Notes and Comment Blog


John DePetro is still on the air

Apr 22nd, 2014 12:04 pm | By

The Providence Journal on “unapologetic” John DePetro:

The WPRO personality returned to the air Monday morning, sounding unapologetic and characterizing the criticism against him as an attempt by politicians and unions to stifle free speech.

“It’s very simple,” DePetro said. “Politicians and unions should not interfere and try to silence public opinion. Period. That’s it. … The last time I checked, this is still America.”

The “opinion” of one cynical talk radio epithet-flinger is not public opinion. Public opinion is the opinion of many; of the public; of everyone; it’s not the opinion of one opportunistic shit.

DePetro came under fire in November for his language in criticizing female protesters outside a fundraiser for General Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo. The Providence Democrat and gubernatorial candidate has drawn the ire of organized labor for authoring the 2011 state pension overhaul that unions are challenging in court.

Talking about the protesters on his show, DePetro said: “What a disgrace. You are an embarrassment. …You are parasites. You are cockroaches. You lie. You are union hags. There’s another word I’d like to use … it begins with a W. and an H. and an O. and an R. and an E. and an S. See if they can spell that.”

He has a legal right to say that; saying that is not a crime. It does not follow that he has a right to say it on a particular radio station.

Following his comments, a union-backed group called For Our Daughters RI created a petition on Change.org asking that local jewelry maker Alex and Ani pull its advertising from the radio station until DePetro was fired. The company declined, though at last count almost 6,700 people have signed the online petition.

I just signed it. It’s here.

In addition, political leaders from both parties said they would not appear on any WPRO show unless DePetro were removed. Some others, including Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, said they would not appear on DePetro’s show, but would appear on others on the station.

The drive to remove DePetro will continue in earnest, with more advertisers being asked to boycott the station until he is removed, said Maureen Martin, chairwoman of For Our Daughters RI, who is also political activities director of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals.

“We’re rolling it out,” said Martin, “as long as this misogynist is on the air.”

The station “made some sort of business decision, I presume” to keep him, she said, “but I think he’s bad for business, and he’s going to be worse for business.”

Martin said For Our Daughters will also mount a campaign to get political candidates not to advertise on the radio station.

Noting that DePetro’s contract is set to expire in March, “clearly the timing couldn’t be better,” Martin said. “Maybe it gives a time span to work with.”

It’s late April and he’s still there, so that means his contract was renewed. That’s disgusting.

 

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



He called women union protesters “Whores”

Apr 22nd, 2014 11:32 am | By

Steve Ahlquist has a great post about being invited to be on a right-wing talk radio show and why he said no and why it’s not true that all publicity is good publicity because it’s publicity.

WPRO’s Tara Granahan called me at 5:45pm Monday night to ask me if I would come on and do an interview with her about the May 1st Day of Reason proclamation Governor Chafee was kind enough to sign on behalf of the Humanists of Rhode Island and the Secular Coalition of Rhode Island. I asked her if this was for the “talk side” of WPRO or for the “news side.” Granahan told me that she was covering for Matt Allen’s talk show and that she would like to have me on to discuss the proclamation, but she also knew where I was going with my question. She knows that as long as John DePetro is employed at WPRO, I will be honoring the “For Our Daughters” campaign and not appearing on any WPRO talk radio programs.

For those of you who don’t know, For Our Daughters was formed in the wake of comments made by John DePetro last year in which he called women union protesters “Whores.” DePetro was suspended for a while, but the station ultimately brought him back on the air, where he remains to this day. For Our Daughters has asked people who support women to avoid going on any WPRO Talk shows until DePetro is removed from the station.

Pause to let that sink in.

He WHAT? They WHAT?

He called women union protesters “Whores.”

The station suspended him for awhile but ultimately brought him back on the air.

Unfuckingbelievable.

Read Steve’s post; he intersperses rude tweets from DePetro – tweets dated yesterday – throughout. DePetro is a classic Twitter bully.

In person, radio show shock jocks like DePetro want to give the impression that they are better than the audience they are catering to. The big secret is that it’s all a big game, a way to make money and news radio hosts don’t really believe that what they are doing is worth anything, or that any of the issues they drone on about are truly important. It’s all about raising the emotional blood pressure of the audience, and selling commercials.

That makes it even more disgusting.

I first met Tara Granahan during the Cranston prayer banner kerfuffle my niece, Jessica Ahlquist, was involved in. Granahan asked me if I would do a quick interview. I told her that I didn’t like the way her station treated my family, and she quickly went into her standard line about how the news side and the talk side of WPRO were separate, and that she would treat me fairly. As it turns out, she didn’t treat me fairly, in my opinion. Going on her morning news program once or twice on different issues over the following years didn’t endear her to me either. She asked leading questions, and she seemed more interested in getting me flustered so that I would say something stupid than really asking for my views.

So he’s not doing the show.

The idea that one should go on any show and access any media that will have you is flawed. We can pick and choose who we deal with, and it does not hurt our causes to avoid appearing on a station that supports misogynist bigots.

Indeed it does not. It’s the other way around. It hurts our causes to link them to misogynist bigots. You can’t have everything. You can’t have the highest possible numbers and decent colleagues. Pure numbers are necessary for some things, but for an effective and durable movement, you need people who aren’t malevolent shits.

 

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



Neither the expertise nor the legitimacy

Apr 21st, 2014 4:56 pm | By

Chris Moos looks at the sources the Law Society cited for its guidance on sharia.

…the Law Society has readily admitted that it does neither have the expertise, nor the legitimacy to make verdicts on sharia law. On what expertise is the Law Society then drawing for its practice note?

The answer to this can be found at the very end of the practice note in the ‘further information‘ section, where the Law Society references its sources. There, you will find links to such website as the Islam Channel, which has been fined repeatedly by Ofcom forbreaking the broadcasting code for airing programmes that advocate marital rape and call for the killing of those who ‘insult the prophet’. Ofcom specifically stated the Islam Channel’s programme “was likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime“.

Wow…really? For their expert “guidance” they turned to the Islam Channel? Surely their clients can use Google as well as they can; I don’t see why professional “guidance” is needed for that.

Of course, the matter of Islamic inheritance is complex, and it would not be fair to suggest that practice note is solely based on one website. Yet, the Law Society is clear about the intellectual basis of its guidance. One of its main references is a book on Islamic inheritance rules by Dr. Muhammad al-Jibaly, a hardline salafi and former President of the notorious Qur’an and Sunnah Society of North America. If you are in any doubt where the pathological hatred of women that is so central to the Law Society’s practice note stems from, you should read Dr. Al-Jibaly, whose views are as clear as they are extreme: “A willful fornicator deserves to be whipped one hundred lashes, and a willful adulterer deserves stoning to death.”

Unsurprisingly, his views are not limited to the crime of ‘fornication’, but finds reflection in his work on inheritance, where he specifies his stance not only on non-Muslims and ‘illegitimate children’ (“children of zina”), but also – incredibly – “slave women“. Now, if you think that Al-Jibaly restricts his expertise to the interpretation of Islamic law, you should listen to his advice on children and non-Muslims, the latter of which he simply refers to derogatorily as kuffar:

“What is sad to see, for many parents they send their children to the kuffar school, they allow them to mix with the kuffar, play with them [...] so that the lifestyle and the beliefs of the kuffar become deep-rooted in the hearts of the kids. [...] Command your children to pray when they are seven years old and hit them if they do not pray, or they don’t pray right. [...] A girl she should start hijab from the age of seven. By the age of ten it becomes an obligation on us to force her to wear hijab. And if she doesn’t wear hijab we hit her.” [Parents should encourage] their children from mixing with the Muslims, staying away from the kuffar, having only Muslims as his friends, feeling the uniqueness and the pride of being Muslim [...]“.

Why would the Law Society take a book by that guy as a source?

Despite being a representative body bound by its own Equality Policy, the Law Society has chosen not to base its practice note on the work of those many British Muslims who are managing to reconcile their faith with considerations of equality and human rights. Instead, the Law Society has elected to ignore the existing progressive voices within British Islam, and enshrined the ideology of a man who so clearly loathes women, non-Muslims and children as a model to emulate.

And this is merely the beginning. The Law Society has already announced a “planned future seminar series on Islamic law [with] expert and authoritative speakers highlighting some basic concepts and requirements of the Islamic Shari’a”. It remains to be seen whether it will be left to men of the ilk of al-Jibaly to run these sessions.

What the hell? Why would the Law Society do that? Why on earth? Islamic “law” is not a real thing in their terms; it’s not about “law” in UK terms; it’s a branch of a religion. It really has nothing to do with the actual law. They don’t have to give seminars in it just because it borrows the word “law” to make itself seem important and mandatory.

It’s just getting more ridiculous.

 

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



What doesn’t kill us can still break our bones

Apr 21st, 2014 3:50 pm | By

NPR had a piece on bullying a couple of days ago, starting from a British study published this week in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The unsurprising finding? Bullying is not beneficial.

What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger, right? Well, not when it comes to bullying.

Some may still consider bullying a harmless part of growing up, but mounting evidence suggests that the adverse effects of being bullied aren’t something kids can just shake off.

I can’t say I’ve ever considered bullying a harmless part of growing up. I didn’t have to think about it very hard when I was growing up, because there wasn’t any to speak of in my school. It was a tiny school, so it just wasn’t the kind of setting where bullying could go unnoticed. But I can’t recall ever thinking of it as some little thing that doesn’t matter, or is even healthy. It’s strange that anyone thinks of it that way. Bad things are bad.

People need to shift their thinking on bullying, Copeland says, from considering it a “harmless rite of passage” to “this kind of critical childhood experience that can really change one’s trajectory for decades and decades.”

Who thinks of it as a harmless rite of passage? What a callous idea.

Bullying is somewhat different today from what it was in the ’60s — cyberbullying on the Internet has extended its reach. Copeland says the concept remains the same: singling out a weaker person as the target for repeated intentional harm. It’s just that the abuse is no longer confined to schools and playgrounds, he says. It can happen in the no-longer-safe haven of a child’s home.

Or an adult’s.

Victims need some place where they can get away from the abuse and feel safe, Copeland tells Shots. “As you lose that, as you’re getting teased constantly, that can lead people to have much worse outcomes, and to feel like there’s really no way they can escape.

“As we see more and more studies like this,” Copeland says, “I think people are going to be more and more comfortable thinking of bullying in the same way we think of [other sorts of] maltreatment in childhood — as something that’s just not tolerated.”

Can we think of it that way for adults too? Starting right now?

 

 

 

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



Billionaire little guys fight back

Apr 21st, 2014 3:10 pm | By

Also, Cliven Bundy? He doesn’t have some kind of ancestral claim to that land.

Bundy, a multi-millionaire farmer who hasn’t paid for grazing rights on public lands for more than 20 years, also stands to garner substantial support from some very wealthy enemies of President Obama. Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch (which spent $122 million trying to defeat Obama and other Democrats in 2012), is already instigating a campaign against the Bureau of Land Management on Bundy’s behalf. It began a social media campaign, using the hashtag #BundyBattle, and is taking to the Internet to mock the time and money the bureau has wasted (some $1 million according to its poster) fighting the “little guy.”

Oh please. Multi-millionaires are not the little guy.

Unlike Bundy, who claims his ancestors were homesteaders on his ranch in 1877 and never ceded it to the federal government, the Danns, two Western Shoshone sisters, were not trampling over land set aside for sensitive plants and animals. Nor were they getting rich off the land while, in essence, robbing the taxpayers of grazing fees.

The Danns have lived without running water or electricity their entire lives. Their tribe, the Western Shoshone, have lived in Nevada and parts west since time immemorial. The land was Shoshone land, and the U.S. formally agreed that was the case when it signed the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley, which explicitly stated that the Shoshone would never have to give up their land. That is, until the U.S. began encroaching on the land, claiming it for its own without the tribe’s consent or knowledge.

The Danns resisted, and got walloped by the feds; the Shoshone resisted, and got walloped by the feds.

A now-defunct U.S. department, the Indian Claims Court, ruled against the Western Shoshone’s claims that the U.S. had stolen their land on the grounds that the U.S. had already encroached on it for decades. In other words, the Western Shoshone couldn’t reclaim the land because the U.S. had already taken it.

The Shoshone still resisted, so the feds gave them some money for the land, which the Shoshone refused – but when the Danns sued, the Supreme Court ruled against them, because hey, the feds had paid for the land.

Desperate for relief, the Danns finally asked the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for help to recover the millions of acres of land in Nevada and bordering states that belonged to the Western Shoshone. The U.N. ordered the U.S. to stop its actions against the Western Shoshone, and agreed with all the tribe’s grievances. This victory on paper did nothing; the U.S. government ignored it.

Cliven Bundy’s ancestors were interlopers too.

H/t Jadehawk

 

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



A conservative champion

Apr 21st, 2014 2:32 pm | By

What?

Media Matters on Cliven Bundy:

Bundy has been in conflict with the federal government for decades over his refusal to pay grazing fees for his cattle herd’s use of public lands. A recent attempt by the Bureau of Land Management to enforce court orders allowing the confiscation of Bundy’s cattle to settle unpaid fees and fines was suspended due tosafety concerns after armed militias rallied to Bundy’s cause and some militia members pointed guns at BLM law enforcement.

Despite threats of violence from Bundy and his supporters — and the fact his legal claim against paying grazing fees is incredibly weak – right-wing media have praised Bundy as a conservative champion standing against an outsized federal government.

What???

How is that any kind of “conservative” position? Conservatives go ballistic over any kind of waste or misuse of public funds; how is it a “conservative” cause to get behind a guy who helps himself to federal grazing land and refuses to pay for it? Conservatives go ballistic over the possibility that some poor person might be buying ice cream with food stamps; how is it a “conservative” cause to get behind a guy who uses public land without paying for it at all? Conservatives like law and order; a “conservative” cause to get behind a guy who refuses to pay money he owes and then threatens to shoot people who try to enforce his debt?

Why doesn’t the Mail on Sunday or the Daily Mail do an exposé on that?

 

 

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



Horrors, women protesting

Apr 21st, 2014 12:40 pm | By

There was a protest in Kolkata of what appears to be the protest Maryam was recently part of.

Kolkata: Several Muslim groups led a protest in Kolkata angered by photographs published in a Bengali Daily of women protesting in nude, with Arabic texts, including names of Allah and Prophet Muhammad.

The tabloid supplement of the Bengali Daily `Khabor 365 Din’ published photographs of women protesting in nude that irked some Muslims groups calling for a protest on March 11 from morning. Angry protesters set ablaze few copies of the newspaper `Khabor 365 Din’ and blocked the road at the Park Street Junction in Park Circus Area for what they termed as an attempt at “hurting the sentiments” of Muslims.

They termed wrong.

Protesters carried in their hands the copy of the picture printed in that newspaper at Park Street Mallickbazar Junction and surrounding area. Protesters sat on dharna outside the office of the newspaper.

`Khabor 365 Din’ carried their cover page of the tabloid entertainment supplement `Bibi’ with the lead heading `Nari Nirjataner Pratibade’ ( In protest against women torturing) with the sub heading `Bari Dibase Biswa jure Pratibad’ (Protest worldwide) and also published the caption `Pariser Luvor piramider samne femener pratibad’ (In front of Louvre Pyramid).

Maryam’s protest was in Paris, so that’s probably the same one.

Good job, Maryam!

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



A very carefully calculated piece of political propaganda

Apr 21st, 2014 12:21 pm | By

Also a good blog post on the Mail on Sunday’s amusing prank, at Where’s the Benefit?

Beyond the horror that they did this to a charity, we need to be very aware of exactly what was done here, and it is a far murkier story than many will realise. The Trussell Trust has been flagging up the massive growth in people seeking their help for the last year or more, and this is not a narrative that the government is happy with, in particular it seems to be driving Iain Duncan Smith towards apoplexy, and this week saw the launch of a coordinated attack on the Trussell Trust in the pages of, surprise, surprise, The Daily Mail with the claim that “Food bank charity ‘is misleading the public’: Claim that 1m need food parcels ‘just self promotion’” and ‘DWP sources’ (presumably code for IDS’s Special Advisors) alleging the charity was engaged in “misleading and emotionally manipulative publicity-seeking“. There is something deeply ironic that IDS, who brandishes his Catholicism at every opportunity, should choose Easter Week to launch a coordinated attack on a charity dedicated to feeding those in need.

It is and then again it isn’t. The Catholicism I’m most familiar with, that of Ireland, is all about being viciously cruel to poor people. Maybe IDS’s Catholicism is of that variety; the “call them scum, it will encourage them to stop being poor” variety.

This MoS story is actually a very carefully calculated piece of political propaganda designed to allow IDS and the Tory party to deny the reality of the foodbank crisis. Tory DWP minister and IDS-mouthpiece Lord Freud has repeatedly tried to claim that people go to foodbanks not because they are in need, but because it is free food; that strategy hasn’t been working because no one believes him. The MoS story clearly sets out with the intent of proving that Freud’s position is true, by inventing a story that makes it true. It then further twists the narrative by alleging that many of the people receiving food parcels were asylum-seekers, linking the foodbank issue to the xenophobic fears of the Mail’s Little Englander readership, and seeks to undermine the Trussell Trust figures by implying that there is massive fraud across the entire foodbank system.

Well, Cameron said “we’re” a Christian country. There’s your Christianity.

 

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



NEXT WEEK’S MAIL ON SUNDAY EXCLUSIVE

Apr 21st, 2014 10:57 am | By

More sarcasm:

Grev Williams's photo.

Tom Copley @tomcopley

NEXT WEEK’S MAIL ON SUNDAY EXCLUSIVE: How fire engines turned up at our reporter’s home when he reported a fire that DIDN’T EXIST

David Whitley @mrdavidwhitley

NEXT WEEK’S MAIL ON SUNDAY EXCLUSIVE: How the RNLI sent out three lifeboats in a perilous storm to rescue our reporter’s NON-EXISTENT boat.

hrtbps @hrtbps

In tomorrow’s Mail, as our reporter is given a full course of chemotherapy after faking cancer, we ask is the NHS wasting taxpayers’ money?

Crusading journalism forever!

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



“We fed 3000 of his fellow citizens last year”

Apr 21st, 2014 10:43 am | By

The manager of the scammed food bank comments:

Embedded image permalink

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



Long story short

Apr 21st, 2014 10:32 am | By

Of course there’s also satire.

Embedded image permalink

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



The great British public to the Mail on Sunday: Bite me

Apr 21st, 2014 10:27 am | By

The good news is, the loathsome Mail on Sunday hit piece motivated a lot of people to give money to the charitable trust that funds many UK food banks. Yaboosucks Daily Mail!

The largest provider of food banks in Britain has seen a huge surge in donations after a newspaper article criticising the charity sparked a social media funding drive.

The Trussell Trust says it is “overwhelmed by the public’s generosity” as a new appeal has now topped £38,000, a rise of well over £35,000 since before the article was published.

The Help Crack UK Hunger campaign launched at the start of the year and by 19th April had raised roughly £2,000, with 238 donations made. The total stands at £38,962 at the time of writing, after 3,540 donations.

So there, and fuck you.

Many of those donating on the website used their comments and tweets to cite the Mail on Sunday article as the reason behind their donation:

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I donated to @trusselltrust food-bank charity (a bit less than @mark_haddondid). See his/my timeline as to the Daily Mail reason for it.

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@trusselltrust excellent response & my thanks for all you & the 30,000 volunteers do to ease the pain & suffering of those most in need.

I’d love to think the Mail on Sunday intended that result, but…no.

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



Staff at Nottingham’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau

Apr 21st, 2014 10:14 am | By

About that Daily Mail on Sunday story that was all over the place yesterday -

Photo: So this happened today in the Mail on Sunday.  Among the absurdities, it states quite clearly they asked him loads of questions, despite the headline!

Yes, what about it? Just, how horrible it is; how perfectly hateful it is.

What the hell is that even for? To demonstrate that someone who goes to considerable trouble to ask for help eventually gets help to the tune of a few bags of food items? Why is that supposed to be a bad thing?

Why do so many people make a point of being so hateful?

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



Dozens of public figures

Apr 20th, 2014 5:52 pm | By

From a comment -

What horrible bullying garbage that is. It’s not a “Christian country”; that’s not a meaningful description, and if it were, the UK still wouldn’t fit it.

Yes, it is.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_religion#Christian_countries

(Scroll down for Anglican.)

Heads of state government shouldn’t make untrue and coercive statements like that; it others most of the population.

What on earth are you talking about? (Also applies to the “bullying” stuff above?)

I’m not the only one. The Telegraph reports that “Dozens of public figures accuse David Cameron of fostering alienation and division with call to view Britain as a Christian country.”

David Cameron is sowing sectarianism and division by insisting that Britain is still a “Christian country” an alliance of writers, scientists, philophers and politicians has claimed.

In a letter to The Telegraph, 55 public figures from a range of political backgrounds accuse him of fostering “alienation” and actively harming society by repeatedly emphasising Christianity.

The group, which includes writers such as Philip Pullman and Sir Terry Pratchett, Nobel Prize winning scientists, prominent broadcasters and even some comedians argue that members of the elected Government have no right to “actively prioritise” religion or any particular faith.

Let’s check out that letter directly then.

We respect the Prime Minister’s right to his religious beliefs and the fact that they necessarily affect his own life as a politician. However, we object to his characterisation of Britain as a “Christian country” and the negative consequences for politics and society that this engenders.

Apart from in the narrow constitutional sense that we continue to have an established Church, Britain is not a “Christian country”. Repeated surveys, polls and studies show that most of us as individuals are not Christian in our beliefs or our religious identities.

Constantly to claim otherwise fosters alienation and division in our society. Although it is right to recognise the contribution made by many Christians to social action, it is wrong to try to exceptionalise their contribution when it is equalled by British people of different beliefs. This needlessly fuels enervating sectarian debates that are by and large absent from the lives of most British people, who do not want religions or religious identities to be actively prioritised by their elected government.

Sounds fair to me. Cameron is a politician, not a cleric. His job is political, not ecclesiastical.

The signatories:

Professor Jim Al-Khalil
Philip Pullman
Tim Minchin
Dr Simon Singh
Ken Follett
Dr Adam Rutherford
Sir John Sulston
Sir David Smith 
Professor Jonathan Glover
Professor Anthony Grayling
Nick Ross
Virginia Ironside
Professor Steven Rose
Natalie Haynes
Peter Tatchell
Professor Raymond Tallis 
Dr Iolo ap Gwynn 
Stephen Volk
Professor Steve Jones
Sir Terry Pratchett 
Dr Evan Harris
Dr Richard Bartle
Sian Berry
C J De Mooi
Professor John A Lee
Professor Richard Norman
Zoe Margolis
Joan Smith
Michael Gore
Derek McAuley
Lorraine Barratt
Dr Susan Blackmore
Dr Harry Stopes-Roe
Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC
Adele Anderson
Dr Helena Cronin
Professor Alice Roberts
Professor Chris French
Sir Tom Blundell
Maureen Duffy
Baroness Whitaker
Lord Avebury
Richard Herring
Martin Rowson
Tony Hawks
Peter Cave
Diane Munday
Professor Norman MacLean
Professor Sir Harold Kroto
Sir Richard Dalton
Sir David Blatherwick
Michael Rubenstein
Polly Toynbee
Lord O’Neill
Dr Simon Singh
Dan Snow

 

 

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



Our status as a Christian country

Apr 20th, 2014 2:23 pm | By

David Cameron threw a little Easter party the other day. He stood on a box and addressed a bunch of people who stood facing him with their hands folded tidily in front of them like subdued schoolchildren, and what he said was, there should be more of this kind of thing all around.

LAST week I held my fourth annual Easter reception in Downing Street. Not for the first time, my comments about my faith and the importance of Christianity in our country were widely reported.

Some people feel that in this ever more secular age we shouldn’t talk about these things. I completely disagree. I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives.

Who’s we, kemosabe?

What horrible bullying garbage that is. It’s not a “Christian country”; that’s not a meaningful description, and if it were, the UK still wouldn’t fit it. Heads of state government shouldn’t make untrue and coercive statements like that; it others most of the population.

Crucially, the Christian values of responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility, and love are shared by people of every faith and none – and we should be confident in standing up to defend them.

Well then they’re not Christian, are they. Then there’s no point in calling them Christian, is there. If you want to talk about good values, do that; there’s no need to call them Christian, and it’s bad and harmful to call them Christian.

People who, instead, advocate some sort of secular neutrality fail to grasp the consequences of that neutrality, or the role that faith can play in helping people to have a moral code. Of course, faith is neither necessary nor sufficient for morality.

That makes no sense. It’s also untrue apart from the last sentence. It’s also stupidly vague – what “consequences of that neutrality”? It’s also utterly pointless, since he admits that “faith” is neither necessary nor sufficient for morality. Quite right, it’s not, so shut up about it.

Many atheists and agnostics live by a moral code – and there are Christians who don’t. But for people who do have a faith, that faith can be a guide or a helpful prod in the right direction – and, whether inspired by faith or not, that direction or moral code matters.

But secularism doesn’t mean obliterating that “faith” with fire and sword. It doesn’t touch it.

I call that party a dud.

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



Innately not interesting

Apr 20th, 2014 1:24 pm | By

Here’s someone I’ve never read – the historical novelist Philippa Gregory. She has a history PhD but got it just in time for Thatcher’s cuts to university courses, when jobs teaching 18th century history became scarce. She wrote a novel for the fun of it and whoops it was a best-seller so the university job was no longer required.

Her nose for a good story continued to serve her well, however; when Gregory “discovered” Mary Boleyn, she had been all but forgotten.

“There wasn’t a single book or essay about her. She was in the footnotes of other, allegedly more interesting, lives and only very occasionally at that. It took an exjourno and a woman historian to spot that actually she was rather extraordinary.”

To this day, Gregory is amazed at the patchy recording of women’s history – “We don’t even have a birth date for someone as famous as Anne Boleyn!” – and has made it her “life’s work” to balance out the history books.

“Even now there’s a prejudice that women didn’t operate the levers of power, weren’t effective and are innately not interesting.”

The “are innately not interesting” is the real killer. It’s why almost all movies are about Men, with women in bit parts as the Men’s recreational objects, when they’re not entirely absent. It’s why so many male novelists are so bad at writing women characters. It’s part of why women just get shoved aside and overlooked.

While people will always disagree about the interpretation of historical characters – “If you and I had a mutual acquaintance it’s unlikely we’d hold exactly the same view of her and we’d both have evidence to support our views” – there is no place for historical anachronism in Gregory’s world.

“I remember years ago reading [Hugh] Walpole’s novel on Judith Paris and she escapes by opening a window and climbing down a drainpipe – before sanitation had been invented. I was loving the novel up until that point but it completely lost me then and I always hold it in my mind as the sort of thing I don’t want a reader of mine to experience.”

Somebody invented the drainpipe? They weren’t just there, like leaves?

Given her fascination with kings and queens of the past, it comes as some surprise to learn that Gregory is a republican whose interest in our current monarchy is about as great as her interest in reality TV family The Kardashians.

“I have no particular interest in the goings-on of a group of wealthy, privileged people… it seems to me most of what they do is just gossip.

“There isn’t any real power there. They’ve become celebrities more than anything else and that doesn’t interest me at all. I’m in favour of a reduced monarchy. I think the idea of a social structure that isn’t democratic or meritocratic has no real place in modern society.

“The Tudors are interesting to me because the personality of the monarch determined their political role and vice versa. The sort of person they were affected the whole kingdom. But that hasn’t been the case for a long time now.”

I never have figured out who the Kardashians actually are. I think they’re an invention, like drainpipes.

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



Blood on the tracks behind him

Apr 20th, 2014 11:04 am | By

This is very cool. A panel discussion in 2009, with Dawkins, Tyson, Druyan, and Stenger, moderated by Grothe. At the Q and A there’s a question about genetic differences between women and men and their representation in science. Tyson takes it, and makes the point that we keep keep keep making. Druyan, on his left, is enthusiastic. Dawkins, on his right…maybe not so much.

That part starts at one hour one minute fourteen seconds.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEeBPSvcNZQ

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



Humanism at Work, July 18-20

Apr 20th, 2014 9:51 am | By

Heyup, there’s a new conference on the horizon. Here are details via Ed Brayton:

Foundation Beyond Belief, the nation’s largest humanist charitable organization, is holding its first national conference, “Humanism at Work,” July 18-20, 2014 at the Hilton Rosemont in Chicago, Illinois.

This conference, the first of its kind in the freethought community, centers on how nontheists can put their compassionate humanism to work for a better world. It will include TED-style presentations on philanthropy, volunteering, and community building, as well as practical workshops, panels, and hands-on volunteer opportunities.

Speakers include:

  • Evidence-based giving expert CAROLINE FIENNES
  • Nigerian humanist and human rights activist LEO IGWE
  • Atheist homelessness activist SERAH BLAIN
  • HEMLEY GONZALEZ, a humanist at work with the poor in Calcutta
  • Atheist authors HEMANT MEHTA and GRETA CHRISTINA
  • Social psychologist DR. BRITTANY SHOOTS-REINHARD
  • THE PATHFINDERS, three humanists just returned from a year of global service

 

To register, go to the Humanism at Work website. We’ve worked hard to keep the conference affordable at $129 before April 15 and $149 after that date. Included in that price is a formal dinner at which we will give away the Heart of Humanism awards to those who have put humanism into action in their local communities and around the world.

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



The plane passengers banded together

Apr 20th, 2014 9:34 am | By

Passengers on a plane in Sweden went on seat belt strike and saved a refugee from deportation to Iran.

Last week, an Iranian man reluctantly boarded a plane in Sweden. The refugee was being forced to return to his native country, where his life would likely be in danger, even though he had a wife — a Swedish resident — and two young children in Östersund.

So, before the flight, Ghader Ghalamere’s family and friends informed other passengers of his situation. Once aboard, the plane passengers banded together and refused to fasten their seat belts in a moving display of solidarity. The flight did not take off with Ghalamere aboard, the Independent reported.

According to local reports, though Ghalamere had a legal right to stay in the country through his marriage to a Swedish resident, he needed to secure permission while outside Sweden. He initially tried to do so by traveling to the Iranian Embassy in Norway to obtain a passport — since he arrived in Sweden as a refugee without identification in 2007 – but was denied. It was then that Sweden’s Migration Board reviewed the Kurdish man’s case and ordered his deportation to Iran.

The Migration Board has opened a new case now. The news coverage has made Ghalamere somewhat conspicuous, which might turn out to be sufficient reason not to deport him to Iran. Score.

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



Swirly crucifixion

Apr 19th, 2014 5:33 pm | By

Racking your brains for the right Easter present? (You do give Easter presents don’t you? Doesn’t everyone?)

I recommend some Swirly Crucifixion Pops – they’re on sale for 39 cents.

CROSS SHAPED SWIRL POP

Or you could get a fancy chocolate or vanilla crucifix lollipop for $4.50.

Enjoy those edible torture devices!

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