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.


Imagine a conference

Oct 13th, 2014 12:03 pm | By

John Sargeant at Homo economicus blogs about Maryam’s Secular Conference 2014 which took place in London this past weekend.

Imagine a conference where over two thirds of the speakers are women. From across the world. Artists, professors, authors, journalists, human rights activists. One who feared having children because of the threat to their lives.

Moved when another recounts being abducted and held hostage the last time she attended such a conference as this; the fear from her voice pulling on your heart strings. Tears dripping onto your iPad as you blatantly tweet in your own name what is being said without a second thought of your own safety. That the song from a band in Indonesia called “Sister In Danger” is not lyrical invention. When protestors of a movie in Tunisia move their hand across their Adam’s apple in a slicing motion it is not just bravado.

A professor recounts hearing shots ring out on campus one evening. He rushed out to a former student who had become a faculty member. Bleeding to death, no other staff came to aid one of their own. There is no one else from the university either to join the professor at the mourning prayers. The assassinated man is Ahmadi, and even in death his blood can not wash away his heresy in a Pakistan State that declares them non muslims. He never was one of them after all, in life or death.

So that’s their idea of god. No need to bother with a devil then.

I did not have to imagine these voices – because Maryam Namazie gave them a platform. The conference was filmed and you can read my live tweets clicking on the tweet above, and following my timeline.

Here’s his Twitter: https://twitter.com/JPSargeant78

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



Jihadi-cool

Oct 13th, 2014 11:50 am | By

Salman Rushdie gave a PEN/Pinter Prize Lecture the other day and used the occasion to talk about “jihadi-cool,” the Telegraph reported.

The so-called “jihadi-cool” image romanticises Isil, using rap videos and social networking to recruit followers – posing with AK-47s and bragging about their “five star jihad” in videos showing fighters lounging around in luxury villas as they urged the destruction of the West.

Rushdie defined “jihadi-cool” as “the deformed medievalist language of fanaticism, backed up by modern weaponry”, saying: “It’s hard not to conclude that this hate-filled religious rhetoric, pouring from the mouths of ruthless fanatics into the ears of angry young men, has become the most dangerous new weapon in the world today”.

I think he’s right. I think the element of adventure, excitement, glamor, flash, let’s pretend in terrorism gets too little attention.

He said: “A word I dislike greatly, ‘Islamophobia’, has been coined to discredit those who point at these excesses, by labelling them as bigots. But in the first place, if I don’t like your ideas, it must be acceptable for me to say so, just as it is acceptable for you to say that you don’t like mine. Ideas cannot be ring-fenced just because they claim to have this or that fictional sky god on their side.

“And in the second place, it’s important to remember that most of those who suffer under the yoke of the new Islamic fanaticism are other Muslims…

“It is right to feel phobia towards such matters. As several commentators have said, what is being killed in Iraq is not just human beings, but a whole culture. To feel aversion towards such a force is not bigotry. It is the only possible response to the horror of events.

“I can’t, as a citizen, avoid speaking of the horror of the world in this new age of religious mayhem, and of the language that conjures it up and justifies it, so that young men, including young Britons, led towards acts of extreme bestiality, believe themselves to be fighting a just war.”

The language that conjures it up and justifies it is very important. Language is very important, just as ideas are very important. They aren’t just the froth on the coffee.

Rushdie was speaking as he accepted the PEN Pinter Prize, established by the writers’ charity English PEN in 2009 in memory of the Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter.

The prize is awarded annual to a British or British-based writer who “exemplifies the spirit of Harold Pinter through his or her engagement with the times”.

Each year the winner shares the prize with an international writer who has risked their own safety in the name of free speech. Rushdie chose Mazen Darwish, a Syrian journalist and lawyer who is currently in prison.

There are so so many to choose from.

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



An egg once a year

Oct 13th, 2014 10:18 am | By

More on the realities of the Magdalene laundries at TheJournal.ie.

ALTHOUGH PREVIOUS REPORTS and testimonies reveal that labour in the Magdalene Laundries was forced and wholly unpaid, conditions harsh and the incarcerated women completely deprived of their liberty, suffering both physical and emotional abuse, survivors are still searching for an apology and redress.

Although the State gave the nuns who ran the Laundries direct capitation (per-head) grants and valuable contracts for commercial work, it has failed to offer that apology or any type of redress.

It’s shocking, isn’t it – forced unpaid labor in harsh conditions, with no escape, and with physical and emotional abuse – not as punishment for crime but as torture for being female and poor and possibly or actually sexual. Not in 1860 but well into the 1990s. Ireland committed war crimes against the female half of its own population.

Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) believes – and provides evidence to back up its claims – that there was State involvement in the operation of the Magdalene Laundries as places to send women, often known as “problem girls”, affected by pregnancy outside marriage, poverty and crime.

“The State regarded the Magdalene Laundries as an opportunity to deal with various social problems – illegitimacy, poverty, disability, so-called licentous behaviour, domestic and sexual abuse, youth crime and infanticide,” the group writes in its 145-page submission to the Government’s Inter-Departmental Committee set up to probe exactly what happened between the 1920s and 1990s.

“Deal with” them how? Long sentences to slave labor for the profit of the Catholic church.

The committee has delayed issuing its report, so Justice for Magdalenes has provided a redacted copy of its document to every TD and Senator at Leinster House. JFM says the document provides rock-solid evidence of government complicity.

This year’s submission details how no one in senior government sought to understand how the Magdalene Laundries operated. JFM believe that the fact that the religious orders were in control was “enough” to excuse official inquiry, inspection or regulation.

It says that there was “no statutory basis at all between 1922 and 1960 for incarcerating any of the women”. “None of them were detained lawfully,” the report continues.

All the women had no choice whether to stay. One survivor from High Park Magdalene Laundry in Drumcondra remembers:

Every window in the building, every window had bars on it…All the doors, every door was locked.

That’s theocracy in action – a state so blindly trusting of a religious sect that it allows that sect to impose mass imprisonment without trial or hearing or due process of any kind.

Many believe they were taken from their original lives as “cheap labour” with the excuse of it being for their “own safety”.

We worked long hours every day…scrubbing, bleaching and ironing for the whole of Cork – hotels, hospitals, schools, colleges – for which the nuns charged, of course, though we never saw a penny. It was an industry and they were earning a fortune from our labour.

Work in the Magdalene Laundries was hard. It involved lifting heavy weights in very hot temperatures and the use of toxic chemicals. The clothes for one machine weighted 200 lbs, or 90 kgs.

The working conditions were absymal.

We worked in great heat associated with the laundry machine and mangles.
You could stand in half a foot of water sometimes down in the laundry all day.
The laundry work was hard too. I often got bleach in my eyes. It was a sore does. It would be sore for days. And the soap would burn your hands.

Other external witnesses told JFM:

By Jesus, they worked hard. They broke a lot of sweat in that laundry. The laundry was very hot. It was just basically a sweathouse just to provide Joe Public out there with nice clean sheets.
The girls could get burns from pouring in soap, splashing into their eyes or pouring in bleach, raw bleach, which they would dilute by 50 per cent…And sometimes these carboys (10 gallon containers) would break and the bleach would go everywhere and it was a nightmare. And the fumes of the bleach alone were dreadful.

Another manager recalls have one woman lost her arm in a bad accident on a hot roller ironing machine.

And the living conditions were just as shit.

Breakfast was generally porridge, while sausage, potatoes and cabbage made up the bulk of the rest of their meals.

I was extremely thin and sickly…the convent cared for us with absolutely the minimal standards.

Another survivor recalls how they “got one egg a year” on Easter Sunday morning.

There was also “no such thing as education” – “no reading, writing” and “for the most part…intellectual development was ignored”.

And all of this was administered by the Catholic church in Ireland.

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



She was carrying a handbag but it was completely empty

Oct 12th, 2014 5:19 pm | By

One story of one woman who was sent to a Magdalene Laundry at age 16 and never got out, but died there after 35 years of slavery.

Samantha Long’s mother Margaret Bullen was placed in Gloucester Street (now Sean McDermott Street) Laundry c.1967 and died 35 years later, never having been released into society and her own home. Margaret died of an illness known as Goodpasture Syndrome, a disease of the kidneys and liver – one of the causes is exposure to industrial-strength chemicals such as those used in the Laundries.

So that would be 2002. Just twelve years ago, Ireland – the Celtic tiger – was holding a woman in slavery until she died of a disease probably caused by the slave labor she did for 35 years. Twelve years ago. Ireland.

Margaret Bullen was sent to the notorious High Park industrial school and Laundry in Drumcondra at age three, then to a special school at age thirteen after she was certified mentally unfit for education, but fit for work. Then at around sixteen she was sent to the Magdalene Laundry where she was enslaved for the rest of her life.

(In Ireland, from c. 1967 to 2002.)

She became pregnant – twice – with Samantha and her twin sister Etta, and later with another daughter, while officially under the care of the Gloucester Street nuns. The circumstances of these conceptions are again shrouded in mystery but Samantha says her conversations in later life with her mother when they were reunited led her to believe that Margaret had been the victim of sexual abuse and predators several times.

There was no education, no education and I, you know, I honestly believe for a long time she didn’t know how she got pregnant, she just knew that somebody hurt her once and then she had babies. I really believe that. She didn’t make that connection, I know that for sure. She was no, she didn’t have a boyfriend, let’s put it that way. And that’s the politest way that I can say that.

Some of the more harrowing details of Samantha’s testimony recount how her mother was denied society, education, wages and other basic rights for most of her life. This extract recalls Samantha and Etta’s first meeting with Margaret in the Gresham Hotel when they were 23 and had traced her as their biological mother. (Samantha and Etta were adopted by a loving couple in Dublin and later moved to Sligo in childhood.)

Margaret was only 42 at the time but looked much older. She was carrying a handbag but it was completely empty, because she didn’t own anything nor did she have any money. Samantha recalls:

And, she was just lovely, and she was asking extremely innocent questions like, she, it was the first time she ever had coffee and it was very exciting for her to have coffee and she hadn’t seen brown sugar before either and obviously in the Gresham there was brown and white sugar cubes on the table and it was all very fancy to her. And she was just overjoyed to be there and absolutely wowed by everything.

She looked, she looked like a pensioner. I couldn’t believe she was forty-two, I kept looking, I kept looking into her face to find a forty-two year old and I couldn’t, because she had the face of hard work, that face that you see in so many women that have just had to work too hard and have never had a rest and have never had anyone to take care of them or tell them to put their feet up, and who have just, just worked too hard. Because, as I said on the radio a few years ago, this was slavery and I don’t use that term lightly and I’m not an emotive person but slavery is a form of work for which you get no pay and you can’t leave and these were the white slaves of Ireland and they were never emancipated. And nobody stood up for them until now, until you guys (Justice for Magdalenes) did.

Those laundries were run by the church. The church pocketed the profits. That’s how the church treats people.

Updating to add: Justice for Magdalenes is here.

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



Sayreville

Oct 12th, 2014 4:01 pm | By

The alleged sexual assaults in the Sayreville case are worse than I’d imagined.

Graphic details of what allegedly happened inside the locker room at the school were also revealed in a report Wednesday on NJ.com.

The report stated that “a freshman football player would be pinned to the locker-room floor, his arms and feet held down by multiple upperclassmen. Then, the victim would be lifted to his feet while a finger was forced into his rectum. Sometimes, the same finger was then shoved into the freshman player’s mouth.”

What is wrong with people.

Six of them were arrested on Friday evening and a seventh was being sought.

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



Yes secularism can

Oct 12th, 2014 2:53 pm | By

Tehmina Kazi talks about secularism and Islam, and how the former is good for the latter. She argues that secularism actually adds to the Islamic discourse, because there’s a long tradition of critical thought in Islam.

It makes sense you know. If all religions and none are treated equally, then people are more likely to feel safe discussing and exploring.

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



Yes, it is

Oct 12th, 2014 12:20 pm | By

A Fox News station in Arkansas asks a question on its Facebook page. It asks: Is this method of restraining juveniles torture?

The Yell County Juvenile Detention Center uses this restraint mechanism called the “wrap system”. Some juvenile detainees call it “torture”. Now, the Arkansas Department of Human Services has sent a cease and desist letter to Yell County officials asking them to stop using the device. What do you think about the wrap system?

It supplies a photo of the “restraint mechanism”:

Yes, that’s torture. Thank you for asking.

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



The idea that the Quran is God’s literal and most perfect word

Oct 12th, 2014 11:54 am | By

Fathima Imra Nazeer makes the point that I keep making: holy books say what they say, and there’s no magic that renders what they say universally harmless.

Well-meaning Muslims claim that these Islamists have simply ‘misinterpreted’ the Quran. But have they?

As I wrote in a previous post, ISIS’s interpretation of the Quran is a very plausible one and this explains why ISIS has no trouble using the Quran as a recruiting tool.

Even according to Yusuf Ali, the very much mainstream and respected interpreter of the Quran, fighting for the cause of ‘truth’ is a duty for Muslims under a ‘rightly guided Imam.’ The definition of ‘truth’ and ‘rightly guided Imam,’ unfortunately, is not that clear cut.

For those of us who have been indoctrinated with the idea that the Quran is God’s literal and most perfect word to man, the Quranic commands for true believers to wage war against ‘oppressors’ and ‘hypocrites’ can cause a tugging at the heartstrings.

And that’s not surprising given the indoctrination. That’s why the idea that any book or other piece of writing or “revelation” or reported command is God’s literal and most perfect word to human beings has to be done away with.

We can continue to be in denial and claim that ISIS’s ideology has nothing to do with Islam, hoping to dissuade the jihadis and silence the anti-Muslim bigots. Thing is, with the Quran at so many people’s fingertips these days, neither the jihadis nor the anti-Muslim bigots are believing this anymore and we are simply hurting our own credibility.

If we want to really solve the problem and maybe even regain some credibility, we need leaders who are willing to put forth the idea that we have to change the way we regard the Quran. Treating the Quran as God’s perfect and literal word to man is creating too much havoc.

Only when the notions of Quranic infallibility and inerrancy are challenged, will it be possible for believing Muslims to openly admit that according to literalist interpretations at least, violent and hateful passages exist in the Quran: passages that call for fighting those who don’t believe in Allah, that support ISIS’s ideology and help them recruit young Muslims like Aqsa Mahmood.

Exactly. That’s why holy books are dangerous. That’s why the idea that there is such a thing as a holy book or instruction is so dangerous.

After all, only when a critical mass of Muslims propagate the idea that the Quran may not be God’s literal and perfect word to man and denounce the violent and hateful verses in the Quran that support ISIS’s ideology, will we successfully counter ISIS’s propaganda and stop the flow of wannabe jihadis crossing that Turkish border.

I would love to see that happen.

 

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



Seven villagers were burned alive

Oct 12th, 2014 11:27 am | By

Meanwhile, in Tanzania, they’ve been killing “witches.”

Tanzanian police have charged 23 people with murder after seven villagers were burned alive on suspicion of witchcraft.

Though the attacks in Murufiti, a village in the western Kigoma region, happened on Monday, reports only surfaced with the arrests.

Five of those killed were aged over 60, the other two were over 40.

A Tanzanian human rights group estimates that 500 suspected witches are killed in Tanzania annually.

Five hundred. In just one country.

Witnesses say some of the victims were attacked with machetes and their homes burned.

The son of one of the victims, Josephat John, told Tanzania’s Mwananchi newspaper: “When I returned home in the evening, I found the body of my mother lying 10 metres away from our house, while the body of my father was burnt inside the house.”

Murdered because of a delusion.

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



About 100 years out of date

Oct 12th, 2014 11:04 am | By

A British man spent 20 days in jail in Morocco for “homosexual acts.” He’s now been released and has returned to the UK and he reports that the experience was…a nightmare.

He said prison conditions were “horrendous”, with inmates as young as 10 and as old as 90 being held “for nothing”.

“I can hardly move my arm now, from 20 nights sleeping on the floor – I just want to go home and sleep in a soft bed,” he said.

He had no idea about the campaigning for his release carried out by his family, who said they were “ecstatic” about his return.

“I’m so proud of them – I couldn’t have a better family,” Mr Cole added.

He said the attitudes to homosexuality in Morocco “are about 100 years out of date”.

Another man, Jamal Jam Wald Nass, who was with Cole was also jailed, and Cole doesn’t know what happened to him. He and his family plan to consult their legal team to find out how they can help him.

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



Into tiny little shreds

Oct 12th, 2014 10:51 am | By

The great Khuldune Shahid has a satirical piece on Why He Hates Malala Yousafzai.

How much a Pakistani hates someone depends on how easy it is to hate them. And few individuals are easier to hate than Malala Yousafzai.

Here’s a girl, not old enough to have an ID card, taking on Pakistan’s biggest enemy without an iota of fear.

She takes a bullet to her head not fighting for a jingoistic agenda, but for something as universally celebrated as education. For her commendable bravery she gets global acclaim, speaks in front of a global audience at the UN, meets the American president and is pretty much the only positive coming out of this country in recent times.

So what’s not to hate, right? Right??

Do you honestly believe that it’s easy for me to accept that a young girl from our neck of the woods, with all the societal handicaps that one can think of, can singlehandedly orchestrate a global rude awakening? The thought rips the bigoted, discriminatory and misogynistic ideals that I’ve grown up with, into tiny little shreds.

How can I accept Malala to be a hero, when her speeches do not have any Islamic or nationalistic agenda? How can I consider her to be my future leader when nothing she says or does imbues a false sense of superiority in me as a Muslim or a Pakistani? How can I accept that a young girl was able to highlight who our actual enemies are, when grown up men in our parliaments are still hell bent on befriending them?

How can I rejoice at Malala’s global achievement when I’ve been taught all my life that a girl’s place is in the kitchen? I just can’t.

But maybe some day…

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



She is a normal, useless type of a girl

Oct 12th, 2014 9:37 am | By

M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad reports on the hatred of Malala in Pakistan.

It wasn’t even reported as breaking news on Pakistani tv, Khan says.

Many Pakistanis would not even have known she was up for the award.

Indeed, Tariq Khattack, editor of the Pakistan Observer newspaper, actually condemned it, telling the BBC: “It’s a political decision and a conspiracy.”

“She is a normal, useless type of a girl.

Nothing in her is special at all. She’s selling what the West will buy.”

Wo, that’s revealing – normal girls are useless; it’s normal for girls to be useless. Girls are useless. Wham, that’s half of humanity dismissed. That’s why Malalas are needed.

While many in Pakistan have praised her for her desire for education and her courage to make a stand for it, many others view her as a stooge of the west, as someone the Americans have set up to become a role model and misguide Pakistani Muslims.

“The Americans and Malala’s father conspired to get her shot so she can become a hero,” was the somewhat surprising conclusion of one editor of a Mingora-based newspaper some months ago.

One Islamabad housewife said: “What has she done to deserve [the Nobel prize]? She may be brave, but she’s only a child. They should have waited 10 years and let her make a mark among the deprived sections of the society.”

It is a view that has infuriated many more liberal Pakistanis who made their anger known on Twitter, excoriating those who tried to belittle this win.

It’s a longstanding divide, and one that is sadly recognizable.

This division in views on Malala is for the most part symptomatic of a division that dates from the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan.

Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who has been her guide and mentor, is associated with ANP, a political party that links up with the Red Shirt movement. This is a secular force of Pashtun nationalists that was allied to Mahatma Gandhi’s All India Congress and opposed the Indian partition.

After independence, the Red Shirts were dubbed as traitors and Indian agents, and often persecuted by successive military regimes that used religion and religious groups to garner support and legitimacy.

And thus created the hellhole that is Pakistan today.

 

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



60 million Indian children

Oct 11th, 2014 6:06 pm | By

Dilip D’Souza at the Daily Beast tells us about Kailash Satyarthi and what he does and why it needs doing.

India is feeling good today: the Nobel Prize for Peace has gone to our own Kailash Satyarthi, jointly with Pakistan’s Malala Yousufzai. Certainly something to make us proud. Yet the irony is that Satyarthi won it for his efforts, with his Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA, Save Childhood Coalition), to end the exploitation of children in India.

Not something to celebrate, that exploitation. If we pretend it’s happening in some far-off twilight zone where kids are oppressed and neglected, the reality is as in-your-face as the drenched kid who presses her face to a car window, her teeth chattering as she urges more fortunate Indians to buy their personal slice of patriotism.

Since 1980, the BBA has rescued about 80,000 Indian children from construction sites, homes, restaurants and factories of all kinds where they are, simply, cheap labour. That number is about the population of small towns like Phuket in Thailand or Danbury in Connecticut: no small achievement, that.

Yet Satyarthi himself has showed that that number, and all the BBA’s work, really amounts to blowing valiantly into a pretty fierce wind. For it’s generally estimated that about 60 million Indian children are in the labor force doing all kinds of jobs. If 80,000 is the population of Danbury, 60 million is the population of California and Texas combined: no small specter, that.

60 million is almost the population of Italy. It’s more than the population of all but 23 countries in the world – it’s more than Burma, Spain, Kenya, Argentina, Poland, Canada, Peru…It’s a massive number of children.

Satyarthi explains that these 60 million kids work for 200 days in a year, earning about 25 cents a day. He goes on to show how child labor on this scale, leave alone the shame and scandal, “is injurious to the health of the economy”. He doesn’t say it, but these kids really are—and a time of a Nobel Peace Prize is no time to equivocate—slaves.

The really hard fight is with the attitudes that allow this.

“The middle classes,” Satyarthi once told the BBC, want “cheap, docile labour.” That translates into a steady trafficking of kids “from remote parts of India to big cities.” To go with that, though, too many of us in the middle class want beggars to be kept out of sight. Leading up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the expected flood of tourists, for example, the Delhi Government worked diligently to “beautify” the city, but especially diligently in one particular way. Satyarthi commented: “The government’s mentality is that beggars are garbage and they must be put away to show foreigners what a clean city we have.”

Everybody wants cheap docile labor, but we can’t have it in sentient form. That cheap docile labor needs to be in school.

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



Guest post: It’s a sport that really rewards the worst human beings

Oct 11th, 2014 5:16 pm | By

Originally a comment by PZ Myers on That was before the money went into it.

It’s been this way since I was in high school.

Our football coach was a psychopath.

He took pride in his collection of paddle boards; every session of our gym class was accompanied by someone, or multiple someones, getting hacked for trivial infringements of his rules: you forgot your jock strap. You weren’t lined up with everyone right at the instant the bell rang. You came in last when running laps. If he was feeling punitive, the last ten kids would get wacked.

He was the football coach. He got away with it. Grading gym was easy, too: if you were varsity on one of the teams, you got an A; JV, a B; everyone else, a C.

Members of the football team were his favorites. He loved to set up games of dodgeball, where one side was the football squad, and everyone else was on the other. It was always that way — we’d have a day of basketball, and the teams were the football players vs. the “pussies”.

That’s how I got out of gym for one full year: playing basketball against the football assholes, and when I started scoring well (probably because as the unathletic guy on the other team, they kept ignoring me), one of them decided to take me out…by tackling me at the knees. In basketball. Completely wrecked my left knee, got to spend 6 months in a hip-to-ankle cast. The guy didn’t even get a rebuke.

We didn’t have any incidents of sexual violence, at least. The closest we came was that he liked to stroll around the showers and ask the football players about their sexual activities — details about the girls at school were always welcome.

Fucking pervert and violent psychopath. I still seethe when I think of that jerk. He got his comeuppance, though: his son was a star quarterback in high school, and when he moved up to the University of Washington, his dad got promoted to a coaching position on that team. I think he also got another bump upwards when his son went pro. It’s a sport that really rewards the worst human beings.

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



Representing the West, not us

Oct 11th, 2014 4:30 pm | By

From almost a year ago, November 2013 – associations of private schools in Pakistan banned Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography.

Ironically, educational officials in Pakistan (who work in the very segment of society that Malala wants to improve) have prohibited her memoirs from classrooms across the country. (Tens of millions of Pakistani children attend fee-based private schools since public schools are in such poor shape).

Adeeb Javedani, president of the All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association, told Associated Press that Malala’s book will not be available in any libraries at its 40,000 affiliated schools. He also asked the government to ban it from all school curricula. “Everything about Malala is now becoming clear,” Javedani said. “To me, she is representing the West, not us.”

Kashif Mirza, the chairman of the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation (which represents more than 152,000 institutions across the country), has also banned the book from all schools under his group’s jurisdiction. “The federation thought we should review the book, and having reviewed it we came to the decision that the book was not suitable for our children, particularly not our students,” said Mirza. “Pakistan is an ideological country. That ideology is based on Islam…. In this book are many comments that are contrary to our ideology.”

This is someone who oversees schools. Apparently his ideology approves of shooting girls like Malala in the head for being determined to go to school.

Not everyone in Pakistan supports the ban. “The decision to ban the book is the result of a deliberate smear campaign run against Malala and the book by right-wing commentators,” said Bina Shah, novelist and education campaigner based in Karachi, according to Pakistani media. “There has been complete confusion about the book, sown very deliberately in the minds of adults because of this right-wing talk.”

Thus blighting the future for who knows how many millions of girls in Pakistan.

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



A person so good at his job

Oct 11th, 2014 3:40 pm | By

This is one big reason I don’t like Sam Harris. It always has been (since he became someone to like or not like, that is). I went to his blog to look for his post on liberals and Islam, and in the process of looking (which I haven’t completed yet because I paused to say this) I read the first sentence of the first post.

From time to time one discovers a person so good at his job that it is almost impossible to imagine him doing anything else.

It’s just odd, and stubbornly clueless, that even now, even after a big disagreement with a lot of feminists about the way he talks about women, he does that. I think most intellectual types have learned not to do that by now, and it sticks out that Harris hasn’t. The End of Faith was like that on every damn page, and after awhile I couldn’t stand it any more.

(There’s a bit of extra humor in the fact that he did manage to say “a person” instead of “a man”…but just couldn’t manage the follow-through.)

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



That was before the money went into it

Oct 11th, 2014 3:24 pm | By

The New York Times has a whole lot more on the Sayreville football team and the “bullying and harassment” that got the season shut down. Seven players are accused of “hazing of a sexual nature.” It also has more on the pathetic football-worship in Sayreville and the way it motivates grown-ass adults to minimize the hazing.

The charges were announced by Andrew C. Carey, the Middlesex County prosecutor, in a joint statement with Chief John Zebrowski of the Sayreville Police Department.

Richard Labbe, the district superintendent, released a statement.

“As should be evident by now, the Sayreville Board of Education takes this matter extremely seriously,” Mr. Labbe said, “and thus will continue to make the safety and welfare of our students, particularly the victims of these horrendous alleged acts, our highest priority.”

But around town, there were questions about the four separate attacks that the police said occurred from Sept. 19 to Sept. 29. Were they isolated events this season, or had hazing been a ritualistic part of Coach George Najjar’s team, known as the Bombers?

The accusations alone were “absolutely shocking” to Robert Keating, 52, who was walking through Kennedy Park with his two children.

“What were those kids thinking?” he said, shaking his head. “I went to this high school. I don’t remember any trouble like this every happening. But the football team was never very good then. That was before the money went into it and people started making such a big deal out of it.”

Ah now why did that happen? Why is football made such a big deal? Especially high school football? Some people in Sayreville wonder the same thing.

Inside Angelo’s, a pizzeria on Main Street, that was what baffled John Shara, 56, a 20-year Sayreville resident. He motioned to the store owner at the counter and said: “They play a game on Friday night and he tells me that no one comes in here because everyone’s at the field. They play on Saturday, you go into the diner down the street and you’ve got all these 50-year-old men in their Bombers caps and sweatshirts.

“Honestly, I don’t get it. I understand if you’re in Texas, or Iowa, in a town where there’s nothing else around for 20 miles.”

Even in Texas, or in Iowa, why not do something that a lot more kids can participate in, and a lot less violent? Drama, music, singing, dance?

“I hear people from here calling up radio stations and saying it’s just a little hazing and screaming about losing the season,” Mr. Shara said. “Hazing is hitting a kid with a towel or jockstrap. What we’re talking about here is not hazing, it’s criminal. If it’s true, they should shut it down for five years. I mean, how do you leave 60 or 70 kids alone in a locker room?”

Earlier in the week, Mr. Labbe said that coaches were unaware of any incidents, which Stuart Green, the director of the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention, considered excuse-making, if not exoneration.

“At any level, even the N.F.L, with the question of bullying and abuse, the media focuses on the players and not enough on the culture,” Mr. Green said in a telephone interview. “Not to excuse the behavior, but it’s the job of the adults to not put these kids in that kind of environment and expect them to police themselves.”

I would like to see everyone focus a whole lot more on the culture. The culture sucks.

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



Guest post: That was the sort of mindset this “game” created

Oct 11th, 2014 12:43 pm | By

Originally a comment by Blanche Quizno on But football is a necessity of life.

My 6’4″ son went out for football last year and, when he realized how much time it would require, he voted for his studies instead and quit the team. A half a dozen other young men then quit the team – it’s like they didn’t realize they COULD quit or something. In fact, one of his friends, who had just the week before talked of hoping to be team captain that year, quit a few days after my son did. That really shocked me – “football player” had been a huge part of his apparent identity/persona. I remember him telling me that, at the end of a tackle, if someone from the other team were slow in getting up, he’d gladly stomp his hand as hard as he could with his cleats. This kid is a devout Christian hoping for a career in youth ministry, BTW. When he was talking about quitting the team, he said that football brought out the worst in him, aggression-wise. I reminded him of the hand-stomping comment. He agreed that was the sort of mindset this “game” created, and that he’d realized he didn’t want to be that guy – he wanted to “love on” people instead.

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



Remember, #gamergate isn’t about attacking women

Oct 11th, 2014 12:07 pm | By

So tweeted Brianna Wu, along with a series of explicitly threatening tweets she received, and

The police just came by. Husband and I are going somewhere safe.

Warning: explicit sexualized violence.

Embedded image permalink

Can we take this seriously now?

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



But football is a necessity of life

Oct 11th, 2014 11:36 am | By

Another item for the annals of “people take football way too seriously.”

A town that found encouragement in its winning high school football team after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy was left to absorb another blow Tuesday after school officials canceled the season over allegations of bullying, intimidation and harassment among players.

The rest of the story is about how sad and upset everyone is…about the cancellation, not about the bullying, intimidation and harassment. They want their football and they don’t care about bullying, intimidation and harassment. That’s fucked up.

“There was enough evidence that there were incidents of harassment, of intimidation and bullying that took place on a pervasive level, on a wide-scale level and at a level at which the players knew, tolerated and generally accepted,” Superintendent Richard Labbe told reporters Monday night. “Based upon what has been substantiated to have occurred, we have canceled the remainder of the football season.”

Labbe said he could not discuss the investigation, and the prosecutor’s office has declined to release details. No charges have been filed, but Labbe said Prosecutor Andrew Carey told him there is credible evidence to back up the allegations of bullying and harassment within the program.

Maybe there’s something about football that isn’t good for people? Maybe it fosters aggression, and that fosters other kinds of aggression, like bullying and harassment?

Corinne Kalev, whose daughter attends the middle school adjacent to high school, said football is a big part of fall for the town.

“I think the parents might be more upset than the kids, because this might be these kids’ future,” Kalev said. “Some of them are really good players and it seems like because of a couple of kids, the whole team is being punished.”

This is a school we’re talking about. The job of schools is to teach. Football is peripheral. It’s recreation. It’s sport. It’s not the core of the school. Most kids’ futures are based far more on what they learn in the classroom than it is on football.

Labbe said Monday he was sending a message with his decision.

“We need all of our student-athletes, all of our students, heck, all students in the state, in this nation, to understand that the one true way to stop bullying is for those bystanders to do the right thing and become up-standers and report to an adult or someone at an authority level of what is going on.”

That’s more important than having a football season. A lot more important.

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