Notes and Comment Blog

Just distribute photos

Sep 7th, 2016 12:10 pm | By

The Statesman, India, on another view of “Mother” Teresa:

As the Vatican conferred sainthood on Mother Teresa, an organisation promoting scientific thinking on Sunday ridiculed Indian politicians for attending the canonisation ceremony that “promoted superstition” and asked them to distribute her pictures instead of opening hospitals.

The city-based Science and Rationalists’ Association of India (SRAI), on the day held a meet opposing Teresa’s canonisation at the Vatican City which was attended by host of leaders from across the globe including Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

“By attending the canonisation ceremony our leaders have certified that they believe in miracles and hocus-pocus. So now, instead of spending tax payers money on hospitals, the government should start distributing Teresa’s pictures for curing people,” said SRAI general secretary Prabir Ghosh.

Or just pray for them. Or just think about praying for them. It’s all much the same thing.

The poor did not get their bread

Sep 7th, 2016 11:52 am | By

Ten years ago Walter Wuellenweber asked in Stern where “Mother” Teresa’s millions were. The Science and Rationalists’ Association of India republished it.

It quotes some people who have found MT’s putative saintliness not all that generous or useful.

In Calcutta, one meets many doubters.

For example, Samity, a man of around 30 with no teeth, who lives in the slums. He is one of the “poorest of the poor” to whom Mother Teresa was supposed to have dedicated her life. With a plastic bag in hand, he stands in a kilometre long queue in Calcutta’s Park Street. The poor wait patiently, until the helpers shovel some rice and lentils into their bags. But Samity does not get his grub from Mother Teresa’s institution, but instead from the Assembly of God, an American charity, that serves 18000 meals here daily.

“Mother Teresa?”says Samity, “We have not received anything from her here. Ask in the slums — who has received anything from the sisters here — you will find hardly anybody.”

Serving meals wasn’t her thing. Her thing was “caring for the dying” – which can mean anything or nothing, and in her case it meant mostly nothing – a minimal bed and some aspirin now and then. It wasn’t medical care and it wasn’t genuine comfort – it was parsimonious shelter and lashings of piety.

Pannalal Manik also has doubts. “I don’t understand why you educated people in the West have made this woman into such a goddess!” Manik was born some 56 years ago in the Rambagan slum, which at about 300 years of age, is Calcutta’s oldest. What Manik has achieved, can well be called a “miracle”. He has built 16 apartment buildings in the midst of the slum — living space for 4000 people. Money for the building materials — equivalent to DM 10000 per apartment building — was begged for by Manik from the Ramakrishna Mission [a Indian/Hindu charity], the largest assistance-organisation in India. The slum-dwellers built the buildings themselves. It has become a model for the whole of India. But what about Mother Teresa? “I went to her place 3 times,” said Manik. “She did not even listen to what I had to say. Everyone on earth knows that the sisters have a lot of money. But no one knows what they do with it!”

What they don’t do with it, however, is share it with the poor or afflicted. That’s apparently too worldly for their taste.

Compared to other charitable organisations in Calcutta, the nuns with the 3 blue stripes are ahead in two respects: they are world famous, and, they have the most money. But how much exactly, has always been a closely guarded secret of the organisation. Indian law requires charitable organisations to publish their accounts. Mother Teresa’s organisation ignores this prescription! It is not known if the Finance Ministry in Delhi who would be responsible for charities’ accounts, have the actual figures. Upon STERN’s inquiry, the Ministry informed us that this particular query was listed as “classified information”.

That’s all wrong. Charities should be on the record. Charities should be accountable.

The organisation has 6 branches in Germany. Here too financial matters are a strict secret. “It’s nobody’s business how much money we have, I mean to say how little we have,” says Sr Pauline, head of the German operations. Maria Tingelhoff had had handled the organisation’s book-keeping on a voluntary basis until 1981. “We did see 3 million a year,” she remembers. But Mother Teresa never quite trusted the worldly helpers completely. So the sisters took over the financial management themselves in 1981. “Of course I don’t know how much money went in, in the years after that, but it must be many multiples of 3 million,” estimates Mrs Tingelhoff. “Mother was always very pleased with the Germans.”

It’s not true that it’s no one’s business how much money they have. They solicit and accept donations; that makes it everyone’s business how much money they have and what they do with it.

Perhaps the most lucrative branch of the organisation is the “Holy Ghost” House in New York’s Bronx. Susan Shields served the order there for a total of nine and a half years as Sister Virgin. “We spent a large part of each day writing thank you letters and processing cheques,” she says. “Every night around 25 sisters had to spend many hours preparing receipts for donations. It was a conveyor belt process: some sisters typed, others made lists of the amounts, stuffed letters into envelopes, or sorted the cheques. Values were between $5 and $100.000. Donors often dropped their envelopes filled with money at the door. Before Christmas the flow of donations was often totally out of control. The postman brought sackfuls of letters — cheques for $50000 were no rarity.” Sister Virgin remebers that one year there was about $50 million in a New York bank account. $50 million in one year! — in a predominantly non-Catholic country. How much then, were they collecting in Europe or the world? It is estimated that worldwide they collected at least $100 million per year — and that has been going on for many many years.

While the people they were supposedly “helping” went without medical care, privacy, clean bedding – nearly everything they needed.

England is one of the few countries where the sisters allow the authorities at least a quick glance at their accounts. Here the order took in DM5.3 million in 1991. And expenses (including charitable expenses)? — around DM360,000 or less than 7%. Whatever happened to the rest of the money? Sister Teresina, the head for England, defensively states, “Sorry we can’t tell you that.” Every year, according to the returns filed with the British authorities, a portion of the fortune is sent to accounts of the order in other countries. How much to which countries is not declared. One of the recipients is however, always Rome. The fortune of this famous charitable organistaion is controlled from Rome, — from an account at the Vatican bank. And what happens with monies at the Vatican Bank is so secret that even God is not allowed to know about it. One thing is sure however — Mother’s outlets in poor countries do not benefit from largesse of the rich countries. The official biographer of Mother Teresa, Kathryn Spink, writes, “As soon as the sisters became established in a certain country, Mother normally withdrew all financial support.” Branches in very needy countries therefore only receive start-up assistance. Most of the money remains in the Vatican Bank.

No wonder they made her a saint – she increased their fortune by perhaps billions.

The millions that are donated to the order have a similar fate. Susan Shields (formerly Sr Virgin) says, “The money was not misused, but the largest part of it wasn’t used at all. When there was a famine in Ethiopia, many cheques arrived marked ‘for the hungry in Ethiopia’. Once I asked the sister who was in charge of accounts if I should add up all those very many cheques and send the total to Ethiopia. The sister answered, ‘No, we don’t send money to Africa.’ But I continued to make receipts to the donors, ‘For Ethiopia’.”

And people in Ethiopia continued to starve, while that money – which the donors had intended for famine relief in Ethiopia – went to the Vatican Bank.

By the accounts of former sisters, the finances are a one way street. “We were always told, the fact that we receive more than other orders, shows that God loves Mother Teresa more. ,” says Susan Shields. Donations and hefty bank balances are a measure of God’s love. Taking is holier than giving.

The sufferers are the ones for whom the donations were originally intended. The nuns run a soup kitchen in New York’s Bronx. Or, to put in straight, they have it run for them, since volunteer helpers organise everything, including food. The sisters might distribute it. Once, Shields remembers, the helpers made an organisational mistake, so they could not deliver bread with their meals. The sisters asked their superior if they could buy the bread. “Out of the question — we are a poor organisation.” came the reply. “In the end, the poor did not get their bread,” says Shields.

This is, to put it plainly, fraud. “Mother” Teresa defrauded millions of people who gave what they thought was money for relief of poverty and illness but in fact was just more wealth and power and influence for the Catholic church. She wasn’t just not a saint, she was a crook. Probably not a conscious crook, but a crook all the same.

Because of the tightfistedness of the rich order, the “poorest of the poor” — orphans in India — suffer the most. The nuns run a home in Delhi, in which the orphans wait to be adopted by, in many cases, by foreigners. As usual, the costs of running the home are borne not by the order, but by the future adoptive parents. In Germany the organisation called Pro Infante has the monopoly of mediation role for these children. The head, Carla Wiedeking, a personal friend of Mother Teresa’s, wrote a letter to Donors, Supporters and Friends which ran:

“On my September visit I had to witness 2 or 3 children lying in the same cot, in totally overcrowded rooms with not a square inch of playing space. The behavioural problems arising as a result cannot be overlooked.” Mrs Wiedeking appeals to the generosity of supporters in view of her powerlessness in the face of the children’s great needs. Powerlessness?! In an organisation with a billion-fortune, which has 3 times as much money available to it as UNICEF is able to spend in all of India? The Missionaries of Charity has have the means to buy cots and build orphanages, — with playgrounds. And they have enoungh money not only for a handful orphans in Delhi but for many thousand orphans who struggle for survival in the streets of Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta.

That’s like the nuns and priests who ran the horrible industrial “schools” in Ireland that locked up the children of the poor and treated them like garbage. The state gave them money for the support of the children, and the church kept much of it for itself.

It’s a multi-level multi-country crime; it’s fraud on a massive scale. And what do we see? “Sainthood” and fawning coverage by the global news media.

Daddy held her down while ex strangled her

Sep 7th, 2016 10:19 am | By

Heads we win, tails you lose. Jon Boone reports from Islamabad:

Family members accused of killing Samia Shahid, a British citizen who divorced and remarried without their permission, planned to use Pakistan’s much-criticised “blood money” laws to forgive her killer, a report into the case has alleged.

Police findings say the 28-year-old was the victim of “premeditated and cold-blooded honour killing”, which her family had hoped to get away with by exploiting Islamic laws the government has repeatedly promised to scrap.

The laws in question allow family members to pardon people who kill other family members – which of course makes “honor” killing risk-free: Daddy kills his daughter and her brother pardons Daddy. Everybody’s happy except the daughter, but she was their property anyway so that doesn’t matter.

Under Pakistan’s 25-year-old blood money laws, the guardians of murder victims can forgive their killers in return for compensation, even though family members often conspire with each other to commit such crimes.

Rights campaigners say the effective impunity created by the laws has helped fuel the problem of so-called “honour killings”. There were more than 1,000 such killings reported to police last year, although the real number is thought to be far higher.

Pakistan keeps saying it’s going to scrap those laws, but somehow the lawmakers never get around to it.

The report said Samia was sufficiently worried about her security not to tell her family when she was arriving and to arrange to be collected from the airport by a childhood friend, with whom she left her passport and return ticket as a safety measure.

The report said they decided to kill her the day before she was due to return to Dubai, having failed to persuade her to stay in Pakistan.

Shakeel was said to have confronted Samia in an upstairs bedroom of his large house in Pandori and demanded to know where her passport and return ticket were. After she refused to tell him, he attacked and raped her, the report said.

While trying to leave the house and threatening to alert the British government, she was confronted on the stairs by her father, it was claimed. Shakeel then strangled her with a scarf while her father held her legs, the report said.

That’s her father and the “husband” he forced on her.

Pakistan’s government has won international plaudits by repeatedly promising to reform the blood money laws in a move that could trigger angry opposition from some hardline clerics. Sharif promised to take action in February after a Pakistani documentary about “honour killings” was nominated for an Oscar.

In July, Sharif’s daughter, Maryam, said the law would be changed “within weeks”. While a bill is ready to go before both houses of parliament, no legislative action has been taken.

No problem. Take your time. There’s no hurry.

She decided not to pursue the case

Sep 6th, 2016 6:17 pm | By

David Fahrenthold at the Washington Post last week:

Donald Trump paid the IRS a $2,500 penalty this year, an official at Trump’s company said, after it was revealed that Trump’s charitable foundation had violated tax laws by giving a political contribution to a campaign group connected to Florida’s attorney general.

The improper donation, a $25,000 gift from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, was made in 2013. At the time, Attorney General Pam Bondi was considering whether to investigate fraud allegations against Trump University. She decided not to pursue the case.

Sigh. Trump gave the Attorney General money, and she dropped the investigation into fraud allegations against his fraudulent not-university. Why isn’t this an issue?

The sequence began when Bondi herself solicited a donation from Trump. That solicitation was reported this year by the Associated Press. That request came as Bondi was considering allegations that Trump University — a real estate seminar business — had defrauded customers in Florida.

Let me get this straight. She was the Attorney General. She was considering fraud allegations against Trump’s ridiculous “university.” She asked him for money.

He gave her the money. She dropped the case.

How is that not obviously grossly corrupt? What is the matter with everyone?

Paul Waldman did a piece for the Post on Trump’s corruption yesterday, which is where I saw the link to the Farenthold piece.

In the heat of a presidential campaign, you’d think that a story about one party’s nominee giving a large contribution to a state attorney general who promptly shut down an inquiry into that nominee’s scam “university” would be enormous news. But we continue to hear almost nothing about what happened between Donald Trump and Florida attorney general Pam Bondi.

…The story re-emerged last week when The Post’s David A. Fahrenthold reported that Trump paid a penalty to the IRS after his foundation made an illegal contribution to Bondi’s PAC. While the Trump organization characterizes that as a bureaucratic oversight, the basic facts are that Bondi’s office had received multiple complaints from Floridians who said they were cheated by Trump University; while they were looking into it and considering whether to join a lawsuit over Trump University filed by the attorney general of New York State, Bondi called Trump and asked him for a $25,000 donation; shortly after getting the check, Bondi’s office dropped the inquiry.

Maybe it was all just a mistake, Waldman says, but we can’t tell, because nobody is digging into it.

And the comparison with stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails or the Clinton Foundation is extremely instructive. Whenever we get some new development in any of those Clinton stories, you see blanket coverage — every cable network, every network news program, every newspaper investigates it at length. And even when the new information serves to exonerate Clinton rather than implicate her in wrongdoing, the coverage still emphasizes that the whole thing just “raises questions” about her integrity.

There are lots of reporters covering the Clinton stories all the time; Trump not so much.

When it comes to Trump, on the other hand, we’ve seen a very different pattern. Here’s what happens: A story about some kind of corrupt dealing emerges, usually from the dogged efforts of one or a few journalists; it gets discussed for a couple of days; and then it disappears. Someone might mention it now and again, but the news organizations don’t assign a squad of reporters to look into every aspect of it, so no new facts are brought to light and no new stories get written.

The end result of this process is that because of all that repeated examination of Clinton’s affairs, people become convinced that she must be corrupt to the core. It’s not that there isn’t plenty of negative coverage of Trump, because of course there is, but it’s focused mostly on the crazy things he says on any given day.

But the truth is that you’d have to work incredibly hard to find a politician who has the kind of history of corruption, double-dealing, and fraud that Donald Trump has. The number of stories which could potentially deserve hundreds and hundreds of articles is absolutely staggering. Here’s a partial list:

  • Trump’s casino bankruptcies, which left investors holding the bag while he skedaddled with their money
  • Trump’s habit of refusing to pay contractors who had done work for him, many of whom are struggling small businesses
  • Trump University, which includes not only the people who got scammed and the Florida investigation, but also a similar story from Texas where the investigation into Trump U was quashed.
  • The Trump Institute, another get-rich-quick scheme in which Trump allowed a couple of grifters to use his name to bilk people out of their money
  • The Trump Network, a multi-level marketing venture(a.k.a. pyramid scheme) that involved customers mailing in a urine sample which would be analyzed to produce for them a specially formulated package of multivitamins
  • Trump Model Management, which reportedly had foreign models lie to customs officials and work in the U.S. illegally, and kept them in squalid conditions while they earned almost nothing for the work they did
  • Trump’s employment of foreign guest workers at his resorts, which involves a claim that he can’t find Americans to do the work
  • Trump’s use of hundreds of undocumented workers from Poland in the 1980s, who were paid a pittance for their illegal work
  • Trump’s history of being charged with housing discrimination

And there’s more! I’ve blogged about some of that list, trying to do my little bit to boost the exposure of those stories…but, I admit, I blog more about the gruesome things he says.

Maybe journalists are thinking it’s “fair and balanced” this way? Clinton isn’t the hateful racist shithead that Trump is, so to be fair and even things out they blow up her emails and speaking fees to match the size of his shitheadism? While mostly ignoring his horrendous business practices over the past forty years? People shafted right and left? In other words Trump is vastly worse than she is in multiple areas, so they help him out by neglecting most of his bad shit – to make it fair and balanced.

Sick, isn’t it.

Who counts

Sep 6th, 2016 5:08 pm | By

What’s the weather like down there in the bottom of the barrel?

Bill Cosby’s lawyers said Tuesday that the comedian — who will stand trial in June for allegedly drugging and sexually molesting a woman — is a victim of “racial bias.”

What does that sound like – oh yes, O J Simpson’s lawyers claiming that the prosecution of Simpson was “racial bias” when in fact the LA police had been cutting him way too much slack for years.

It sounds like angry, entitled men who destroy or damage women and when caught pretend they’re the ones being wronged.

“For Mr. Cosby, this is a version of the ‘shoot now, ask questions later’ approach to judicial justice that you’re seeing in the streets,” defense lawyer Angela Agrusa told reporters outside a Pennsylvania courthouse.

Because arrest and prosecution are the same thing as shooting now, except for the shooting now part.

[Attorney Gloria] Allred, who just held a press conference in California calling for the elimination of the statute of limitations for rape and sexual assault, dismissed the Cosby lawyers’ claims as an act of desperation by Cosby.

“He complains about racial bias but what about the African American women whom I represent who accuse him of sexual assault or rape and who refuse to remain silent about what they say they have suffered?” Allred said in a statement issued Tuesday evening.

They don’t count, because they’re not Bill Cosby. Bill Cosby is important. They’re not.

Really no go ahead and try him out

Sep 6th, 2016 9:43 am | By

Don’t forget how Keith Vaz talked about his entertainment for the evening.

Keith Vaz

“Have you ______ him yet?” The obscured word being presumably “fucked” – although “raped” might be more accurate.

Keith Vaz

“Someone will need to break him tonight.”

As one breaks in a new pair of shoes.

The john recuses himself

Sep 6th, 2016 9:22 am | By

Keith Vaz has quit the job as Home Affairs Committee chairman.

The Sunday Mirror sought to justify its report by pointing to the political responsibilities of Mr. Vaz, suggesting that his conduct had compromised his ability to fulfill his duties.

As chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee in the House of Commons, he enjoyed a prominent role in oversight of the Home Office, the department that controls Britain’s policy on, among other things, drugs and prostitution.

A john shouldn’t be overseeing policy on prostitution. Conflict of interest.

My dislike of him dates from his joining the theocratic outrage against Salman Rushdie.

In 1989, two years after becoming the first Asian MP since 1929, he led a march of several thousand Muslims in Leicester calling for Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses to be banned. Rushdie subsequently claimed that Vaz, a Catholic of Goan origin, had previously assured him of his support…

I consider that despicable.

Such views remain unpopular

Sep 5th, 2016 5:14 pm | By

Shashank Bangali at the LA Times takes a look at the controversy over “Mother” Teresa.

Few people are as closely identified with a city as Mother Teresa is with Kolkata, the onetime colonial Indian capital where the Albanian nun garnered worldwide admiration for her work with the poor, infirm and outcast.

Many in Kolkata revere her for the half-century of service that earned her a Nobel Peace Prize and the moniker “saint of the gutters.” The Missionaries of Charity, the order she founded in 1950, sheltered tens of thousands of leprosy victims, sidewalk-dwellers, tuberculosis patients, orphans and the disabled at 19 homes across the city, and now has branches in 150 countries.

What exactly was her “work” with the poor, infirm and outcast? It wasn’t meeting the needs of the poor, infirm and outcast, it was trying to glorify the Catholic church through them. The missionaries “sheltered” leprosy victims, sidewalk-dwellers, tuberculosis patients, orphans and the disabled – but mere shelter isn’t enough (and it was crappy shelter). She had the money to do more but she gave it to the church.

“She had no significant impact on the poor of this city,” said Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, who served as mayor from 2005 to 2010.

“Whatever good work she did has also been done by any other philanthropic organization. I don’t find anything extraordinary in it.”

Bhattacharya is one of a few vocal critics in Kolkata who argue that Mother Teresa’s shelters glorified the ill rather than treating them, and that her charity appeals across the world misstated the reality of what was once among India’s most prosperous cities.

“No doubt there was poverty in Calcutta, but it was never a city of lepers and beggars, as Mother Teresa presented it,” Bhattacharya said.

“She was responsible for creating a negative image of this city. As a Calcuttan I feel totally disgusted by it.”

She put her hands on people, but she didn’t provide them with medical treatment.

“She would walk through the streets or go around in a wheelchair, speaking with everyone,” said Renu Sarnakar, a bespectacled woman in her 50s who was fashioning packets of Hindu religious offerings out of banana leaves. “Once she caressed my face very lovingly, even though I was ill.”

A widow, Sarnakar said she was admitted to Nirmal Hriday a decade ago with tuberculosis. Medical care was basic, and Sarnakar recalled that many in the women’s ward did not survive.

“The ones who die, they die,” Sarnakar said. “But for those who can get better, the sisters are very good to us.”

They die if they don’t get medical treatment. The nun could have spent the money to make that happen, but she gave it to the Vatican instead.

Mother Teresa faced criticism over the spartan conditions at Nirmal Hriday beginning in the early 1990s. The editor of the Lancet medical journal, Robin Fox, found after volunteering there that the sisters did not seek medical diagnoses for patients and administered only the most rudimentary painkillers and antibiotics.

The nuns resisted change, with Mother Teresa often saying that suffering brought one closer to God. A decade after her death, the nun then in charge of the home, Sister Glenda, told the local Telegraph newspaper, “We don’t want modern things.”

If they don’t want modern things, they should leave sick people alone.

In the fall of 2008, Hemley Gonzalez, a Cuban-born Miami real estate broker seeking a fresh start after the housing crash, came to Nirmal Hriday as a volunteer. He was tasked with giving daily sponge baths to 50 men, including some suffering from respiratory infections.

But there was no heating, making the water unbearably cold for the patients, Gonzalez said.

“The men started screaming when I poured water on them,” he said. “I’m not a doctor, I’m not a nurse, but I can tell by common sense that if someone has a respiratory disease you don’t bathe them with cold water.”

When Gonzalez proposed raising money for a water heater, senior nuns rebuffed him.

Gonzalez said the nuns did not distinguish between patients who were terminally ill and those who could be treated and released. He said he observed nuns rinsing dirty needles with tap water and reusing them.

“It felt like a museum of poverty,” said Gonzalez, 40, who later founded Responsible Charity, a nonprofit organization that promotes children’s education in Kolkata and the western city of Pune.

Hemley friended me on Facebook years ago, because I had a critical view of the Albanian nun.

Aroup Chatterjee, a Kolkata-born physician, said when he moved to Britain to practice medicine in the mid-1980s, Westerners told him constantly that his city “must be horrible, because that’s where Mother Teresa works.”

While Kolkata has vast pockets of poverty — three in 10 residents live in slums — it has lower income inequality and fewer underage workers than other major cities, according to official statistics, and the state’s per capita income is on par with the national average.

“It was very disturbing for me to hear that people thought that I came from a city and a culture that was so helpless that we couldn’t take care of ourselves, and we had to depend on an Albanian nun to look after our every need,” Chatterjee said.

In a 400-page book, recently rereleased under the title “Mother Teresa: The Untold Story,” Chatterjee levels an extensive list of complaints — including her embrace of unsavory donors (including savings and loan swindler Charles Keating) and allegations that she secretly converted Hindu and Muslim patients to Christianity on their deathbeds.

In a videotaped January 1992 meeting with the staff at Scripps Clinic in San Diego, where she had been treated for pneumonia, she boasted of baptizing as many as 29,000 people who had died at Nirmal Hriday since 1952.

“Not one has died without receiving the special ‘ticket for St. Peter,’ we call it,” she said. “It is so beautiful to see the people die with so much joy.”

Chatterjee said Indian officials should have raised concerns that the conversions violated the patients’ religious freedom, but such views remain unpopular.

We just won’t grow up, will we.

Teresa’s libelling of Calcutta has human costs

Sep 5th, 2016 4:36 pm | By

A Facebook post recommending a tv interview with Aroup Chatterjee:

Aroup is spot on in this interview about “Saint” Teresa.

When I visited the Hospice for the Destitute and Dying in Kalighat (a district of Calcutta), Sister Nirmala – Teresa’s successor – told me that my marriage to a “Hindu” was a “big problem” and she looked quite upset about it (I think she assumed that I am Christian, which I am not). Nirmala stated that my marriage would never work and she wanted to have a word with me. I walked out. She was obviously a Christian chauvinist bigot, ie a fascist.

Teresa’s libelling of Calcutta has human costs. Calcutta is a wonderful city with the kindest, most intelligent and tolerant people of any of India’s megalopolises. In my mind, it’s a village of 15 million that operates largely without any enforced law and order, only by the people’s will and their belief in justice and aiding those who are less fortunate.

Indeed, it is a safe haven for many escaping poverty, discrimination, war and genocide from neighbouring states and countries: Biharis, Oriyas, Assamese, Nepalese, Chinese, Tibetans, Afghanis, Bangladeshi Hindus, etc. Although predominantly Bengali, it is a melting pot of cultures. There is not a city on Earth that will absorb and accept people in the way that Calcutta does.

Teresa took advantage of the city’s tolerance and naivete to destroy its reputation for the profit of the Vatican. This has put Calcutta forever on the back foot in terms of attracting investment and development. Because she made it a place of lepers lying in gutters, Calcutta is treated like a leper lying in a gutter.

At long last, men speak up

Sep 5th, 2016 4:14 pm | By

It turns out that the real oppressed groups are the ones who have always had privilege and suddenly have it taken away. Who knew?

“I actually feel like women are taking over the world,” says Ishwar Chhikara, a 36-year-old investment officer at an international development bank, citing statistics showing more women now have college degrees in the US than men. He says this laughing, but with no audible irony.

“I feel bad for men, especially those who don’t go to school, or study. The whole system is changing drastically with the coming of the information age. It’s not about strength anymore, it’s about the brains.”

While muscles at the center of an economy made the physically stronger sex have more power, Chhikara isn’t so convinced with the switch-up.

“It is a positive thing from a woman’s perspective, from a man’s perspective I don’t know.”

Like all men interviewed, Chhikara does not deny the historical presence of male privilege. That presence is what makes its loss harder, he says.

“It’s because of this sense of entitlement. If you are brought up understanding there is an inherent favorable bias towards men, and that is taken away, it isn’t easy.”

Ahhh – no, it wouldn’t be. Poor guy. Conversely, if you are brought up understanding there is an inherent hostile bias toward women, and that is not taken away…well then you’re a selfish castrating bitch, I guess. So nobody wins. (Do correct me if I’m wrong about the hostile bias still being with us. Did it disappear overnight? Have I simply not noticed yet?)

A vested interest in preventing the criminalisation of punters

Sep 5th, 2016 12:23 pm | By

Julie Bindel points out the conflict of interest problem with Keith Vaz:

In July this year, a UK Home Affairs Committee published an interim report on prostitution, recommending the decriminalisation of the sex trade.

It also made clear that the committee members, chaired by Keith Vaz MP, were unlikely to recommend introducing a law to criminalise those who pay for sex, stating that the committee was, “not yet persuaded that the sex buyer law is effective in reducing, rather than simply displacing, demand for prostitution, or in helping the police to tackle the crime and exploitation associated with the sex industry.”

And who was the chair of that committee? Keith Vaz, sex buyer.

Now it is alleged that Vaz is a sex buyer, we most certainly should be questioning the validity of that enquiry. An interim report that more-or-less recommends full decriminalisation of the sex trade should be declared null and void, bearing in mind that its chair appears to have vested interest in preventing the criminalisation of punters.

Julie is writing a book on the global sex trade.

During my research I have heard of the best and worst ways in which governments tackle this dangerous industry.

In the US state of Hawaii last week, a violent pimp had his conviction for pimping and carrying out a violent assault on one of the women he was controlling overturned because the prosecutor said, in her closing speech, that the victim was probably seen as ‘just a prostitute’ by the court, when in fact she is ‘somebody’s mother, somebody’s sister, and a woman’.

Justin McKinley, who had been convicted in January 2015 of pimping and sentenced to 20 years in prison, was seen on video beating a woman in a hotel room. The victim had testified that she didn’t want to be in prostitution anymore, and told the prosecutor that McKinley had beaten her for refusing to answer telephone calls from prospective punters.

The Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals ruled that the prosecutor’s comment was not a legitimate area of inquiry and “could have inflamed the jury”. How any court could consider evidence that a victim of a brutal crime is a human being ‘inflammatory’ is beyond me. Perhaps it is because so often, the women in prostitution are considered less than human, and therefore treated as such.

While the punters are considered fully human and tragic victims of something something feminism.

Not so impartial

Sep 5th, 2016 11:46 am | By

The Times sent an undercover reporter to a Dublin-based pregnancy counselling centre where she was told a pack of outrageous lies by the “counsellor.”

A counsellor at the clinic, which is unregulated under Irish law, was filmed giving advice to an undercover Times reporter that was described as dangerous, outrageous and inaccurate by the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

The Women’s Centre on Berkeley Street in Dublin 7 advertises itself as an impartial source of advice for women who want to travel to the UK to access an abortion but has direct links to a Catholic anti-abortion group.

They posted a helpful video compilation of the whoppers.

Parents go shopping and buy more appropriate clothes and toys

Sep 5th, 2016 10:20 am | By

The epistemology of this stuff is so…horrendous.

Pink News: A transgender 4-year-old is transitioning before kindergarten.

Oh come on – what sense does that even make? What does “transitioning” mean for a 4-year-old? How can the parents possibly know the kid is “transgender”?

They will be the youngest person to transition openly in Australia, and will be settled in their new gender by the time they go to to school next year.

Despite the decision having been taken by the child’s parents to respect the child’s wishes to transition, and the opinions of gender specialist medical professionals, some have suggested that the child is “too young”.

What sense does it make to talk about the parents “respecting the child’s wishes to transition”? Children of 4 don’t speak Gender Politics. Children of 4 are not yet completely up to speed in the skill of distinguishing fantasy from reality.

Speaking to the Telegraph, clinical psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said there is a clear difference between children who experiment with dressing up, for example, and those who experience gender dysphoria.

He said there is a “huge difference between dress-ups and a child believing with every fibre of their being they are in the wrong body.”

A child age four? I don’t believe it. I don’t believe there is any such “huge” difference. For a psychologist, Carr-Gregg seems to have a very naïve  confidence that he can tell when a child believes X “with every fibre of their being.” News flash: nobody can tell that for sure about anybody. Basic epistemology: we can never know for sure what other people believe. Never.

The first comment demonstrates how horrifyingly regressive the ideology can get.

Let me explain what transitioning involves for a 4 year old.

For a boy, he goes to the barber and gets his hair cut short, takes maybe 5 minutes plus queuing time and time to get there and back. For a girl, she doesn’t go to the barber and grows her hair out. That might take about 6 months.

For all genders, parents go shopping and buy more appropriate clothes and toys. That takes a few hours.

Fucking hell – more “appropriate” clothes and toys. There is no such thing! Especially for four-year-olds! Except in the sense that children that young need clothes to play in more than clothes to sit still in. But the appropriate toys for children are ones they like, ones that will be fun and interesting and inspiring and broadly educational. Boys should have dolls and Lego, girls should have dolls and Lego.

This shit is not progressive, in any way. Rigid confining gender rules are not progressive, in any way.

This isn’t Walden Pond

Sep 4th, 2016 5:36 pm | By

The Times on Dr Aroup Chatterjee on “Mother” Teresa.

Over hundreds of hours of research, much of it cataloged in a book he published in 2003, Dr. Chatterjee said he found a “cult of suffering” in homes run by Mother Teresa’s organization, the Missionaries of Charity, with children tied to beds and little to comfort dying patients but aspirin.

He and others said that Mother Teresa took her adherence to frugality and simplicity in her work to extremes, allowing practices like the reuse of hypodermic needles and tolerating primitive facilities that required patients to defecate in front of one another.

Again – like the nonsense about suffering as some kind of virtue-pump – a self-regarding performance of saintliness that disregards the needs of the people she pretended to care about. Frugality with the needles is not a virtue.

A friend of poverty and suffering

Sep 4th, 2016 4:30 pm | By

Helen Dale a few hours ago:

Mother Teresa wasn’t a friend to the poor, she was a friend of poverty. There is a difference.

That’s also my view of her.

An academic in political philosophy and ethics has an opposed view:

Most Christians think that God can allow us to suffer if the suffering is redemptive. I think that too. And that looks like all she is saying, [is] that God can heal our hearts through some kinds of suffering and that we can accept it as such.

Then a few minutes later:

Most atheist attacks on her character focus on her view of the morally purgative effects of suffering (again, see the thread), and I think that while she may have publicly exaggerated at times (though many of the quotes adduced to that effect don’t demonstrate this, as you can see from the discussion earlier in the thread), she has a view that is defensible within Christianity about how we can choose to let suffering fundamentally improve our characters and to draw nearer to God.

Later again:

Christian belief by no means guarantees good and right moral belief, but I think she just had a different, but reasonable view about suffering and God than you do. And people who disagree reasonably about moral matters can both have good character.

After that, unfortunately, he stopped engaging.

Is this idea about suffering “reasonable”? I’m not convinced it is, at least not in the sense I understand “reasonable.” It may be reasonable within a Christian system of thought, i.e. if you accept certain assumptions…but maybe it’s not reasonable to accept those assumptions.

Or maybe it is. Either way, I don’t see much merit in this claim that “we can choose to let suffering fundamentally improve our characters” – because I don’t believe that suffering does fundamentally improve our characters. I think it’s a rather sick and ugly way of looking at things to think it does. (This was the sort of thing Nietzsche hated about Christianity.)

What does it mean to say that “God can heal our hearts through some kinds of suffering”? I wonder if it means it breaks us, and thus makes us less “arrogant” and thus more submissive to “God.” But that doesn’t improve our characters, does it, it just makes us more obedient to the boss-God who isn’t there. It’s all rather circular. Pain perhaps makes us more receptive to “God”…but what’s good about that? Swap Hitler or Stalin for God and it becomes obvious that it’s not, so the claim is senseless unless we assume not only that “God” exists but also that it’s good. It’s fatuous to assume either of those, let alone both.

Or maybe he means the Victorian idea that suffering makes people “patient” – like Beth in Little Women. But what’s good about that? How does it improve the character? It’s just self-regarding – I am strong, I can take it, I can suffer in silence. Who cares? That doesn’t make the world a better place. We don’t need martyrs and Beths and silent sufferers and obeyers – we need people who do things. Sick people need good medical care, not nuns leering at them while they suffer.

There are of course religious people who do things, including providing good medical care. It’s just that “Mother” Teresa wasn’t one of them.


Sep 4th, 2016 3:23 pm | By

Here we go again. Saudi Arabia has sentenced a man to ten years in prison and 2,000 lashes for talking atheism on Twitter.

The 28-year-old reportedly refused to repent, insisting what he wrote reflected his beliefs and that he had the right to express them.

The hardline Islamic state’s religious police in charge of monitoring social networks found more than 600 tweets denying the existence of God, ridiculing Koranic verses, accusing all prophets of lies and saying their teaching fuelled hostilities.

So Saudi Arabia decided to demonstrate that the teaching of prophets does not fuel hostilities by sentencing a guy to ten years in prison, a huge fine, and 2,000 lashes for talking atheism on Twitter.


That way they never forget

Sep 4th, 2016 11:45 am | By

From our friend Pliny:

Reasonable woman: Do you ever wonder if you had, say, built low income housing for “our sins” instead of the martyrdom thing, whether your modern followers would have such a whiny-assed persecution complex?

Jesus and Spooky: Hey, needless suffering is our schtick.


Sep 4th, 2016 11:10 am | By


Texas Democratic Party


Sep 4th, 2016 10:54 am | By

Purvi Patel is out of prison.

A superior court judge in Indiana on Wednesday ordered the immediate release of Purvi Patel, the Indiana woman who was convicted of “feticide” and sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2015 for losing her pregnancy, after resentencing Patel to less time than she has already served.

After Patel appealed the original sentence, her feticide conviction was vacated by an appeals court in July. She was still found guilty of a class D felony charge of child neglect.

In her ruling Wednesday, St. Joseph superior court judge Elizabeth Hurley “said a sentence of 18 months for Purvi Patel was appropriate for a felony charge of neglect of a dependent and that Patel does not have to be placed on parole,” the Guardian reported.

“Child neglect”? There was no child.

While many reproductive rights advocates celebrated the overturning of the feticide conviction, they are also disturbed that Patel remains charged with child neglect.

As the National Network of Abortion Funds wrote last month: “While vacating the feticide charge has been the hopeful focus of the outcome for many, the felony class D, with a sentence of 180 days to six years, sends a mixed message that doesn’t yet restore the relationship between doctors and patients.”

“If pregnant people women fear criminal consequences, they don’t go to the doctor,” said Shelly Dodson, director of All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center in Bloomington, Indiana. “Indiana is setting a dangerous precedent not to trust the medical community. Choosing to criminalize people women around pregnancy decisions and pregnancy outcomes is a grave injustice, which is just as true for anti-abortion laws like HB 1337 as it is for Purvi Patel.”

Women, you damn fool. If it were people the laws wouldn’t be like this. It’s only women who get pushed around this way, and they get pushed around this way because they’re women. Women get pregnant, and that makes all women public property subject to stringent property laws.

At any rate it’s good that Purvi Patel is out of the slammer.

Father of two

Sep 4th, 2016 10:03 am | By

A Daily Mirror story today reports (with photos and audio to back it up) that Labour MP Keith Vaz paid for two Romanian male prostitutes to visit him in a London flat he owns. He was (until today) the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Mr Vaz, a father of two, was last night said to have made it clear that he will step aside as chairman of the committee, which is currently examining prostitution in the UK, after the allegations were made public.

Conflict of interest, wot?

The Sunday Mirror alleged the MP had two meetings with the escorts, including a 90-minute session on August 27.

One text, reportedly sent by Mr Vaz, said the men should arrive at “11pm, nice and late”. He is said to have added: “I want a good time please.”

Other messages, which the paper claims to have seen, also allegedly show Mr Vaz telling the men they needed to “get the party started”.

Mr Vaz is accused of asking the young men to bring poppers to the flat, as well as allegedly joking about being a “pimp”. It is claimed he also said he did not use a condom in a previous sexual  encounter.

There’s a bit in the Mirror story (which is uncomfortable to read) showing a text where Vaz says one of the prostitutes will need “breaking.”

A Labour Party spokeswoman told the Press Association: “Keith Vaz has issued a statement on this matter.

“As with all departmental select committees, Keith was elected to the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee by the House of Commons and his position is a matter for him and the House.”

The Home Affairs Committee is currently carrying out a review of prostitution laws.

A punter should not be chairing, or on, such a committee.

Matthew Norman at the Independent looks at Vaz’s…adaptability.

His mental flexibility, meanwhile, places Keith among the leading Parliamentary gymnasts of the age. Early in his Westminster days, this political Olga Korbut went, within weeks, from backing Salman Rushdie in his struggle against the Iranian fatwah to leading a march of Muslims through Leicester demanding the banning of The Satanic Verses.


Overcoming these misunderstandings to maintain his committee chair status earned Vaz many admirers, but even his biggest fan will understand why he has felt compelled to vacate it now (if only for a while).

When the leader of a body that is currently overseeing major reforms to prostitution legislation is revealed to have had sex with male prostitutes, it does look a little like a conflict of interest. When it is also investigating the impact of cocaine, and its chair is recorded offering to fund its provision for visiting playmates, that doesn’t look great either.

Even discounting other revelations which have no legal implications – a request for sexual stamina-enhancing poppers; a reference to having “f****ed” a youthful Romanian without a condom in ignorance of whether the latter was free of STDs; introducing himself as an industrial washing machine salesman called Jim – this story may not play especially well in the court of public opinion.

But, he continues sardonically, it should be regarded as heroically dedicated research.

The lengths to which Keith Vaz went to educate himself about issues of interest to the committee he led were astonishing. For a long-married heterosexual man to risk HIV by having unprotected congress with men of whose medical status he knew nothing… look, “heroic” is a wildly overused word, but in these circumstances, what other adjective comes close?

I couldn’t possibly comment.