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.

Orthodoxy v freedom

Jan 3rd, 2012 3:44 pm | By

Jonathan Turley was on the case in the Los Angeles Times in December.

This week in Washington, the United States is hosting an international conference obliquely titled “Expert Meeting on Implementing the U.N. Human Rights Resolution 16/18.” The impenetrable title conceals the disturbing agenda: to establish international standards for, among other things, criminalizing “intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of … religion and belief.” The unstated enemy of religion in this conference is free speech, and the Obama administration is facilitating efforts by Muslim countries to “deter” some speech in the name of human rights.

Although the resolution also speaks to combating incitement to violence, the core purpose behind this and previous measures has been to justify the prosecution of those who speak against religion. The members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC, have been pushing for years to gain international legitimacy of their domestic criminal prosecutions of anti-religious speech.

And liberals and secularists have been pushing back – like the IHEU and CFI last March:

This week the Center for Inquiry joined the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) in opposing blasphemy laws at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

CFI holds special consultative status as a non-governmental organization, or NGO, under the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Both CFI and the IHEU have been active in recent years opposing so-called blasphemy laws, which aim to suppress criticism and free speech about religious beliefs.  Such laws have been used to persecute nonbelievers, religious minorities and religious dissidents.  In some countries, including Pakistan, the “crime” of blasphemy carries the penalty of death.

CFI drew up a joint statement, which was delivered before the Human Rights Council.

We welcome the report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief [A/HRC/16/53] and note that violence in the name of religion is apparently growing in many counties. For example, the recent murders in Pakistan of Governor Salman Taseer and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti have shocked us all.

In this context, we note the excellent statement by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, released on 2 March [1] in which she condemned the assassinations and went on to call on the Pakistan Government to declare a moratorium on the application of the blasphemy laws.

We recognise the problems faced by governments around the world, including Pakistan, in confronting extremism, but the extremists must be confronted, Mr President.

The Pakistani assassins reportedly gave their victim’s opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws as the reason for their murders, so it is incorrect to argue that the murders cannot be linked to the blasphemy laws – as the distinguished representative of Pakistan did here last Thursday.

For many years the OIC has argued for the criminalisation of defamation of religion, thereby providing legitimacy for their infamous blasphemy laws – infamous, because it is only in Pakistan and certain other States that blasphemy carries the death penalty.

It’s appalling that the Obama administration seems to be going in the other direction.

This year, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton invited nations to come to implement the resolution and “to build those muscles” needed “to avoid a return to the old patterns of division.” Those “old patterns” include instances in which writers and cartoonists became the targets of protests by religious groups. The most famous such incident occurred in 2005 when a Danish newspaper published cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad. The result were worldwide protests in which Muslims reportedly killed more than 100 people — a curious way to demonstrate religious tolerance. While Western governments reaffirmed the right of people to free speech after the riots, they quietly moved toward greater prosecution of anti-religious speech under laws prohibiting hate speech and discrimination.

The OIC members have long sought to elevate religious dogma over individual rights. In 1990, members adopted the Cairo Declaration, which rejected core provisions of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights and affirmed that free speech and other rights must be consistent with “the principles of the sharia,” or Islamic law. The biggest victory of the OIC came in 2009 when the Obama administration joined in condemning speech containing “negative racial and religious stereotyping” and asked states to “take effective measures” to combat incidents, including those of “religious intolerance.” Then, in March, the U.S. supported Resolution 16/18′s call for states to “criminalize incitement to imminent violence based on religion or belief.” It also “condemns” statements that advocate “hostility” toward religion. Although the latest resolution refers to “incitement” rather than “defamation” of religion (which appeared in the 2005 resolution), it continues the disingenuous effort to justify crackdowns on religious critics in the name of human rights law.

At that rate – we could all be prosecuted, or at least shut down. Good idea? No, I don’t really think so.

The OIC has hit on a winning strategy to get Western countries to break away from their commitment to free speech by repackaging blasphemy as hate speech and free speech as the manifestation of “intolerance.” Now, orthodoxy is to be protected in the name of pluralism — requiring their own notion of “respect and empathy and tolerance.” One has to look only at the OIC member countries, however, to see their vision of empathy and tolerance, as well as their low threshold for anti-religious speech that incites people. In September, a Kuwaiti court jailed a person for tweeting a message deemed derogatory to Shiites. In Pakistan last year, a doctor was arrested for throwing out a business card of a man named Muhammad because he shared the prophet’s name.

That’s the thing. The OIC member states are not the ones to tell secular liberal democracies how to talk about religion. There’s not one secular liberal democracy in the OIC, unless we’re thinking of the transitional ex-dictatorships as potential secular liberal democracies in the making – which, given the way the Egyptian elections are going, would seem to be more than a little over-optimistic. That’s why it’s appalling that Clinton is helping them hold their meeting.

Although the OIC and the Obama administration claim fealty to free speech, the very premise of the meeting reveals a desire to limit it. Many delegates presuppose that speech threatens faith, when it has been religious orthodoxy that has long been the enemy of free speech. Conversely, free speech is the ultimate guarantee of religious freedom.

But not of religious orthodoxy, so…

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


Jan 3rd, 2012 12:04 pm | By

I don’t normally like to agree with Republican Representatives, but I’m afraid this one time I’m going to have to. Actually I think I’ll see his bet and raise it.

A US lawmaker has urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to push back against the “criminalization of speech deemed critical of Islam” at a meeting next week of the world’s largest Muslim body.

In a December 8 letter, Republican Representative Ted Poe pressed Clinton to use a December 12-14 meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Washington to address the issue.


What the fuck is Clinton doing having a meeting of the fucking OIC in Washington?!

When’s the last time Clinton held a meeting of the Organization of Christian Cooperation (formerly the Organization of the Christian Conference) in Washington? Oh that’s right, never, because there isn’t one.

Does Clinton have a clue what the OIC is? She must, being the Secretary of State…but then what the hell is the administration doing inviting it to Washington.

Remember the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam? There’s an examination of it in Does God Hate Women? Here’s a little refresher.

The Member States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference,

Reaffirming the civilizing and historical role of the Islamic Ummah which God made the best nation that has given mankind a universal and well-balanced civilization in which harmony is established between this life and the hereafter and knowledge is combined with faith; and the role that this Ummah should play to guide a humanity confused by competing trends and ideologies and to provide solutions to the chronic problems of this materialistic civilization.

Wishing to contribute to the efforts of mankind to assert human rights, to protect man from exploitation and persecution, and to affirm his freedom and right to a dignified life in accordance with the Islamic Shari’ah…


(a) All human beings form one family whose members are united by submission to God and descent from Adam. All men are equal in terms of basic human dignity and basic obligations and responsibilities, without any discrimination on the grounds of race, color, language, sex, religious belief, political affiliation, social status or other considerations. True faith is the guarantee for enhancing such dignity along the path to human perfection.

(b)All human beings are God’s subjects, and the most loved by Him are those who are most useful to the rest of His subjects, and no one has superiority over another except on the basis of piety and good deeds.

ARTICLE 9: (a) The question for knowledge is an obligation and the provision of education is a duty for society and the State. The State shall ensure the availability of ways and means to acquire education and shall guarantee educational diversity in the interest of society so as to enable man to be acquainted with the religion of Islam and the facts of the Universe for the benefit of mankind.

(b) Every human being has the right to receive both religious and worldly education from the various institutions of, education and guidance, including the family, the school, the university, the media, etc., and in such an integrated and balanced manner as to develop his personality, strengthen his faith in God and promote his respect for and defense of both rights and obligations.

Islam is the religion of unspoiled nature. It is prohibited to exercise any form of compulsion on man or to exploit his poverty or ignorance in order to convert him to another religion or to atheism.

ARTICLE 12: Every man shall have the right, within the framework of Shari’ah, to free movement and to select his place of residence whether inside or outside his country and if persecuted, is entitled to seek asylum in another country. The country of refuge shall ensure his protection until he reaches safety, unless asylum is motivated by an act which Shari’ah regards as a crime.

When it says “man” it means man, not human being. That’s one of the many ways the Cairo Declaration re-wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to make it sharia-compliant.

The Cairo Declaration is the work of the OIC.

It’s an outrage that Hillary Clinton held a meeting of the OIC.

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

If they get on a haredi bus

Jan 2nd, 2012 4:45 pm | By

But, to the surprise of no one, it is possible to find haredi women who think segregated buses are just fine. Well of course it is.

“If they get on a haredi bus, they should get on in the back, they need to respect us. They’re doing it just for the provocation,” said one woman who refused to give her name.

But it’s not a “haredi bus,” it’s a public bus. The word “bus” is short for “omnibus” which means, precisely, “for all.” It’s not a haredi bus so no one is obligated to get on in the back and no one needs to “respect” people who think they get to own particular public bus routes.

Others were  less passionate about the idea of separated buses, but resented the violent intrusion of secular activists into their community.

“Violent” – that’s nice. The secular activists beat people up did they? Spat on them? Pushed them? Stepped on their toes?

Not that I’ve seen reported.

“The [haredi] community doesn’t care [about separate buses], it’s not a problem,” said R.S. an  immigrant from Australia who lives in Ramat Shlomo. “Some people want it, others  don’t, but we accept the whole idea.”

On Sunday, as the bus wound through the streets of Geula, women continued to push through to the back, wrestling  with toddlers and strollers.

“The buses get extremely crowded, why should men and women be smashed up together?” asked R.S.

Because that’s how it is with public transportation, and mandating sex segregation is not the way to deal with it.


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


Jan 2nd, 2012 4:24 pm | By

A riotous hashtag at Twitter, instantly addictive. I’ve been snorting with laughter and failing to drag myself away.

A few -

Breezy Hilltops

Harry Potter and the Trip to ASDA – Rhys Morgan.

Afternoon Excursion on the Beagle

Their Eyes Were Watching Netflix – Katha Pollitt.

Nice Place Lost

Squabble and Peace

Crime and a Talking To – lots of people and versions.

Around the Block in 80 Days

Bikespotting – Troels Heeger.

Two Men in a Boat – Greg Laden.

A Streetcar Named 87

Nap of a Salesman

The Glass Farmyard

The Little House in the Suburbs

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

Still alive

Jan 2nd, 2012 1:02 pm | By

Whenever I see Joe Hoffmann’s latest burst of hatred at Da Noo Atheists, I decide to ignore it because he obviously loves the attention. (He’s like Michael Ruse that way. Exactly like Michael Ruse. Ruse writes a stupid generalized sneer about noo atheism, gets flack for the stupidity and generality, writes an aggrieved response to the flack. Repeat. Repeat repeat repeat. This is what Hoffmann has taken to doing.) Then other people don’t ignore it, so once the pleasure of seeing the post ignored is no longer available, I shrug and don’t ignore it too.

So the latest one, the New Year edition, is pathetically titled “Re-Made in America: Remembering the New Atheism (2006-2011).” As if he could make it be dead just by entering a terminal date. Nice try, Joe, but it’s not dead yet.

And then – it’s the usual kind of thing. Elegantly written and witty in its way, but vitiated by spite and generality. Lots of magisterial summing up with no actual examples of the badness he so freely attributes to people he dislikes. There’s not really much more to say about it. It’s so arbitrary that it undermines itself; it’s embarrassingly obvious that attention is the only purpose.

The funny (as opposed to witty) part is the predictable rambling self-referential slush of his acolyte “steph.”

You’re so funny Veronica.  Yay, congratulations you beat me!  Isn’t it ‘wonderful’… I know how that makes you screech and run and tell every other ant all about it. “Everybody knows”: it’s a song.  Do you know it?

Mr MacDonald grants Dawkins favours freely too?  More fool old Mack, eh?

I wonder what your definition of angry is.  This post is witty, yes, and incisive.  Accurate as always.  The style is no different from previous essays on other websites.  Erudite and eternally critical, which is the nature of good academic scholarship.  He’s always consistently interesting don’t you think?  No?  It’s fascinating that when the subjects of a critique are atheists, the subjects angrily growl that it’s ‘angry’ critique.  Generally critiques of atheism are described by atheists as either ‘angry’, written by a ‘faitheist’ or even as ‘passively aggressive’ or ‘accommodationist’.  How can anyone be ‘angry’ with something that’s destroying itself Veronica? How can anyone be angry with something so small?  It’s blindingly obvious the ‘atheism’ in this essay is on the road to oblivion and I can’t imagine how your imagination stretches to Joe being angry unless it’s evidence of your own psychological projection.  If only David and Goliath were true … but atheists just ain’t go the right pebbles.

Do admit. Notice especially the vulgar ”old Mack” – from someone who sets herself up as a critic of gnu rudeness.

Sad. Hoffmann really isn’t vulgar in that way. It’s sad that he’s reduced to friends like that.


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

Up the down staircase

Jan 1st, 2012 12:26 pm | By

There’s always another step to go up the staircase of disgust -

The latest step is the Haredi leadership putting yellow stars on children at a protest against “exclusion” (by which is meant, not being permitted to exclude women).

Over a thousand ultra-Orthodox men assembled Saturday night in Jerusalem’s Kikar Hashabbat (Sabbath Square), in protest of what they termed the exclusion of Haredim, a response to the recent outrage over the exclusion of women in Beit Shemesh and elsewhere.

You see what they did there? Men who define inclusion as men’s right to exclude and bully women are protesting their “exclusion” by using Holocaust imagery, as if being genocided were identical to being prevented from excluding and bullying women.

Some of the protesters were wearing yellow badges; others were dressed in prisoner uniforms symbolizing the prosecution of Jews by the Nazi regime during World War II. The protesters were trying to express by way of analogy that they are being persecuted for their Jewish way of life by Israel’s secular majority.

That’s a biiiiiiiiiiig step up that staircase.


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

Here’s what you learn

Jan 1st, 2012 11:17 am | By

Funny how sexism never goes out of style, isn’t it. I used to think it was out of style at least among people who occasionally use their heads for something other than putting food into, but I’ve been disabused of that starry-eyed notion lately. Certainly people who don’t go in for multi-purpose heads seem to think sexism is both funny and truthful. Like the tabloid press in the UK, Laurie Penny says.

We are used to seeing this sort of story about women in the tabloids, the familiar narrative of vapid idealisation, followed by shame and sexual humiliation. What we are not used to is seeing a real woman in a smart suit telling us how these stories affected her life. Now a collection of liberal feminist groups has come forward to say what everyone knew already: that any investigation into media ethics would be incomplete without an acknowledgement that the British tabloid press is oozing with the very worst sort of malicious, heavy-breathing misogyny.

Sexism is so consistent a feature of the culture of media in Britain that it has become easy to overlook, like the whine of an alarm that has sounded for so long you’ve learned to ignore it. Until a few years ago, it was the modern “problem with no name”. However much it hurt to have to see slut-shaming, rape-apologism, victim-blaming and sexual objectification in the press every day over our cornflakes, women just had to ignore it, because challenging media misogyny in any way was next to impossible. It was just “the way things were”.

How familiar that is. (Atheists hear a lot of that, too – most people are religious, and that’s just how it is.) It may be next to impossible (or it may not), but that’s not actually a reason to submit to it.

But back to the tabloids.

Here’s what you learn, if you’re a woman and you grow up with British tabloid newspapers in the house: if you get raped or murdered, it’s your fault; if you are old, overweight or just having a bad hair day, you are disgusting. You must work to appear as sexually attractive and submissive as possible, at which point you will be called a slag, a disgrace and a “loose-knickered lady lout”, in the words of Quentin Letts. Women who have careers are miserable and pathetic. You were born to be a wife and mother, and succeeding at these things is the only thing that will fulfil you. Having a baby is the most valuable thing you can possibly do, unless you’re poor, or unmarried, in which case you’re society’s scum. If you complain about discrimination or sexual violence, you’re a shrill, jealous harpy.


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

The Catholic church costs Italy 6 billion euros a year

Dec 31st, 2011 4:31 pm | By

But worth every penny, right? Given all the church does for child welfare, and women’s rights, and the health and well-being of people with Aids and their spouses and children, and education, and…

Well they keep the brocade industry going, at least. Do admit.

But the IHEU refuses to admit.

The findings by Italy’s Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR), a member organization of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, were published the day after Italy’s new government announced a budget filled with new taxes and drastic spending cuts.

But the spending cuts are in this world, while the Catholic church takes care of the other world, so that it will be all clean and shiny when we get to it. No worries. Happy new year.


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

Sakineh is not safe

Dec 31st, 2011 4:18 pm | By

Maryam says: Here’s information on what you can and must do about the possible imminent execution of Sakineh Mohamadi Ashtiani.

The International Committee Against Stoning asks the noble people of the world, as well as the press, governments and human-rights organisations, to exert pressure in any way they can in pursuit of Sakineh and Houtan’s release by the Islamic Republic.

International Committee Against Stoning

28 December 2011



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

Choose ONE

Dec 31st, 2011 12:22 pm | By

It’s confusing. There’s this college in Dundee, called the Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education. Its

aim is the promotion of intelligent debate and understanding of Islam and the role of Muslims in the contemporary world. We are a place of knowledge and reflection on the issues facing a diverse and multicultural world in the twenty-first century.

Ok. But then you look at its Multiculturalism Course.

The programme aims to explore in depth the concept of multiculturalism, with specific reference to the development of the concept in academic studies (particularly the past 15 years). The main understanding of the term  ‘multiculturalism’ for this programme is as a means to describe contemporary contexts of cultural and religious diversity, and the processes by which such diversity are experienced (by individuals, societies and countries) and managed (by nation states).

You begin to wonder. You keep reading.

Optional Course 1

Choose one course, subject to availability, from:

  • The Theoretical Framework of Bayt al-Maqdis
  • Islam & Muslims in History & Society
  • Educational Studies: An Introduction

Islam & Muslims in Multicultural Britain

This course examines the historical and demographic developments of the Muslim presence in the UK. It places them in the context of the emergence of a politics of multiculturalism in the past 50 years, along with the processes of settlement and integration of diverse ethnic, religious and cultural minority communities, and their relations with wider society. A major theme of the course is the diversity of British Muslim identities, and communities and the social, cultural and political contexts in which they have developed.

Optional Course 2

Choose one course, subject to availability, from:

  • Globalisation & Political Islam
  • Islam & Muslims & International Relations
  • Islamic Education: Theory & Practice
  • History of Bayt al-Maqdis 2: From the Late Crusades to the Contemporary Era
  • Women in Islam

And now you feel thoroughly confused. The course as a whole is about multiculturalism, but the choices on offer are about exactly one “culture.” Why is that?

And is “Islam” the best “culture” (or religion) to focus on if you’re trying to understand multiculturalism? I ask because Islam itself is firmly opposed to multiculturalism and pluralism; Islam makes it a crime deserving the death sentence to leave Islam for a different “culture” or religion.

So it’s confusing.


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

Looks more like malpractice

Dec 31st, 2011 10:16 am | By

This is worrying.

Authorities say two out-of-state doctors who traveled to Maryland to perform late-term abortions have been arrested and charged with multiple counts of murder, an unusual use of a law that allows for murder charges in the death of a viable fetus.

A grand jury indicted the two doctors after a 16-month investigation, police said.

The investigation began in August 2010 after what authorities say was a botched procedure at Brigham’s clinic in Elkton, located near the border of Maryland and Delaware. An 18-year-old woman who was 21 weeks pregnant had her uterus ruptured and her bowel injured, and rather than call 911, Brigham and Riley drove her to a nearby hospital, where both were uncooperative and Brigham refused to give his name, according to documents filed in a previous investigation by medical regulators.

A search of the clinic after the botched abortion revealed a freezer containing 35 late-term fetuses, including one believed to have been aborted at 36 weeks, the documents show.

Brigham, 55, is charged with five counts of first-degree murder, five counts of second-degree murder and one count of conspiracy. Riley, 46, faces one count each of first- and second-degree murder and one conspiracy count.

Mind you, it’s also mystifying. Why was there a freezer full of fetuses? But even with all the mystification, when abortion-providing doctors are charged with first degree murder it’s time to get worried.

The state law allows for murder or manslaughter charges to be brought against a person who intends to kill or seriously injure a fetus or who wantonly disregards the safety of a fetus. It does not apply to doctors administering lawful medical care and does not impinge on a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

I don’t see how those two sentences, as they stand, can both be true…No wait, yes I do – “allows for” must mean in cases where a woman is not terminating a pregnancy; assault as opposed to abortion. Is that right?

An item to watch.


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

The grossly misnamed Australian Vaccination Network

Dec 30th, 2011 5:15 pm | By

I just want to say

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

Going home

Dec 30th, 2011 4:43 pm | By

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports more revelations of threats to Pakistani journalists.

Najam Sethi, editor of The Friday Times and host of a popular Urdu-language political program on Geo TV, and Jugnu Mohsin, also a Friday Times editor, said they had lived under threat for years but the level of danger had become so menacing in early 2011 that they were forced to leave Pakistan. A few months later, the two went public with the threats. Then, on Thursday, Sethi told us that he and Mohsin had decided to return to Lahore on Friday.

Pakistan is, according to the CPJ, the worst country in the world for journalists.

A level of danger pervades the industry, and for the last two years, CPJ has ranked Pakistan as the world’s deadliest country for journalists. The courageous steps of some men and women in recent days to confront that menace head-on is admirable, but their courage alone won’t be enough to reverse the trend. The reality is that governance is weak in Pakistan, and it will require a concerted effort over a long time before Pakistani journalists–and normal citizens, for that matter–can live without fear of retribution.

This necessarily means that Pakistanis are starved of good information. They need it more than most people.

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

In which I talk some more

Dec 30th, 2011 4:17 pm | By

I did a podcast for the Buffalo Beast. I have the remains of a cold so there are one or two quick barks which are me coughing, but other than that I think it’s all right. It was fun.

I should figure out where the Discovery Institute is some day…

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

Acid in the name of god

Dec 30th, 2011 11:15 am | By

I think people who leave Islam should leave it for atheism, not for Christianity, but I also think people who do leave Islam for Christianity should not have acid thrown in their faces. Umar Mulinde, who used to be an Islamic teacher and is now a bishop of the Gospel Life Church International, had acid thrown in his face on December 24th. It destroyed one of his eyes.


From his hospital bed in Kampala, he told Compass that he was on his way back to the site for a party with the entire congregation and hundreds of new converts to Christianity when a man who claimed to be a Christian approached him. “I heard him say in a loud voice, ‘Pastor, pastor,’ and as I made a turn and looked at him, he poured the liquid onto my face as others poured more liquid on my back and then fled away shouting, ‘Allahu akbar,’” Mulinde said, still visibly traumatized two days after the assault.

As far as I can tell, Gospel Life Church International isn’t one of the Homophobia First sects that have been infesting Uganda, but I’m not sure about that. In any case, down with pouring acid on people.

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

More desk chair tourism

Dec 29th, 2011 3:23 pm | By

I did a post on Google Earth tourism last March.

Something I’ve just discovered in the last few days is that the chateaux of the Loire Valley have been very thoroughly visited by the Google van – blue lines all over everything, so you can see the gardens, the approaches, outbuildings, and the chateau from far and close and from all angles. You could spend hours just looking at one chateau. Look up Chenonceau or Chambord, if you’re interested.

Versailles has also been thoroughly Google-photographed.

I should check out the Taj Mahal one of these days…

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


Dec 29th, 2011 3:10 pm | By

You know about Rock Beyond Belief, right? The fun day of music and rabble-rousing for foxhole atheists?

Current Lineup

Dan Barker
Ed Brayton
Richard Dawkins
Margaret Downey
Jen McCreight
Dale McGowan
Hemant Mehta
Nate Phelps
Al Stefanelli
Todd Stiefel
Mikey Weinstein
Baba Brinkman
Jeffrey Lewis
Words Such As Burn
Roy ZimmermanWhen:
Saturday, March 31st, 2012 Time: Noon – 8:00PM
The main post parade field on Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Cost: Free to everyone. This includes service members, spouses and family, and civilians from the surrounding areas that may wish to attend.

It should be hella fun, plus a good idea and much needed. Attend and/or spread the word.

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

Her provocative behavior

Dec 29th, 2011 12:27 pm | By

So repeatedly calling a woman a slut is actually a form of harassment?

An indictment was filed Thursday against Jerusalem resident Shlomo Fuchs, 44, an ultra-Orthodox man who hurled sexist slurs at a female soldier on a public bus in the capital.

The court also stated that sexual harassment does not only apply when the harasser demands something of sexual nature from the harassed, but also when the harassed is humiliated based on remarks relating to his or her sex. The judge ruled such was the case in this incident, since “there is no dispute that Fuchs spoke bluntly and shouted harsh and humiliating words at the soldier aboard the bus, calling her a ‘slut’ three times.”

And that’s harassment? Really? It’s not just a little harmless fun? It’s not a joke? It’s not a touch of boorishness? It’s actual harassment? Who knew?

Fuchs’ attorney claimed this was not a criminal offense. “We live in a free country. We’re allowed to curse, it’s part of the freedom of expression,” he explained.

If the court does decide this is a sexual harassment case, said the attorney, then any man who calls a woman a “bitch” or other curse words would be considered a sexual offender.

Or a cunt or a fucking cunt or a smelly snatch or a fucking fat slag or an ugly fucking cunt bitch or – you get the idea.

It looks like a stupid claim, on the face of it (though it’s probably the only claim Fuchs’s attorney could make). Being allowed to curse is not the same thing as being allowed to shout curses at a particular person on a public bus because she won’t obey an unlawful bullying coercive order to move to the back of said bus. Passengers on buses aren’t allowed to do whatever they like to other passengers. Being allowed to curse is not the same thing as being allowed to harass people.

The Jerusalem police on Wednesday arrested Fuchs for calling Doron Matalon, the female soldier, a “slut” after she refused to sit at the back of an Egged bus travelling from the Neve Yaakov neighborhood to the Central Command base in Jerusalem.

Another female passenger who was approaching the front of the bus in order to pay the driver was told by Fuchs that “a woman shouldn’t pass through the front of the bus to pay.” He then demanded she return to the back of the bus.

Matalon said, “I wanted to make room for her, but a man sitting nearby said to her: ‘Why are you at the front of the bus? You’re a woman.’ He looked at me and asked: ‘You too, why are you here?’” Matalon responded: “Women are not restricted to the back of the bus.”

“I told him that just as he doesn’t want to see my face, I don’t want to see his, and that’s when he called me a ‘slut, shiksa.’”

Matalon added that Fuchs yelled: “Slut, slut, slut. You have no respect. You’re standing among yeshiva students and it’s shameful.”

Fuchs was arrested by the police, and during his interrogation he admitted to calling Matalon a “slut”, explaining that the slur was a proper response to “her provocative behavior.”

Sure. That’s what they all say.



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Comedy Hour

Dec 29th, 2011 10:37 am | By

Priests. Greek Orthodox priests, Armenian priests. Cleaning up the “Church of the Nativity” in Bethlehem. For the Orthodox Christmas on January 7. Scrub scrub, dust dust, polish polish, sweep sweep. Bash bash. Bash bash bash bash bash bash.


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Tiny dog

Dec 28th, 2011 4:53 pm | By

Another one. Just for fun.

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