949, p. 81). Einstein openly criticized Nazism and the brutalities that occurred under that government.

The important point, however, is that Einstein’s positive beliefs toward the Soviet Union did not change as substantial information came forth demonstrating that the Soviet Union was a totalitarian state that did not tolerate political liberty. Einstein was never shy about judging capitalism or Nazism by their deeds and actions instead of their rhetoric. He did not apply this standard to the Soviet Union. A consistent skeptic would not use double standards to evaluate different forms of governments.

If Einstein was a consistent skeptic, one would predict that, as the accumulating evidence came forth over the years, Einstein would modify his beliefs and become a leading critic of both Stalin and the Soviet Union for their violations of political liberty.

The point is that, since people are complex, complicated individuals, you’re rarely going to find a single person who is completely, unfailingly luminary in every characteristic bar none. So do we throw out the baby with the bathwater if we happen to find something icky?

If so, then we’re going to have to OURSELVES be consistent across the board. Out with Heidegger. Out with Einstein. Out with Thomas Jefferson:

In his original draft of the Declaration, in soaring, damning, fiery prose, Jefferson denounced the slave trade as an “execrable commerce …this assemblage of horrors,” a “cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberties.” As historian John Chester Miller put it, “The inclusion of Jefferson’s strictures on slavery and the slave trade would have committed the United States to the abolition of slavery.

But in the 1790s, Davis continues, “the most remarkable thing about Jefferson’s stand on slavery is his immense silence.” And later, Davis finds, Jefferson’s emancipation efforts “virtually ceased.”

Somewhere in a short span of years during the 1780s and into the early 1790s, a transformation came over Jefferson.

The Virginia abolitionist Moncure Conway, noting Jefferson’s enduring reputation as a would-be emancipator, remarked scornfully, “Never did a man achieve more fame for what he did not do.

The critical turning point in Jefferson’s thinking may well have come in 1792. As Jefferson was counting up the agricultural profits and losses of his plantation in a letter to President Washington that year, it occurred to him that there was a phenomenon he had perceived at Monticello but never actually measured. He proceeded to calculate it in a barely legible, scribbled note in the middle of a page, enclosed in brackets. What Jefferson set out clearly for the first time was that he was making a 4 percent profit every year on the birth of black children. The enslaved were yielding him a bonanza, a perpetual human dividend at compound interest. Jefferson wrote, “I allow nothing for losses by death, but, on the contrary, shall presently take credit four per cent. per annum, for their increase over and above keeping up their own numbers.” His plantation was producing inexhaustible human assets. The percentage was predictable.

In another communication from the early 1790s, Jefferson takes the 4 percent formula further and quite bluntly advances the notion that slavery presented an investment strategy for the future. He writes that an acquaintance who had suffered financial reverses “should have been invested in negroes.” He advises that if the friend’s family had any cash left, “every farthing of it [should be] laid out in land and negroes, which besides a present support bring a silent profit of from 5. to 10. per cent in this country by the increase in their value.”

The irony is that Jefferson sent his 4 percent formula to George Washington, who freed his slaves, precisely because slavery had made human beings into money, like “Cattle in the market,” and this disgusted him. – “The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson”, Smithsonian Magazine, October 2012

George Washington freed his slaves. Thomas Jefferson never did – even though Jefferson’s old friend, Polish nobleman and Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Kos­ciuszko, left him in his will the equivalent in today’s dollars of $280,000 to use in freeing his slaves. Jefferson had helped draft this will; he knew what was in it. As executor of that will, Jefferson had a legal responsibility to carry its terms out as specified, which meant using that money to free his slaves. Jefferson did not. He refused to accept the cash because he could make more money off his slaves. Jefferson never freed his slaves, many of which were his own children.

Isn’t enslaving your own children far more heinous than believing and saying horrible stuff about an ethnic group that’s not your own?


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

Another bad model

Mar 16th, 2014 2:37 pm | By

So Heidegger was even worse than everyone thought. They thought he was a little anti-Semitic, yes, but not…you know…all the way anti-Semitic.

This week’s publication of the “black notebooks” (a kind of philosophical diary that Heidegger asked to be held back until the end of his complete work), challenges this view. In France the revelations have been debated vigorously since passages were leaked to the media last December, with some Heidegger scholars even trying to stop the notebooks’ publication.

In Germany, one critic has argued that it would be “hard to defend” Heidegger’s thinking after the publication of the notebooks, while another has already called the revelations a “debacle” for modern continental philosophy – even though the complete notebooks were until now embargoed by the publisher.

So what did he say?

“World Judaism”, Heidegger writes in the notebooks, “is ungraspable everywhere and doesn’t need to get involved in military action while continuing to unfurl its influence, whereas we are left to sacrifice the best blood of the best of our people”.

In another passage, the philosopher writes that the Jewish people, with their “talent for calculation”, were so vehemently opposed to the Nazi’s racial theories because “they themselves have lived according to the race principle for longest”.

The notion of “world Judaism” was propagated in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the notorious forgery purporting to reveal a Jewish plan for world domination. Adolf Hitler stated the conspiracy theory as fact in Mein Kampf, and Heidegger too appears to adopt some of its central tropes.

Did Heidegger have much to say about “World Gentilism”?

Other philosophers have argued that the new revelations do not amount to a “smoking gun” of antisemitism, and should not lead to a dismissal of Heidegger’s other writings even if they did. “Philosophy is about learning to be aware of problems in your own thinking where you might not have suspected them,” said the British philosopher Jonathan Rée about the black notebooks.

“The best of what Heidegger wrote – indeed the best of philosophy in general – is not an injunction to agree with a proffered opinion, but a plea to all of us to make our thinking more thoughtful.”

Ok, but a philosopher whose thinking is infected with something as stupid and vicious as anti-Semitism – especially anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany – isn’t going to be much help with making our thinking more thoughtful. Do you see what I mean? Because he’s not a good example of more thoughtful thinking. Anti-semitic thinking is not a good model for making our thinking more thoughtful.

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