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.

Raif not flogged again

Feb 13th, 2015 10:15 am | By

CBC News reports:

Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger jailed for criticizing Islam, has had his weekly lashes delayed for a fifth time according to Amnesty International.

He was sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes, to be delivered in batches of 50 every week.

He was flogged for the first time on Jan. 9. However, the next five flogging sessions were postponed. At least two of the postponements were due to medical reasons.

Well – they’re going to look like complete ogres and complete fools as well if they go ahead with it after this. They’re in a hot spotlight, and that situation isn’t going to get any better for them.

Amnesty International is calling for Badawi’s sentence to be quashed and for him to be released immediately and unconditionally so he can join his family in Canada.

Damn right. And his lawyer, too, Waleed Abu Al-Khair.

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

In front of the embassy

Feb 12th, 2015 6:03 pm | By

Ensaf shared some photos from Vienna.

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

Don’t stop until

Feb 12th, 2015 5:59 pm | By

Ensaf Haider has done a short video to thank people for working to free Raif. She asks us not to stop until he’s free and with them. Nope nope nope – not going to stop until then. On the ground, in Montreal – only then will I stop.

But then there is Waleed, and there are the others. Not stopping until they’re all free then.


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

The long-standing parking disputes

Feb 12th, 2015 5:44 pm | By

That Washington Post article that Glenn Greenwald linked to – it’s by Michelle Boorstein yesterday, on the (cough) tensions between atheism and Islam.

On Wednesday, the father of the two women said one of his daughters had mentioned Hicks’ before and felt he was anti-Muslim. A week ago, he said, she told her family she had  “a hateful neighbor.”

“Honest to God, she said, ‘He hates us for what we are and how we look,’” Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, who has a psychiatry practice near Chapel Hill, told The News Observer.

Later on Wednesday, Hicks’s wife insisted that the shooting was only due to parking arguments and not to any bigotry. “I can say with my absolute belief that this incident had nothing to do with religion or victims faith, but in fact was related to the long-standing parking disputes that my husband had with the neighbors. ” Karen Hicks said during a news conference.

Notice a problem with that? It was a fucking parking dispute. Who the hell murders three people over a parking space? Citing “long-standing parking disputes” really doesn’t do anything to fill the yawning void between a parking dispute, however longstanding, and murdering three people.

But reports that an outspoken atheist — most of Hicks’ many Facebook posts railed against religion — had attacked a family who were visibly Muslim (the women wore headscarves) tapped immediately into a conversation that has been going on since Sept. 11 about why several of atheism’s biggest figures have singled out Islam for criticism.

Among them are biologist and writer Richard Dawkins and neuroscientist Sam Harris, who have both triggered controversy with their comments about Islam.

And therein lies a whole different problem, which is that both of those examples of Atheism’s Biggest Figures are annoyingly crude and simplistic in what they say in public about Islam. Dawkins in particular thinks it’s useful to keep cranking out eye-poking tweets about Islam as a way to…whatever: fix it or lure people away from it or startle people into paying more attention to it. He’s wrong to think that’s useful. It’s the opposite of useful. It makes him look like a jerk who likes poking people in the eye, and by extension it makes all atheists look like that. This is one reason out of many I wish we had different, better Atheism’s Biggest Figures.

The tensions have been central enough that umbrella secular and atheist groups Wednesday were quick to release statements condemning the Chapel Hill killings. Ron Lindsay, president of the skeptics’ group Center for Inquiry[,] said atheists have in the past held conferences on the topic of Islam and tried to “reach out for dialogue” but the overtures have been viewed skeptically by Muslims.

Lindsay and other secular groups said Wednesday that the atheists’ particular focus on Islam has been triggered by the comments of big-name celebrities like Harris.

“I don’t think he’s an Islamophobe. But it’s fair to say in his writings that he portrays Islam as inherently more violen[ce]-prone than other religions and that has had an effect on some people, maybe an unintended [e]ffect. A lot of people tend to see Muslims in their mind a[s] more of a threat and tend to lump Muslims together,” Lindsay said. “To try and put things in focus, clearly we’re concerned about Islamic extremism, but we always make this clear, this is a small minority of Muslims.”

I’m tired of having to live with the unintended effects of Harris and Dawkins being provocative. I think they’re both clumsy at it; I think they’re both rude rather than wittily challenging, which I think is what they intend. I think they’re both very full of their own importance and prickly when disputed. I’m tired of having them as putative Leaders.

Meanwhile, a group of atheists is raising money to donate to a cause championed by one of the Muslim victims. Barakat, whose family was from Syria, had started a crowd-sourcing campaign to collect donations for the Syrian American Medical Society Foundation. His “Refugee Smiles,” focuses on providing dental care to refugees of the Syrian War in Turkey.

“There are conflicting reports about what the motivation was,” said Dale McGowan, executive director of the humanist nonprofit, Foundation Beyond Belief, a national organization based in Atlanta. “It doesn’t matter. It’s someone who identified with our community. We need to make a strong statement against the act.”

Quite right. The conflicting reports don’t matter: he was part of the atheist community and we need to repudiate the whole thing – the leader-worship, the male-centrism, the belligerent tweets, the hostility for its own sake. Enough already.

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

Better off asking questions

Feb 12th, 2015 5:03 pm | By

Glenn Greenwald tried to school Maajid Nawaz. That didn’t go well.

Maajid posted a screenshot.

Embedded image permalink

@ggreenwald @SamHarrisOrg as if to say “those poor natives are just born like that and we must patronisingly defend everything about them”

Aka the racism of low expectations.

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

Pope opens mouth, inserts scarlet slipper

Feb 12th, 2015 1:42 pm | By

Pope pope pope. You really should learn to think before you speak. NPR says why.

Pope Francis said that couples who opt not to have children are being “selfish” as he spoke of a “greedy generation” that’s choosing not to procreate.

Think, pope pope. Slow down, stop talking, take a breath, and think.

Any luck yet?

Pope pope, you opted not to have children yourself. Officially. You look very fucking stupid saying things like that, given your own choices.

I know – you expect us to treat that as different, because it’s part of your ReLigIon. Nope. Not gonna do that. It’s not different, it’s the same, so you have no standing to go tut tut at everyone.

That’s before we get to the fact that it’s terrible advice at a time when the planet may be tipping into a rapid slide to drought and famine and mass extinction.

Speaking at his general audience in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, Francis talked on the joy of children and their importance in society, at one point reminiscing about his own mother.

“A society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society,” the pope said. “The choice to not have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished.”

Except, of course, when the ice caps are melting and the rivers are shrinking and the coral reefs are dying and the crops are failing.

I suppose he thinks his buddy God will intervene at the last minute and reverse all that, and then we’ll want all those extra babies.

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

Last Saturday in London

Feb 12th, 2015 1:22 pm | By

Peter Tatchell spoke at the “Sharia law, apostasy and secularism” conference in London last Saturday, the one that Maryam organized.

Although Sharia law is not the law of the UK, there have been repeated and on-going attempts by Islamists to apply Sharia principles in law and education, in a bid to make these public institutions Sharia-accommodating. This is a direct threat to human rights; most notably to the human rights of UK Muslims.

Speaker after speaker last Saturday warned of an Islamist agenda of stealthy, creeping, subtle Sharification. This involves sustained attempts by Islamists to pressure public institutions, in the name of religious freedom and multiculturalism, to make special allowances for their reactionary sectarian clerical values.

By Islamists, please note, not Muslims. Most Christians are not Christianists and most British Muslims are not Islamists.

The conference organiser Maryam Namazie made an impassioned plea:

“Islamism is an international far-right movement that has murdered innumerable Charlie Hebdos over several decades across the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, including many Muslims who have dared to…live twenty-first century lives (that are) prohibited by the Islamists. Being a woman, a freethinker, being gay, being unveiled, improperly veiled, an atheist, going to school, driving a car, having sex, falling in love, laughing out loud, dancing….’offends’ them. Calling for civility, censorship, silence or ‘respect’ for the ‘offended’ is merely heeding the Islamist demand for submission (to clerical authority) at the expense of dissenters – whether (they) be Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia or Roya Nobakht in Iran.”

Far-right, not far-left. Right-wing, not left-wing.

Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters, saluted those who continue to “bravely challenge deadly religious far-right movements whose end game is to shut down secular democratic spaces and to terrorise us into silence. The time has come to….reject the politics of hatred, whether emanating from the racist far-right or the religious far-right.”

Another conference speaker, Marieme Helie Lucas, founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue, warned against:

“A growing restriction on our freedoms and civil rights in the name of religious tolerance; an endless abandonment of secular values….(and of) equal rights to all citizens – agnostics, atheists and believers alike. We are heading towards unequal rights and different laws for different categories of citizens – all condoned by ‘democratic’ states. The right to practice according to one’s own belief should not supersede universal rights.”

Hold that thought.

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

Listen up, sons of the house of Saud

Feb 12th, 2015 12:16 pm | By

The government of Quebec is once again calling for the release of Raif Badawi.

The National Assembly unanimously passed a motion condemning the whipping of Badawi, and expressing support for his wife, Ensaf Haidar, and their three children.

The motion calls on the governments of Quebec and Canada to do everything possible to secure Badawi’s freedom.

“We will not put our arms down. The democratic world has to say loud and clear that we don’t want those practices to go again without any notice from the rest of the world,” said Premier Philippe Couillard.

Haidar, as well as some of Badawi’s supporters, watched the debate as it happened.

The premier has brought up the case directly with Saudi Arabian ambassador to Canada.

Poor Saudi Arabia. They must be getting so tired of hearing about this.

The case has sparked international outcry and widespread protest.

There have been numerous demonstrations across Quebec, asking for Badawi’s release.

The UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, has called on Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to pardon him. The United States has also asked Saudi Arabia to cancel the 1,000 lashes.

And so has Charles Windsor. We’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak nothing but ‘Raif’…

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


Feb 12th, 2015 11:30 am | By

A really gruesome thought has occurred to me.

First, fair warning: I’m speculating about the motives of Craig Hicks in killing the three people in that Chapel Hill condo. I know it’s stupid to speculate about the motives of killers in the absence of knowledge…but that ship has sailed. People already are speculating about the motives, and if we – by which I mean we vocal atheists – stay silent we just come across as evasive or worse.

Plus there’s the fact that it looks like a hate crime against Muslims because Muslims, and there was anger at the fact that it wasn’t being reported.For that reason too I think we shouldn’t ignore it.

So I’m speculating; that is, I’m trying to think about what might be his motives, or perhaps more accurately what set him off.

We don’t know; we don’t know that he went to their condo to complain about parking and then flipped out, but that seems to be one likely explanation. It doesn’t seem to fit a planned murder of three people for the crime of being Muslim, or a planned murder of three or two people or one person for parking in his parking spot. We don’t know, but suppose the story is that somebody parked in his spot and he went to the condo to make another fuss about parking.

What has occurred to me is that when he went there he found a man, and two women in hijabs. Two. It has occurred to me that he could have flipped out because of the two women in the condo. He had encountered Deah Barakat and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha before, but perhaps he’d never seen Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha before. I don’t suppose he got into a friendly chat with them about who’s visiting from out of town. It has occurred to me that he may have seen a second woman there and leapt to the conclusion that Deah was going in for polygamy, right there in the same condo complex with him, and flipped out.

I don’t know, obviously. It’s sheer speculation. But there is a big gap between going to someone’s door to complain about parking, and shooting three people in the head. A huge gap.

It is a horribly gruesome thought.

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

MEPs strongly condemn the flogging of Raif Badawi

Feb 12th, 2015 10:21 am | By

From a press release today by the European Parliament:

Case of Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia

MEPs strongly condemn the flogging of Raif Badawi by the Saudi Arabian authorities as a “cruel and shocking act” and call on them “to release him immediately and unconditionally” and to ensure that his conviction and sentence, including his travel ban, are quashed.  They see Mr Badawi’s case as a symbol of the assault on freedom of expression and peaceful dissent in the country, and “more broadly of the Kingdom’s characteristic policies of intolerance and extremist interpretation of Islamic law”.

Parliament instructs its Delegation for Relations with the Arab Peninsula to raise the cases of Mr Badawi and other prisoners of conscience during its forthcoming visit to Saudi Arabia and to report back to its Subcommittee on Human Rights.

The resolution was passed by 460 votes, to 153, with 29 abstentions.

Pariah state.


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

The prince and the king talked privately

Feb 11th, 2015 5:43 pm | By

Now for some better news at last – Priss Choss did talk to the Saudi dictator about Raif Badawi. Who knows if it did any good or not, but he did it. Well done Choss. I’ve said very hard things about you, especially about your promotion of homeopathy and other woo, but fair play to you: good job.

Prince Charles has raised the plight of jailed blogger Raif Badawi with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.

Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and has received 50 of 1,000 lashes for offences related to setting up a website for Saudi liberals. Before Charles’s trip to the Middle East, Amnesty International UK urged the prince to intervene on Badawi’s behalf.

The prince and the king talked privately via an interpreter at a palace in Riyadh and then sat together for a lavish lunch attended by hundreds of guests. A source said: “It is understood the issue was raised by the prince during his meeting with King Salman. The reaction from the king was not unfriendly.”

I imagine not. Britain is a valued customer and provider of arms and prison requisites. Charles is a colleague in the monarchy biz.

Simon Collis, Britain’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said before the meeting of Charles and Salman: “Royal-to-royal links have a particular value … these kinds of visits are capable of having significant impact. Any conversation that does happen is not just going to be an exchange of platitudes, because they are past that.”

Sir William Patey, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told the BBC that Charles had a way of raising human rights issues that did not make the Saudis “bristle”.

“Between us, old chap, it doesn’t do to get too bothered about these little people when they make a fuss. Just ignore them and they’ll get bored with it soon enough. Where’s that illicit bottle you promised?”

At the weekend Charles raised concerns about the radicalisation of British Muslims, saying he thought people who were “born here, go to school here, would abide by those values and outlooks”.

Massoud Shadjareh, chair of the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, criticised Charles’s visit to Saudi Arabia. He said: “It seems highly hypocritical of Prince Charles to be giving such a gesture of support to the Saudi regime at a time when he claims to be worried about the dangers of so-called radicalisation and British values.

“The prince should know that no country has been more pivotal to the rise of extremism than Saudi Arabia and rubbing shoulders with its leaders is only going to give them more encouragement to continue business as normal.”

That is very true. Nevertheless I hope he succeeded in pulling some strings.

Bigger picture though? I think the UK and the US should spurn the Saudi regime.

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

Amira remembers Yusor

Feb 11th, 2015 5:04 pm | By

Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha’s best friend talks about her and about the murders. She’s very generous, and very level-headed.

As told to Latoya Peterson.

Words can’t really describe who she was. She’s such an amazing person. I feel like people always say that after they lose someone. This isn’t to boost her after her death—she really was a good person.

She always put others ahead of herself, just like her husband, Deah Barakat. I am the person I am today because of her. She’s a really sweet person, you never catch her angry. She’s patient, very loving, like her mom, she’s caring. She’s a good person. She was newly married and getting used to that life transition. She had just been accepted at Chapel Hill for dentistry.

Over the summer, Yusor went to Turkey. I’m a teacher at a small private school in Raleigh, and my school ran a collection drive for Project Refugee Smiles. My students were so excited to help. They collected so many toothbrushes and packages of dental floss that Yusor couldn’t carry it—she had to pay extra bag fees. She went with her mom to assist.

Not someone we could afford to lose, if you ask me.

I don’t know if I believe she was targeted for her beliefs. I don’t think so – I think the shooter, Craig Steven Hicks, is just an angry person. I know Yusor didn’t do anything to him – there’s no way she could have said even one thing wrong to him because she doesn’t get mad. She never says anything back even if someone yells at her. Her husband is even nicer, her sister is even nicer – none of them would have said anything to make someone that angry.

Three lives literally are gone just to justify…whatever he was thinking.

That’s what I mean by generous. Just an angry person – that’s a very unvindictive explanation.

I understand people look down on our religion. They think a lot of things, like we are terrorists. People don’t understand us Muslims are embarrassed of these people who are using Islam in bad ways to justify being cruel. Yusor and Deah represented a big part of our community—they were two good Muslims. Yusor believes in her religion. She is peaceful and she was raised well. She chose a healthy way of life. We weren’t extreme. We are the middle path. We aren’t strict on stuff outside of the head covering. I think there is a lot of misinterpretation of what Islam is.

I can’t understand why someone would hate them enough to kill them.

I read articles about this guy and they say he’s an atheist, but I don’t really know if that’s the connection the media makes it out to be. I’m not really sure if he thinks his act is justified.

Honestly, I don’t want to say, “Why her?” because I don’t want this to happen to anyone. What we’ve been feeling over the last 12 hours I don’t want anyone to ever feel.

More generosity.

I have so many questions for him.

She’s so young. Would you not let her blossom a bit more? What went through your mind? I mean, as you pulled the trigger you clearly killed people. You killed one, then you killed a second time, a third time. And you walked away from the scene. You took three young people. I don’t know if he has kids but how could you do that to someone’s child? And then just walk away. What is his motive? I wonder what would have happened if we were there? Would he have killed us all, since we were a bunch of hijabis? I can’t imagine. I have so many questions I don’t know how to word them all. And I want to know exactly what happened, all the details. I need to know.

There’s more. It’ll break your heart if you read it.

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

A gun on his hip

Feb 11th, 2015 4:12 pm | By

The Huffington Post has some more details on Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, and on Craig Hicks.

Barakat and Mohammad were newlyweds who helped the homeless and raised funds to help Syrian refugees in Turkey this summer. They met while running the Muslim Student Association at N.C. State before he began pursuing an advanced degree in dentistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mohammad planned to join her husband in dentistry school in the fall.

Abu-Salha was visiting them Tuesday from Raleigh, where she was majoring in design at N.C. State.

She was visiting. If she’d been in Raleigh she’d still be alive.

Imad Ahmad, who lived in the condo where his friends were killed until Barakat and Mohammed were married in December, said Hicks complained about once a month that the two men were parking in a vistor’s space as well as their assigned spot.

“He would come over to the door. Knock on the door and then have a gun on his hip saying ‘you guys need to not park here,'” said Ahmad, a graduate student in chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill. “He did it again after they got married.”

Both Hicks and his neighbors complained to the property managers, who apparently didn’t intervene. “They told us to call the police if the guy came and harassed us again,” Ahmad said.

“This man was frustrated day in and day out about not being able to park where he wanted to,” said Karen Hicks’ attorney, Robert Maitland.

And then there’s his favorite movie…

Hicks’ ex-wife, Cynthia Hurley, said that before they divorced about 17 years ago, his favorite movie was “Falling Down,” the 1993 Michael Douglas film about a divorced unemployed engineer who goes on a shooting rampage.

“That always freaked me out,” Hurley said. “He watched it incessantly. He thought it was hilarious. He had no compassion at all,” she said.

I’ve always avoided seeing that movie, because the premise revolts me, and this is why. Most people obviously don’t take that kind of inspiration from that kind of movie, but then there are the others…

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

So let’s relieve their pain

Feb 11th, 2015 12:18 pm | By

The Charlotte [North Carolina] Observer reports that the father of the two women murdered in Chapel Hill says it was a hate crime.

…the women’s father, Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, who has a psychiatry practice in Clayton, said regardless of the precise trigger Tuesday night, Hicks’ underlying animosity toward Barakat and Abu-Salha was based on their religion and culture. Abu-Salha said police told him Hicks shot the three inside their apartment.

“It was execution style, a bullet in every head,” Abu-Salha said Wednesday morning. “This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime. This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt. And they were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far.”

Abu-Salha said his daughter who lived next door to Hicks wore a Muslim head scarf and told her family a week ago that she had “a hateful neighbor.”

“Honest to God, she said, ‘He hates us for what we are and how we look,’” he said.

The police and prosecutors are still investigating.

Chapel Hill police found all three victims dead at the scene, after responding to a report of gunshots on Summerwalk Circle at 5:11 p.m. Tuesday. A woman who called 911 described hearing gunshots as she walked through the complex of apartments and condominiums adjacent to the Friday Center.

“I heard about eight shots go off in an apartment – I don’t know the number – about three girls, more than one girl, screaming, and then there was nothing,” the unidentified caller said. “And then I heard about three more shots go off.”

Oh, shit.

Barakat, a Syrian-American, enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2013 to pursue his doctorate in dental surgery.

Both he and Abu-Salha advocated for global dental health, providing care and supplies to people in the United States and the Middle East. On Jan. 29, Barakat posted a Facebook photo of a Durham project that gave dental supplies and food to more than 75 homeless people this year.

Barakat was scheduled to travel with 10 other dentists this summer to Reyhanli, Turkey. There, they planned to treat Syrian refugee children for urgent dental needs, pass out toothbrushes and toothpaste, and support Turkish dentists and clinics.

In a video, he made an urgent plea for donations: “These kids don’t have access to the same health care as us, and their prolonged pain can easily be taken of with the work that we do, but we need the proper funding,” he said, wearing a “Carolina Dentistry” T-shirt. “So let’s relieve their pain. If you want to make a difference in the life of a child most in need, then I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity.”

That’s who they were.

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

She would like to dispel the rumors

Feb 11th, 2015 11:40 am | By

Mayim Bialik, the anti-vax tv star, has a Facebook post saying she is not either anti-vax so stop being poopy to her.

i would like to dispel the rumors about my stance on vaccines. i am not anti-vaccine. my children are vaccinated. there has been so much hysteria and anger about this issue and i hope this clears things up as far as my part.

It’s not rumors. I’ve read interviews in which she explains why she’s anti-vax. Tara Smith at Science blogs has more:

So did she really change her mind and her stance?

If so, why? Or is she just jumping on the “I’m not anti-vaccine” bandwagon like Jenny McCarthy and others who claim not to be anti-vaccine, but at the same time spew vaccine fear and misinformation? Are her kids fully vaccinated, or did they only have the ones she mentioned previously (such as polio for international travel)? Is she walking back statements that are basically anti-vaccine talking points, and removing her support of anti-vaccine doctors like Bob Sears and Lauren Feder (or her own pediatrician, Jay Gordon)?

I really hope so. But I won’t hold my breath, and take her statements that she’s “not anti-vaccine” with a big grain of salt. After all, that statement, itself, is often an anti-vaccine talking point.

Bialik’s post doesn’t look like a change of mind at all. It looks like saying she’s not anti-vax and never has been, which is very different from saying she was and has now fortunately changed her mind.

And she has the gall to be miffed about what she calls “hysteria and anger.” Yeah gee why would anyone be angry that Hollywood celebrities use their fame to help promote an anti-vax stance that can help to trigger epidemics? Don’t forget, measles was eradicated in the US until the anti-vax bullshit got going.

Shame on you, Mayim Bialik.

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

They were just starting out

Feb 11th, 2015 10:31 am | By

Damn. Twitter is full of photos of the three murdered students and they’re heartbreaking. They looked so happy…

Image preview

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There’s also a Facebook for them set up by their families.

One post -

Yusor dancing with her father at her wedding. Her wedding was a little more than a month ago.

May Allah have mercy on the bride and groom in paradise.



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

Who your friends are

Feb 11th, 2015 9:18 am | By

Three students were murdered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina yesterday, two sisters and the husband of one of them. All three were Muslims, but the police are saying the shooting may have been to do with a parking dispute.

A 46-year-old man has been charged with murder in the shooting deaths of three students in an apartment near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

Police said “an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking” may have been a factor in the shootings Tuesday evening.

The suspect, Craig Stephen Hicks, turned himself in to police later in the night and is being held in the Durham County Jail without bond. He was cooperating with investigators, police said Wednesday morning.

You know what? He’s on Facebook. He’s a vocal atheist. I’m not FB friends with him but I have no fewer than 49 mutual friends with him, which is creepy as hell.

Ex-Muslims of North America posted on the subject an hour ago; a public post.

This is an atrocity and should be condemned as such, by Muslims and atheists alike. We, more than anyone, understand the dangers Islamism pose to individuals and to the world. But no matter what, opposition to Islamism CANNOT become opposition to Muslims. We stand in solidarity with the Muslim community – violence is never the answer.

It’s been becoming ever more apparent over the past few years (it was apparent to some people all along, and I’m not one of those people – I was wrong) that combative atheism is attractive to a lot of mean, belligerent, hostile, sadistic people. I still think a certain amount of combativeness is necessary for movements of social change, but…now I spy a danger, to quote Polonius or whoever it was.

About those three students whose lives were taken away from them -

The victims were Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

Barakat was Mohammad’s husband; Abu-Salha was her sister, the school said.

Barakat was a second-year student at the UNC School of Dentistry, who was raising money on a fundraising site to provide dental care to Syrian refugees in Turkey.

He had been married for just over a month to Yusor Mohammad, who was planning to begin her dental studies at UNC in the fall, according to the school.

Abu-Salha was a student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.


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

For uh, committing sex crimes, uh

Feb 10th, 2015 5:29 pm | By

Here’s George Galloway being disgusting in 2008, that time he said a gay man was executed in Iran not because he was gay but because he committed “sex crimes” – on the basis of nothing whatever, apparently.

Outspoken London MP George Galloway has said that the boyfriend of Iranian asylum seeker Mehdi Kazemi was executed for sex crimes.

The Respect politician made his claims on Channel Five show The Wright Stuff yesterday morning.

Mr Kazemi is claiming asylum in the UK.

He claims his boyfriend was arrested by police in Iran for being homosexual, forced to reveal the names of men he had relationships with, and executed.

The 19-year-old also said there was a warrant for his arrest as a result of his boyfriend’s confession and he would face execution if he was returned.

But Galloway said don’t you believe it. Galloway said it was a calumny on that nice Iran.

Mr Galloway, the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, is well-known for his trenchant views and belief that there is a media conspiracy to portray Iran in a bad light.

“This is being used as part of the on-going propaganda against Iran,” he told presenter Matthew Wright yesterday.

“All the papers seem to imply that you get executed in Iran for being gay. That’s not true.”

Yes it is. It’s been documented. For years.

Matthew Wright: His boyfriend was hung though, wasn’t he?

George Galloway: Yes, but nor being gay. For uh, committing sex crimes, uh, against young men.

MW: Right …

GG: I mean, I’m against execution for any reason in any place, but it is important to avoid that propaganda.

Even when it’s true, apparently.

Gay rights group OutRage! has challenged Mr Galloway to provide proof of his assertions.

“We are calling on George Galloway to explain the source of his claim that Mehdi Kazemi’s boyfriend had committed sex crimes and this was the reason he was executed,” said OutRage! spokesperson Brett Lock.

“Neither OutRage! nor any other human rights group has seen any evidence to suggest that Mr Kazemi’s partner was a rapist or sex-abuser.

“Mr Galloway’s claim that gay people are not executed in Iran is refuted by every reputable human rights body, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.”

Well they’re not on Iran’s payroll.


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

Galloway’s nice little earner

Feb 10th, 2015 4:03 pm | By

What else does Galloway do for the betterment of humanity? He rakes in large sums of cash from Russian and Iranian state tv.

George Galloway has earned £65,000 in just six months as a presenter and guest for dubious state-run broadcasters.

The Bradford MP is the highest earner of any MP, raking in the cash for his polemics against the West on the Kremlin-backed Russia Today and from LBP TV, a channel run out of the offices of Press TV which is now banned by Ofcom. Galloway still presents two shows for the channel, whose head was appointed directly by Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, but on an unpaid basis.

Through his television work, Galloway has doubled his income. He earns £67,000 as a Member of Parliament, and he declared £25,600 for work on Russia Today, £21,450 from LBP TV and £18,000 from Arab-focused satellite channel Al-Mayadeen TV between January and April (he has yet to declare for May and June).

A friend on Facebook helpfully informed me a few hours ago that

His declared income is released on the Register of Members Interests each year. Last year he made £75,200 from Russia Today, £108,900 from Iranian TV, £108k from Lebanese TV and £67,060 MP Salary.

Over £290k from DictatorTV – more than four times his salary as an MP.

Back to the Huffington Post article.

Galloway hosts two programmes a month for Al-Mayadeen in Beirut, which is funded by anonymous individuals widely believed to be linked to Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah or to Syria’s Assad family members, though this is denied by the channel. He has his return flights and hotel accommodation paid for.

A spokesman for Galloway told Press Gazette: “He does believe in spreading his message as widely as he can – not just through the prism of Parliament.”

When pressed by his local paper the Bradford Telegraph and Argus, the spokesman described the work as “about two shows a week that take about four or five hours of his time, mainly at weekends.”

The issue isn’t the moonlighting, the issue is the nature of the work.

“Is he not allowed to do other things in his spare time? It is not about the money, he does it to get his message out in different ways,” he said.

It’s not about the money? He’s indifferent to that almost £300k a year? And yet they give it to him and he takes it.

Galloway’s involvement with foreign broadcast media has often attracted criticism. He famously asserted on Channel 5 show, The Wright Stuff in 2008, that the boyfriend of an homosexual Iranian asylum seeker had been killed for sex crimes, rather than because he was gay. Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell said at the time that Galloway’s claim was “refuted by every reputable human rights organisation”.

Jeezis, the man is a horror.

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

Galloway crushed London’s only Jewish community radio station

Feb 10th, 2015 3:29 pm | By

In 2008 Galloway succeeded in getting a tiny London podcast shut down by suing.

London’s only Jewish community radio station has been forced to cease broadcasting after losing a High Court libel case brought against it by the Respect MP George Galloway.

Jcom, a non-profit station which broadcast online and to a small area in north-west London, was wound up after it was told to pay the MP damages of £15,000.

Mr Galloway sued the station after one of its presenters played a spoof character based on the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, and implied he was anti-Semitic. It was also ordered to pay Mr Galloway’s court costs, thought to be £5,000. Mr Galloway said that the judgment had “categorically crushed the slur of anti-Semitism”.

Well, it crushed Jcom, at least.

During a broadcast in November, a presenter who called himself “Georgie Galloway”, the station’s “Middle East correspondent”, used the catchphrase, “kill the Jews, kill the Jews”. The station immediately sacked the presenter, Richard Malach, saying he was “young and inexperienced” and had made an error of judgment while attempting to present an edgy programme. It also issued an apology on its website and offered Mr Galloway the opportunity to appear on the station, which had a very small audience. Only 36 people were listening online at the time of the offending show.

The programme was also broadcast over the radio to an area in north-west London with a three-mile radius.

But Mr Galloway said he pursued the case as the station’s apology “fell short of the categorical retraction of the imputation of anti-Semitism that I insisted upon”.

Jeremy Silverstone, the head of Jcom, said he was disappointed that the case had led to the downfall of the capital’s only Jewish radio station.

But at least the world was shown to a certainty that George Galloway is absolutely not in any way the tiniest bit anti-Semitic.

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