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.


In the wake of a number of cases of serious harm caused by herbal medicines

May 18th, 2015 10:15 am | By

Among Charles Windsor’s letters to governments released the other day were those about “herbal remedies.” Charles Windsor, with no scientific training, feels qualified and entitled to influence public policy on medical issues.

Tony Blair agreed to postpone implementation of new EU rules restricting the sales of herbal medicines in the UK after lobbying by the Prince of Wales in February 2005, letters published on Wednesday reveal.

The then-prime minister told the prince, who had given him “sensible and constructive” contacts in the herbal medicines world, that he would be “consulting with your colleagues and others” on the best way to bring about changes to the planned implementation of the EU directive on herbal medicines.

“We simply cannot have burdensome regulation here,” wrote Blair to the prince on 30 March 2005.

Oh quite; what possible reason could there be to regulate medicine of all things? It’s not as if anything labeled medicine can ever be harmful, or on the other hand inert and useless. If the label “medicine” is on it it’s flawless, so there’s no need for burdensome regulation here.

The EU directive was passed in 2004 in the wake of a number of cases of serious harm caused by herbal medicines, which were freely available to buy.

Piffle. Stuff and nonsense. It’s some sort of effete Continental squeamishness that makes them think any serious harm was caused by herbal meds. That simply can’t happen, because “herbal” means benign and beneficial.

The prince appears to have raised his concerns first with the former health secretary, John Reid, although no letter from the heir to the throne to Reid has been made public. Reid’s response, on 11 February 2004, is short and to the point. “Following our previous discussions on integrated health,” it opens, “I agreed to provide a note on the outcome of my Department’s recent consultation document on the statutory regulation of herbal medicine and acupuncture.” The document shows strong support for the regulatory proposals, he says.

But the prince also spoke to Blair, who gave him a warmer response. On 24 February, at the end of a long letter to Blair on other matters, the prince mentions their brief discussion of the EU directive on herbal medicines “which is having such a deleterious effect on the complementary medicine sector in this country by effectively outlawing the use of certain herbal extracts.

“I think we both agreed this was using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

Blair had “rightly asked me what could be done about it,” the prince continued. His answer was to offer a detailed briefing document from the chief executive of the Foundation for Integrated Health, which the prince set up in 1993 to promote the use of complementary therapies outside and inside the NHS. He also promised a contact at the Herbal Practitioners’ Association.

It’s as if the man has never heard of the existence of quacks and fraud. It’s as if he thinks words and labels are magic, and declared intentions are identical to real intentions.

Blair wrote back offering help. Those people with whom the prince had put him in touch “feel that the directive itself is sound and the UK regulators excellent, but are absolutely correct in saying that the implementation as it is currently planned is crazy. We can do quite a lot here: we will delay implementation for all existing products to 2011; we will take more of the implementation on ourselves; and I think we can sort out the problems in the technical committee – where my European experts have some very good ideas.

“We will be consulting with your contacts and others on the best way to do this – we simply cannot have burdensome regulation here.”

Herbal products were not required to be authorised until 2011 in the UK or the rest of Europe. In the UK, they were also allowed to stay on the shelves for some years after that date if they were within their sell-by date. There was evidence of some stockpiling ahead of 2011.

I wonder if they considered bringing back leeches.

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



Count the ribs

May 18th, 2015 9:51 am | By

More from the Rohingya refugees.

Crowded under tarpaulin tents strewn with rubbish and boxes of water, the Burmese and Bangladeshi migrants speak of horrors at sea: of murders, of killing each other over scarce supplies of food and water, of corpses thrown overboard.

“One family was beaten to death with wooden planks from the boat, a father, a mother and their son,” says Mohammad Amin, 35. “And then they threw the bodies into the ocean.”

He’s one of the lucky ones: he’s off the boat.

Between 6,000 and 8,000 more are believed to still be stuck off the coasts of Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, with limited water and food, in a situation the UN has warned could fast become a “massive humanitarian crisis” because no government in the region is willing to take them in.

Out back in the hospital wing in Langsa, a row of men lie on stretchers with their emaciated limbs hooked up to intravenous drips. The back of one shirtless man is marked with deep red lashes.

“They hit us, with hammers, by knife, cutting,” says Rafique, recalling onboard violence between the different groups of migrants.

Starvation and injury.

Concrete details about the migrants’ time at sea are hard to come by at this stage. But most in Langsa tell of being transported in small boats from Burma and Bangladesh before being herded onto a larger vessel docked off Ranong in Southern Thailand.

Some waited on for up to two months there, others just a week, for the boat, crewed by Thai and Burmese nationals, to fill up before they could leave. Most paid between 5,000 and 8,000 Malaysian Ringgit to agents of people smugglers for the journey.

For 25 days they were at sea, surviving on minimal supplies given to them from the Indonesian and Malaysian navies after the captain and crew deserted them. Amin says they slept crouched and huddled next to each other on the ship and tried to save supplies for the women and children on board.

But the migrants were desperate, thirsty and starving, and fighting broke out on board.

“When the captain and the crew escaped, deserted us, I was sobbing,” explains Amin, “One man from Bangladesh said ‘the captain has run away, we must pray to Allah’ but there was not enough room for us to kneel and pray.”

Read the whole thing and see the photos of emaciated men lying on blue tarps.

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



Consent to child’s mutilation or go to jail

May 18th, 2015 8:46 am | By

A woman who went on the lam with her four-year-old son to prevent him from being genitally mutilated at the behest of his father was arrested and imprisoned last Thursday and is now in federal court.

Heather Hironimus, 31, was arrested Thursday in the long-running dispute over the removal of her 4-year-old child’s foreskin. She went missing with the boy nearly three months ago and ignored a judge’s warnings that if she didn’t appear in court and give consent for the circumcision to proceed, she faced jail.

The case originated in state courts but will be heard in a federal courtroom Monday in West Palm Beach. An attorney for Hironimus filed a federal civil rights complaint as legal options faded.

The parents had “signed an agreement” but Hironomus changed her mind.

Hironimus, 31, went missing with her son after a judge compelled her to turn the child over to his father, Dennis Nebus, and have him undergo the procedure. The child is reportedly “scared to death” of being circumcised. The couple were never married but had signed a parenting agreement in court in which Hironimus had initially agreed to their son being circumcised. However, she later changed her mind, setting off a drawn-out court battle with Nebus.

In March, a Palm Beach County judge signed a warrant for Hironimus’ arrest after she missed a court appearance. The mother subsequently filed a civil rights lawsuit last month arguing that circumcision violated her son’s Christian faith. While circumcision is largely a matter of personal preference rather than religion for many Christian parents in the United States, Hironimus’s case cited specific passages of the New Testament as well as Catholic teachings that read, “except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.”

Ugh. I wish all parties would argue the case in secular terms, because otherwise you just get dueling arbitrary commandments, which is what it says on the tin – arbitrary. It should be a human rights issue, not a competing-religions issue.

The case has generated national attention, largely fueled by the growing “intactivist” movement, which argues that subjecting infant boys to the procedure is barbaric and that it is unethical for parents to make the decision for their children. Many of these activists have rallied behind Hironmius’ cause, framing the case as a human rights issue.

But she is apparently not framing it that way, which makes it tricky.

Bottom line? All parties should respect the rights of the four-year-old boy and leave his penis alone until he’s old enough to decide for himself.

No “bottom line” jokes. Just kidding; you would never do that.

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



Extortion via blasphemy accusation

May 18th, 2015 8:11 am | By

Maryam has a dreadful story of a young woman in Pakistan imprisoned awaiting trial on a charge of “blasphemy.”

Over a year ago, a friend of mine, a British Pakistani actor got in touch with me after his annual visit home to Lahore.  He was very troubled by a blasphemy case that he had come across which appeared to have blighted the lives of two young people who had neither contacts nor money without which it is impossible to get out of a sticky situation in countries like Pakistan. He knew I was a long term member of Southall Black Sisters and wondered if I could help. But our funding covers services to women facing domestic violence in this country and only stretches to the Asian sub-continent if British Asian women have been abducted there in order to be forced into a marriage or abandoned there so that British Asian men may marry again. The fate of a young Pakistani woman languishing in a prison on false charges of blasphemy lay outside our remit, although not outside the bounds of our sympathy and solidarity. As I listened to the story and then spoke to ‘Mo’ and read the legal papers, I was very moved by their plight and decided I would do what I could to support them as an individual but with the support of all the contacts that SBS had forged in its 35 years of existence, including Maryam Namazie and the Council for Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB).

‘Esha’ was arrested in March 2012 for having torn up the pages of the Qu’ran. Although I disagree with the whole notion of blasphemy and find it ridiculous that a legal case should be fought on the basis of whether she did or she didn’t, what is worse is that she didn’t even do it. She had an argument with a friend of hers who then shopped her to the authorities. It is a common way of settling scores in countries like Pakistan. I have provided some of the statistics in another article. Her friend is prepared to drop the case if Esha pays her £20,000 and gets her a job in Dubai – none of which is within Esha’s reach.

Read on.

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



In the Scriptures, the only way rape occurs is if a man forces himself on a woman who is not his property

May 17th, 2015 6:34 pm | By

Mr Biblical Gender Roles did a later post asking the vexed question, Is a husband selfish for having sex with his wife when she is not the mood?

That seems like an odd way of putting it. If she’s not in the mood he’s not really having sex with her, is he, he’s using her for sex for himself. But he of course doesn’t see it that way.

I feel that today we make far too many excuses for the sin of sexual denial in marriage, and as men of God we must address this issue without pulling punches.

That’s an unfortunate metaphor for the subject…or perhaps it’s not a metaphor.

Now we need to establish the key Biblical teachings about sex.

Why? Why not instead talk about what people want, and mutual respect?

The Apostle Paul later in the New Testament, elaborates on this right and responsibility of sex in marriage making it clear that both husbands and wives have the right TO and responsibility FOR sex in marriage:

“A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does. Do not deprive one another sexually—except when you agree for a time, to devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again; otherwise, Satan may tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” – I Corinthians 7:4-5(HCSB)

The phrase “A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does.” could not be clearer. A wife does not have the right to stand and deny her husband access to her body. As I said in the previous post, a wife can humbly ask for a “delay”, or “raincheck”, but only for legitimate physical or psychological reasons and the judge of what is legitimate or not is her husband.

And if her husband decides nope, that reason is not legitimate, he gets to rape her, according to Mr Biblical. Of course there is the small detail that marital rape is against the law, but hey, she probably won’t be able to prosecute, so who cares.

I realize at this point some people may say “it is not always true that sex leads to fondness between a man and a woman” and they would be right. But let’s consider why it would not. I have one word for you – its called pride. A wife may actually be more annoyed at her husband after sex, then she was before if she does not release her feelings of pride during sex and give herself fully, both mind and body to her husband.

It’s that pesky secular pride that makes women not like to be raped by their husbands! If only they would all learn better from Mr Biblical.

I will say this, despite American laws to the contrary, Biblically speaking, there is no such thing as “marital rape”. In the Scriptures, the only way rape occurs is if a man forces himself on a woman who is not his property (not his wife, or concubine). A man’s wives, his concubines (slave wives taken as captives of war or bought) could be made to have sex with him, no questions asked.

Now the Bible states that if a man did take one of his female slaves, he had to make her at least a slave wife (a concubine), which gave her a certain status above a normal slave. She had the right to be fed, clothed and the right to regular relations with him even he had other wives. She also had to be given the full rights of a daughter, if her father-in-law had purchased her for his son. I realize this entire scenario is appalling to our modern western notions, but I choose to not challenge God’s wisdom in the laws he gave. If you want to argue with God about this at the judgement, be my guest.

And there it is again – “never mind your modern qualms, this is God’s law.”

I spit on it.

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



If her story helps even one 17-year-old school girl

May 17th, 2015 6:02 pm | By

Ursula Halligan, political editor of TV3 in Ireland, has a wrenching piece in the Irish Times today, coming out and supporting same-sex marriage. She starts with a tragic example of the way religion can cause people wholly unnecessary self-loathing and misery.

I was a good Catholic girl, growing up in 1970s Ireland where homosexuality was an evil perversion. It was never openly talked about but I knew it was the worst thing on the face of the earth.

So when I fell in love with a girl in my class in school, I was terrified. Rummaging around in the attic a few weeks ago, an old diary brought me right back to December 20th, 1977.

“These past few months must have been the darkest and gloomiest I have ever experienced in my entire life,” my 17-year-old self wrote.

“There have been times when I have even thought about death, of escaping from this world, of sleeping untouched by no-one forever. I have been so depressed, so sad and so confused. There seems to be no one I can turn to, not even God. I’ve poured out my emotions, my innermost thoughts to him and get no relief or so-called spiritual grace. At times I feel I am talking to nothing, that no God exists. I’ve never felt like this before, so empty, so meaningless, so utterly, utterly miserable.”

Wholly, entirely unnecessary, you see – all that was because she thought she was someone terrible in the eyes of God, for no good reason whatever. It wasn’t because she was a cruel bully making other students’ lives hell. It wasn’t because she enjoyed torturing animals. It wasn’t because she was unkind to her parents or neighbors or teachers. It was simply because she fell in love with a girl.

So she locked herself in the closet, as she puts it. She pretended.

In the 1970s, homophobia was rampant and uninhibited. Political correctness had yet to arrive. Homosexuals were faggots, queers, poofs, freaks, deviants, unclean, unnatural, mentally ill, second class and defective humans. They were society’s defects. Biological errors. They were other people. I couldn’t possibly be one of them.

Emotionally, I have been in a prison since the age of 17; a prison where I lived a half-life, repressing an essential part of my humanity, the expression of my deepest self; my instinct to love.

It’s a part that heterosexual people take for granted, like breathing air. The world is custom-tailored for them. At every turn society assumes and confirms heterosexuality as the norm. This culminates in marriage when the happy couple is showered with an outpouring of overwhelming social approval.

For me, there was no first kiss; no engagement party; no wedding. And up until a short time ago no hope of any of these things. Now, at the age of 54, in a (hopefully) different Ireland, I wish I had broken out of my prison cell a long time ago. I feel a sense of loss and sadness for precious time spent wasted in fear and isolation.

Look ahead.

Twenty years ago or 30 years ago, it would have taken more courage than I had to tell the truth. Today, it’s still difficult but it can be done with hope – hope that most people in modern Ireland embrace diversity and would understand that I’m trying to be helpful to other gay people leading small, frightened, incomplete lives. If my story helps even one 17-year-old school girl, struggling with her sexuality, it will have been worth it.

As a person of faith and a Catholic, I believe a Yes vote is the most Christian thing to do. I believe the glory of God is the human being fully alive and that this includes people who are gay.

If Ireland votes Yes, it will be about much more than marriage. It will end institutional homophobia. It will say to gay people that they belong, that it’s safe to surface and live fully human, loving lives. If it’s true that 10 per cent of any population are gay, then there could be 400,000 gay people out there; many of them still living in emotional prisons. Any of them could be your son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, father or best friend. Set them free. Allow them [to] live full lives.

Vote yes.

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



T***

May 17th, 2015 12:26 pm | By

Here’s a funny thing: the Mirror reporting on more horrible behavior from Katie Hopkins, to wit calling an autistic nine-year-0ld rude names. But I noticed something particular about it…

The headline:

Katie Hopkins stoops to new low as she bullies autistic nine-year-old girl over weight and calls her a ‘t***’

The story:

You might not have thought it possible, but Katie Hopkins appears to have sunk to a new low as she has called a nine-year-old girl ‘a t***’.

The outrageous columnist was tweeting throughout Channel 4’s new show, Born Naughty?, where nine-year-old Honey was diagnosed with mild autism.

“Honey can’t complete the autism assessment as she is too busy being a complete t***. But the s*** mum assessment is complete #bornnaughty,” Katie tweeted.

See there? It appears that “twat” is too rude (in the sense of “obscene”) to spell out. But how can that be? I’ve been told that it’s not even mildly rude in the UK, that it’s actually a different word from the US one, which we can tell because it’s pronounced differently. I’ve been told that even the queen says it.

But if that’s true, why does the Mirror asterisk it?

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



White people think you’re not really Muslim

May 17th, 2015 11:44 am | By

More from that article about ex-Muslims.

[Imtiaz] Shams, who seems remarkably self-possessed for his young age, agrees that there are particular gender issues that afflict disillusioned Muslims. To this end he has tried to link up with feminist societies at universities. “But there’s a real problem in this country,” he says. “People don’t want to touch anything to do with leaving Islam. Especially in universities, where the politics are insane.”

He has a point. In recent times the National Union of Students have refused to condemn Isis on the grounds that is would justify Islamophobia. Shams believes that this kind of gesture and the NUS decision last month to lobby alongside Cage, the militant Islamic prisoners pressure group, undermines the position of dissenting Muslims. “What it does is to say to reformists and secularists, you’re not really Muslims.”

And Shams is not the only one who believes that, to put it mildly.

He believes Muslims face an identity crisis.

“We don’t know who we are. There’s a feeling of insecurity as a brown person, often for good reason. I went to school in a really white school. My nickname was “Terrorist”. The kids didn’t know better. I grew up in that narrative. I was very religious. I believed there was a caliphate and we should fight for that. I had a strong sense of justice. One of the things that people do not understand about radicals is that they’re often guided by a sense of justice.”

But as often with abstractions, you can apply the word “justice” to anything. The word is only as good as it is. Mr Biblical Gender Relations thinks his prattle of ownership and cows and authority is “justice,” because he understands justice within his theocratic framework. Certainly Islamists are guided by a sense of justice, but what they mean by that is primarily justice to Allah and the prophet, and to the people who do the most to submit to [what they take to be the laws of] Allah. They are hugely exercised about justice to Muslims; they’re not so exercised about justice to Jews or infidels.

Fully aware of the mental stress so many dissenting Muslims suffer, he has been working to get appropriate therapy for those going through the emotional dislocation of leaving Islam.

“One ex-Muslim I know went to get therapy from a white female therapist and in the end she referred him to a Muslim support network.”

Too often, he believes, non-Muslims are unable or unwilling to see beyond the religious identity of Muslims. They are increasingly trained to understand religious needs but are frequently flummoxed by those who reject those needs.

“If you’re a secular or atheist Jew,” says Shams, “no one is going to say you’re not allowed to say anything about your community. Of course you are. But with Muslims it’s different – white people think you’re not really Muslim. That’s exasperating.”

I see that all the time, from obviously well-meaning people who think they’re doing the right-on thing.

Nasreen, Vali and Shams all agreed that it will only be by bringing greater attention to Muslim apostates in British society that their predicament will improve. It would also help, they say, if they could rely on the progressive support that was once the right of freethinkers in this country.

“Attitudes need to change,” says Cottee. “There has to be a greater openness around the whole issue. And the demonisation of apostates as ‘sell outs’ and ‘native informants’, which can be heard among both liberal-leftists and reactionary Muslims, needs to stop. People leave Islam. They have reasons for this, good, bad or whatever. It is a human right to change your mind. Deal with it.”

Honestly, that’s been one of the core goals of this blog – my blog – from nearly the beginning. If nothing else, I can help with this project of bringing greater attention to Muslim apostates in British society so that their predicament will improve.

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



“I would just think, if God wants it, fine.”

May 17th, 2015 11:17 am | By

Andrew Anthony has an excellent long piece in the Graun about ex-Muslims.

It starts with the fact that leaving Islam can be dangerous.

The danger is confirmed by Imtiaz Shams, an energetic 26-year-old who runs a group called Faith to Faithless, which aims to help Muslim nonbelievers speak out about their difficult situations. Shams has a visible presence on YouTube and has organised several events at universities. “I am at physical risk because I do videos,” says Shams. “I don’t like putting myself in the firing line, but I had to because no one else is willing to do it.”

As real as the potential for violence might be, it’s not what keeps many doubting British Muslims from leaving their religion. As Simon Cottee, author of a new book The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam, says: “In the western context, the biggest risk ex-Muslims face is not the baying mob, but the loneliness and isolation of ostracism from loved ones. It is stigma and rejection that causes so many ex-Muslims to conceal their apostasy.”

To be fair, that’s also true of ex-Christians, at least in the US. It’s less true of exes from liberal versions of either religion, and more true of exes from the illiberal versions. The problem of ostracism and loneliness is an issue for both. That’s why Vyckie Garrison has been such a help to women who leave the Quiverfull movement, as Maryam has to ex-Muslims.

[Sulaiman] Vali comes from a strictly religious Indian-heritage family. He was born in Kenya and moved with his parents and six siblings to England when he was 14. As outsiders, his family stayed close – “I always knew if I wanted anything they’d be there for me,” he says.

His father is an imam who follows the puritanical Deobandi scholastic tradition of Islam that has influence over a third of Britain’s mosques. All through his teenage years, when adolescents typically rebel, and even at university, Vali dutifully followed his father’s faith. Occasionally some of what he calls the more “barbaric punishments” found in sharia law troubled him, but he put his discomfort to one side. “I would just think, if God wants it, fine.”

See that’s what makes religion so very dangerous. It’s not the religion is the sole source of terrible cruel laws and punishments, it’s that religion can tell people to think that way. There’s no real secular substitute for “I would just think, if God wants it, fine.” There’s no real secular equivalent of “God wants it” to justify sadistic punishments.

Eventually he had to tell his family he’d become an atheist.

One of his brothers reminded him that the penalty sharia law stipulates for apostasy is capital punishment.

“I don’t think he would have any qualms about me being killed,” says Vali, although he emphasises that he doesn’t believe anyone from his family would seek to do him physical harm or encourage others to do so. Instead he was ousted from the family. He was disowned.

There again – sharia stipulates it, therefore, get out of the family.

[T]he struggle of ex-Muslims is markedly different from that of early gay rights campaigners. Where gays and lesbians could draw support from other progressive movements, ex-Muslims are further marginalised by what Cottee calls “the contested status of Islam” in western societies.

To raise the subject of apostasy is to risk demonising an embattled minority. Some will see it, almost by definition, as Islamophobic or even racist. To be a “Muslim” in 21st-century Britain is no longer simply about religious affiliation; it also suggests membership of a cultural entity that receives far more than its fair share of scare stories and alarmist reporting. So it’s vital to be aware of the discrimination that many Muslims encounter. But what of the minority within the minority who have to deal with fear, guilt, shame and isolation? Must they remain invisible as a mark of religious respect?

Vali has seen his mother just once for a few minutes four years ago. “She didn’t want to touch me,” he says. “She thought her God would be angry with her if she treated me kindly.”

And again. There’s no secular equivalent of that, not least because secular equivalents don’t have supernatural powers to watch our every move no matter how private.

What saved him from isolation was the Council of ex-Muslims of Britain, an association set up in 2007 by the Iranian-born secularist Maryam Namazie that campaigns to end “religious intimidation and threats”. The CEMB assists about 350 people a year, “the majority of whom” says Namazie, “have faced threats for having left Islam – either by their families or by Islamists.”

She believes this number represents just the tip of the problem because the consequences of coming out deter many more from doing so. Many of the cases the CEMB deals with concern forced marriages, which Namazie says have been used to control those seeking to leave Islam.

For Vali, CEMB provided the reassurance of shared experience. “That was great. You just knew that you weren’t alone. Before, I didn’t know how many people there were out there, what sort of people, how they were thinking. I’ve probably [now] met 100 ex-Muslims and I keep hearing stories of depression. I can understand it.”

I think I’ve told you before about that moment at Women in Secularism last year, when I was sitting talking to Taslima and then all the ex-Muslims came up in a group to talk to her. It was a very good moment. Stacy was there; we agreed about the moment.

It’s probably worse for women, Andrew says.

“It’s more difficult for women,” says Nasreen. “You’re much more visible as a woman. You’re conditioned to behave in a certain way with a headscarf. I mean, you’re not going to go to a pub with a headscarf, are you? You’re not going to stay out late with a headscarf. It’s a form of control.”

She was in Hizb ut-Tahrir as a teenager.

She loved the sense of rebellion her pronounced Muslim identity conferred. That was largely the extent of the politics. When she looked at Islamic countries, she didn’t care about human rights atrocities. “There were women wearing scarves, that was what was important.”

But slowly she began to address the rhetoric and assumptions that she’d been filled with. “I didn’t have an epiphany,” she says. Most apostates don’t. Instead it’s usually a long and often painful process of questioning. At first she tried to crush her doubts. “I was scared. What was wrong with me? Why do I have these feelings and thoughts, they’re so haram [forbidden].”

She felt unable to speak to those closest to her, and was too ashamed to consult an imam. Like Vali, she researched online and the more she read, the more difficult it became to maintain her Islamic beliefs. But losing her religion has exacted a toll.

“I’ve had bouts of clinical depression,” Nasreen says. “The thing is, Islam teaches you to grow up with low self-esteem and lack of self-identity. Without the collective, you’re lost. You’ve been taught to feel guilty and people-pleasing as a woman, and you do that from a very young age. I kept thinking, ‘Why do I want to wear short skirts? That’s so disgusting!’ No, it’s not disgusting. It took me a long time to appreciate my sexuality and my femininity. There was a lot of stress. I lost my friends. You’re very lonely and you’re ostracised.”

Meanwhile her parents have become more religious over the past decade or so. It’s a trend.

She blames the ghettoisation of multiculturalism and identity politics for this shift, the tendency to view individuals as members of separate cultural blocks. Or as Namazie puts it: “The problem with multiculturalism – not as a lived experience but as a social policy that divides and segregates communities – is that the “Muslim community” is seen to be homogenous. Therefore dissenters and freethinkers are deemed invisible because the ‘authentic’ Muslim is veiled, pro-sharia and pro-Islamist.”

One success of the Islamist movement in Britain has been to define the cultural identity primarily in terms of religion.

With lashings of help from the BBC and the New Statesman and…the Guardian.

She took a degree in anthropology at the University of London. “And I started to do my dissertation on ex-Muslim identity. My supervisor was this Muslim guy and he told me that it was rubbish, there’s no academic purpose to it.”

She had to complain to get another supervisor, who was very supportive, and, undaunted, continued with the research. “I succeeded in completing an original piece of empirical research on the ex-Muslim reality,” she says. “I even went on to achieve a special award for this very dissertation. I felt quite vindicated by that.”

Nevertheless, she detects a strong reluctance at universities to confront the concerted efforts by Islamist groups to lay claim to Muslim students. Not only are Islamic societies often run by extremists, with groups like the Islamic Education and Research Academy seeking to impose gender segregation, but the terms of academic discourse tend to endorse their brand of grievance politics.

“Go to your average sociology class,” says Nasreen, “and it’s very much about making Muslims victims of Islamophobia – a terminology I disagree with. It’s anti-Muslim bigotry. I dislike Islam – that’s OK, it’s an ideology, but I don’t dislike Muslims. They are two different things.”

I wish more people would agree to that distinction.

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



When you own the cow

May 17th, 2015 9:40 am | By

And now let’s drop in on the people in Biblical Christianity Land to see what they have to say about the vexed question of whether or not a husband owns his wife the way a boy-farmer owns his livestock. (What to do with the analogy when the farmer is a woman is a question we will leave for another day. This is a visit to Biblical Christianity Land, after all. I’m not sure the laws of Biblical Christianity Land permit women to own farms and livestock.)

Let’s consult Mr Biblical Gender Roles for his take on this question. The answer is probably in the title of his post: You don’t pay for the milk when you own the cow!

cow in front of a white background

How to be a godly husband when you own the cow.

But once you have bought the cow, you ARE supposed to get the milk for free

One of the problems we face today in the Christian community (but it certainly is not limited to Christians) is that often times, even after we have waited, and “bought the cow” (married our wives), our wives expect us to “buy the milk” as well. I recently wrote a post responding to a Christian teacher’s false belief, that in marriage men do in fact have to “buy the milk” (earn sex), even after “buying the cow” (marrying a woman).

Marriage=a man owning a woman, so that he never again has to “earn” sex but can just grab it whenever he wants to, because she is his cow. That’s what he bought her for.

Now in pesky quarrelsome people like me that raises the question, but then what did she get married for? What’s in it for her? But that of course is looking at it quite the wrong way, as you can see if you read his words again. The only agent involved is the man; the woman is the thing bought, the thing owned, the thing used for sex at the man’s will. The man marries the woman, but the woman doesn’t marry the man – the woman is married by the man, not the other way around. We foolish unbelievers think of marriage as mutual, like friendship, but that’s all wrong. It’s unilateral, like slavery. “We” are men, who do the marrying, and “they” are cows.

A quick word on the “cow analogy” before we continue – in no way am I meaning disrespect toward women, or saying that cows are somehow equal to women, or that women are less human than men. But Biblically speaking, a wife does belong to her husband (men paid a “bride price” and one the terms for husband in the original languages of the Bible is “baal” which means “owner or master” (e.g. Proverbs 31). I Peter 3 says Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord [master].

It’s hugely impressive that he is in no way meaning disrespect toward women, and that all he’s doing is pointing out the The Bible says men get to own women and be the bosses of them.

Any deviation from this In The Bible arrangement is sinful.

Husbands listen to me, engaged men please hear me. There is a pattern that takes place in a lot of Christian marriages (and non-Christian marriages). At the beginning of the sexual relationship between a man and woman (which should begin after marriage, but sometimes it sinfully starts before marriage), women will give their husbands all the “free milk” they want. She lets him “taste the goods” so to speak.

But not long into the marriage, the milk is no longer free of charge, it now comes at a cost. That cost looks very different from woman to woman, but there is a cost of some sort. For some Christian men, it might simply be household chores, for others it is buying jewelry or other gifts. For other husbands, it is making a decision the way their wife wants it, but they do not think is best.

What all these different prerequisites have in common is, they require a man to transfer his God given authority over his home, his children, and his wife and yes even his wife’s body to his wife. Only if they do the bidding of their wife, will she give them “the goods”.

Terrible. So what should a man do? Sit her down and remind her what The Bible says.

When your wife tells you “If you do ___________ for me, then I will do that for you”, you need to sit down and take out the Word of God. You must see this as God sees it, as an act of rebellion against your authority over her (and her body), and by extension as an act of rebellion against God himself, because he has given her to you. You need to rebuke your wife’s sinful behavior.

This is all straight from God, you see. God is Super-Big-Man, and men are smaller versions of that, and women are not-God and not-men, thus inferior and subordinate, by eternal sacred law. God and men are on one team, and women are on the opposite team. God gave authority to men, because they’re men like God and God is a (super-big) man like men. They are men-buddies. They both do being a man. Women are on the wrong team, that’s all.

Take her to I Corinthians and read the Word of God to her:

“Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

Bolding his. The part in bold is the part that counts. The other part is safe to ignore.

As the head of your home, and the authority of not only your children, but also your wife, you will be called from time to time to confront a sinful attitude or behavior in your wife, just as Job confronted his wife’s sinful behavior.

“You” of course are a man. Women can’t read. Or, if they can, in Godly Homes they’re not allowed access to the internet. Cows can’t internet – their hooves are too big for the keyboard.

But should you still have relations with your wife after such a confrontation?

I believe the answer is yes, if she yields to you (even with the wrong attitude). When I first had to confront my wife with these types of issues, I would confront her, and then just leave the sex to happen another night, because after all, I like most men don’t prefer to have sex with my wife when she acts grumpy about it.

But I realized that the sex still needs to occur, that sex is not about being in the mood, and it is not about feelings, it is about doing what is right. I agree whole heartedly that the best sex a Christian couple can have is when they are spiritually, emotionally and physically connected all at once. But the truth is there will be many times when we don’t have all that in place, but we must still have sex. God wants us to do the right thing, even when we don’t feel like it.

Dang, I didn’t know God was such a perv.

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



Guest post: The carbon footprint of cycling

May 16th, 2015 5:48 pm | By

Originally a comment by AJ Milne on Stop all that reckless breathing!

I got thinking a bit about the carbon footprint of cycling a while ago; I do cycle to work now and then (at 28K, kinda a long haul, and annoyingly, I can’t fit the time in right now, due to other parental duty things, but I probably will be again in a week or two)…

What I was generally hearing (with the billion hedges/estimates you need to build in in our annoyingly complicated economies–and see one high-level estimate here): it’s almost always better to cycle (and I drive a Prius, which is pretty low impact, as cars go). But depends a bit on what you’re eating. Some foods, if you count transportation and the way they’re raised/grown, are pretty high impact, so probably, counting all that, you can wind up making more CO2 that way, but it would be an unusual meal…

… and, generally that would be because someone drove or flew the food to you, which you then ate, and when cycling, then burnt it to CO2. That last burn really wasn’t the problem (and note that that carbon, specifically, was pulled out of the atmosphere to make the food, at some point; it’s carbon effectively in a cycle). It was the stuff involved in moving the food, which, sadly, yes, generally isn’t in a cycle; that’s the stuff we’re pumping it out of the ground and burning. And, yes, some foods are otherwise a lot more carbon-intensive even to raise, since little of the carbon involved winds up even on your plate.

Also kinda amusingly, I guess: with gas prices where they are around here these days, I figure the calories probably usually wound up costing me about as much as the gas would have. But, of course, there are also a lot of other benefits to cycling. And I’m pretty sure none of this builds in the carbon impact of the healthcare system housing me years longer, if I don’t get some cardio somewhere, at least.

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



RIDE HER ALL DAY FOR £3

May 16th, 2015 5:20 pm | By

A new private bus company in Cardiff had a fantastic wink-wink nudge-nudge idea for advertising its all-day fare.

Bus Co. Advertises Fare With Topless Models Begging 'Ride Me All Day'

What?

Yes, she’s a young woman; yes, she could be naked behind that sign she’s holding, and her bare shoulders seem to suggest that; yes, the sign says RIDE ME ALL DAY FOR £3; but none of that means she’s suggesting you can ride HER for £3. She’s speaking for the bus! Obviously!

The Mirror reports that there was widespread irritation, and that the bus company deleted its tweets and said jeezis it was just a joke.

New Adventure Travel said this morning “there is no-one available here to comment on this today,” before telling the Mirror Online to call back tomorrow.

But within three hours of launching their new service, the company said in a statement: “In view of the reaction to our bus advertising today we wish to set out our position: Firstly we have stated that our objectives have been to make catching the bus attractive to the younger generation.

“We therefore developed an internal advertising campaign featuring males and females to hold boards to promote the cost of our daily tickets.

“The slogan of ‘ride me all day for £3’, whilst being a little tongue in cheek, was in no way intended to cause offence to either men or women and, if the advert has done so then we apologise unreservedly. There has certainly been no intention to objectify either men or women. Given the volume of negativity received we have decided to remove the pictures from the back of the buses within the next twenty four hours.”

Well quite. How could there be anything at all contemptuous of women in that ad? I just can’t see it, no matter how hard I squint, can you?

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



Guest post: Muhammad’s stay in Medina produced very different “revelations”

May 16th, 2015 4:58 pm | By

Originally a comment by Eric MacDonald on The war against infidels.

Essentialism is a fairly universal tendency of seeing things as have defining qualities. Without some kind of essentialism it would be hard to distinguish one sort of thing from another. Science, for example, has its essentialists (indeed, the periodic table is based on essences), and no doubt the fans of football, cricket and hockey, chess, monopoly, and other games, have what they consider to be essential properties of their favourite games. Your claim, therefore, that “essentialism is one of the cognitive biases that both underlies and is encouraged by religious thinking” is really quite misleading. Wittgenstein, as you are no doubt aware, was opposed to this sort of essentialism, by pointing out that the meaning of a word is constituted by its use, and he used the example of games to make his point. There is no one essential feature of all games, he suggested, that determines the use of the word ‘game’. I think he was probably wrong. Games are almost always characterised by quite contingent rules and limitations, so that playing a game is only possible if there are some things that do not constitute “moves” in the game. Otherwise, we have rather untstructured play, instead of a game.

So, of course, when we are talking about Islam or Christianity or Buddhism, or any other religion, we are going to home in on some of a religion’s most characteristic features. You want to let Islam off the hook, by suggesting that in picking out features of Islam that seem to characterise it (in some sense universally), we are being both arrogant (in claiming to speak thus about anything of which we are not believing members), and xenophobic (in this case Islamophobic).

But Islam does have fairly universal features. Not that every Muslim engages universally in these features, but in that historically, and in terms of its own doctrines, the practice of Islam has been so characterised. And violence, even aggressive warfare against non-believers, has been one of those features. Not only is this an observational datum, this feature of Islam is deeply embedded in its doctrinal tradition as well. It is present in all the fundamental Islamic texts, including the Quran, the Hadith, the Sira, the Sharia, etc., which, altogether is called the Sunnah.

Jihad, as offensive war against non-believers, is a duty of all Muslims to support, even though, as the Quran says, they may find it distasteful. And it is their duty to engage in it until the whole world is subject to Allah and his holy laws. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, in her most recent book, Heretic, speaks of this sort of Islam as Medinan. The “revelations” to Muhammad in Mecca are altogether more peaceful, but Muhammad’s stay in Medina produced very different “revelations”, in which a more warrior spirit prevailed, in which violence against unbelievers, and the murder of those who spoke critically of Muhammad became normative for the followers of Muhammad. Hirsi Ali thinks that Islam could be reformed by returning to the Meccan variety of Islam. I doubt this is possible, but it is not simply Islamophobia to point out that Islam has traditionally been spread by means of the sword. And being an honour-shame culture, Islam has almost always opposed anyone who calumniates Muhammad in this most savage and brutal ways (in order to restore its honour), even though the religion he devised was really nothing more than a protection racket, swelled in numbers by conquest, and the forcible conversion of people holding other beliefs. Europe was only spared Muslim occupation in the nick of time, just before the development of science and democracy in the West. Islam made incursions from both the West, where it was defeated (at the Battle of Poitiers or Tours, in 732), and from the East, where it was defeated at the gates of Vienna in 1683, although it overran Greece and the Balkan states.

For a time Muslims dominated Sicily, and much of southern Italy, sacking Rome at least once. Greece was subject to Islamic conquest and occupation. The Greek war of independence began in 1821, and with the intervention of the Western powers, Greece became an independent state by 1832. Lord Byron (the poet) played a part in the revolt against the Ottomans (and the Egyptians, who came to the rescue of Ottoman rule) and is still recognised as a hero in Greece where a day is set aside in his honour.

So let’s not pretend that Islam is not a warlike force, and that it did not engage, as it still does, in violence against non-believers and apostates in its struggle to dominate the world. This is at least one of the essential aspects of Islam, which makes it a danger to everyone who does not share the Muslim faith. Islam has already made significant inroads into Western nations and their polity. Indeed, suppression of free speech (such as you endorse yourself, Mr Walker) is well on the way to becoming established in Western democracies.

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



The cumulative impact of past disadvantage

May 16th, 2015 4:18 pm | By

More on the way deliberate, planned racial segregation has crushed people’s aspirations as a matter of policy, this time from Jamelle Bouie.

In the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood where Freddie Gray lived before he died in police custody on April 12, one-half the residents are unemployed and one-third of the homes are vacant. Sixty percent of residents have less than a high school diploma, and the violent crime rate is among the highest in Baltimore. You can paint a similar picture for the neighborhoods and housing projects on the east side of the city as well. If you are poor and black in Charm City, your life—or at least your opportunity to have a better life—looks bleak.

But then, this is by design. In the early 20thcentury—as in many American cities—Baltimore civic leaders endorsed broad plans to “protect white neighborhoods” from black newcomers.

The city was flush with waves of immigration—from abroad as well as the South—and more affluent blacks were leaving the older, poorer neighborhoods to move to predominantly white areas removed from the poverty and joblessness of the crowded slums. In short order, politicians and progressive reformers—motivated by benevolence, politics, and an en vogue scientific racism—endorsed segregation plans and racial covenants meant to cordon blacks—as well as Italian and Eastern European immigrants—on to small parts of land in the inner city.

Well the benevolence seems to have been all for the people who needed it least.

In 1950—following complaints from white residents over plans to expand public housing—the mayor and the City Council agreed to limit future building to existing “slum sites” where the majority of blacks lived. As they had done for the past four decades, white leaders prepared to limit black migration in the city as much as possible. But there was still a housing problem; blacks were still moving to Baltimore, and there weren’t enough units for the new residents. Both dynamics, working together, led to a decade-long project of “urban renewal,” as the city used federal funds for “slum removal” to make way for new, high rise public projects. Renewal displaced 25,000 Baltimoreans—almost all of them black—and the new high-rises were built with segregation in mind. By the time construction was finished, the new projects had bolstered and entrenched the segregation of the past. The black areas of 1964—and of the 1968 riots—are almost identical to the black areas of 50 years prior.

That pattern I’m more familiar with, from having read about how Daly carefully confined the black population of Chicago to a string a huge high-rise projects south of the Loop.

Baltimore is stuck, captured by the injustices of the past as well as the countless individual choices of the present. The city’s ills—its poverty, its fatherlessness, its police violence—are rooted in these same patterns of segregation and discrimination. This isn’t an excuse—Baltimore has had a generation of politicians, white and black, who can renovate tourist areas and implement new police techniques, but who can’t provide relief and opportunity to its most impoverished residents—but it is important context. Even at their absolute best, the city’s leaders have to contend with the cumulative impact of past disadvantage. White flight means a smaller tax base and fewer resources for improvement; industrial collapse means fewer jobs; crack and violence means a generation of “missing” black men, in jail or in the ground; a culture of police violence means constant tension with the policed.

And all that missing equity in houses they weren’t allowed to buy means lack of wealth to buy houses or pay for university educations now. Terrible decisions made a century ago are still producing terrible consequences now.

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



And full as much heart

May 16th, 2015 11:15 am | By

More on that question of empathy and fiction we were talking about the other day, from a 2010 article by Joshua Leach on the ur-B&W.: Individual Rights and Collective Responsibility.

This is a truth commonly understood: that people fighting for human rights are not animated by self-interest or callous self-regard. In fact, human rights arise out of our most fundamental collective moral imperative: namely, to protect the weak and vulnerable from harm. Empathy is where they begin and end.

According to Lynn Hunt’s fantastic book, Inventing Human Rights, rights language grew up in tandem with eighteenth century epistolary novels, such as Richardson’s Clarissa and Rousseau’s Julie, which introduced empathy into fiction and extended human feeling across class boundaries. By presenting the lives and needs of servants and governesses (women at that!) these novels made possible a kind of affectionate identification that traditional literature could not provide. Even if modern readers have a hard time relating to these sentimental eighteenth century novels, we can see the same sort of effect at work in Charlotte Bronte and other later writers. The goal of the author is clearly to present the hero or heroine as an individual worthy of respect, dignity, and personhood. As Jane Eyre declares at one point to Mr. Rochester: “Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings?… Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart!” This is not a self-interested or individualistic ideal—precisely because it insists on the rights of individuals!

Individuals in the plural. Tories like to portray human rights as all about me me me, but they’re not, because it’s about every me, not just my personal me.

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



Baltimore’s mayor proclaimed

May 16th, 2015 10:27 am | By

This is probably the article that brought Richard Rothstein to the attention of the producers at Morning Edition and then Fresh Air: This Is One Reason Why Places Like Ferguson and Baltimore Have Become Explosive.

(Rothstein has written a number of articles. I’m going to read every one I can find.)

In Baltimore in 1910, a black Yale law school graduate purchased a home in a previously all-white neighborhood. The Baltimore city government reacted by adopting a residential segregation ordinance, restricting African Americans to designated blocks. Explaining the policy, Baltimore’s mayor proclaimed, “Blacks should be quarantined in isolated slums in order to reduce the incidence of civil disturbance, to prevent the spread of communicable disease into the nearby White neighborhoods, and to protect property values among the White majority.”

Godalmighty.

quarantined in isolated slums

How could he articulate those three words without recoiling at what he was saying?

That’s a rhetorical question. This one is less opaque than people finding entertainment in watching cats being lowered into fires. I sort of get how he could, however queasy it makes me. But all the same…you’d think people would be able to check themselves. “Poor people are a nuisance, we don’t like them, especially ones who aren’t white, so we have to quarantine them in bad places. Wait. What are we saying. That’s no solution. We have to provide good affordable housing and public services, like schools and libraries and parks along with police and fire departments, not forgetting sewer systems and garbage disposal. All of it should be wide open to all races and other categories, as should all other kinds of housing.”

Whenever young black men riot in response to police brutality or murder, as they have done in Baltimore this week, we’re tempted to think we can address the problem by improving police quality—training officers not to use excessive force, implementing community policing, encouraging police to be more sensitive, prohibiting racial profiling, and so on. These are all good, necessary, and important things to do. But such proposals ignore the obvious reality that the protests are not really (or primarily) about policing.

It’s the segregation, stupid. It’s this business of quarantining people in isolated slums.

When the Kerner Commission blamed “white society” and “white institutions,” it employed euphemisms to avoid naming the culprits everyone knew at the time. It was not a vague white society that created ghettos but government—federal, state, and local—that employed explicitly racial laws, policies, and regulations to ensure that black Americans would live impoverished, and separately from whites. Baltimore’s ghetto was not created by private discrimination, income differences, personal preferences, or demographic trends, but by purposeful action of government in violation of the Fifth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments. These constitutional violations have never been remedied, and we are paying the price in the violence we saw this week.

And then there’s the way African-Americans were forced to buy property given that the government made sure they couldn’t get mortgages. I didn’t know any of this…

Unable to get mortgages, and restricted to overcrowded neighborhoods where housing was in short supply, African Americans either rented apartments at rents considerably higher than those for similar dwellings in white neighborhoods, or bought homes on installment plans. These arrangements, known as contract sales, differed from mortgages because monthly payments were not amortized, so a single missed payment meant loss of a home, with no accumulated equity. In the Atlantic last year, Ta-Nehisi Coates described how this system worked in Chicago. Rutgers University historian Beryl Satter described it this way:

Because black contract buyers knew how easily they could lose their homes, they struggled to make their inflated monthly payments. Husbands and wives both worked double shifts. They neglected basic maintenance. They subdivided their apartments, crammed in extra tenants and, when possible, charged their tenants hefty rents. …

White people observed that their new black neighbors overcrowded and neglected their properties. Overcrowded neighborhoods meant overcrowded schools; in Chicago, officials responded by “double-shifting” the students (half attending in the morning, half in the afternoon). Children were deprived of a full day of schooling and left to fend for themselves in the after-school hours. These conditions helped fuel the rise of gangs, which in turn terrorized shop owners and residents alike.

In the end, whites fled these neighborhoods, not only because of the influx of black families, but also because they were upset about overcrowding, decaying schools and crime. They also understood that the longer they stayed, the less their property would be worth. But black contract buyers did not have the option of leaving a declining neighborhood before their properties were paid for in full—if they did, they would lose everything they’d invested in that property to date. Whites could leave—blacks had to stay.

What an absolute dog’s breakfast.

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



Microsadism

May 16th, 2015 9:45 am | By

Republican legislators in Wisconsin have thought of a new way of tormenting poor people: say they can have food stamps but ban ALL THE FOODS.

On Wednesday, Wisconsin Republicans in the statehouse took the first step in their agenda to punish people who use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

Assembly Bill 177 seeks to ban people who rely on food stamps to survive on a daily basis from buying a huge list of products deemed unworthy for the mouths of poor people and their children.

The legislation specifically bans poor people from buying any kind of shellfish, including lobster, shrimp, and crab.

Too fancy! Too fancy for the likes of poor people who have low wages because rich people like it that way. No shrimp for you, peasant.

It disallows red and yellow potatoes but allows sweet potatoes and yams. It also disallows nuts, trail mix, herbs and seasonings.

No jarred spaghetti sauce for poor folks, or soups, salsa, or ketchup. No canned beans, except for green, wax or yellow beans.

No canned beans? Wtf?

The list of “disallowed” foods, which you can view here, also includes the following:

  • Cranberry sauce and pie filling. (Poor people can forget about making dessert for Thanksgiving dinner.)
  • Creamed vegetables
  • Baked beans
  • Pickles
  • Pork and beans
  • Frozen veggies that come in packages featuring pasta, nuts, rice, cheese, or meats
  • French fries and hash browns
  • Sharp cheddar cheese, Swiss, and fresh mozzarella, shredded and sliced cheeses (except American cheese of course), cheese food, spreads, and products. Even Kosher cheese is banned unless you apply to get a specific check for it which basically could identify who the poor Jewish people are.
  • Canned peas and green beans
  • Albacore tuna, red salmon, and fish fillets
  • Bagels, pita bread, English muffins
  • White rice and wild rice
  • Taco shells
  • Almond, rice, goat, and soy milk.
  • Brown eggs and any eggs produced by cage-free or free range chickens, which basically helps corporate chicken farms
  • Several kinds of infant food
  • Anything in bulk
  • Anything organic or natural

Well they can still have brioche.

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



If natural compassion makes everyone detest the cruelty

May 16th, 2015 9:04 am | By

I was asking that question about why revulsion from torture isn’t universal five years ago, too, almost to the day. I’ll just repost it.

Lynn Hunt asks a pertinent question in Inventing Human Rights:

Voltaire railed against the miscarriage of justice in the Calas case, but he did not originally object to the fact that the old man had been tortured or broken on the wheel. If natural compassion makes everyone detest the cruelty of judicial torture, as Voltaire said later, then why was this not obvious before the 1760s, even to him? Evidently some kind of blinders had operated to inhibit the operation of empathy before then.

The facts aren’t enough. Science isn’t enough. There has to be emotion too. People have to care. It’s that simple. If people don’t care, the facts are just facts, they’re inert.

This is also why relief organizations use one person (and animal welfare organizations use one animal) on fund-raising appeals: we’re wired so that we empathize with one person much more strongly than we empathize with a million. If facts were enough for morality, we ought to respond a million times more strongly to reports of a million people in desperate straits, but in fact we respond much less strongly to a million people than we do to one.

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



Abroad doesn’t want them

May 16th, 2015 8:48 am | By

What’s going on with the Rohingyas? Why are some thousands of them stranded in boats in the Andaman sea? What’s the deal?

The BBC has a backgrounder.

The Rohingyas – a distinct Muslim ethnic group who are effectively stateless – have been fleeing Myanmar for decades. But a combination of factors means that they are now stranded in rickety boats in the Andaman sea, causing international alarm.

There are believed to be several thousand Myanmar migrants in boats off the coasts of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia with dwindling supplies of food and water, and not wanted by any of these countries.

Wait. Back up a step. What does that even mean? What does “a distinct Muslim ethnic group” mean? What does “distinct” mean? What does “ethnic” mean?

Those look like pretend-dumb questions, probably, but I’m really not clear about what that’s supposed to mean, or on what the BBC thinks it means, and it seems to matter since the “distinct ethnic” (along with the Muslim) is why they’re stranded in those boats, it appears. So why do people use words like “distinct” and “ethnic” with such seeming confidence that they have a firm crisp meaning and that they explain something?

Successive Myanmar governments have been introducing policies to repress the Rohingya since the 1960s, according to Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (Brouk). They argue that Rohingyas are not a genuine ethnic group but Bengali migrants who represent a divisive leftover from colonial times.

See what I mean? What’s the difference between those two things? What’s a “genuine ethnic group”? What makes Bengali migrants not a “genuine ethnic group”? Why are they “divisive”? Why is any of that a reason to repress them?

Is the BBC using “ethnic” as a code for “religious”? Is all this waffle just because they don’t want to say the majority in Burma is Buddhist so Muslims are seen as “distinct” and “divisive”? Fun fact: the word “Buddhist” doesn’t appear in the article. An explanatory background piece that carefully omits an important fact. What’s that about?

They are denied basic services and their movements are severely restricted. The repression of the Rohingyas has gradually intensified since the process of reforms introduced by President Thein Sein in 2011, Brouk says. In June and October 2012 there were large scale attacks on Rohingyas in Rakhine State.

In addition, the government in March revoked white cards – or “temporary registration certificates” – that had been issued to hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas. This meant that they no longer have the right to vote in upcoming elections in November.

Next stop: genocide.

So inflammatory is the Rohingya issue that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised for failing to raise it.

In the past three years, more than 120,000 Rohingyas have boarded ships to flee abroad, according to the UN refugee agency.

But abroad doesn’t want them either.

They would like to go to Malaysia or Indonesia, which are majority-Muslim and in need of labor. Solution! Except that Malaysia and Indonesia don’t want them, and won’t let them land. Neither will anyone else.

What was that about the Ummah again?

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



Stop all that reckless breathing!

May 15th, 2015 6:17 pm | By

Meet Washington state legislator Ed Orcutt, Republican. He thinks bikers are bad for the environment.

This is from 2013, but it’s funny enough to be resurrected now.

Representative Ed Orcutt (R – Kalama) does not think bicycling is environmentally friendly because the activity causes cyclists to have “an increased heart rate and respiration.”

This is according to comments he made in an email to a constituent who questioned the wisdom of a new bike tax the legislature is considering as part of a large transportation package.

A bike tax does seem like an incredibly stupid idea. You want to encourage bikes, not tax them.

We spoke with Rep. Orcutt to confirm the email’s authenticity and to get further clarification.

“You would be giving off more CO2 if you are riding a bike than driving in a car,” he said. However, he said he had not “done any analysis” of the difference in CO2 from a person on a bike compared to the engine of a car (others have).

“You can’t just say that there’s no pollution as a result of riding a bicycle.”

Here’s that email he sent to the constituent.

20130303-125507.jpg

I laughed a lot, thereby giving off more CO² than the cruise ship that just chugged away from here.

 

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