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.


Starving and dehydration can be good for you!

Jul 13th, 2014 4:20 pm | By

The NHS has advice on Ramadan fasting and health.

Fasting during the month of Ramadan can be good for your health if it’s done correctly.

When the body is starved of food, it starts to burn fat so that it can make energy. This can lead to weight loss. However, if you fast for too long your body will eventually start breaking down muscle protein for energy, which is unhealthy.

Dr Razeen Mahroof, an anaesthetist from Oxford, says there’s a strong relationship between diet and health.

“Ramadan isn’t always thought of as being an opportunity to lose weight because the spiritual aspect is emphasised more generally than the health aspect,” he says. “However, it’s a great chance to get the physical benefits as well.”

So it’s a good thing for health, according to the NHS. It goes on to explain how the body deals with a fast, and says consolingly that you’re unlikely to starve during Ramadan because it’s only sunrise to sunset.

As the Ramadan fast only lasts from dawn till dusk, the body’s energy can be replaced in the pre-dawn and dusk meals.

This provides a gentle transition from using glucose as the main source of energy, to using fat, and prevents the breakdown of muscle for protein.

Dr Mahroof says the use of fat for energy helps weight loss. It preserves the muscles and eventually reduces your cholesterol level. In addition, weight loss results in better control of diabetes and reduces blood pressure.

“A detoxification process also occurs, because any toxins stored in the body’s fat are dissolved and removed from the body,” says Dr Mahroof.

After a few days of the fast, higher levels of endorphins appear in the blood, making you more alert and giving an overall feeling of general mental wellbeing.

Oh, cool – so it actually is a healthy thing to do, and you feel better during it.

A balanced food and fluid intake is important between fasts. The kidneys are very efficient at maintaining the body’s water and salts, such as sodium and potassium. However, these can be lost through perspiration.

To prevent muscle breakdown, meals must contain enough energy food, such as carbohydrates and some fat.

“The way to approach your diet during fasting is similar to the way you should be eating outside Ramadan,” says Dr Mahroof. “You should have a balanced diet with the right proportion of carbs, fat and protein.”

And that’s it. No real warning about dehydration – just what looks like advice to avoid sweating.

That seems irresponsible to me.

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



Smashed to pieces

Jul 13th, 2014 3:48 pm | By

Diana Darke reports for BBC News Magazine on the destruction of Syria’s ancient treasures. There are many photographs.

The Krak des Chevaliers has been bombed and shelled.

The Great Mosque in Damascus took a hit to some gorgeous mosaics.

The Temple of Bel in Palmyra has been battered.

The temple is one of the most important religious buildings of its time in the Middle East – it represents a synthesis of Roman with Greco-Persian-Babylonian architecture.

Many finely carved sculptures and blocks formerly stood inside the sanctuary, including a crowd scene with fully veiled women centuries before Islam. Whether they are still there, and still intact, is unknown.

Aleppo’s Great Mosque has also taken a hit, and its minaret was completely destroyed. The souks were set on fire by shelling, and much of them reduced to ash.

The livelihoods of over 35,000 people went up in smoke.

And then…

The famous tells or archaeological mounds of Mesopotamia – rich repositories of man’s earliest history once carefully dug by the likes of Agatha Christie’s archaeologist husband Max Mallowan – are now systematically being plundered with heavy machinery to fill the coffers of Islamist militant group Isis. While some ancient artefacts are traded for weapons or cash, others that represent humans or animal gods are seen by Isis as heretical to Islam and destroyed.

The BBC posted this photo of an 8th Century BC Assyrian statue on Facebook.

Unbearable to look at.

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



Bent over a pool table

Jul 13th, 2014 11:46 am | By

Kirsten Gillibrand – you know, the wild and crazy “radical feminist” US Senator – tweeted about a must-read article in the New York Times today, so I read it.

It’s an extended look at one investigation of a sexual assault complaint at a college.

She was 18 years old, a freshman, and had been on campus for just two weeks when one Saturday night last September her friends grew worried because she had been drinking and suddenly disappeared.

Around midnight, the missing girl texted a friend, saying she was frightened by a student she had met that evening. “Idk what to do,” she wrote. “I’m scared.” When she did not answer a call, the friend began searching for her.

In the early-morning hours on the campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in central New York, the friend said, he found her — bent over a pool table as a football player appeared to be sexually assaulting her from behind in a darkened dance hall with six or seven people watching and laughing. Some had their cellphones out, apparently taking pictures, he said.

sexual-assault nurse said there was blunt-force trauma; the football player said he’d been too tired after the game to get it up; two other players, also accused, also denied it. The college investigated, held a hearing, and cleared the football players.

The football team went on to finish undefeated in its conference, while the woman was left, she said, to face the consequences — threats and harassment for accusing members of the most popular sports team on campus.

The Times got access to the records. (It doesn’t say how.)

Whatever precisely happened that September night, the internal records, along with interviews with students, sexual-assault experts and college officials, depict a school ill prepared to evaluate an allegation so serious that, if proved in a court of law, would be a felony, with a likely prison sentence. As the case illustrates, school disciplinary panels are a world unto themselves, operating in secret with scant accountability and limited protections for the accuser or the accused.

Well – that sounds exactly like the Catholic church’s way with accusations of rape and other sexual abuse. Most students who decide to press charges go to the school rather than the cops, thinking the schools will be kinder.

Yet many students come to regret that decision, wishing they had never reported the assault in the first place.

The woman at Hobart and William Smith is no exception. With no advocate to speak up for her at the disciplinary hearing, panelists interrupted her answers, at times misrepresented evidence and asked about a campus-police report she had not seen. The hearing proceeded before her rape-kit results were known, and the medical records indicating trauma were not shown to two of the three panel members.

Also? They ratted her out.

Yet privacy laws did not stop Hobart and William Smith from disclosing the name of the woman — a possible rape victim — in letters to dozens of students. “I’m surprised they didn’t attach my picture,” she said.

The college said it had to identify her to students who might have to testify, but a district attorney said nope, that was wrong.

And this is just one college, one sample.

Colleges nationwide are navigating the treacherous legal and emotional terrain of sexual assault. In May, the federal Department of Education disclosed for the first time the names of colleges — 55 in all, including Hobart and William Smith — under investigation for possibly violating federal rules aimed at stopping sexual harassment.

But it’s not as if the police do a better job.

For example, as The Times reported in April, the Tallahassee police conducted virtually no investigation of a Florida State University student’s rape complaint against the star quarterback Jameis Winston.

College administrators have their own incentive to deal with such cases on campus, since a public prosecution could frighten parents, prospective students and donors. Until last year, Hobart and William Smith’s chief fund-raiser also helped oversee the school’s handling of sexual assaults. The two functions are now separate.

Does that sound familiar? Yes that does sound familiar.

Here’s an interesting bit.

The second player, during three separate interviews with campus officers, denied even being in the fraternity room. It wasn’t until his fourth interview two days after the sexual encounter that he confessed to being in the room with his teammate and having oral sex with Anna.

That same day, the football coach, Mike Cragg, summoned the three accused players, two team captains and the pool table witness for a private locker-room meeting where he heard their recollections, then passed on details of Anna’s account, hearing transcripts show.

Two days after that meeting, the senior player changed his account a second time, telling the campus police that he “wanted us to know that he was ready to come clean about the truth,” records show. A second player had in fact been with him at the fraternity house, the player said, and Anna had given both oral sex. He said he had lied to protect himself and his teammate from Anna’s false allegations.

Mr. Cragg declined to answer questions from The Times. But in a written statement he said, “If I were to learn that a member of my team had behaved in a manner that violated our code of ethics or community standards, I would want him removed from the team immediately.” He added: “I have never and would never encourage any player or players to coordinate stories to avoid disciplinary actions.”

And, as mentioned, the panel cleared all three football players.

The next day, the panel chairwoman sent Anna written confirmation of the decision, informing her that if she wished to appeal, she could find directions on Page 13 of the sexual-misconduct policy.

But Page 13 said nothing about appeals. Instead, it contained a section titled “False Allegations.” The college admitted its mistake, Anna’s mother said.

Sweet.

And then, insult added to insult.

As students returned after winter break, amid swirling rumors of a gang rape, they were greeted by a new mandate: Everyone had to watch an interactive video designed to educate them about sexual assault. The video contained hypotheticals and a series of questions. Answer them, students were told, or be denied campus housing.

The video generated instant controversy, beginning with its title — “ThinkLuv.”

“So right from the start, it’s the kind of program that’s fun and playful and not something that needs to be taken seriously,” said Kelsey Carroll, a recent graduate who founded a student group to combat sexism. “Rape is not about love. It is about violence and power.”

The campus paper said the video attempted to educate students “while slut-shaming, generalizing and even being sexist in the process.”

I suppose they were going for balance.

Looking back, Anna said she knows only too well the price of pursuing her complaint — physical threats and obscenities on her dormitory door, being pushed in the dining hall and asked to leave a fraternity party. Her roommate moved out with no explanation.

Mr. Flowers said the school continued to strengthen programs to stop sexual violence. Over the last two years, he said, seven students have undergone disciplinary hearings for sexual assaults; four were expelled.

Against her parents’ wishes, Anna plans to return to Hobart and William Smith in the fall.

“Someone needs to help survivors there,” she said.

That is one brave college student.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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



No smoking, no drinking — not even water

Jul 13th, 2014 10:43 am | By

This is a bit weird. I don’t mean in a “help help omigod US soldiers are being told to be polite to Moooslims” way, but in a “wait what about the health and safety of the soldiers themselves” way. US troops have been told to respect Ramadan.

Some 5 million people live in Baghdad but its busy sidewalk restaurants are now empty. No smoking, no drinking — not even water.

And yes, no sex. At least not during daylight hours.

“When I’m fasting and I see someone who is eating or smoking,” said a merchant on Karada Street, “I get very irritated.”

It’s clear that U.S. soldiers, including those with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, are getting the message.

“The eating in front of the locals or the drinking or the smoking of cigarettes or things like that have been prohibited,” said Sgt. Larry Green.

Just to make sure, all soldiers in the 82nd all received a pamphlet titled “Ramadan: A Guide for Soldiers.” It explains the religious significance of Ramadan — to honor Allah — and provides helpful tips. “After sundown when the fast is broken,” it reads, “do not be alarmed if you see large groups gathering to share a meal.”

I can see telling them not to stuff their faces in front of people who are fasting. But no drinking water? In Baghdad?

I hope what they’ve been told is more flexible than that.

But then I also wish Ramadan didn’t mandate no drinking. It’s a terrible, disgusting, inhuman prohibition, created at a time when knowledge of physiology wasn’t great.

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



Forced to fast during Ramadan?

Jul 13th, 2014 9:20 am | By

Kiran Opal is calling on all closeted Ex-Muslims who are forced to fast during Ramadan to send her their stories.

Are you someone who’s been fasting, pretending to fast, or forced to lie about fasting to your Muslim family and friends? Are you under pressure to stay hungry and thirsty for several hours in the hottest part of the year? Are you someone who doesn’t believe in Islam anymore, but has to remain ‘in the closet’ about it?

If so, I want to hear from you.

I am working on an idea for a blog article to be posted soon for Ramadan on ExMuslimBlogs.com.

Similar to the International Women’s Day post from a few months ago, this one requires participation from as many Exmuslims as possible. I’ve compiled a few questions down below, and if you are a closeted Exmuslim, I’d love to hear your responses to them.

I’d like to hear a lot about this too, especially the thirst part. The prohibition on drinking – not “drinking” meaning consuming alcohol, but just plain drinking, as in, water – makes me really angry. It’s very unhealthy, and in hot climates and/or for extended periods it’s plain dangerous.

So spread the word, and if you’re a closeted Ex-Muslim and you want to do this, send something to Kiran by July 16. Detalls in her post.

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



God wants you to keep the plumbing you were born with

Jul 12th, 2014 5:48 pm | By

Meet Meggan Somerville, who actually works for Hobby Lobby.

Customers were coming in after the ruling and high-fiving her, and she was forcing a smile while not letting on that she wasn’t all that pleased.

Sommerville has worked there for 16 years. She loves her job and the store, which she said pays a good wage and carries supplies that she’s used for many of her own crafting projects.

Still, the congratulations from customers were hard to swallow. “I’d smile and nod and say, ‘Yes, it’s a victory for the company,’ and then I’d push my real feelings down and not think about it anymore.”

Sommerville is a transgender woman, and back in 2011, she filed a complaint against Hobby Lobby with the Illinois Department of Human Rights after the company refused to allow her to use the women’s bathroom either as a customer or an employee.

Well that’s nice. Do they think women go into the stalls in pairs? In my experience with women’s restrooms at work, they have either stalls or locks on the doors; they’re not set up in such a way so that you have to watch your colleagues pee. To put it crudely, I’ve never been in a position to check a co-worker’s personal plumbing in the restrooms. It just doesn’t happen. So what the hell is Hobby Lobby’s problem?

Sommerville transitioned to living as a woman in 2010. For the most part, colleagues and management were supportive, trying their best to use her new name and the right pronoun. That summer, she formally changed her name in court and received a new Social Security card and driver’s license. A month later, Hobby Lobby provided her with a new name tag that finally matched how she saw herself.

But management refused to budge on one issue: They insisted that Sommerville continue to use the men’s restroom. According to Sommerville, she was told she would only be allowed to use the women’s restroom if she provided proof that she had undergone genital reconstructive surgery. Neither the state of Illinois nor the federal government require this surgery for a person to legally change his or her gender.

“I was devastated,” Sommerville said. “I just want to be treated like all the other women. To do anything else diminishes who I am in the eyes of customers and employees.”

Going to the bathroom became an embarrassing ordeal, where she was constantly worried about outing herself to customers or colleagues who didn’t know her history. “There have been a few times when a customer has come in and I have essentially been trapped in the stall while I wait for the person to leave,” she said. “The stories of trans women that have come under attack are always on my mind when I am forced to use the men’s room. At the very least, I don’t want to make a scene.”

What the hell is their point?

Hobby Lobby has not argued that religious principles influenced its refusal to allow Sommerville to use the women’s bathroom. But her lawyer, Jacob Meister, pointed to a recent Salon.com article on how Hobby Lobby, its executives and affiliated companies are pouring millions of dollars into organizations and causes that seek to advance conservative Christian values and oppose lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

“I think the facts speak for themselves. Hobby Lobby has very actively sought to impose what it believes the law should be wherever possible, and it has thrown a lot of money behind these efforts,” Meister said.

“I have absolutely no possible explanation for why they would so flagrantly ignore what’s very clear in Illinois law,” Meister continued. “Meggan is a female, she’s been full-time for many years, and they will not allow her to use the women’s restroom, which is something that is afforded to every female employee that they have except for Meggan, every female customer they have except for transgender folk.”

Ok so their point is…if god had wanted you to be a woman god would have given you the right plumbing so we get to make you use the men’s john because god’s feelings are hurt. Do I have that right?

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



The law includes a broad exemption

Jul 12th, 2014 5:08 pm | By

More “Not us, not us! We get special rules because we’re special! We get to exclude people because god!” bullshit.

PQ Monthly reports that George Fox University has successfully obtained a religious exemption from the Department of Education (DOE) to deny a transgender student named Jayce a place in the campus’ single-sex residence halls. When Jayce first filed his complaint in April, the university said that it had offered him a single apartment as an accommodation, but that it stood by its refusal to allow him to live with other men on religious grounds.

What religious grounds? What religious grounds are there? But the government can’t ask that, because of the Establishment Clause, but it makes no difference anyway, because of RFRA and Hobby Lobby. Heads they win tails we lose.

By conceding to the university’s intention to discriminate, it seems that the DOE was simply following the letter of the law. Title IX has prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex since it passed in 1972, and in 2010, the DOE issued guidance clarifying that Title IX also protects LGBT students from sex discrimination, which would include cases like Jayce’s. But the original 1972 law includes a broad exemption for religious universities: “This section shall not apply to an educational institution which is controlled by a religious organization if the application of this subsection would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.”

But how does anyone know the application of the subsection would not be consistent with the religious tenets of George Fox University? I don’t think anyone does know, I think everyone is just taking George Fox University’s word for it.

In other words, religious universities are free to ignore any sex nondiscrimination protection they disagree with, and George Fox has just used that exemption to discriminate against a transgender student.

On its website, the university identifies one of its key values as representing “the ethnic, socio-economic, cultural, and gender diversity of the broader Kingdom of God.”

Ha! GFU has a great sense of humor.

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



They fought like alley cats

Jul 12th, 2014 4:41 pm | By

 A Québec judge orders a Catholic religious order to pay compensation to victims of sexual abuse.

A Quebec court has ordered a religious group to compensate victims of sexual abuse involving several of the organization’s priests — a total payout that could eventually reach millions of dollars.

The Quebec Superior Court ruled Thursday that the Redemptorist Order will have to pay at least $75,000 in damages to each victim who attended the Saint-Alphonse Seminary between 1960 and 1987.

It’s interesting, as always, that the religious order has to be forced to pay compensation; that it doesn’t simply do everything it can to compensate because it’s the right thing to do and because religion is supposed to make people good.

“It’s the tip of the iceberg,” said lawyer Pierre Boivin.

“In a class-action (suit), people don’t communicate with us until there is a judgment.”

In his ruling, Justice Claude Bouchard said ex-students who can prove they were victims of assault “of a particular nature” will also be eligible for an additional $75,000.

Boivin said the Roman Catholic order has the funds to pay the damages, which could end up totalling several million dollars.

And if the order doesn’t have the funds, it can sell off its property.

Former student Frank Tremblay launched the suit in 2010 against the order, the school and his attacker, Rev. Raymond-Marie Lavoie.

To this day, only Lavoie has been convicted of criminal charges. In 2011, he pleaded guilty to 18 counts involving 13 victims over an 11-year period from 1973 to 1984 and was sentenced to jail time.

Of the nine priests named in the class-action suit, six are dead and the other three have claimed that they live below the poverty line.

The judge ordered Tremblay be awarded the full amount of $150,000.

Not a huge sum, either.

“The whole organization was gangrenous and Justice Bouchard saw that very well,” Tremblay told The Canadian Press.
Carlo Tarini, a spokesman for the Quebec Association of Victims of Priests, calls Tremblay “a genuine hero” for coming forward.

“The Redemptorist fought like alley cats to defend the indefensible,” Tarini said.

“They did everything to prevent the victims from testifying, and when they did, they were astonishingly evil — especially for people who give lessons in morality.”

Good to know, isn’t it – they fought like alley cats to prevent the victims from testifying, and they were astonishingly evil. That’s how they roll.

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



The last bound feet

Jul 12th, 2014 12:58 pm | By

At the Washington Post:

Warning!

Though foot-binding was officially banned in 1912, it continued, and women who endured the painful tradition are still alive today. Photographer Jo Farrell has photographed and interviewed some of the last living Chinese women who suffered foot-binding.

There are photos of women, their shoes, a tray of dumpings – interspersed with close-ups of the underside of their feet, showing just what the binding does.

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



Nowhere to hide from justice

Jul 12th, 2014 12:26 pm | By

Amnesty has a new report on atrocities in the Central African Republic.

The report, Central African Republic: Time for Accountability, documents crimes under international law perpetrated across the CAR in 2013 and 2014, and calls for the investigation, prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators. It names members and allies of the anti-balaka and Séléka armed groups suspected of involvement in serious human rights abuses, outlining their roles and establishing their possible criminal responsibilities.

“If the Central African Republic is to recover from the killing spree that has taken place since December 2013, it is imperative that those who masterminded, committed or participated in war crimes, crimes against humanity and serious human rights abuses are brought to account,” said Christian Mukosa, Amnesty International’s Central African Republic researcher.

“Those responsible for leaving hundreds of thousands of innocent people with nowhere to hide from their murderous violence must be given nowhere to hide from justice. Only by ending impunity can the cycle of violence that has gripped CAR be stemmed.”

Time for Accountability documents first-hand accounts from victims and witnesses of crimes under international law and gross human rights violations committed during the conflict that has left thousands killed, forced almost a million people to flee their homes and driven CAR to the brink of a humanitarian disaster.

The report identifies a number of high-profile leaders for their roles in the atrocities. These include ex-Presidents François Bozizé and Michel Djotodia, anti-balaka coordinators, including Levy Yakété and Séléka commanders, including Noureddine Adam.

Another place to watch.

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



Would it were otherwise

Jul 12th, 2014 12:00 pm | By

Josh Spokesgay and I share an attachment to the subjunctive. This attachment is, I believe, more than merely aesthetic. There are reasons to use it, and to prefer that its use be available.

See what I did there?

It’s true that the basic meaning is usually clear enough even without it, but it’s also true that a nuance is lost.

The indicative is for talking about things as they are. The subjunctive is for talking about things that are not, but that might have been, or that we wish had been, or were.

This neatly clarifies for me why I’m so attached to the mood. There are so many things I wish were not as they are, but otherwise.

Wraps, for instance. I wish wraps didn’t have a whole superfluous layer of clothy damp tortilla between me and the filling; I wish wraps had one layer of wrap instead of two or three.

But wraps are only the beginning.

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



Weirdo women

Jul 12th, 2014 9:13 am | By

One of those dopy Facebook memes, but this one touched off a heated discussion on my wall after I posted it late yesterday.

My commentary introducing the meme was

Wtf is this stupid shit?

Oooooooh yeah women are so weird and creepy and mysterious. What the hell do they want, anyway?

The guy pretending to read it looks like Penn Jillette. Nice touch.

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



Rooted in the cultural attitudes

Jul 11th, 2014 6:15 pm | By

Hiba Krisht, aka Marwa Berro of Between a Veil and a Dark Place and The Ex-hijabi photo fashion journal* made a very interesting point in an online discussion which I’m not going to link to because it’s an essay that she should publish, but she gave me permission to quote from it. (Anything in brackets is my connecting material.)

She was addressing what one might call the Dear Muslima fallacy:

[being] able to see or willing to condemn oppressive Islamic practices only insofar as they are blatant, obvious, and monstrous, insofar as they make the news with the enormity of their crime, and the scope of his condemnation does not transcend the scope of the actions. To him it’s not about the pervasive, the poison of a culture steeped in casual misogyny and homophobia. It’s not about the every-day tensions and struggles and silencing and denigration within Muslim lives.

It’s not, in other words, about the kind of thing we were talking about when we were so rudely and roughly interrupted by Dear Muslima itself. It’s not about the ordinary commonplace humdrum disregard for women and instrumental attitude toward them that allows some men to think it’s fine to request them for sex whenever the thought strikes. It’s about the less dramatic but infinitely more pervasive everyday ways of thinking and acting, that Dear Muslima types dismiss as “victim” feminism.

…the fact of the matter is that the raging violence, the enormous crimes , the lack of education and advancement that Dawkins loves to talk about are rooted in the cultural attitudes, are rooted in the rampant, rote, routine dehumanization built into Muslim cultures, stems FROM those things, is a *symptom* of them. How can we talk about FGM or honor violence without talking about sex-stigma, slut-shaming, and girls being viewed as flawed, whorish, shameful, objects of discord? When those are the root motivations for FGM and crimes of honor, their causes?

We can’t, just as we can’t for instance talk about the Steubenville rape or Jada without talking about rape culture and double standards and misogyny. That’s not “victim” feminism; it’s trying to tackle the whole subject as opposed to only the most conspicuous eruptions of it.

*She’s no longer veiling her name, in fact she’s going very public with it this very weekend, and even more so any day now.

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



He’s largely libertarian, except he likes stoning

Jul 11th, 2014 5:00 pm | By

A Republican candidate for state representative in Oklahoma is a piquant combination of libertarian and biblical fan of stoning people to death.

The GOP candidate responded to a post on Pope Francis saying “who am I to judge?” on homosexuality by posting numerous Old Testament quotations prescribing capital punishment for LGBT people.

Another commenter asked, “So just to be clear, you think we should execute homosexuals (presumably by stoning)?”

“I think we would be totally in the right to do it,” Esk said. “That goes against some parts of libertarianism, I realize, and I’m largely libertarian, but ignoring as a nation things that are worthy of death is very remiss.”

Esk, who boasted of his “computer skills” and “good physical shape” to other Ron Paul supporters, said he became active in politics because he was tired of “collectivists stealing our freedoms constantly!!!”

“I believe that rights come from God – not from government – and that it should be limited, its taxes and spending should be low, its regulations few, and its protection of our liberties constant,” said Eck, who also calls for jury trials in divorce cases.

Well it’s the combination that so many are fond of, isn’t it – the combination of “taxation is theft!!1″ and “gay is worthy of death!!1″. Total “liberty” for me and total punitive subjugation for everyone I don’t like. Money and sadism – what’s not to like?

 

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



Annals of evil

Jul 11th, 2014 4:10 pm | By

The BBC’s Humphrey Hawksley reports on brutal physical abuse meted out to slaves in India.

Warning of horrors.

He starts with Dialu Nial getting his right hand chopped off.

Now free, and his injury healing, he is back home deep in the countryside of Orissa. There is no electricity or sanitation. Many of the villagers are illiterate.

“I didn’t go to school. When I was a child I tended cattle and harvested rice,” Nial says, sitting on the earth outside the cluster of huts which are his family’s home.

It is from communities like this that people are liable to be drawn into a system known as bonded labour.

Typically a broker finds someone a job and charges a fee that they will repay by working – but their wages are so low that it takes years, or even a whole lifetime. Meanwhile, violence keeps them in line.

Now he and his brother make a tiny amount of money by unraveling old plastic bags to make cord. He can’t do it very well, because of not having a right hand, so his brother is far more productive.

It was in early December that Nilamber, a friend from a nearby village told Nial about a job in brick kiln for which he would supposedly get 10,000 rupees ($165; £98) up front. It was all being organised by one of Nilamber’s neighbours, Bimal, who was trying out working as a broker.

Nial, Nilamber, Bimal, and 10 others travelled by bus to meet the main contractor.

“I knew he was a rich man. He had a motorcycle and wore a tie,” says Nial.

The contractor showed them the money, but took it straight back. They would not in fact get it up front, he said, but some time later. Nial nonetheless believed he would still be paid and agreed to work – although illegal, it meant he had technically taken the bond.

The men were taken the next day to the railway station at Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgargh state. Then, instead of being sent on a short journey to a brick kiln as they had been promised, they discovered the train was heading 500 miles (800km) south to Hyderabad, a thriving city and a pillar of India’s economic success. But some in the group had already heard stories about forced labour there, and got ready to rebel.

When the train stopped at a station, all except Nial and Nilamber escaped. Instead of continuing to Hyderabad the contractor took them back to Raipur, spending some of the journey on his mobile phone, arranging their reception.

“His henchmen were waiting for us,” recalls Nial. “They held us and put their hands over our mouths to stop us shouting.”

Notice that he hadn’t even been given any money yet, not so much as a penny. How did he possibly owe them anything? How didn’t he have every right to say “I never agreed to go to Hyderabad, I’m out”? Well he did of course; these “brokers” are just criminals.

Activists argue that the Indian government’s failure to protect people from forced labour, kidnapping, and other crimes amounts to a serious abuse of citizens’ rights.

“There are deep-rooted problems of business-related human rights abuse in India,” says Peter Frankental, Economic Relations Programme Director of Amnesty International UK. “Much of that involves the way business is conducted, an unwillingness to enforce laws against companies, and fabricated charges and false imprisonment against activists who try to bring these issues to light.”

Nial’s future is grim.

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



Display

Jul 11th, 2014 3:07 pm | By

A heat wave is getting going here, and I need refreshment. Courtesy of Biologia com o Prof. Jubilut:

 

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



Guest post: Webpages, mission statements and group photos of smirking assholes

Jul 11th, 2014 1:15 pm | By

Originally a comment by Andrew B on Accessing celebrities is expensive work.

I think I’ve made this point before, but this seems like a form of sock-puppetry. “Hey, look at all of our affiliated groups! There’s the World Secular Team (which we also run), the Global Enterprise of Religious Freedom (which we also run) and the Alliance for Atheist Voices (which we also run).” Meanwhile it’s just the same dozen assholes changing hats.

You know how meaningful, effective groups form? FIRST you start with committed people that REGULARLY do quality shit, THEN you form your fucking group. Isn’t this how freethoughblogs started? You all had your own blogs, regular pumping out ideas and commentary, and THEN you got together to form the community. These new Global Secular groups seem like a bunch of guys who don’t play any instruments forming a band because it’s a great way to get laid.

Also, there’s a reason that these groups stress the value of celebrity: that’s what they value, and that’s how they understand movements. Celebrities are really skilled at SELF-PROMOTION, and not necessarily meaningful contribution, and that’s all these groups are. Webpages, mission statements and group photos of smirking assholes.

 

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



The high price of oil

Jul 11th, 2014 12:40 pm | By

A few days ago Saudi Arabia sentenced lawyer and human rights defender Waleed Abu al-Khair to 15 years in prison. Amnesty International has details.

The Specialized Criminal Court in Jeddah convicted Waleed Abu al-Khair of a string of “offences” including “inciting international organizations against the government” and “breaking allegiance to the ruler” among others. He will also be subject to a 15-year travel ban after his release.

He is the latest in a long list of human rights activists who have been harassed, intimidated and imprisoned by Saudi Arabia’s authorities in recent months.

Waleed Abu al-Khair has represented many victims of human rights violations. His former client Raif Badawi, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes in May for setting up an online forum for public debate.

So allegiance to the ruler is mandatory by law in Saudi Arabia? How cozy.

Waleed Abu al-Khair’s wife, Samar Badawi, told Amnesty International she was saddened when she first heard the news, but is very proud of her husband: “It is an unjust and oppressive court ruling and Waleed’s position of refusing to recognize the legitimacy of this court and to appeal the decision are honourable,” she said.

“These are 15 years of shame on the Ministry of Interior Courts. I am honoured to be the wife of this free and noble defender. History will expose these masquerades against human rights defenders.”

Waleed Abu al-Khair has been detained since 15 April 2013. He has been moved between different prisons and is currently detained in Briman prison in the coastal city of Jeddah.

With every car that starts…

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



Accessing celebrities is expensive work

Jul 11th, 2014 11:23 am | By

Oh good, another shiny new secular project. We just can’t have enough of those, all the more so if they’re all run by the same people who say the same things.

The mission of Openly Secular is to eliminate discrimination and increase acceptance by getting secular people – including atheists, freethinkers, agnostics, humanists and nonreligious people – to be open about their beliefs.

Ok, that’s fine. It’s good to eliminate discrimination and increase acceptance. I think their including should include theists, since some theists are also secularists according to one definition of secular, but perhaps they’re using a different definition. So, ok so far.

[Updating to add: Actually that was too hasty. I gave them that part mostly for rhetorical reasons, because I was going to disagree sharply with the next part. Well stuff rhetorical reasons. Not fine, not ok so far. Why? Because as Joe points out - this is what they've been doing all along, at least according to what they've been telling us.]

Openly Secular is the joint project of four of the best-known and respected secular organizations:

Richard Dawkins Foundation
Secular Coalition for America
Secular Student Alliance
Stiefel Freethought Foundation

Now less ok. Those aren’t my favorite secular organizations, to put it mildly. They’re too Dawkins-centered, too deferential to a handful of male pseudo-celebrities, too clueless, too right-wing.

We additionally seek to bring in Allies and Corporate Partners from outside of the movement: groups that support equality and fight discrimination such as LGBT groups, interfaith and civil liberties organizations, and other potential allied groups.

Note the conspicuous non-mention of feminist groups and anti-racism groups.

We will tell narratives of joy to demonstrate our values of Acceptance, Reason, and Love; express what we believe, show how love can flow despite differences, and that people are glad they became open. Ultimately, we strive to save relationships that might be lost to misunderstanding.

How You Can Help

All these exciting developments are why we need support of people like you. Doing these things costs money, especially to do them well and professionally. Working with a top-tier national PR firm and accessing celebrities is expensive work.

Interesting juxtaposition, isn’t it, from elevated slush complete with Capital Letters on Important Words, to “give us money.”

But more to the point (my point at least) – why do they need to “access celebrities” in the first place? Why even work with “a top-tier national PR firm”?

It’s just more of the same nonsense that made such a joke of the “Global Secular Council.”

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



Remembering Srebrenica

Jul 11th, 2014 10:26 am | By

Riada Asimovic Akyol points out one of the many genocides we get to commemorate.

In July 1995 in Srebrenica, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide, by killing 8,000 Bosniak men and boys. What is more shameful is that Srebrenica was a protected UN safe area, but the Dutch peacekeepers who had the responsibility to protect around 30,000 refugees in the area failed to prevent the mass slaughter.

This wasn’t a battle; it was rounding people up and murdering them; murdering them for genocidal reasons.

The two main masterminds of the genocide are currently on trial at The Hague Court: The former president of Republika Srpska, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, war general of the Army of Republika Srpska, also known as the butcher of the Balkans among those who don’t glorify him as war hero.

While trials continue and survivors of the genocide wait for just verdicts, ghastly statements re-emerge. On July 9, justicereport.com published news about the latest horrifying racist remarks by Colonel Luka Dragicevic during his testimony in Mladic’s trial. Dragicevic was an assistant commander in the VRS Sarajevo-Romanija Corps from November 1994 to the end of the war.

He said that “Serbians are genetically stronger, better, more beautiful and smarter” than Bosnian Muslims – whom he called poturice, a derogatory term for Balkan Muslims who converted to Islam after the Ottoman conquest.

This is why language matters, why ideas matter, why ideology matters, why media portrayals matter. This is why that whole huge difficult-to-track detailed category of human behavior is so crucially important, and why it’s such a mistake to treat it as “mere” anything. Ideas and words are what motivate actions and justify them afterwards.

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