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.


Noxious to the Constitution

Sep 7th, 2014 5:57 pm | By

Mark Joseph Stern reports that Judge Richard Posner’s ruling striking down Indiana’s and Wisconsin’s gay marriage bans is a masterpiece of wit and logic.

Ironically, by writing an opinion so fixated on the facts at hand, Posner may have actually written the one gay marriage ruling that the Supreme Court takes to heartOther, more legacy-minded judges have attempted to sketch out a revised framework for constitutional marriage equality, granting gay people heightened judicial scrutiny and declaring marriage a fundamental right. But Posner isn’t interested in making new law: The statutes before him are so irrational, so senseless and unreasonable, that they’re noxious to the U.S. Constitution under almost any interpretation of the equal protection clause.

That will probably surprise no one who has read Posner’s book Sex and Reason. It’s still good to know, though.

Posner’s opinion largely follows the points he made during his forceful, trenchant, deeply empathetic questioning at oral arguments. To his mind, there’s no question that gays constitute a “suspect class”—that is, a group of people with an immutable characteristic who have historically faced discrimination. Refreshingly, Posner performs a review of “the leading scientific theories” about homosexuality to illustrate that being gay isn’t a choice. (Compare this with Justice Antonin Scalia’s gay rights dissents, in which he suggests that there’s no such thing as a gay orientation at all and that “gay” people are just disturbed individuals performing debauched sex acts.)

In some way, on some subjects – and this is one – libertarian legal theorists are very much preferable to Catholic ones.

Posner’s opinion largely follows the points he made during his forceful, trenchant, deeply empathetic questioning at oral arguments. To his mind, there’s no question that gays constitute a “suspect class”—that is, a group of people with an immutable characteristic who have historically faced discrimination. Refreshingly, Posner performs a review of “the leading scientific theories” about homosexuality to illustrate that being gay isn’t a choice. (Compare this with Justice Antonin Scalia’s gay rights dissents, in which he suggests that there’s no such thing as a gay orientation at all and that “gay” people are just disturbed individuals performing debauched sex acts.)

This review is actually unnecessary, since both Indiana and Wisconsin conceded that gay people are born that way. But it serves to reinforce Posner’s analytical framework—basically, that a state can’t disadvantage a suspect class of people without a rational basis. Note that low bar: Not a compelling interest, or even a substantial one. If the states could only prove a rational interest in excluding gay people from marriage, their laws would pass constitutional muster.

He invited them to do that, and they couldn’t. Surprise, surprise – what could that rational interest possibly be?

It’s clear from his opinion that Posner has rifled through the states’ extensive briefs to find an answer to this question—and come up short. There is simply no harm, Posner writes, “tangible, secular, material—physical or financial, or … focused and direct” done to anybody by permitting gay marriage. Conservative Christians may be offended, but “there is no way they are going to be hurt by it in a way that the law would take cognizance of.” A lot of people, after all, objected to interracial marriage in 1967—but that didn’t stop the court from invalidating anti-miscegenation laws in Loving v. Virginia.

In his opinion, Posner makes these points with trenchant humor. But beneath his droll wit lies a moral seriousness that gay marriage opponents, even those on the high court, will be unable to shrug off. The modern arguments against gay marriage may be breathtakingly silly—but by mocking them, we ignore the profound harms that marriage bans inflict on gay people and their families. By placing these families at the center of his analysis, Posner restores the equal protection clause to its rightful place as the safeguard for all whom the state seeks to harm unjustly. His message for those who hope to demean gay people and their children is clear: Not on my watch.

Very satisfying.

 

 

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



From bit-shuffling to caring

Sep 7th, 2014 4:41 pm | By

Metaphors aren’t just decoration, they’re more like the foundationMichael Chorost explains in the CHE.

[I]n their 1980 book, Metaphors We Live By, the linguist George Lakoff (at the University of California at Berkeley) and the philosopher Mark Johnson (now at the University of Oregon) revolutionized linguistics by showing that metaphor is actually a fundamental constituent of language. For example, they showed that in the seemingly literal statement “He’s out of sight,” the visual field is metaphorized as a container that holds things. The visual field isn’t really a container, of course; one simply sees objects or not. But the container metaphor is so ubiquitous that it wasn’t even recognized as a metaphor until Lakoff and Johnson pointed it out.

From such examples they argued that ordinary language is saturated with metaphors. Our eyes point to where we’re going, so we tend to speak of future time as being “ahead” of us. When things increase, they tend to go up relative to us, so we tend to speak of stocks “rising” instead of getting more expensive. “Our ordinary conceptual system is fundamentally metaphorical in nature,” they wrote.

I’ve noticed the time one often. I don’t think I could think of it any other way however hard I tried.

Researchers are exploring all this with fMRI studies.

If cognition is embodied, that raises problems for artificial intelligence. Since computers don’t have bodies, let alone sensations, what are the implications of these findings for their becoming conscious—that is, achieving strong AI? Lakoff is uncompromising: “It kills it.” Of Ray Kurzweil’s singularity thesis, he says, “I don’t believe it for a second.” Computers can run models of neural processes, he says, but absent bodily experience, those models will never actually be conscious.

Some think the problem could be solved with sensors and actuators, others think it would be silly to replicate human physical limitations.

What’s emerging from these studies isn’t just a theory of language or of metaphor. It’s a nascent theory of consciousness. Any algorithmic system faces the problem of bootstrapping itself from computing to knowing, from bit-shuffling to caring. Igniting previously stored memories of bodily experiences seems to be one way of getting there.

That interests me – the difference between bit-shuffling and caring. It seems to me to be a big difference.

 

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



Guest post: Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf

Sep 7th, 2014 3:59 pm | By

It’s Sunday afternoon, so why not have a spot of Walden, courtesy of Henry David Thoreau and Project Gutenberg.

From Chapter One, “Economy.”

I would fain say something, not so much concerning the Chinese and Sandwich Islanders as you who read these pages, who are said to live in New England; something about your condition, especially your outward condition or circumstances in this world, in this town, what it is, whether it is necessary that it be as bad as it is, whether it cannot be improved as well as not. I have travelled a good deal in Concord; and everywhere, in shops, and offices, and fields, the inhabitants have appeared to me to be doing penance in a thousand remarkable ways.

What I have heard of Bramins sitting exposed to four fires and looking in the face of the sun; or hanging suspended, with their heads downward, over flames; or looking at the heavens over their shoulders “until it becomes impossible for them to resume their natural position, while from the twist of the neck nothing but liquids can pass into the stomach”; or dwelling, chained for life, at the foot of a tree; or measuring with their bodies, like caterpillars, the breadth of vast empires; or standing on one leg on the tops of pillars—even these forms of conscious penance are hardly more incredible and astonishing than the scenes which I daily witness. The twelve labors of Hercules were trifling in comparison with those which my neighbors have undertaken; for they were only twelve, and had an end; but I could never see that these men slew or captured any monster or finished any labor. They have no friend Iolaus to burn with a hot iron the root of the hydra’s head, but as soon as one head is crushed, two spring up.

I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in. Who made them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat their sixty acres, when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born? They have got to live a man’s life, pushing all these things before them, and get on as well as they can. How many a poor immortal soul have I met well-nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty, its Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land, tillage, mowing, pasture, and woodlot! The portionless, who struggle with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it labor enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.

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



Guest post: Sometimes the incentives ran all the way up to murder

Sep 7th, 2014 12:04 pm | By

Originally a comment by Freedmen’s Patrol on Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery.

Before I get into this, I want to alert readers that I’m going to quote a period description of brutality, including sexualized violence, against a young slave girl. It also includes the use of precisely the racial slur one would expect. If this would traumatize the reader, please skip the comment and continue your day. I don’t want to bring that kind of upset on anybody. I apologize for any distress caused. I don’t really want to write this myself, but I think that what the Economist is denying deserves to be seen.

It’s horrific to think about, but sometimes the incentives ran all the way up to murder. If a planter could get more out of the slave before working the slave to death than paid to buy the slave, then the planter could just buy a new one and repeat the process. This isn’t a prominent feature of American slavery, though it did happen and slaves who had been disabled or otherwise could no longer produce as they once had could be sold to someone on the cheap who would finish the job. Things tended to be rougher the further South and West one went in the South. Sugar plantations were notorious for going through slaves at a great clip. The American sugar industry was marginal compared to cotton, but down in the Caribbean sugar generated so much profit that it made perfect economic sense to work slaves to death in the very dangerous sugar factories and then just buy new slaves off the boats.

That’s aside the benefit an owner might realize from terrorizing his (they were almost always male, given how property law and the patriarchy worked) other slaves by feats of grotesque and conspicuous brutality. Most slaves resisted their enslavement in part by shirking when they could, by studied “misunderstanding” of orders, by “mistakenly” breaking tools, etc. Doing that always involved weighing it against the risk of retaliation and the likely severity. Punishments like this one were intended by owners not just to deter the “guilty” party but also to set the example of what would come. I’m sorry for the following, it’s extremely graphic and includes violence against a young girl. I draw it from William W. Freehling’s The Road to Disunion, Volume 1: Secessionists at Bay 1776-1854. A typical plantation might have a beating like this (39 lashes, by the way) two or three times a week.

Also, this is the really, really bad part. I’m sorry, but it happened despite what The Economist would have one believe. Trigger warnings for sexualized violence and racial slurs.

As Frederick Law Olmstead described “the severest corporeal punishment I witnessed at the South, “a slave girl named Sall was ordered to pull up her clothes and lie on her back, private parts exposed. The overseer flogged her “with the rawhide, across her naked loins and thighs.” Sall “shrunk away from him, not rising, but writhing, groveling, and screaming, “‘Oh don’t sir! Oh plerase stop, master! please sir! oh, that’s enough master! oh Lord! oh master, master, of God, master, do stop! oh God, master, oh God, master!”

After “strokes had ceased” and “choking, sobbing, spasmodic groans only were heard, “Olmstead asked if it was “necessary to punish her so severely.’ … ‘O yes sir,” answered the lasher, laughing at the Yankee’s innocence. Northerners ‘have no idea how lazy these niggers are …”They’d never do any work at all if they were not afraid of being whipped.”

Olmstead was a visitor, a stranger in the South. They did this quite comfortably where he could see. Imagine what happened in private.

FP’s blog is here.

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



Driven out

Sep 7th, 2014 11:50 am | By

Last Monday Jenn Frank wrote a piece for The Guardian about “a hot trend among a vocal minority of gamers right now: the harassment of women developers and critics.” She summarized what’s been happening to Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn.

Yes, it’s been quite a banner season for the collective of self-identifying core gamers who gather on forums to muster shared fury. Now they feel they are at war with a group of left-leaning games writers and developers who they refer to as “social justice warriors” – this is effectively anyone who has ever questioned the patriarchal nature of the games industry or the limited, often objectifying depiction of women. Because, you know, games are fine as they are thanks.

It’s so familiar – in fact “familiar” isn’t even the right word; it’s not so much familiar as exactly the same thing. I’m surprised these angry gamers don’t call Sarkeesian and Quinn “rage bloggers” or “FTBullies” or “The Sisterhood of the Oppressed.”

Crucially, a good troll knows how to attack a woman’s “professionalism” – particularly if you’ve never read, watched or played anything she has produced. Your method is to undermine her credibility and devalue her work by hardly discussing it – and maybe discussing her full sexual history instead.

Your goal – if you, too, are keen on suspicion and hate – is total alienation, making your target feel impossibly hopeless and alone by way of attacking her friends, colleagues or anyone who has ever written anything positive about her.

Because war is war! A cherished way of life is at stake, so there must be no prisoners, no neutrals, no non-combatants, and no survivors. Feminists criticizing the depiction of women in games are obviously such a terrifying existential threat that only Total Thermonuclear War will do.

…if you really want to help ruin the games industry, it helps to have money on your hateful side. For instance, you might launch a successful online campaign to fund a documentary exploring how tech culture has been “hijacked” by Sarkeesian and other “social justice warriors”.

All the while, bullies of the games industry, do insist that your efforts to totally ruin a woman’s life and career are founded in “transparency”, “ethics” and “integrity”. Do suggest, at every turn, that “games journalism” has not yet fully acknowledged your campaign of terror because of an industry-wide “cover-up”.

Be careful not to concede that anyone writing about said campaign may also fear retaliation. Certainly we do. In fostering this culture of terror, you can ensure the majority is silent – that it won’t speak out against the harm you are doing.

Well how else are they going to prevail?

So guess what happened after that. Can you?

David Futrelle has the details.

Congratulations, assholes! You did it! Your threats and harassment have driven game journalist/designer Jenn Frank and game designer/media critic Mattie Brice to leave the gaming world.

Frank, an award-winning writer and sometime game designer, came to the attention of the misogynist mob after writing a brief opinion piece for The Guardian decrying the widespread and vicious harassment of women in gaming. In addition to writing about the harassment she’s gotten — including someone trying to hack into her email account — she (as you might expect) also highlighted the misogynistic rage directed at feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian and indie game designer Zoe Quinn.

The new rule seems to be that any woman who writes about online harassment will herself be harassed, and in this case it didn’t take long.

It took a couple of days. By Wednesday night she’d had enough.

This proves that there is no misogyny problem in the gaming industry. Right? Right?

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



Clerics jumped in

Sep 7th, 2014 9:54 am | By

Another depressing/enraging story out of India – a woman is repeatedly raped by her husband’s father while the husband is working in Dubai, and clerics want to reward the rapist and punish the woman.

The 28-year-old victim alleged that her husband has been working in Dubai for the last two years and her father-in-law has been sexually assaulting her at gun point since 2013.

She remained silent because he used to threaten to kill her. He also video recorded his act and threatened to make it public if she opened her mouth.

When she told her husband about it, he blamed her for making a false allegation against his father.

She told her parents, and they advised her to go to the cops.

She created ruffles in the local administration and the Muslim community on Thursday by moving an application before District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma to arrest her father-in-law and allow her to abort her seven-month pregnancy.

After the application by the victim, clerics jumped into the case and declared that the husband of the victim will be treated as her son.

Avoiding any comment against the father-in-law who repeatedly raped and blackmailed the victim, Maulana Mohammad Nazar of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind said: “As per the Sharia law, the baby in her womb is her husband’s brother. Her husband must divorce her, even if his father looked at his wife with lust.”

In other words the whole thing has to do with men and relationships between men. The woman is just a cipher with a pleasurable hole between her legs. The father, the husband, the “baby” all matter, while the woman is a mere object, like a broom or an urn.

H/t Kausik

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



They read it and thought it a reasonable, cogent piece of commentary

Sep 6th, 2014 6:13 pm | By

The Freedmen’s Patrol on that Economist review.

…the fact remains that the editors published the review. They read it and thought it a reasonable, cogent piece of commentary worth putting forward in one of the more prestigious magazines in the Anglosphere. My honest first inclination is to presume stupidity, but one should not let shock entirely determine one’s response. Likewise it seems improbable that The Economist would assign a reviewer who literally does not know what the word “slavery” means or ignorant of who enslaved whom in Americas to a book about slavery in America.

This leaves us with a far worse scenario: Whoever wrote this review understood the subject, knew the facts, and thought it correct anyway. One still has room to question the second presumption, though. Anybody who thinks Puritanism characterize the American South doesn’t understand much about the region during that time. Proslavery writing routinely castigated antislavery Puritans, denouncing them as fanatics and heretics at odds with true Christianity. B.F. Stringfellow looked into the census and found out that the New England Puritans had fewer churches with fewer seats in them than the slaveholding South did and used it as evidence that slaveholders were the better Christians.

Southern slaveholders identified themselves with the Royalists while the Abolitionists were more on the Puritan side. Christopher Cameron has a long article on the subject at academia.edu.

Back to Freedmen’s Patrol.

The Economist asked its readers to believe that the operative force in American slavery was not cruelty but benevolence. The magazine asked that we set aside the nineteenth century’s notorious exploitation of labor, including the labor of children, its horrific working conditions, its ruthless and violent suppression of labor activism (Activism aimed at better working conditions, no less!), essentially the entire body of literature produced by the slaves themselves, by contemporary observers of slavery, and from the very pens of the slaveholders who did the whipping or ordered others to do it on their behalf.

Take, for example, this incident from the life of probably the most famous and celebrated American slaveholder born after 1800, a man we often hear cared greatly for the slaves he inherited and treated only with kindness. I quote from Eric Foner’s Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction:

Wesley Norris, a slave of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, later recalled how after he and his family had attempted to run away, Lee ordered a local constable “to strip us to the waist and give us fifty lashes each.” Lee, Norris added, “stood by, and frequently enjoined the constable to ‘lay it on well,’” then ordered him “to thoroughly wash our backs” with saltwater to increase the pain.

You can read all of Norris’ story in his own words here.

The Economist’s reviewer and its editors, until shamed into correction, would probably complain that this story reflects poorly on Lee when, after all, Norris and his family did attempt to run away. They were stealing from him. Did they have no regard for his property rights? One can hardly blame Lee for going to the law to defend those rights. Clearly some anti-capitalist bias animated Foner and Norris both.

It’s political correctness run mad! Again.

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



Necessary conditions

Sep 6th, 2014 4:18 pm | By

Ken White at Popehat takes the Chancellor of Berkeley to task for an email he sent to students faculty & staff on the subject of free speech. You can see what’s coming a mile off, can’t you – the Chance said free speech is very nice but you can’t say anything Offensive.

Well he didn’t, really, although he did say something tending in that general direction – free speech to work properly should be civil and respectful yadda yadda. But Ken thinks he said it With Menaces, so to speak, and I don’t really think he did. Several commenters don’t think so either. (For a piquant detail I’ll add that before I saw this post of Ken’s, I saw a tweet of Sommers’s on the same subject, and I read the Chance’s email then, and thought it was more advice than commands. Who knows, maybe if I’d seen Ken’s post first I would have agreed with him. Priming, doncha know.) (Mind you, I did think it was depressingly woolly bureaucratic buzz-speak even then.)

Let’s take a look.

…it is important that we recognize the broader social context required in order for free speech to thrive. For free speech to have meaning it must not just be tolerated, it must also be heard, listened to, engaged and debated.

Well, no, not really – that’s a woolly generality that doesn’t really mean very much. But I don’t think it’s particularly worrying. I think it’s just some advice, not an announcement of new Rules For Speaking.

After some more wool, there’s even more wool.

Specifically, we can only exercise our right to free speech insofar as we feel safe and respected in doing so, and this in turn requires that people treat each other with civility.

Now, Ken takes that “requires” literally, as the Chance telling everyone that civility is required:

No.

Civility is an admirable value. It is right and fit that we ask it of each other and impose social consequences upon the uncivil. But speech need not be civil to be entitled to robust protection.

But the Chance isn’t saying otherwise. He isn’t saying it need be civil to be entitled to robust protection, he’s saying it need be civil to be available and usable for everyone. It’s a different kind of “needs” or “requires” – not literal, but the condition of something else happening. “I need to inhale some coffee if I’m going to stay awake for the Chancellor’s talk.” That’s not someone compelling me to inhale some coffee, it’s a necessary condition for my staying awake. That’s what the Chance takes civility to be for everyone’s ability to exercise her right to free speech.

That’s what I think anyway.

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



Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery

Sep 6th, 2014 12:44 pm | By

Yikes. The Economist published a grotesque review of a history of slavery and capitalism in the US. so grotesque that it ended up apologizing and withdrawing the review, while also keeping it for the record.

Apology: In our review of “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism” by Edward Baptist, we said: “Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains.” There has been widespread criticism of this, and rightly so.

Slavery was an evil system, in which the great majority of victims were blacks, and the great majority of whites involved in slavery were willing participants and beneficiaries of that evil. We regret having published this and apologise for having done so. We have therefore withdrawn the review, but in the interests of transparency the text remains available only on this special page and appears below.

Yup, that’s what the review said.

The reviewer’s point was that Baptist overstated how profitable cotton combined with slavery was, and that other Excellent Protocapitalist Virtues also played a role.

Take, for example, the astonishing increases he cites in both cotton productivity and cotton production. In 1860 a typical slave picked at least three times as much cotton a day as in 1800. In the 1850s cotton production in the southern states doubled to 4m bales and satisfied two-thirds of world consumption. By 1860 the four wealthiest states in the United States, ranked in terms of wealth per white person, were all southern: South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia.

Mr Baptist cites the testimony of a few slaves to support his view that these rises in productivity were achieved by pickers being driven to work ever harder by a system of “calibrated pain”. The complication here was noted by Hugh Thomas in 1997 in his definitive history, “The Slave Trade”; an historian cannot know whether these few spokesmen adequately speak for all.

Another unexamined factor may also have contributed to rises in productivity. Slaves were valuable property, and much harder and, thanks to the decline in supply from Africa, costlier to replace than, say, the Irish peasants that the iron-masters imported into south Wales in the 19th century. Slave owners surely had a vested interest in keeping their “hands” ever fitter and stronger to pick more cotton. Some of the rise in productivity could have come from better treatment. Unlike Mr Thomas, Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains. This is not history; it is advocacy.

Whooooooooooooooo that’s an incredibly bizarre thing to write.

I guess this is now the Reactionary Talking Point For the Decade – that everybody who takes any kind of progressive or egalitarian or social justice position whatsoever is simply “playing the victim card” and must be derided and then ignored.

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



They made all the rules

Sep 6th, 2014 11:43 am | By

NPR did this story on the “Men’s Rights” movement the other day, starting from that conference in Detroit organized by A Voice for Men.

Leaders in the movement say they want to bring more attention to the problems of men and boys. Critics worry, however, that these sites are a breeding ground for misogyny.

For his part, Farrell actually tries to avoid the phrase “men’s rights.”

“It’s like somebody saying we’re in favor of the king’s rights,” he says. “The average person thinks that men are already at the top of the political structure. They have all the rights, they made all the rules, [and] if anything is going wrong with men, it’s their fault, because after all, it’s just a consequence of men’s rules.”

Who made the rules isn’t really the point. (Well sometimes it’s the point. The fact that the Catholic church is officially all-male in the upper reaches is because of the rules, which were indeed made by men, and which obviously create a situation that is self-perpetuating, so who made the rules really is the point. But broadly speaking it isn’t.) The point is making better rules. The point is moving from a hierarchical situation (that none of us alive now ever actually agreed to, much less created, after all) to a non-hierarchical one. And that would be good for men and boys.

For one obvious thing, in a non-hierarchical situation, men in families no longer have the whole responsibility for bringing in the money.

More than that…if we ever could get to a place where people weren’t constantly policing both genders, boys and men would be under so much less pressure. Are we supposed to assume that they all actually like all that shit? All that contempt for showing what’s taken to be “girly” and all those commands to “man up”?

Boys also drop out of college and commit suicide at higher rates than girls, Farrell notes.

“We need to know not only why are our sons committing suicide, but also why are our sons much more likely to be the ones to shoot up schools?” he says. “We’re all in jeopardy if we don’t pay attention to the cries of pain and isolation and alienation that are happening among our sons.”

Well of course we need to know those things. Is there a feminist on earth who doesn’t agree?

 

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



Elizabeth Eckford

Sep 6th, 2014 11:02 am | By

Via a public post at A Mighty Girl on Facebook:

Elizabeth Eckford, September 4, 1957

"

On this day in 1957, 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford encountered an angry mob when she attempted to enter Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Eckford was one of nine teenagers, known as the Little Rock Nine, who became the first African American students to attend the previously all-white Little Rock Central High School after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled school segregation unconstitutional in its famous Brown v. Board of Education decision.

While the nine students had planned to enter the school together, the meeting place was changed the night before and Eckford, whose family did not have a telephone, did not learn about the change of plans. As a result, she attempted to enter the school alone through a mob of 400 angry segregationists and a blockage by the Arkansas National Guard, which the pro-segregationist governor, Orval Faubus, had ordered to block the students in violation of the Supreme Court decision.

Due to the line of soldiers blockading the school and threats from the crowd, Eckford was forced to flee to a bus stop. As she sat at the bus stop crying, New York Times reporter Benjamin Fine consoled the scared girl, telling her “don’t let them see you cry.” Civil rights activist Grace Lorch, who had learned that Eckford had arrived separately from the other students, then arrived to escort her home.

Read the whole thing if you can (I know some of you hate Facebook and avoid it).

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



Mother of three

Sep 5th, 2014 6:25 pm | By

Via @EverydaySexism September 1

Embedded image permalink

Remember the last time you saw the headline “Father of three poised to lead the BBC”? No, neither do I.

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



Con-sent? What’s that?

Sep 5th, 2014 5:25 pm | By

Talk about chutzpah

A Los Angeles artist is planning to display uncensored nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson and other celebrities whose intimate images were recently stolen and then posted online.

The exhibition by the artist known as XVALA will start Oct. 30 at the Cory Allen Contemporary Art “Showroom” in St. Petersburg, Florida, the gallery announced this week.

Excuse me? You can’t “display” stolen photographs. They’re stolen.

It’s like buying a fenced Rembrandt stolen from the Rijksmuseum and then announcing plans to display it in an exhibition in a few weeks. The cops will be the first in line on opening day.

The show could test the boundaries between art and privacy, freedom of speech and content ownership. Lawrence, for one, warned in a statement that authorities …

 … will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos …

The hack was being investigated by the FBI.

XVALA told us, “I hope we don’t need an attorney.” But he said he definitely plans to move forward with the exhibition, with the backing of the gallery.

It’s like breaking into your neighbor’s house and then announcing plans to “display” the stolen goods in a yard sale.

The photos were stolen.

The gallery is helping itself to someone else’s stolen photos. Its “backing” is the backing of a thief.

“I’m taking them off the internet and putting them into a new medium that is transformative,” he said. “I’ll be using them as commentary.”

The artist says he hasn’t entirely decided yet which pilfered images he’ll display, but that Lawrence’s and Johansson’s are shoo-ins because both women have admitted that the photos are theirs.

You can’t just “take” whatever you want off the internet. The fact that it’s on the internet doesn’t mean you can just help yourself to it. It’s not the free box at a garage sale.

Lawrence has said (why “admitted”? she didn’t do anything wrong) the photos are hers, and that they were stolen. This XVALA schmuck is planning to display Lawrence’s photos that are not his to display and that she doesn’t want displayed and that are stolen.

The art show is titled “No Delete,” and it’s part of an ongoing “Fear Google”-themed series that showcases “the artist’s seven-year collection of images found on Google of celebrities in their most vulnerable and private moments,” according to a statement from the gallery:

In 2011, XVALA posted the leaked nude images of actress Scarlett Johansson throughout the streets in Los Angeles with “Fear Google” logo covering her intimate areas.

The photos from that collection were snapped by paparazzi or stolen by hackers, XVALA acknowledges, and that’s part of his point…

Oh, that’s just fucking disgusting. It’s just one more way someone has found to degrade women and ignore their explicit strongly-stated wishes. Fuck his “point”; he’s making it with photos that belong to other people who don’t want them used. What a pig.

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



Don’t forget Article 5

Sep 5th, 2014 3:31 pm | By

Well naturally.

I’m doing a little research preparatory to writing a letter to the Saudi Ambassador to the US calling on his government to release Raif Badawi from prison and the other penalties, so I needed to find out if it has signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Why? Because I wanted to point out Article 19 and Article 5, but only if SA had in fact signed, because if it hadn’t, there wouldn’t be any point in underlining the gaps between Articles 5 and 19 and the grotesque sentence passed on Raif Badawi.)

Never mind signing it, Saudi didn’t even agree to adopting it.

On 10 December 1948, the Universal Declaration was adopted by the General Assembly by a vote of 48 in favor, none against, and eight abstentions (the Soviet Union, Ukrainian SSR, Byelorussian SSR, People’s Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, People’s Republic of Poland, Union of South Africa, Czechoslovakia, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia).[13][14] Honduras and Yemen—both members of UN at the time—failed to vote or abstain.[15] South Africa’s position can be seen as an attempt to protect its system of apartheid, which clearly violated any number of articles in the Declaration.[13] The Saudi Arabian delegation’s abstention was prompted primarily by two of the Declaration’s articles: Article 18, which states that everyone has the right “to change his religion or belief”; and Article 16, on equal marriage rights.[13]

Oh? Just those? What about Article 5?

Article 5.

  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

I’d call ONE THOUSAND LASHES cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment.

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



Swelp us all

Sep 5th, 2014 12:12 pm | By

How is this even possible? From the Washington Post:

An airman stationed at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nev., was denied reenlistment because he omitted the part of a required oath that states “so help me God,” according to a letter from the American Humanist Association. The letter was sent on Tuesday to the Air Force’s Office of the Inspector General on behalf of an unnamed airman.

How can a branch of the government require anyone to say “so help me God” as a condition of employment? How is that not a glaring violation of the Establishment Clause?

inquiries into the oath uncovered a change to Air Force rules last year that previously went unnoticed, as the Air Force Times noted. Until October 2013, Air Force Instruction 36-2606 (which governs the enlistment oath) included a short note: “Airmen may omit the words ‘so help me God,’ if desired for personal reasons.” That was removed in an amendment to the rule, effective Oct. 30, 2013, according to the Air Force Times.

Removed by whom, under what authority? Did Baby Jesus hack into the Air Force computer system, or what?

Speaking to the Huffington Post, U.S. Air Force Public Affairs Officer Chris Hoyler said that the change now makes “reciting ‘So help me God’ in the reenlistment and commissioning oaths…a statutory requirement.”

According to the Air Force’s statement to the independent Air Force Times, Congress would have to change the statute mandating that part of the oath in order for the Air Force to make it optional again.

Now that it has the attention of the AHA and the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, the policy change seems bound to become another source of disagreement over the role of religion in the U.S. military.

The Air Force, in particular, has faced intense scrutiny for what some believe is a preferred status for Christians in the service and at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Because that’s what we need in this country – religion enforced by the military. What could possibly go wrong?

And in the same month that the Air Force’s enlistment oath rules changed to make the “so help me God” portion mandatory, the Air Force Academy announced that it would allow its cadets to opt out of the very same phrase in the honor code.

Those changes, however, have angered some conservatives and evangelicals in and out of the Air Force, who believe that many accommodations designed to protect religious minorities in the service violate the Christian majority’s right to religious freedom.

Seriously? Those specific changes have angered those people for those reasons? Allowing people not to say “so help me God” is seen by those people as a violation of the Christian majority’s right to religious freedom? How? How is imposing a religious oath on unwilling people a form of religious freedom?

It’s Humpty Dumptyism run mad.

 

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



Installments of 50

Sep 5th, 2014 10:56 am | By

Michael DeDora updates us on the situation of Raif Badawi, which is more horrendous than ever. The last appeals court has upheld his appalling sentence, so the first installment of the

ONE THOUSAND LASHES

he was sentenced to by Jeddah’s Criminal Court in May will happen in a few weeks.

ONE THOUSAND LASHES

for setting up a liberal website urging Saudi Arabia to respect freedom of religion, belief, and expression, and women’s rights.

According to the final decision, Badawi will receive 50 lashes per session, with a break of no less than a week between sessions. The lashings will be carried out in public after Friday prayers in front of al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah.

That final sentence is so disgusting it makes my skin crawl. 50 lashes, as punishment for doing a good thing, carried out IN PUBLIC

AFTER PRAYERS

IN FRONT OF A MOSQUE

Michael says what we can do:

As you can imagine, we here at the Center for Inquiry are outraged by this injustice. Badawi, a husband and father of three children, and has now been in prison for more than two years simply for starting a website devoted to open dialogue. We have already relayed our concerns to several governments, including the United States, and will soon communicate them directly to the Saudi Arabian government. We will also be raising Raif’s (and Waleed’s) case once again at the upcoming 27th session of the Human Rights Council, which I am attending.

But, in the meantime, we need your help. CFI urges you to join us by sending an appeal to one, or all, of the following officials. In your messages, we urge you to make clear three demands:

1) Release Raif Badawi immediately and unconditionally;

2) Drop any charges against Badawi and others for “blasphemy,” “insulting Islam,” or “apostasy,” which are protected by international human rights law, and;

3) Reform the country’s laws to protect freedom of religion, belief, and expression.

Please send your appeals to the following officials. Also, if you can, please share your messages with cfe@centerforinquiry.net; we will be collecting them to feature on the website in the future.

King and Prime Minister                                       

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax:  011 966 1 403 3125

Minister of the Interior

His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Ministry of the Interior
P.O. Box 2933, Airport Road, Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 403 3125

Minister of Justice

Sheikh Dr Mohammed bin Abdul Kareem Al-Issa
Ministry of Justice
University Street, Riyadh 11137
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 401 1741 | +966 1 402 0311

Ambassador

His Excellency Adel A. Al-Jubeir
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Ave. NW Washington DC 20037
Fax: 1 202 944 5983
Email: info@saudiembassy.net

I will update you all with more information if and when possible. In the meantime, feel free to ask questions or provide suggestions in the comments below. Together, we might be able to make a difference for not just Raif, but countless others who have been persecuted by the Saudi government for doing nothing but excercising their basic human rights to believe and speak.

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



Orange vests do not police power make

Sep 5th, 2014 10:25 am | By

Imagine living in Wuppertal and encountering this:

Embedded image permalink

Bild reports that these guys are “patrolling” in central Wuppertal. The chief of police, Birgitta Radermacher, on the other hand says no they’re not, because policing is for the state, not roving bands of intimidators. (Ok I made up that last clause, but she implied it.) Some of the “Sharia police” were arrested Wednesday evening.

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



Not in its founding tablets

Sep 4th, 2014 6:00 pm | By

The really odd thing about Sommers is that she can be more reasonable. It’s puzzling that she finds it worthwhile or fun to be so belligerent and sneery on Twitter. Ordinarily feminists who disagree with each other disagree with each other as opposed to pissing all over feminism as such. Sommers keeps pissing all over feminism itself.

She tweeted a link to a January article of hers in Reason, so I read it. I don’t agree with it, but it’s not vulgarly insulting the way her Twitter output is.

She’s explaining her book Freedom Feminism in response to a review she says misrepresented it.

Freedom feminism stands for the moral, social, and legal equality of the sexes—and the freedom of women (and men) to employ their equal status to pursue happiness as they choose. Freedom feminism is not at war with femininity or masculinity and it does not view men and women as opposing tribes. Theories of universal patriarchal oppression or the inherent evils of capitalism are not in its founding tablets. Nor are partisan litmus tests: It welcomes women and men from across the political spectrum. Put simply, freedom feminism affirms for women what it affirms for everyone: dignity, opportunity, and personal liberty.

(“Founding tablets” is a little insulting, but only a little; mild compared to her Twitter personality.) The as they choose bit is a warning, because I know she considers preferences to be sacrosanct, and that’s one of the places where I disagree with her.

Freedom feminism shares with egalitarianism an aversion to prescribed gender roles: Women should be free to defect from the stereotypes of femininity if they so choose. At the same time, however, it respects the choices of free and self-determining women—when they choose to embrace conventional feminine roles.  Nowhere do I say women should stay in the home or that women who defy convention are “aberrations.” I simply note that, to the consternation of hardline contemporary genderists, many women, when given their full set of Jeffersonian freedoms, continue to give priority to the domestic sphere. Somehow in Presley’s mind “giving priority” means a total rejection of the workplace. Not at all. But many women, especially when they have children at home, do appear to have a strong preference for working part-time.

I’m not really sure what she’s fighting with there. I don’t know of any feminists – however “hardline genderist” they may be – who think women should be forbidden to work part-time, or forced to work full-time. Maybe what she’s fighting with is the thought that if social arrangements were such that both parents could spend more time with their young children than is practical now, then maybe choices would start to change. Is that it? If it is…it doesn’t seem enough to explain her rage at feminists. That’s true not least because surely it could be a good thing for children to spend a lot of time with their fathers as well as their mothers when they’re small? (Once they’re not small they mostly just want to get away, let’s face it.) It could be a good thing for the fathers, too.

In other words the preferences people have now aren’t necessarily the preferences they would have no matter what, so what is so wrong with trying to change conditions so that people can try different possibilities?

That’s article-writing Sommers. Twitter Sommers is just a brawler. (Maybe it’s because Dawkins keeps sharing her tweets? Maybe she’s enjoying the popularity?) Like this from 3 hours ago:

Christina H. Sommers @CHSommers · 3h
Going on Michael Savage Show in few minutes to talk about feminist
Myths and Ms.Information.

See what she did there? Ms. Information? Isn’t that cute? Dawkins retweeted that one.

I don’t know. She claims to be a feminist but she’s devoting all her energies to helping people like Michael Savage piss on feminism. That’s a funny kind of feminism.

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



An emerging generation of human rights activists in Britain

Sep 4th, 2014 4:37 pm | By

A letter in the Independent today tomorrow from an outstanding group of people who allowed me to join them:

Professor Alexis Jay’s report on child sexual exploitation in Rotherham has been met with an array of trite responses. Some commentators have placed undue emphasis on the fact that child sexual exploitation happens in all communities, obfuscating the fact that offenders of Pakistani origin are over-represented in this specific form of child sexual exploitation (on-street grooming).

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre’s 2011 report, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, researched 2,379 potential offenders caught grooming girls since 2008. Of 940 suspects whose race could be identified, 26 per cent were Asian (almost all of Pakistani origin), 38 per cent were white, and 32 per cent were recorded as unknown. According to the Office of National Statistics, only 6 per cent of the English population is classed as Asian.

We must face up to the cultural, racial and even religious specifics in these crimes. The “double life” syndrome of some men in Pakistani communities cannot be ignored. At the more benign end of the scale, young people will have secret boyfriends and girlfriends, yet display a more pious image in front of their families. The sort of reprehensible conduct we have seen in towns like Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford is an extreme example of this phenomenon.

Tribal mentalities have imported an honour code that labels women as either honourable or shameful. In some quarters this has developed into an underground “gangster” culture of exploiting and abusing girls who do not fit the honour code. In either case, abuse must be exposed and perpetrators brought before the law.

The honour code has no place in this country: women and girls, regardless of background, culture, ethnicity, religion, lifestyle, or familial lineage, are of equal worth. Fortunately, there is an emerging generation of human rights activists in Britain – many of whom are young, female and secular-minded – who are campaigning hard against misogyny and patriarchy within our communities.

We will continue this important work, through raising awareness, lobbying parliamentarians and facilitating workshops with Muslim women. The victims’ best interests always come first – which is why silence and apologia should never have been an option.

Dr Shaaz Mahboob

Trustee, British Muslims for Secular Democracy

Tehmina Kazi

Director, British Muslims for Secular Democracy

Diana Nammi

Executive Director and founder, Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation

Kalsoom Bashir

Co-director, Inspire

Mahnaz Nadeem, Iram Ramzan, Ophelia Benson,

Deeyah Khan, Gina Khan, Habiba Jaan, Dr Elham Manea, Lejla Kurić

London WC1

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



She has one thing to say

Sep 4th, 2014 1:34 pm | By

More Sommers. She’s ratcheting up the trashy malevolence by the hour, in a way that’s honestly kind of strange. She’s coming across as more like a bottom-feeding political operative than even an agenda-driven hack at a far-right think tank.

Retweeted by Christina H. Sommers
Astrokid @AstrokidNJ · 1h
#FTBullies PZMyers NEVER felt embarassed for womens hate, violence & death threats at men though
https://storify.com/AstrokidNJ/women-s-hate-violence-and-death-threats-at-tuthmos … @CHSommers

The very bottom of the swamp.

Christina H. Sommers @CHSommers · 3h
Must-read now! “Men are Harassed More Than Women Online” by
awesome freedom fighter & truth-teller @CathyYoung63

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/04/men-are-harassed-more-than-women-online.html

You can be against hardline feminism, but pro-equality. @CathyYoung63 suggests an “equality without anger ” movement. http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/09/01/women-against-feminism-some-women-want-equality-without-anger/rqFNSIJp22YWQy6jGPvhPJ/story.html …

Gamers, libertarians, atheists, techies–constantly hectored by gender zealots. But look what they do to one another.

Etc etc etc etc. She’s a hedgehog not a fox; she has one thing to say, and she says it over and over and over again. She hates feminism. She thinks women objecting to street harassment and internet harassment are “gender zealots” who “hector” everyone. What a terrible position to stake a claim on.

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