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.


Science causes the spread

Oct 18th, 2014 11:30 am | By

Andy Borowitz at the Borowitz Report at the New Yorker.

There is a deep-seated fear among some Americans that an Ebola outbreak could make the country turn to science.

In interviews conducted across the nation, leading anti-science activists expressed their concern that the American people, wracked with anxiety over the possible spread of the virus, might desperately look to science to save the day.

“It’s a very human reaction,” said Harland Dorrinson, a prominent anti-science activist from Springfield, Missouri. “If you put them under enough stress, perfectly rational people will panic and start believing in science.”

But that’s tragic because it’s science that got us here. If it weren’t for science there wouldn’t be all these pesky airplanes flying back and forth between Africa and Whiteland, and then Ebola would have stayed in Africa where it belongs, leaving the people in Whiteland to play their computer games in peace.

 

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



But you’re not a real ___

Oct 18th, 2014 10:30 am | By

Kenana Malik told a poignant little anecdote in his talk on multiculturalism at the Secular Conference last weekend.

The Danish MP Naser Khader tells of a conversation with Toger Seidenfaden, editor of Politiken, a left-wing Danish newspaper that was highly critical of the Danish cartoons. Seidenfaden claimed that ‘the cartoons insulted all Muslims’. Khader responded that ‘I am not insulted’. ‘But you’re not a real Muslim’, was Seidenfaden’s response.

Ahhh, not real. So to be “real Muslim” you have to be offended by the Danish cartoons. So a real Muslim = someone who is offended by the cartoons. So the core of being a Muslim becomes [the state of being offended by the cartoons]. It’s no longer an incidental, or a possible outcome of being a particularly devout or ardent Muslim – no, it’s the thing itself. A real Muslim just is someone who is offended by the cartoons.

It’s a strange move, taking something so obviously constructed and contingent, something so worked up, as definitional of something as large and sweeping as being a real Muslim. It’s not as if [being offended by a particular set of Danish cartoons about Mohammed] is one of the five pillars.

It’s a strange move for an outsider, a non-Muslim, who seems to be thinking of himself as a champion and defender of real Muslims, to define real Muslims as willing to be nudged into being offended that easily.

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



Where loyalty extends only in one direction

Oct 17th, 2014 6:37 pm | By

I knew it. Except it’s worse than I thought. Or it’s as bad as I thought but was only surmising.

The NFL, and women who are beaten up by their football player husbands.

Whenever Dewan Smith-Williams sees Janay Rice on television, she feels like she’s looking into a mirror. Smith-Williams, 44, remembers the denial, the secrecy, the sense of isolation, the shame.

But most of all, she remembers the fear of ruining her husband’s career as a National Football League player — the feeling that coming forth, or seeking justice, would destroy her four children’s financial security. She understands that struggle not only because she, too, was a domestic-violence victim, but because she watched so many other NFL wives, many of them her friends, go through the same nightmare. For each of them, it began with their husbands’ attacks and worsened with a culture that, they felt, compelled silence.

They would tell NFL people about it and the NFL people would be super sympathetic, but then they would go away and that would be the end of that.

She and another former NFL wife describe an insular and intensely secretive organization, where loyalty extends only in one direction – everyone protects the NFL brand, but the NFL protects its own interests over everything else. The culture is passed down more by example than diktat. Wives new to the league watch older ones suffer from abuse in silence, and they mimic the behavior. Often, wives and girlfriends confide in each other, but when they do, their advice is to stay quiet, say the two women, one of whom declined to let her name be printed because her ex-husband is still associated with the league.

Well, you see, it’s the NFL – it’s football. Football is kind of like god, except you can kick it.

…the NFL is a unique universe with an overwhelmingly male workforce whose members are lionized in the press and in their communities; a we’re-all-in-this-together ethos; and incentives for the managers, coaches, and union reps to keep negative stories under wraps. Going to authorities, whether police or hospitals, means social exclusion and, more importantly, negative media attention that could end your husband’s career. Justice imperils their belonging and their livelihood.

And apparently they can’t even manage to deal with it internally, which would be inadequate but better than nothing.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, just one-quarter of the 1.3 million American women assaulted by an intimate partner each year report the attacks to the police. But the two wives interviewed for this article claimed the rate of reporting among NFL wives and girlfriends is much lower. They say the league has built a tight-knit culture, similar to a fraternity, with entrenched hierarchies and a fierce sense of loyalty among members. “You get brainwashed. It’s so ingrained that you protect the player, you just stay quiet. You learn your role is to be the supportive NFL wife,” says one of them, the onetime wife of a Saints player who asked to speak anonymously because her now ex-husband is still associated with the league. Otherwise, she says, “You’d cost him his job.”

Tight-knit all-male cultures similar to fraternities with entrenched hierarchies and a fierce sense of loyalty among members are dangerous things. Very dangerous.

 

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



Trafficked into slavery in a cellar

Oct 17th, 2014 6:07 pm | By

A millionaire Salford couple kept a girl in their cellar as a slave for nine years. The BBC reports.

A deaf girl from Pakistan kept as a slave for nine years by a millionaire couple from Salford is to receive £100,000 in compensation.

Ilyas and Tallat Ashar were jailed last October after the girl was found in their cellar in 2009.

The victim was repeatedly raped and forced to work as a servant at the family’s properties as a child.

Manchester Crown Court ruled the couple must also repay £42,000 of benefits falsely claimed in her name.

Oh she was raped, too. That’s nice – that’s a nice touch.

She was ten when she was trafficked into the UK. Ten.

The victim had to learn a form of sign language to give evidence at the trial last year, when her progress was compared to “a butterfly coming out of a chrysalis”.

She is now living independently and has improved her sign language skills, said police.

And she has some back wages coming.

The court had to calculate the value of the work carried out by the girl when she was being exploited and also the sum of benefits claimed fraudulently in her name.

The judge based it on the minimum wage, assuming she worked for 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

Lawyers for the couple argued a deduction should be made for board and lodging accrued by the girl when she was with them.

ARE YOU JOKING??

Also, minimum wage, don’t forget. Around here cleaners get about $15 an hour, and they don’t throw in being raped or being held prisoner in a cellar.

Ch Supt Mary Doyle, from Greater Manchester Police (GMP), said: “Today’s result is a landmark case for both GMP and for victims of trafficking everywhere.

“The crimes of the Ashars are well-documented and, quite rightly, people continue to share a sense of disbelief at the prolonged cruelty they inflicted on their young victim.”

She added: “The money will in no way make up for what she went through over a number of years, but it will help her move on with her life and continue her inspiring recovery from these awful events.”

£100,000 seems low, actually. It’s minimal wages, but she should be getting compensation. Half a million would be more like it – and if they’re really millionaires, more than that. They held her in a fucking basement for nine years, and raped her.

 

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



Good news, if it can be believed

Oct 17th, 2014 4:07 pm | By

News from Nigeria, which the BBC indicates should be received with caution.

Nigeria’s military says it has agreed a ceasefire with Islamist militants Boko Haram – and that the schoolgirls the group has abducted will be released.

Nigeria’s chief of defence staff, Alex Badeh, announced the truce. Boko Haram has not made a public statement.

A cease-fire? It’s hard to see how Nigeria can agree such a thing without simply letting Boko Haram go ahead and kill hundreds of people whenever the mood takes it.

But if the schoolgirls are released, that would be a very good thing.

The group has been fighting an insurgency since 2009, with some 2,000 civilians reportedly killed this year.

Oh shut up, BBC – that’s not an insurgency, it’s repeated massacres of civilians who have nothing to do with the government. You don’t “fight an insurgency” by murdering hundreds of random people every weekend.

Nigerian presidential aide Hassan Tukur told BBC Focus on Africa that the agreement was sealed after a month of negotiations, mediated by Chad.

As part of the talks, a government delegation twice met representatives of the Islamist group.

Mr Tukur said Boko Haram had announced a unilateral ceasefire on Thursday and the government had responded.

“They’ve assured us they have the girls and they will release them,” he said. “I am cautiously optimistic.”

He said arrangements for their release would be finalised at another meeting next week in Chad’s capital, Ndjamena.

The negotiations are said to have the blessing of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, reports the BBC’s Chris Ewokor in Abuja.

Well good: Boko Haram says it will stop shooting, and it will release the schoolgirls. No complaints there.

Will Ross, the BBC’s reporter in Lagos, explains why the news should be treated with caution.

If this turns out to be true it will be some of the best news Nigerians have heard for decades.

Many Nigerians are extremely sceptical about the announcement, especially as there has been no definitive word from the jihadists.

Some question whether the announcement was in any way timed to coincide with the imminent announcement that President Goodluck Jonathan is going to run for re-election.

The military has in the past released statements about the conflict in north-east Nigeria that have turned out to be completely at odds with the situation on the ground.

So many here will only celebrate when the violence stops and the hostages are free.

So, we shall see.

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



The gilded life

Oct 17th, 2014 3:44 pm | By

It can be so enlightening checking in on Taslima’s tweets. She appears to be in New York at the moment, and is reporting on her adventures. She didn’t much like the 9/11 memorial and especially not the gift shop.

See 9/11 business! Selling tear-jerking 9/11 cards, books, mugs, shirts, ties, toys, bags, boxers etc.

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I would have found this part too painful to look at for long.

So many ppl had to die for fucking belief in a fucking god which doesn’t exist.

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But her best discovery was several hours before the visit to the memorial.

OMG Saudi king Abdullah gifted a gold toilet to his daughter on her marriage. But the poor girl was married to a man who has 11 wives & 16 kids.

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She got a golden bidet, too.

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



Community nonconsensual fondling

Oct 17th, 2014 1:14 pm | By

Josephine Woolington at the Oregon newspaper the Register-Guard writes about a research finding that students at fraternities and sororities report a higher incidence of nonconsensual contact.

Nearly 40 percent of women in UO sororities said in a survey that they have experienced an attempted or completed rape and 48 percent said they experienced some kind of non­consensual sexual contact, according to the survey conducted by UO professor and sexual violence expert Jennifer Freyd, along with graduate students Marina Rosenthal and Carly Smith.

Men in fraternities also were more likely to have experienced some form of non­consensual sexual contact compared with other students, but were not more likely to have experienced an attempted or completed rape. About 26 percent of fraternity men said they experienced nonconsensual activity — in most cases, fondling — the data show.

Freyd and her graduate students will analyze the data to try to discern why Greek life members — those who belong to a sorority or fraternity — are more at risk of becoming a victim than are other students.

It’s puzzling, isn’t it. In a way you would expect the membership thing to make uninvited groping and rape less likely rather than more, because of the sociality of the arrangement. Groping and rape should, from that pov, be more for outsiders. But I have no clue, really – I never went near them when I was at university.

She said some factors that they’re considering is alcohol use and whether Greek life students are more likely to believe that victims are to blame for some rapes, such as if a woman is wearing revealing clothing or is intoxicated.

Freyd earlier this month presented her preliminary data to a University Senate task force that is evaluating the UO’s sexual violence policies and will make a series of recommendations next week to administrators on how to improve those policies and implement new ones.

The 19-member Task Force to Address Sexual Violence and Survivor Support — made up of UO faculty, students and a U.S. attorney — was formed earlier this year, shortly after three UO basketball players were accused of raping an 18-year-old student.

But remember: sport is good for the character.

UO Dean of Students Paul Shang said he hadn’t looked at Freyd’s data in much detail, but emphasized that the research should not overshadow the community service that fraternity and sorority members provide to the university and to local charities. He said many students are interested in coming to the UO because of its Greek life culture.

The…what? Is that what fraternities and sororities are known for?

Shang said the UO plans to expand Greek life to where 20 percent of undergraduate students are members of a fraternity or sorority, compared with the current 15 percent.

Why? What’s good about them? What are they besides a way for a minority of students to consider themselves Special?

Carol Stabile, the University Senate task force’s co-­chairwoman and a professor of journalism and women’s and gender studies, said the task force’s recommendations are likely to include mandating sexual violence prevention training for at-risk groups, including Greek life students.

Stabile said research like Freyd’s shows that “fraternities are dangerous places for women.”

“It’s really dangerous to be advocating for expansion without addressing problems that we know already exist,” Stabile said.

But community service – like barfing all over town every Saturday night.

 

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



Relevance

Oct 17th, 2014 12:38 pm | By

One Utah state representative thinks Sarkeesian “overreacted” to the vivid detailed death threats she got before her scheduled talk at Utah State university.

“It’s totally up to her; if she’s fearful, that’s her prerogative,” said Rep. Curtis Oda, R-Clearfield, in response to Anita Sarkeesian’s decision to bow out of her address. But Oda added, “I think she’s overreacting.”

The state representative, who is pro-gun rights off and on campus, called gun permit holders—who can legally carry—“a group that is probably the most law-abiding out there.”

Even if that’s true, it’s not relevant. Here’s why. The issue isn’t what the average Utah gun permit holder is likely to do. The issue is what someone who makes a frothing-with-hatred threat to shoot a feminist speaker and women to death might do. Someone who makes that kind of threat could be serious. If so, what would that someone do? Get a gun permit, and carry a gun. The fact that all the other gun permit holders are law-abiding – if it is a fact – is neither here nor there.

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



Vitriol damage

Oct 17th, 2014 12:01 pm | By

The New York Times has coverage of the threats against Sarkeesian and the broader campaign of hatred against women by a faction of gamers.

The threats against Ms. Sarkeesian are the most noxious example of a weekslong campaign to discredit or intimidate outspoken critics of the male-dominated gaming industry and its culture.

The instigators of the campaign are allied with a broader movement that has rallied around the Twitter hashtag #GamerGate, a term adopted by those who see ethical problems among game journalists and political correctness in their coverage. The more extreme threats, though, seem to be the work of a much smaller faction and aimed at women. Major game companies have so far mostly tried to steer clear of the vitriol, leading to calls for them to intervene.

Yeah just “steering clear” of this kind of shit doesn’t cut it. People need to speak out against it, oppose it, organize to fix it, institute policies that would discourage it, name and shame it.

The malice directed recently at women, though, is more intense, invigorated by the anonymity of social media and bulletin boards where groups go to cheer each other on and hatch plans for action. The atmosphere has become so toxic, say female game critics and developers, that they are calling on big companies in the $70-billion-a-year video game business to break their silence.

“Game studios, developers and major publishers need to vocally speak up against the harassment of women and say this behavior is unacceptable,” Ms. Sarkeesian said in an interview.

Representatives for several major game publishers — Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard and Take-Two Interactive Software — declined to comment.

Well that stinks. They should comment. Just looking the other way does nothing to discourage it.

“Threats of violence and harassment are wrong,” the Entertainment Software Association, the main lobbying group for big game companies, said in a statement. “They have to stop. There is no place in the video game community — or our society — for personal attacks and threats.”

Good, but weak. They should comment more forcefully than that.

On Wednesday, as word of the latest threat against Ms. Sarkeesian circulated online, the hashtag #StopGamerGate2014 became a trending topic on Twitter. The term #GamerGate was popularized on the social media service over the past two months after an actor, Adam Baldwin,used it to describe what he and others viewed as corruption among journalists who cover the game industry. People using the term have been criticizing popular game sites for running articles and opinion columns sympathetic to feminist critics of the industry, denouncing them as “social justice warriors.”

Because all decent people hate social justice, amirite?

Gaming — or at least who plays video games — is quickly changing, though. According to the Entertainment Software Association, 48 percent of game players in the United States are women, a figure that has grown as new opportunities to play games through mobile devices, social networks and other avenues have proliferated. Game developers, however, continue to be mostly male: In a survey conducted earlier this year by the International Game Developers Association, a nonprofit association for game developers, only 21 percent of respondents said they were female.

That’s because…uh…it’s because playing is for women and men but development is more of a guy thing. Yeah that’s it. If you say otherwise you’re a social justice warrior and you should be killed.

Still, game companies have made some progress in their depiction of women in games, said Kate Edwards, the executive director of the association, who works with companies to discourage them from employing racial and sexual stereotypes in their games. A game character she praises is the new version of Lara Croft, the heroine of the Tomb Raider series who once epitomized the exaggerated, busty stereotype of a female game protagonist. The new Lara Croft is more emotionally complex and modestly proportioned.

Ms. Edwards said changes in games and the audience around them have been difficult for some gamers to accept.

“The entire world around them has changed,” she said. “Whether they realize it or not, they’re no longer special in that way. Everyone is playing games.”

All the more reason to threaten and harass, so that maybe everyone will stop playing games and let the guys have it to themselves again.

 

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



Guest post: A guaranteed way to get downvoted into oblivion

Oct 17th, 2014 11:32 am | By

Originally a comment by Michael Raymer on Women are stealing all the safe spaces.

I don’t understand this concept that in order for a space to be “safe” for men, women have to feel unsafe in it. It seems rational that spaces which are more inclusive are actually safer for everyone. What these gamers really want is a “boy’s club” where they can spout vitriolic misogyny and never get called out for it.

It’s depressing to me since it’s yet another community that I once identified with and now feel almost ashamed to be associated with (the other, of course, being atheism).

I’ve been playing video games for longer than I’ve been an atheist, for over twenty years. Yet even if some cartoon supervillian was shouting, “I will end gaming forever, mwahaha!” I wouldn’t get up in arms over it. It’s not worth threatening anyone over – they’re just games. Yet that’s not even close to what people like Anita are doing. A line from one of her videos is that it’s possible to enjoy media while still criticizing its more pernicious aspects. That’s a totally reasonable position, and yet she still gets death threats for it.

On reddit, saying anything even remotely positive about Anita is a guaranteed way to get downvoted into oblivion. In fact, once all I said was “Even if you disagree with her, let’s all agree that death threats are a bad thing” and while I didn’t get downvoted, I got replies informing me that she has made fake threats before so this one is probably fake too. I asked how it was known that she had faked threats before, and the reply was something about how the Twitter accounts sending her threats were only a minute old, so that somehow proves that she made those accounts herself. That’s some perfectly rational Spock-like logic there, right?

The whole thing makes me want to ditch gaming for a new hobby, like model railroading. Though I’m sure there’s a contingent of sexists assholes there too, since it seems to be a trend.

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



Up to 140 million girls and women

Oct 17th, 2014 10:50 am | By

The first official figures on FGM cases seen by UK hospitals have been published. There have been 1,700 since April.

The public health minister, Jane Ellison, who pushed for the data to be collected, hailed the move. “We know FGM devastates lives but understanding the scale of the problem is essential to tackling it effectively,” she said.

“That is why, for the first time ever, hospitals are reporting information on FGM – a major milestone on the road to ending FGM in one generation here in the UK. This data will help us care for women who have had FGM, and prevent more girls from having to suffer this traumatic experience.”

An estimated 137,000 women and girls in England and Wales are affected by FGM, according to a study by Equality Now and City University, released in July.

The World Health Organisation estimates that up to 140 million girls and women have been subjected to FGM, a traditional practice designed to curb sexuality that involves the partial or total removal of the outer sexual organs. The procedure can cause lifelong physical and psychological complications.

Ending it in the UK is all very well, but ending it in other parts of the world is one hell of an uphill battle.

Now I’m depressed.

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



Stuck-up prude slut hos

Oct 16th, 2014 6:32 pm | By

From a long piece in the Atlantic by Hana Rosin about high school kids sexting:

Studies on high-school kids’ general attitudes about sexting turn up what you’d expect—that is, the practice inspires a maddening, ancient, crude double standard. Researchers from the University of Michigan recently surveyed a few dozen teenagers in urban areas. Boys reported receiving sexts from girls “I know I can get it from” and said that sexting is “common only for girls with slut reputations.” But the boys also said that girls who don’t sext are “stuck up” or “prude.”

The boys themselves, on the other hand, were largely immune from criticism, whether they sexted or not.

Sometimes in Louisa County, between interviews, I hung out with a group of 15-year-old boys who went to the library after school. They seemed like good kids who studied, played football, and occasionally got into fights, but no more than most boys. They’d watch videos of rappers from the area and talk about rumors in the rap world, like the one that the Chicago rapper Chief Keef, a rival of D.C.’s Shy Glizzy, had gotten a middle-school girl pregnant. They’d order and split a pizza to pass the time while waiting for their parents to leave work and pick them up. I started to think of them as the high school’s Greek chorus because, while I recognized much of what they said as 15-year-old-boy swagger—designed to impress me and each other, and not necessarily true—they still channeled the local sentiment. This is how one of them described his game to me: “A lot of girls, they stubborn, so you gotta work on them. You say, ‘I’m trying to get serious with you.’ You call them beautiful. You say, ‘You know I love you.’ You think about it at night, and then you wake up in the morning and you got a picture in your phone.”

“You wake up a happy man,” his friend said.

“Yeah, a new man.”

“Yeah, I’m the man.”

How do you feel about the girl after she sends it?, I asked.

“Super thots.”

“You can’t love those thots!”

“That’s right, you can’t love those hos.”

“Girls in Louisa are easy.”

We’re doomed. Doomed. Boys hate girls no matter what the girls do, and boys grow up to be men who hate women.

We’re doomed.

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



A classic

Oct 16th, 2014 5:21 pm | By

Ever seen the movie Lone Star? I did a Facebook post about it this morning by way of noting what a bad thing it is that Elizabeth Peña has died. I said (truthfully) that it’s a great movie, possibly Sayles’s best, and to my surprise a lot of people came along to echo that thought. One said it’s his favorite movie, another said a friend considers it the best American movie of all time.

Wo – I thought it was an obscure favorite peculiar to me, but no. So why isn’t it shown on tv all the time?

Here are a few scenes on Siskel and Ebert:

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCVzzRXc5Ws

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



Women are stealing all the safe spaces

Oct 16th, 2014 5:10 pm | By

David Futrelle shares with us four absurd rationalizations about the threats against Anita Sarkeesian.

One boils down to: “Hey men are fucked up because of feminism so women should THANK US for giving fucked up men a safe space where they won’t be killing women all the time. Gaming is one of those safe spaces – or was, until women started trying to shove their whorey way in. So watch out because if they don’t stop it’s going to get bloody!”

As many commenters pointed out, men actually seem to have an abundance of safe spaces.

Another said that another Marc Lépine would be…a terrible thing for men.

But the best one said it was those god damn English majors.

Capitalsman 7 points 1 day ago   The fact that it starts off by informing you who, when, and where she will be speaking in the beginning in a seperate paragraph so it stands out is highly suspect on it's own. It starts like a campus news letter about her speaking there and has grammar better than anything I did in college. If it isn't a real threat like it seems, then surely either a staff member or a feminist majoring in English wrote this.

Because only English majors know deeply arcane and hidden things like not saying “by informing you who she will be speaking” and how to spell “separate” and that you DON’T use the possessive apostrophe in its. To everyone else that kind of thing is as occult as physics or risotto.

There are also a lot of funny comments on Futrelle’s post. Like this one:

At some point, someone “proved” that Brianna Wu sent herself the threats she received, because both of them used periods at the end of sentences.

Ha!

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



Guest post: One at least realizes that safety cannot be assumed

Oct 16th, 2014 4:55 pm | By

Originally a comment by A Masked Avenger on Whose freedom?

The inability, or refusal, to provide security measures–including preventing attendees from carrying weapons–is unconscionable. Full stop.

Ms. Sarkeesian, and everyone else for that matter, has an absolute right to do what is necessary to feel safe. Full stop.

I do think that the “privilege of being able to stand up in a crowd and not worry about being murdered” rests on the comforting, but false, notion that making a rule against firearms–or even screening people for firearms–means that everyone you meet is unarmed.

As someone who works in law enforcement, I am armed with some regularity. And I have accidentally entered secure areas in sports venues, theme parks, and even airports, while armed. Screening has limited effectiveness, and it’s not hard to forget that you have a knife, gun, baton, or pepper spray, because you have them so routinely. Of course I’ve also had security find my knife, or OC spray, and cheerfully surrendered them to be tossed. But if I actually wanted to get through with a weapon, I’d give myself 3:1 odds in favor.

There are larger issues, of course. Does screening reduce the likelihood of an armed confrontation? Unquestionably. Is it better to have some security than no security? Obviously. Would I demand security measures if credible threats were made on my life? You bet your ass. Nothing I just said can really be construed as an argument against security, or legal restrictions on weapons. It’s just worth bearing in mind the fact that prohibiting weapons is not at all the same thing as “the privilege of being able to stand up in a crowd and not worry about being murdered.” I don’t think it’s wise to be under that illusion. In the 24 “open carry” states, or the 39 “shall issue” states, one at least realizes that safety cannot be assumed.

The bright side is, as I’m wont to say, that “obviously nobody wants to kill me that badly, because I’m still alive.”

But that, of course, is cold fucking comfort to someone who is receiving death threats. I have no answers for Ms. Sarkeesian–all I can offer is my unqualified support for her, and my heartfelt wish that those threatening her are caught and punished.

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



Over a dozen clerics

Oct 16th, 2014 1:45 pm | By

Bad news – the Lahore High Court has upheld the death penalty for Asia Bibi for “blasphemy.”

Asia Bibi, a mother of five, has been on death row since November 2010 after she was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about [the prophet] during an argument with a Muslim woman.

She probably didn’t even do it – anything that even theocrats could call blasphemy. It appears to be just something some people said because they don’t like her.

The blasphemy allegations against Bibi date back to June 2009.

She was working in a field when she was asked to fetch water. Muslim women labourers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl.

A few days later the women went to a local cleric and put forward the blasphemy allegations.

Hateful. Because she’s of the “wrong” religion, she’s too dirty to touch the water bowl.

Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were murdered for urging reforms to the blasphemy law and trying to defend Bibi.

Over a dozen religious clerics — including Qari Saleem who brought forward the initial complaint against Bibi — were present at the court Thursday.

“We will soon distribute sweets among our Muslim brothers for today’s verdict, it’s a victory of Islam,” Saleem told AFP outside the courtroom as the clerics congratulated each other and chanted religious slogans.

That’s so sickening. They’re celebrating because a poor woman is closer to being executed for purportedly saying the wrong thing about their religion. That is not any kind of victory for Islam.

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



A present for the judge

Oct 16th, 2014 1:29 pm | By

In Bahrain, a woman can be and is arrested for tearing up a photograph of the king. HRW reports.

A Bahraini rights activist jailed for ripping up a photo of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in court on October 14, 2014, should be released immediately. Bahrain should drop all freedom-of-expression related charges against the activist, Zainab al-Khawaja, who is eight months pregnant and has been charged with insulting the king.

Al-Khawaja was in court to face charges relating to two previous incidents in which she also tore up photographs of the king as a form of protest. She was arrested again in the courtroom and, on October 15, the public prosecutor charged her with insulting the king and ordered her detention for another seven days.

For the “crime” of ripping up a photo. It would be laughable if this weren’t a real woman with a real pregnancy in a real jail.

Zainab al-Khawaja is the daughter of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence in relation to his calls for political reform in Bahrain. Her mother, Khadija al-Mousawi, told Human Rights Watch that at the start of court proceedings on October 14 her daughter addressed the judge, stating that “It is my right, and my responsibility as a free person, to protest against oppression and oppressors.”

She then took a photo of King Hamad, ripped it up, and placed it in front of the judge, who immediately adjourned the hearing. Authorities arrested her immediately and she spent the night in Isa Town detention center.

In September 2012, she was sentenced to two months in prison for ripping up a photo of King Hamad. In early February 2013 she was imprisoned on charges that included illegal gathering and insulting police officers. She was released in February 2014. She is now facing six outstanding charges, five of which, according to information provided by her lawyer, clearly violate her right to free expression, Human Rights Watch said.

She sounds like one heroic woman.

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



Allowed in spite of the threats

Oct 16th, 2014 1:03 pm | By

Anita Sarkeesian explained to the Salt Lake Tribune what she has already explained to everyone else: that she decided not to give the talk at Utah State not because of the threats but because the response was inadequate.

In a phone interview from San Francisco, Anita Sarkeesian said she canceled Wednesday’s lecture not because of three death threats — one of which promised “the deadliest school shooting in American history” — but because firearms would be allowed in spite of the threats.

“That was it for me,” said Sarkeesian, who has kept multiple speaking engagements in the face of death threats, including one last week at Geek Girl Con in Seattle. “If they allowed weapons into the auditorium, that was too big a risk.”

She also pledged never to speak at a Utah school until firearms are prohibited on Utah’s campuses and called for other lecturers to join her in boycotting the state.

If Utah is safe only for uncontroversial speakers, then what good is that? Especially considering how very “controversial” women’s rights still are.

After the mass shooting threat was sent to the school late Monday, a second threat arrived Tuesday. That one, USU spokesman Tim Vitale confirmed, claimed affiliation with the controversial and sometimes violent online video gamers’ movement known as GamerGate. Initially purported to be a dispute over the ethics of a female game designer’s relationship with a gaming journalist, GamerGate exploded into a flurry of rape and death threats against feminists in the games industry. The hashtag #GamerGate evolved to identify not a controversy, but a loose group of gamers claiming a variety of objectives, from improving the image of gamers to policing games journalism to killing feminists who call for less abusive representations of women in video games. Escalating threats over the past two months have driven multiple female game developers and critics from their homes.

So all that makes the timing of this tweet very…unsavory.

Respect & much love to gamers for standing up to SJW bullies. You’ve been kind yet fierce, and you’ve set an important precedent

Late Wednesday evening, long after the threats against Sarkeesian and the connection with GamerGate were being reported all over the place.

I don’t know of a single “SJW” who has sent death threats to anyone.

Back to the Salt Lake Tribune.

USU police consulted with the FBI’s cyberterrorism task force and behavioral analysis unit and determined that the threats against Sarkeesian would not prevent a safe lecture, even with firearms allowed.

“Given that she had received many of the same sorts of threats and none of the threats had materialized into anything specific, that was part of the context of the investigation,” Vitale said. “That led us to believe that the threat was not imminent or real.”

Good thinking. By the same token, if you jump off a tall building, you pass the 90th floor, then the 80th, then the 70th, and you’re still whole, so it will be the same all the way down.

Sarkeesian said the threats were specific, with one claiming, “I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs.”

“It’s unacceptable that the school is unable or unwilling to screen for firearms at a lecture on their campus, especially when a specific terrorist threat had been made against the speaker,” she said.

USU always has allowed guns at campus events, including speeches by U.S. Supreme Court JusticeAntonin Scalia in 2008 and actor and activist Danny Glover, whose commencement address in 2010 was targeted by hate mail but nothing rising to the level of a death threat, Vitale said.

Thus they felt completely justified in shrugging off death threats. Oh well, nobody was threatening to shoot them, so I guess that makes sense.

 

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



Whose freedom?

Oct 16th, 2014 11:16 am | By

Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon ponders the fact that gun rights are allowed to trump public safety.

It’s about living in a country in which the right to carry around a weapon takes priority over the privilege of being able to stand up in a crowd and not worry about being murdered.

That’s the United States – where public speaking is dangerous but carrying a gun is cherished and protected.

On Tuesday, the University announced that it intended to still hold the event, despite the warning that “feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge, for my sake and the sake of all the others they’ve wronged.” University spokesman Tim Vitale told the Standard Examiner that the school had consulted with federal, local and state law enforcement and determined it was safe to go on with the appearance, noting that “They determined the threat seems to be consistent with ones [Sarkeesian] has received at other places around the nation. The threat we received is not out of the norm for [her.]” Yep, just your typical, run of the mill, everyday let’s-kill-the-feminists thing. Your basic vow of a “Montreal Massacre-style attack,” a promise that “I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe. This will be the deadliest school shooting in American history and I’m giving you a chance to stop it… One way or another, I’m going to make sure they die… She is going to die screaming like the craven little whore that she is if you let her come to USU…. I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America” letter. As you do. The school promised additional security around the event, and “not allowing large bags or backpacks inside.”

What it did not do, however, and the reason Sarkeesian ultimately canceled, was actually commit to stopping people from bringing in guns.

The school did more than not commit to stopping people from bringing in guns; it said it wouldn’t stop people from bringing in guns, because the law wouldn’t allow it. The school made it clear that guns would not be banned or stopped or detained at the event.

So what will it take, Williams asks, for something to be done about this? We don’t know, because what there’s already been hasn’t done the job.

You know how long it’s been since a man with a gun and a desire to punish women went out and killed a bunch of people near a school? Less than five months. Less than five months since Elliot Rodger murdered six people and injured thirteen others. Isla Vista. Aurora. Sandy Hook. Welcome to America.

It’s one thing to accept and understand that plenty of reasonable and responsible people own guns and that is their constitutional right. It is another to be so outrageously afraid of legitimate and sane restrictions that you have a situation in which it is entirely permissible to carry a loaded weapon into an event that carries a threat that the people attending it will “die screaming.”

Why should the freedom to carry a gun everywhere trump the freedom to speak up in public?

I would really like to know.

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



Utah State University didn’t even tell her

Oct 16th, 2014 9:28 am | By

Good grief. I didn’t know this part: Anita Sarkeesian tweeted 16 hours ago:

Feminist Frequency @femfreq · 16h
USU acted irresponsibly. They did not even inform me of the threat. I learned about it via news stories on Twitter after I landed in Utah.

Holy shit. They can’t ban guns at her event, and they didn’t inform her of the threat.

I’m reeling.

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