Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

Crack that wrist

May 3rd, 2012 11:35 am | By

A pastor gives some advice to parents on how to police their children’s genders. With boys you’re supposed to give them a good punch. With girls you’re supposed to call them sweetheart and then shout as loud as you can. That’s gender-modeling right there: punching for boys, sweetheart + shouting for girls.

So your little son starts to act a little girlish when he is four years old and instead of squashing that like a cockroach and saying, “Man up, son, get that dress off you and get outside and dig a ditch, because that’s what boys do”


you get out the camera and you start taking pictures of Johnny acting like a female [heavy disgusted emphasis] and then you upload it to YouTube and everybody laughs about it and the next thing you know, this dude, this kid is acting out childhood fantasies that should have been squashed.

Can I make it any clearer? Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist.

Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you’re going to be a male.

And when your daughter starts acting too butch you rein her in. And you say, “Oh, no, oh no, sweetheart. You can play sports. Play’em, play’em to the glory of God. But sometimes you are going to act like a girl and [with ever-increasing emphasis] walk like a girl and talk like a girl and smell like a girl and that means you are going to be beautiful. You are going to be attractive. You are going to dress yourself up.

You say, “Can I take charge like that as a parent?” Yeah, you can. You are authorized. I just gave you a special dispensation this morning to do that.

The violence is disgusting and the policing is disgusting – but I have to admit I take the girl-policing personally. The policing of boys is horrible but at least they’re policed to be strong and tough and useful. Girls are policed to be “beautiful” and “attractive” and to dress themselves up. They’re policed to be feeble and dainty (walk like a girl, talk like a girl) so that men can bully other men by calling them girls, meaning feeble and dainty.

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

Do we get overtime?

May 2nd, 2012 4:24 pm | By

I didn’t know May Day had been rejigged to be Loyalty Day. It happened in the Ford administration, I’m told. Maybe something to do with being the totally unelected president.

Anyway, it has, so belated happy Loyalty Day. Did you have a Loyalty cake? Or a Loyalty turkey? Or Loyalty fireworks? What does one do for Loyalty Day, anyway? We know what we do for May Day: we hit the streets; but Loyalty Day, not so much.

Obama wishes us a happy Loyalty Day.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 1, 2012, as Loyalty Day. This Loyalty Day, I call upon all the people of the United States to join in support of this national observance, whether by displaying the flag of the United States or pledging allegiance to the Republic for which it stands.

Oh, I see, that’s what you do for Loyalty Day. You display the flag or you pledge allegiance. You could probably do both, although he makes it one or the other.

Yeah. Prayer Day and Loyalty Day. No thanks.

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

You need to have leaders who have learned the hard way

May 2nd, 2012 11:06 am | By

Cardinal Brady is still at the same old stand – saying he won’t resign despite new disclosures of his failure to pass on names and addresses of children being abused by Brendan Smyth.

The Catholic primate of all-Ireland has said that he will not resign as Church leader despite revelations in the BBC’s This World programme.

It found Cardinal Sean Brady had names and addresses of those being abused by paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

However, he did not pass on those details to police or parents.

And Brendan Smyth went on abusing the children in question.

He says he had no authority. He says it was all the higher ups. He says he trusted them to deal with Brendan Smyth. He says he was just there to hold their coats. He says why is everybody picking on him. He says the BBC is being mean to him.

Senior Vatican Prosecutor Monsignor Charles Scicluna has defended Cardinal Brady.

“My first point is that Fr Brady was a note taker in 1975, he did what he should have done. He forwarded all the information to the people that had the power to act,” he said.

“My second point is that in the interest of the Church in Ireland, they need to have Cardinal Brady as the archbishop of Armagh because he has shown determination in promoting child protection policies. You need to have leaders who have learned the hard way and are determined to protect children.”

You need to have leaders who have learned the hard way. Really. So leaders should all be involved in botched self-protecting institution-protecting pseudo-investigations of child abuse early in their careers so that they can do a good job later, having “learned the hard way”? So it’s good that Ratzinger grew up under the Nazis and it’s a pity that other “leaders” missed out on that experience?

Sean Brady’s role in the affair became clear in 2010, when it became known that he had been present when the abused boy [Brendan Boland] was questioned.

He claimed, however, that the boy’s father had accompanied him, and described his own role as that of a note-taker.

However, the BBC This World investigation has uncovered the notes Cardinal Brady took while the boy was questioned.

The child’s father was not allowed in the room, and the child was immediately sworn to secrecy.

Brendan Boland’s father was not allowed in the room as a matter of canon law, according to Irish Times Religious Affairs Correspondent Patsy McGarry. Good old canon law, eh, protecting the clergy at the expense of anyone and everyone else.

H/t Sigmund.

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

Have a pie chart

May 2nd, 2012 9:40 am | By

A little more on Rothamsted Research and its wheat trial.

It’s a research facility founded in the 19th century. It’s a charity and a company. Its funding is laid out on its corporate information page.

Rothamsted Research is a grouping of private organisations and is one of seven institutes sponsored by the  Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Rothamsted Research is a charity and a company  limited by guarantee and occupies land and buildings owned by the Lawes Agricultural Trust. The Rothamsted Research Association is an independent body that facilitates interaction and dialogue between researchers, especially those at Rothamsted, and practitioners in the agri-environment sector.

Sources of income as percentages for 2010/11 (total £29m) are shown in the figure below:

PIE chart of finances

I hope that helps.

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

Measles is on the road to recovery

May 2nd, 2012 9:05 am | By

Well done anti-vaxxers – another triumph for public health. There are more than 200 confirmed cases of measles in the outbreak on Merseyside.

There are 210 confirmed cases, 39 of which needed hospital treatment. Ninety two cases are under investigation.

About 50% of the cases are in children under five years old.

The outbreak, which is concentrated on Liverpool where there are 125 confirmed cases, is the largest since the MMR vaccine was introduced.

Strange, isn’t it. There’s an effective vaccine for measles. You’d think it would be going away, not coming back.

Dr Roberto Vivancos, a Health Protection Agency consultant, said: “It’s obvious from these statistics that people who are not fully vaccinated are not just at risk themselves, but they pose an infection risk to others, such as defenceless babies and toddlers who are too young to be vaccinated.

“Measles is a very infectious illness that spreads rapidly amongst children and adults who are not protected by MMR vaccine.

“It is also a serious illness that can lead to serious complications. On rare occasions, people die from measles.

“It should not be treated lightly, but it is an avoidable illness and we strongly advise parents to ensure that their children are vaccinated.”

Fascist! It’s every parent’s right to refuse to get children vaccinated. Our ancestors died to protect our right to refuse to get children vaccinated; the right to be infected and to spread infection to others is sacred and cannot be abrogated.

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

Come on, kids, let’s destroy the crops!

May 1st, 2012 4:47 pm | By

Good old “activists” – anti-vax activists, pro alt med activists, anti-GM crops activists. Hooray for crop failure and famine!

Scientists working on a new generation of genetically modified crops have sent an open letter to anti-GM protesters pleading with them not to destroy “years of work” by attacking their research plots.

The activist group, Take the Flour Back, has pledged to carry out a “decontamination” at a test site in Hertfordshire, where agricultural researchers are growing the world’s first genetically modified wheat that can repel insect pests by emitting a repellent-smelling substance.

Because…it’s a good thing to have crops eaten by insects?

Scientists said that the suggestion they had used a cow gene “betrays a misunderstanding which may serve to confuse people or scare them but has no basis in scientific reality”.

Matt Thomson, from Take the Flour Back, told The Independent yesterday that action against the Rothamsted site would go ahead as planned.

“The concerns that we have are not addressed in this letter,” he said. “The way that Rothamsted have publicised this trial has been patronising. This wheat contains genes that are not naturally occurring.”

The publicity is patronizing, therefore they’re going to trash years of research into how to improve the production of staple food? 

That’s the most revoltingly frivolous thing I’ve seen in awhile.

Sense About Science has a petition you can sign and circulate.

Via Simon Singh at Twitter.

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

Small world

May 1st, 2012 4:10 pm | By

Surly Amy has a nice post about the women in secularism conference (cue squawks from agonized bores with facetious cod-Edwardian advice for zee laydeez). She’s made Surly-Ramics necklaces for people who donate to a scholarship fund to send students to the conference.

It is important that we lend our support to conferences like this groundbreaking event so that we can pave the way for future events while encouraging future leaders in the movement to stand up and be counted. I support women in secularism and I hope you will too.

I think that’s true. I think that’s true even if you accept the contemptuous premise that all the speakers at the conference were invited solely because they have the korrekt genitalia. I don’t accept that premise, of course; I think Susan Jacoby and Margaret Downey and the rest [bracketing me, of course] have more than that; but if I did, I would still think it was true that we should lend our support to conferences like this. I’ll tell you why. It’s because just representation, by itself, does something important, and lack of representation does too, but in the opposite direction. It has to do with that business of encouraging future leaders. It has to do with stereotype threat, with give me the colored doll, with implicit associations.

On another note: while reading the post I noticed something I hadn’t known, which is that Skepchick is international, and there’s a Swedish Skepchick. Swedish! There’s a post up right now advertising a debate between Christer Sturmark and a guy called Marcus Birro. Google translate reveals that the Swedish Skepchick blogger considers Birro a bullshitter. But small world, hey, I know Christer Sturmark! Isn’t life funny.

I’ve been seeing a lot of excitement about the conference, here and there. I’m thinking it’s going to be pretty good fun.

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

Houston and New York are spared

May 1st, 2012 3:30 pm | By

One piece of slightly good news: Helen Ukpabio has canceled both her planned trips to the US. That doesn’t do the children of Nigeria any good, but it does throw a wrench into her plans to go global.

Once Ukpabio’s travel plans emerged, campaigners against her activities in Africa began appealing to the US authorities to prevent her from preaching in that country. Prominent Nigerian humanist Leo Igwe, who has had many confrontations with Ukpabio and her Liberty Gospel Church, wrote that “efforts must be made to stop this evangelical throwback from spreading her diseased gospel in the US”, while online campaigners called for her exclusion from the US, and set about raising money for the UK-based charity Stepping Stones Nigeria, which campaigns to protect children threatened by witch hunts in the Niger Delta region of Africa.

Now, four months after details of Ukpabio’s US trip first emerged, it seems the campaign against it has paid off, with Nigerian media reporting that she will no longer be visiting the country. In a report sympathetic towards Ukpabio, the Nigerian Voice website quotes the preacher’s attorney Victor Ukutt, who confirms that the trip has been cancelled, and makes a series of bizarre allegations against her opponents, including Stepping Stones, suggesting that the campaigns against her are a front for obtaining money through fraudulent means. This is a common tactic for Ukpabio, who has long dismissed the “child witch scam” as an atheist conspiracy.

Actually, what that website says is that Ukpabio got death threats “on behalf of” Stepping Stones Nigeria.

The President and founder of the Liberty Gospel Foundation Church, Lady Apostle Helen Ukpabio says she has indefinitely cancelled her scheduled visits to the USA which where billed for March and May this year.

Speaking through her attorney, Victor Ukutt, Esq., the Pentecostal Pastor and Nollywood actress, who has her church branches spread all over Africa, said her decision to cancel her trip was based on the series of death threat she received from organisations like Stepping Stones Nigeria a based in the United Kingdom which claimed to work as a charity to protect witch children in Nigeria.

I don’t believe that for a second.


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


May 1st, 2012 12:46 pm | By

Teresa MacBain is another one of those ministers – the ones who lose their grip on god and then wonder how on earth they can deal with the situation.

“I’m currently an active pastor and I’m also an atheist,” she says. “I live a double life. I feel pretty good on Monday, but by Thursday — when Sunday’s right around the corner — I start having stomachaches, headaches, just knowing that I got to stand up and say things that I no longer believe in and portray myself in a way that’s totally false.”

MacBain glances nervously around the room. It’s a Sunday, and normally she would be preaching at her church in Tallahassee, Fla. But here she is, sneaking away to the American Atheists’ convention in Bethesda, Md.

Her secret is taking a toll, eating at her conscience as she goes about her pastoral duties week after week — two sermons every Sunday, singing hymns, praying for the sick when she doesn’t believe in the God she’s praying to. She has had no one to talk to, at least not in her Christian community, so her iPhone has become her confessor, where she records her private fears and frustrations.

I can’t think of any other job that has exactly that problem. Even various woo-based jobs like homeopath aren’t exactly the same, because homeopathy isn’t a person, or a Person. It’s that that makes it a matter of conscience, I think.

She was raised a conservative Southern Baptist. She had questions about conflicts in the Bible and the role of women.

She says she sometimes felt she was serving a taskmaster of a God, whose standards she never quite met.

For years, MacBain set her concerns aside. But when she became a United Methodist pastor nine years ago, she started asking sharper questions. She thought they’d make her faith stronger.

In reality,” she says, “as I worked through them, I found that religion had so many holes in it, that I just progressed through stages where I couldn’t believe it.”

The questions haunted her: Is Jesus the only way to God? Would a loving God torment people for eternity? Is there any evidence of God at all?

And another, key question: would a loving God make the evidence so hard (we, being atheists, would say impossible) to find and then punish us for not believing without evidence? Would a loving God give us useful capacities to seek out the truth and test for falsehood yet demand that we ignore all that and have faith that there is a loving God?

I say no. That’s not a loving god. I am completely unable to believe in god, and I’m unable to countermand the aspects of my mind that make me unable to believe. That’s not something a loving god could or should or would punish me (or anyone) for.

MacBain misses the relationships, and she misses the music. But she doesn’t miss God.

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

An edge in his voice

May 1st, 2012 12:22 pm | By

It sounds like an awkward time at the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature panel on the life and works of Christopher Hitchens last night. Apparently it was billed as a tribute but it was also a discussion, and the result is that it wasn’t an unadulterated tribute.

Mr. Hitchens’s erudition, wit and prolificacy were taken for granted by the five participants: Katha Pollitt and Victor Navasky, his erstwhile colleagues at The Nation magazine; Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair; and George Packer, a staff writer for The New Yorker. The question initially posed by the writer Ian Buruma, the event’s moderator, was whether Mr. Hitchens’s work and ideas would stand the test of time.

Well I’ll tell you what I would have said if I’d been on that panel. Yes. Absolutely yes; very much yes. I think he had huge flaws – or, more to the point, that there were huge flaws in some of his ideas and work – but I also think the quality of his work was of the kind that stands the test of time. I think he wrote far too well and too shrewdly on too large a range of subjects with too much wit and insight not to stand the test of time.

Mr. Navasky said Mr. Hitchens didn’t have “original theories,” but rather offered “original takes” on things. Ms. Pollitt said that no magazine writer who “weighs in” so regularly on the issues of the day can expect their work to age well. She went further — since, she claimed, it was probably “the reason” she was invited to be on the panel — and called Mr. Hitchens a “tremendous misogynist” who didn’t have “a lot of serious, professional respect for women writers.” She also chided his habit of greeting her with a kiss on the hand, a habit she called “grotesque.”

That was one of the huge flaws – although I’m not sure I would call it misogyny (but then Katha knows a lot more about it than I do, having been a colleague for many years) – the failure to take women seriously. (Although there were exceptions. That Jefferson scholar who wrote about him shortly after he left the scene, for instance.)

But they also pointed to some of his vital work, both serious and comic, like the time he was voluntarily waterboarded, or his series about self-improvement, for which he had a seaweed body wrap and dabbled in yoga. Mr. Packer singled out Mr. Hitchens’s performance in a debate with Tony Blair about whether religion is a force for good, and he also praised Mr. Hitchens for speaking out strongly and often about the fatwa against Salman Rushdie when no one else was willing to “stick out their neck.”

Mr. Rushdie, the festival’s founder, was sitting front and center in the crowd. During the time allotted for audience participation, he approached a microphone and said he wanted to pay tribute to Mr. Hitchens, “which is what I thought we were doing tonight,” he added, with an edge in his voice. He championed his friend’s best works as “masterpieces of style,” called his book “God is Not Great” an “extraordinary polemic,” and said he fit comfortably in the tradition of great essayists going back to the 18th century and his work would undoubtedly endure.

That’s what I think. It’s exactly what I think. I said much the same thing almost ten years ago, when B&W was new.

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

The joke’s on them

May 1st, 2012 11:53 am | By

For awhile there it looked as if Mali were going to have a new and better Family Code to improve the rights of women.

Its provisions included raising the minimum legal age of marriage for girls, improving women’s inheritance and property rights and removing the clause demanding a wife’s obedience to her husband. The law was adopted by the National Assembly in August 2009 but was withdrawn following uproar from conservative Muslim groups.

Provocative headlines in newspapers warned that women would no longer have to obey their husbands and thousands took to the streets in protest. A task group formed by Mali’s top Islamic council called it an “open road to debauchery” and the National Union of Muslim Women’s Associations said the law reflected the wishes of a tiny minority of women. When the Family Code was finally enshrined in law in January this year, it was substantially watered down. Campaigners say that far from protecting women’s rights, the code perpetuates discrimination.

Religion trumped women’s rights, as it so often does. Religion equated equal rights for women with “debauchery” – as if women weren’t people at all but just walking genitalia; as if all equality and rights could possibly mean to women would be fucking any man they could find; as if all women ever want to do is just fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck and therefore they can’t ever have rights.

According to Safiatou Doumbia, a member of the Malian Association for Care and Assistance to Women and Children, the new law has set women back. “The new law brings women’s rights back to more than 50 years ago because some rights women had in the former law have been banned. Before, a woman would automatically keep her children if her husband died. This is not the case with the new law, which allows a family counsel to decide who should keep the children.”

Under the new Family Code, as in the original 1962 law, a woman must obey her husband, men are considered the head of the family and the legal age for marriage is 16 for girls, and 18 for boys.

In short, women (including girls) are on a par with livestock. They are wholly owned by men; a woman without an owner is as nature-defying as a feral Bichon Frise.


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

Adele Wilde-Blavatsky responds

May 1st, 2012 5:48 am | By

I’ve just published Adele Wilde-Blavatsky’s response to The Feminist Wire’s “Collective Response” to her article (also for The Feminist Wire) on the hijab and the hoodie. Don’t miss it. The “Collective Response” and the actions of The Feminist Wire – especially in summarily booting Wilde-Blavatsky from TFW – are a stinking outrage.

The ”Collective Response” said, among other things,

What we do find deeply problematic, however, is the questioning of women’s choice to wear the niqab and the presumption that this decision is rooted in a “false consciousness.”

Wilde-Blavastky replied (but the Feminist Wire booted her out instead of publishing it, so I have the privilege of publishing it instead)

This is not a presumption, there is significant empirical evidence from Muslim women bearing witness to a deeply oppressive patriarchal culture and religious practice which entails being brainwashed and forced to wear the hijab and burqa from a young age and being severely punished for not doing so.  Women have been tortured and murdered for not wearing these clothes.  However, you only refer to the Muslim women who have the freedom to exercise choice. What about the millions of Muslim women who don’t? Are their voices and experiences not relevant in this debate at all? Is the fear of Islamaphobia so intense that it cannot accommodate the voices of Muslim and non-Muslim women who want to see the hijab banned?

In some circles, yes it clearly is.

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

Philosophers and physicists duke it out

Apr 30th, 2012 4:00 pm | By

Update: omigod – tricked again. I so nearly missed it…you just can’t ever be careful enough.

I nearly missed it, and didn’t because one of the comments on An Explanation From Nothing? quoted Krauss saying “the nasty review in the Times by the templeton funded philosopher is bringing more people out of the woodwork…”

Oh? thought I, so naturally I googled, and yes David Albert is Templeton funded, and furthermore, the Explanation From Nothing blog is part of the project, so it too is Templeton funded. I had no clue. I thought it was just a blog like any other blog.

I’m not saying the people in the project are corrupted by Templeton, but I do think the Templeton role should be very visible. It shows if you get there via the project but it doesn’t if you don’t. That’s…dubious.

Naïve pre-update post

Here’s a change of pace for you – the relationship between physics and philosophy. Something you can get your teeth into.

It’s a follow-up to An Explanation From Nothing? which was about David Albert’s review of Laurence Krauss’ A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something rather than Nothing and drew comments from David Albert himself and from Sean Carroll and Lee Smolin.

Meanwhile in another part of the forest Krauss said in an interview that philosophers are big poopyheads who don’t know squat, and a number of philosophers disputed that claim, including Massimo Pigliucci and Brian Leiter.

I’ll give Leiter the last word, because I can.

My best guess is that the culture so celebrates physics, that physicists have come to believe the “PR” about them. Very good physicists tend to be very good at physics, and I, at least, am inclined to the view that if you want to know what really exists, it’s better to ask a scientist than a philosopher. But it’s not obvious that even talented physicsts are very smart about other matters, such as those that require conceptual clarity, subtle distinctions, reflectiveness about presuppositions, and the appreciation of logical and inferential entailments of particular propositions. More than anything, I hope Krauss’s tantrum and its aftermath will help disabuse the culture of the myth that being good at physics means being good at thought.

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

Loose morals

Apr 30th, 2012 3:31 pm | By

Udate: note this is from the Washington Times, a very dubious source.

Good old liberation struggles, like the liberation struggle of Chechnya from the brutal embrace of Russia.

Chechnya’s government is openly approving of families that kill female relatives who violate their sense of honor, as this Russian republic embraces a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam after decades of religious suppression under Soviet rule.

In the past five years, the bodies of dozens of young Chechen women have been found dumped in woods, abandoned in alleys and left along roads in the capital, Grozny, and neighboring villages.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov publicly announced that the dead women had “loose morals” and were rightfully shot by male relatives. He went on to describe women as the property of their husbands, and said their main role is to bear children.

Hmm. That’s nice. Imagine living in a country where the head of state announces that women who have Incorrect sex deserve to be murdered by their male relatives.

“You hear about these cases almost every day,” said a local human rights defender, who asked that her name not be used out of fear for her safety. “It is hard for me to investigate this topic, yet I worked on it with [human rights activist] Natasha [Estemirova] for a while. But, I can’t anymore. I am too scared now. I’ve almost given up, really.”

Estemirova, who angered Chechen authorities with reports of torture, abductions and extrajudicial killings, was found in the woods in 2009 in the neighboring region of Ingushetia with gunshot wounds to the head and chest. Her killer or killers have not been found.

Has anyone looked?

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

The pansy ass exodus

Apr 30th, 2012 2:57 pm | By

Watching the Dan Savage video again.

The first student walks out after Savage says let’s talk about the bible for a second, because people point out “that they can’t help with the anti-gay bullying because it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in Timothy, it says right there in Romans…that being gay is wrong.” Boom, she’s up.

That’s very quick. That’s very quick.

Why so quick?

It’s true that people say that. Why is she leaving just because Savage says people say that? Why is she leaving so fast when he hasn’t even said “bullshit” yet?

We can learn to ignore the bullshit about gay people in the bible, the same way we have learned to ignore the bullshit in the bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner

And the second student is up and on his way out.

about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation.

Two more up and leaving.

We ignore bullshit in the bible about all sorts of things.

And now it’s a torrent and you can’t count any more.

The bible is a radically pro-slavery document. Slaveowners waved bibles over their heads during the Civil War.

Bigger torrent. Lots of smirking.

The shortest book in the bible is a letter from Paul to a man who owned slaves. And Paul doesn’t say, “Christians don’t own people.” Paul says how Christians own people.

No more walkouts.

We ignore what the bible says about slavery because the bible got slavery wrong.

Two stragglers leave.

It does look orchestrated. Or it looks as though that first one, who was on her feet after one sentence, inspired a bunch of others.

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

Regina Martínez Pérez

Apr 30th, 2012 2:38 pm | By

Another journalist in Mexico murdered apparently for doing her job too well.

New York, April 30, 2012–Authorities must immediately investigate the murder of Mexican journalist Regina Martínez Pérez, determine the motive, and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

The body of Martínez was found in her home on Saturday evening in Xalapa, the capital of the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz, according to news reports. She had been badly beaten around the face and ribs and had been strangled to death, news reports said. The state attorney general, Amadeo Flores Espinoza, said in a news briefing that it appeared her TV, cellphones, and computer had been stolen.

Martínez had worked for the national magazine Proceso for more than 10 years and was known for her in-depth reporting on drug cartels and the links between organized crime and government officials. In the week before her murder, she covered the arrest of an allegedly high-ranking leader of the Zetas; the arrests of nine police officers charged with working for a cartel; and the story of a local mayor who was arrested with other alleged cartel gunmen after a shootout with the Mexican Army, according to news reports.

Well she won’t be doing that any more.

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

When you disagree, be sure to march right out

Apr 30th, 2012 11:47 am | By

About those high school students walking out on Dan Savage when he started talking about anti-gay bullshit in the bible.

They were there for a conference on journalism, a conference for the Journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association.

Journalists need to be able to listen to things they don’t agree with in order to do their jobs.

That’s one thing. Another thing is that walking out sends a message. What message were these students sending? That harsh criticism of the bible is a bad thing, bad enough to be worth the disruption and message-sending of walking out on a speaker.

But what Savage was saying is true. It is true that the bible accepts slavery as a given. It is true that there is a lot of bad stuff in the bible. It’s true, and it has done harm and it continues to do harm. So why is it bad to say so?

I think it’s mostly because we’ve all been trained to think that religion deserves a lot of deference, and that refusing to pay it deference is shockingly bad; walk out of the talk level bad.

We’ve been trained to think that, but it’s bullshit.

One of the teachers attending the speech with his students told CNN’s Carol Costello on Monday that he was taken aback by the speech and that he supported the decision of some of his students to walk out of it.

“It took a real dark, hostile turn, certainly, as I saw it,” said Rick Tuttle, a teacher at Sutter Union High School in Southern California. “It became very hostile toward Christianity, to the point that many students did walk out, including some of my students.

“They felt that they were attacked … a very pointed, direct attack on one particular group of students. It’s amazing that we go to an anti-bullying speech and one group of students is picked on in particular, with harsh, profane language.”

Ah but they weren’t picked on. They’re not the bible, so they weren’t picked on. No group of students was picked on; no group of students was the object of a very pointed, direct attack by Dan Savage. Those students are not Christianity. People don’t get to consider themselves identical to an organization or institution so that they can consider themselves attacked when the org or inst is criticized.

John Shore takes a dim view of the walkout in the Huffington Post.

I, for one, have no idea what the world has come to, when a person who has made his career out of speaking, in the most unadorned language possible, directly to great numbers of young people about some of the most important issues in their lives, dares to speak in unadorned language directly to a great number of young people about one of the most important issues in American life today.

Besides the fact that he was raised in a devoutly Catholic home and is the country’s leading gay activist, who is Dan Savage to say anything at all about the ages-old Christian condemnation of gay people? So what if his claim is manifestly valid that nothing contributes more to the destruction of the lives of gay people than do Christians falsely and hypocritically using the Bible as an instrument of brutality? So what if he believes that among the most egregious of all Christian sins is daring to proclaim that God’s love ends where their own fear and hatred begin? So what if every day, for decades on end, Dan Savage has dealt with young lives obliterated through violence informed and buttressed by the bedrock “Christian” view that gay people are less than human?

You know, it’s almost like the people who put on this conference, as well as a small but now (thanks, media machine!) significant number of individuals who attended it, don’t even know what the word “journalism” means.

Well, thank you, young people who walked out of Dan’s speech the moment he began talking about the parts of the Bible to which he takes exception, for reminding us of what beats so passionately in the heart and soul of every true journalist. Speaking as a person who for twelve years made his living as a journalist, I admire your dedication to the journalist’s creed: When you personally disagree with something someone is saying, get up and leave.

Well how else are they going to achieve martyrdom in this day and age?

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

The self-righteous exit

Apr 29th, 2012 5:30 pm | By

And I’ve been meaning to post Dan Savage telling high school students how the bible got some things wrong.

We ignore what the bible says about slavery because the bible got slavery wrong.

What’s interesting is that a whole bunch of kids got up and stalked out. What’s your point, kids? That it’s good to persecute gay people because it’s in the bible? Or as Savage said -

It’s funny as someone who is on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the bible how pansy ass some people react when you push back.

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

Catholicism v Freedom

Apr 29th, 2012 5:20 pm | By

Eric does a really thorough job on Bill Donohue and the Catholic League.

A sample:

This explains, for instance, the insistence, by Catholic bishops, archbishops and cardinals, that the law of marriage not be changed to accommodate the relationships of homosexual persons. Although according to canon 1059, “the marriage of Catholics is governed not only by divine law but also by canon law, without prejudice to the competence of civil authority concerning the merely civil effects of the same marriage,” (my italics) it is clear that, by insisting that civil authorities cannot unilaterally declare the validity of marriages between homosexuals, Catholic bishops are holding canon law to be, in effect, superior to, and determinative of, what can be licitly determined by civil law. We should not be under any illusions about the scope of canon law in terms of the church’s own self-understanding. Canon law is, in crucial respects, prescriptive for civil law.

This is particularly evident with respect to laws governing abortion and assisted dying. The very existence of legal abortion or assisted dying is offensive to obedient Catholics. (The qualification is necessary, though, in general, the church holds that dissidents have effectively excommunicated themselves by their beliefs and actions. Only those Catholics faithful to the teachings of the Magisterium are considered to be Catholic in the true sense of that word.) In a short paper entitled “Response to Our Critics,” (The Review of Politics, Vol. 63, No. 1 (Winter 2000) 43-48) the Catholics Gary Glenn (I believe the linked Gary Glenn is the co-author of this paper) and John Stack inveigh against what they call the “civil liberties” regime in the United States, which they hold to be a great danger to Catholics.

Read on.

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

A pretty story out of Pakistan

Apr 29th, 2012 4:27 pm | By

Compassion is at the heart of every great religion. (Karen Armstrong)

That’s good, because if it weren’t, religious zealots might do some really horrible things now and then.

A British aid worker kidnapped in Pakistan in January has been found dead, the Foreign Office has said.

Khalil Dale, 60, who worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), was kidnapped in Quetta, south-west Pakistan.

The body of the Muslim convert was found in an orchard in Quetta with a note saying he had been killed by the Taliban, local police said…It is understood the militants holding Mr Dale had asked for a very large ransom which could not be paid.

The BBC doesn’t say so, but other headlines I saw said he was beheaded.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said: “He had many friends around the world and regularly travelled back to Dumfries where he was well known and loved.”

He had worked for the ICRC and the British Red Cross for many years, carrying out assignments in Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

British Red Cross chief executive Sir Nick Young said Khalil first worked overseas for the Red Cross in 1981 in Kenya, where he distributed food and helped improve the health of people affected by severe drought.

He also worked in Sudan before his posting to Pakistan.

Sir Nick added: “He was a gentle, kind person, who devoted his life to helping others, including some of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

So, to be perfectly honest, really the last kind of person who should be kidnapped and then murdered when the money wasn’t forthcoming. Most of us aren’t like that; I’m certainly not; people who are like that shouldn’t be murdered.

Shiela Howatt, who worked with Mr Dale when he was a staff nurse at Dumfries Infirmary in the 1990s, said he was “no stranger to danger”, and had previously been captured in Mogadishu.

“He was an absolutely lovely person devoted to caring for others less fortunate than himself,” she told the BBC.

“He spent his time in war-torn countries where help was needed, where people were desperate and that was Ken’s role in life.”

Mrs Howat, who knew Mr Dale for 25 years, said his fiancee Anne, who is also a nurse, lives in Australia.

The MP for Dumfries and Galloway, Russell Brown, said he also counted Mr Dale as a friend.

“We were all hoping for a somewhat more satisfactory end, but dare I say my thoughts are also tinged with a degree of anger,” he said.

“He went out to do good work in a foreign land, helping people out there as he’s done for many years in different parts of the world, and he gets captured, kidnapped, and meets a horrific death.”

Bad. Very bad.





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