Notes and Comment Blog

Hi how ya doin

Jan 17th, 2014 5:39 pm | By

Maajid Nawaz, LibDem parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn and chairman of the Quilliam Foundation, whom you may have seen rocking the discussion on the Big Questions, is trying to persuade his fellow Muslims to learn to calm down about inoffensive cartoons like for example the one in which Jesus and Mo (of Jesus and Mo) say hi how ya doin.

He posted that one on his Facebook the other day, and got some indignant responses. He tweeted it earlier today, and got a flood of death threats.

happymurtad tweeted a drawing too.


Desis rightfully hurt by me drawing Gandhi in my notepad are now swearing vengeance and complaining to the UN.

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Then he followed it up with another.


The NAACP, who speak for all blacks, have just announced my apostasy from the Negro race for tweeting MLK sketch.

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I know which team I think is more fun.

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

Children 6-12 Years

Jan 17th, 2014 4:15 pm | By

Another way this Safecare Asthmacare product is likely to fool people who don’t realize it’s “homeopathic” or what “homeopathic” means. It’s the Details, which are helpfully provided on the Google page that appears if you Google the two words. (It’s sponsored. I’m helping Safecare market its “Asthmacare”…)

asthmaYou’d never know it was just a little bottle of water, would you.

But this is the really sneaky part.


Directions: Initially, depress pump until primed. Hold close to mouth and spray one dose directly into mouth. Adult Dose: 3 pump sprays 3 times per day (use additionally as needed, up to 6 times per day); Children 6-12 Years: 2 pump sprays 3 times per day (use additionally as needed, up to 6 times per day).

That. That ridiculous “up to 6 times per day,” as if there were such a thing as an overdose. That doctory-sounding bullshit about dose and times per day and as needed and up to, as if there were anything in it BESIDES WATER.

It’s sheer cargo cult. Wear the white coat, make passes in the air, push your spectacles up your nose with a medical forefinger, look solemn, list all the Lobelia and Quebracho, and pocket your $23 for a bottle of nothing.

A bottle of nothing for a respiratory condition that can kill.

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

Natural – safe – smart

Jan 17th, 2014 3:29 pm | By

Sure enough, it’s not just Target. I just checked my local Bartell’s, which is a big drugstore chain around here. I found the asthma section, which had only three items, two apparently medical and one also apparently medical unless you were actually looking for the homeopathic version. This is what it looks like:

Safecare AsthmaCare

If you’re not specifically looking for homeopathic bullshit, you’re likely to think that’s actual medicine for asthma. I wasn’t sure which it was at first. The banner saying “natural-safe-smart” and the bit about “no known negative side effects” seemed likely, but I had to turn it over to confirm that it’s “homeopathic.” People who don’t know better WILL THINK IT’S MEDICINE.

It’s horrifying.

It does include a warning, but then so does the version that apparently does contain some medicine. The warning doesn’t include saying for instance “this stuff doesn’t contain any active ingredient, it’s not medicine, it’s frankly just water.”

If you Google safecare asthmacare, as I just did, you get a bunch of places that sell it, including Walgreen’s and CVS. You can find its page at CVS, where it costs $22.99. (I think it was $16.99 at Bartell’s.) You get its blurbs.

Homeopathic. The smart medicine. For temporary relief of minor asthma symptoms: shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness in chest. Natural, safe, smart. No known negative side effects. Not a rescue inhaler. A physician-based company established in 1989. 300 sprays per bottle. Approximately 100 adult doses. Taste-free, purified water base. No known negative side effects. No known negative drug interactions.

It’s fucking fraud, and it could easily kill people who are naïve or desperate enough to buy it thinking it really is medicine, just as it claims it is. This is asthma we’re talking about.

I talked to an employee about it. He said he would talk to his bosses in the pharmacy. (I gather he works in the pharmacy but isn’t himself a pharmacist.) I don’t suppose that will make any difference, but they should at least be made aware.

It’s far from being only Target. I wish it were only Target.

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

Putin to gays: you’re welcome here but hands off the kids

Jan 17th, 2014 12:51 pm | By

And that’s not a joke. That’s what he said. From the Washington Post:

President Vladimir Putin said Friday that gay people have nothing to fear in Russia as long as they leave children alone.

Putin met with a group of volunteers in the Olympic mountain venue at Krasnaya Polyana on Friday to wish them success at the Games. During a question-and-answer session, one volunteer asked him about Russia’s attitudes toward gays, a subject that has provoked worldwide controversy, and Putin offered what was apparently meant to be a reassuring answer for visitors to the Olympics.

“One can feel calm and at ease,” he said. “Just leave kids alone, please.”

That scummy piece of shit. What’s he got for the Jews? “Come on in. Just no killing kids for matzoh flour, thank you.”

News flash, Volodya: some straight men fail to “leave kids alone” – like Warren Jeffs for instance, like various Catholic bishops and priests for instance, like football coach Jerry Sandusky for instance.

In speaking to a room full of volunteers dressed in their Sochi warm-up gear, Putin attempted to put Russia on higher moral ground than other countries. Homosexuality is not a crime in Russia, as it was in the Soviet Union. Homosexuality was legalized in 1993. Police, he said, do not pluck gays off the street. In the United States, he asserted, some states impose criminal penalties for homosexual relations. Not Russia, he said. (In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that laws prohibiting gay sex were unconstitutional.)

Putin asserted that the idea of legalizing pedophilia has been discussed in some countries.

“There is nothing secret about it, look it up on the Internet and you’ll find it straightaway,” he said. “Parties have raised the issue with certain parliaments. So what, are we supposed to shuffle behind them like obedient dogs toward unknown consequences? We have our own traditions, our own culture, we treat all our partners with respect and ask for our traditions and our culture to be treated with respect as well.”

Ah yes the respect for traditions and cultures defense. You want us to respect your personal culture of homophobia, Mr Putin? Not going to happen.



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

Imagine if he’d portrayed him as coffee and a croissant

Jan 17th, 2014 12:04 pm | By

Remember the Greek guy who mocked a Greek Orthodox monk by pretending to call him a pasta dish? And was charged with blasphemy? Well he’s been convicted of that stupid non-crime, and sentenced to ten months in prison.

A man who created a Facebook page poking fun at a revered Greek Orthodox monk has been sentenced to 10 months in prison in Greece after being found guilty of blasphemy.

Thousands of Greeks took to social networking sites to protest against the arrest in 2012 of Filippos Loizos, 28, who used a play on words to portray Father Paisios as a traditional pasta-based dish.

“He was merely satirising in a country that gave birth to satire,” his lawyer, Yorgos Kleftodimos, said on Friday.

Aristophanes ring a bell? Loukian of Samosata? (Ok he was Assyrian but he wrote in Greek, and that amounts to being Greek.)

The charges against him, of insulting religion and malicious blasphemy, were filed after Christos Pappas, a politician from the far-right Golden Dawn party, brought the issue before parliament. Pappas is currently detained pending trial on charges of belonging to a criminal group, as part of a government crackdown on Golden Dawn.

I wish Euripides were around right now.

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

Flora Jessop

Jan 17th, 2014 11:22 am | By

Almost exactly a year ago ABC News reported that Flora Jessop had managed to rescue her sister Ruby and Ruby’s six children from Colorado City and the FLDS. The linked report is annoying because it autoplays, but it’s worth it for the content.

It’s all there, just as it is in the Learning Channel episode, right down to the intimidation by theocops in grey SUVs.

Flora Jessop had been trying to get Ruby Jessop out for twelve years. The Arizona Attorney General stands in front of the cameras and says that women are held hostage by the FLDS.

If you have a copy of Under the Banner of Heaven handy, check out pp 49-50. Krakauer describes the nightmare situation of Ruby Jessop and Flora Jessop’s attempts to rescue her. The publication date on the book is 2003. Two thousand fucking three – eleven years ago.

The way Krakauer segues into Ruby’s case is via Elizabeth Smart, and his point is that both of them were kidnapped and imprisoned by a Mormon Fundamentalist man.

Jessop in extremely relieved that Elizabeth Smart was discovered alive and thinks the outpouring of support Elizabeth has received is wonderful. But in Jessop’s view it underscores the disturbing absence of support for another young victim of polygamy – her sister, Ruby Jessop – whose predicament she first brought to the attention of government officials more than a year before Elizabeth was abducted.

Ruby was fourteen years old when she was observed innocently kissing a boy she fancied in Colorado City, For this unforgivable sin she was immediately forced to marry an older member of her extended family, whom she despised, in a fundamentalist ceremony presided over by Warren Jeffs. Like Elizabeth, Ruby was raped immediately after the wedding ceremony – so brutally that she spent her “wedding night” hemorrhaging copious amounts of blood. [Under the Banner of Heaven pp 49-50]

And there she was held, against her will, for twelve years.

From the ABC report:

Until recently, Flora Jessop said she didn’t know if she would ever see her sister again.

Ruby Jessop was forced into an arranged marriage with her step-brother when she was 14 years old, according to her sister and the Arizona attorney general.

“Twelve years ago, I got a call from my sister who has 14 years old and had been placed in an arranged marriage,” Flora Jessop told “She had managed to get away and I gave her a promise that I would do everything I could to keep her safe. Then, before I could get to her and get her help, she disappeared and was taken back into the group.”

Jessop, now 26, managed to flee from a radical faction of the Mormon church called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, more commonly known as FLDS, earlier this month. She was then able to gain temporary custody of her six children, who range from 2 to 10 years old.

Our own little Taliban.

The attorney general’s office has not provided details on how Jessop escaped or got temporary custody of her children, but said the escape was aided by $420,000 Horne made available. He said the money went towards more deputies working in Colorado City, an FLDS stronghold. The deputies were “instrumental” in helping Jessop and her children leave safely, Horne said.

Horne emphasized the need for more funding at a news conference, saying that the current funds will run out in six months.

That partially answers the questions we were asking the other day about why Flora Jessop has to do all this rescue work on her own.

“Ruby is one of thousands that have been trapped and abused and held under the regime of Warren Jeffs and she is just so happy to be out and her children are excited and able to go to a school for the first time,” Flora Jessop said. “To watch them play with toys and learn to become children has just been amazing.”

That’s not Afghanistan, it’s not Somalia, it’s not the Swat Valley. It’s Arizona, USA.


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

Central African Republic

Jan 16th, 2014 6:22 pm | By

It’s not good news.

A UN humanitarian official has warned against the risk of genocide in Central African Republic, where an ethnic conflict has caused over 1,000 deaths and left thousands uprooted.

“It has all the elements that we have seen elsewhere, in places like Rwanda and Bosnia. The elements are there, the seeds are there, for a genocide. There’s no question about that,” John Ging, director of operations for the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told a news conference in Geneva.

Ging described the situation in CAR as a “mega-crisis” where humanitarian needs are urged for thousands of displaced people.

The two groups that hate each other are Muslims and Christians.

Whatever. Serbs and Bosnians; Hutus and Tutsis; Hindus and Muslims; Thises and Thatses.



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

Backing away

Jan 16th, 2014 5:40 pm | By

From September 2008, a New York Times editorial on libel tourism and Khalid bin Mahfouz’s lawsuit against Rachel Ehrenfeld.

When Rachel Ehrenfeld wrote “Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed and How to Stop It,” she assumed she would be protected by the First Amendment. She was, in the United States. But a wealthy Saudi businessman she accused in the book of being a funder of terrorism, Khalid bin Mahfouz, sued in Britain, where the libel laws are heavily weighted against journalists, and won a sizable amount of money.

The lawsuit is a case of what legal experts are calling “libel tourism.” Ms. Ehrenfeld is an American, and “Funding Evil” was never published in Britain. But at least 23 copies of the book were sold online, opening the door for the lawsuit. When Ms. Ehrenfeld decided not to defend the suit in Britain, Mr. bin Mahfouz won a default judgment and is now free to sue to collect in the United States.

And guess what that does. It makes other writers very cautious.

Most writers, particularly those who concern themselves with arcane subjects like terrorism financing, are not wealthy. The prospect of a deep-pocketed plaintiff coming after them in court can be frightening. Even if the lawsuit fails, the cost and effort involved in defending against it can be considerable.

The result is what lawyers call a “chilling effect” — authors and publishers may avoid taking on some subjects, or challenging powerful interests. That has already been happening in Britain. Craig Unger’s “House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World’s Two Most Powerful Dynasties” was a best seller in the United States. But its British publisher canceled plans to publish the book, reportedly out of fear of being sued. (A smaller publisher later released it.)

Ms. Ehrenfeld says that even in the United States, writers and publishers have been backing away from books about terrorism financing — particularly about the Saudi connection — out of fear of being sued. It is hard to know if other books are not being written out of fear of lawsuits — that is the essence of the chilling effect.

Interesting, isn’t it, given that Saudi Arabia already gets Special Treatment because of that sticky black liquid they have so much of and because of their putative help in the world’s quarrel with jihadists. Combine that with fear of lawsuits and you get an untouchable theocracy that is hellish for women and foreign workers.

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

All of the Shaykh’s demands

Jan 16th, 2014 1:00 pm | By

Because it came up, I thought I might as well take a look back at those grotesque libel cases from the recent past.

One is the suit against Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World (Cambridge University Press, 2006), by J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins. Collins wrote it up at History News Network.

On April 3, 2007 Kevin Taylor, Intellectual Property Manager for the Cambridge University Press (CUP), contacted Millard Burr and myself that the solicitors for Shaykh Khalid bin Mahfouz, Kendall Freeman, had informed CUP of eleven “allegations of defamation” in our book Alms for Jihad: Charities and Terrorism in the Islamic World and requested a response. 

They sent a response, seventeen pages worth, but CUP considered it not good enough and caved completely.

On May 9, 2007 CUP agreed to virtually all of the Shaykh’s demands to stop sale of the book, destroy all “existing copies,” prepare a letter of apology, and make a “payment to charity” for damages and contribute to legal costs. After further negotiations the press also agreed, on June 20, 2007, to request 280 libraries around the world to withdraw the book or insert an erratum slip. During these three months of negotiations Millard and I had naively assumed that, as authors, we were automatically a party to any settlement but were now informed we “are out of jurisdiction” so that CUP had to ask “whether or not they [the authors] wish to join in any settlement with your client [Mahfouz].” On 30 July 2007 Mr. Justice Eady in the London High Court accepted the abject surrender of CUP which promptly pulped 2,340 existing copies of Alms for Jihad, sent letters to the relevant libraries to do the same or insert an errata sheet, issued a public apology, and paid costs and damages.

And according to Collins they did that not because the case had merit but because it would be too difficult and expensive to fight it in the English courts.

Millard Burr and I had adamantly refused to be a party to the humiliating capitulation by CUP and were not about to renounce what we had written. Alms for Jihad had been meticulously researched, our interpretations judicious, our conclusions made in good faith on the available evidence. It is a very detailed analysis of the global reach of Islamic, mostly Saudi, charities to support the spread of fundamental Islam and the Islamist state by any means necessary. When writing Alms for Jihad we identified specific persons, methods, money, how it was laundered, and for what purpose substantiated by over 1,000 references. I had previously warned the editor at CUP, Marigold Acland, that some of this material could prove contentious, and in March 2005 legal advisers for CUP spent a month vetting the book before going into production and finally its publication in March 2006. We were careful when writing Alms for Jihad not to state explicitly that Shaykh Mahfouz was funding terrorism but the overwhelming real and circumstantial evidence presented implicitly could lead the reader to no other conclusion.

So that’s that bit of history, only seven years ago.

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

In the lab, studying screenplays

Jan 16th, 2014 12:18 pm | By

Ashley Miller is getting legal threats, from someone who says “From this point forward our attorney will be the only contact” and then promptly sends another email. The threats look very empty, but to be polite I will be careful not to cast aspersions on the enterprise in question. I won’t make any effort not to laugh, though.

The enterprise in question is called Cinematic Appraisals. I’d never heard of it before and now I have, so I hope they’re thanking Ashley for the free advertising.

Cinematic Appraisals has Science. It has a page about the Science, complete with a photo of Science In Action.

Cinematic Appraisals’ patent-pending Mind Science Method is based on neuroscientific research conducted over the last 40 years. The Mind Science Method measures neurobiological triggers and reactions, assigning a proven value for each level.

It’s long been known that moviegoers psychologically fall into a state of “suspended disbelief” when watching stories play out on film, which is just the beginning of what goes on in the psyche and the body during film watching. Viewers’ physiological responses also fluctuate depending upon their level of involvement with the story and action. While watching something highly stimulating, the human body releases a host of limbic chemical responses. The dose of chemicals released is proportionate to the level of emotional stimuli, creating lasting emotions.

In other words, when the protagonist runs, the connected viewer’s heart rate will increase. When the protagonist holds his breath, so does the connected viewer. This state has been compared to the state of partial hypnosis—a state normally only achieved when dreaming.

The Mind Science Method gauges this degree of connection with the material using our unique patented neurobiological algorithms. This allows the producer to tell when the screenplay produces this hypnotic-like state—and when it does not. This allows a producer to reverse-engineer the screenplay to create one audiences will love, before going through the expense of production.

They should branch out and do that with everything – poetry, novels, paintings, sculpture, ballet, hockey – everything.

More free advertising.

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

Guest post: libel threats in Ireland

Jan 16th, 2014 11:10 am | By

Originally a comment by mudpuddles on You can’t say that?

There have been a number of cases here in Ireland where politicians and other high-profile people (high-profile here, not necessarily anywhere else) have successfully sued individual broadcasters and / or their programmes or hosting company (which has in the past included RTE) over allegedly libelous or defamatory statements or programme content. A number of those cases have been valid, but some have been nothing short of bullying tactics aimed at silencing dissent or criticism. Most have succeeded. In one famous case from 4 or 5 years ago, the then-Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) threatened legal action after an art gallery hung two paintings depicting a caricature of him in a state of undress (in kind of a “the emperor has no clothes” concept). The art was removed. What’s worse, he also threatened legal action against RTE which included a piece about the art in its news programmes. Bizarrely, RTE issued an on-air apology to him on the news the following day.

As a result, there is an utterly ridiculous terror of libel, and way over the top efforts by RTE and other media (notably Today FM and the RTE radio outlets) to backpeddle and apologise profusely whenever any guest or interviewee says anything which might, at even the wildest stretch of the imagination, be considered to leave an opening for a lawsuit. It matters not whether any statement is backed up by rock solid evidence (such as is the case with the writings of John Waters, a disgusting bigot, and with the public statements and actions of the Iona Institute).

So RTE censoring a recorded interview, which has already gone out live, is not a shock. Its just indicative of the broader problem of cowardice and complacency within the media here, and a symptom of the cosy relationship that journalists and media organisations like to foster with the powers that be.

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

Oh no not again

Jan 16th, 2014 10:41 am | By

I saw someone on Twitter complaining about feminists complaining about Peta and its use of the female body yet again so I decided to be one of those feminists complaining about Peta and its use of the female body yet again. So I looked it up: what is it this time?

This time it’s women wearing bikinis made of lettuce (actually made of cloth but with lettuce or cabbage stuck onto the cloth). It’s women wearing lettuce bikinis in Minneapolis during the polar vortex.

So there you go: I’m complaining about it.

If you type “peta women lettuce” into Google images you get an astonishing quantity of images.

If you type “peta women” into Google images you also get an astonishing quantity of images.

Women as things to be deployed for advertising purposes. Yeah. It wasn’t cute when Madison Avenue did it and it’s not cute now. It’s not made cute by “irony” or “transgression” or hipster misogyny or any of the rest of the bullshit.

Yet again.


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

Allergy Treatment Spr

Jan 15th, 2014 4:47 pm | By

Now that’s a really horrifying use of “homeopathy” – that haha medical “treatment” that takes care to wash away every trace of the active ingredient.

Fake asthma remedy

It’s insulting on top of recklessly endangering, charging $15.99 for a tiny amount of water. But the reckless endangerment is the horrifying part. Asthma can kill! How can a “spray” with no active ingredient offer any kind of relief, temporary or otherwise, for asthma symptoms? It’s not going to shrink the swollen inflamed airways, so what relief can it offer?

It’s criminal.

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

27 Nobelists

Jan 15th, 2014 4:11 pm | By

The BBC reports that 27 Nobel laureates have written an open letter to Putin about his disgusting law against “homosexual propaganda.”

Leading figures including novelist JM Coetzee signed the letter, devised by Sir Ian and chemist Sir Harry Kroto and given to The Independent.

I heard this story on the World Service last night, including Harry Kroto reading from the letter. That was exciting, because I’ve shared a dinner table with Harry Kroto. He was at CFI’s Moving Secularism Forward conference in Orlando two years ago – and gave a very exciting and thrilling talk.

Sir Harry Kroto said he had “enjoyed the tremendous friendship of Russian scientists” during numerous visits, but had seriously considered cancelling his next trip, an invitation which he had accepted before the issue arose.

“I have decided to go and, while in Russia, make my grave concerns clear at appropriate moments by pointing out that I shall not consider any further invitations unless this law is repealed or moves to repeal it are taken and in addition a serious effort is made by the Russian Government to ensure the safety of the Russian LGBT community,” said Sir Harry.

He’s a great guy, and a firebrand.

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

No roots

Jan 15th, 2014 3:34 pm | By

A little back and forth on Twitter today between American Atheists and some people about belief in hell. It started with an observation that belief in hell is inconsistent with belief in [god's] unconditional love, which set off some “not all Christians believe in hell” pushback. So AA said

I suppose in that case, those Christians believe everyone goes to heaven?

@awhooker Not necessarily.

@AmericanAtheist What do they believe happens to those who don’t?

@awhooker No idea. You’ll have to ask a Christian what he/she/they believes.

Each individual will have a different conception of the afterlife. But not all Christian denominations believe in hell.

For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventism, and Christadelphianism don’t ascribe to such a belief.

Nothing remarkable about any of that, it’s just that it struck me what a footling, pointless, empty, ungrounded way of trying to get understanding it is. It’s all floating around in the air, tethered to nothing. It’s all just making it up.

With other kinds of conversations and arguments and attempts to get understanding, the parties are attempting to consult something – information, knowledge, data, evidence in the case of factual disputes, or values, rights, laws, politics in the case of disputes over principles, or both combined in many cases. But then there’s this weird other category where everything is just claims, and people believe them or they believe different ones, but in neither case is there anything more than just claims. These over here “believe” everyone goes to heaven while those over there “believe” some people go to heaven while other people go to hell. There are no roots on “believe” – it just dangles there, connected to nothing, leading nowhere.

Nothing new in that. It just annoys me afresh at times, the way people will take seriously states of affairs like “Each individual will have a different conception of the afterlife” as if that’s reasonable as opposed to an incoherent anarchic babble.

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

Reality horror tv

Jan 15th, 2014 12:07 pm | By

There’s a new tv series on the risibly-named “Learning Channel”: Escaping the Prophet. It’s surprisingly grim and real for TLC – home of the endless Duggar show, in which the role of fundamentalist hyper-patriarchal religion is drastically downplayed while a woman’s persistence in attempting life-threatening pregnancies is presented as heroic, and of a show about a Mormon guy with four wives, presented as a kind of cuddly soap opera.

Escaping the Prophet is what it sounds like – it’s about escaping that horrible little town on the Arizona-Utah border which is a miniature theocracy which people are not allowed to leave. Jon Krakauer wrote a brilliant book on Colorado City and the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints, Under the Banner of Heaven. Its “prophet” – the one who needs to be escaped – is Warren Jeffs, who is in prison doing time for raping two underage girls.

It’s creepy and stressful to watch, so much so that I decided to stop and watch the rest later. It’s creepy and stressful because these people are being held captive and I don’t see why it can be on tv instead of dealt with by the cops.

Part of the reason is that Colorado City is physically very isolated. Part of it is probably the fact that things went so badly when the authorities intervened at the Yearning for Zion Ranch. But still – it’s quite blood-chilling to see this unfolding as just another bit of reality tv when it’s such a stark case of unlawful confinement.

Escaping the Prophet follows Flora Jessop on her mission to take down one of the most reportedly dangerous polygamist cults in America. Flora, a social activist, an advocate for abused children, and the author of the 2009 book Church of Lies, endured extreme physical, mental, and sexual abuse during her life in the church, until she escaped at the age of 16. Now, she works closely with law enforcement, the Attorney General of Arizona, and a network of inside informants to help rescue runaways and extract victims within the community, as well as to help empower families who chose to stay and fight. Using her difficult memories and her passion to help others, she works to deliver justice to the very people that she feels wronged her.

The FLDS religion remains one of the most secretive communities in America, a world of unquestioned authority, arranged marriage, and little contact to the outside world. The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints continues to be led by its president – and self-described prophet – Warren Jeffs, despite his 2011 conviction on two felony counts of child sexual assault.

In each episode, Flora, along with partner Brandon (a former member of the FLDS and one of Warren Jeffs’ nephews) offers aid and attempts to extract a number of families from the FLDS community.

I don’t get it. I don’t get why it’s a matter of attempting. I don’t get why a bunch of cops don’t go with them.

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

You can’t say that?

Jan 15th, 2014 11:01 am | By

There was a conversation on RTE the other day, a conversation which touched on homophobia; the video of the conversation was taken down from YouTube and then restored with parts removed.

RTE has removed content from the RTE Player featuring Rory O’Neill’s interview on The Saturday Night Show.

In an interview following a performance by O’Neill’s alter ego Panti, host Brendan O’Connor spoke to the performer about homophobia in Ireland. O’Neill spoke about how he believed Ireland had a bad rep but as a small country could change much faster.

Nothing too horrifying there. He goes on to say that everybody knows gay people, which makes it hard to “be mean” about the subject.

Because Ireland is such small communities grouped together, everybody knows their local gay!

Maybe twenty years ago it was ok to be really mean about him, but nowadays it’s just not ok to be really mean about it.

The only place that you see it’s ok to be really horrible and mean about gays is on the internet in the comments and people who make a living writing opinion pieces for newspapers.”

Rory O’Neill

When O’Connor asked who the writers were that O’Neill was talking about he named Breda O’Brien and John Waters, as well as the Iona Institute.

And the interview was later taken down. reports:

RTÉ confirmed its actions in a statement to

        Last weekend’s The Saturday Night Show was removed from the Player due to potential legal issues and for reasons of sensitivity following the death of Tom O’Gorman as would be standard practice in such situations.

The programme has since been returned to the online player but O’Neill’s interview has been cut short.

What potential legal issues?

Can anybody seriously think that anything he said was libelous? If so, things are more different on that side of the Atlantic than I had realized.



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

Enormous, disproportionate impact on black minority women

Jan 15th, 2014 10:20 am | By

The Independent reported on the LSESUASH et al. letter to the UN special rapporteur yesterday. That’s good: major media coverage, and non-right-wing major media coverage at that.

Mr Moos, who was recently involved in a freedom of expression battle with LSE, believes that any type of segregation should be fought and that the UN pressure would help public discussion.

He said: “We hope that the UN will air their concern about the on-going issue of gender discrimination in public institutions in the UK, and advise the UK government on how to ensure full compliance with the existing human rights legislation that outlaws discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics like gender.”

As opposed to treating gender as a special case because culture or because religion or because oh shit we don’t want to get into it. (more…)

No hypocrisy

Jan 14th, 2014 5:15 pm | By

Gnu Atheism on the pope:


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


Jan 14th, 2014 4:50 pm | By

Another one. From the New York Times:

A federal judge in Oklahoma ruled Tuesday that the state’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage violated the federal Constitution, the latest in a string of legal victories for gay rights and one that occurred in the heart of the Bible Belt.

The state’s ban on marriage by gay and lesbian couples is “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit,” wrote Judge Terence C. Kern of United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, in Tulsa, deciding a case that had languished for nine years. The amendment, he said, is based on “moral disapproval” and does not advance the state’s asserted interests in promoting heterosexual marriage or the welfare of children.

The judge stayed his ruling in anticipation that the state will appeal, but it’s a start.

…with his decision against the state’s own ban on such marriages, “Judge Kern has come to the conclusion that so many have before him — that the fundamental equality of lesbian and gay couples is guaranteed by the United States Constitution,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, in a statement issued late Tuesday.

Rights trump religion. So there.

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