Notes and Comment Blog

Their self-congratulatory image of brave “speakers of truth to power”

Feb 15th, 2014 11:56 am | By

Nick Cohen points out the very important difference between saying you are not showing a cartoon character named Mo out of respect, and saying you are not showing a cartoon character named Mo because you are afraid to.

When the BBC interviewed the artist behind Jesus and Mo, its editors told him privately they could not show his drawing of Jesus saying “Hey” and Mo saying “How ya’ doin’?” because jihadis might murder the corporation’s correspondents in Pakistan.

That’s a reason, but what a pity they didn’t say that during the interview. What a pity Jeremy Paxman did the very opposite, and insinuated that the cartoonist had done a bad wrong thing in drawing such a cartoon at all. What a lousy crappy rotten thing to do, Jeremy Paxman.

Fear may not be a noble reason for censoring, but it can be an honest one if you admit its existence. If I worked at the BBC and my colleagues told me that showing a bland cartoon might endanger lives in Pakistan, I wouldn’t broadcast it. If I worked at Channel 4 or edited a national newspaper, I wouldn’t put my colleagues’ safety at risk either. But I would also tell the viewers or readers that I was censoring out of fear: not respect or cultural sensitivity but pure fear. I would make it clear to them that freedom and secularism were in danger in Britain. I would say that the people who provoked the fear deserved no more true respect than a gangster did.

Instead of what the BBC and Channel 4 did, which was to make it seem as if the cartoonist and Maajid Nawaz are in the wrong, and the people threatening them are in the right. It’s dishonest and contemptible.

Not one editor has dared admit that he or she is afraid. The editor of Newsnight did not mention threats to his colleagues’ lives when he talked to the Independent about the Nawaz case. Rather he implied that he was a responsible journalist, while his critics, rather than, say, potential terrorists, were macho maniacs. “A lot of the people disappointed with us for not using it really wanted a demonstration of liberal virility rather than more informative journalism,” he said.

Cognitive dissonance anyone? It can’t be that the wonderful people at Newsnight hid the cartoon out of fear, therefore it must be that their critics wanted “a demonstration of liberal virility.”

If you admit to being afraid, you are acknowledging the scale of suppression. And it is only when you acknowledge that suppression exists that you can begin a campaign to challenge it. As it is, editors and senior journalists in the British media are not prepared to destroy their self-congratulatory image of brave “speakers of truth to power” by saying they are scared. The results are pernicious whichever way you cut them.

Quite: cognitive dissonance playing out as sheer vanity.

The liberal mainstream has abandoned liberal Muslims.

What is Maajid Nawaz meant to think? He says on a public platform that a bland cartoon is not offensive. He has rejected  Koranic literalism, endorsed tolerance, and done everything the mainstream wants an integrated Muslim to do. And look at how the mainstream treats him. It agrees with his persecutors by ruling that the image is so shocking no national newspaper or broadcaster can show it. Meanwhile editors’ failure to level with their audience and admit that they are censoring because of a fear of violence, has the added malign consequence of diminishing the real threat that Nawaz and others face.


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

You can’t argue with sadism

Feb 15th, 2014 11:09 am | By

Chris Mooney reports at Slate on a new study that finds (or confirms) that internet trolls really are everyday sadists.

(There’s an irony in that, since a few years ago he was a big fan of a troll who was active on his blog and elsewhere – “Tom Johnson” who was actually Wally Smith. But maybe he’s learned since then. I’ve learned some things since then.)

The research, conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).

It is hard to underplay the results: The study found correlations, sometimes quite significant, between these traits and trolling behavior. What’s more, it also found a relationship between all Dark Tetrad traits (except for narcissism) and the overall time that an individual spent, per day, commenting on the Internet.

Imagine my complete lack of surprise.

Overall, the authors found that the relationship between sadism and trolling was the strongest, and that indeed, sadists appear to troll because they find it pleasurable. “Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others,” they wrote. “Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!”

That helps to explain the difference between people who argue with others online, sometimes rudely and aggressively, and people who persecute others online. The former do it because they’re interested in the argument and the latter do it because they like the persecution. This in turn explains why the former type does not fixate on a few people and refuse to let go, while the latter type does. The arguers argue and move on; the persecutors persecute the same people for an open-ended length of time.

The study comes as websites, particularly at major media outlets, are increasingly weighing steps to rein in trollish behavior. Last year Popular Science did away with its comments sections completely, citing research on the deleterious effects of trolling, and YouTube also took measures to rein in trolling.

That sums up my policy on commenters very neatly. I don’t allow trolling.

But study author Buckels actually isn’t sure that fix is a realistic one. “Because the behaviors are intrinsically motivating for sadists, comment moderators will likely have a difficult time curbing trolling with punishments (e.g., banning users),” she said by email.

Ah but it’s not punishment. That’s how they see it, or pretend and claim to see it (cf the first item in the Tetrad: Machiavellianism), but that’s just more trolling. It’s not punishment, it’s just not wanting them on your blog. Why should anyone want Machiavellian narcissistic psychopathic sadists on her blog?

The larger point is, this just demonstrates (what we already knew) that blather about “peace talks” and “sitting down to settle our differences” is just that: blather. It’s stupid at the foundation level, because the trolling is not fundamentally about genuine “differences” or “issues” or “grievances”; it’s about persecuting people for pleasure. That’s all there is to it. It’s not complicated, it’s not interesting, it’s not subject to diplomacy or management. It’s just everyday sadists doing what they like to do. You can’t argue them out of liking to do it.


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

Guest post by Diane Ní Cheallacháin: Catholic schools and othering

Feb 15th, 2014 9:52 am | By

Diane reported this horrible practice in a comment at Atheist Ireland on Facebook. It’s one I hadn’t heard of before – a creative and sadistic way to make children feel the sharp pain of exclusion from bliss for not being part of the religious in-crowd. I’m sharing it with her permission.

Jayzus at the amount of time spent arguing with the local primary school to no avail re parties for those who ‘sang at yesterdays’ communion, mass’ etc. when the ‘school’ specifically stated it doesn’t discriminate: explain to me why X goes home in tears because s/he was excluded from the party because of not being Catholic Enough. It’s also blatantly hollow to encourage/reward children with treats to gain religious brownie points. Shouldn’t the reward be implicit by having the One True Religion? (I was calm, honestly, and this is FB so an abbreviated version of events.)

That wasn’t appreciated by the principal. *cue mumble mumble back-pedalling drivel* 

Having a solicitor willing to help resulted in “well, if you want a pupil to be admitted to Y school later, best not to have a record of ‘incidents’” i.e. keep yer gob shut. Using a child as a ping-pong ball is wrong from both ends of the spectrum but it was gawdawful to see the four children- not catholic- being ostracized after class lessons about Inclusion. Allowing the pupils to skip RE is one thing; to punish them for it later is feckin horrendous.

End of almighty rant.


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

Collecting reactions

Feb 14th, 2014 4:44 pm | By

A fabulously useful resource from South Asia Citizens Web: a list of responses to Penguin’s withdrawal of Wendy Doniger’s book in India, with many quoted in full.

The Indian Express February 12

Prominent sections of the establishment in India have long abdicated their commitment to a defence of the written word, forsaking the liberal strategy of allowing a text to be contested legally — and legally alone — on whatever grouse, and instead even abetting intimidation as a tool for bringing censorship. It is to India’s shame that it was the first country to ban Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. Since then, through the vandalisation that hounded a scholarly biography of Shivaji out of circulation, the message has been clear.

The recent withdrawal by Oxford University Press and Delhi University of an essay by A.K. Ramanujan was a capitulation to expressions of intolerance by rightwing Hindutva groups similar to those aflutter about Doniger’s analysis.

The message they send is that contested analyses and narratives will not be challenged in debate, but debate on anything that agitated groups perceive to be unaligned to their puritanical, artificially compact worldview will be suffocated. They have got their way.

I did not know that about the essay and OUP. Wtf?

The Times of India February 13

Hindutva’s ideologues have led often violent movements to ban works of art and academia — like MF Husain’s paintings and James Laine’s book on Shivaji.

What is surprising is Doniger’s publishers, Penguin India, buckling and agreeing to pulp her book. This reflects the growing power of bullying self-appointed censors, with governments, politicians and courts seldom standing in their way. If the law is trying to protect religious sentiment, the irony is that it is Doniger’s work — not Batra’s — that celebrates Hinduism. She appears to make the case that sex was treated by Hinduism as a natural, beautiful part of life, not to be treated with guilt and shame as Semitic religions may demand. This can hardly be construed as an attack on Hinduism. But by attacking Doniger’s work for discussing sensuality in Hindu life, her opponents display a Victorian hangover with a Taliban temperament. Persistent attacks like these, and supineness of authorities, raise the question whether democracy — and India’s future as a nation-state — can survive without freedom of expression.

For an answer, look to Pakistan. Indian laws which forbid offence to any religion mimic Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws, and Hindutva is perhaps the only force in the world driven by Pakistan envy today. If we go down the path of hurt sentiments and incentivising professional offence takers, we will soon have no defence left against the radicalism tearing Pakistan apart.

Imagine wanting to be like Pakistan.

The Hindu February 13

Penguin was unarguably in a position to fight a longer legal battle in defence of Wendy Doniger’s right to be read, and by implication the right of every Indian to choose what she wants to read. That the publisher allowed itself to be browbeaten into submission by a little-known outfit that saw no contradiction in its own sweeping slander of the author — among other things, the petitioner called her “sex hungry” — is a comment on the illiberalism incrementally taking India in its sweep. To an extent this was unavoidable because the churn in Indian politics was inevitably leading to a heightened awareness about community identities and group rights. However, sensibilities have become so susceptible to hurt that virtually anything written can be contested and asked to be withdrawn. The intolerance, visible especially on the social media, is towards anything seen as modern and forward-looking, with the unofficial censors assuming the right to attack and abuse at will. This twin intimidation — of censorship combined with licence — has flourished all the more in a political environment increasingly supportive of moral policing and guilty of an almost kneejerk willingness to ban books. The Maharashtra government banned Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India, under pressure from vandals who attacked the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in protest. More recently, cartoon depictions of B.R. Ambedkar had to be withdrawn from NCERT text-books. A quarter century after The Satanic Verses, the written word seems to be more and more under threat.

Daily News and Analysis February 13

The treatment meted out to Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen must top any list of shame, from their books being banned to their being personally hounded. They provide august company for the likes of James Laine — run afoul of Marathi chauvinists not once but twice in the past decade for his books on Chhatrapati Shivaji, with both works being banned — and Joseph Lelyveld whose book on Mahatma Gandhi was banned in Gujarat in 2011. The best that can be said for the state is that it is equal opportunity in its cravenness, willing to back obscurantists of all stripes. If it quailed at the prospect of angering hardline Muslim elements with Rushdie, Nasreen and R V Bhasin, it has accommodated Christian outrage when it comes to the Da Vinci Code and the self-appointed guardians of Hinduism who took outrage at Ramanujan and Doniger. February 12 by Salil Tripathi

…in the next edition of her book, [Doniger] might scrutinize more what happened to some followers of Hinduism that they abandoned the faith’s proclaimed tenets of tolerance, and embraced the intolerant strains of other faiths, compared to which their own faith, they claimed, was superior. Or at least different from the monotheistic religions where notions like blasphemy were tossed around to silence opponents. That is a political question, and the ease with which the Indian state acquiesced to the loud mobs that shout “we are offended!” has only made it easier for obscure groups to turn to courts. And these courts, all too willingly, admit petitions drawn from Victorian-era sections of the penal code, such as 153A and 295A, which give a licence to anyone to complain that his or her feelings are hurt, that communal harmony may get disrupted, that hatred is being incited.

But no book razed a mosque; no books entered a railway station or five-star hotels and killed people; no book blew up crowded bazaars; no book looked the other way when crowds extracted revenge on other communities over real or imagined wrongs. People did that; and those people have rarely been brought to courts to face charges. Instead, the author is asked to narrow her imagination, or to swallow his words. This is the infantilization of India.

And there’s a lot more. An excellent resource. Thank you, SACW.



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

Honor Diaries

Feb 14th, 2014 2:54 pm | By

This could be the best thing ever. We’ve got until March 8 to spread the word.

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

Giving the shirt too

Feb 14th, 2014 2:44 pm | By

Credit where it’s due – an archbishop in CAR is warning of genocide and he’s not just worrying about the Christian victims. Astonishing but true.

A Central African bishop has reported signs of genocide in the growing conflict there, urging an effective security response and warning against the “evil” desire to kill and destroy.

“If there is no one to hold back the hand of the devil here, he will achieve his goal. Many people will be hunted down and killed,” Archbishop Dieudonnè Nzapalainga of Bangui told Aid to the Church in Need Feb. 12.

He said he had visited a town called Bodango, about 125 miles from the capital of Bangui, where all of the Muslims – who are among those targeted in the conflict – have disappeared. Members of the Anti-Balaka militia told him the Muslims had been driven out, but the archbishop was skeptical, fearing instead that they had all been killed.

“That over 200 Muslims, along with all their children and old people could have walked 125 miles is impossible,” the archbishop said.

So he’s pointing the finger at his own team, which is not what we have come to expect of archbishops. Bien fait, Archbisohop Nzapalainga.

Amid the violence, there are also peacemakers. In the southwestern town of Boali, Father Xavier Fagba at St. Peter’s Parish Church has sheltered about 650 Muslims since mid-January.

“Now is the time for men of good will to stand up and prove the strength and quality of their faith,” the priest told the BBC.

He said when he took in the Muslim refugees no one in the community understood him. “They attacked and threatened me.”

The church walls have bullet holes from opponents of the Muslims’ presence in the church. The refugees fear they will be killed if they leave.

Attacks on Muslims in Boali, including machete attacks, have killed several people including 22 children. Crowds have also torn down the town’s two mosques.

Father Fagba said he believes that some of the refugees in his church were involved in attacks on Christian families, though he does not mention this when he talks to them.

“When I talk to them it’s a call for them to change their lives and their behavior,” he said, adding that the Muslims should be considered “as our brothers.”

Well that’s even more impressive. That’s Desmond Tutu-level generosity.

H/t Leonie Hilliard.



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

The peacekeepers went from vehicle to vehicle instructing everyone to return to a local mosque

Feb 14th, 2014 12:32 pm | By

And then there’s the Central African Republic. 

Can we not do this again?

Thousands of Muslims tried to flee the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR) on Friday, only for their mass convoy of cars and trucks to be turned back as crowds of angry Christians taunted: “We’re going to kill you all.”

The drama unfolded as Amnesty International said it had uncovered evidence of a fresh massacre in a village where the sole surviving Muslim was an orphaned girl aged about 11, and France said it would send an extra 400 peacekeeping troops.

Some cars were crammed with as many as 10 people as the convoy made its way through Bangui, the second such attempt to escape in a week, the Associated Press reported. Christians gathered along the road to shout abuse and threats.

The convoy was turned back because African peacekeepers feared it would come under attack in some volatile parts of Bangui. The desperate procession was halted in the Miskine neighbourhood, where one vehicle tumbled into a ditch on the side of the road.

On the orders of a Burundian captain, the peacekeepers went from vehicle to vehicle instructing everyone to return to a local mosque, according to an AP journalist at the scene.

Which will save a lot of trouble for the wannabe génocidaires.

It sounds way way way too much like Rwanda.

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

A noble act to do to women

Feb 14th, 2014 12:10 pm | By

Tarek Fatah shares the wisdom of a Saudi cleric and academic.

Embedded image permalink

Sheikh Mohamad Alarefe is a popular Saudi Arabian Islamic theologian and a professor at the King Saud University. 

A recent tweet to his almost 8 million followers (!!) said

Circumcision [FGM] is a noble act to do to women. There’s nothing wrong with doing it.

Is that so. If I said cutting off half the penis was a noble act to do to men and there’s nothing wrong with doing it, would the Sheikh agree with me?

It’s a stupid thing to say. What’s “noble” about slicing up a healthy set of genitals? How can there be nothing wrong with it?

The man is morally blind. He’s immoral because he’s morally blind.

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

Tantamount to adultery

Feb 14th, 2014 11:54 am | By

I don’t know how reliable this is; it’s not widely reported so far; but for what it’s worth – India Today reports:

[A] young Syrian girl was reportedly being stoned to death in Syria.

Her crime? She had opened a Facebook account.

The incident took place in the Syrian city of Rakka. The girl, Fatoum Al-Jassem, was sentenced to death by stoning by Al-Reqqa religious court after ISIL militants took her to the court.

The court ruled that having a Facebook account was tantamount to adultery and thus sentenced her to death.

The court also described the opening of her Facebook account as an act of great wickedness that merited severe punishment.

If having a Facebook account is tantamount to adultery, then what isn’t tantamount to adultery?

Well it’s always been clear enough, that the view of women behind this is that they are just genitalia and nothing else. Everything women do or think of doing is tantamount to adultery, and that’s why it’s so urgent to hate them so much and beat them so hard.

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

Nostalgia for Little Rock in 1956

Feb 14th, 2014 10:58 am | By

Ignorant student society proudly announces its rejection of what it ignorantly calls “PM’s call to ban gender segregation” – ignorantly because it’s far from exclusive to the PM and in fact he caught up days after many other people and organizations had issued the same call.

Ignorant student society proudly announces its view that students should decide how societies are run, including segregating any way they want to.

The society is SUARTS, the Students’ Union of University of the Arts London. (For an arts students union it has a remarkably crappy website that actually blocks the text of the article you’re trying to read, with no way to unblock it. You can read only a few lines without scrolling.)

SUARTS rejects PM’s call to ban gender segregation

The Prime Minister’s call for the banning of gender segregated events at university campuses has been challenged by an SUARTS officer on behalf of UAL.

Mostafa Rajaai, Culture and Diversity Officer for SUARTS, stressed that students should decide how societies are run, without university or government interference.

Rajaai told Arts London News: “I believe it is not right to force students to do anything, whether it’s forcing them to sit separate or to sit together. It should be left to the attendees to decide how they want to arrange their seating and if they do decide to sit separately, that is their choice.”

You see where the problem comes in. Rajaai is simply demanding a return to the bad old days when people were outraged that anyone was “forcing them” to sit among people whose race or class or country of origin was anathema to them. Rajaai thinks the enraged racist mob outside Little Rock Central High School in 1957 was in the right of it, and the National Guard troops who made sure the nine African-American students were able to enter the school and be safe once in were in the wrong.

Rajaai is also obfuscating, because attendees of course still would be allowed to decide where they want to sit and to sit separately where there was room to do so. All they would not be allowed to do is demand that anyone else defer to their decision to sit separately. I can choose any empty seat on the bus. I can’t demand that anyone move to give me a seat I like better.

“Members of our Islamic societies, or other societies for that matter, do not need to be told how they should run their events by the university nor the government as they are meant to be autonomous, student-led entities,” he added.

Yes? What if the ASH society had an event and demanded that the Muslims sit in the back? Would Rajaai think that outcome is fine? I don’t know, but I strongly doubt it. I think Rajaai is coasting on the fact that he knows damn well the ASH society would never make such a hateful demand.

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

Strong bars on strong cages

Feb 14th, 2014 9:37 am | By

Jennifer Collins at Religion News reports on Ireland’s little problem with Catholic saturation of the public state-funded schools.

The Catholic Church runs 90 percent of primary schools in Ireland. The rest are mainly Protestant, and about 4 percent are managed by the nonprofit Educate Together, which is nonsectarian.

The arrangement is unsettling to some parents who have little choice in where to send their children.

“They integrated religion into every subject in the school,” said Martijn Leenheer, an atheist who moved from the Netherlands to a small village in west Ireland eight years ago. “For instance, in biology, they would say ‘God created these flowers.’ Even in math they do it. They basically make religion part of everything in the school.”

Although he requested that his son opt out of religious classes, Leenheer later found that his son was learning how to recite prayers and said the school’s principal was unsympathetic to his concerns.

He had to move to be able to have access to one of the Educate Together schools.

Jane Donnelly of Atheist Ireland said the European court’s decision may help parents like Leenheer.

“If you’ve got nowhere else but to send your child to the local school and the local school is Catholic and the state is funding that education for your child, then the state should be responsible for the protection of your human rights in that school and for religious discrimination in that school,” said Donnelly.

Ireland’s system of school patronage provides for public funding of schools but allows private groups to establish schools as long as there is sufficient demand.

Long the most powerful institution in Ireland, the Catholic Church has established more than 2,500 schools under the system. Educate Together has 68 schools, mainly in urban areas.

On the one hand more than 2,500, on the other hand 68. Hardly a fair fight, is it. Hardly a fair anything, in fact. Why should small children have Catholicism forced on them at school every day? Why should anyone, but especially small children, who naturally think that school=authority=truth.

Responsible for their own admission policies, many Irish schools often favor baptized Catholics when enrollment exceeds available seats. As a result, parents sometimes baptize their children in the Catholic faith so they can receive an education.

And then the church gets to count those children and thus gets to inflate its membership. It also does that by counting everyone except people who go to the trouble and expense of getting themselves officially taken off the rolls. The church fights dirty every step of the way.

As part of a study on the church’s role in schools, Ireland’s Department of Education found that around 8 percent of parents in some areas said they might move their children to nondenominational schools if given a chance.

“Everyone accepts that there’s probably an oversupply of Catholic schools at primary level,” said Drumm, though he added that a “blanket divesting” from church-run schools would only harm the education system.

Atheists like Donnelly remain skeptical.

“They might hand over a few schools here and there to try to give the impression that something is happening on the ground, but in reality they have no intention of handing over enough schools to radically change the system,” she said.

But the mere fact that Ireland is having the debate, albeit with the help of the European court, shows that the country is growing more diverse even as it retains its strong Catholic identity.

A “strong Catholic identity” that has been forced on it in myriad ways. It’s more like a strong Catholic prison than a strong Catholic identity.


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


Feb 13th, 2014 6:12 pm | By

In Tennessee.

There’s a petition.

Tennessee State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Memphis and Germantown) and Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knox) recently filed a bill that would allow people and businesses to refuse to provide goods and services to homosexuals – and all they’d have to do to justify this action is say that it’s against their religious beliefs.

We’ve seen this attitude before, and it represents one of the darkest times in our Nation’s history. “We don’t serve your kind here,” said a waiter to students just wanting to have a meal at a local restaurant during this era. Those words have been repeated countless times since then, causing untold pain to those hearing them – simply because they looked differently, acted differently, or believed differently than those uttering them. Sometimes the pain was emotional, but more often than not, the pain was physical.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed this very kind of discrimination, but apparently Senator Kelsey and Rep. Dunn want to take Tennessee back to the days before this law was enacted.

I’ve had about enough reactionary legislators for today.

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

Get out of Dodge

Feb 13th, 2014 5:17 pm | By

It’s the next big thing.

Denying services to same-sex couples may soon become legal in Kansas.

House Bill 2453 explicitly protects religious individuals, groups and businesses that refuse services to same-sex couples, particularly those looking to tie the knot.

It passed the state’s Republican-dominated House on Wednesdaywith a vote of 72-49, and has gone to the Senate for a vote.

Such a law may seem unnecessary in a state where same-sex marriage is banned, but some Kansas lawmakers think different.

They want to prevent religious individuals and organizations from getting sued, or otherwise punished, for not providing goods or services to gay couples — or for not recognizing their marriages or committed relationship as valid.

This includes employees of the state.

They insist on their right to treat some people as tenth-class citizens. At this rate I expect another Dred Scott decision – “the LGBT person has no rights which the straight person is bound to respect.”

They want to enshrine in the law the schoolyard-bully principle of persecuting anyone you take a dislike to. They want to put hateful othering and tormenting on a legal footing in the great state of Kansas. Yay hatred, let’s have more hatred, everything goes better with hatred.

its chances of passing seem pretty good.

Republicans dominate the state’s Senate and Gov. Sam Brownback is a conservative Christian known for taking a public stand against same-sex marriage.

Brownback has already praised the bill in an interview with a local newspaper.

“Americans have constitutional rights, among them the right to exercise their religious beliefs and the right for every human life to be treated with respect and dignity,” he told The Topeka Capital-Journal.

You stupid, evil, hateful man. How is it treating every life with respect and dignity when you’re making it legal to deny services to people just because you don’t like them? Can you not even put the two ends together and see what you’ve made?

I suppose by “every human life” he meant every fetus. Every consideration for the fetus, none for women or gay people.

HB 2453 is titled “An act concerning religious freedoms with respect to marriage” and covers many bases.

It reads, in part: “No individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender:

“Provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement.”

Anyone who turns away a gay couple not only can’t face a civil suit, but if anyone tries to sue, they could get nailed with the other side’s legal fees.

It’s disgusting. It’s vile. It’s contemptible. IT’S HATEFUL.


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

Let’em die

Feb 13th, 2014 12:37 pm | By


The headline at the Raw StoryIdaho bill would allow doctors or cops to refuse service to LGBT people on religious grounds


We’re going from people with hotels refusing rooms to same-sex couples to DOCTORS AND COPS refusing service? On religious grounds?

How would that go? “Sorry you’re having a heart attack, I hate you on religious grounds so I’m not going to do anything about it. Have a nice day.”

Now we have a “religious freedom” to just tell people to fuck off and die, literally?

Rep. Lynn Luker outlined a proposal Tuesday backed by his conservative Christian allies to shield religious people from the threat of losing their professional licenses for refusing service or employment to anyone they conclude violates their religious beliefs.

“This is pre-emptive,” said Luker, a Boise Republican. “The issue is coming, whether it’s 10 years, or 15 years, or two years.”

Idaho requires professional licenses for doctors, nurses, pharmacists, attorneys, social workers, firefighters, police officers, real estate agents, and insurance providers.

And this Luker guy wants them all to be able to say No, I will not assist you, “on religious grounds,” and not lose their licences.

The Cornerstone Family Council is backing Luker’s proposal, which is now awaiting a full hearing, to prevent the state from passing laws to block people from “living out their faith.”

“The free expression of religious freedom is no longer understood for what it was intended,” said Julie Lynde, executive director of the conservative Christian group associated with Focus on the Family. “There’s a double standard against people of traditional religious faiths.”

You’re a murderous malevolent piece of shit, Julie Lynde, and so are you, Lynn Luker.

H/t Pteryxx

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

The religious “right” to disobey laws

Feb 13th, 2014 11:28 am | By

In the UK there are people trying to defend gender segregation as a religious freedom, while opponents point out what that would look like if it were racial segregation as opposed to gender segregation. In the US, in the state of Oregon, there’s an effort to get an initiative passed to give business owners a “right of conscience” to refuse gay people service. It’s all the same bullshit, people: when they want to shove you to one side, it’s because they hold you in contempt.

As worded, the referendum will present itself as a modest caveat to the gay marriage law, extending a few basic safeguards for religious freedom. In reality, this ugly, mean-spirited initiative will herald nothing less than a new era of anti-gay segregation in Oregon—and, potentially, all across America.

The notion of legally enshrining bigotry under the banner of “religious freedom” is, of course, nothing new. For decades, private organizations argued that they had a First Amendment right to discriminate against black people based on racist readings of the Bible, even after the 1964 Civil Rights Act proscribed such discrimination with no religious exemptions for private citizens. The Supreme Court slapped down these perverse claims in 1983, and since then, arguments for the religious liberty of private companies to discriminate against blacks have become keenly impolitic.

But other kinds of people that someone doesn’t like? That’s entirely different. God said so. He just forgot to write it down, that’s all.

It’s easy to tell gay couples who face such discrimination to just take their business elsewhere, as former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett did recently. But that ignores the two broader problems of the “religious liberty” defense. The first is a purely legal one: There is simply no constitutional right for a private business to discriminate against gays. In a landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled that an individual can’t invoke his religious beliefs to dodge an otherwise valid law. Writing for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia scoffed at the notion of “a private right to ignore generally applicable laws”—think basic anti-discrimination ordinances—labeling the idea “a constitutional anomaly.” And in a now-famous passage, the justice noted that “conscientious scruples have not … relieved the individual from obedience to a general law not aimed at the promotion or restriction of religious beliefs.” Hatred of gay people is surely a “conscientious scruple” that Scalia himself shares. But it doesn’t excuse a private citizen at a private business from following fundamental anti-discrimination laws.

Well yes, but unfortunately, what Mark Joseph Stern leaves out there is that the decision in that landmark case he highlights with a link pissed off nearly everyone in this godbothering country, and Congress tried to override it in 1993 with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which passed by a unanimous House and a Senate only three votes shy of unanimous. But then it was held unconstitutional as applied to the states in 1997, though it still applied at the federal level…and many states have passed state Religious Freedom Restoration Acts.

God defend our precious freedom to treat other people as contaminants. Amen.


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

If it swims, it’s fish

Feb 13th, 2014 10:26 am | By

Are you worrying about Lent? Thinking about giving up video games or tequila or marathon running? Considering making a sacrifice of your gardening, or those excursions to WalMart, or spinach and ortolan foam? Last year NPR reported that an archbishop once gave a useful and helpful ruling. It reminds me of those rulings that find it’s halal for men to “marry” women for 15 minutes.

Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays during the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter, but seafood is allowed. Three years ago, when Jim Piculas was trying to settle a debate among his friends about whether gator qualified as seafood, he wrote a letter to the archbishop of New Orleans to ask.

His letter must have been pretty zealous, because not long after he wrote it, he got a response from Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond saying: “Yes, the alligator’s considered in the fish family, and I agree with you — God has created a magnificent creature that is important to the state of Louisiana, and it is considered seafood.”

Artful use of the passive voice there; artful elimination of the all-important agent who does the considering the alligator in the fish family. I suspect the agent in question is the archbishop himself. In the active voice that would have read: “Yes, I consider the alligator in the fish family, and I agree with you, it’s tasty as fuck.”

Ever since the archbishop wrote to Piculas in 2010, the letter has been on the wall of the gift shop at Insta-Gator Ranch. This year, Piculas posted it on Facebook, and it went from being shared hundreds of times to making the news.

Articles on eating gator for Lent popped up everywhere, from to the Catholic News Agency. The extra gator marketing this Lenten season has been a welcome thing for Parkway and other restaurants in the city — like Cochon, with its fried alligator, and Jacques-Imo’s, which serves alligator cheesecake.

And so, slowly but surely, and with no hindrance from the public broadcaster NPR, a nation comes to believe that alligators are fish.



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

Bettelheim meets Green Lantern

Feb 13th, 2014 7:27 am | By

This is something I didn’t know about: the women in the refrigerator trope. Anita Sarkeesian offers an illustration in three panels from the 1992 arcade game Dead Connection.

Wikipedia provides some background.

The term “Women in Refrigerators” was coined by writer Gail Simone as a name for the website in early 1999 during online discussions about comic books with friends. It refers to an incident in Green Lantern #54 (1994), written by Ron Marz, in which Kyle Rayner, the title hero, comes home to his apartment to find that his girlfriend, Alex DeWitt, had been killed by the villain Major Force and stuffed in a refrigerator.[2][3]

Simone and her friends then developed a list of fictional characters who had been “killed, maimed or depowered.”[4] The list was then circulated via theInternet over UsenetBulletin Board Systeme-mail and electronic mailing lists. Simone also e-mailed many comic book creators directly for their responses to the list.

Oh yes, that trope.

Simone received numerous e-mail responses from comic book fans and professionals. Some correspondents reacted with hostility at the creation of the list and assumed a radical feminist agenda on the part of Simone.

Sigh. Because it’s so “radical” to think that tropes about women (and men, and blacks, and whites, and you know how to fill out the list) matter. It’s so “radical” to think that people learn anything from cultural tropes, and that what they learn can be bad or good.

Several comic book creators indicated that the list caused them to pause and think about the stories they were creating. Often these responses contained arguments for or against the use of death or injury of female characters as a plot device. A list of some responses from comic book professionals is included at the site.[10] Marz’s reply stated (in part) “To me the real difference is less male-female than main character-supporting character. In most cases, main characters, “title” characters who support their own books, are male. [...] the supporting characters are the ones who suffer the more permanent and shattering tragedies. And a lot of supporting characters are female.”[11]

Ohhhhhhhhhhh good point. That totally makes it all right then. It’s just because men are always the main characters, who matter, and women are always supporting characters, who don’t. Obviously that’s perfectly healthy and fine. Obviously women just are less than men – less real, less there, less complicated, less filled out, less significant, less everything. On the mattering map they are a little dot down in the corner.

Sarkeesian has a bunch of damsel in distress tropes at a tumblr.



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

There are rights and then there are Real Rights

Feb 13th, 2014 6:59 am | By

Rupert Sutton tells us that last week the Student Union at University College London passed a motion calling on the union to support a campaign called Real Student Rights, or rather that that’s ostensibly what it did but in reality it attacked his organization, Student Rights.

It insinuated that our work showed support for far-right politics and claimed that we deliberately fuel Islamophobia and encourage fascist groups like the English Defence League.

Of course none of this is remotely true, but it shows how warped the priorities of some student unions have become when those challenging bigotry are the ones attacked before those propagating it.

Or instead of those propagating it.

[T]he motion mandated the UCL Union to back ‘Real Student Rights’, despite the fact that it has sought support from extremists, including one whose organisation is actually barred from operating at UCL.

IERA’s Hamza Tzortzis has declared that apostates “should be killed”, while other members of the group have excused domestic violence and supported the return of execution for ‘fornication’.

A little piece of Afghanistan in Gower Street. Heartwarming.

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

The best little tabloid in Manhattan

Feb 13th, 2014 6:46 am | By

Good job, New York Times. Never let a woman try for a big job without asking the universe if she can have it all.

wendy davis

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

Guest post by jesse: Talking about gender in language

Feb 12th, 2014 5:01 pm | By

Originally a comment on Guest witticism by Anthony K: The purity of Engliſh ſpellyng. (I know; can I do that? Can I make a comment on a guest post another guest post? What if there’s a guest post comment on that post? How many levels can we take this? I don’t know. I’m venturing out into the unknown here. I can’t predict.)

End of preamble.

I think whenever we talk about gender in language we have to remember that the term “grammatical gender” often has almost nothing to do with the gender-as-social-construction we usually mean.

Take French. “le crayon” — masculine, “la plume” – feminine There is no logical reason for this whatsoever. (What could the possible difference between pencils and pens be?) Trying to connect this to “traditionally male” or “traditionally female” roles/nouns and such makes no sense. There is simply no correlation with, well, anything, which is why for second-language learners French or Spanish or Italian requires straight-up memorization for which nouns are masculine or feminine.

Russian has a neutral gender. But if you pick a random noun you have basically a 1/3 chance of getting it right, and no, there’s no correlation there either. (“ship” — корабль – masculine, “liverwurst” — ливерная колбаса — feminine, and anything that ends in certain consonants is neuter).

The term “gender” — gad I don’t know who came up with it but it’s just referring to grammar– you could call them “type 1″ and “type 2″ for all it matters.

Yes, there are times when the grammatical gender matches up with the sociological one, but in the ones I can think of that only happens in direct reference to people.

What’s interesting is that some modern romance languages have a neutral gender too–after all, Latin did (though I think the only major one that preserves it completely is Romanian(?)). If you want to say the equivalent of “one drives to the store” in Spanish, you say “se conduce a la tienda.” There’s no masculine or feminine noun here. (It’s reflexive). Hungarian doesn’t have grammatical gender at all.

English used to have a bigger variety of pronouns, though I am not certain if they were “gender neutral” in the modern sense. (You’d have to ask Beowulf).

In fact a lot of English pronouns were pared off in the last five hundred or so years. That is, a phrase “How art thou?” was the informal, 2nd person. Quakers used to use thee and thou because they were less formal, familiar words. “You” was considered uptight. This distinction is still made in a lot of other languages — Hungarian included:-) (“maga” and “te.”) But English seems to have lost it by about ~1700, at least in ordinary conversation.

AFAIK English kind-of-sort-of has grammatical gender, but it doesn’t really show except in certain words (like referring to ships as “she” — but that might not be a grammatical issue, I haven’t looked up how old that is and whether “ship” was a feminine noun in Old English). Or in words like “actor/ actress.” For the most part though we’ve lost it. Guess that’s what happens when you have the horrible train wreck between Norman French and Germanic that makes English what it is. (Fun fact: English kings did not speak English at home until Richard III, and even after that it wasn’t uncommon to have English kings who were non-native English speakers. I’m looking at you, George).

Basically, in English we got rid of most grammatical cases (the choices seem to be pretty random, which is one reason why English seems so illogical half the time). The only remnants we retain are things like tacking on an apostrophe s to indicate possession. (I’m not sure if even that counts, though). We’ve replaced the dative with “to the” and genitive with “of the…” and some words like “Kindred” and “children” — plurals which not coincidentally tend to be Germanic origin.

Anyhow, the presence of grammatical gender doesn’t seem to have any bearing on how “sexist” a given society is. I’ll lend some credence to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, but it’s a lot more subtle than that, it seems to me (and judging by the work with speakers of even non-”exotic” languages). I mean, Chinese doesn’t have grammatical gender at all, nor does Japanese. That doesn’t seem to have much bearing on the way they see women.

@Marcus Ranum — there are two umlauts in Hungarian. The one that looks like German (ö) is like German and the one with the two little accents is akin to the German sound but further “front” in the mouth — I am not sure how to describe it. (The letter u with the two little things on it is like the french “u” when it’s alone, if that gives you any idea). They are both pure vowels.

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