Notes and Comment Blog

The privilege is the absence of barriers that exist for other people

May 7th, 2014 10:49 am | By

You may not have noticed this (I kid), but talking about privilege doesn’t always work out. If it did, we wouldn’t be hearing so much about that guy Tal Fortgang, who is so remote from having any privilege that major media are paying close attention to his lack of privilege. Mychal Denzel Smith explains in The Nation why it all goes wrong.

When people with privilege hear that they have privilege, what they hear is not, “Our society is structured so that your life is more valued than others.” They hear, “Everything, no matter what, will be handed to you. You have done nothing to achieve what you have.” That’s not strictly true, and hardly anyone who points out another’s privilege is making that accusation. There are privileged people who work very hard. The privilege they experience is the absence of barriers that exist for other people.

But they don’t grasp that, because they’re not aware of the barriers that exist for other people, because they’re not other people. That’s the “privilege” they have. It’s so fatally easy to translate lack of awareness of X to what you think is awareness that not-X. I know this; I catch myself doing it all the time. It’s one of the fast thinking mistakes we make. It needn’t be an accusation, it’s just reality.

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

Benign acknowledgment

May 7th, 2014 9:57 am | By

One thing Kennedy said in the Greece ruling -

That the First Congress provided for the appointment of chaplains only days after approving language for the First Amendment demonstrates that the Framers considered legislative prayer a benign acknowledgment of religion’s role in society.

Well if so, the Framers were wrong. One, it’s not automatically “benign”; two, it’s a lot more than a mere acknowledgment; three, religion’s role in society is not necessarily something that should be encouraged, let alone imposed.

I for one don’t consider it at all benign for a major branch of government to give its imprimatur to the fanciful idea that there’s a Big But Absent Person in charge of us all and paying attention to our “prayers.” It’s a silly childish belief on a par with belief in fairies or ghosts, and it’s only this kind of supposedly “benign” public deference to it that allows to many people to think otherwise. It’s far from being just an acknowledgment; it is an endorsement.

Religion’s role in society is a mixed bag at best. There’s no obvious reason for Congress to “acknowledge” that role at all, and in any case hiring a chaplain to deliver a daily prayer is not acknowledgement but participation.

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

Boko Haram has a busy day

May 7th, 2014 9:33 am | By

CNN reports:

Details emerged Wednesday of an apparent Boko Haram attack on a Nigerian village in which at least 150 people died, the latest in a series of attacks and abductions of schoolgirls attributed to the group.

Militants dressed in military uniforms, backed by armored personnel carriers and shouting “God is great” attacked Gamboru Ngala Monday afternoon, firing rocket-propelled grenades and tossing improvised bombs into a crowded outdoor marketplace, witnesses told CNN Wednesday.

They then set fire to buildings where people had tried to take shelter from the violence, the witnesses said.

The fighters also attacked the police station during the 12-hour assault, initially facing stiff resistance. They eventually used explosives to blow the roof off the building, witnesses said. Fourteen police officers were found dead inside, they said.

The final death toll could be closer to 300, Nigerian Sen. Ahmed Zanna told CNN.

“Militants”? “Fighters”?

Militants in the cause of what? Fighters for what? Don’t say sharia or a caliphate or the ummah or Islam, because any of those would give an impression of some kind of idealism, however warped. I don’t believe it. I think they’re just murdering and enslaving people for the sake of murdering and enslaving people. I think they’re drunk on their ability to blow everything up, and enjoying their power to slaughter people and make all the survivors miserable.


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

One thousand lashes

May 7th, 2014 9:21 am | By

It’s been reported – indirectly so far, which is to say, no English language news sources – that today Saudi Arabia changed Raif Badawi’s sentence to an even harsher one.

Amnesty International reports:

Amnesty International is calling on Saudi Arabia’s authorities to quash the outrageous sentencing today of Raif Badawi in connection with an online forum for public debate he set up and accusations that he insulted Islam.

Raif Badawi, co-founder of the “Saudi Arabian Liberals” website, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals (about US$266,631) by Jeddah’s Criminal Court.


Not to mention ten years – 120 months, 3,560+ days – in prison.

Corporal punishment, such as flogging, violates international law, which prohibits torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Raif Badawi was first jailed in 2012 for violating Saudi Arabia’s IT law and insulting religious authorities through his online writings and hosting those of others on the “Saudi Arabian Liberals” website. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes.

Last December, an appeals court overturned his conviction and sent the case to Jeddah’s Criminal Court to be reviewed. He had initially been charged with “apostasy”, which is considered a serious crime in Saudi Arabia and carries the death penalty.

It’s a god damn outrage.


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

Dashboard transcendence

May 7th, 2014 8:57 am | By

Dave Richards gave me blanket permission to post his photos so here’s another one of Merlyn that I’ve always loved – this one from when he was a brand new arrival.

Magic Merlyn is magic

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

Human beings who have names

May 6th, 2014 6:11 pm | By

Martin Wagner posted this on Facebook. The names of 177 of the schoolgirls kidnapped and enslaved by Boko Haram.

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

A policy that could lead to the exclusion of non-Christian groups

May 6th, 2014 11:15 am | By

The Supreme Court ruling handed down yesterday is inspiring new efforts, just as everyone knew it would. The Board of Supervisors of Roanoke County, Virginia, for instance:

Roanoke County’s Board of Supervisors may be headed toward another discussion of prayer following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling handed down Monday. The board dealt with the matter in 2012, eventually passing a nonsectarian prayer policy that Supervisor Al Bedrosian is ready to strike from the books.

“The freedom of religion doesn’t mean that every religion has to be heard,” said Bedrosian, who added that he is concerned about groups such as Wiccans and Satanists. “If we allow everything … where do you draw the line?”

The supervisor campaigned on the idea of eliminating the policy, and the ruling has breathed new life into his idea for a policy that could lead to the exclusion of non-Christian groups from the invocation.

Yay. Formal, official Christian supremacy in government at last. The city on a hill is in sight.

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

Getting rid of it was long overdue

May 6th, 2014 10:39 am | By

The Borowitz Report* on the Supreme Court ruling in Greece v Galloway.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) — In what legal experts are calling a landmark decision, on Monday the United States Supreme Court struck down what many believe to be the main reason the country was started.

By a five-to-four vote, the Court eliminated what grade-school children have traditionally been taught was one of the key rationales for founding the United States in the first place.

“The separation of church and state has been a cornerstone of American democracy for over two hundred years,” said Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority. “Getting rid of it was long overdue.”

Hahasob. Yeah.


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

“God instructed me to sell them, they are his properties”

May 6th, 2014 10:20 am | By

The BBC has more on the enslavement in Nigeria.

In the video, Abubakar Shekau said the girls should not have been in school in the first place, but rather should get married.

“God instructed me to sell them, they are his properties and I will carry out his instructions,” he said.

Yes that sums it right up, doesn’t it – girls are inferior beings, therefore they should not be in school, they should be enslaved in “marriage” because that’s all that inferior beings are good for.

Meanwhile, a woman who helped organise protests over the abduction was detained and later released.

Naomi Mutah was taken to a police station after a meeting called by First Lady Patience Jonathan.

Mrs Jonathan reportedly felt slighted that the girls’ mothers had sent Ms Mutah to the meeting instead of going themselves.

Mrs Jonathan is seen as a politically powerful figure in Nigeria but has no constitutional power to order arrests.

Ms Mutah, a representative of the Chibok community, organised a protest last week outside parliament in Abuja.

Wow, that’s some heavy-duty self-absorption – for Patience Jonathan to be more worried about her own importance than the issue that Naomi Mutah was there to discuss with her.

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

They said they would

May 6th, 2014 9:15 am | By

As promised, fucking Boko Haram has grabbed more girls.

Of course it has. It’s easy. Soft targets. Villages of ordinary people; it’s dead easy to burst in with guns and grab a bunch of the girls. Anybody could do that at any time. But decent people don’t do that. We’re all soft targets; we don’t all prey on each other just because we can.

Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped eight girls aged 12 to 15 from a village near one of their strongholds in northeast Nigeria overnight, police and residents said today.

“They were many, and all of them carried guns. They came in two vehicles painted in army colour. They started shooting in our village,” said Lazarus Musa, a resident of Warabe, where the attack happened.

So what could the people of Warabe do? Nothing. So the men with guns were able to grab the girls.

Homo homini lupus.



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

Magic cat

May 6th, 2014 8:33 am | By

This beautiful cat’s human takes the most beautiful pictures of him – and this one that he posted yesterday (the human, not the cat) I couldn’t stop gazing at. So I got permission to share the pleasure of it with you all.

The cat is Merlyn. The genius with the camera is Dave Richards.

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

It’s not tomorrow

May 6th, 2014 8:22 am | By

Climate change is already here and already messing things up.

Climate change has moved from distant threat to present-day danger and no American will be left unscathed, according to a landmark report due to be unveiled on Tuesday.

The National Climate Assessment, a 1,300-page report compiled by 300 leading scientists and experts, is meant to be the definitive account of the effects of climate change on the US. It will be formally released at a White House event and is expected to drive the remaining two years of Barack Obama’s environmental agenda.

Gary Yohe, an economist at Wesleyan University and vice-chair of the NCA advisory committee, said the US report would be unequivocal that the effects of climate change were occurring in real-time and were evident in every region of the country.

“One major take-home message is that just about every place in the country has observed that the climate has changed,” he told the Guardian. “It is here and happening, and we are not cherrypicking or fearmongering.”

But Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and the entire Republican party will say they are, just the same.

Some changes are already having a measurable effect on food production and public health, the report will say.

John Balbus, senior adviser at the National Institute of Environmenal Health Science and a lead author of the NCA report, said rising temperatures increased the risk of heat stroke and heat-related deaths.

Eugene Takle, convening lead author of the agriculture chapter of the NCA report, and director of the Climate Science programme at Iowa State University, said heatwaves and changes in rainfall had resulted in a levelling off in wheat and corn production and would eventually cause declines.

And elsewhere in the world…the real terror is the melting of Himalayan glaciers and thus the loss of irrigation from the great rivers those glaciers feed and thus famine in much of Asia.

The assessments are the American equivalent of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. This year’s report for the first time looks at what America has done to fight climate change or protect people from its consequences in the future.

Under an act of Congress the reports were supposed to be produced every four years, but no report was produced during George W Bush’s presidency.


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

“By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace.”

May 5th, 2014 5:29 pm | By

New news: Boko Haram now says it’s planning to sell the schoolgirls “in the marketplace.”

Abubakar Shekau for the first time also claimed responsibility for the April 15 mass abduction, warning that his group plans to attack more schools and abduct more girls.

“I abducted your girls,” said the leader of Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sinful.”

He described the girls as “slaves” and said, “By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace.” The hourlong video starts with fighters lifting automatic rifles and shooting in the air as they chant “Allahu akbar!” or “God is great.”

ABC News says it’s not clear when the video was made.

In the video, Shekau also said the students “will remain slaves with us.” That appears a reference to the ancient jihadi custom of enslaving women captured in a holy war, who then can be used for sex.

Holy shmoly. It’s an ancient Homeric custom, too, so what? It’s not “holy,” it’s just “we win so we get to take what we want.” It’s might makes right, it’s force majeure, it’s what bullies do.

“They are slaves and I will sell them because I have the market to sell them,” he said, speaking in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria.

And don’t forget: education is forbidden. Murder is not forbidden, kidnapping schoolgirls and selling them into slavery is not forbidden, it’s education that’s forbidden. Bullies forever.

The video was reviewed by The Associated Press, and both the face and the voice of the leader of Boko Haram were recognizable.

Shekau brushed off warnings that the abductions could be an international crime, saying in English, as if to reach his accusers in the international community: “What do you know about human rights? You’re just claiming human rights (abuses), but you don’t know what it is.”

Hmm. Shoe on the other foot, old bean.

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

The Holy See intends to focus

May 5th, 2014 4:36 pm | By

Hey remember the Catholic church? That pretends to be the source of truth and morality and true morality and moral truth? That Catholic church?

It’s been busy at the UN lately. Helping out? Offering assistance to victims of war and earthquakes? Knitting balaclavas for the homeless?

No. Trying to convince the committee against torture that it – the church – doesn’t have to enforce the UN convention against torture because it – the church, or rather the Vatican – has borders, and the convention is outside it.

That’s moral truth and true morality for you.

The Vatican has been given another hostile interrogation by a United Nations committee over its record on clerical sex abuse.

One member after another of the committee against torture brushed aside the Holy See’s argument that its obligation to enforce the UN convention against torture stopped at the boundaries of the world’s smallest country, the Vatican City state.

Pause to give close attention to that item. The “Holy See” is claiming that its obligation to enforce the UN convention against torture stops at the boundaries of the Vatican City state. It is acting like any CEO or Ponzi schemer or Mafia boss while pretending to be close to “God” and the source of all virtue.

The Holy See, which long predates the city state, is a sovereign entity without territory. It is as the Holy See that the Catholic leadership maintains diplomatic relations and signs treaties such as the convention against torture.

And gets to throw its weight around and fuck everything up in the name of its hateful god.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s UN ambassador in Geneva, told the committee: “The Holy See intends to focus exclusively on Vatican City state.”

The American expert on the committee, Felice Gaer, made plain her disagreement. She said the Holy See had to “show us that, as a party to the convention, you have a system in place to prohibit torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment when it is acquiesced to by anyone under the effective control of the officials of the Holy See and the institutions that operate in the Vatican City state”.

Talk about eating cake and having it – they want to have all the perks of being a state while also pretending not to be a state whenever being a state means they would have to do something they don’t want to do, like stop their people torturing children.

Gaer, the director of an American-Jewish human rights organisation, the Jacob Blaustein Institute, said the church’s doctrine on abortion was an area of legitimate concern for the committee. She called for the Vatican to comment on allegations that its blanket stigmatisation of abortion had led to nine-year-old girls being required to give birth.

In February, the Vatican reacted with outrage when another UN panel argued that children around the world were suffering from Catholic teachings, including those on abortion and birth control. The Vatican said comments by the committee on the rights of the child constituted an attack on religious freedom.

Ahhh fuck you, Vatican; you’re the bitter enemies of any kind of real freedom there is. You want freedom to do whatever you want to do while coercing everyone else. Priests on top! That’s not freedom, not even religious freedom.

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

Guest post by Salty Current on the “ceremonial” God

May 5th, 2014 4:16 pm | By

Originally a comment on Help keep God’s name in America!!

Apparently, [In God we trust] was named the national motto by Eisenhower in 1956. It was challenged in 1970 and the case made it to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The decision was very similar to today’s – it was fine because “It is quite obvious that the national motto and the slogan on coinage and currency ‘In God We Trust’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion. Its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise….” They quoted an earlier decision: “Short of those expressly proscribed governmental acts there is room for play in the joints productive of a benevolent neutrality which will permit religious exercise to exist without sponsorship and without interference. …”

This is even worse than today’s given that it had been made the motto just 14 years prior (after a couple of centuries of “E pluribus unum” as the unofficial motto) and for what I understand was the express purpose of declaring the US a religious/theistic country in opposition to the godless Communists. That is in no way neutral and has quite a bit to do with the establishment of religion, as these wingnuts recognize.

But it also shares the same problem as the Greece decision: If the motto or the prayers are “merely ceremonial” or traditional exercises, the response to people’s reasonable sense of exclusion and their opposition to the practice would be to change or end their use. It would not be “Let’s take this to the highest courts!” The fact that these decisions are being made by high courts itself destroys the claim that we’re talking about mere ceremony or tradition.



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

Help keep God’s name in America!!

May 5th, 2014 12:01 pm | By

What the hell, let’s just go the whole hog, right? Why not join In God We Trust – America in their wholesome plan to get that “national motto” (whatever the fuck that is) plastered all over every public building in the country.



IN GOD WE TRUST~AMERICA continues to make exciting progress:

OUR NEW TOTAL – 349, “Yes Vote” cities and counties across America, now displaying our National Motto.

To view the update list. Click here.

featured1WE NEED YOUR HELP:  

JOIN THIS MISSION – HELP US KEEP GOD’S NAME IN AMERICA:  Is our National Motto displayed in your city and every city in your county??? We are asking Patriots like you, across America, to get involved with IN GOD WE TRUST~AMERICA.

We need volunteers to email our information to elected officials, in every city and county, in every state, in our country.

Yes!!! Let’s get together and force “God” on EVERYONE IN THE COUNTRY.

Or as I said almost three years ago, Who’s “we,” bub?

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

Majority privilege and the Supreme Court

May 5th, 2014 10:44 am | By

Naturally I hastened to Twitter to see what Ron Lindsay has to say about the ruling in Greece v Galloway – because Ron is both a lawyer and a philosopher, and much involved with legal issues to do with secularism. The first thing he had to say was “Damn.” Yes.

He went on to point out that 5 of 6 Christian justices saw no problem with Christian prayers, and added

SCOTUS decision in Town of Greece shows one is unlikely to be sensitive to oppression of majority religion when one is in the majority.

Yes, thought I. Exactly. Then I noticed something, and couldn’t resist saying it.

Those justices should check their privilege. (Both a joke and a bitter truth.)

It’s a rather complicated joke, but still a joke. I understand why many people get tired of slogans like “check your privilege”: slogans do have a strong tendency to be overused and peremptory – that’s what makes them slogans, after all. But all the same, the concept of privilege does point out something real and important, and Ron had just spelled it out.

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

Greece v Galloway

May 5th, 2014 10:20 am | By

So Kennedy sided with the four reactionaries and ruled that the town of Greece, New York did not violate the Constitution by starting its public meetings with a prayer from a “chaplain of the month” who was almost always Christian. Why not? Because the prayers are “merely ceremonial.”

Excuse me, prayers delivered by a chaplain from the majority religion (or, in fact, any other religion, but this case is this case) are not “merely ceremonial.” That’s bullshit of the purest kind – calculated, insulting, unreasonable, unabashed.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in a 5-to-4 decision that divided the court’s more conservative members from its liberal ones, said the prayers were merely ceremonial. They were neither unduly sectarian nor likely to make members of other faiths feel unwelcome.

“Ceremonial prayer,” he wrote, “is but a recognition that, since this nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond that authority of government to alter or define.”

Many Americans can go right ahead and do that; all of us can do that if we so decide; it does not follow that the government should do that, nor is it even a good reason for the government to do that. In fact it’s the opposite: since the putative “precepts” are “far beyond that authority of government to alter or define” that authority of government should just stay the fuck out of it.

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the town’s practices could not be reconciled “with the First Amendment’s promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share of her government.”

And it’s staggeringly insulting and alienating to ignore that fact.

Justice Kennedy said traditions starting with the first Congress supported the constitutionality of ceremonial prayers at the start of legislative sessions. He added that it would be perilous for courts to decide when those prayers crossed a constitutional line and became impermissibly sectarian.

Oh hey, I have a solution to that problem – DON’T HAVE ANY PRAYERS.

“To hold that invocations must be nonsectarian,” he wrote, “would force the legislatures that sponsor prayers and the courts that are asked to decide these cases to act as supervisors and censors of religious speech, a rule that would involve government in religious matters to a far greater degree than is the case under the town’s current practice of neither editing or approving prayers in advance nor criticizing their content after the fact.”


Town officials had tried, [Kennedy] said, to recruit members of various faiths to offer prayers.

In dissent, Justice Kagan said they had not tried hard enough. “So month in and month out for over a decade,” she wrote, “prayers steeped in only one faith, addressed toward members of the public, commenced meetings to discuss local affairs and distribute government benefits.”

In 1983, in Marsh v. Chambers, the Supreme Court upheld the Nebraska Legislature’s practice of opening its legislative sessions with an invocation from a paid Presbyterian minister, saying that such ceremonies were “deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country.”

Justice Kagan, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, said the case from Greece was different. The prayers at the town board meetings were often explicitly sectarian, they said, and residents were forced to listen to them in order to participate in local government.

“No one can fairly read the prayers from Greece’s town meetings as anything other than explicitly Christian – constantly and exclusively so,” she wrote in her dissent in the case, Town of Greece v. Galloway, No. 12-696.

Moreover, she said, the clergy “put some residents to the unenviable choice of either pretending to pray like the majority or declining to join its communal activity, at the very moment of petitioning their elected leaders.”

It’s theocracy. It’s theocracy-lite, certainly, but it’s still theocracy.

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


May 5th, 2014 9:21 am | By

Here’s a good cause, in case you were looking for one. It comes recommended by Digital Cuttlefish.

Help raise $27,000 in 60 days!

Contributions will be used quickly to purchase school materials and supplies for the educators and students in Domiz and Gawilan refugee camps. These purchases will be made locally to stimulate the surrounding economy. These seemingly “minor” needs, when left unmet, add up to a significant negative impact on the quality of education that each boy and girl receives. No child should have to go to class without school supplies and no teacher should have to teach students without adequate tools. Based on our experience in the refugee camps and our study of the crisis, we are convinced that there is an urgent need for a small, nimble team that can quickly assess specific education needs in the camps and rapidly meet them. TentEd is that team.

With so many big organizations already doing heroic work on the ground, why contribute to TentEd? Why not just support the big players? After all, they have long track records of success, experienced and dedicated staff, and a strong understanding of the refugee populations and their needs. We could not agree more. But here is one key distinction for you to consider: TentEd is NOT looking to duplicate work that is already being done. Our goal is to complement the efforts of the established organizations and meet a set of narrowly defined needs that are best suited for a small flexible team to address, not a big bureaucracy.

We at TentEd see ourselves as a small but essential part of a larger effort, an effort requiring gears of all sizes to effectively provide real and lasting support to a vital cause. When you donate to TentEd, we guarantee that your generosity goes directly into a classroom. The impact will be immediate.

Plan of Action

Our plan is straightforward. We intend to:

  1. Raise $27,000 over the next 60 days ending on June 10 – with your help!
  1. Visit Domiz and Gawilan refugee camps in northern Iraq in mid-June (regular classes and catch-up classes are ongoing year-round) to interview government officials, aid workers, school principals, students and camp leaders.
  1. Quickly assess and catalog basic education needs such as backpacks, notebooks, teaching aids and minor classroom repairs.
  1. Rapidly purchase the needed supplies locally to increase impact while helping stimulate the surrounding economy.
  1. Immediately distribute the supplies in collaboration with camp officials and leaders to ensure they go to the appropriate students.

- See more at:

There’s a DONATE button at the end.

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

Thank you Lord!

May 5th, 2014 8:45 am | By

Dayum. Why did no one tell me about Mrs Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian?

From Mrs Betty Bowers:

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